Sunday, August 13, 2006

Curious reactions to the FSX demo release

If you are an avid flightsimmer (and who else would be reading this?), then you already know about the demo release of FSX (the next generation of Microsoft Flight Simulator). If you haven't heard, you can get it here. I will not review it here, except to say that I am quite impressed. I meant to blog about it sooner, but frankly I have been spending too much time playing with the demo.

What really suprises me is some of the reactions I have been reading in the forums. Some people are quite hostile. The criticism seems to fall along two lines. The first says "Is this the best they could do? This doesn't look any better than the current FS, with all the latest add-ons." The second criticism is that it is way too demanding on their computer hardware.

It is the first criticism that I find most interesting. I think many people feel the need to strike a posture of being hard to impress. Perhaps it is because they have invested a lot of money and/or time to get their FS9 world to look really good. Perhaps they just feel the need to act cool, using the ultimate cool put down, "been there, done that".

My own reaction has been that the more time I spend in this new virtual environment, the more I am impressed. There are a lot of things that deserve a closer look. The virtual cockpits are obviously much better than in FS9. But spend some time really looking around, and you'll see how nice they really are. The textures, and the way the contours interact with the ambient light, are awefully well done.

Look at the way the clouds are reflected in the sea, in my second image. Before I snapped the shot, I first noticed that the weather had turned threatening by seeing the sea change color (a "sea change"?). Only then did I look up at the sky. A new level of immersion.

I don't know whether these nay-sayers have spent the time to get to know this demo. My guess is that many have not. Why are they so quick to sneer?

Part of the negative reaction may just be human nature. I have found in other areas of art, where something is issued serially, I often feel a little bit of disappointment with the latest offering the first time I experience it. It somehow falls short of my expectations. But with more exposure it grows on me, until ultimately it ranks with the best. The creative artist fails to follow through with all of what I had hoped to see. What you appreciate over time is that the artist had their own vision that was persued, and that vision was equally worthwhile.

Finally, on the issue of performance. Everyone's mileage will vary, of course, but I have been pleasantly suprised how well it runs on my middle-of-the-road setup. I have a 2.2 GHz AMD Athalon 3200+ processor with 1.0 GB of RAM, and a 128MB ATI RADEON 9600 AGP card. Basically, that's a $400 computer with $50 of added ram, and ~$90 for the added card. And look at the framerates in the last image! Admittedly, for that shot I had most of the sliders turned down. But still, between that number and the magic 24 FPS number (many people believe anything above 24 FPS is not noticable) there's a lot of room for moving sliders. With a bit of expermentation I'm sure I'll find a good compromise. And in a few years when it is time to upgrade the family computer, I'll be in great shape.


Anonymous said...

Is there an email link in here somewhere? I am not seeing it. Looking forward to FSX too.

Runnerdad said...

I don't have an email link, because of spammers. Try "op."+ one hundred and twenty-seven (numbers, not words)
Thanks for reading the glog!