Microsoft Flight Out This Spring, Free

By John Walker on January 4th, 2012 at 4:20 pm.

An ICON A5?! No way! Although it's half the size of my ICON A4.

Remember when Microsoft closed ACES, the studio that makes Microsoft Flight Simulator, and everyone sighed and looked at their shoes and wondered if Steve Ballmer grew stronger with every studio the behemoth destroyed? That was 2009. In Spring 2012 the new Microsoft Flight will be released, and it will be a download, and it will be free.

There hasn’t been a new MSFS since 2006, not least because Microsoft squished the people who made it. But in August two years ago we learned of the series’ return, and then last month that beta sign-ups were happening. They still are. (Warning: this link makes you fill in 902393 forms, have a GamerTag, and deposit three pints of blood.)

In an aeronautical incarnation of Test Drive Unlimited, MSF takes place in the skies above Hawaii. (Come on – someone has to do a crossover.) It’ll be freeeee, but you can buy extra bits and pieces should you wish, and naturally MS will be encouraging you to hook it all up to your GFWL, which is enough reason to never want to play it as long as you live. But crucially, it’s not obligatory – you’ll just miss out on some bonus content like a Boeing Stearman plane, extra missions, and – yawn – achievements. And they’ll also be new content frequently released for those who don’t pay a penny. Oh, and if you care what an ICON A5 is, one of those is in there too.

Of course, being just Hawaii takes away hopes for big transatlantic voyages, but Microsoft promise it’ll be approachable for all, with options to tweak it from ultra-realistic cockpit simulator, right down to flying the plane from the outside with controls a dog could manage.

As for what it will be like – well, I think the safest thing to do is wait for Mr Timothy Stone to report that sort of thing. But I am confident in saying it will definitely feature trains. Dammit. Planes.

Cheers, Eurogamer.

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75 Comments »

  1. the judge says:

    nice

  2. metalangel says:

    Just Hawaii? Looks like I’ve done myself a disservice holding off on FSX waiting for this. I want the option of long haul flights and globetrotting, not a trendily FTP achievement-ridden piece of fluff.

    • metalangel says:

      http://flyawaysimulation.com/news/4317/microsoft-flight-behind-scenes-at-microsoft-studios/

      “The game will feature it’s own marketplace, with content regulated by Microsoft. There will be no scenery development kit and hence no user created content.”

      Why are they bothering? Anyone who wants DLC is bound to see how many, better, cheaper addons there are for “proper” FSX and drop Flight like the half baked joke it is.

      The discussions over on AVSim are very interesting.

    • phylum sinter says:

      I am not a “simmer” really. This model appeals to me because it a) means that all the available content will be in one place and b) means it will be of the same quality as the original game.

      Odd as it is, i trust MS to make a game scalable for novices all the way to actual pilots. After reading the article you linked to, it looks like that’s what they’re aiming to do both hardware and player wise.

      Paying ‘per aircraft’ can surely get out of hand, but i think the DLC format is old enough for MS to know what people will and will not consider a worthwhile investment… and i can see them doing ‘packs’ of aircraft and missions instead of single mission/plane purchases. ditto with scenery.

      I think that’s why they’re bothering, anyhow.

    • Zenicetus says:

      “This model appeals to me because it a) means that all the available content will be in one place and b) means it will be of the same quality as the original game.”

      I can understand the convenience of having all add-ons in one place, but there won’t be any free user-created planes or free user-created scenery, like there is for FSX and X-Plane.

      Also, “same quality as the original game” doesn’t apply to civilian flight sims in quite the same way that it would in other games. Historically, the aftermarket planes and scenery for FS have been far superior to what comes with the core program, which is basically demo level scenery and plane models. And MS is making it very hard for even the major 3rd party devs to participate. The early reports from Avsim indicate that nobody is biting, due to the license fee MS wants to extract, along with iTunes Store level pricing, which simply won’t support the more complex modeling projects.

      “Odd as it is, i trust MS to make a game scalable for novices all the way to actual pilots. After reading the article you linked to, it looks like that’s what they’re aiming to do both hardware and player wise.”

      I don’t think they’re going to hit that mark with actual pilots who use flight sims for practice or a hobby. Real pilots want things like interaction with air traffic control (either simulated or human/online) and long-haul flight plans, which this won’t offer. Check out the PC mag interview with the game’s producer, talking about all the social gaming aspects like racing your friends to collect gold coins in the sky:

      http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2397774,00.asp

      I think this will be a massive failure. Casual gamers want to blow things up when they fly, and this will never offer that. And no serious simmer will read that PC Mag preview and be interested in this.

    • metalangel says:

      If one was at all interested in flying without blowing things up, Flight Simulator has always existed. It also has realism and difficulty settings up the wazoo so the only barrier to entry has always been not being interested in flying.

      Hacking the game to bits so you can sell it back to us in chunks, and putting stupid GFWL leaderboards for challenges in is just them missing the point spectacularly. FSX has scripted missions for people who wanted them, older versions like FS4 had crop dusting and a very crude combat minigame. If you really want to fly through hoops, turn on the EFIS/CFPD system which will – hey, wow! – give you some hoops to fly through… oh, and it’s just taught you to land at the same time.

      There’s a free demo of FSX if you want a “free” version.

  3. Tuskin38 says:

    Nothing wrong with GFWL any more. That isn’t a reason to not get it.
    Also, only Hawaii? What the shit.

    • Jonny Stutters says:

      Nothing wrong with GFWL any more

      That’s funny because I could swear it took half an hour to negotiate my way through the sign-in and update it before I could play Arkham City.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Some problems with GFWL include

      Regional restrictions : Due to certain terms and conditions, you can’t sign up for GFWL in certain countries which also means GFWL enabled games are unavailable in your region

      Losing saves : Batman Arkham City has been deleting people’s save files and the problem lies with GFWL

    • Khemm says:

      @Johnny
      Only half an hour? That means you were downloading a patch, if you switched to offline profile you could have begun playing immediately.
      The installation of Steamworks-infested Shogun 2 took me almost an ENTIRE DAY, a few interrupted installs Steam cancelled included. Then Steam insisted on downloading 5 or 6GB of updates. WTF.

      @Total Biscuit
      “Regional restrictions : Due to certain terms and conditions, you can’t sign up for GFWL in certain countries which also means GFWL enabled games are unavailable in your region”

      I live in one of those countries which used to be unsupported,created an account with country set to UK and was able to get all features (multiplayer included) without problems.
      Speaking of regional restrictions, there’s a bunch of games available on Steam which I can’t buy even if I wanted to – an entire Zenimax catalogue, for example.

      “Losing saves : Batman Arkham City has been deleting people’s save files and the problem lies with GFWL”

      GFWL or Steam? To be honest, a number of people have reported that Steam Cloud and GFWL don’t mix together well, Steam tends to overwrite data.
      When it comes to retail releases, you can only lose saves if you start switching between online and offline profiles.

    • Navagon says:

      “Nothing wrong with GFWL any more. ”

      LOL

    • Chris D says:

      My epic quest to get my Arkham City DLC installed included a trawl throough the support forums to try to figure out what was going on, having to register on the Xbox live website and then having to delete and uninstall GFWL before it would work. I like Arkham CIty but if I’d known it would be that much hassle I’m not sure I’d have bothered.

    • CMaster says:

      “if you switched to offline profile you could have begun playing immediately.”

      Last time I tried that, it said “no, sorry, you are offline, You must be online to play.” (I strongly suspect this is normal for first time running a game) It also took me over an hour to diagnose what the actual problem was that let me connect – after the autoupdater (that pressing any key or clicking the mouse cancels) got itself stuck in an endless loop.

    • Resonance says:

      GFWL ensures that I will never be able to play Section 8 : Prejudice. I bought the game at launch, and haven’t been able to get past the title screen [on two different machines] due to “Games for Windows Live did not initialize”, despite following guides on varying forums.

      It’s the only form of DRM that has ever stopped me playing the game I bought [from my personal experience].

    • SquareWheel says:

      “Nothing wrong with GFWL any more.”

      Ah. Ahahaha.

  4. MiniMatt says:

    Flight simulators used to be fun. 747s were meant to be flown under bridges and I’m sure you could fit a Cessna through that tunnel.

    Now I can’t weave between skyscrapers without feeling either (a) a little guilty or (b) a little terrified men with machine guns aren’t about to burst through my window, alerted by my suspiciously terroristy flight plan :o(

  5. quincunx says:

    So, TDU-a-alike as in multiplayer? Plane races? Bachelor(ette) pads with customizable interior?

    Will there be epic mid-air (certainly not purposeful!) crashes? GUNS!? Maybe I just need to get Ace Combat Assault Horizon when it’s released.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Please don’t waste your money on Assault Horizon.

      -No fictional experimental prototypes
      -No wingmen commands in SP to dumb down gameplay
      -QTEs for maneuvers
      -Regen health
      -AC130 mission
      -Helo gunner mission, complete with a gunner who wears a skull mask.
      -Set in the real world to make it more ‘contemporary’, with the unmissable Middle East setting
      -A Russian antagonist named Markov, which doesn’t at all remind you of the other Russian antagonist Makarov.

      It’s literally everything that is wrong with the industry right now.

    • phylum sinter says:

      Assault Horizon has, unfortunately, been created specifically for bros.

    • metalangel says:

      Make! Metal! BLEEEEEED!

  6. Twonk says:

    I’d Microsoft her simulator.

  7. HoosTrax says:

    Just Hawaii? Getting an early start on “most disappointing sequel of 2012″ I see.

    • Tuskin38 says:

      Its free, what would you expect?

    • The Greatness says:

      It’s not even all of Hawaii, just the Big Island (which sounds like the least original name for an island to me), which doesn’t even include the capital city Honolulu. I don’t really mind that much, as long as it’s very detailed because of the size.

    • chabuhi says:

      @The Greatness

      Not to be a geography nazi (because I’m hardly qualified) but Big Island IS Hawai’i. Honolulu is on O’ahu. The rest of the islands (main) are Maui, Kaua’i, Moloka’i, Lana’i, and Ni’ihau (which, allegedly, you cannot visit unless you are native Hawai’an).

      And, I’ve officially overstayed my welcome.

    • didthedew says:

      Not to be a read things in context nazi, but it was quite clear that The Greatness was referring to the State of Hawaii when he said “It’s not even all of Hawaii, just the Big Island.” The state of Hawaii is made up of multiple islands that you kindly defined. Also, Ni’ihau is private property given to the owner’s ancestors with the stipulation that Hawaiian cultured be promoted on the island, therefore there is no modern day amenities and none allowed on the island. The owner does allow tours by helicopter and limited hunting trips.

      And yeah it does suck that only Hawaii will be available, I cant even buzz my house because I happen to live on the opposite side of the state

  8. deadstoned says:

    GFWL… Microsoft just kill it, don’t make it optional just kill it and everyone will be happy =D

    • Khemm says:

      GFWL > Steam. Its only flaw is clunky interface and lack of features like chat. That and patching should include basic info like kb/s, time remaining and a working progress bar. Apart from it, it really is OK.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      So it has a terrible interface, lacks basic features, forces you to shut the game to update (instead of updating prior to launching, you know), deletes save games, yet it’s worse than Steam?

      Nice logic there.

    • LTK says:

      GFWL > Steam

      Ha! Funniest thing I read all week.

      Did you know my dad, 57 years old and an avid PC gamer, has never had any problem with Steam, but still needs my help every time he starts a new game that requires GFWL? Hell, last time with Bioshock 2 I had to resort to google myself to find out how to make an offline profile. Keep fooling yourself.

    • Khemm says:

      @Friendly Fire
      Unlike Steam, GFWL just works, doesn’t get in the way between your game and you, doesn’t cancel your installs if Gabe’s servers fvck sth up, doesn’t force you to verify cache 10 times over because Steam corrupted some data while downloading updates, also, for single player oriented games it is ideal and infinitely less intrusive than Steam.
      Just because its interface could be better doesn’t mean it makes the service unusable – everything just requires too many clicks to get somewhere, but that’s hardly a deal breaker.

      @LTK
      If you had to google creating offline profiles, you’re making yourself look… well, let’s just say you should learn to read what’s on the screen. Seriously.

    • Wilson says:

      In some ways GFWL might be better (I’ve never been unable to play a game because the GFWL servers are having issues, for instance) but considering GFWL adds absolutely nothing to my experience, I consider it far more annoying than Steam. It’s a pointless hassle, and my defining memory of it (which I wheel out every time it appears in a comments thread) is that it can never manage to update itself without giving me an error, so I have to bugger around doing it manually despite never using any of its features (does it have any real features?)

      And considering how many games I play using Steam, GFWL has probably caused quite a bit more irritation per game.

    • jamesgecko says:

      My favorite moments with GFWL have included:

      Returning an unhelpful cryptic something-is-wrong-with-the-server type error when attempting to login to GFWL using the in-game overlay with an incorrect password. This is the same password I’d theoretically just had to enter to start GFWL Marketplace to start the game, mind you, except that I’d hit the “remember me” checkbox in GFWLM on a previous login.

      Edit: No, I’m remembering incorrectly. The root cause was the password, but what was really confusing was that the message was coming up when I was entering the CD key. My mistake.

      Clicking “forgot my password” on the GFWLM login screen took me to a website which allowed me to change it. GFWLM then proceeded to not let me log in with the newly changed password. It eventually relented the next day.

      Microsoft’s own game (AoEO) designed to be used exclusively with GFWLM, required me to expand a hiterto-unnoticed panel in the UI, click a button, and copy and paste a CD key from GFWLM into the in-game overlay. For bonus points, the server that hands out CD keys was on strike the first time I tried.

      This was a few months ago, but yeah…

    • Navagon says:

      “GFWL > Steam”

      Wow, you must really HATE Steam. Really. To even hint at such a thing Steam must have killed your dog or something.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      It’s Khemm – he doesn’t actually believe what he’s writing – I suspect that due to, sometime in the middle of 2010, suddenly changing from a reasonably intelligent poster to a “Slag off steam at literally every opportunity” troll, he got banned for doing something naughty – my bet is on trying to buy games in a foreign currency and in doing so committing quite serious financial fraud with a fake address.

      I have blocked him as he gets quite tiresome, but I don’t need to read his posts to know what he’s saying!!!

  9. pilouuuu says:

    They should pay us for playing any of their games, after trying so hard to ruin PC gaming.

    This and Alan Wake on the PC show us that there’s still hope, but I still dislike them until they prove me wrong about their (evil) intentions.

  10. Luftwaffles says:

    That’s disappointing. Just Hawaii doesn’t bother me as much as it should, but as a result of it being FTP I’d be very surprised if there were measures in place to prevent addons and modding. So no more going online to download that A380, this time you have to spend $5 for it. Lame.

  11. Zenicetus says:

    With the previous business model, they sold the core FS engine and everyone else made the real money, by selling 3rd party add-ons. So now they’re flipping that around — giving away the engine, and keeping the add-on sales for themselves. I guess it makes sense, especially since they can concentrate on just light planes for that limited scenery area.

    I wonder if the weather modeling will be at all realistic? That’s about the only thing that would tempt me to try this, since X-Plane is developing into a mature alternative to FSX.

  12. jimbobjunior says:

    Somewhat disappointed on the scale of things, but in saying that I’ll reserve judgement; I never get time to do the globetrotting that I like to do in flight sims anyway, so maybe having a really high fidelity recreation of Hawaii will be right up my street. Good for filling an hour or two.

  13. Khemm says:

    Like that business model, will try it out. Can’t wait.

    • IDtenT says:

      It’s the future model for all software. There are just soooooooooooooo many advantages to “pay for what you want” or F2P models.

      I almost fully expect there to be a free version of Windows 9 if not already windows 8. Where you can then just buy the addons you want.

  14. Hendar23 says:

    Will you still need some kind of prototype PC from the future to play it?

  15. Sp4rkR4t says:

    WARNING anyone who buys the New York or Washington DC DLC packs will be indefinitely detained by the current administration.

  16. Brun says:

    Hawaii only is disappointing. Looks like X-Plane is the winner this time around.

    Still, I’d take a Falcon 5 over either one – Falcon 4 really spoiled me on civilian flight sims.

    • phylum sinter says:

      X-Plane for $80 though? I want to fly, but not for that price…

    • metalangel says:

      It comes with EIGHT double-sided DVDs, for the scenery.

    • Zenicetus says:

      $80 may seem a bit steep compared to a standalone AAA game title, but it does include a full terrain model of the world (minus the poles), and every major airport and navaid in the world. That’s what all those DVD’s are for. The scenery is auto-generated so it’s not photorealistic, but there are free and commercial scenery add-ons to fill in the areas you’re interested in. Check out what’s available here in the freeware file section for plane models and scenery:

      http://www.x-plane.org/

  17. smg77 says:

    My New Year’s Resolution is to not play any GFWL games ever again.

  18. phylum sinter says:

    I wonder if they chose Hawaii at least in part because of the fear of putting a real city in after 9/11… but its’ been so long, are we to suffer the idiocy of a few horrendous fools forever?

    • Zenicetus says:

      They probably chose Hawaii because 1) it’s pretty terrain to fly over at low-altitude, and 2) flight sim engines and plane models are small files, but terrain data tends to be huge. As a free download, restricting the terrain to just Hawaii means the download file size won’t be too big.

      For example, there is a payware scenery package for X-Plane that only covers the island of Oahu, not even the whole island chain, and it’s a 3 gig download. Here are some screenshots to compare to the new MS product:
      http://www.realscenery.com/flash_galleries/hi/oahu/oahu.html

  19. pilouuuu says:

    Does F2P mean that they’re going to charge for the usage of GFWL from now on? I can’t expect anything good from the words PC game + Microsoft.

  20. leox001 says:

    GFWL is not avilable in my country. Fuck you Microsoft

  21. asshibbitty says:

    The RoF model :)

    Gutted that it’s not a proper MSFS, but better this than nothing I guess. Hope it meets whatever goals they’ve set for it too.

    Goddamn that is one ugly-ass plane.

  22. matnym says:

    GFWL never works for me anyway. I always lose connection with it after a few minutes, so I never bother. I actually kind of like Age of Empires Online but because you have to be connected to Live it’s pretty much unplayable for me. Shame.

  23. Robsoie says:

    There’s the open source Flightgear too if you’re interested in giving a flight simulator a try but can’t afford the excellent X-Plane price.

    Though Flightgear is unfortunately locked into an ever increasing system requirement for each new version, so if your system is not up to latest versions requirement, and if you are more after the flying simulation itself than the visuals, you can get an older version (like 1.9.0) that will run much better (especially online on KSFO where most pilots are trying to fly but that recent versions transformed into a framerate killer) but with less nice visual effects.

  24. phylum sinter says:

    Turns out i’m a beta tester!

    …downloading it now, reports after i get a few hours in.

  25. Ennui says:

    I was mildly excited about this when I first heard about it but now it gets a big fat “MEH” from me. What I loved about earlier FS games was being able to go on epic transatlantic journeys where I spent 4 hours on autopilot over the ocean merely to crash into a mountainside in France as I attempted to land.

  26. LionsPhil says:

    Er. Is there any reason to believe this has anything to do with the previous games holding the name, given the developers were all let go?

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’ve heard that it uses a tuned-up version of the FSX flight model, but nothing else will be in common with the previous versions (no ability to import previous planes or scenery, etc.).

  27. bartleby says:

    Well, this is terrible news. So I guess there’ll soon be one more X-Plane 10 order.

  28. jamesgecko says:

    Flight simulation is one of the better genres to apply the FTP model to, imho. As simulators, they’re closer to an electronic toy than a game. There is no competitive disadvantage because there is no competition. Players are simply buying different experiences.

    All of this vanishes the moment that multiplayer dog fighting becomes an option, of course.

  29. kert says:

    I dont know what GFWL is. Im on the beta wait list. I don’t like Hawaii, or the modern concept of it. I think i will have to throw away my Microsoft Sidewinder joystick now, made in 2001.

    Please MSFT, just do another Crimson Skies. Properly. It would fit on XBOX, even.

  30. Dusk says:

    Loving the game so far! Zero GFWL hassles at all!

  31. soldant says:

    I *ahem* could have known a lot more about this game, but because of some ridiculous gamertag issues and my Windows Live login, I can’t. But if it’s just Hawaii, then I’m not particularly interested. It might be pretty scenery to fly over but it’s not part of the appeal for me. It’s a shame that X-Plane has such an abysmal interface, because apparently it’s the last modern civil aviation sim left worth playing.

  32. Big Murray says:

    I bet £100 that one of their achievements is “Do A Barrel Roll”.

  33. SolCommand says:

    Hawaii … now that’s a nice location to fly !

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