Comments from a former Flight Sim journalist...

  • Hey Aerofly FS 2 team,


    First of all, congratulations! It's so awesome to see a superb next-generation flight simulator taking form. For context, I used to be the Flight Simulation editor for Computer Gaming World magazine, which was the top-selling PC gaming magazine in the USA in the 1990s. Back in those days, there was enough activity in the sim market that I could write about a new sim every month! So you can imagine how excited I was to come across this sim after such a drought of simulation advancement!


    I haven't seen a sim with so much potential in over a decade! Great job so far. I have some feedback below. I know some of this is already in the in the works, and some of it's going to take time, but just wanted to share my thoughts as someone who's been writing about flight simulators since the 1980s, and has seen how the market has changed over the years. I fully know that prioritizing customer feedback has to be balanced with the realities of marketing and bringing in new customers -- and how companies listening too much to the most vocal users in the past helped push sims into a tiny niche. But hopefully you'll find something useful in the brain dump below! :)


    Also, one quick thing to add: I'd seriously consider branding the mobile and PC versions slightly differently, as I know some users dismissed the PC version as being just a mobile game ported over. The mobile game is super-impressive given the platform, but the PC version obviously IS more advanced, so maybe brand the PC version Aerofly FS 2 Professional or something? (Though I bought the mobile version and all the add-ons and it's really impressive on my iPad Pro 12.9!)


    Bugs:
    • Fuel gauge never changes when flying F/A-18 in afterburner.
    • Clouds rotate when you change angle of attack or look up/down
    • Some shimmering polygons on tops of mountains in Switzerland in VR. (GTX 1080, Win 10 Anniversary, Oculus Rift.)


    Some cool features that would be pretty easy to add:
    • Ability to turn off the engine (so you can practice dead-stick landings)
    • An external camera that's not as rock-solid as the current one, but is just subtly shaky or delayed so it feels like someone is in another plane filming you. Those make external views feel so much more realistic. The "6" view is close, but too "solid," like the camera is on rails. Check out the F2 view in IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad for a nice external camera view that isn't overdone, but feels realistic.
    • Ability to set fuel load
    • Local time. UTC calculations are annoying when you get as far away as the USA


    Key Features I'd like to see eventually:
    • AI Air traffic, particularly around airports!
    • Air Traffic Control
    • Night lighting on the photoscenery textures
    • APIs for third-party planes, scenery, and maybe stuff like weather/air traffic. That's going to be the key for pulling the FSX/P3D crowd over.
    • Storms and really bad weather. Morning fog over rivers.


    Other nice-to-have features:
    • G-force effects in high-performance planes
    • Settable and random system failures
    • Emergency scenarios
    • Multiplayer


    Wishlist for paid add-ons:
    • Pacific Northwest US/British Columbia scenery
    • Hawaii scenery
    • Alaska Scenery
    • Space Shuttle landing (your Edwards AFB looks so good, a Shuttle gliding in would be awesome)
    • Carrier ops (this could be a paid add-on)


    Things I noticed that I love, so this isn't just a list of wants, but also a thanks for a great job!
    • The planes look spectacular. Sounds are great too!
    • Turbulence! I've never flown in a small plane and had it feel like it's on rails like in MSFS. Love how Aerofly FS 2 planes actually bump around a bit.
    • The VR. Wow. It's amazing. My favorite thing for my Oculus Rift. It's so good.
    • You guys did an amazing job on the scenery. Hopefully we'll get moving traffic (at least lights at night) and stuff later, but what an amazing start!
    • On my first PC it picked up almost all the settings automatically for my Logitech G940. It was nice to only have to program a few things!
    • Frame rate is much better than other sims on both my monitor and Oculus, despite all the detail here
    • Excellent sense of speed
    • The Grand Canyon. Wow.
    • Hit airbrakes in the Corsair and the front wheels extend -- nice attention to detail!


    Anyway, super-excited to see what you guys have coming down the road!


    And thanks for making my Oculus Rift purchase worthwhile!

  • Wonder if anyone from the team spotted this? :)


    Well yes, I've seen it, had not had the time to respond back then :D


    I'll "briefly" comment on it... and sorry for the load of mistakes and violations in English gammar, I am tired, its a Saturday evening and I am not getting paid for writing this in my free time lol. Also it took long enough to write all this.... (oh yeah and there are a lot of ... where I could go on for ages probably)


    We all have our personal wishlist, but we as developers can't just snip the fingers and make everything appear out of nowhere. Software development is a process that takes very long because you can only take baby-steps at a time until the stupid machine "knows" how to do things. We humans talk on a way more abstract level, we can say "add multiplayer" or "add ai traffic" and everyone could tell you their version of how that would look like. But in the end we have to settle for one solution that works for all users on all machines and then we have to tell the computer the precise instructions how to manipulate the numbers correctly. Getting everything working is way more complicated than it sounds at first.... but enough of that here are my thoughts on your points


    Disclaimer
    All of what I am about to write is my view on the things as one member of the development crew, it might not reflect the actual outcome of how the company will do it. I don't know the final priorization, so some of your requests will be "taken care of" sooner than others...


    "Fuel gauge never changes when flying F/A-18 in afterburner."
    known issue, has to do with the fact that the actual afterburner stage isn't modelled as such yet


    "Clouds rotate when you change angle of attack or look up/down"
    thats one thing that I notices right away, I got used to it really :D That has to do with the current weather rendering engine in use. As far as I know the weather engine will be completly rewritten at some point so that we can add nice effects like cloud shadows, local rain showers, towering cumuls clouds, thermals under cumulus clouds and turbulence on the edge of thermals as well as in clouds, low level fog and what not. Thats one point that is very high up on my own wishlist.


    "Storms and really bad weather. Morning fog over rivers"
    Really bad weather can be quite a bit of fun. I'd like to actually need to use the windshield wipers and be scared by a nearby thunderstorm. The FSX incredible scary thunderstorms of 1km diameter with incredible bright lightning every 5 seconds kind of ruined that for me up to now. I want to hear the thunder and see small lightning flashes on the windscreen :D


    "Some shimmering polygons on tops of mountains in Switzerland in VR. (GTX 1080, Win 10 Anniversary, Oculus Rift.)"
    Do you mean z-fighting? I have that on my machine, too, I hope we can fix that. Its not as easy because you want high detail close to the camera (near clipping plane) and you don't want the world to end anywhere in the distance (far clipping plane). But the distance of the two planes greatly affects that z-buffer fighting. In great distance the precision of the graphics cards, which render only floats (except some newer very expensive cards) and floats have a lower precision, so sometimes a value for one triangle is greater than the other simply because of these calculation errors.
    So question to you: do you rather want the cockpit to be clipped away at a radius of 1m or do you rather have z-fighting until the weather engine adds fog and hides all that lol


    "Night lighting on the photoscenery textures"
    I don't know if our images also have a "road" spline dataset. If you are ok with the street lights beeing a few meters off from the images, we could use OpenStreetMap data to add them. Otherwise we would have to redraw all roads and that is not gonna happen any time soon. We would spend years just for one State of the USA.


    "An external camera that's not as rock-solid as the current one, but is just subtly shaky or delayed so it feels like someone is in another plane filming you. Those make external views feel so much more realistic. The "6" view is close, but too "solid," like the camera is on rails. Check out the F2 view in IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad for a nice external camera view that isn't overdone, but feels realistic."
    Sure, I'd like some more cameras, too. We have an own topic for that now here in the forums...


    "Local time. UTC calculations are annoying when you get as far away as the USA"
    I think a user interface update would solve that issue. If you know the user interface of f.lux you also know how I would like to see it.



    "Ability to turn off the engine (so you can practice dead-stick landings)"
    Very high on my list, too. My personal opinion: this sim desperatly needs this since version 1. But this also comes with some issues: what if the user does not know how to start the engine, to stay physically accurate we would need to program the start sequence for each aircraft properly...


    "Ability to set fuel load"
    Yep, I want that, too. The one thing is adding the dynamically chaning mass, which is not that simple as it sounds... What if the mass value goes to zero but there is a constant force acting on the same body... *Boom* :D


    "AI Air traffic, particularly around airports!"
    (now he is getting to the big stuff) Yeeey I want that, too, really who doesn't. But a good AI is so incredible much work. Not only would you have to have some form of controller (ATC), the AI itself also needs to know "how to fly a plane". You'd have to open EVERY one of the airports and redraw EVERY SINGLE TAXILINE - if you don't get some database for that, or write a script to analyze what the scenery developers already drew for the lines. Also every SID and STAR...
    But you also want aircraft to respond to the users, right? So this is a really really big one. I'd say multiplayer is easier because the users already know how to follow the yellow lines on the ground haha


    "Air Traffic Control"
    Ok, I would like to hear your thoughts (all of you) on that topic. How would you like to interact with the ATC? The "FSX" style overlay does not fit into the Aerofly FS 2 sim. Also I don't want to press the numbers 0 to 9 just to navigate to the nearest airports or find my destination airport, there has to be a better solution. Would you actually prefere using your real voice, but what if you don't know the commands or are a little rusty? What if you had a simulated copilot that did the voice commands if you well-behave and follow the flight plan? Or would you like to create a setup where the atc always gives you instructions first and you only have to press one button to respond, read back what the controller told you or something like that?


    "Multiplayer"
    My personal request would be small personal sessions for 5 players or so. Add shared cockpit feature and add an interface to the default sim for Vatsim, pilot edge and others.


    Imagine a picture of a cookie here, you deserve one for reading all of this.



    "APIs for third-party planes, scenery, and maybe stuff like weather/air traffic. That's going to be the key for pulling the FSX/P3D crowd over."
    Well we already have that, the SDK includes an interface to the outside world that allows communication with the aircraft in the simulator. What I personally don't want though is the same to happen with the Aerofly FS 2 as it did with the FSX. Really good add on developers created their own physics engines outside of the real simulator and we as users have to suffer from sometimes badly programmed addons that take up all the graphics memory, don't clean up as well and create instability. Each time I load the aircraft I have to wait for sometimes as much as a minute until the background systems simulation has booted up, I just want to hop in and fly.
    Therefore I would want to see that add-on developers would get all the basic system components that they need and build up from that. A few components still need to be programmed, like the flight management computers and a few other systems like proper physical hydraulics and bleed simulation.



    "G-force effects in high-performance planes"
    ok, fair enough


    "Settable and random system failures"
    uhh, yeah thats a whole topic for itself. Agreed, we need some sort of failure generator system but we don't need more than an engine failure at V1 from a default aircraft.


    "Emergency scenarios"
    I think users that want to try and simulate an emergency will be able to do so if all hydraulics systems are implemented and the engines can be turned off. Add-on developers shouldn't be limited with that



    "Hopefully we'll get moving traffic (at least lights at night) and stuff later"

    If we can sort out street lighting we could probably also make cars follow the same roads. I think major highways would be enough traffic. In real life you can't really see that much car traffic movement. Large ships would be nice, but they could also be static I think, just has to look good from a normal distance. Airport vehicles would be more important to me. I'd like to see my aircraft beeing loaded but also see a log of these baggage car chains going so all kinds of different aircraft, not just me. There are inspection cars that sometimes roll down the runway and a lot more things. Much more enjoyable to observe than the every day rush hour traffic that we can't probably won't see in simulates for quite some time. Just takes up to much computing power for too little impact on the actual immersion I think.

  • Jet Pack,


    Wow! Thank you so much for the detailed response to my brain dump about what I'd like to see in the sim! I was just hoping for a quick "Yep, we saw it, thanks for the ideas." I realize that a lot of the stuff I mentioned like "ATC" involves tons of system design, coding, writing, and lots of other stuff, and I appreciate that there's a lot of time, planning, and prioritization involved. But very cool to see where many of your long-term goals are heading.


    Definitely agreed that Aerofly's SDK should have planes use the existing physics engine and not custom rewrites/DLLs like FSX. I think a lot of that is due to FSX being built on ancient code that went back to the DOS versions, so there were some limitations on engine types, plane envelopes, etc. The range of craft you're already accommodating is a good sign that you should be able to create a wide variety of planes without having to hack/cheat the simulation engine. (The stretch goal for the "2019-ish version" of Aerofly FS would be to allow a mix of props and jets, and up to 10 engines, so that cool old post-WW2 planes like the B-36 and Ryan FR-1 Fireball could be done as add-on aircraft.)


    I've been having a wonderful time just flying around California and finding sights from when I used to live in the San Francisco area (such as the mothballed ships in the water at Port Chicago). The experience with the Oculus Rift is just nothing short of amazing. I've spent as much time in AFS2 in the Oculus as I have all the other Oculus apps combined!


    BTW, found two issues with the Oculus today, only one of which I've seen reported: You can't see the replay timeline (I've seen this reported already) and if you take any screenshots, they just end up being blank black BMP files (haven't seen that reported).


    Anyway, thanks again for the epic response, and for all the work you guys have done on the sim! I've been trying to spread the word, and I wish you guys great success so you can keep making it even more awesome. :cool:

  • With regard to ATC, I'm a big fan of how it was done in VoxATC for FSX. Talking to the sim with your own voice was really immersive and the problem of a user not knowing what radio telephony terms to use was handled by a text box of what to say appearing on the screen. If you were well versed in radio comms, then it could be turned off and not appear.