Microsoft released its new flight sim 2 days ago, on August 18th. This long-awaited launch got simmers really excited. I moved my flight sim equipment last month to a dedicated room in the basement, now with a triple-monitor setup, in anticipation of this launch. I set up XPlane 11 with these triple monitors, to make sure I got the hang of triple monitors. But all I wanted was the new Microsoft flight sim. I even took this week off from work, so I would not need to choose between work and enjoying the new simulator.
MSFS 2020 Loading screen, shown on a triple-monitor setup
Boy, do I love the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS from now on). It is clearly the next generation of flight sim, as folks have hyped since its announcement in June 2019. I say this, as a person invested in XPlane 11 (XP11), the previous greatest flight sim on Earth. I’ve made YouTube videos about using TrackIR with XP11, using Ortho4XP tiles with XP11, and adding Photoscenery Autogen and simHeaven Forests on top of Ortho4XP.
On launch day, version 1 of MSFS is, however, missing quite a few features that long-time simmers have come to cherish from established flight sims. For instance, MSFS can’t replay the adventure you just finished, or let you rewind and resume flying prior to a fatal mistake. Yet another example: MSFS supports TrackIR on day one (kudos to Asobo), but omits a command that pauses TrackIR, for when you want to lock down your current view. Clever simmers will try to compensate by setting up a button binding in TrackIR for pause. But MSFS resets cockpit view to the default view after 10 seconds of TrackIR inaction.
That said, everyone knows that these are minor issues. And they surely will be addressed in future updates. More importantly, there are workarounds that savvy simmers can resort to, for the time being.
There is, however, one fatal issue, for someone who has gone through the trouble of setting up three 43″ monitors, for the express purpose of re-creating a 180° surround view around the pilot.
MSFS 2020 does not yet support triple-monitor setups. That’s a bummer. Many have attempted to make it (sort of) work. Some even brag about it on Reddit, YouTube, and on AVSIM. But no one will admit that the geometric distortion is so severe that it distracts from rather than helps with flying. And this triple-monitor setup comes at the cost of lowered CPU and GPU settings. Quality settings need to be lowered, to accommodate 3 times the number of rendered objects and screen pixels on triple monitors.
Distorted side views in MSFS 2020 (top), compared to correct surround views in XPlane 11
At this time, it is not worth sacrificing visual effects and frame rates for two extra side monitors that show greatly distorted views of world objects. Triple-monitor setups are not common. And it’s not clear to me when Asobo will care to fix this problem for a niche market. Until then, the public remains confused as to whether MSFS can be said to “work as is” for triple-monitor setups. There isn’t a source online that compares distorted views in MSFS 2020 against expected, clean views in, say, XP11. Thus the YouTube video shown below, and thus this article.
Updated 2020-09-28: I am having too much fun. I made a second Federation of Triple Monitors episode.