First Impression – Dovetail Games’ “Flight Sim World”

As most flight sim enthusiasts are aware, Dovetail Games released their latest simulation product to Steam ™ early-access, today at 12-noon EDT. This product was, of course, “Flight Sim World” (FSW). It was $27.99 CAD, and weighs in at a reasonable 15Gb.

This is actually what it looks like in game ... I was pleased.

This is actually what it looks like in game … I was pleased.

I spent the afternoon and early evening live-streaming my experience with it. I would love to share a few of my first impressions with everyone.

To start, I’d like to reference Dovetail Games’ commentary on their Steam ™ page for FSW:

Why Early Access?

The current flight sim space is a fountain of experience and expertise, and Early Access is our way of drawing upon that knowledge to make Flight Sim World the best it can be. We will have a better, stronger simulation platform if we collaborate with you on the future of this project.”

In other words, this is very much a work in progress, and the feedback and commentary they receive will – they say – shape the direction of the project.

This is not an uncommon sentiment in the small-shop developer community. There is a risk of working in 100% isolation until a product is “ready to ship” that you’ll manage to develop a distasterpiece that everyone internally thinks will be a smash hit. By reaching out to the fans and early-adopters in the community, you have far better odds of ensuring that what finally ships will actually sell.

So, what do you get for your $27.99 CAD? A surprisingly good piece of software, actually.

You get a selection of 8 single engine or twin engine “general aviation” (GA) aircraft, a relatively good UI, a series of simple weather settings to get you started in free-flights, and a good basic tutorial.

There are some minor bugs in the user experience that are in the middle of amusing and frustrating.  The mouse-control behaviour is inconsistent between aircraft;  some use the scroll-wheel to “turn knobs”, and some use left-click / right-click, instead.  In another aircraft, depending on where you position the camera in external view, it looked like you were flying with the cabin door wide open when it was actually closed.

During my ~5h live-streaming session, it hard-crashed on me twice. I had all graphics and effects sliders set to “ultra”, which is probably a smidge much for an Nvidia GTX 770 w/2GB on card. One crash actually rebooted the machine, the other crash screwed Steam up badly enough that it was convinced the game was still running; I couldn’t relaunch the application until I rebooted the PC.

That said, it’s beta-grade software. I was intentionally being ridiculous both with my graphics settings as well as where I was flying. Maritime Canada has about two-point-eight bajillion trees over any 200 mile flight, plus roads, vehicles, houses, farms, electrical service runs, lakes, rivers, etc. FSW faithfully renders them all.

In fact, I was pleased that I could even take off from Charlottetown PE, Canada in a beta-grade product. The runway and services for the airport were essentially correct, even if the detail of the surrounding city wasn’t.

I’ve seen a couple of “notable” members of the flight-sim community already “Tweeting” dismissive commentary that it’s an arcade game, and not a proper simulation. I think, at this early stage, that’s a pretty rash road to start down.

Firstly, lets establish that it’s clearly a beta product, that WILL change based on community feedback. That’s what the developers have said, and I can’t see why they’d do any different. Secondly, it currently comes in at ½ the price of the other “mainstay” flight-sim products on the market.

As for it being an “arcade” product, and not a “serious sim” product … well, I’m not actually a real-life pilot with hundreds of hours on any of the GA planes that ship with FSW. I am simply not qualified to say if it’s a “serious sim” or not.

What I can tell you is that I’ve got north of 225 hours on “MS:Flight Simulator X” (FSX), with another $100 in add-ons and higher-fidelity aircraft. FSW, out of the box, with no after-market add-ons “felt better”.

For example, rudder controls behaved the way I expected them to in FSW, unlike FSX. I didn’t have to spend ½ an hour with a text editor “hacking” my configuration files to get better performance out of it. I just ran it, and it did most of what I wanted as was.

I ran FSW with much higher detail settings and screen resolution during my live-streaming today that I could imagine doing in FSX. FSX would out-right run out of memory – an artifact of it’s 32-bit architecture – just trying to take off from Boston with anything close to the settings I used in FSW.

The in-game flight-planner is pretty rudimentary; you can’t enter VOR-to-VOR navigation routes. That said, what is there is much more intuitive to use. If they keep expanding the UI for the flight-planner in the direction it seems they are going, it will be easily a much better tool than what ships with FSX.

Visuals were smoother, ground details were better, lighting was cleaner, aircraft behavior was more “reasonable”, weather effects were believable … start to finish, it was a better over-all experience.

I suppose that brings me back to the complaints department.

Is it a “serious sim”? I don’t know … if you define “serious sim” as ~$70USD in base software, plus a couple of hundred dollars in add-ons, then no, it isn’t.

Is it good though? Yes, it is. For anyone wanting to get into GA-type flying, at ~$30 CAD, you cannot go wrong with this product. The default aircraft are easily in the detail category of ~$30 “payware” planes … there is a lot of room here for a new pilot wanting to learn sim-flying to grow.

The only place this software will cause you problems is that you cannot, as of yet, hook it up to the established online virtual air traffic netwoks, like VATSIM or IVAO. So, if you’re trying to rack hours up for your virtual airline – you can’t do that in Flight Sim World; or, at least, not yet.

The software has been in community hands for barely more than 12 hours at this point. I think that it’s an excellent value and if Dovetail Games is semi-serious about listening to the community, it’s only going to become an even better value as time goes on.

I recommend it to anyone interested in a well-rounded general aviation sim that will get the job done “out of the box” without needing a heap of DLC / add-ons / mods.

As always, I’m open to comments, questions or suggestions in the section below. I’d love to hear from other flight-sim pilots about this interesting new product in our space.