Trusted Reviews is back again with the head of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, Jörg Neumann, who explained how the team used FIFA to make the popular sim less intimidating to play.
Microsoft Flight Simulator has been a runaway success, allowing players to soar the skies, visiting the fields of England or the deserts of America, all at their leisure and with an impressive sense of realism. The game has recently been ported over to the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, giving more people a chance to dive in.
With an increasing player base, it was important to the developers that Microsoft Flight Simulator wasn’t too challenging, and that people didn’t feel intimidated by the controls.
How did you develop the tutorials in-game?
“We looked at our tutorialisation, we have done quite a few on the PC, we did eight and they were long, they were very PC type tutorials… we actually went back and asked how much people actually retained,” Neumann detailed.
“Because the players do them, they sort of feel obligated to do them. But when you ask, so what did you learn, they kept saying they would forget… so we actually said we need to be better at learning specifically [as] more newcomers come in.”
“We looked at a bunch of other games. The one we all play is FIFA, so we looked at FIFA quite a bit… FIFA is great at tutorials, but they have really itty-bitty tutorials, you know, we learned the bicycle kick, and you get really good at it and you get scored on how well you do.”
“So we took that sentiment, we made our tutorials shorter, added more of them and we gave a lot of emphasis on performance evaluation. So after you’re done with the tutorial, it tells you explicitly how you could do this better and you actually learn,” Neumann went on to say.
What have you done to make Flight Sim easier to play?
“So we didn’t put a 3D character next to you, instead we’re putting a tool in, it’s called flight assistance. And the flight assistant helps you with all kinds of stuff.
“What we saw when we asked people ‘what do you like doing [in] the Sim?’, they said, ‘I love looking at the countryside, and the famous buildings like the Acropolis or whatever, but I’m really scared… I just want to put my hand on the steering wheel because I don’t want to crash the plane’,” Neumann explained.
“And the whole point is that you’re supposed to fly and look outside and actually have fun and explore. So [with] the flight assistance, you now can basically select the POI (point of interest) around you and then it actually flies you, say to the statue of the Redeemer or something unreal. It will fly you there and then it starts circling around the POI so you know, okay, I can take my hands off the steering wheel, I can look around and see real for all its glory.”
Flight Sim has no end goal, so players are free to fly and land in various places around the globe. Some players have mentioned the landing process as being stressful, with our own review mentioning the “stressful piloting”.
“Another thing that was interesting was that people said they had some real trepidation about landing. Everybody says ‘takeoffs are easy, I’m really scared of landing in these airports, that’s really scary, and the air traffic controller starts talking to me and I just don’t know what to do’”.
“And we’re like, okay, so in the same flight system, you can now select the airports around you, and you can basically let the AI auto land so it’s not as stressful anymore,” Neumann said.
Are there other features that specifically make landing easier?
“We basically said ‘let’s allow people to land wherever they want’. Because… I miss sometimes… I’m not that great and then it’s like, what am I going to do?”
“So now they can land on water, we added floats. And we added skis for the winter. We added what we call big tires… so you can actually land in a field. That all helps you feel comfortable.”
“So that was a big deal for us because all these newcomers plus the people that have never been in a flight Sim or a plane, [to] make them feel good, safe in and in control,” noted Neumann.
“And then we added some things like anti-stall and auto-recovery, which is what the flight trainer would do. If you really go into the stall and start spinning, they take over and recover the plane. So we have something like that now too.”
If you enjoyed this interview with Jörg Neumann, you can check out our previous chat where Neumann explains how the Flight Simulator has managed to map out the world. Keep an eye out for more interviews in the coming weeks with Neumann on Trusted Reviews, as we’ll be posting weekly content from our larger discussion regarding Microsoft Flight Simulator.