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!

0 Responses

  1. Not for me, thanks, will stay with FS9 until I can run FSX on a new machine that will be able to operate it with sophisticated addons as I do with FS9 today… (unlimited framerate).

    That is a real pity! I just hope Aerosoft will be able to unseat MS from their leading position in flight simulation once and for all so that developers can survive and simmers can enjoy their hobby without being ransomed by MS.

    Good luck Aerosoft!

  2. I will stick with FS9, although I also have FSX, until the chickens come to roost!

  3. The funny thing is that a lot of people talk about these idiots of gamers that have no brain and will kill simulation because MS will cater for them… yet the reaction to the MS announcement seen in the forums is exactly the same as the one seen from the said gamers when Dragon Age 2 was revealed with the same type of brief information. We’re still playing a game, even if it is a solid realistic simulation game, it is an unsupervised hobby, not a proper training tool, aka it’s for fun (which does not exclude education and culture), aka it’s a form of game.
    Anyway, I would hate seeing it transformed into an “arcade” experience, but we really don’t know anything about it. Although, I note that some 3rd party developpers were in the know, and they’re excited about it (go see Orbx forums), so surely the conspiracy theory that says that 3rd party addons will be impossible is probably not justified

  4. Sorry guys but this article is non-sense, zero related to the MS Flight strategy and is based on zero ginformation rounds (as we haven’t disclose anything). We have not mention subscription models for fligth neither integration with non related technologies like Azure subscription (way off target).

    The only thing that I can say is that we want a product that can reach all target audiences, just have some patience, enjoy FS9/FSX and once more news are published you can properly discuss what is coming next.

  5. S Patuel, you are right.

    The press release clearly states (in short) it will be a Windows title (Live capable) and Flight will satisfy practically everyone(newcomers and long time fans. That’s it.

    What really baffles me is this: why does Microsoft (again) goes for this shallow teaser thing, while everybody knows a vivid FS community will go nuts with speculation. I expected MS would have learned from the past and be more careful with announcements. FS people are very passionate about their hobby, probably is best not to mess with them. But that is just my humble opinion.

  6. I’d like to respond to S Patuel, who states that my article is non-sense (sic) “as we haven’t disclose (sic) anything”. So S Patuel Microsoft have made NO announcement about the “new” MS Flight running on the Live platform? There is no video as I described it? My article is a piece of (tongue in cheek) conjecture trying to show what the likely scenarios MIGHT BE not those that WILL be! I discuss briefly the current cloud, live, azure etc options that MS MIGHT employ and also give MY opinion on the the pros and cons of such strategy. Whether I am right or wrong is immaterial the thing that we need to do is to get MS’s plans for the new non-disclosed Flight out into the open early so that we do not have the fiasco of FSX and its hastily cobbled together SP1 and SP2 all of which require a CRAY like computer to function. I feel that your response to my article was patronising and demeaning in the extreme and I feel that you could have couched your response in kinder terms and with more positive comments rather than the usual Microsoft negativity. Its obvious that you (the corporate you) have no concept of a free and open society where everything is discussed in an open manner without all of this cloak and dagger secrecy. Terrible aviator says it all.

  7. you are free to write what you want, and people are free to post their opinion of what you wrote. I must say though that ,and I quote, …”Its obvious that you (the corporate you) have no concept of a free and open society” (wtf!), also…”your response to my article was patronising and demeaning in the extreme” seems to be an overreaction.

    john thorlacius

  8. Now you’re over-reacting Peter. My first thought was that this article was wandering off into an alternate reality altogether but, as has already been said, anyone can post conjecture in whatever direction they like.

    However, some of your statements even in your reply are factually incorrect. FSX does not need a “CRAY” to run (indeed a Cray couldn’t run it, I do wish people wouldn’t use that comparison as it is like comparing apples and oranges). MS have released… well, basically, nothing. I think that’s a mistake in itself and they have shot themselves pretty firmly in the foot with an early announcement that causes more confusion than it resolves. Why did they feel pressured into doing that, I wonder? Anyone care to throw more fuel onto the fire with that snippet?

    I do think S Patuel could have phrased the post better (and used a spellchecker if you’re going to represent a company in public!) but “free and open society”? No such thing in business. We know there is the threat of competition out there from at least two companies, although neither of them have announced much yet, either.

    I neither particularly like, nor trust, Microsoft, but I also cannot think of a more local hardware intensive and less “cloud appropriate” application than a flight simulator, either.

    What we can all expect is more conjecture, discussion and argument however much is released, anyway. I can guarantee one thing – whatever MS or anyone else releases in the future, people will be unhappy with it and complain about it. Fun, innit?

  9. Microsoft have lost the plot. If they do not understand that Flight Simulation – to the serious simmer, which most of us are – is not a game what right do they have to our respect? They have produced our base simulations for many years but it irks me that these people, for all their talent, refer to us simmers(driectly or obliquely) as ‘gamers’. Are they part of the simulation industry or not?

    It is insulting. What business person(s) insults their customers? What business person(s) treat their customer base as a lot of dolts?

    I suggest these people take time out for a reality check about our use of virtual reality and flight simulation – and more specifically the many and varied kinds of people who use it, from professional and private pilots down to the home-based hobbyist with an aviation bent.

    Microsoft – wake up and connect with the people who pay your salaries by way of purchases!

  10. 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” “not for use with real world flight”), it is an entertainment product. Is it a fairly realistic one? That could be argued, but it is and remains an entertainment title.

    ESP was part of the “simulation industry”. It no longer exists. Flight Simulator (from the Bruce Artwick days through to Flight) is an entertainment industry title, not a professional tool.

  11. 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 said CRAY LIKE, and for the record my comment was merely rhetorical.
    Yes I admit that I was incensed by the comments that a MS representative made about the post, I merely posed several questions about what form the new “game” might take. Nothing in the post suggests that this is official MS policy. But it did achieve the desired effect and get you all thinking! BTW, how do you know that I am over-reacting and what alternate reality did I wander off into? I expect criticism and will respond appropriately and please tell me what I shouldn’t have put in the article.

  12. 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, there’s no evidence to back it up.

    As for over-reacting, I was referring to the whole tone of your post and wasn’t the only one to do so. We’ll just have to disagree, I suppose, and find out who was right when some actual information is released!

  13. 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…

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