Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series has given us so much: an affordable way to experience the wonders of aviation, an opportunity for real pilots to ‘fly’ the aircraft of their dreams, and an unholy spire rising from Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
Players have reacted with surprise and awestruck reverence at the sight of an enormous tower climbing from the in-game version of Fawkner, despite the real-world suburb having no such thing.
In Microsoft Flight Simulator a bizarrely eldritch, impossibly narrow skyscraper pierces the skies of Melbourne's North like a suburban Australian version of Half-Life 2's Citadel, and I am -all for it- pic.twitter.com/6AH4xgIAWg
— Alexander Muscat (@alexandermuscat) August 19, 2020
People have successfully landed on it, too.
While it would perhaps be best if we just accepted the appearance of the tower as some kind of dark omen, there is a genuine explanation for why digital aviators are coming face-to-face with that anomaly.
Microsoft Flight Simulator, which was officially released in Australia on Wednesday, takes a unique approach to rendering the world. While game developers usually go to painstaking lengths to model every surface in a video game, Flight Simulator uses satellite imagery and other key data from Bing Maps to cook up the graphics.
Essentially, the game ‘streams’ data from Bing Maps as players fly all over the shop, loading new scenery depending on where you choose to fly.
It’s a beautiful system – but it’s not without its problems. While Flight Simulator developers did custom model many landmarks, like the Sydney Opera House, some are yet to cop the bespoke treatment. See if you can tell which other Sydney landmark is currently missing from the game.
But the Fawkner tower appears to be the result of a glitch in Bing Maps itself. Visiting the same location on Bing Maps reveals a gigantic tower building, which absolutely does not correspond with the real-world terrain (not one that mere human eyes can see, at least.)
Flight Simulator appears to ‘read’ that false data as a massive skyscraper, rendering the building as if it actually exists.
The game is new, and judging by the 14-year life cycle of the previous Flight Simulator, Microsoft will be updating this one for years to come. What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t expect the Fawkner spire to hang around forever.
I asked my friend, an aviation enthusiast and Flight Simulator owner, to fly around this Babel-esque artefact and take screenshots for posterity.
He did, even if he doesn’t know what it cost him.
All hail the tower.
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