By now we are in 2006 and Microsoft debuted Flight Simulator X into the world and it was, relatively speaking a hit for them. Despite its position on the PC, massive home-grown game-sales had generally alluded them but Flight Simulator with it’s seeingly guaranteed niche market bucked the trend.
Until 2009 that is when a raft of job cuts at the Seattle company included the shuttering of Flight Simulator dev team Aces Game Studio and that was more or less that.
Flight Simulator X continued to twitch and not die, however, five years later current SIm darlings Dovetail Games announced they had the rights to develop a new FS game and also released Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition, which was an overhaul of the last classic but set up to work on Steam and more modern PCs. Bringing it to Steam opened things up a huge audience (including me) and is probably a decision that has lead to all the latest developments around Flight Simulator.a
There were plenty more dabbles in the flight sim market to keep people keen during the Microsoft absence. Titles such as Prepar3d, X-Plane (now on version 11) and Aerofly have filled the gap, but when Microsoft announced that they were back in the pilot’s seat last June and rumors of Flight Simulator 2020 were true, things got exciting. For me.
History lesson over. You see flight sims have been something I have always wanted to get into. And I mean into properly. I have a friend who’s a pilot and I am jealous of his playtime set-up. I like building things and modding things, and I like the idea of making my own controller panels with switches and the like on them to control in-game actions.
I even got as far as buying some gear from renowned sim hardware guru Leo Bodnar and knocked up a switch panel that I used quite successfully in my Elite Dangerous VBR setup.
For some reason, mainly cost and always having something more pressing to buy though, I would say the one thing I have looked at more than anything on Amazon and never pressed Add to Basket is a set of Flight Controls and pedals for a flight sim. I almost convinced myself that I needed them for Elite, even though I had a perfectly good HOTAS setup.
As I dipped out of Elite after a year of non-stop playing I installed X-Plane 11. Again, being a massive mod-head I added things to my set-up, flight maps on my iPad, photo-realistic terrain taking up terabytes of space generated from Google Maps using nerdy third-party programs, realistic air-traffic control and so on.
One problem, I didn’t actually know how to take off. So I made a concerted effort to learn how to fly X-Plane’s Cessna light-aircraft. I pottered around in the skies above the various areas where I have lived. I flew over the resort where I got married in Jamaica ten years earlier and it was cool. Relaxing and cool, me and the noise of my Cessna droning away.
And I still didn’t order the yoke and pedals. Nor did I ever manage to progress to flying a jet. I never felt confident enough in my little two-seater to suddenly thunder down a massive runway in a 737. I loaded one once and couldn’t even work out how to start the engine
Then, all of a sudden and I don’t know why. I haven’t played a flight sim for maybe two years. I repurposed the external hard drive that had all my terrain data on. It’s still called FlightSim (D:) in my Windows install, and I hung up my pilot’s pants.