Reality Check

Okay, back from reading through the links at sim-outhouse regarding my combat post. There certainly is a lot of cynicism out there regarding "M$"... Let me address some of the general comments. I was going to post this as a comment to my combat post, but I decided to do it as a new post instead so it won't get buried immediately.

I am a representative of Microsoft and I am the lead designer for FSX. I am also somewhat of an aviation and aircraft subject matter expert and have been flying since 1982, but I have a lot to learn still :). (BTW it's a P-12C, not a PC-12. Although Pilatus makes great aircraft I'm more partial to a biplane with guns.) I didn't ask for permission to make this post and considering I'm not making any promises or releasing any confidential information I'm comfortable doing so. I don't know if I would be the designer on a CFS title, but I do expect I would be involved to some degree. And yes I am listening, but I guarantee that we could not possibly do everything for everyone, so no matter what happens in the future someone (and maybe a lot of someones) will feel slighted, ignored, lied too, or all of that and more. That is simply inevitable. However if what I have in mind were done, I do think we would have a lot of very happy campers when allowed to mature.

CFS3 was a mistake on many levels. That said, there was a lot of really great stuff in there which if allowed to develop over time could have resulted in a winning franchise. The team that designed CFS3 wrongly decided that realism wasn't as important as game-like play, didn't have faith in FS as a platform and started from scratch with a new engine without the time to finish it as a stable engine (remember that the next time you ask for an all new engine for FS-Next). It's no wonder that beta testers wanting realism were ignored when the designers intentionally chose not to create that. Even if they wanted to listen or could have been swayed, it would have been too late by then anyway. If we had done CFS4, you would have found higher fidelity aircraft with accurate systems as I was the aircraft program manager at the time. Too bad about that.

I wasn't at Microsoft during CFS2 development as I joined at the very tail end of CFS3 when the team was in the final throws of trying to get it shipped. So I don't have a file folder full of all the feedback and ideas from the community. You would thinkt that in this digital age all of that data would be a search query away at my fingertips, but I doubt I could find it if I had a month to search (which I don't). Having been in the computer game industry for 18 years playing sims all the while, with subject matter expertise under my belt I have a good foundation for designing a combat sim. I hate patting myself on the back but you asked who I am and why you should care. I do genuinely care what you think and I want to hear from you. I can search through forum archives and all that, but frankly I have very little time for that. Hell I'm doing this on my holiday and I'm happy to do it because I have great passion for the subject.

I can't say we will do anything at all, because I just don't know. But I do know that interacting with you and discussing this can only help in the short and long term. This isn't even pre-production as that would imply we decided to go down the path of CFS again. This is pre-design discussion and yes I do have pre-conceived ideas of what we should do (if we were to do...)

This conversation is about dreaming and ideas and innovation. Without that and a vision nothing will ever happen. I have a vision, the passion, and the drive. Do you want to go with me, or watch from the ground?

Comments (16)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a nice dream to me…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very clear, and as much as we can reasonably hope for.

    Thanks P-12C

    * Why do I have the suspicion that any new CFS X will be based on the Inter War years?*


  3. Anonymous says:


    I’m a CFS2 pilot. I want combat in my sim, and I want to be able to have a powerful mission editor that uses triggers and events to let me come up with an infinite amount of ideas to explore in my sim. That’s why I still fly CFS2 all these years later. I want that aspect of CFS2 with better graphics, better terrain, and most importantly better artificial intelligence. I want the ground units and the sea units engaging each other in battle, along with the air units. I’d like to have mission based multiplayer features as well, along with the old tried and true dogfighting. Era is secondary to the rest for me personally, though I would prefer anything in the 1914-1945 range.

    In my opinion, the most important thing is that the ai be priority number one. If the ai is good, and we can use it effectively in multiplayer, you’ll have an extremely happy, vibrant community on your hands that will flood the servers with freeware product.

  4. Anonymous says:

    … Just thinking out loud here… We have FSX. The flour bombs have already been transformed into droppable ordinance. We have an effects engine that will mimic just about any gun available. Quite a few of us have already made retro scenery (I did Henderson Field on Guadalcanal not long ago for a retro exercise). Folks are taking apart the mission builder as we speak and we’ll (hopefully) be seeing a GUI application that makes mission building less of a pain in the relatively near future.

    It seems to me that the only part we’re missing is the interactive engine that scores hits and makes battle damage appear. Now for an add-on application like that, I’d be willing to pay.

  5. Anonymous says:

    "So what is needed may not be any improvements to the basic sim engine, but simply a way of combining sucsessful elements that already exist, and encouraging the 3rd party developers, much as FSX has done."

    Think Toybox, a place where a P-12C can strafe a PC-12!

  6. Anonymous says:

    hey Paul,

    Like Francois said, you’re not gonna please everyone, no matter what ya do! You just have to do the best you can an be happy with it.

    I was never much for standing back an watching, so if ya don’t mind, think I’ll tag along with ya!!


  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi Paul, I read this with interest.  I have always dared to dream.  Has a child it was to fly off aircraft carriers but then I found I was color blind.  Then has a 30 something I found the world of flightsim.  Now I dream of the day when one sim does all.  So instead of buying three or four sims I will only need to buy one.   So then if I want to fly over the battlefields of WWI or WWII I will be able too or if I want to fly F-18 in some fictious war with a fleet reserve squadron I can.  Then when my tour is finished with this squadron I can go back to my normal sim job of hauling passengers around the world.  Who knows if I dream long enough it may become a reality.  

  8. Anonymous says:

    i completely agree with you and very well said. I worked for M$ myself for a long time. And no matter what you do or how good you do your best you can never ever realy please everyone. But im definatly looking forward to any new future products coming from this company.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi Paul,

    some of your text is bound to fall on deaf ears… no matter when you say it and how honest you are. Some people just never learn to look over the wall of their little foxhole 😉

    In general though I think you will have the undivided attention and cooperation of the majority of ‘simmers’. Playing computer games IS all about DREAMING after all, isn’t it!? Doing things we cannot do in real life….. and often would not WANT to do in real life even 🙂

    So don’t despair, black out the negatives and continue the dialogue. it IS appreciated by most!

    Happy Holidays !


  10. Anonymous says:

    im a dreamer also

    and many dreams come true

    in my life anyway


  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi Paul.

    The "old hands" of scenery/mission design for CFS2 want a new sim based on the Flight Simulator terrain engine.

    CFS2 was close ( actually it was a preview of FS2002! ). But even that sim was crippled regarding seasons, dates and regions, forcing designers to use tricks to extend the game to a world environment. And aircraft capability was crippled to exclude aircraft of new tyes and weaponry.

    So, regardless the default time period, we want to be able to extend the date range from the dawn of flight to the near future. This would include not just scenery, but aircraft and weapony as well. We want to do this via addon packages of 3rd party design… SDK is the funtional codeword here.  🙂

    It would seem a huge task, but FS2002 was already there… all that was needed was the basic CFS2 combat elements, and you would have had an excellent CFS?, with seasons, regions, aircraft functionality, and the ability to have many different time ranges in a world-wide theater.

    So what is needed may not be any improvements to the basic sim engine, but simply a way of combining sucsessful elements that already exist, and encouraging the 3rd party developers, much as FSX has done.

    Honestly, if you guys coded FS2002 with combat elements, you’d have a great hit. Because the 3rd party aircraft, scenery and design tools already exist that would really take combat simming to a new level. ( And you wouldn’t hear much noise about framerates ). LOL


  12. Anonymous says:

    Well I think if there ever is another CFS it should be spit into two game options. One area where developers can have their own sand box to submit planes etc for off line play and the other must being multi-player must be strictly controlled by the software developer (Aces Team).

    One of the problems with CFS3 multiplayer was plane miss-matches. This was in large part due to 1% planes from AvHistory being thrown into the mix. Any third party planes should go through the Aces team and included in a patch. Hence we spent more time trying to sort out plane mis-match issues then flying.

    A big concern for combat sim pilots on line is packet loss, lag and ping. A suggestion would be the option for coding to allow for dedicated servers. This will allow players to connect to games closer to their ISP and not having to be routed to some server half way across the globe.

    Back to FSX.

    There is a large community who connect to MP games via FSHost and fly a predetermined hop list. Therefore the vast majority communicated through the scrolling chat feature. Is there possibility of a fix so FSHost can enable scrolling chat in a future patch ?

    HOPs are very popular in the FS community and any consideration towards addressing their concerns world be much appreciated.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I stayed out of that thread at SOH as I figured it would be beating a dead horse.  On the other hand, I’d be lying out my teeth if I said that I missed CFS.  I’ve been flying FS 2004 since it’s release and little else.  But, I do miss the combat action.  

    Will Microsoft ever do another Combat Flight Simulator?  I don’t know, but I can dream.  The few pics that were leaked of CFS 4 were brilliant.  I’ve been flying MS sims since CFS 1 was the hot, new sim on the block and I’ve always held the attitude that MS gives us the sandbox to play and build in.  We take that and build upon it.  That’s always been the beauty of Microsoft FS and CFS.  


  14. Anonymous says:


    Is your retro-scenery for Guadalcanal in FSX or do you also have it for FS9/2004?

    A VA I belong to is about to do some WW2 ops in the Solomons, and we have been searching high-and-low for retro-Guadalcanal.

    Can you help us out?

  15. Anonymous says:

    I believe Dick said it

    we already have the backbone

    just "a few new bits of code"

    but the world is there

    i know its not that easy

    but it shouldn’t be that hard either

    i dont know anything about code

    im still learning morse

    i think its do able myself

    always an optimist


  16. Anonymous says:

    I agree that FS X would be a great platform for new combat simulations. Add the ballistics model and damage model, an ability to string missions together, ability to modify the GUI … its that close. Why not? This amount of work would be fractional compared to what is alreay there, and would open up an entirely new arena of third party development.

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