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Microsoft Lays Off Entire Flight Sim Team

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the throttling-back dept.

PC Games (Games) 162

Dutch Gun writes "Microsoft has just laid off the entire Flight Simulator development team. This continues a long-running trend of terminating or severing relationships with game development studios, such as the Bungie split, FASA, or the closure of Ensemble Studios. While one would presume that core Xbox development is not currently in jeopardy after Microsoft spent up to a billion dollars to pay for Xbox 360 repairs and salvage its reputation with gamers, does this signal a reversal from Microsoft's recent focus on internal game development? And what are its plans for Flight Simulator, a twenty-seven-year product with an extremely loyal user-base and a multitude of externally developed add-ons?"

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162 comments

Who frigging knows? (4, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586687)

Microsoft's "strategy" moves have not seemed to make any sense for years now.

Re:Who frigging knows? (2, Insightful)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586947)

Why? MS flight simulator is not precisely a big seller. In other words, we are not talking about Guitar Hero or World of Warcraft that everybody and their cats own. We are talking about a game that 3 or 4 geeky souls buy and the rest of those who care just get a copy on pirate bay. It's not a secret that MSFS has been a waste of money for the company since version 5. Since then MS has been updating it more for the love of art than for the money. Now the situation is different and every single hole in the economy must be closed, so....

Re:Who frigging knows? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26586981)

MSFS sold far more than most people realize. It's no WoW, but few things are. You don't need to sell 7 million copies to turn a profit.

It's all part of a strategy of abuse, IMO. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589127)

It's necessary to understand Microsoft's strategies:

1) Get everyone involved with Windows XP, then release a version that makes money for Microsoft, but causes problems for customers, assuring everyone will buy the version after that, to fix the problems. Microsoft has been doing that since DOS 2.0: One or two good version, then a trashy version, and no refunds.

2) Get people involved with FoxPro, a database programming language, give it a lot of weirdly designed functions, and then abandon the language and 1.5 million users.

3) Get people involved with Flight Simulator, then abandon it.

It seems to me that the product most important to Microsoft is not computer equipment, but abuse. Microsoft's owners are billionaires. They don't care about more money, they care about having targets for abuse.

Re:Who frigging knows? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587091)

Flight Sim 4 was pretty amazing. It ran on my 8086 with an EGA display and had all sorts of configurable options in the physics engine. I can probably thank time wasted with flightsim for the fact that I completed my gliding scholarship in about half the allotted flying hours. It wasn't as exciting as some other flight simulators - my favourite at the time was F29 Retaliator which let me connect a null modem from my PC to my father's laptop and fly head-to-head[1] - but it was still fun. FlightSim 5 improved the graphics, but reduced the amount of tweaking you could do without buying add-ons. Later ones? Meh.

[1] You could also do this with FlightSim 4, but it was very flakey and there was no collision detection between aircraft, so you could fly right through each other and there wasn't much point in being in the same environment. The chase mode was quite fun, except that the connection kept dropping out.

Re:Who frigging knows? (2, Insightful)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589163)

I think you'd probably be surprised at how many people buy Flight Simulator. It's not a traditional game, so it probably doesn't sell well among those you know and game with. There are many, many non-gamers with PCs who spend a lot of money on this game, expensive peripherals, and software add-ons.

When discussing this among my co-workers today, most of us were under the impression that Flight Simulator had been a consistent money-maker for Microsoft. I couldn't find any corroborating evidence for this (although I didn't look all that hard), so I left that speculation out of the summary. To me, that's what made this so surprising. I would have thought that any product was consistently profitable would be a no-brainer to keep, especially one that had such a long history. It could be that my information is outdated and Flight Simulator is no longer profitable - it would certainly help to explain the cuts.

I have this sneaking suspicion (and a smidge of insider info from a co-worker lended credence to this theory) that MS is somewhat myopically focused on casual games at the moment, which makes a certain amount of sense given the success of the Wii, the recent ridiculousness of Xbox's mii-too "avatars", etc. Thus, their statement about continued development of Live makes sense, since Live games are more easily "monetized", a market-speak term for shoving ads down our throats. It could be that anything that doesn't currently fit that paradigm has likely gotten the axe.

Re:Who frigging knows? (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587089)

Microsoft's "strategy" moves have not seemed to make any sense for years now.

Ok, I could come up with a bunch of anecdotal support for your comment, but MS has been into the subscription software idea for years. Part of their press on this mentions the possibility of Live based flight sim options.

So this particular move seems to fall right in line with the push to move customers to a greater everyday dependency on MS for the products they used to have the freedom to do with as they pleased (after lawful purchase of said product of course).

Re:Who frigging knows? (3, Informative)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587839)

MS has been into the subscription software idea for years. Part of their press on this mentions the possibility of Live based flight sim options.

Yep, Microsoft is suiciding.

The backlash against any attempt to turn Flight Sim into rentware will just push people over to Flightgear [flightgear.org] .

With this sort of arrogance, the Vista/Win 7 debacle and sluggish Office 2007 adoption, Microsoft is digging a very deep trench for itself. It'll be interesting if they can find a way out.

Re:Who frigging knows? (1)

mrphoton (1349555) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587525)

I don't understand why do they not just sell the whole team and game to somebody else?

Re:Who frigging knows? (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589939)

I don't understand why do they not just sell the whole team and game to somebody else?

In case they want to resurrect it later.

Re:Who frigging knows? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587681)

And for some reason, all those people who apparently just make guesses still make millions of dollars and you don't. Funny how that works.

Yes, this one does as well (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587907)

In a short bit, they will "decide" to re-do the team. And they will be hired in India or China with MAYBE one or two ppl from the old team. If these coders were smart, they would approach a VC person NOW, about doing another game.

Re:Yes, this one does as well (1)

kbrasee (1379057) | more than 5 years ago | (#26588261)

India's not as cheap as it used to be.

Re:Who frigging knows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26588341)

That's ok. The last version of MS Flight Sim I played was on a Compaq Portable back in 1983.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Compaq_portable.jpg

I, for one, support Microsoft on this move. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26588685)

I believe companies should stick to their core competencies -- and even moreso in hard times like these we're having now.

In Microsoft' case, it should stick to hardware, which is what it does better.

Like, e.g., the XBox 360.

That aside, why should I worry about this? Color me insensitive, but not only I can't use some excellent M$ software in Linux (which I mainly use), I'm also forced to install free software apps like Firefox (more secure), Openoffice.org (updated spelling checker which Word hasn't and faster to start), Gimp (enough for me; Photoshop? thx but... no, thx) etc. etc.
b) FlightGear, Xplane etc.
c) Other nations are finally showing some competition, so many markets are in for consolidation (read mergers). It's like the auto industry -- become modern or die. All monopolies are bound to be dismantled, even if brick by brick. This is capitalism at its best.

NB: All products and trademarks mentioned belong to their respective owners. Fortunately, not to me.

Re:Who frigging knows? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589701)

Microsoft's "strategy" moves have not seemed to make any sense for years now.

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It's called ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26586691)

... not "getting rid of your best undervalued staff", but instead "focusing on core business".

Re:It's called ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26586775)

... "focusing on core competency".

I prefer X-Plane (5, Interesting)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586699)

Hopefully they'll spend their spare time contributing to X-Plane -- a much better simulator if actual flight simulation is important to you. I was very disappointed to learn that the helis in MS Flight Sim are actually just fixed-wing aircraft with unrealistically large flaps and other such hacks. X-Plane uses a much more realistic flight physics engine. And since I fly RC helis, I have to say that MS's sim always felt strange, not like a giant RC heli at all.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587039)

Hopefully they'll spend their spare time contributing to X-Plane

Are you serious? Contribute to a competing commercial product!? So that they'd have tougher competition if they get to continue working on MSFS. If they want to continue working on related stuff, they'll apply for jobs at companies developing third-party addons for MSFS.

I take it that you're disappointed with the simulation of helicopters - I'm quite disappointed with the simulation of advanced fly-by-wire aircraft. The 777 is fine since the system in the real thing is coded to behave very much like hydraulics in order to be familiar for pilots. However, the more advanced Airbus systems really suck compared to the real thing even though they're made by third-parties that put in an enormous effort compared to what MS puts in in the included aircraft. Obviously, I've never flown the real aircraft but I've heard enough from real pilots on aviation forums that have assisted the simulator community with developing their own (free) aircraft (which - unfortunately but obviously - also suck due to the limitations in MSFS). The inclusion of an Airbus (an A321) in MSFS by MS for the first time (in FS X) did little to improve the development of fly-by-wire systems (it - like all included aircraft - obviously is complete garbage compared to the hideously expensive third-party aircraft). It is of course possible that it isn't worth putting much development effort into that niche since not that many simulator fans fly Airbus (judging from the simulator forums, at least - I don't know about the sales figures). Maybe that group of fans will grow now with the A380, though, since more people might want to fly it simply because it's the biggest :)

As far as the physics engine is concerned, the principles behind it haven't AFAIK changed since version 1.0 - it uses a lot of tables instead of performing physics calculations and the only improvements have been to increase the table sizes with each new release so that the interpolations are less extreme.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587191)

Hm, yeah, X-Planes doesn't get many addons it seems. An Amazon search returned 35 results for X-Plane and 666 for Flight Simulator.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (1)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587811)

Presumably if Flight Sim disappears most of the user base will migrate to X-Plane, and then the add-on developers will start bringing over their products as well.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (4, Informative)

quacking duck (607555) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589135)

If you're searching Amazon it seems you're only looking for paid or official products, but why? Most X-Plane add-ons are free.

The biggest X-Plane enthusiast site is x-plane.org [x-plane.org] , which lists over 2500 aircraft and hundreds of scenery/airport packages.

X-Plane also runs on Mac and Linux, not just Windows. A stripped-down version even runs on iPhone.

666 add-ons?! (1)

chaboud (231590) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590071)

I think we know why that happened. Slashdot should change the Gates image from borg-eyes to horns.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (1)

the_lesser_gatsby (449262) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587353)

Not all third-party aircraft are hideously expensive.

MSFS is worth the entry price for David Maltby's exquisite (and free) models of classic 60s British jets.

Superb graphics and models. Check out this pic:

dmflightsim [dmflightsim.co.uk]

Re:I prefer X-Plane (1)

LoadWB (592248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26590087)

That is a pretty neat screen shot. As a non-pilot, I find flight fascinating and often wish I could see the view from the cockpit window while traveling.

I would bet that such a view is not for the faint-of-heart. I have been on a few planes which have the drop-down LCDs, even one which had the screens in the back of the headrests. I think it would be cool to select "Pilot's view" provided by a small camera in the cockpit.

As an extension, providing that with a recording system might also be helpful to NTSB investigations in the event of a mishap.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587513)

But if they are no longer employed by MS, then X-Plane is no longer competition. Unless MS are going to let them start up their own outfit and hand over all the code and other IP. Sure, they might get a job for MSFS add-ons, but that's hardly a certain thing -- some of them may not even want to do that.

As for good FBW simulation, "X-Plane's flight model can handle flying wings and fly-by-wire systems". I have no idea if that covers what's needed for the 777, but worth looking into if that's your thing.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587651)

As for good FBW simulation, "X-Plane's flight model can handle flying wings and fly-by-wire systems". I have no idea if that covers what's needed for the 777, but worth looking into if that's your thing.

Uh, I said that the 777 system is fine since the real thing doesn't differ nearly as much from hydraulics as Airbus systems do - the real 777 FBW emulates hydraulics to some extent in order to be easier to adjust to for pilots. Airbus are clearly different but in MSFS you don't experience the difference (or so I've been told). But you're right, I should definitely give X-Plane a shot if it also handles FBW better - I only knew that there was a difference in physics. I don't know about the availability of aircraft that I want to fly, though.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (1)

darkeye (199616) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587363)

yes, I'm also an X-Plane user - it's much better, and it's cross platform - works on Mac, Linux, Windows..

Re:I prefer X-Plane (1, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587807)

X-Plane is great, but not in all areas. The super-sonic flight model sucks, there's a lot of improvement to be brought in areas that are just a let down (I haven't played it in a while, but I'd say things like roads in the sky, no reflective textures (non-shiny matte airplanes? The 1990s just called..), a feeling that it could be all optimised a bit, have some better graphics on things like smoke (individual rounds of smoke? come on..), rain (the rain looks awful), crash effects, and so on...

My point is, X-Plane is great, but very specific interest, i.e. it's great for its subsonic flight model and modelling planes, seeing how they really handle and all that.. but the one guy who programs it has no interest in only taking a piece of his pie, but more importantly, there aren't that many good flight simulators out there, some alternatives would be welcome.

I for one would love a flight simulator that looks like what it looks like when you look out the window in an airplane, and also good combat a la Chuck Yeager's Air Combat or F/A-18 Korea..

Re:I prefer X-Plane (2, Interesting)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 5 years ago | (#26588215)

LOMAC. Lock-On Modern Air Combat

Drink one glass of your favorite 80 proof adult beverage, turn off the lights and fire up LOMAC and you will have a hard time discerning it from reality (at least with respect to visuals.)

The combat is also absolutely amazing.

Pick it up for under $20 in the bargain bin - it's worth it.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (0, Flamebait)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589009)

Oh, I haven't tried it much, but I remember hearing that even with a most powerful computer you could still get a really shitty framerate.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26588195)

The main issue with X-plane is that nobody actually uses it (comparitively). The flight model is clearly superior in most situations. However, it lacks quite a bit of polish (voices sound robotic, graphics aren't as nice, flight-planning/etc isn't user-friendly, etc). It also lacks the MASSIVE library of add-ons. Many people stuck with FS2004 just so that they wouldn't have to give up their $500 libraries of add-ons (there was some compatibility, but generally not with super-advanced expensive payware aircraft). Granted, FSX also had serious performance issues on anything but the newest hardware, but from what I've seen as long as your equipment isn't too old you can turn down every graphics setting and end up with something that performs like 2004 while looking slightly better. I suspect the upgrades to FSX have tended to follow hardware upgrades as a result.

There is no question that X-plane could overtake MSFS if it wanted to, but I get the impression that the X-plane crowd doesn't want to "bow" to those who want the polished experience. If that remains the case I wouldn't be surprised if another simulator springs up from nothing and overtakes both X-plane and MSFS (unless MS gets back into the game).

Re:I prefer X-Plane (1)

earthforce_1 (454968) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589643)

I just wish X-Plane had full 64 bit linux support and actual city landmarks, at least as downloadable add-ons I was a bit disappointed when I took off from Toronto Island and couldn't find Ontario Place or the CN tower. And I was so looking forward to flying in the Toronto air show.

I would love to see formation flying and combat over a LAN added. Oh, and take out the "must insert CD" copy protection please - it doesn't stop piracy and is just annoying.

Re:I prefer X-Plane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589755)

http://www.flightgear.org/

Flight Gear is all free and open source, so you stinky hippies ought to love it. It's documented about as well as my asshole, but with some time it's a damn nice alternative.

Contract it out (4, Insightful)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586713)

They'll probably contract out the development of the next Flight Sim, if they choose to develop it. Firing the dev team helps their balance sheet in the short term and when they choose to develop it they might lease the license or hire an external company to develop the game.

Re:Contract it out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587521)

I heard they were going to migrate it to the Excel team =)

Inflight recorder results (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587763)

"Altitude is 65530 feet and climbing, 65534, 65535, oh fu-!"

Somewhat disappointing (4, Funny)

Drinking Bleach (975757) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586717)

I've been feeling for a while now that Microsoft should probably just drop everything and become solely a games developer (with a possible exception of MS Office, their only real successful product, put that on the Xbox or something).

Re:Somewhat disappointing (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586759)

I've been feeling for a while now that Microsoft should probably just drop everything and become solely a games developer (with a possible exception of MS Office, their only real successful product, put that on the Xbox or something).

You give up on that idea of selling an OS?

Re:Somewhat disappointing (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586841)

Yeah when you have a total market dominance and put your product on 90% of all computers sold you know it's time to quit before you make too much money.

Re:Somewhat disappointing (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586875)

Yeah when you have a total market dominance and put your product on 90% of all computers sold you know it's time to quit before you make too much money.

Look out for that chair, talking like that.

Re:Somewhat disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589847)

You know Windows has less than 90% market share now a days right?

Microsoft's strategies (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586879)

I've been feeling for a while now that Microsoft should probably just drop everything and ...

I feel so too. In fact, I pray everyday for it to happen.

Unforturnately, the company's marketing machine is too good, from a small-business point of view.

They look really innovative.

  • Windows NT (when workers used floppies)
  • Active Directory (when workers rarely set passwords)
  • SharePoint (when workers never even heard of blogs)
  • VoIP (when full-functionality PABXs are not so common in small businesses)

Unless we can deliver hitmen to their business, legal and marketing departments...

Re:Microsoft's strategies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26588613)

I fucking hate Sharepoint. :(

Re:Somewhat disappointing (0)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586917)

Are you mad? You know which product is the one that gives MS more money, do you? It's NOT office, not the OS, not games, not XBox: its name is (repeat after me): MS SQL Server. Ask anyone with little internal knowledge in MS and you will see. Of course, being a server product, it's not a product Charlie and his brother even remotely know about.

Re:Somewhat disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587103)

Uh... that's not accurate at all.

Office makes more money than Windows makes more money than SQL server. Hell, it's in the SEC filings. Don't get me wrong, SQL server makes a lot of money, but Office and Windows are still the biggest profit makers for Microsoft.

You could argue that SQL server sales boost Windows Server sales and without it Windows Server would not be as profitable, but SQL server doesn't have that much to do with Office profits.

Re:Somewhat disappointing (1)

Drinking Bleach (975757) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587155)

Last time I heard of MS SQL (about a year ago), it was called by the person I was speaking to "As an utter waste of money, just go for Oracle for something good"; paraphrased, but the enthusiasm for MS SQL was lacking obviously.

Re:Somewhat disappointing (1)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587179)

Funny, last time I talked with the person responsible for the FC databases at my university, the guy was speaking lyrically about MSSQL and didn't care about the Cambro DB running on Oracle at all.... I guess opinions are like noses.

Re:Somewhat disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587425)

they smell?

Google Earth (5, Interesting)

vuo (156163) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586719)

Right now Google has a VERY good opportunity to hire and release a Google Earth-based flight simulator.

Re:Google Earth (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586865)

Right now Google has a VERY good opportunity to hire and release a Google Earth-based flight simulator.

Flight sims take years of tweaking to get working well. Google do have a history of selling applications (sketchup comes to mind) but the things they do sell seem to be mere outlines of a mature product.

Re:Google Earth (1)

vuo (156163) | more than 5 years ago | (#26588569)

Yes, that's exactly why they'd want the MS developers as soon as possible. It would save those years.

Re:Google Earth (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589915)

Maybe they can just create a customized version of FlightGear.

Re:Google Earth (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587073)

Right now Google has a VERY good opportunity to hire and release a Google Earth-based flight simulator.

Why write a Google Earth-based flight-simulator when your users are already writing flight simulators on top of your platform? I think they should just let their users create the cool content and the cool apps, and just stick to the monetization of all that good stuff.

Re:Google Earth (4, Informative)

ps (21245) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587715)

Re:Google Earth (2, Informative)

vuo (156163) | more than 5 years ago | (#26588561)

Yes I know of that, but it's just a toy.

FS isn't an ordinary "game" (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586741)

FS doesn't really push any game sales. Someone playing FS doesn't necessarily buy any other game, I know a few FS enthusiasts and they're anything but gamers. They're living room pilots. You have people that turned one of their rooms into a cockpit for "total immersion". They don't play any FPS or RTS games, and they certainly don't buy consoles.

MS might have decided they're not interested in this kind of market. It does not push any sales of any other products of their line. It certainly won't push sales for any consoles, since FS enthusiasts wouldn't be caught dead with a console controller in their hands. And unless they manage to publish a full scale cockpit addon for their console, they certainly won't move from the one they have already. FS might have been a seller for new OSs, when the new FS didn't work out with the earlier model anymore, but the number of dedicated FS customers isn't really a customer base for MS. FS customers also don't really need any of their office products or their server line products.

So MS might just have decided that this is a dead end, nothing that sells any other products of theirs.

Re:FS isn't an ordinary "game" (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587035)

I would love to have a console flight sim on the Wii. Let me use a decent USB flight stick and include a control pad for the other controls (flaps, throttles, gear, ...).

I do NOT have "Flight Simulator", because it only runs on M$-Windows, and I use Linux (with a touch of OpenBSD).

Re:FS isn't an ordinary "game" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587079)

That few doesn't equate to everyone of course. Visit some of our forums and see that we also play a lot of FPS.

It does seem most of us don't like consoles though.

When retrenching nothing has to make sense. I have been through two retrenchements and both times they have killed off the only money making people/projects in the company simply because the shareholders pulled a salary figure out of the air and said this is all you are allowed, sink or swim. Both times the companies sunk. MS has more revenue streams so isn't in such dire straights as the companies I worked for. When it comes ot cost cutting the cut in immediate spending is what is important, they worry about the mayhem they caused later, if there is a later.

As for making money, MS kept the franchise going for a long time for a reason. Certainly not to keep a couple of flight simulation enthusiasts happy. so if it really was losing money then there had to be some other benifit though last I read from MS FSX had been profitable, not by a lot but it was in the green.

Steven.

Re:FS isn't an ordinary "game" (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587465)

For what we know it could just as well have been the pet project of someone who happened to be important for some reason for the higher ups at MS, it was profitable, so they kept it running. Now he left and someone who hates him now gets to call the shots and thus the beloved project of someone he hates get shot down. I've seen something like this happen before, in other companies, I wouldn't call it too far fetched.

Just because MS is a large corporation doesn't mean it doesn't suffer from petty rivalism.

Re:FS isn't an ordinary "game" (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587929)

I had heard that FS was one of Bill's pet projects from back when he was trying to get his pilots license. I'm not sure if thats true or not but several of the high level people at Microsoft can fly their own planes.

Re:FS isn't an ordinary "game" (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 5 years ago | (#26588265)

Just out of curiosity - wasn't this series originally put out by Sublogic, and then bought by MS (in the mid to late 80's)?

Re:FS isn't an ordinary "game" (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589193)

Yes. I owned a copy of FS2.0 for the Apple II. I also acquired a copy of the original FS, wireframe graphics and small bounded world... I was quite disappointed when SubLogic sold out to MS.

Re:FS isn't an ordinary "game" (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589157)

MS might have decided they're not interested in this kind of market. It does not push any sales of any other products of their line. It certainly won't push sales for any consoles, since FS enthusiasts wouldn't be caught dead with a console controller in their hands. And unless they manage to publish a full scale cockpit addon for their console, they certainly won't move from the one they have already.

Do you realize how far back in time you have to go to find a console that doesn't have USB? Two generations, now! In video game time, that might as well be eternity. They all have networking options for generations now, too. You could have a cluster of consoles, and USB hubs. They don't do this now because they don't want you to know the console is just a computer. But there's room for it in the market. I for one would be pleased as punch to dropkick PC gaming forever. And then, to dropkick PCs forever. Just have a game console cluster. Even the Xbox can output 1080i which is a minimally adequate resolution for high performance computing :)

There are many reasons why this probably won't happen soon. But you could definitely get more than adequate performance out of a cluster of game consoles, one per display. If I ran Microsoft, it would probably go in the toilet immediately. But I would want to implement the console clustering model, which you could do with GigE. And I'd go back to the Xbox model, which actually worked amazingly well - just make a damned PC. Surely you could get one of the reputable manufacturers to put something together. I'd be inclined to build it around some kind of super-graphics Phenom today, but by then who knows what will have the price-performance ratio locked down? (Consider the price of the full chipset etc.)

Re:FS isn't an ordinary "game" (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589451)

All nice and fine, but that's not going to work either.

Now, I'm hardly an expert when it comes to flightsims, but I know a few people who are. Judging from their hardware, I'd say they invested enough to already buy their own little real plane, do you really think they would do it again, buy all the new hardware and throw their old junk out? Why should they? Or why should they rework their whole setup, often with anything but standard hardware (there are actually dedicated PCI cards for some of the hardware), just to fit it to some console?

So unless you publish a console that works perfectly with their setup, they won't buy it. And if you do create such a console, expect it to be a horrible money sink because nobody but the FS pilots would be interested in 99% of the features you have to include for FS, which cost quite a bit of money but don't offer anything to anyone outside the FS crowd.

Re:FS isn't an ordinary "game" (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589645)

Now, I'm hardly an expert when it comes to flightsims, but I know a few people who are. Judging from their hardware, I'd say they invested enough to already buy their own little real plane, do you really think they would do it again, buy all the new hardware and throw their old junk out? Why should they?

It's going to happen sooner or later. I personally :D think that most of these people are kind of crazy for spending so much on some of that stuff when their time and money would have been better spent learning how to make it themselves out of old scrap aircraft parts etc. I've seen what some people have done for next to nothing and it can be awe-inspiring. Actually, it's car-inspiring to me; I really want to make a rear-projection driving simulator with a piece of a car. I'm still working on too many other projects to allocate the funds right now, even though I think I can do pretty much the whole thing out of recycled parts and a small amount of stock material. I don't want to do the plane thing until I can develop a full 3DOR motion sim. Which sounds a lot more expensive.

Well, they already sold Train Sim (3, Informative)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586749)

MS already sold off the Train Simulator long ago, judging by the amount of shelf space stores allocate to addons for it and the flight sim there's probably a pretty big market for stuff like that.

Then again from what I heard the Train Simulator was a flop in the US...

Re:Well, they already sold Train Sim (0, Troll)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587219)

I had to actually check to make sure that there was ever such a product as "Microsoft Train Simulator."

"Microsoft Train Simulator brings the power and excitement of some of the world's most famous trains to your PC, placing you in the role of engineer or passenger with unprecedented realism, exciting real-world rail challenges, and the tools to recreate almost any railroad experience in the world."

My God. Riding an actual train is boring enough. People bring books for that. But actually seeking out a simulated bored-on-a-train experience, for your leisure time? Just get a damn book.

Re:Well, they already sold Train Sim (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587309)

It probably appeals to those who buy model train sets too. I think the common way to play it is as the driver though.

Re:Well, they already sold Train Sim (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587419)

My God. Riding an actual train is boring enough. People bring books for that. But actually seeking out a simulated bored-on-a-train experience, for your leisure time? Just get a damn book.

There are some of us who pay serious amounts of money to ride behind steam locos or on other unusual or famous trains.

However, I admit comparing the ride on an actual train to the passenger view in MSTS is rather like the difference between actually having sex and hearing your 56 year old spinster health class teacher say, "Some people claim this act is enjoyable."

(Of course, I'm a train-spotter *and* a slashdotter, so what would I know about sex? :-)

About time (0, Flamebait)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586773)

Its terrible when people get layed off- but come on? Who ever fucking uses this thing?

Re:About time (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586813)

Its terrible when people get layed off- but come on? Who ever fucking uses this thing?

I've got a copy, but then I am a bit of an aviation geek. The last time I used it was ten years ago. I was feeling a bit down and committed suicide. It made a nice crash.

Re:About time (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587145)

The last time I used it was ten years ago. I was feeling a bit down and committed suicide. It made a nice crash.

I never hit that bug.

Re:About time (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589453)

[quote[ Its terrible when people get layed off- but come on? Who ever fucking uses this thing? [/quote] Ignorant comment of the week anybody? A lot of people use it, not that you'd understand.

Flight Gear (1)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586833)

Now if we can just get people interested in Flight Gear...

"What you mean Microsoft didn't write the only flight simulator ever in existence?"

--Innocent Uninformed User

Re:Flight Gear (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587291)

X-Plane is on shelves right next to MSFS so they probably knew that MSFS isn't the only one out there :P.

ATTENTION SHOPPERS! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26586845)

ATTENTION SHOPPERS: PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE NECROTIC DOG PENIS. I REPEAT, PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE NECROTIC DOG PENIS CURRENTLY LOOMING OUTSIDE LOT 4. CONTINUE SHOPPING BUT PLEASE ENSURE YOU LEAVE VIA AN ALTERNATIVE EXIT AS WE ARE NO LONGER ABLE TO GUARANTEE YOUR SAFETY IN LOT 4, DUE TO THE NECROTIC DOG PENIS. FOR YOUR INFORMATION, LOTS 1, 2, 3, 5 AND 6 ARE CURRENTLY FREE OF BAYING NECROTIC DOG PENIS. PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE NECROTIC DOG PENIS. THANK YOU.

Re:ATTENTION SHOPPERS! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587657)

Did I miss a memo or something? Someone please explain why parent is +4 funny rather than -1 troll?

Re:ATTENTION SHOPPERS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587727)

Because it's a funny troll, and funny takes precedence over troll

Good memories... (4, Insightful)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586871)

I've got nothing but good memories of FS version 5.0, played on a 386 computer. I've seen Flight Simulator X in action recently and it looked fantastic. This is one of the things of MS that are actually good, what a shame to see it go. If they contract FS out, that's not the same...

Re:Good memories... (1, Redundant)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26586929)

This is one of the many things of MS that are actually good.

There. Fixed that for ya.

Re:Good memories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587123)

Only on Slashdot can a post like that be moderated as a troll. Microsoft makes some shits products but many good ones as well. So does Apple, Google or any other company out there. How can the truth be moderated troll?...

Re:Good memories... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587129)

This is one of the many things of MS that are actually good.

There. Fixed that for ya.

Yes. Many people forget that some of their mice are actually pretty nice little devices. And their implementation of Solitaire is world class!

Re:Good memories... (1)

ThatGuyJon (1299463) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587477)

Their implementation of Solitaire was world class. Have you seen the butchered version of it in Vista?

Re:Good memories... (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589393)

I remember that FS5 was crashy and this wasn't really fixed with 5.0a. Then they came out with 5.1 and wanted you to buy it all over again. :-(

That said, I had good times with Flight Simulator 2 on my Apple //c back when, and 2004 is pretty neat too.

They believe that the recession is REALLY bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26586905)

I remember an interview with Bill in which he stated that he considers it a good strategy to always have enough money in the bank to keep the company running as it is for one year even if they didn't get any revenue. AFAIK that is pretty unique and made me really realize why they can be so arrogant when it comes to legal challenges to their (illegal) actions as a monopoly. They should be able to handle almost any crisis and if they didn't believe the recession is really bad, they wouldn't fire people since re-hiring and getting a new team working, will cost a lot of money - a lot more than they'll save by doing this, I'd say.

What now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26587085)

What will they include in copies of office now? Halo CE?

it was an outsourced product to begin with (4, Informative)

darkeye (199616) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587281)

the MS Flight Simulator was initially the product of subLOGIC, and written by Bruce Artwick. It's just that MS chose to brand and market the product. After a while, they just 'took' the source code, and started to develop it in-house. subLOGIC struggled to release its own versions, but unfortunately they failed. (For this ugly business strategy, I chose not buy MS FS ever.)

Anyway, they might just chose to outsource again.

Re:it was an outsourced product to begin with (4, Informative)

DingerX (847589) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587437)

They also 'took' Bruce Artwick to develop it for them.

Re:it was an outsourced product to begin with (5, Informative)

dfranks (180507) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589933)

Your version of history is not quite correct. subLOGIC became an out of balance company with around 6 engineers and over 50 people on the "business" side. The two sides of the company were separated by a door, and there was an engineering staff member who (among other responsibilities) was guardian of the door. Bruce Artwick was the president of the engineering side, and Stu Moment was the president of the business side.
Tensions rose, and one day Stu Moment basically fired the entire engineering department (I never heard what the precipitating event was).
subLOGIC owned the rights to all products except Mac and PC flight simulator (this was pre-windows as I recall), but Bruce and/or MS owned the rights to MS Flight Simulator on the PC and MAC. Bruce then opened an office a few miles away (the creation of BAO) and since Stu had fired all of us, he hired us.
subLOGIC tried to take the code base for the Amiga, Atari, MSX, etc etc and form a viable product for the PC with limited market success. BAO produced several versions of Flight Simulator (plus Scenery and Aircraft Designer, Tower Simulator and a few other products) before Microsoft decided to move the development in house (or closer anyway). I was no longer with the company at this point, but my understanding was that they initially did not bring over most of the staff as they issued a "move to Redmond or here is the door" edict. Most of the staff decided to leave, but once MS tried their hand at development several of the key engineers were rehired and allowed to work remotely. At that point, FS source was 100% x86 assembler. While it was a high quality piece of code, it was extreemly complex and required talented developers to work with it.
I assume the original BAO people eventually left and went on to other projects, I have not heard from any of them in the last 10 years or so.
So, in summary: MS did not "take" the Flight Simulator source, it never belonged to subLOGIC. I assume that Bruce sold the remaining rights to MS at the breakup of BAO.

Dean

I still remember a question from the BAO pre-interview screening test, amazingly enough only 5 candidates (out of a very large number) ever got this right:

Write a small code fragment (language of your choice) to calculate the internal angle between adjacent sides given the number of sides of a regular polygon. As I recall, scenery and aircraft designed actually had code to do this calculation.

Disconserting. (1)

Donovon (1245428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26587747)

This begs to wonder what precisely they are planning to do with all that underutilized IP they are amassing...

--D

Twenty-seven years? (2, Funny)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 5 years ago | (#26588167)

I graduated from college in 1978 and moved to Silicon Valley. In a short time, I owned an Apple II, an Advent VideoBeam projection TV, and a copy of Bruce Artwick's original Flight Simulator. With a nominal 64" screen, it seemed as immersive as any commercial flight simulator of that time (even if it was low-res black-and-white wireframe). And when you bought it, you got a second floppy with the source code! I'm saddened to see the franchise end after 30+ years. Yes, I know that they'll probably farm it out, but it's lost its continuity.

Hey, you kids, get off my tarmac!

Airbus uses MSFS! (1)

jernejk (984031) | more than 5 years ago | (#26588321)

IIRC, Airbus used a customized version of MSFS as an aid for A380 testing. It was used to show exact real-time airplane position, pitch, roll and yaw during testing.

Well I guess the Flight team (1)

JohnnyGTO (102952) | more than 5 years ago | (#26588827)

must not be H-1B visa holders.

MSFS was the original PC compatibility test (3, Interesting)

Terje Mathisen (128806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26588995)

For the first 2-3 years of PC history, the original Microsoft Flight Simulator was _the_ PC compatibility test:

If a machine could run MSFC, then it would also run retty much every other PcDos application on the market.

The first stumble came in 1984 with the PCAT, since the 6 MHz 286 cpu in this box meant that all the carefully tuned sw timing loops ran too fast and the simulator ran about twice as fast as it should.

Terje

X-Plane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589015)

It's under heavy active development, is priced reasonably, has a better flight model in most respects, has lots of 3rd party add-ons and, get this, a Linux port - no wine or any abstraction layer - just a Linux (and OS X) version (I'm surprised that Slashdot hasn't latched onto this sooner - or is it not considered a game?) What more could a flight sim geek want?

Ninnle Labs has already snapped them up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589101)

The ever expanding Ninnle Labs was on to this quite quickly. All the laid-off M$ programmers have been offered positions on the Ninnle Office team, and a good many of them have accepted.

There's always FlightGear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26589225)

Just like there's OpenOffice.org with its sites on MS Office, I'm pretty sure FlightGear has its sights on MS FlightSimulator. Of course FlightGear is still a lot rougher on the edges in comparison to MS than OpenOffice is to MS Office. But the writing is on the wall...

Anyhow, FG could probably use a call for even more developers. And it's pretty well laid out in concept, with extensability and scripting and all. Just needs some bugs and UI worked out a bit better, and perhaps some actual development on content integration. (It's a convoluted process at the moment, no utilities yet for combining models with code or anything like that just yet. Would be a worthy side project though.)

I'm sure, when given time, somebody clever enough could find a way to convert or perhaps even use the MS FlightSim aircraft in FlightGear. Wouldn't surprise me too much if theres someone working on it under wraps already.

Not surprising (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 5 years ago | (#26589855)

The only fun parts are taking off and landing, everything in between is sheer tedium.

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