Microsoft makes a return to Flight

Redmond is resurrecting its nearly 30-year-old Flight Simulator franchise with a new PC game in the early stages of development. Also making a comeback: Age of Empires.

Microsoft posted a teaser video for its forthcoming Microsoft Flight title, but has offered few specifics on how the simulator will work. Microsoft

One of the casualties of last year's layoffs at Microsoft was the Aces game studio responsible for the company's long-running Flight Simulator game.

At the time, Microsoft promised that the flight simulation franchise would continue in one form or another. This week, Redmond confirmed that it is indeed following through with a new title: Microsoft Flight.

The game is in its early development stages, with an alpha version nearly ready for internal testing, according to Kevin Unangst, a senior director in Microsoft's game unit.

The company is offering few details on Flight, but Unangst said that it is looking to appeal to flying enthusiasts with the realism, accuracy, and fidelity they expect, but also imagines including other types of gameplay that might appeal more to novices.

"It's an opportunity for us to branch out even more into something that's approachable," he said.

It will mark the first new flight simulation title for Microsoft since the 2006 release of Microsoft Flight Simulator X. The company's first version dates back to 1982. The company has also licensed some of its technology to Lockheed Martin for a forthcoming military training program called Prepar3d.

In an interview on Tuesday, Unangst said that with the rise of social gaming, online services, and cloud computing, Microsoft saw an opportunity to bring back some classics.

The company is also bringing back another venerable title--Age of Empires--in a new online version.

"We had a great opportunity to reinvent these franchises," Unangst said.

For now, all that is out there for Flight is a teaser video that starts with a young woman's voice: "When I was a child, I dreamed I could fly." The brief video then shows a plane flying and offers a link to the company's similarly nondescript Web page.

Microsoft isn't saying when to expect Flight to take off, but it likely won't be anytime soon.

"I wouldn't expect for people to see Flight in public beta this year," Unangst said.

Age of Empires Online is further along, with the company now taking sign-ups for a public beta set to begin later this year.

That game, Unangst said, includes a new level structure as well as the notion of cooperative multiplayer quests and trading along with what Unangst said is a "more fun, approachable" art style.

"It is faithful to the real-time strategy game heritage of the original," he said.

 

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