Development of Microsoft Flight Simulator began in 1977 by Bruce Artwick and his company subLOGIC.
The history of Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS), the software package is well-known within the flight simulation community. It was a long-running series of the title beginning in 1982 and ended in 2007 with the release of the acceleration expansion pack.
Microsoft Flight Simulator was a software package for desktop computers. One can fly most categories of aircraft anywhere in the world. It is called a game, but many would argue it is more accurately a simulation.
“It should never be confused with a commercial flying simulation”
The simulator allows one to follow real world flying procedures. It the offers flying lessons which are included in the package. The lessons were designed beginning with easy flights in a small light aircraft, then progressing to more complicated flying procedures.
The software should never be confused with a commercial flying simulation. It should not replace real world training by professionally by qualified flying instructors. However, in conjunction with a real-world training program, the simulator is very useful for aiding a student in learning the fundamentals of flight and flying procedures.
The package in its basic form came packaged with a reasonably comprehensive range of aircraft. Beginning with a small ultralight aircraft through to large commercial jets and helicopters. Microsoft Flight Simulator became hugely successful. The original version progressed to an array of subsequent releases. Each release eagerly awaited by a growing legion of flight sim fans.
There can be no doubt that the ability to customize the simulation, mainly by using third party add-ons both commercial and free by dedicated developers. It greatly enhanced and personalized the simulation. Add-ons are available for almost every categories in the simulator, by companies and individuals who provide high-quality add-ons for the simulation.
Aircraft: New additions for both civil and military planes. Some of the commercial airliner offerings are nothing short of breathtaking in every way. From stunning visuals to accurately replicated cockpits and controls, these truly do lend themselves to real simulation.
Many have modeled all the elements of a working cockpit to the point that without taking the time to learn the systems and procedures. A virtual pilot may have a difficult time flying the aircraft.
Scenery: Scenery for all parts of the world, freeware and commercial. Perhaps scenery when in the context of enhanced textures and land class, actually changed the landscape. It is particularly attractive for those that love to fly low and slow VFR (Visual flight rules).
Weather: Microsoft Flight Simulator ships with an ability to bring in real weather, albeit very simple. Third party add-ons substantially improve not only how the weather rendered, but visually also using considerably enhanced graphics which display beautiful clouds in every category. The simulations realism takes a huge leap forward making the simulation as “real as it gets” an accurate mantra.
The amount of freeware offered by developers is incredible. They are in my opinion largely responsible for fueling and ensuring the simulations lifespan, and it’s future.
How it all Began
It started as Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.00 and ended in 2009 with version Flight Simulator X. With the last version, it was ACES Game Studio, which was responsible for its creation and ongoing development.
It is touted to have been one of the longest running (25 years) flight simulator programs to date. It is immensely popular with flight simulator fans today!
Microsoft Flight Simulator Timeline
SubLOGIC Flight Simulators
Microsoft Flight Simulator was the consequence of articles written about flight simulation that used 3-D computer graphics, in 1976 by Bruce Artwick. A magazine editor told Artwick that his subscribers `were interested in buying the program.
Artwick was inspired to set up a commercial venture by founding the subLOGIC Corporation. SubLOGIC began selling the program via mail order before its release in January 1979 for the Apple II.
SubLOGIC released new versions intended for other systems, and it was at this point that the now famous series of flight simulators for the computer began. The very first product featured a wireframe in black and white graphics.
It started with a very basic scenery which was limited to 36 tiles arranged in a six by six pattern. It resulted in a central landscape display area of about a few hundred square kilometers.
Aircraft were limited to just one, but even with this basic simulation, it managed to become one of the most popular Apple II software packages of the early 1980s.
From there the flight simulator was ported into the TRS-80 Model I, still retaining its original primary graphics system. Because of the limited memory and primary display of the TRS-80, it was required to reduce the resolution of the screen and remove the instrument panel.
It resulted in Flight simulator when used on a TRS-80, which infamously offered the most basic graphics display for any version of Flight Simulator in its version history.
It improved later with subsequent releases of the flight simulator for the TRS-80 and Apple II. They shipped with improved graphics for the terrain, a bomb sight and came with help menus.
SubLOGIC continued to improve and refine the packages and made it available for the IBM PC. It changed its name to Flight Simulator II. A huge step forward, just as Microsoft did in their release.
SubLOGIC replaced the wireframe graphics with solid colors and real-world scenery (albeit limited to a few areas in the US). They also introduced add-ons (different to today’s concept of add-ons) and the ability for new scenery to load from floppy disks.
It resulted in a significant step forward as it allowed a virtual simulation pilot to fly in other areas of the world.
Artwick was asked by the Amiga Corporation to port Flight Simulator into one of their new projects. It didn’t happen because Commodore purchased Amiga. Consequently, SubLOGIC went ahead and finished off a version for Macintosh, which was a Microsoft release and then completed work on the Atari and Amiga.
The Amiga and Atari ST versions were still called Flight Simulator II; it was compared to Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 3.0 very favorably. It featured a new windowing system which allowed multiple 3d views simultaneously, including views of the aircraft externally.
Microsoft Flight Simulator Versions
MFS Version 1.0
The first version was released in November 1982 and was the first in the series of Microsoft Flight Simulator. It was the product of Microsoft obtaining a license for porting the simulator into IBM compatible PCs.
It boasted improved graphics, a new coordinate system, and variable weather and used time of day data. Advertising made the claim Quote: “If flying your IBM PC got any more realistic, you’d need a license” The sim also included some scenarios; crop-dusting mode, and dogfight mode for the Sopwith Camel.
MFS Version 2.0
released version 2 for IBM PCs in 1954, it was not a large departure from version 1 but it was a more precise as a simulator with its graphics improved, albeit it not substantially.
The scenery package developed so that it was compatible with subLOGIC Scenery Disks and was expanded to take in the United States in its entirety; airports were still limited to being the same as they were in MFS version1. The scenery also began to cover Japan, Hawaii and some parts of Europe.
MFS Version 3.0
This release was made available in middle 1988, it offered additional aircraft, more buildings and an option which allowed viewing of the plane outside.
The immersion factor improved because of high resolution (EGA) graphics and other features that used in the Amiga/ST versions. It came with additional airports and three new (simulated) aircraft. They were the Cessna Skyline, the Gates Learjet 25 and the Sopwith Camel.
This version also came with new options to customize the display. It allowed multiple windows, each showing one of seven views which could be resized and repositioned. There were new views also included the control panel and instruments. A new map and external camera views were also included.
The package shipped with a program which allowed the user to convert the old subLOGIC Scenery Disks into a format called SCN files. The files would then copy to the MFS3 scenery directory.
MFS Version 4.0
Shipped in 1989 with new programmable dynamic scenery, bridges, beautiful roads and buildings. Aircraft models improved along with a capability where users now had the ability to design their planes. It also came with (non-interactive ground and air traffic) around airports which moved along pre-recorded (static) paths. An upgraded converter for scenery disks from subLOGIC was also included.
MFS Version 5.0
This version was released in late 1993 and was the first to use textures. It made for much more immersion and realism but also made all the previous aircraft and scenery packages obsolete. The scenery was further expanded to include parts of Europe.
More improvements such as the weather system, aircraft models were welcomed. The scenery format was upgraded from SCN/SC1 to the new BGL format. The audio changed to digital for the sound effects, custom cockpits, and better graphics overall.
MFS Version 5.1
Released in 1995, it shipped with an ability to cope with scenery libraries, better weather, and faster performance. Weather effects now incorporated 3D clouds, fogs, and storms.
This version was the first to ship on CD-ROM and was the last to use Dos. The internet was being used much more for access to third-party add-ons and was a point where personalizing the sim began to become more familiar.
MFS Version 6.0 “Flight Simulator for Windows 95” or FS95.
With the release of Windows 95, a new version of MFS (version 6.0) was also being developed. This version offered more aircraft (including the Extra 300 aerobatic planes), and scenery, texture mapped runways and sky, and buildings were now high density. This release is the first after Microsoft purchased BAO.
MFS Version 6.1 “Flight Simulator 98) or FS98.
Released in middle 1997, said to be a service release which offered minor improvements. It is the first version to introduce a helicopter (the Bell 206BIII JetRanger), with improvements in the interface design.
The changes allowed the capability to add more sceneries, aircraft, and sounds. It shipped with a revised Cessna 182 which used a photorealistic instrument panel and an upgraded flight model.
It also included the Learjet Model 45 business jet which replaced the old Lear 35. Each aircraft now had its sounds and instrument panels which were a significant improvement. The scenery was now incorporated 45 detailed cities, some of which were only available as separate scenery packs. Airports increased to over 3000 across the world.
The Microsoft Sidewinder Pro Force Feedback joystick was now also supported which allowed sensory input from the aircraft controls to be felt by the user via the joystick. Another first for this version was the ability to utilize the advantages of 3D-graphic cards using Microsoft’s DirectX technology.
Together, all these enhancements made for better performance and yet another significant step forward in realism and immersion for the user.
MFS Version 7.0 “Flight Simulator 2000” or FS2000
Released in late 1999, this version shipped in Standard and Pro, and GPS now added for the first time. The Pro offered more aircraft, and had many significant improvements over any previous versions but proved to be very resource hungry.
Purchasers of the software were dismayed to find that their hardware was not up to the job of running FS2000. Users felt misled by Microsoft minimums requirements; a Pentium 166 MHz computer would have difficulty running the simulator. Many users were experiencing “stuttering” issues; the simulations display appearing to start and stop (stuttering) which would detract significantly from the Sims enjoyment.
This version also shipped with 3D elevation, again making previous versions incompatible and, therefore, obsolete. Another new and promoted feature was the introduction of the supersonic Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde and the Boeing 777. Airports have now been increased by 17000 which now makes for 20,000 worldwide.
MFS Version 8.0 “Flight Simulator” or FS2002
Released in October 2001 this was another version which was a major improvement over all the previous ones. Further improvements to graphics and the introduction of autogen allowed the environment to represent the area in the world more closely.
Another new feature was air traffic control and artificial intelligence (AI) which allowed the user to fly with other aircraft which were managed by the simulation.
MFS Version 9.0 “Flight Simulator 2004″ or FS2004
Released in July 2004, “A Century of Flight”; was promoted, it featured improved graphics and dynamic weather with three-dimensional clouds.
The software shipped with several historical aircraft such as the Douglas DC-3, the Ford Tri-Motor, and the Wright Flyer. It also came with the improved weather for actually localized weather conditions and much-improved graphics to display clouds in three dimensions.
It also had better ATC, GPS equipment, virtual and interactive cockpits and better autogen.
In June 2004, Microsoft issued a service update to address matters that addressed 160 missing or misplaced bridges in addition to several more improvements and enhancements. It was one of The Microsoft Flight Simulators most popular versions.
MFS Version 10.0 “Flight Simulator X” or FSX
Released on 10 October 2006 it is often referred to as FSX. It shipped with improved multiplayer support, new aircraft, and improved scenery including higher resolution ground textures. It shipped with new aircraft such as the Bombardier CRJ700, Airbus A321, Maule Orion and the Boeing 737-800.
A Deluxe Edition of Flight Simulator X included the Software Development Kit (SDK) An expansion pack called Acceleration was released in later years and came with new aircraft, new missions, and updates.
Flight Simulator X Acceleration
Released October 10, 2007, , it offered new features such as new missions, three new aircraft; the P-51D Mustang, the EH-101 helicopter, and the F/A-18A Hornet.
The package now offered new scenery enhancements such as the Edwards Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral, Istanbul, and Berlin. It also included both service packs for Flight Simulator making downloading and installing them unnecessary.
Released on 29 February 2012 on the back of an announcement by Microsoft. Microsoft announced, “Microsoft Flight” intended to replace the Microsoft Flight Simulator series. Marketing for the flight simulator enthusiast and the casual user alike.
Due to operational philosophy and a different internal architecture, Microsoft Flight was not backward compatible with any previous versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
On July 25, 2012, Microsoft Flights development was canceled. Microsoft stated they would continue to support the community and allow the simulation to be downloaded free of charge.
Lockheed Martin Prepar3D
In the year of 2009, Lockheed Martin announced they had negotiated a deal with Microsoft where they purchased the source code and the intellectual property for Microsoft ESP.
Microsoft ESP was the commercial-use version of Flight Simulator X SP2. In 2010, Lockheed announced a new product called Prepar3D (pronounced “Prepared”); the product is the result of purchasing the Microsoft ESP.
Lockheed Martin hired ACES original studios team for the purpose of continuing the development of Prepar3D. Prepar3D is fully compatible with most Flight Simulator X add-ons including the default FSX aircraft, those third party add-on that is not are being modified in many cases to be consistent. The first version of Prepar3D was released on 1 November 2010.
On the 9th of July 2014, Dovetail Games announced a licensing agreement with Microsoft, which would allow Dovetail Games to distribute Microsoft Flight Simulator X, called the “Microsoft Flight Simulator X Steam Edition.”
The agreement also allows Dovetail to develop fresh products based on Microsoft’s technology to be used in the entertainment market.
On 18, December 2014, a re-release of FSX Gold Edition called Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition was released. It includes the Deluxe and Acceleration packs along with both of the Microsoft Flight Simulator service packs. All the standard Steam functionality retained and replaced the GameSpy multiplayer system with Steam’s multiplayer system.
Flight Simulator History – Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2016, from http://fshistory.simflight.com/fsh/timeline.htm
(n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Microsoft_Flight_Simulator
(n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Flight_Simulator