The Realistic Escapism of Microsoft Flight Simulator – DEBUG MODE

The new Microsoft Flight Simulator is an amazing thing. It isn’t magic, but it is frequently magical. Rather than a more straightforward review or discussion of the game, I wanted to make something that was more of a general essay.

In a lot of ways, Flight Simulator transcends normal video games. It’s a way to experience a version of the real world – and realistic aviation if that’s you’re interest. Although I thought about getting a new flight stick (my ancient Logitech Wingman Attack 2 didn’t seem to be working all that well), I ended up being more interesting in touring the world than learning how to fly so the video is entirely “cinematic” – no UI or menus; no in-depth discussion of controls or options. That was a nice change of pace.

Above all, I wanted to put something out into the world that was positive, uplifting, and uniting. It’s been a rough year for just about everyone. Flight Simulator offers a bit of an escape from that while also allowing us to step back and appreciate how far technology has come to simulating and imitating the beauty of nature.

This is the first game in a long time that’s made my system beg for mercy. This used to happen all the time growing up before I built a fairly nice gaming and editing PC so it’s kind of nostalgic in a way. In fact, I can remember barely being able to run Combat Flight Simulator 3 and Flight Simulator 2004 back in the day on our family Dell. That seems crazy now.

I can run FS2020 on high settings (not ultra, of course) but the framerate is much lower than what I’ve become accustomed to. The game’s performance is extremely variable depending on location, elevation, weather, and what plane you’re flying. I strategically trimmed a few settings to get 30ish FPS some of the time, but usually the performance was more in the 20-28 FPS range while recording footage. Normally I would have compromised the graphics settings further to get a consistent 30 FPS, but in this case, the entire point was the visual beauty so I didn’t really want to do that.

Framerate inconsistency really bugs me. I’m very sensitive not only to framerates rising and falling but also frame-time variations. Don’t pay attention to this stuff if you can help it. It will only cost you money and time in a desperate attempt to fix it.

I ended up trying to mitigate some of these effects by speeding up the footage. I’d monitor the actual recorded framerate of a clip and increase the playback speed to approximately match the 30 FPS target. It’s an imperfect solution but better than relying on interpolating all the missing frames. Almost every shot is re-timed at least a little. There’s still a lot of micro-stutter in the finished video. It bugs me, but that’s the compromise I chose this time.

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