Saturday, April 16, 2022

Earth Simulator (with Airplanes)

I've resuscitated this blog to write occasionally on my continuing infatuation with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. If you've read any of my earlier posts, you will know that I am a lifelong "airplane nut" and that MSFS does a very good job of simulating the experience of flying an airplane, as well as any simulator I have tried that doesn't move. It's actually better in most ways than the few I've tried that did toss me around in a small capsule with a screen in front (I have not yet tried a full motion simulator with VR, which could be great or sickening or possibly both). 

Even after hundreds of hours in the simulator, I am still finding new and wondrous things in the experience, and especially in the beautiful visual world as modeled within the simulator. As I have noted elsewhere, it is the combination of cloud computing, fast internet connections, fast computers, and advanced graphics processing that makes it all possible. Modeling the entire planet requires petabytes of data that can be selected and streamed "on demand" to your PC or XBox. There it is combined with flight modeling, weather modeling, sound modeling, and more to create the 25-60 high-res images per second needed to fool you into believing that you are in control of an airplane moving at extreme speed. One for each eye if you are in VR. 

I sometimes like to fly amphibious planes so I can land in water or on a runway. If I'm using Live Weather or if I decide to crank up some wind at ground level, water operations can be challenging. 

I devoted an earlier post to my amazement at the way light and weather are modeled in the sim, but sometimes I find new surprises. as when I was flying a silver PT-17 Stearman biplane near the Phare de Gatteville on the north coast of France, just after sunset. As I circled low around the lighthouse, the rotating beacon illuminated my wing, and the reflection was blinding! 

Even as I have started to take some real-life refresher lessons in a Cessna 172, I continue to be fascinated by what is really more of a dynamic "Earth simulator" than a "mere" flight simulator. 


Unknown said...

I didn't realize that the experience required a live, streaming internet connection. Does that mean you have/need one of those 100MBs fiber-optic connections? - C

FlyingSinger said...

That might be nice but not necessary. My download speed is 70-110 MBPS with 10-20 MBPS up and this works just fine. The total database is hundreds of petabytes but the system is smart and only sends what is needed based on what you can see from where you are, your speed, your graphics settings, etc. There is also an offline mode that uses generic 3D models that still looks pretty good if you are high enough (at 30,000 feet you might not know). Things like weather, trees, water waves, etc are procedurally generated and don’t require much data. You can also choose to download and save terrain etc. for selected areas where you fly frequently though this takes a lot of disk space and must be “refreshed” when they do software updates so it’s not worth it if you have a good internet connection.

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