It’s the dreaded YABYEW, yet another boring year-end wrap-up. Double-aught six is history, and here I stand along with the rest of you, wondering what the new year will bring. Last year was one of those turbulent transition years for the Flight Sim franchise, the waning of one version and the waxing of its successor. As an addon developer, it was not an easy time for me. The year started out strong enough, with the release of Freight Dogs, and later with Tongass Fjords, one of the most intriguing projects I’ve ever been involved in for FS. The summer was marked by the malaise that always seems to accompany the demise of the current sim version, and the watchword among consumers seemed to be “let’s wait and see what FSX brings.” Then of course, FSX came, and along with it a firestorm of criticism and controversy.
Some of the brouhaha surrounding the release of FSX was typical. Forum posts lamenting “the new version doesn’t run as well on my rig as the old one did” seemed familiar, like cranky old friends, with only the version numbers updated for currency. Looking closer though, there seemed to be an edge to the complaints that was decidedly sharper than in years past. Part of this is that there do seem to be some basic performance problems in Flight Sim X that need sorting out. From the messages tossed over the wall from Redmond, this seems to be understood by the Aces team. All indications are that they’re working to solve some of the most egregious performance issues, and will be releasing their findings and a patch at some point.
My plan had been to begin working on some new FSX-native addons during last summer’s beta period. Things were so unsettled with the release that I found myself much too confused by the new offerings to create anything of substance until much more recently. I’m happy to say that several projects are now underway, and we have high hopes of releasing some before the days grow too long this year.
The big question is, what version of FS do we target for production? Going with FS9 provides a more stable platform and a known set of development challenges. Creating FSX-only addons offers a much greater variety of options, but they come with a lot of unknowns and even a couple of bonafide nasty side-effects. My preference is to use the greater capabilities of the new sim to create better-looking and more functional scenery and mission products. My hope is that if we spend the time required to create these, enough of you loyal ‘simmers will have transitioned to FSX by the time we release to make it worth it. The other option is to make products that work in either FS9 or FSX. In all honesty, this is not a viable option, at least for me. Too much development time goes into a typical scenery product, when balanced with the meager returns most of them garner, for it to be financially viable to spend even more development time on cross-sim development.
Anyway, that’s what’s whirring in my mind at the start of this year. Hopefully, FSX will find stability and acceptance in the 2007. In many ways, it’s a remarkable platform, and one for which I’m excited to develop. Once a few wrinkles are ironed out, I think it’ll go down in sim history as the best version so far. In the meantime, I’m throwing myself into research and development of some addons that I think will make it even more fun and challenging to fly. Watch this space!