Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) features PC VR headset support, although it’s notably missing the ability to use VR motion controllers. Now developer Asobo has signaled that VR controller support is finally coming, and is slated to land sometime in mid-November.

Asobo posted its next development roadmap, which details a few of the things the studio wants to accomplish in the next few months. The roadmap shows that Sim Update VII is planned to arrive at some point in mid-November.

Image courtesy Asobo

Reading further into the game’s ‘Virtual Reality Feedback Snapshot’, which is an ongoing outlet for user-generated topics and bug reports, the studio says it’s now addressing VR motion controller support.

Bringing it to the top of the list with 482 votes, you’ll see VR controller support has already been bumped up from ‘Under Investigation’ to ‘Started’, with it slated to release at the same time as Sim Update VII.

Image courtesy Asobo

VR support arrived in Microsoft Flight Simulator back in December 2020 as a free update to the game on PC, which includes support for SteamVR headsets such as Valve Index, Oculus Rift S, HTC Vive, and Windows VR headsets.

In the meantime it’s received a few significant updates, which brought much needed performance improvements to the graphically-intense game.

Although VR motion controllers aren’t the best input method—that would be a HOTAS setup—it’s certainly slated to bring more immersion to what has proven to be a highly detailed and magnificently large game.

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  • VRFriend

    Most screemshots show real life like graphics, but when I set all on ultra and put on my VR goggles it looks much worse. What could it be? Location? VR mode quality? It looks ok, good, but not like a film.

    • wheeler

      From what I can tell, various things like clarity (pixel density and optical resolution), SDE, limited colors and contrast, and a shit ton of optical aberrations (e.g. CA and its associated defocus, god rays, internal reflections). I think the experience itself is also hampered by the fixed focus and pupil swim. In other words, VR displays still have a long way to go and we’re going to need a lot more computational power and rendering tricks to achieve a comparable fidelity. As the tech exists right now, I unfortunately see a good number of flight sim enthusiasts switch back to monitors after some time–especially if they have an ultra wide setup.

    • Dio

      I can’t tell for Flight Simulator specifically, but in VR all the details are spread over a large FOV, whereas in a screenshot this is all compacted in a relatively small image. What appears to be a forest in a small screenshot, might look like individual trees when watched on a real-life scale. Also seeing objects in 3D, you could notice some inaccuracies that wouldn’t be visible in 2D. Games have been mostly optimized for displaying in 2D, perhaps some techniques simply don’t work as well for VR.

    • Bob

      VR is a different beast compared with traditional gaming. You cannot reach next-gen visuals whilst pumping out a consistent 90 frames per second on any existing consumer GPU. You could get similar graphics to what’s possible on the PC and the Series X at Ultra settings on a headset such as the Reverb G2, but it would end up a slideshow. Even methods such as reprojection or ASW cannot make magic out of sub ~20fps.

      Your only options are to either wait at least another 4-5 years for GPUs to advance enough, or until foveated rendering becomes realistically possible on standard VR hardware.

    • Travis Ingersoll

      I got an RTX 3080 and I9-10850k and still struggle to get good results in VR. That said, after hours and hours of tinkering, tweaking, and updates I can finally say it is worth the effort and I am not going back to 2D! It will only get better from here but I can get about 1800×1800 pixels in each eye and that gives you a good result. I would love to get full quest 2 resolution but they need to give us DLSS for that to work.

      • Rob

        I also have a 3080 and 10700k and quest2. I tried it this weekend for the first time. Expected a lot of trouble. But Worked pretty easy. Well playable. Framerate is acceptable. Game launched pretty easy. Some minor issues but no deal breakers. Good game now. Graphics quality is of course lower and lessen sharp than pancake version but the VR feeling of beeing really there in the cockpit is amazing

    • Rosko

      The marketing screenshots are bullshit & because much lower resolution & the 2d photogrammetry doesn’t carry across too well in vr, everything looks somewhat apocalyptic & dull. I’ve got it working pretty well enough though, its far better than xplane but we are some years off real life visuals.

    • jlschmugge

      VR is unintuitive that it is rendering twice the resolution, but since you are basically looking at the screen through magnifying glasses you get to see all close up. Plus since computer is doing double duty, you have to turn fidelity down to make it run non-nauseously smooth.

  • wheeler

    We’ve seen various renditions of this in other VR cockpits (cockpits more generally, not just in sims) but there has always been something about it that feels lacking to me.

    On one hand, I *want* to be able to use motion controllers freely in VR cockpits–to press buttons, manipulate the dials and levers, etc etc and then seamlessly integrate other VR interaction capacities (e.g. say you’re in a car combat or GTA experience and you want to aim a weapon out of a window). But the issue is that the most critical of controls are hampered by the lack of feedback. A flight stick, steering wheel, and even a simple joystick provides feedback through the hand/thumb that is critical to modulating the primary controls carefully. Their absence makes it difficult to carefully control things, creates a disconnect between intentions and action, and introduces too much cognitive load on the control of the hand (makes one overly conscious of it–otherwise you introduce accidental/unexpected inputs), leading to something that is both clunky and immersion breaking. And you’re sacrificing too much of the fidelity of the primary controls just to have hand presence for secondary controls in the cockpit.

    One can alleviate this by combining motion controller-less handtracking with synced up physical flight sticks and steering wheels. And for some contexts I think this is a reasonable middle ground as the most important part of the equation in those contexts–the primary controls–retain high fidelity. However, everything outside of that–the stuff you do not have physical counterparts to–remains lacking due to the lack of feedback without a motion controller, and how much that matters depends on the context. I have a feeling that after a short while most flight simmers would continue to use a mouse cursor for cockpit controls instead.

    One solution I can see to this are peripherals that motion controllers seamlessly attach to, e.g. a flight stick or steering wheel that you can automatically align to with magnets and then latch into and out of easily. There is something sort of like this in the form of the “Protas VR” but in terms of control it is a far cry from an actual flight stick. For a “true” solution, there would be a lot of expense and complications related to hardware and software (drivers, game support, etc etc). Not to mention supporting the different motion controller form factors. I also don’t think using the controller tracking itself is robust enough. Having the peripherals be independently tracked would also reduce frictions associated with synchronization between the physical peripherals and their ingame counterparts.

    Another solution may come with future VR controllers that support additional forms of feedback. E.g. something like Miraisens 3DHaptics that gives you the sensation of positional (and possibly rotational) force feedback without *actual* force feedback. This wouldn’t be as good as a solution that provides actual force feedback (even just the “passive” force feedback of a flight stick spring) but I think it remains an open question as to whether or not just having the sensation of the feedback is “good enough”, especially for contexts where you’re transitioning between cockpits and “normal” VR gameplay, e.g. a GTA-like game.

    • mepy

      Wouldn’t actually pushing the buttons on the controller be some sort of feedback?

      • wheeler

        It would be, but the kind of feedback I’m referring to (in the scenario where one is only using current generation motion controllers) is the type that’s useful for controlling the directional/orientational components of e.g. flight sticks and steering wheels. E.g. with a flight stick you have the resistance around the origin providing directional feedback of varying magnitude, and current motion controllers cannot simulate anything like this (unless you use the joystick, but that’s something else entirely)

        • mepy

          So there would need to be new hardware for airplane flightsticks?

          • wheeler

            Yeah, if you wanted to use motion controllers for this and have it “feel good”, I think you would need some kind of additional hardware–either with a new peripheral the motion controllers mount to or perhaps some kind of advanced feedback built into the motion controller itself.

            The best rendition of current gen motion controllers in a cockpit would, IMO, be VTOL VR and Vox Machinae. They are very good implementations given the constraints they’re under, but it still feels like something is lacking.

        • jlschmugge

          Why not just use both a real flight stick and the VR controls. It doesn’t have to be binary. Just means you can’t strap on the VR controller, but there isn’t much arm flailing in a flight simulator.

    • MadHenGSH

      IMO for flight sim, a better and easier solution would be wearable super-mini VR controllers while using the traditional flight controls. Any kind of VR controller-centered approach would be far inferior than the “real” flight control device in terms of providing physical feedback, not to mention accuracy, unless you can tie it directly to your brain to provide artificial feedback. For flipping the switches and twist the knobs, I’m not a fan of hand tracking,it’s currently inaccurate, but more importantly, lacks physical feedback. VR gloves with haptic feedback could be the next level but I doubt it will come in the near future. Right now the best solution (unfortunately mostly only works for DCS ) is a mouse emulator could PointCTRL.

    • Sven Viking

      Just mentioning, while it still has the issues you describe, VTOL VR has the best motion control flight system I’ve used if you haven’t already tried it.

    • Mike Hamner

      Your way over thinking it. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good enough. What you propose cant be realistically implemented at this point. a realistic solution would be to Use the thumbsticks and buttons for tactile feedback for the primary flight controls and use the motion controls to facilitate the various buttons and switches that don’t really need to be tactile like the primary flight controls do. that would be just fine in my opinion and more then sufficient .

      • wheeler

        I’ve always like this idea and have actually suggested this to certain devs (but there’s usually some resistance for some reason). One issue though is that motion controllers do not give joysticks as stable of a directional orientation as gamepads. Having a simple peripheral that would allow motion controllers to optionally snap together (via magnets) into the form of a gamepad would help here

  • Mr Francis Effiom

    Where is the Tobii head tracking/eye tracking support?

  • forestguy

    Where is the Tobii Eye/Head Tracking support?

  • Sven Viking

    Do we know how it’ll actually work? Will you be able to physically flip switches, turn handles etc, or will it be more like mouse emulation?

    • jlschmugge

      Oh god that scares me they will do laser pointers. I am really hoping I can reach out to a virtual knob, press the trigger and twist the controller.

  • Nothing to see here

    I really hope this means that when we launch the Flight Simulator in VR, it won’t expect us to do something on our computer screen using the keyboard. I tried it one time and had to give up after having finally got it to run in VR at all, it was a jerky flickering nightmare with no controller support. One of the single worst VR experiences I have ever had. It’s pretty clear now why Microsoft won’t add VR to the Xbox. They have no clue.

    • Rosko

      I think you can map to a button.

  • Ad

    Someone should add one with dual layer rendering. That’s supported through OpenXR, and it would let you have panels, text fields, and other instruments render at a much higher resolution than the rest of the scene.

  • Rosko

    I hope people actually use this feature after going on & on about how essential it is.

  • david vincent

    Forget the motion controllers and just get a $50 hotas, it will still be better.

  • DeanVega

    wow this just made my day. I’ve been a fan of Microsoft Flight Simulator for quite some time

  • jlschmugge

    Hopefully this will work alongside a HOTAS setup, as I can leave a single knuckles on the desktop to pick up when I need to fiddle knobs. Right know that’s my mouse, which is functional but not as elegant.

  • It was about time…

  • Skipper123Go

    Always good to notice more developers want to add good portions for VR in their games.

    But I olso want to add that might a good thing to first look into how problematic it seem to even try to install an update in the first place. We have noticed many people have problems with the installer, for microsoft flight simulator not working, not downloading, the looping issues etc. Then even when it gets installed, the black screen of doom pops up. Do us gamers and simmers a favor, first fixed those beforehand, thank you.

  • Geogaddi

    What kind of PC setup would you need to run this comfortably in VR? I’m guessing my 1060 won’t do the trick… :-/