Microsoft Flight Simulator will get snow and ice coverage with its next free update, which is set to arrive on Dec. 22.
The update will bring “real-time snow and true-to-life ice coverage” to the game, said Jorg Neumann, head of the Flight Simulator franchise, in an Xbox Wire post on Thursday. The article also included a bunch of fun data about the community’s first few months flying together online.
In August, Microsoft Flight Simulator — a franchise that dates back to 1982 — was rebooted using satellite and photogrammetry data from Bing Maps. Blending that data with topographical maps and live weather conditions, the developers at Asobo Studio have created a remarkable facsimile of the entire world. But it has many limitations, including the fact that, for consistency, satellite images tend to be captured only on clear, bright days. Since launch, that has meant the globe in Microsoft Flight Simulator has been locked in an endless, eternal summer.
The addition of snow is therefore a tremendous achievement, and marks the integration of yet another data stream into the simulation. Next will come fall colors, I imagine, which are currently only available via user-generated mods.
Dec. 22 will also see the addition of VR to the game, which may actually ease motion sickness for some users unaccustomed to flying on a computer monitor. Neumann said that there will be new liveries available as well: a Microsoft Flight Simulator-themed skin for every plane the game launched with. The update will also include a pair of liveries for the Pitts Special aerobatic biplane — just like the ones for Rufus and Sam seen in the adorable holiday commercial that the company released earlier this month.
Finally, Microsoft gathered the data from the first few months of community play. Together, virtual pilots have logged enough miles to fly from the Earth to our sun and back 19 times. However, only 72% of the surface of the Earth itself has been visited. That makes sense, of course, because of all the featureless ocean out there. Perhaps the addition of “true-to-life ice coverage” will spur an interest in polar sightseeing.
Expect these numbers to climb in the summer of 2021, when Microsoft Flight Simulator arrives on Xbox Series X. Neumann said that the team’s plans for next year also include “3 large updates to the simulation” and four to five World Updates. So far, Asobo has released World Updates for two countries — Japan in September and the U.S. in November — and the next one, for the U.K., is scheduled to launch on Jan. 26, 2021. The team isn’t done with America, though: In a livestreamed Q&A last month, Neumann said he expects the developers will have to publish a “U.S. Update 2 and a U.S. Update 3, because it’s going to take that long to get the whole massive, massive country processed.”