Microsoft Flight – The Cloud Enigma

Microsoft Flight is the new Live Cloud development from Microsoft announced on the eve of gamescom 2010.  As Miguel B states in an earlier post this seem to be the direction that Microsoft are taking with respect to Flight Simulation.  What next, I wonder – available only on X-Box?  There’s a really kitsch video presumably  featuring the voice of the ubiquitous Ms Patty Wagastaff who throughout this 15 second epic enunciates breathlessly, “I dreamed I could fly” plus a shadowy pin-up photo of the aforementioned (again presumably) Ms Wagstaff.  Nice images no substance.  Will this new strategy send a shiver through third party software developers – it might.

It depends if Microsoft will allow any developer to add software to its online effort, but history is certainly not on their side.  In some blurb at MS game studios have released they state,”  . . . Microsoft Flight will bring a new perspective to the long standing genre, welcoming everyone, including long-time fans to experience the magic of flight.”  So there you have it fellow simmers we are “long-time” fans!!  Phil Spencer, VP MS Game studios, goes on to say that they are “Reinventing these iconic franchises . . . . marks the beginning our return to PC gaming in bold new ways.”  Simulation is out, gaming is in!

Microsoft have already launched “Live Mesh” which is a web based system of which lets you connect your personal individual computers (work, home, laptop etc) to your very own online Mesh and then use them remotely from anywhere.  You now connect to what is your new PC environment via a browser.  Basically the “cloud” synchronises any data you  upload via a Mesh desktop to a Mesh folder across all of the computers you have connected to the system and this is accessible to other and yourself from anywhere in the world.   It looks like another neat way of controlling software, you will probably pay a licence fee to use the system, including any software that you may need, for example Office software, etc.  In theory because the business end is on the web and maintained by MS there should be no corruption of any software that you run and individual machine power, settings and quirks become less important.  Of course, by default, it gives Microsoft a bigger hold over what software you can use and buy!  The basis of this new technology, which I believe is a major step forward by the Redmond giant, is simple: communication and sharing!  We shall have to wait and see.

Microsoft inform us that the key advantages of cloud computing are:

  • Cost. You choose a subscription or, in some cases, a pay-as-you-go plan–whichever works best with your organization’s business model.
  • Flexibility. Scale your infrastructure to maximize investments. Cloud computing allows you to dynamically scale as demands fluctuate.
  • Accessibility. Help make data and services publicly available without jeopardizing sensitive information.

These key points are important to Flight Simmers, because this may well detail the way that Flight Simulation will develop over the new few years.  What will it mean? Firstly, I don’t think that it will be cheaper to purchase a subscription than it is to buy a software DVD.  As I see it, we would be “purchasing” Microsoft software on demand, ie paying on a per-use and/or we are probably looking at a monthly/annual subscription, but that could mean regular upgrades/updates if it is economically viable.  It is certainly worthwhile looking at the AZURE platform also from MS.  The pricing policies are already laid out and they don’t look cheap!  You get an Introductory special at zero cost for 3 months; Consumption is a pay as you go option (will it cost more to fly from New York to Detroit that it would cost to fly from LA to Heathrow)?; and MSDN premium is presumably for premium services?  There is no hint of cost, just the outlines of these 3 plans.

In the case of FSX, how would the cloud option handle 3rd pary add-on software?  Would they be added as licensed modules and you would subscribe to whatever module you wanted?  Would there be a section for freebie add-ons, where altruistic simmers could load those goodies?  Frankly, I find it hard to envisage how these last two scenarios might work at reasonable cost.  What will happen to all those expensive add-ons that you purchased for FSX, will there be a “local” add-on feature for them?  Will there even be any backward capability?  Whatever happens, another round of spending seems to be appearing on the (virtual) horizon!

Is the day of the fast mega core cpu, fast ram and video card over?  Is it going to be more important to have a super-fast internet connection?  I suppose one advantage is that you will be able to fly on your mobile phone.  I wonder if there will be an iphone app??  What happens if every simmer gets online at once, will we back in stutterville?  Is this the end of tweaking as we know it!  I can only see a few options on how to run flight sim software via cloud:  Simmers would probably be able to choose to run the software either via the Internet, using Microsoft Online Services, or through access servers installed on site.  So we may all have to buy a fast server.

The newest slogan from Microsoft is: “The Cloud – We’re all in!”  Looks like we’re headed for turbulent overcast times and if the price is not right then I’m certainly “all in”.  Somebody once said, “that we should not be afraid of the future”.  I agree, with respect to Flight Simulation, I’m not afraid, I’m terrified, terrified that it will become super hip hop high flying arcade game experience.  On the other hand it will probably enhance the multi-player immersion and may well be able to interact with real world flying.  So maybe there is light at the end of the cloud tunnel!

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Thursday, August 26, 2010 01:31

Did anyone actually notice the video on the site looks like actual game play? Or at least the volumetric waves and water and the color looked right and the sunset and terrain off in the distance? Looks way better than the DX10 preview shots of FSX…

Guys from what I know Microsoft Flight is going to leave FSX in the dust…

Monday, August 23, 2010 13:24

Peter: As far as Microsoft are concerned it is a game. That’s not supposition or conjecture, it always has been the case. Therefore, a reference to it being a ‘game’ in that context is irrelevant – in that context, FS9 and FSX are games. What I was referring to was information that this new title will be so very different from what came before it? They haven’t yet said so, so we simply don’t know. If, at some point, they announce it will be a pretty and utterly unrealistic game then people can say ‘told you so’, but right now,… Read more »

Tom Constantine
Monday, August 23, 2010 05:59

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzhuh? wha… ummm zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Monday, August 23, 2010 00:55

IanP The GAME reference: Please read my post: from Phil Spencer: “Reinventing these iconic franchises . . . . marks the beginning our return to PC gaming in bold new ways.” Yes “PC Gaming” is in the release not “PC simulation”, ie simulation is not mentioned but GAMING is! Go figure! My comment about a “CRAY” was IRONIC and probably sarcastic (not a statement of fact) merely alluding to the fact that most posts in the forums state by how much you have to overclock your system to get FSX to run optimally. BTW I didn’t state CRAY, I actually… Read more »

Sunday, August 22, 2010 15:04

Can you please post the reference to where you have seen that this will be a “game”, John? I’ve seen a lot of nothing so far. A lot people saying that because the word “Simulator” has been dropped it will therefore be a game, but zero evidence to back up that supposition. Also, note who makes and publishes the product. It is stored in Microsoft Games. It is developed by Microsoft GAME Studios and departments. It is not a professional tool – that is explicitly stated in the licensing on all versions and almost all add-ons (“For entertainment purposes only”… Read more »