Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 Part 2 – The Weather
The most believable weather yet seen in a flight sim.
Every pilot knows that weather is a major factor effecting a flight and flight sims have attempted to model this with limited success. During the early years simulated weather simply consisted of 2D blocks representing clouds and a white screen for fog. Subsequent years saw improvements and precipitation was added, with clouds beginning to look convincing and varying degrees of visibility introduced. Microsoft’s Combat Sim 3 broke the mould and introduced a whole new concept to simulated weather. Clouds had transparency and depth, rain lashed against windscreens and laying snow made the whole weather scenario more believable than ever before. This development has continued into Microsoft’s latest flight sim release – FS2004, and pilots can enjoy the most realistic weather yet.
Having re-designed the whole environment engine, the developers have introduced a dynamic theme – a continually changing scenario. Users can design their own weather, select from a series of pre-set weather themes or download real world weather from the internet. In designing their own environment users can have multiple cloud layers, varying wind levels and set visibility, temperatures, dew point and air pressure. Experimenting here can be just as entertaining as flying the sim! Weather themes allow users to quickly experience complex weather systems through one mouse click. Fair weather, approaching frontal systems or building storms are just a selection of the choices available. Downloaded real weather is decoded from METARS from every reporting station across the globe, so users can expect some variation en-route. Pilots may have to fly through frontal weather or negotiate a squall line. If it’s happening in the real world, it happens in flight simulator too. Having decided on the choice of weather, pilots can alter the rate of change from none to extreme via a slider on the initial menu screen. Whilst retaining the familiar, user defined weather choices pilots have been used to, the developers have clearly striven to bring users a greater degree of control, and ultimate realism.