I'll start off by saying that this post is intended as an overview of the last year of experience with Flight. Everyone loves to argue about why Flight "failed" in their eyes, but that isn't what this article is about. That said, lets move on with the article!
Microsoft Flight was released back on February 29, 2012 (although I was part of the beta team and first flew it on January 4, 2012). From the beginning, it has had quite a number of followers who support it. However, some think that it is too limited, some think it is not realistic, some think that the aircraft aren't functional. But what about those of us that continue to use it? What is it about Flight that keeps bringing us back?
Flight is different. Nothing like it has really ever been made. While it has its game-like scenarios, it is also quite realistic, especially visually. There is quite a lot to see and do in Alaska and Hawaii, from Aerocaches Hunts to exploring the scenery. Lets take a look at some of the aspects of Flight that made it and continue to make it stand out to this day.
Perhaps it is the pure beauty of the aircraft. They may not be the most functional out there, but they sure look amazing, sound fantastic, and fly exceptionally well. The group of aircraft in Flight, while small, is a very nice selection for any GA pilot. My personal favorite is the Carbon Cub SS. You can take off and land it almost anywhere. Plus, it looks pretty darn nice, too! Some have said that Flight is the most realistic simulator they've ever used. The handling of aircraft in Flight definitely backs that statement.
Keep in mind that I have edited the color of my screenshots (in some cases significantly) and these do not accurately represent the actual color and mood of Flight.
Or perhaps it is the stunning scenery that keeps us coming back for more. The detail in the default scenery of Flight is significantly improved over that of FSX, most noticeably in Hawaii. VFR/low altitude flying is quite fun in Flight, as there are plenty of landmarks and identifiable locations that make VFR flying exceptionally enjoyable. The autogen system was rewritten to allow for more random tree types, better performance, denser coverage, more realistic/accurate sizing, and to fix situations where corners of buildings did not touch the ground. The vertical cliff texture method introduced with Flight eliminates the horrible stretching of terrain textures on steep hills that was present in FSX. The single detail1.bmp has been replaced with a set of various HD detail textures used on the various types of ground surfaces on each landclass (dirt, grass, asphalt, etc all look very detailed up close, all with their own unique look). The water is much improved, with better coloration/shading and higher resolution waves. Trees sway in the wind and cast their own shadows. The weather engine was tweaked to offer better cloud coverage, blended fog, and more variance in different weather scenarios.
Recently, repainting aircraft was made possible by Stephen Heijster (Stonelance), thanks to his creation of the Flight Toolkit. This is the beginning of what could be a new era for Flight, where we are finally able to modify core game elements and content. While we can only modify aircraft textures at this time, perhaps someday we will be able to create new scenery and even aircraft. Only time will tell what the future holds.
While Microsoft may have ended development of Flight months ago, it will still live on for years to come. Those who use Flight enjoy it greatly and will continue to for quite some time, no doubt. It is a great platform deep down and has much potential to grow if we continue to push it. As we explore the inner workings, we will be able to better understand what makes Flight and its content work and hopefully extend what we have available to us.