With every glimpse of Microsoft Flight Simulator ramping up the excitement for this return of the iconic flight sim series, developers Asobo Studio CEO Sebastian Wloch has now revealed their ambitious plans for the game’s shared world multiplayer in the latest dev diary.
With Microsoft Flight Simulator featuring literally the entire world to fly around, created from satellite imagery and fly-over data that has then been stitched together and enhanced using AI, the game features a vast play area. That is being leveraged in multiplayer for a full shared online world.
Using Microsoft’s Azure cloud, which is already on hand to stream data to the game on the fly, they can spin up as much server capacity as they need for the game. So there’s a shared online world, where you can fly alongside both real world traffic (they can augment the real flight data with AI when needed to simulate the experience) and alongside other players within the simulator. There’s no need to fiddle with creating online sessions, it’s all handled automatically.
You do have some control over your experience though. You can filter to Live Players only, which is designed for those who take their sims seriously, respecting the rules of the sky on a single online shard. This forces you to fly with real time weather, so it’s exactly the conditions of the real world, and with the option to enable real time traffic.
Another mode is All Players. Here you have the ability to mess around with the weather and time of day, choose to see real time traffic or not, and so on. This is for those who just want to fly without meaningful rules.
Catering to those who really just want to mess around, you can create your own shard in Groups, where you gather people together and pick world settings for you to share with others. Only those who join the group will be able to see each other.
The technology backing all of this is built on server clusters dotted around the world. The game will automatically connect you to the closest server, but you can choose a specific server if you’ve got friends in another region you want to group up with. While there can be tens of thousands of real planes in the sky at any time – I mean, not so much right now, but maybe again later this year – and potentially hundreds of thousands of players all at once, the server will intelligently optimise and only send you the data for real planes within 200km of you and the 50 closest game player planes within 200km. This should keep the skies relatively manageable, both in terms of bandwidth and the number of planes your game is showing.
However, there’s also a limit to what your system will actually show you. A lower specced PC or original Xbox One might show fewer planes or only show them when they get closer to you. A higher specced machine will render them further out, but regardless of the machine, it will know that there are planes out there. Latency should also be smoothed out, so other players won’t be juddering about like a plane that’s not sure if it’s got wings.
I previewed Microsoft Flight Simulator at XO19, saying, “I came away from Flight Simulator very impressed. The series evolved a great deal from its humble beginnings in the 80s through to Flight Simulator X in 2006, and that style of flight sim continued with games like X-Plane and Aerofly, but Flight Simulator is something else entirely with its worldwide scope. This is absolutely one to keep an eye on in 2020.”
You can read the full Microsoft Flight Simulator preview here.
The game is expected to release this year for PC and Xbox One.