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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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Last night I played Microsoft Download Simulator

Cloud coverage.

I'm in Microsoft Flight Simulator for the long haul. I've followed its slow taxi up the runway to yesterday's big Xbox Series X/S take-off. I expected a few bumps. I'm sure it will still stick the landing.

But last night's launch was a little turbulent - even with all pre-flight checks complete. I had the game's base installation and additional offline pack all pre-loaded (102GB, ouch, but still about half a Call of Duty: Warzone). Then along came a surprise 27GB day one update. Well, flights do get delayed.

After sitting through all that, surely, everything was sorted. Well, no. If I want to go see London or New York or various other global attractions in detail, you need their corresponding region's additional free content packs. These are accessible from Flight Sim's already bulging in-game store (alongside dozens of paid-for planes and airports). I couldn't see a way of getting these content packs downloaded via the standard Xbox marketplace. I wish there had been a way of pre-loading these too.

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After nabbing the UK pack and waiting another hour for that to download - it seemed like the game's servers were being hammered, which was understandable - I was finally in the air. London looked brilliant, but other cities were less impressive. The game's algorithmic building generation seems patchy - again, likely impacted by server capacity. Brighton's impressive Pavillion, for instance, looked like a standard American retail box store.

The first day of release was always going to be choppy. I imagine countless thousands of people, like me, were all trying to dip their toes into the game since it comes as part of Xbox Game Pass. And while Microsoft Flight Simulator's console controls are pretty easy to pick up, I probably should have consigned myself to the game's flight school training a little longer, before taking off on grand sightseeing tours.

But I also expect I won't have been the only one downloading over 100GB of data just to try and zoom over my house in the closest I'll get to an actual plane this year. For anyone giving it a go today on console, do download as much as you can ahead of time, and prep for the usual pre-flight delays.