Microsoft Flight Simulator’s most-needed feature is co-op
Asobo Studio’s Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 has been well regarded by reviewers and critics, with the raving on the game’s realism and accuracy of its in-flight controls and in-game world. However, a professional pilot who tested the game was quick to realize that one important feature was missing from the game: a co-op multiplayer mode.
The idea, based on an experiment conducted by Polygon, is that there should be a “shared cockpit” mode. This mode would greatly help new players who are trying out the simulator and are learning the basics. They brought in Genesah Duffy, the chief pilot of Icon Aircraft and the person in charge of flight training and flight operations globally.
The experiment was done via flight demonstration in Zoom with Duffy having an active view of a volunteer “trainee’s” in-game screen. The idea was that Duffy intends to guide the trainee on the things to do during takeoff, in-flight and landing procedures through Zoom.
The plane used for the experiment was the Icon A5 aircraft, an amphibious airplane that is incredibly light due to its carbon-fiber body—light enough to be pulled on an SUV or docked next to a pontoon boat.
A unique feature of the Icon A5 is that it deploys a ballistic parachute when it encounters major problems during flight, allowing it to land safely to the ground. The A5 aircraft is also a lot easier to handle when the plane stalls, as it is the first FAA-certified spin-resistant aircraft and the only amphibious aircraft in the game.
The Zoom setup for teaching someone who has zero experience in handling simulators proved to be overwhelmingly challenging and was considered a bad idea overall. Latency issues that cause delays make a significant difference in crucial parts of takeoff and preparation for landing and can even cause the aircraft to inadvertently crash itself.
An alternative to the Zoom setup is to have a multiplayer tour with each player of the game in separate planes. While this was also tried out during the experiment, it still proved relatively hard to guide a newbie pilot without the shared vision that a “shared cockpit” would have provided. If a trainee pilot was struggling to fly the plane, the co-pilot could have easily taken over the flight and avert any impending accident.
While the experience of teaching through Zoom proved to be a challenge for both the expert pilot and newbie, Duffy was still incredibly impressed with the game, capturing an accurate representation of most aircraft—including her Icon A5. She said that the Icon A5 in-game was “pretty much on point to what our plane looks like.” Her praise went as far as recommending the game to Icon A5 owners as a way of practicing and maintaining their flight skills.
Apart from the tutorial and mentoring experience, the shared cockpit mode would also help players deal with massive aircraft and long-haul flights that feature aircraft from Airbus and Boeing. According to Polygon, Asobo Studio is planning to add a similar feature to PC and console in future updates.