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Video Game / Microsoft Flight Simulator

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Cleared for takeoff.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is a flight simulator series produced by - as you can ascertain from the title - Microsoft for Windows and Xbox. The series is renowned for its detailed flight models, sophisticated aircraft systems and large gameplay area (i.e. the entire Earth). The games also have a large online community involved in such activities as multiplayer flying and virtual airlines, and enormous third-party add-on potential to the (relative) ease of creating and/or editing many game files, including thousands of both commercial and freeware custom aircraft and scenery.

The series was created by Bruce Artwick, who developed the idea of creating a flight simulator on a computer while a student at the University of Illinois in the mid-1970s. After graduation, he founded the company subLOGIC to market the original Flight Simulator, with the Apple ][ version proving especially popular. Microsoft licensed the program to create a more sophisticated version for the IBM PC in 1982; many of the improvements featured in Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.00 were then ported back to the Apple II and other home computers as Flight Simulator II. The IBM PC version was used as an informal benchmark of IBM PC clone compatibility. Microsoft acquired the copyright for Flight Simulator in 1995, and Artwick continued to work on the updates well into the Windows era.

The level of detail put into the games means that they are quite an efficient training tool, and various situations that are not safe or practical to perform in real life (i.e. engine failures) can be flown as a training aid to supplement real world training. The series was later succeeded by the free-to-play Microsoft Flight. After Flight failed to get much attention and was quietly taken down, Dovetail Games released Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition on December 18, 2014, an Updated Re-release of the original Flight Simulator X. It was recompiled using Visual Studio 2013, uses Steamworks for multiplayer instead of the late GameSpy, and has improved compatibility with Windows 7 and Windows 8(.1).

A new Microsoft Flight Simulator was released on August 18, 2020, developed by Asobo Studio. Featuring 4K resolution graphics powered by satellite data and Microsoft Azure AI, the franchise made its triumphant return to PC on the Microsoft Store and Steam. A version for Xbox Series X|Snote  was released on July 27, 2021, with an upgrade to the PC version to DirectX 12 coming soon after. An expansion based on the movie Top Gun launched in May 2022, alongside the movie's sequel Top Gun: Maverick. A sequel to this game, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024, has been announced, and brings engine improvements alongside a heavy focus on various specialist jobs and roles that aircraft can perform beyond just flying from point A to point B.

NOTE: The article includes tropes from both the series and also from Lockheed Martin's Prepar3D, since the program is almost exactly the same as FS, as it use an advanced version of the FSX's engine and shares the same tropes.

This Video Game contains examples of:

  • Artifact of Doom: The Cursed Anaconda Idol in the Amazon Trek mission in X if you choose to take the archaeologist to the temple. The temple collapses and she grabs the idol in a panic, bringing it aboard your plane before you make a hasty escape but it doesn't end there. Before you can get to the airport, various systems on the Goose start failing. First the flight controls become erratic, your avionics fail, vacuum pressure fails which means you lose the attimeter/artificial horizon, soon followed by the altimeter, forcing you to use the radar altimeter and then the right engine will spring an oil leak, sputtering to a stop and forcing you to feather it. Think you can make it to the airfield with just one engine? Nope, the left engine catches fire, forcing you to cut the mixture and feather that engine too. If you're desperate, you can restart both engines to make it to the airfield or glide there but the big bird of a Goose is not designed to glide so you better have a lot of altitude.
  • Artifact Title: The 2020 game was released after Microsoft switched to using the Xbox brand for all of its gaming efforts regardless of platform, but the In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It title "Microsoft Flight Simulator" stays due to the Grandfather Clause.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Just like in Real Life, some jets are really cool, but trying to fly them is another thing:
    • The Concorde is maybe a good example of this, both in Real Life and in-game: Flying the jet itself requires lots of dexterity, consumes more fuel than your regular jet, doing turns is too difficult and they're only efficient in straight lines. This also applies in a meta-example: The sole fact to even install the plane in the simulator is quite a challenge, since the Concorde so differently from regular airliners and requires specific drivers in specific places of the game's directory, not to mention some versions of the Concorde can slow down the simulator.
    • There are tons of Cool Planes (both examples from Real Life and from creators' imaginations) that are little more than flying toys.
  • The Backwards Я: Happens a lot with some freeware Russian planes's gauges, but in this case, it's not for parody purposes, but as a mix of reality issues (since being Russian planes, they cannot use English gauges) and the fact many programmers don't speak Russian.
  • Bowdlerise: An odd Real Life to Video Game variation. Patty Wagstaff's Extra 300S has "KICK ASS" printed on one of the support bars within the cockpit but for all variations of the 300S in X, it instead reads "ROCK ON" to keep with the base game's E rating.
  • Cool Plane: Many of them, and you can buy or download more if you need them.
  • Cosmetic Award: Every mission in X has a reward obtained for completing it or completing an optional objective. The tutorials reward themed "wings" medals (and of course four "rotors" medals for the helicopter tutorials) while the rest have some reward in common. Enabling the option to allow changes in the mission will not reward anything though. There are also general progression rewards such as how many different airports you've landed at, total landings, hours at night, hours with multiple engines, etc.
  • Crash Course Landing: When trying to learn to fly a plane in the game, you will surely end in this situation.
  • Darker and Edgier: X's Acceleration expansion introduces more serious missions such as intercepting an aircraft making off with contraband, flying military operations in an F/A-18, stopping rhino poachers who can shoot at you or searching for a missing co-worker within the Washington mountains. Not as dark as other examples but it was enough to have it rated T compared to the base game's E.
  • Diegetic Interface: These games are designed around this. X includes both a 2D panel cockpit and a 3D virtual cockpit. All of your important readouts are generally in front of you or somewhere in the cockpit and you can click switches or turn dials with the mouse cursor. It's recommended to play these games with a face/head tracking peripheral such as TrackIR or FaceTrackNOIR so you can look closely at the displays or reach switches hidden behind the yokes.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Vanilla FSX does this by filling up the AI traffic with fictional airlines, with examples like Orbit, Pacifica, World Travel and Emerald. Averted if there are mods replacing the traffic with real airlines.
  • First-Person Ghost: The player never sees themselves nor their co-pilots in the virtual cockpit view, this is for good reason as that could obstruct the view of the panels.
  • From Bad to Worse: The mission Yakutat Mail Run involves a long string of these. First, the weather already isn't cooperating, as a snowstorm is moving in on Yakutat, it's late at night, and visibility is poor the whole way through. Then, about halfway along the trip, your vacuum system fails, depriving you of the ever-important attitude indicator and horizontal situation indicator. Then, ATC informs you that they're having radar trouble and can't give you vectors, meaning that you'll have to do the full procedure. Then, as you're trying to execute said procedure already down vital systems, one of the engines fails. And catches fire.
  • Game Mod: Many of them.
  • Gameplay Automation: As in Real Life, many aircraft can be set to autopilot. How much you want the craft to be automated can be decided such as following the heading bug, desired attitude, vertical speed, etc.
    • In-fact, this automation is recommended for more accurate and smooth piloting from beginners to experts alike. Especially in IFR flights with ATC giving you vectors and autopilot in general allows you to concentrate on other aircraft systems more easily.
  • Guide Dang It!: Any payware aircraft from PMDG qualifies as this, given how they were made by examining real aircraft with meticulous levels of detail. Expect to be looking up plenty of tutorials on how to start the plane up, let alone get it into the air.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: X's crash detection is a little odd due to the fact that your plane is a One-Hit-Point Wonder with crash settings on. Sometimes you might clip a piece of scenery or another plane and be fine, other times you might be otherwise clear but the game determines you've crashed into it. Many missions can be failed in X due to this and many players, even the most experienced, choose to turn off crash settings and decide for themselves when they've crashed.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Microsoft Flight Simulator. As stated above, it stuck after Microsoft started using the word "Xbox" as their overall gaming brand.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Joked with in the Secret Shuttle mission in X where you're ferrying workers to Area 51. As you begin your approach descent, your co-pilot changes callsign from Janet 356 to Longhorn 27. He then quotes the trope before he says he's kidding.
  • Insistent Terminology: FSX is a simulator, not a game, completely ignoring that FSX is classified as a game by the ESRB and is also sold as one in Steam.
  • Landing Gear Shot: One of the camera views in many planes allows this.
  • Long Runner: Microsoft Flight Simulator is the longest-running series of PC games, as well as one of the longest-running video game franchises period, dating back almost 40 years. (Zork has technically been around longer, but wasn't released on the PC until 1983.)
  • Mad Libs Dialogue: ATC and pilot chatter in some missions and free flight. These mostly consist of phonetics, numbers, aircraft makes, airlines (and the appended Heavy if needed), terminologies, instructions, acknowledgements and some specific locations. Notable airports and airfields are denoted by their proper name (such as Minneapolis, Anoka County, Honolulu, Princess Juliana, etc.), other lesser ones (typically advisory airports and strips without ATC) are simply identified by their ICAO code.
  • Milestone Celebration: An expansion to FS2020 was announced to commemorate the franchise's 40th anniversary.
  • Nintendo Hard: Zig-zagged: The stock planes are normally easier to fly, but some add-on planes are notorious for being a pain to fly them, since they mimic the original behaviour of the Real Life ones.
    • Playing the game with keyboard controls. Unlike most games where the stick centers itself after releasing the key, the yoke and pedals stick to where they are until you make a new input, this makes helicopters borderline impossible to fly correctly. You can enable mouse yoke but it's only marginally better and you lose the ability to click switches in the cockpit or hold space to look around. At the very least, a Microsoft SideWinder Precision series joystick or any other twisting joystick makes the game much easier. Even a gamepad offers a better experience as you have yoke/cyclic (left stick), rudder pedals (triggers) and view (right stick).
  • No Fair Cheating: You can enable the ability to modify settings within missions in X to make them easier to complete but doing so will not give awards for completing them.
  • Optional Traffic Laws: Depends of the rules you're using and the game mode:
    • Using VFR (Visual Flight Rules) means you're only restricted what the ATC (the traffic controller) says about taxing or landing in the airport and also regarding entering the airport's air space or another ATC zone, other than that you're free to do whatever you like with the plane. On the other hand, using IFR (Instrumental Flight Rules) means you have to obey the ATC regarding your route of your flight plan and your altitude, but skips the part regarding entering other airport's air space, as the local ATC does it for you. In any case, the worst thing can happen by not obeying those rules is the ATC cancels your flight plan and you have to fill your flight plan again.
    • Averted with a revenge in multiplayer and for a good reason: Failure to obey the ATC is normally grounds for getting kicked and/or banned from the server, since playing in MP in FS means you have to follow the same rules you should follow in Real Life regarding flying a real plane.
      • And then, there's VATSIM. Thousands of real people doing nothing but acting like real pilots and AT Cs, terminology and all. Piss one of the VATSIM crew off, and you're likely to get banned from the entire network.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Meigs Field in Chicago was the default airport and de facto series mascot up until 2002. It was removed in 2004 and later on account of the real airport's controversial closure by then-mayor Richard Daley in 2003.
    • Similarly, environment assets of the World Trade Center were removed from 2002 via patch.
  • Scenery Porn: Later versions of the game start featuring 3D scenery objects on the ground. X has both procedural scenery (where the game generates trees and buildings where the topographical data says so and in respect to the location) and special scenery (where special buildings and landmarks are consistently placed such as airplane hangars, terminals, the Eiffel Tower, stadiums, etc.).
    • 2020 makes use of Bing Maps satellite data and Azure AI to render the entire planet in real time. On top of that, select airports have been rendered by hand to near photorealistic accuracy.
  • Scenic-Tour Level: Some of the easier missions in X tend to be casual flights from one place to another but encourage exploration. Most notable mentions go to the Hawaiian Checkout and Midwest Fly-In.
    • The Midwest Fly-In involves taking an old friend as a co-pilot in his J-3 Cub to Eagle Creek Airpark for a Fly-In. Completing the mission outright gives nothing but many side objectives give some rewards. Barnstorming four barns earns a badge, terrorizing sheep on the various farms also gets you another badge, landing a flour bomb on the target in the lake near Eagle Creek gets you a trophy and another trophy is rewarded if you touch down right on the striped line.
    • Hawaiian Checkout is meant to be a checkout to ensure you can fly the Mooney Bravo you rented but your co-pilot encourages exploration. Passing by points of interest has him give some personal stories or other historical and geological trivia of the areas you fly to. This mission is only in the Deluxe edition of X (also included in the Gold and Steam Edition) to showcase the enhanced Scenery Porn and G1000 glass MFD variant of the Bravo.
  • Serious Business: This is mostly the default attitude on many multiplayer venues of the game, and unlike other games, this is for (most of the time) good reasons:
    • Unlike other (military/mainstream) simulators, the game is mostly used as a tool for learning to fly a plane, and rarely (if ever) used as a game, since trying to do whatever you like in a real plane will get you killed, shot down, arrested or fined, especially if you live in a country having a tight control over their skies.
    • One of the biggest berserk buttons in any multiplayer server is taking off without a flightplan. Justified, since in Real Life, you cannot legally take off without one and some servers can kick/ban you if you do so.
      • Expect to be ridiculed and then kicked by ATC if you don't know the terminology required, especially if you blindly join a VATSIM server.
    • Some servers only covers some countries and taking off from another one can get you kicked/banned.
    • Taking off with non-stock (using freeware/payware ones) jets is discouraged in some servers and taking off using a fighter jet in a civilian airport will get you kicked for the reasons already explained.
    • Some servers doesn't even let you use fighter jets, Period. (Due to Real Life reasons: A fighter jet cannot land in a civilian airport, except in the case of an extreme emergency, like an engine failure or another catrastophic situation. A military pilot trying to do that in Real Life without a good reason could be arrested/court-martialed for doing that)
    • In conclusion: Most multiplayer servers will try to force you to fly just like a real pilot will do in real life, meaning that, if you want to go to, let's say from New York to London in game, you MUST be in the game during the remaining of the flight, so be sure to have enough free time to fly and also an empty bladder, just in case.
    • Outside multiplayer, this trope reaches its logical conclusion with Prepar3D (FSX's Reformulated Licensed Game): The EULA explicitely forbids the use of the simulator for entertainment purposes and only can be used for professional use (like training new pilots), but oddly enough, as for 2017, the current EULA doesn't mention this anymore. Justified, since Lockheed Martin's (the owners of the FSX engine, who also hired most of the Microsoft FSX's programming team) main job is designing fighter jets for the U.S. Air Force.
    • This trope is Played for Laughs in the first official trailer for X with the urgent 737 pilot.
  • Shout-Out: Knowing that some players would fly to Walt Disney World, the developers added models of Cinderella Castle, Space Mountain and Spaceship Earth in Flight Simulator X at their real life locations in the game. (Although Spaceship Earth is facing the wrong way; the rear building attached to the geodesic sphere is placed over the entrance area.)
  • Space Plane: Many of them.
  • Stalking Mission: A couple or so in X, Customs Intercept in Acceleration requires you to tail two planes carrying potential contraband in an EH101 and the two planes break off. If you follow the C-47, you recover the stolen antiques they were carrying. If you follow the Baron 58 then they will land at one of the Keys islands and make off in a boat, giving you the opportunity to trap and apprehend the suspects who had bought the stolen items. Your co-pilot advises you match their speed, stay a certain distance and fly below their altitude to avoid detection which, considering you're flying in a cargo helicopter, borders on With Cat Like Tread.
    • Tokyo Executive Transport starts off with you ferrying several executives from Shiodome to the nearby airport where they depart. You can optionally continue the mission with your co-pilot and get into the company Learjet 45 and tail the Challenger 300. Your co-pilot reveals he's working undercover with the British Government to track the CEO of a criminal espionage organization.
  • Take That!: In one of the the freeware versions of the Concorde, you can choose the Air India livery, despite that no non-European airliners used that plane and the fact the Indian government forbade the use of the Concorde at supersonic speeds on India's airspace.
  • Tech-Demo Game:
    • In the '80s, computer magazines used the game, along with Lotus 1-2-3, to test IBM PC clones for compatibility. Clone manufacturers would also use the game to demo their models to reassure buyers that their machines were IBM compatible.
    • The 2020 game quickly gained a reputation as being the Crysis of The New '20s, and for good reason - it's fully capable of bringing even the most powerful, top-of-the-line rigs available to their knees, and many publications went so far as to hail it the best looking game ever made. It's also a showcase for Microsoft's cloud technology, as the sheer fidelity and scope of the visuals comes from their ability to stream it over the internet.
      • The Xbox console release similarly was the first game to truly show off the graphic prowess of the Series X and S. It particularly silenced critics of the Series S who claimed its lowered specs would result in a worse experience, but managed the same visual fidelity at lower max resolution. note 
  • Time Marches On: X was released all the way back in 2006 and thus many scenery objects today are otherwise non-existent. For example: the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis has long been replaced by the U.S. Bank Stadium but the former still exists in the game. This is averted in the various scenery add-ons by Dovetail Games in the Steam Edition that adds up-to-date scenery sets of specific locations.
    • Intended to be fully averted in 2020 by using satellite image data from Bing, which is updated on the server side every so often. Although this can cause some weirdness depending on the timing of when the images were taken. It's possible to have an airport that is half under construction.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You could ram the aircraft into a building if you wish...
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: The Flour Power mission in X has you dropping flour bombs on floating targets and even smaller boat targets for a time bonus. The narrator warns that dropping them on whales will incur a time penalty.
    • Bird strikes, natch. It might be funny to fly into a flock of birds, not so much when it severely affects your aircraft.
  • Video Game Long-Runners: The series has 12 entries. The first one was released in 1979 by subLOGIC, long before it licensed the franchise to Microsoft.
    • Special mention also goes to FS2004/FS9 and FSX, for basically being the go to for standardised flight simulation, even though both games are over a decade old. This is due to the revival of multiplayer via Steamworks, extensive mods available for both games (freeware and commercial) and a large virtual community that take the simulation part damn seriously, like VATSIM.
  • Violation of Common Sense: When your aircraft loses enough speed that the lift drops, the aircraft loses response and plummets (known as a stall), you're taught to point the nose down and open the throttle all the way to full. While this sounds like trying to hasten the crash, this will actually speed you back up and get more air flowing under your wings so that you have lift again, and you can regain control and pull up. Truth in Television, many real-life crashes are due to a plane losing lift for any number of reasons, and not having enough time/altitude (more or less the same thing, here) to get up enough speed to regain lift and pull out of the dive.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: You can go (and land) anywhere, even in places when in Real Life you could be fined, arrested or even killed/shot down for doing so (like landing a civilian jet in a military base, or a military aircraft in a civilian airport, flying in no-fly zones, landing on water if you have a hydroplane, etc). The only place you cannot land or go is (until FSX, partially) the poles: if you go to the poles in any game prior to FSX, you will crash against an invisible wall and even in FSX, you can go only to the South Pole, and if you go beyond the South Pole station, you will also crash against that invisible wall, too.
    • You can even land a very heavy jet (like a Boeing 747, or an Airbus A380) or a very noisy one (like fighter jets, a Concorde or a Tupolev Tu-142) on any kind of airport, regardless if that airport in Real Life can is able to sustain such a plane or not.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: As seen from the air, it's no surprise.
  • Work Info Title: The game has its genre in its title.