When it comes to realism, some games have it, others do not. Throughout its long-running history, Microsoft Game Studios has put realism at the forefront of the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise.
Last seen in 2006 with the release of Flight Simulator X, Microsoft is bringing the franchise back, simply under the name Microsoft Flight.
The new title will be available sometime in 2012, though Microsoft has yet to unveil an official release date (no surprise here). The title will be launched on Games for Windows - LIVE service and will bring a new perspective to the long-standing Flight Simulator franchise. Microsoft is promising players of the series will notice that Flight will be an entirely new breed of virtual flight, complete with new gameplay elements, enhanced scenery and terrain, new aircraft, and an integrated content marketplace. The LIVE allows players to connect to a global base of users, content and endless exploration. The learning curve has always been steep in the series, though Microsoft is committed to making the game more approachable for the casual gamer.
The Games for Windows — LIVE platform will introduce a new level of connectivity to virtual flight, enhancing both the social and gameplay experiences. Content will be updated virtually, and players can fly solo or join an entire global flight community online. For the first time in the series, players around the world can engage and interact with other virtual pilots. How all this will come together (whether it is traditional multiplayer or co-op) is still unknown, but should be fleshed out in the coming months.
Microsoft is designing the game for a wide range of players, not just the typical simulation player. Balancing the need for in-game missions for players or "Free Flight" modes for those who just want to fly presented an interesting challenge for the design team as they tried to appeal to a wider audience.
The missions are designed to guide players through game objectives, from tasks such as flying through a way-point to performing challenging aerobatic routines or transporting frantic passengers through bad, nighttime weather. The missions are created for a variety of skill levels, each of them helping players become more skilled and accomplished. It is important to note that to become a skilled pilot in the game, the path is not linear like many games (do this, and then do that), but rather it splits into multiple paths which converge further along in the player's overall career.
The game will also have awards, achievements and experience points to reward players for accomplishing tasks within the game. How much a player earns is directly proportionate to how successful they are in a given mission, such as how well the plane was landed to how quickly a task was performed correctly.
Specs, Specs, Those Pesky Specs
Demanding hardware specs has always been a downside to the franchise, one that scares away casual gamers and makes flight enthusiasts wonder if they really need a new computer or not.
Performance optimization has been a core focus for the design team since the early stages of development, and to achieve this, the design team has been continually monitoring performance metrics across various hardware configurations. Microsoft is adamant that they have designed the game to run well on older computers, though without consumer benchmarking, this is really impossible to verify at this time.
According to Microsoft's testing, the game will run on low graphics settings with hardware that meets the following specs:
- Dual Core 2.0 GHz
- 256 MB graphics card capable of shader 3.0 (DX 9.0c compliant)
- 10 GB Hard Drive space
- Windows XP SP3
- 2 GB RAM
Their testing shows that to meet the high settings, the hardware recommendations are as follows:
- Intel® Coreâ„¢ i7 960 @ 3.20GHz, AMD® Phenomâ„¢ II X6 1100T 3.3 GHz or better
- ATI Radeonâ„¢ HD 5870, NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 560 or better
- 10 GB Hard Drive space
- Windows 7 64-bit
- 6 GB RAM
Microsoft Flight Beta
Microsoft has opened the application process to flight enthusiasts who would like to participate in the Flight Beta Program, set to launch in January 2012. All applicants should apply at the Microsoft Flight website for consideration. Microsoft will contact players if they are chosen for the Beta.
The Beta Program will go a long way to verifying the actual specs of the game, as the consumer definition of "older computers" is probably different than Microsoft's. The screenshots and the video look fantastic, though again, the system specifications to make the game look like that are going to be steep. All that being said, the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise has been very successful since inception, and one would have to be extremely cynical to believe this one will not be a solid entry.
Microsoft Flight has no official release date at this point.
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Source: Microsoft Game Studios