seodave

Graphics are great ... should we be looking at physics now?

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Evening all!
 
I've been using FSX-SE for a while now and I am a dedicated pixel pilot (I'm claiming that term!) and I'm an avid reader of our hobby's magazine - like everyone else I've seen FSX and other flight sims develop pretty much exponentially over the years. Graphics have gotten better and better alongside the hardware we all use. The graphics and visual realism are genuinely staggering these days ... notice I say 'visual realism'.
 
This led me to a conversation I have been having with myself recently and thought I would post here to get other people's opinions. 
 
Although graphics have improved, I've not really read about, heard about or seen discussions around physics. Physics is everything to flight, so I'm wondering why we don't talk about it more and why developers aren't focusing on it more (I appreciate scenery and graphics sell better!)? I've been looking back at release notes and updates from Dovetail regarding FSX-SE and I can't find anything about physics. It's all about graphic performance. I am very happy if someone can prove me wrong (again I appreciate that Dovetail's likely business plan for FSX-SE was to sell more to a mass market).
 
There's quite an array of things that could be improved in FSX-SE with regards to the physics engine, I've named a few that I can think of:
 
  • Friction - ground friction is something that can be controlled through the aircraft config file but I've never noticed a difference in surface texture comparing grass against tarmac.
  • Aerodynamics - I think the principles are there but aerodynamics in relation to wind and especially changing wind conditions are not modelled well if at all.
  • Environmental physics - how gusts and the wind interact with the aircraft, I really don't think the way it works currently is realistic - mainly during changing winds, is there even a wind gradient modelled? What about the effects of objects? For example, a tall line of trees alongside the runway will significantly impact the wind, considerations and handling on take off. Downdrafts and updrafts, eddies and vortices. Even having no wind during a landing can make for a profoundly different landing experience in real life.
  • Instruments - as a pilot of small aircraft in the real world myself I know that the airspeed indicator needle is rarely still just because the air around it isn't! Especially during manoeuvres such as side-slipping. This isn't modelled in FSX I don't think.

Maybe I'm asking too much of our beloved sim? I appreciate that for many this would be too much, are there other sims which do a far greater job of this?

 

What does everyone think? Should be looking more closely at physics and less on scenery or am I just being a pedantic pair of buttocks?

 

Very interested to hear people's thoughts.

 

Cheers all!

 

Dave

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Let's hope future simulators do more of what seodave is wishing for. Some of it can be done with addons now already. A2A needles move. AS16 turbulence. Ezdok headshake. It really depends on what the market by and large want from their simulator. For modelling IFR and systems for tubeliners, you don't need that good a physics model. For aerobatics you absolutely do.

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X-Plane is probably the simulator that is spending the most time on physics..

 

FSX and FSX-SE are pretty much frozen, although newer weather programs add new capabilities.

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Lots of add-ons can give you some of that stuff. But it's still an issue in many ways.

 

With regard to ground friction, which by default is not great in any ESP-based sim, PMDG's new 747 and FSL's A320 have very good ground friction modeling and you can find payware stuff such as TSR Autobrake and Frictionality which will also add that kind of thing:

 

https://www.simshack.net/products/frictionality-runway-friction-utility-fsx-759

 

A full version of FSUIPC can help with how wind and aerodynamics are handled, as can quite a few of the well known weather add-ons. Similarly you can add a vertical air mass component with a few add ons aimed at making gliding more fun without specifically creating a mission with thermals in it. Theoretically there is vertical air mass movement in FS, (see your settings for 'thermal visualisation' to change how it shows up, i.e. if you have it on 'natural', you'll see birds circling where the thermals are), but to be honest, it is done better in dedicated soaring simulations such as Condor, although as noted, some add-ons can tweak it a bit and add other elements such as airframe icing.

 

I do agree with you that the way the ASI fluctuates, particularly in a small aeroplane in real life, isn't especially well modeled in any flight sim so as a general rule I concur that it is a bit crap in FS. Being mainly a glider pilot in real life myself, I've always bemoaned the fact that the air mass modeling in many flight sims is poor, particularly when we consider that it is the medium we are actually flying through. But the truth is, many pilots who are less dependent on the weather than those of us who fly gliders, are often less aware than they should be of how much it can affect things, simply because most of the time, an aeroplane with an engine can simply power its way through such effects, thus they often go unnoticed; it's only when there's a significant crosswind or a microburst or something that many pilots of powered aircraft begin to appreciate the effect of the moving air mass. I have often observed the shadow of aircraft I've flown for real travelling backwards across the landscape when I've had an airspeed of 40 or 50 knots on the clock, and seen that shadow stay completely stationary as I put the nose into the the updraft from a hill. Incidentally, you can actually do that in FS: try setting a wind speed of 60 knots and take the default Piper Cub off into that wind and you'll see it take off backwards, but what you probably won't see, is the wind gradient making the airspeed over the ground change as you get above the friction of the land, as you certainly do in a real aeroplane. I've even taken gliders up to over 20,000 feet and had to use oxygen because of that, and this is from an initial release from aerotow height of 1,500 feet -  thanks to standing wave lift - that's a gain of over well 18,000 feet with no engine at all apart from the one nature provided, and that thing is going up like a rocket in those circumstances, so it is certainly the case that the contour of the land can affect the air for many miles downwind in a very significant way in real life, it's just that in an airliner doing 250 knots or even a Cessna doing 100 knots, the chances of noticing it making a big change are much reduced. But that air around us is moving a lot more than many appreciate, and it would be great to see that done properly in a flight sim.

 

I daresay many might imagine that the nuances of weather are not that important for big &@($* airliners, but all I can say on that, is that even though I've never been at the controls of a 747 for real, with that massive tail fin acting like a sail (not to mention the entire side of the fuselage too) and the rudder doing bugger all to help with steering until the things starts moving appreciably when there is some airflow over it, I'm pretty damn sure a real 747 pilot would have something to say about that not being too important with regard to simulating how it handles lol.

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Many thanks for Chock, Bert, Glider1 and Bonchie for your replies. Pretty much as I imagined - I agree it'll very much never happen (at least certainly not in FSX anyway) but it is very nice to know that there are others out there whom have noticed the same things and would be interested in their development. FSX is very broad in terms of whom uses the platform which is probably the main reason none of what I listed will likely ever be added (great points regarding larger aircraft), but it is interesting to know also that there are some add-ons that may help with things like this, plus a few aircraft (such as A2A - thanks Glider1) that have their own 'physics engine'. Bert - I think I'll take a closer look at X-Plane just out of interest, thanks for the heads up.

 

Cheers all, Dave

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We used to talk about it all the time. For years flight dynamics in MSFS was an important issue. And then along came FSX..........and the world changed to eye candy. Most folks don't care about how the aircraft flies - they only care about how the world around them looks. Sometimes I wish for the old days.......sigh.

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The way I remember it, is that in the FS2002 days, our computers were barely able to keep up with the graphics demands, and framerates and texture loading were the biggest challenge.

 

Then computers became faster, and flightsim legends like Rob Young (among others) started to develop finely tuned flight models that were able to make us feel like we were flying a real airplane.

 

Then FSX came along and dumped a whole new level of graphics detail in our laps ( as you indicated above ).. and we are still digging ourselves out from that avalanche..

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With regard to ground friction, which by default is not great in any ESP-based sim

 

In the chicken versus the egg discussion technically FSX came first then ESP. https://www.microsoft.com/Products/Games/FSInsider/developers/Pages/

 

Since the discussion began with FSX-SE which is nothing more than FSX ported to the Steam client with some improvements by DTG, it is not ESP based. The only ESP based sims still commercially developed is P3D, however, as ESP was FSX based they are all FSX based.

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What I will say, is that ever since products such as Active Sky showed up, things have at least improved somewhat. Over the years, I've reviewed a few versions of Active Sky for Avsim and indeed some of its competitors, and whilst Active Sky in its various incarnations over the years is not alone in being able to tart up the weather for FS - there's also Rex and Opus etc which are also good - Active Sky does a pretty good job of things with the minimum of fuss and with an acceptable impact on frame rates.

 

So I'd say Active Sky is definitely worth a look if you presently have no third party weather engine tweaks for your FS and are seeking to improve the air mass simulation, and this is particularly so if you use FSX-SE, since the Steam version of Active Sky Next is a fairly reasonable 18 quid. For that small outlay, it will happily let you have FS simulate wind gradients, thermal updrafts, downdrafts, turbulence, wake turbulence etc, all with very little effort on your part once you've set it to what you prefer. Not only that, I find it does a very good job of interpreting METARs to give you some challenging and realistic weather, particularly with regard to IFR decision heights with low cloud and fog, so be prepared to divert to your alternate if you do use it on realistic settings.

 

The reason I have been impressed with how ASN interprets weather, is that I live less than four miles away from where the UK National Weather Centre's main measuring instruments are located, and less than three miles away from EGCC, which also has sophisticated weather sensing equipment. So in observing how that pans out in FS with things such as ASN and REX, I know the METARs which FS picks up are pretty much up to the minute with what is currently directly over my head and out of my window. In the UK, we are essentially at the crossroads of four different weather regions, thus any program which can accurately pull off weather which looks like what I can see out of my window in such a meteorologically challenged region as the middle of the UK, as ASN generally does, is definitely doing something right in my book.

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I remember on my one lesson in a C172,  when we were on downwind before landing, the instructor pointed to a patch of disturbed water (the runway at EINC is right beside a beach and the downwind leg is over the water in either direction) and told me that was a sign of distrubed air above, and he'd have to watch out for it. Wouldn't that be something in a flight sim...

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Loving the discussion. Downloaded the beta for X-Plane 11 last night and have been toying with it on and off today. Massive difference between FSX and X-Plane (talking from a physics perspective). The interface is lovely the weather management settings are great. Had a play and although there's not ultralight option I did play with a Discuss K21 and a C172 (see attached for how I ended the flight in the K21 ... skills). Graphically it's good but the physics do seem a million miles from FSX. Just a real shame there seems to be so few addons for it ...

Anyone played with both X-Plane 11 and Prepar3D v3 to compare the physics and flight modeling? Would be interested to know how they compare. I can't seem to find a demo version of P3D v3 to play with. I tried stalls and sideslipping, both seemed to be modelled far better than FSX, unsurprisingly.

Cheers

ASK21_2.png

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Got to say as a long time user of FSXSE I too have started to look at other sims for comparison.

 

Been trying XP Beta for the last few months and the one thing I do find very different between the sims is the perception of speed and height. Took the default 172 up in FSXSE around KSEA and the same in XP....the ground speed is so much faster in XP and the height perception is in my eyes great too, go back to FSX SE and it feels so slow...and not high enough when say at 3k.

Exciting times ahead we hope with all the changes that may becoming to our sim worlds!

 

 

Cheers

 

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