Remember the good old days when Microsoft was pumping out a new version of Microsoft's Flight Simulator every few years? When sites and forums began appearing and we could share our thoughts, files and projects?
Remember when breakthroughs were being made and, all of the sudden, we could now fly helicopters? Do realistic startups? Use photo-realistic textures?
Remember the golden ages of sim, over a decade ago? It may be back.
Not that flight simulation has stopped. There are companies out there that have been on the market for 20+ years. Some new ones have arrived as well but flight simulation has been pretty much a stable market with no huge news.
Now, all of the sudden, we have Dovetail Games picking up the FSX license and start working on a whole new sim -- after they have released Flight School. DTG is promising to make it what FSX should be by now and, secretly, I am hoping they aim higher and make it what FSX should be dreaming of being by now.
Laminar Research woke up and polished X-Plane, making their newer version, X-Plane 11, a beauty with the new, more user-friendly interface and revamped graphical engine. I say this a lot and I will say it again: eye-candy sell much more than a good flight model. It seems like people are now looking at X-Plane as if it's a whole new sim. It's not. They have changed the flight model a bit but it's the same very-high-quality sim it has ever been. It's just prettier now. But if eye-candy is what it takes for sales to soar, Laminar Research did the right move.
Lockheed Prepar3D is moving towards a 64-bit version, which will improve its stability and RAM use, so that's great news for its users. More features are being promised by Lockheed, which is trying to push the envelope of the product and it's actively and continuously updating this product.
AeroFly2 is being worked on as well, with updates being released on a somewhat-monthly basis. It's a great looking sim but it still lacks a lot of features that we are hoping to see in a great, next-gen sim.
AirLand is a small, indie project being developed by Fred Naar, who brought us HTR and is now working on his own sim. Although a small project, it's a very interesting one, especially for us helicopter fans. Fred is not mentioning any release dates but 2017 could maybe be the year we have a public release.
Eagle Dynamics keep on updating DCS and releasing new modules. There's nothing new being announced right now but the path seems clear and ED is pushing forth.
On top of all these sims being worked on and developed, we have developers such as ORBX now looking towards expanding their offer and entering new markets (other sims). This could mean we may expect great quality addons for all the major sims, which will bring them closer in terms of quality. Hopefully, it will bring people to try other sims as well which will help improve them.
There's a lot coming up next year in the sim world. There's lots of movement and companies are working on new or better products. The community seems to be increasing its activity as well with new sites being released (such as HeliSimmer) and more complex addons coming out. People seem to be more engaged and proactive.
It's a great time for being a simmer. And 2017 might just be the kick-start of an amazing new era for our hobby.