Comparing screenshots of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002, 2004, FSX and 2020 (part 2)

Before the launch of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 last year I took a number of comparison screenshots in FS 2002, 2004, and FSX but I never went back and retook screenshots from FS2020 after the launch. Here’s one example of the level of photographic detail in the scenery compared to Visual Flight’s VFR photographic scenery add-on for FS 2002. It wouldn’t be a good comparison to the base products without a scenery add on since they were only doing scenery autogen and didn’t even have photographic scenery, but here’s a good comparison just how good the FS2020 scenery is (drag the bar to compare):

FS 2002 with Visual. Flight VFR Scenery vs FS 2020

Since the recent UK scenery update, here’s a comparison in roughly the same area looking along the Southend coast. Unfortunately I didn’t have a screen from before the update showing where the pier should be – originally it was submerged in the imagery, but as you can see from the image on the right above it’s now a very impressively modeled landmark:

Southend coastline: FS2020 before the UK update (left) vs after (right)

Here’s a couple of other screenshots taking a closer look at the scenery along the sea front and the pier:

It’s interesting while the pier got a full custom model, the fun fair areas each side got a couple of buildings but the rides and rollercoaster where just left as flat imagery:

Microsoft Flight Simulator AI generated scenery oddity – Maenwrog, Wales, UK

Microsoft Flight Simulator uses Blackshark.ai to generate 3d scenery buildings from interpreting patterns like shadows in the 2d photo map imagery. In most cases this works great, but occasionally there’s some weird interpretations of the imagery that generates some incredible structures.

Here’s one example south-west of Maenwrog in Wales. If you look at Google Maps of this area, there is line casting a shadow on the ground and some regularly spaces structures along the shadow. I’m guessing these are power lines and pylons. However, in the sim this is interpreted as this very impressive and incredibly large bridge to no-where structure:

Location in Volanta moving map app:

It will be interesting after the upcoming UK scenery World Update if this is still here or if it gets fixed.

Oculus Quest 2 settings for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

The current state of PC based VR in 2021 ranges from:

  • OMG this is incredible, it’s so immersive it feels like you’re really there!

to

  • The low FPS is terrible, stuttering and motion tracking lag, ugh this is making me seasick

I just got an Oculus Quest 2 to use with Microsoft Flight Simulator with the Link cable. I was surprised that out of the box it’s actually a terrible experience with MSFS, horrible framerate (< 10fps), and jerky, laggy head tracking. I could only handle it for about 5 mins before taking it off. My initial reaction was that I was disappointed. I know from reading online though that plenty of people are using a Quest 2 over Link successfully and are pleased with the results, so some searching around found a number of threads recommending optimal settings.

tldr; if you’re prepared to spend time tweaking driver and and app settings, the Quest 2 with MSFS really is an incredible experience, and for the low cost (compared to something like the G2 Reverb), I’d definitely recommend it. To get it running smoothly though, you need to make a number of updates and config changes in a number of different places:

  • Disable any onscreen display overlay type apps, e.g. in onscreen display in Ndivida settings and disable the Window 10 Game bar. There seems to be a known issue with onscreen display apps that either the Quest, the Link drivers, or MSFS cannot handle correctly right now, resulting in the display in the headset flickering back and forth between MSFS and the Oculus Home app
  • Update the Oculus software to Beta and accept the updates to run latest beta versions
  • ymmv but for me the SteamVR approach was much less smooth than the Oculus OpenXR software. Try both and see what works best for you. Others reported the SteamVR software was smoother for them

Here’s my specs for comparison (specific details here):

Asus X570 mobo

Ryzen 5 3600XT

32GB DDR4 RAM

Corsair MP600 m2 NVMe SSD PCIe Gen4

RTX 2060

There are a couple of useful threads where you can find the majority of these tuning tips, these 2 specifically:

https://forums.flightsimulator.com/t/quest-2-2080ti-link-fs2020-set-in-ultra-best-performance-simple-setup-guide/346291

and

https://forums.flightsimulator.com/t/my-2070-super-vr-settings-and-suggestions-index-steamvr/321913

For the majority of my settings I followed these exactly and tweaked slightly to get the smoothest settings I was comfortable. Here’s screenshots of the relevant parts:

Nvidia control panel:

Oculus app: 90hz and 1.3 was recommended in one of the threads, but I went with 80hz and 1.0 that I found was much smoother:

Oculus Tray App – start as Administrator and leave running when you run MSFS:

0.8,0.8 FOV had a significant improvement to the framerate. Any smaller than this, like 0.7,0.7 and I could noticably see the reduced field of view in the headset.

Link settings:

I’m not sure how much difference these settings made. I played around with the Bitrate for example between 250 and 500 and didn’t notice any improvement to the quality or the framerate.

For me, the combination of all the above settings with my hardware resulted in very playable and smooth output in the headset. I don’t think the graphics are as sharp as they could be, but I’d rather have smooth and less sharp than super sharp and detailed but juddering around when I move my head.

I was very surprised that the Quest 2 does not produce good results with MSFS and the link cable out of the box, but following some of the recommendations you find in the linked forums threads should get you good results.