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Behind The Screen : March 2019


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Behind The Screen : March 2019


Some months you just want to throw your hands in the air and say "god give me mercy"... March was like that. You can't in the first three months of any year waste time or not take your foot off the pedal as X-Plane is always going at full throttle delivering updates and as new projects come close to their release dates, worse the 11.30 updates are still coming out at such a stream that you realise... in just how many aircraft are now already released in the simulator, and believe me there is a lot, of a lot of a lot of a lot....  and then right in the middle of all this mayhem you then do an automatic site update...  and well get hell!


Suddenly all the global settings of the X-PlaneReviews site are... not actually in there anymore and worse is that this time you can't fix it either. To be honest this has happened most times with an upgrade from Invision, but this time it did a through job and broke the editor as well, so if I wanted to fix it or anything I couldn't. So to a point the site was frozen, and I couldn't just "Let it go", I and the X-PlaneReview site was this time totally stuffed.


As usual the timing absolutely stank, but then when is there really a good time to have software meltdown. Personally I can't complain, as nearly six years without any real catastrophes, yes there has been the odd issues, but mostly you worked around them, but this time we were royally stuffed...  the site is now thankfully back up and running and "transmission has been resumed as soon as possible". So we have a backlog, and still a few reviews that were affected in a different way from the rest...  we will as usually get around to fixing those... so March was really a month to forget.


Morally obligated

One point was highlighted this month. The story is the developer has some time on their hands, so thinks, "Hey I'll do an aircraft, and the one I always really wanted". So the development takes place, the aircraft (or scenery is released) and everyone really loves it, and it is a great addition to the X-Plane cannon of greats.

In the mean time the developer has found a new job, or got divorced or both... and that nice little project is suddenly becoming a annoyance, it needs constant attention because of the ruthless on going development of the simulator. How are we all doing this simulator thingy full time and even we can't keep up, but what if you had now too little time and users that have paid your a bit of their savings to buy the aircraft. Then a distraction becomes a problem, your real life needs your attention more than an aircraft, but to be fair there are also hundreds, even thousands of users that have paid you good money for this great little aircraft...  usually the first choice is to "find time" to update it, but in reality your life is now in a totally different place, do you even really care about those users and that little aircraft that in reality reminds you of a past that you really want to forget. Mostly then the aircraft then lays abandoned, out of date and becoming obsolete in the twilight of the simulator. Users start complaining, but to what a firewall of indifference, "I paid good money for this" and then the big one "I expect" yes they expect that with the purchase then that the aircraft (or scenery) is kept in vogue, and kept updated for current use.


It is tricky one? If the project is a freeware then of course you can abandon it, it then costing nobody nothing. But payware is different, as you were paid money not only for the project, and sometimes with a lot of money and with that payment comes the expectation, or even contract that "you will" or be expected to upgrade the aircraft for the rest of your natural life. Add into that is the huge changes of say between XP10 to XP11 and then to XP11.30.


So to a point a lot of developers are just leaving the project there, not updating and saying "oh I'm busy" in that they really are not going to either update or even touch it again, most don't even dare pull the aircraft from sale, it is the bone yard for old outdated aircraft and scenery and it is called a FlightSim Store.


You have taken the money and the accolades, but have you also delivered on the unspoken contract, and both areas are required to update your product. Worse is the fact that the aircraft, or even a scenery or a plugin, is very much a wanted if essential part of the simulator, even in it's outdated form. So is there an obligation there? For me personally it is the loss of a great simulation, and an aircraft greatly loved and currently missed, and deep down you know your relationship is over, but there is still that ever slight hope it will be restored or even resurrected.


So does the developer have a obligation to keep the aircraft or product updated, legally probably not, but what about morally. The point is the product is still worthy as it has already been proved to be successful in sales, so the issue is then why not put the product on the sales floor. If another developer wants to keep and update that aircraft moving forwards then why not... yes these products are very personal items, but it is still a worthy product.

But in most cases then the development stops because the developer has moved on, then why not on sell, or put the project up for sale and not always for money. I'm sure agreements can be done where the original developer can retain his original rights but still lease the product to another developer. Yes there are issues with this, because mostly the new developer would want to take the product in a different direction than the original design project, or "losing the idea of my baby", but you can't eat your sweets both ways and expect that the development still follows your ideals and if you still want nothing to do with it.


But onselling the project lock, stock and barrel is a worthy cause. It lets another developer in on a successful program and see how it is all done, but also then contribute to the next evolution of the aircraft. A lot of projects get merged with a current stable of products from another developer, a lot work in this manner and in reality it is the best roadmap for the product that a professional developer has the skills and know the current trends and developments to keep the aircraft in it's best and current release condition. There should be more merging of inventory if it is possible to do.


Culling the project

There is also the argument on the situation that it is "time" to cull the project, shut it down and pull it from the stores. I have noticed that a lot of the bigger development studios are doing just that with Carenado at the leading edge.


The release of aircraft from Carenado since their entry into X-Plane is now closing in on 40+ aircraft. Just updating, keeping track of such a very large inventory is a very large job, and in Carenado's case it is now too large a release schedule to climb. The issue is that by the time the list is nearly complete, then XP11's run will be nearly completed as well, and so the show starts all over again for XP12, the XP11 run has been horrific from a developers point of view with the constant revisions and performance updates from Laminar Research... yes all the revisions are to the good, but currently we also still have such a huge mismatch of aircraft on completely different levels of performance from XP10 to XP11 and XP11.30 and a few other levels thrown into the basket.


Carenado had to counter the effects and culled a lot of their products when updating to XP11, so a lot of great aircraft have been lost to the XP10 past, even the newer updated versions of the same model of aircraft are also quite different from their original XP10 releases. Obviously the aircraft that got the "Go" stamp of approval were the big sellers, the minority aircraft were just not put on the upgraded list. So if you favorite aircraft is not on there, then you lose it... goodbye, or you could say it is X-Plane's Darwinian natural selection at work.


Looking through the review content on the site, it became apparent that a lot of aircraft were very much out of date, and so was the review. If the version of the aircraft is still up for sale then should an old outdated review still be relevant. Obviously so if it is for the same product, and even if X-Plane is now many revisions forward. Picking one aircraft out of the review list and flying it was a shocking idea, as it felt totally outdated and not even relevant to the flying I am now doing in X-Plane11.30+, but it stays up there because it is still for sale? 


My thoughts are in culling reviews back to the start of X-Plane11 reviews, and anything earlier is now not relevant to the review site or the simulator, it is a sort of cleaning up the site... or my own culling or the slashing of the past. I am still self debating that aspect. But I do find a lot of users still comment on these outdated reviews???  which is a bit weird really in the fact they and the product is not really and if relevant any more, I mean how can you relate something that is currently non relatable in the current version of the simulator, but then so many users are still on some early versions of X-Plane10, a few are still crazy enough out there to still be on X-Plane9. To a point I respect that option, but I also note that they are also completely missing out on the modern features and the sheer excellent environment of running the current X-Plane 11.30+ version. yes the point is to re-enforce the reference is that a lot of users don't fly in X-Plane11, and still use X-Plane10... so the reviews are actually relevant to their cause.


New Product Cycle

But another point in the updating of developer inventory. It is that even if you are a middle sized developer of say four to five aircraft and are wanting to keep those aircraft to the current X-Plane specifications and performance, there is still the point of view that like there has been with the inter-change to X-Plane11, in that your already developed inventory is taking up a lot of your development time, just keeping the aircraft currently relevant, with updates and upgrades. Upgrades make you money, but updates don't and to a point you need new fresh aircraft to add into your inventory and bring in fresh cash, but how can you do both. This lag is more noticeable with X-Plane11, as we are now two and a half years into the X-Plane11 cycle and many developers out there have not even delivered one new aircraft for the X-Plane11 simulator, but all current releases have been totally in the update and upgrade inventory cycles.


Certainly in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2019 then finally some new fresh aircraft will come from some quality developers like Rotate, SSG, Dreamfoil, Aerobask and others, but many developers will still be in upgrade or update hell, even FlyJSim lamented that it would be nice just to do something new than just upgrading current aircraft as good as they are.


So that brings us to the conclusion in the fact are the X-Plane Laminar cycles and upgrade cycles to frequent, too close together and is too much change now becoming even a negative aspect to the simulator? It is a good question, but the fact is that over the beta run of X-Plane11 release and the beta run of 11.30, in that the simulator was dormant for almost nine months waiting for Laminar Research to do the new features and insert the new performance models and that is nine months out of a total to date 26 months of the X-Plane11 cycle, that is almost just under half of the current cycle, no wonder the developers are pulling their hair out, that is if there was any there in the first place to pull out. At least currently the developers get some relief in that Laminar Research's focus is thankfully not on performance this time, but on the dynamics of X-Plane's core in the changing to the Vulkan and Metal API's...


Obviously X-Plane users don't want the dormant or the snail pace progress of the the FlightSim world, as we love our dynamic and ever changing simulator world, as it is the glue that keeps us in here and wanting more...  but the changes of the latter half of XP10 and the early parts of XP11 may have been a little too much too far too fast, as it is leaving even crucial areas of the simulator behind...  the worry is that after the API upgrade, Laminar will start the whole performance theatre upgrades all over again... to the groans of the developers just wanting to try something new... anything but fixing the same old, same old....  again.


MilViz Kickstarter

Still on a developer theme, Military Visualizations has done a kickstarter page to create the ATR 72-600 and wants $27,000 CAD dollars before putting mouse to CAD software, currently the amount raised is AUS$3269.00. First thoughts were "this is blackmail" pay and then I will do it, "if not then stuff you". I actually like the idea of supporting developers to get the aircraft you want in the simulator, but in fact this KickStarter campaign goes against the whole model of the way aircraft are created for the simulator...  If he gets away with this campaign then there will be no end of KickStarter Campaigns that will promise mostly vaporware and that is the core of the argument.


But If say Aerobask asked us to fund their next project, then would you put your cash down. For me the answer is probably yes because Aerobask has already an excellent track record in X-Plane. But currently MilViz even if they have a significant record in the FlightSim world and except for one average GA aircraft there are still relatively an unknown in X-Plane. A sweetner is if you do a donation above donate $135 CAD or more will receive the plane once it releases, in other words your paying $135 CAD (US$101.00) for the ATR, that is currently the most expensive aircraft in X-Plane.


I can have a very nice holiday with CAD$27,000, even go to Canada to spend it, so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out, more KickStarters, or back to the old develop first then we will buy it system... personally I can't see this reaching even close CAD$5000 than the pleadged $27.000, but the gig economy is not the old way either...   but overall trust has to work both ways and if you break that trust?


See you all again next month


Stephen Dutton

1st April 2019

Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews


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Very important  review that challenges a reaction for a fruit discussion. First of all I (and probably many of X-Plane user) am constantly and often impatient awaiting X-Plane updates. With every update I get more exciting innovation that enrich my simulation. Better framerates result, extraordinary sceneries that come closer and closer to reality, cockpit equipment like modern flight computers that let simulation become futuristic, etc.  Thinking about what Vulkan and Metal API's will bring with gives my imagination wings.

On the other side of this golden medal exist the development world. This is in first place a business world. Developers must get good revenue for their work (if it has the appropriate quality !) There is a group of developers that delivered and deliver constantly high quality aircraft models. To encourage them to keep on going developing their products, I would recommend a reasonable payment for  e v e r y  relevant upgrade !  To think that with the purchase of a certain model I should get an unlimited service is simple nonsense.   There is a second group of developers that  delivered aircraft models for a specific version and stopped the further development. This is legal but we user should be careful not to re-purchase their models if we have expectations regarding updates. The third group is the most negative one. Developers that either deliver unfinished models and do not think about updating them or developers which bring constantly recycled models on market and yet at high prices. 


For example, Aerobask released a new version of Epic 1000 (G1000 edition), I did not hesitated a minute to purchase it (at a discount as a client) because I am convinced of the quality and continuity of this developer. I would also like to have G1000 simulation with Synthetic Vision and would be willing to pay for it.  HotStart released an exciting TBM900 model but with poor flow properties and unstable flight. The developer has indeed offered a series of updates with corresponding improvements but on the other hand didn't react to my application with respect to flow characteristics and so lost my trust as a customer. With these two examples, I would like to clarify that the important thing in the triangle relationship between X-Plane updates, developers work and we as customers is an all-round satisfying win-win situation.

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