Asobo Studios and Microsoft are changing the way games are being made with the next iteration of the famous series.
Remember simulation games? If you were playing in the 90s and early 00s, you might have heard of games like Silent Hunter, Lock On, and Microsoft Flight Simulator. At that time these games were extremely hot, and people apparently bought them. We don’t hear about simulation games that much now, especially about flight simulation projects. If you don’t count Ace Combat 7 (which is great but hardly a simulator) or that mission from Battlefield 3, I fail to recollect any cool projects in this niche genre. That is up until I saw a video by 'frooglesim' about Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
Now, Microsoft Flight Simulator was announced during E3 2019, looked gorgeous, but kind of went unnoticed. But, the recent video shows that this game is actually a technological and technical achievement of some colossal proportions.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is being developed by a French company Asobo Studio. They’ve developed a ton of games: from Pixar animation tie-ins to open-world racing games (Fuel). This studio's most recent project is called A Plague Tale: Innocence and you’ve most probably heard good things about it.
The projects first started as a Hololens demo 5 years ago. The team adapted Asobo’s procedural game engine to work with planet-scale projects. Asobo actually developed this tech for the 2009 game Fuel (published by Codemasters). That game actually made it to the Guiness Wolrds Records as the biggest open-world game ever. 5, 560 square miles of game terrain is no joke, but it’s just chunk change for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Just for comparison, the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 is 29 square miles.
Developers have used Bing Maps data uploaded it into the engine, added Azure AI on top of it. AI analyses the satellite data and then creates 3d models based on this information: trees, architecture and so on. Obviously a lot of this content is also procedurally generated. The final result is uncanny. It’s jaw-dropping. I’m scared to say this is one of the most authentic-looking landscape 3d simulations ever in the history of video games. But there’s a catch. In order to enjoy all of it, you have to have the game in online mode, so the clever machine learning could actually work its magic and help stream some of the landscape.
Check out those clouds!
There’s also a separate atmospheric renderer, which actually simulates accurate humidity and pollution. There’s a lot of layers of the atmosphere with a bunch of particle effects and separate lighting setups. And the clouds, well, they are actually lit by the sun. There are 32 individual layers of clouds. There’s volumetric 3d rain and rainbow scattering, and volumetric fog.
There's even traffic moving on the city streets.
The city landscape detail is incredible.
It’s an outstanding example of what could be achieved with PBR-rendering, procedural asset generation, clever machine-learning analysis and amazing programming. It feels like Microsoft is not only changing the face of simulators and aerial simulation, but the way companies actually build games. We’re incredibly interested to hear more about this project. If you have the time, please watch the amazing video from frooglesim and other YouTubers. It’s an absolute monster of a game.