We’re back again with Microsoft Flight Simulator Head, Jörg Neumann, to talk about the process of porting the game over to the Xbox console and why it was such an important decision for the devs.
Microsoft Flight Simulator continues to take off with fans, giving you the chance to discover the world from the skies. In our last instalment, we got to understand how the team made it easier for players to operate their plane, and how FIFA gave them some unexpected tips on tutorials.
With increasing exposure and a growing player base, it was important to the developers to make sure everyone could have a chance to experience flight simulation.
Why did you port it over to Xbox Series X?
“I mean, I would say I fundamentally believe in choice. One of the things I honestly love, yeah, I work at Microsoft, but what I really love about where gaming is going is that it’s more and more independent of what machine you’re on,” Jörg Neumann, Head of Microsoft Flight Simulator, told Trusted Reviews.
“I think the world’s just changed, technology enables this to be ubiquitous everywhere. And I think that is a good thing because, you know, expensive PCs are for just on the socio-economic perspective not affordable in huge chunks of this planet.
“And I think genuinely that the dream of flight is near-universal, like, you know, I always say I won’t be going back. I think it’s very much ingrained in us as a species. And I think, why is that locked behind a $3,000 computer? That makes no sense.”
Despite having stock issues plague the console, the Xbox Series X and Series S are undoubtedly a cheaper alternative for those looking to game without a PC.
“So I am very happy that people can now buy it on a console that lowers the threshold and down the road, I think we’re gonna see more of that, like Microsoft with game streaming, I think that democratises what’s possible a lot. And I think that’s great for some products like this, it’s just a good thing,” Neumann goes on to say.
What challenges were there porting it over to Xbox?
“I would say that we always start with the player. So we looked quite a bit at that when we launch a PC, we have already supported the gamepad.
“So we looked at the controller quite a bit, and we looked at territorialization. And frankly, we went back in time and said, hey, how was it the first time before we ever started, before we ever took a flight lesson, before we ever started in a sim.
“And basically said, people watch the trailers, and they’re oftentimes curious because the trailers look pretty, and they just want to see what this is all about. And so we launched it in the air, the weather’s nice, the fuel is full, it’s very empowering.
“So we tested that a lot. You know, Microsoft has a research group that brings in, it’s very scientific, they bring in people, we look at their hands and ask them how they feel about stuff. And after we did the first few discovery slides, it was clear that newcomers really liked it, like they felt almost immediately empowered,” Neumann detailed.
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Were there any compromises porting it over to Xbox?
“I mean, I would say compromise is the wrong word, there was a lot of work, you know, when we launched. I think we needed like 23 gigabytes of memory and the consoles don’t have that much memory,” Neumann explained.
“So we have things on the PC version, which we call offline worlds, and that’s very much an opt-in, it’s actually 42 gigabytes. If your internet ever goes down, you can basically see an offline, not using auto version, but it never goes down.
“I mean, we’ve looked at the data, we’ve had no instances where that happened. So it’s like now we gave it an option that well, if you want to not have this, those 42 gigs, please don’t download them because you don’t need to. And then as much as we could offload to the cloud, we did.
“That’s also when you look at the SiriusXM series, as it is obviously not exactly the same hardware. But the experience is pretty much identical. One is in 4k, the other one is not but it’s upscaled to 4k, but it visually looks very, very close.
“So I would say, our base principle, when we started the transition over to console was, we can’t go back, we can’t go down, it can’t go diminished. We definitely have all these principles. We’re never going to dumb down the SIM, we’re never going to make it look worse. We’re never going to do this.”
The Microsoft Flight Sim does not change massively when played on PC or Xbox, and the style of independent gameplay is also kept consistent across both versions.
“And then the thing that’s important for answers is that it’s a consistent frame rate,” Neumann went on to say.
“So we actually did say, early on, we’re gonna lock it at 30 (fps) because flight simming, it’s not a shooter, right? It’s not very twitchy, when the plane goes forward, you sort of steer slowly, you know, so you can do it for 30 frames a second and it feels nice.
“But what doesn’t feel nice is when it starts to deteriorate. That’s, that really isn’t good. So we spent actually a lot of time optimising the entire product, including obviously the PC side to not stutter it anymore.
“And that’s what all the work really is looking at in every system. Make sure the threading is fully optimised for those types of things, but it’s otherwise pretty much the same.”
If you enjoyed this snippet with Jörg Neumann, you can check out the first chat we had with him where he detailed how the developers managed to map out a pretty accurate version of our world in-game.
We’ll be publishing another section of our interview with Jörg Neumann on Trusted Reviews next week, so keep your eyes peeled if you want to hear about more Microsoft Flight Simulator news.