Flight Simulator

Released: 1983-Present
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Microsoft
Author(s):

Versions

Flight Simulator II (1984)

Purchase Date: 1992
Amount Paid: £0 (Free donation from Stuart Stephen in early 90s)

I was donated this version of Flight Simulator from my neighbour, who was throwing out a load of old software. This came alongside Microsoft Dial. I believe it's a "PC booter" 5.25" floppy disk, so there's no installation - just boot from the floppy with it in.

Flight Simulator 3 (1988)

This is the version I first played growing up, but I don't have a copy anymore. I was a far bigger game than FS2, both in terms of flight model and in geographical area you could fly in.

Flight Simulator 4.0 (1989)

This is the one I played on my first PC - an XT with Hercules graphics. The game was a huge hit over FS3 (criticized for its poor flight model), and was followed in 1990 with an add-on called the Aircraft and Scenery Designer. As the name suggests, this allows you to create your own aircraft (within certain limited characteristics) as well as scenery. 4.0 also got a better weather system, dynamic scenery, approach lighting systems and the first rudimentary air traffic control.

Here's a short list of some of the commercial add-ons you could get for FS4:

  • Microsoft Aircraft and Scenery Designer (ASD)
  • SubLogic New Facilities Locator
  • Mallard Aircraft & Adventure Factory
  • Mallard Sound, Graphics & Aircraft (SGA) Upgrade
  • Mallard Flight Planner
  • Mallard Scenery Enhancement Editor (SEE)
  • Mallard Hawaii
  • Mallard Grand Canyon
  • Mallard Tahiti
  • Mallard Japan

I don't have any of the above (aside from the ASD released by Microsoft), but do have some FS4 downloads from FlightSim.com.

What's 4.0b? The original version 4.0 had some bugs, so it wasn't long before Microsoft came out with v4.0b.

FS 4.0b running in 640x350 EGA - take off from Chicago Meigs Airfield

I don't have a copy of this title.

Somewhat amazingly, you can create custom aircraft for FS4, using a tool called AF - the Aircraft Factory - part of a commercial upgrade you could purchase called The Aircraft & Adventure Factory (AAF).

Flight Simulator 5.0 (1993)

Purchase Date: 2017
Amount Paid: £5.30 inc. P&P

It's a "big box" title (don't we love these?), and was the first version that used textures instead of simple shaded polygons for the land. Sadly this meant any add-ons built for prior versions weren't compatible with FS5. You could play FS5 in resolutions up to 640 x 400 in 256 colours.

"Microsoft's ever popular Flight Simulator has finally been given the radical refit its fans have long been crying out for. The most evident improvement in Flight Simulator 5 is the stunning high- resolution graphics, but Microsoft has also added a range of other features, including:
* A new latitude and longitude system that helps the player locate destinations and current location in flight.
* A 'Land Me' feature, which helps inexperienced pilots complete flights successfully (without crashing) while observing the basics of landing an aircraft.
* Realistic sound for instrument use, approaching objects and crashes. O Scenery that expands in detail as the aircraft approaches specific areas of interest.
* A new weather system feature that gives players control over the weather they will encounter in-flight.

Additionally, the player may choose to encounter other air traffic and be visited by the airport fuel truck upon landing after a long flight.
Two new scenery packs will also be available for use with the new version of Flight Simulator. Microsoft Paris and Microsoft New York offer vivid graphic realism to further enhance the flight experience.
Vektor Grafix' Shuttle is about to lose its monopoly in the tiny field of serious space simulations when Microsoft applies its Flight Simulator technology to Space Simulator. In order to achieve an authentic space simulation, Microsoft consulted a variety of sources, making use of published geological and astronomical documents and data gathered from the Voyager, Magellan, Viking and Mariner space flights, Microsoft also sought input from NASA. The end result is an entertaining and educational product with outstanding photo-realistic graphics, different ways to navigate and experience space and a vast array of planets and other heavenly objects to explore.
These products are expected to be published in the UK at the end of the summer, although exact release dates and prices have yet to be set"
     PC Zone, September 1993

 

Scenery files now used a new .BGL format.

Flight Simulator 5.1 (1995)

Released over 1.5 years after version 5.0, this added a bunch of new stuff to allow for third-party expansion, such as the ability to handle scenery libraries. It was to be the last version to run under DOS.

I do not have a copy of 5.1.

Flight Simulator 95 (1996)

Purchase Date: 2017
Amount Paid: £2.49 inc. P&P

I'm not sure if big box games were fading out by the time this arrived in November 1996, but this was sold as a standard CD-ROM-type jewel case game. I paid £2.49 for my copy, including P&P. It was designed to run under the new Windows 95 operating system. According to Wikipedia, this was more or less just a port of 5.1 to Windows (does that mean 3rd-party add-ons from 5.1 and by extension then 5.0, work in 95 and vice versa?).

Flight Simulator 98 (1997)

As I understand it, most add-ons like scenery from FS95 work also with 98, and vice versa. This is because 98 was nothing more than a "service release" (again, I refer to Wikipedia), although it did include a big expansion in its built-in scenery, featuring over 3000 airports (compared to ~300 in 95 and earlier) and 45 detailed cities.

FS98 was the first version to be able to make use of 3D graphics cards through its employment of Microsoft DirectX.

I do not have a copy of FS98.

Flight Simulator 2000 (1999)

I'm not sure how, but I got a copy of FS2000 along with a load of add-ons, which included:

  • Airport 2000 volume 2 (JustFlight) - also works with FS98
  • FSTraffic (JustFlight) - also works with FS98
  • Great Britain and Ireland (JustFlight)
  • Flight Downunder 2000 (The Interactive Multimedia Group)
  • RealATC2 (World Air Simulation)

FS2000 was a huge leap forward over 98 and earlier. There were two versions you could buy: a "normal" version and a "professional" version which included additional aircraft. Also for the first time, FS2000 introduced AI aircraft in some airports. It also introduced 3D elevation, meaning that scenery could now be at different heights. This meant FS2000 no longer supported 3rd-party add-ons for prior versions.

The weather system was also overhauled, so for the first time you got rain and snow. Scenery continued to be grown, with FS2000 now having over 20,000 airports (17,000 more than FS98!). FS2000 was the last version to support Windows 95 and NT 4.0.

FS2000 installs just fine on Windows 10.

Flight Simulator 2002 (2001)

Purchase Date: September 2019
Amount Paid: £5.50 inc. P&P

Improved graphics, air traffic control for the first time, and AI aircraft. Cockpits in FS2002 were now 3D !

Flight Simulator 2004 / FS9 (2003)

Purchase Date: September 2019
Amount Paid: £4.80 inc. P&P
Also called FS9, FS2004: A Century of Flight featured a much improved weather model and introduced true 3D clouds and localized weather conditions for the first time. It requires 2.8 GB of available hard disk space to install.

The game will happily run under Windows 10 simply by installing under an Administrator account. Say 'yes' when asked to install DirectPlay, and when the blank screen appears, just hit ALT-ENTER to take the game out of full-screen mode.

Flight Simulator X (2006)

Purchase Date: 2006
Amount Paid: £0 (Bought by a generous friend who was buying a copy for himself also)
FSX introduced multiplayer support for the first time, including the ability for two players to fly a single plane! It also included much higher resolution ground textures (Deluxe Edition only), and players could also be in the control tower rather than in an aircraft.

Some Comments About Add-Ons

Before I get too far into detail, I want to express that my knowledge of Flight Simulator and its add-ons is very slim - I'm a casual flight-simmer at best, and FS 3rd-party expansions are an industry in their own right, with a ton of complexity and hundreds, possibly thousands of contributing individuals who have worked crazy hours to bring the Flight Simulator world to life.

For those who are completely new to Microsoft Flight Simulator and the use of 3rd-part add-ons, my rough understanding is that for the more modern versions, you can group mods [modifications] or add-ons into 3 camps:

  1. FS9 / FSX-compatible (some are FSX-only, partly due to whatever was the current DirectX version at the time of release)
  2. FS2002 / FS9-compatible
  3. FS2000/FS2002

Types of Add-Ons

  • Aircraft
  • Landclass
  • Scenery
  • Weather
  • Traffic

Aircraft

In all versions before FSX, add-on aircraft live under <game folder>\aircraft, e.g. c:\fs2002\aircraft - each aircraft lives in its own subfolder under 'aircraft', and within that each has 4 subfolders called Model, Panel, Sound, and Texture. There's also other files related to the aircraft in the main subfolder, such as the aircraft's .cfg file.

In FSX, add-on aircraft live under <game folder>\SimObjects\aircraft. The rest is pretty much the same as above.

** This page is still under construction - it's a huge topic! **