Fanboy Friday: Great New Releases + One Little Rant

We’re pretty spoiled in the sim world. Not a week goes by that there isn’t some sort of cool new add-on, preview, or announcement. I’ve got a trio of them for you this week, but I’m also going to hit the pause button for a moment and talk about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

AoA Sharpens Their Angle

I’ve been following Chris Palmer’s Angle of Attack blog, and I’m impressed with what I see. AoA are investing a tremendous amount of effort into an often-ignored corner of flight simming; pilot training. A while back, I bought their LDS 767 training DVD, and found it fascinating as well as informative. Since then, Chris and the gang have been going all-out to build a name for themselves in the sim training arena. Their latest endeavor, and one that’s bound to get a lot of press once it’s running, is called Aviator 90. I don’t want to steal Chris’s thunder, so head over to his latest video blog post and check out the details.

One thing I will mention, because I’m a huge fan of logo design, is their new mark. Check out this bad boy:


It’s very polished, very professional. Notice how the orange waves suggest both a wing and the airflow over that wing. Even the type treatment is right in line with their name, sporting multiple angle cuts. Nice work, guys.

Super Cub Pack Lifts Off

Yowza! After months of teasing pics and promises, Flight Replicas’ Super Cub package is aloft. This is a deep package, with about the most variation and detail I’ve seen in a sim plane, maybe ever. You get the standard Super Cub, but also a whole slew of variants, making it a seriously good deal.

The way FR decided to package the planes is so logical and flexible, it made me wonder why more devs don’t work this way. If you’re a Cub freak (guilty), you can get the complete package. Don’t feel like you’ll need them all? For a very reasonable price, you can purchase just the ones that appeal most to you, such as Standard + Military variants, Classic Bushplanes, Extreme Bushplanes, or Deluxe IFR Amphibious versions.Β  A friendly word of advice: unless you’re 100% convinced that you’ll only ever fly an amphib or bush version, buy the full package. The forums are starting to fill already with people who started with one package, then felt compelled to keep adding others. You’ve been warned. πŸ˜‰

Although I haven’t had time to log more than an hour or so in a single bush model yet, I have loaded each of the variants up and fiddled with the switches. Even though flying a Super Cub isn’t rocket science, I’d encourage you to read the manual carefully. Not only does it give helpful piloting advice, but it reveals a host of hidden click spots in the various VCs that toggle things like the GPS unit, the belly cargo pod, pilot, passenger, even a rifle slung under the wing. Yep, Flight Replicas really hit it out of the park on details. I predict it won’t be long before a wave of repaints makes this birdie irresistable to all but the most hardened tubeliner drivers. Get it now! You won’t regret it.

The Best Flight Planner for FSX Gets Better

Originally, I was going to say that Plan-G was the best VFR flight planner for FSX, because the developer, Tim Arnot, seemed to be headed in a purely VFR direction. But with the latest release, he’s added features designed specifically to appeal to IFR fliers as well. In addition to the standard airport and navaid database, Plan-G now sports ILS feathers and info for runways that have it, and an extensive (and user-extensible) list of waypoints, named and unnamed.

In addition, I checked out the flight plan printout view. One of my pet peeves about default FSX flying is that I don’t have a readily accessible way of getting a list of ILS frequencies and headings once I’ve been assigned a particular runway in-flight. Plan-G’s flight plan printing function provides just about anything you’d need for getting from A to B, instrument or otherwise. This is growing into a seriously nice planner. And it’s free!

And Now, A Little Rant Discussion…

Recent events, the details of which aren’t important, have got me thinking about the relationship between myself as a dev, and you as a flightsim enthusiast. I’ve been hanging out on flightsim forums just about every day for more than nine years, and in that time I’ve developed a sense of what it takes to be successful as a developer in this community. By success, I don’t necessarily mean raking in cash, but rather the building of a brand that people trust and a product that they enjoy.

The more I think of it, the more I’m convinced that we devs should stop even thinking of what we sell as products, per se. To refer to them that way calls to mind toasters or sports cars — tangible items that either work or don’t work, with little interaction between the maker and the end user. As creators of FS add-ons, what we’re selling is less a product than an experience, and the boundaries of that experience extend far beyond the time we spend in-sim.

Think about the ways you interact with a given product and developer: you see their preview shots online, you comment on the state of development, maybe express a desire to experience it first-hand once it’s released. From that moment, you start building a relationship with that developer and that product experience.

At some point (hopefully), the product is released. You clamor to the website, credit card in hand, and key in your numbers. If everything goes smoothly, you’ve got the product in hand in no time, and are off enjoying it. If you’re a member of an online community, you’ll probably tell your friends how you feel about this new find pretty quickly. Maybe you love it and plaster screenshots all over the web. Any developer would be a fool not to encourage such behavior, as we all know that validation from happy customers is worth a hundred times more than their own self-generated PR. But what if things don’t go as smoothly as you expected?

This is where it’s absolutely vital that developers get – and stay – engaged, and in the most public way possible. If someone is complaining about this or that aspect of your product on a community forum, log onto that forum and respond! Quell that initial instinct to protect yourself and try a little humility instead. If someone is frustrated by their experience with your product to the point of ranting about it to their friends, you’ve probably done something wrong. Maybe it’s a major bug in your code, maybe you’ve just not explained something well enough in the manual. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve put your own needs ahead of your user by inventing such foolproof, draconian copy protection schemes that going through the registration process makes airport security look like a day at the beach. Developers, know this: your customers shouldn’t have to remove their shoes and submit to a full body scan in order to buy and use your stuff.

Somewhere along the line, some of us have gotten so caught up in trying to stop the bad guys from using our products for free that we’ve neglected our honest, paying customers. Piracy, while reprehensible, is part of the cost of doing business in the digital age. Whenever I start worrying about who’s ripping off my stuff, I drag my thoughts back to how easily I’m able to distribute my bits online, and the ease with which I can reach a potentially huge audience with very little effort. It’s all a balance, yin and yang.

And, for Pete’s sake, communicate! There is absolutely no substitute for being there, in person, for your customers. Don’t hide behind rules and regs, don’t try to mask your identity (which puts even trusting people in an untrusting frame of mind), and for the love of all that’s holy, when things get rough, don’t run and hide. The more people yell about you, the more you should be right there, talking them down calmly, and showing the world that nothing is more important to you than putting things right and making them happy. No, you can’t please everyone all the time. In my experience, however, you can solve 99% of all problems by just listening and responding in a timely fashion.

If it’s true that we, as devs, are selling an experience, then the experience starts the first time the user sees a preview, and continues long after they’ve made their purchase. It’s not just the product that counts, it’s how we interact with the customers and build relationships with them. I’m not talking about some marketing buzzword style of relationship, but actually engaging with each of them, one on one, and making sure that they’re having the best experience possible with the work of our hands. After all, they’re not just giving us their hard-earned money, they’re giving us their precious time. We should be worthy of that.

Okay, that’s about enough for one Friday. Whatever and wherever you choose to fly this weekend, enjoy!

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27 responses to “Fanboy Friday: Great New Releases + One Little Rant

  1. Bill,
    First off, thank you for the wonderful mention and compliments on what Angle of Attack is up to. Doing something like Aviator 90 really has me pumped up to serve the community again. I can’t WAIT to get this stuff out there.

    Along those lines, I want to share with you and your readers some personal experiences I’ve had over the past year, and things I’ve learned over my experience as a flight simmer (first) and flightsim developer (second).

    Oh boy, I have a feeling this is going to be long…

    So last May I went to a seminar on business from a guy named Robert Kiyosaki. He wrote a famous book called Rich Dad Poor Dad, which happens to be based mostly around real estate, but he has a lot of great advice for business as well.

    Naturally, during the process I was interested in relating these things to Angle of Attack.

    Over the 3 day period, my brain was turned to complete mush from all the new learning, and every idea I had about business and where I wanted to take the company had been shattered.

    Shattered in a good way.

    It was time for a new start.

    Over the ensuing months I completely changed the way I look at things. I read more books in the last 8 months than I have in the previous 18 years.

    One thing that kept coming back to me was along the lines of what you’re talking about. That is that the more human and real a company can be, and the more interactive they are with their ‘customers’ or as I like to call it, tribe, the better off they are.

    I am a very ambitious person. I have a lot of ideas in the pipeline just waiting to explode on the scene. There are a few questions I’ve learned to ask myself.

    Who cares? Why does it matter? What’s different?

    I don’t want to just run, own, or be a part of willy nilly brands. No, I want to solve a problem and mean something real and deep to somebody. Not just another product, not just another add-on. But really mean something.

    The product-to-product model is dead. Those that don’t realize this will be left behind.

    After realizing that Angle of Attack was a dead company, I started to build a brand. I realized that we were out of touch with our customers. They basically buy a product, and we don’t hear from them again (because we aren’t involved. TOTALLY our fault) until they buy another product. It’s a broken process and I won’t do it that way anymore. I’ll close my doors before I do that again.

    So we dug down deep to find out what we’re all about, and what we want to mean to people. Besides, our brand isn’t what WE say it is, but what THEY say it is.

    Here are a few things we learned:
    1. Our mission is to spread a wealth of knowledge through flight simulation.
    2. We wear our heart on our sleeves.
    3. We talk to members of our tribe directly, we value their input, and we will mold our products around their needs. We have a real and honest conversation.
    4. Internal innovation and creative freedom is key.
    5. Having fun is a must.
    6. Making mistakes is ok. We take feedback, learn, move on, and then rinse/repeat.

    I was lying in bed last night after a long day of working on the particular post you discussed as your first item. It was nice to get the news out, but now that the cat is out of the bag, it’s for real and there is no turning back.

    I got thinking about how real Aviator 90 is for me. Real in the sense that I’m not messing around or being cunning. It’s free, will always be free, and it comes at a major personal cost to my time and workload. But guess what? I’m so excited to simply SERVE the community and improve what we’re doing in some way.

    I won’t be taking donations EVER. I won’t be selling this product for money EVER. I won’t support it with advertising EVER. It’s totally clean and free, all for the enjoyment of the community.

    I’ve noticed companies in FS lately that share this mentality are doing really well. ORBX comes to mind. They have great free things they release.

    What I thought most about was a certain site called XXXXXXXXXXX (name omitted) that simply pushes out product and doesn’t really take feedback.

    I thought about what I’d say to their face aaaaand it wouldn’t be pretty.

    Without getting into too much details, let’s just say I believe many companies like this particular one are leachers and just out to make a buck. I learned this from personal experience as one of them tried to railroad AOA with a ridiculous percentage of our sales for simple distribution. Crooks.

    What are these major ‘community leading’ sites doing to our industry? What real purpose are they serving? Do you ever hear from them again after you buy a product? If so, is their interaction kind and humble? Do you think they’re actually listening to your feedback?

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something very controversial:

    The Flight Sim industry is seriously messed up right now. As a developer I see a lot of dirty politics and crooks behind the scenes. I’ve been screwed in some business transactions myself, and so have others.

    We’re scattered and it’s time we all band together and stand up. I mean without political affiliations and tight-wadding.

    The establishment of flightsim as we see it now is going to be shaken up over the next year or two. I think it’ll happen a lot quicker than many imagine.

    The way forward calls for meaningful ‘brands’ that have an OPEN loop system rather than a CLOSED loop system. What I mean is the conversation doesn’t stop after product release. Also, I don’t mean just a forum. A forum is easy and in my opinion is lazy.

    These brands need to be actively pursuing people through social media, not to bug them with advertising, but to solve a problem and be helpful.

    A blog is a great format for this. By posting relevant content that notifies or teaches the reader a certain thing, we see vast benefits in the comments and an OPEN conversation.

    Find me 5 blogs in flight simulation that have relevant, useful, and recent content that isn’t a news source. You won’t find 5. Maybe 3. They simply don’t exist. Everyone is too busy building their latest and greatest money making machine.

    (Bill is excluded. He’s one of the 3)

    A Forum can do this, but the whole idea has become very perverse.

    Bill and others reading, I could go on.

    My question to everyone out there as part of the community and as developers is this:

    What do you stand for? What are you willing to do about it? Where do you see the future of flight simulation without taking that stand? How are you helping out your fellow flight simmer?

    Just food for thought.

    Thanks for the wonderful post. You got me all fired up, as if I needed more of it!

  2. Very nice. That rant was spot on. I think as a customer (or a possible customer) keeping in touch with devs is a half of the fun. Also with that sort of a face to face communication there comes moments when I will go purchase someones product just because I know he’s a nice dude and I want to support him and his work. That’s the kind of marketing you can’t buy.

  3. Hooray for Bill and Chris!

    Well said gentleman. I have been flying (playing) flightsims since 1989 (on my old Commodore Colt) and now enjoy FSX and occasionally X-Plane. It went from a hobby to a livelihood when I went to work for FlightSafety Int. as simulator technician12 years ago. I am the Seattle centers Qualification Technician and I work with various government civil aviation authorities from around the world certifying our sims, running the certification tests etc… and yes, my wife thinks I’m completely obsessed to do this at work all day and then come home and unwind with FSX…lol I only mention my background to show that I know a little something about simulators.

    Bill and Chris, your comments are refreshing and should give your customers confidence and trust in you and your products not to mention your dedication to customer service. Chris, I haven’t tried your products but you can bet your bottom dollar as soon as I finish this little blurb I’ll be surfing over to check out your products.

    Now I would like to say a quick word about consumers…..as I are one πŸ˜‰ Consumers as a whole are spoiled. We want top notch products at rock bottom prices and we have a hard time understanding why you didn’t respond immediatly, and I mean within 30 seconds, to my email asking you to talk me through the installation procedure. Yes, I could read the manual….. but it would be so much easier if you could just call me and talk me through it. I mean… hey, I paid $29.99 for your six months worth of work!…. it’s the least you could do!

    Seriously, while there are some rotten apples (dev’s or companies) out there, folks like Bill, Holger and a few others whose names escape have made this a most enjoyable, thrilling and even educational hobby for me. Cheers to Bill, Chris and those like them…. you spend months and months working a project so that for the price of a pizza I can spend months and months imaging myself flying around Plum Island, Tongass Fjords and a host of other wonderful places in my little virtual world.

    Once again…. Thanks fellows, you’re the best πŸ™‚

    Now I think I’ll go check out Aviator 90

  4. Well put Dave especially the last part. Good rant Bill. Bill and Holger are just down to earth guys. I found that out first hand at the AVSIM Dev conference. No egos, talk with ya. Its a joy to see the work that they put out. Although I have stated it numerous times I got Tongass Fjords just after getting back from the Alaskan cruise. Doing comparisons standing on the roof of the bridge of the preview shots and comparing its a work of art. Listening to the FSBreak podcast with John, Holger, and Bill discuss their projects and PNW made me spend more time on the track with my Ipod. You can contact them any time with a question and they will reply back. Can’t get that from alot of people these days. “They put the flying back into FS for alot of us be it FS9 or FSX.”

  5. Dave,
    Thanks for the wonderful comments! Your analogy about pizza is pretty good. Considering how much joy we get out of these products, they really aren’t priced that bad.

    Paul,
    FSBreak FTW!

  6. Hm, where to start?

    @Bill: I think that your idea of thinking flight simulation software less as a “product” and more as an “experience” is a very important idea, and one that I have personally seen brought up about digital media before. There are those that think that we’ve gotten to the point where movies and video games are no longer goods, but instead services, where content creators are doing a service (just as you say “an experience”) for the viewer by creating the content. What is being proposed is that the traditional model of packaging and shipping this media has caused this attitude, and that content distributors are reluctant to change from this “goods” mentality in this age of digital distribution.

    There can be no arguing that these days the opinions of other consumers can be a major driving factor in whether or not people buy a product. While this is well and good, this has led to things such as the recent need for disclosure in blogs and astroturfers from companies going on forums spreading “comments” about how great products from that company are (for pay). As much as I hope this doesn’t happen in the flight simulation community, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it once. Flight simulation companies should use (and encourage the use of) social media responsibly, and try to be as honest and transparent as possible (without giving away any trade secrets that could harm the company).

    As far as piracy goes, it seems to me that’s always been a lose/lose situation. I recently wrote an article about it on my blog (http://aflightsimblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/piracy-and-flight-simulation.html), and what I would like to propose is that we approach it as a communal responsibility. Piracy obviously can’t be stopped entirely, and I couldn’t agree more that companies need to head away from the direction of crippling their software or treating their customers like criminals in order to avoid; however, I believe that we, as a community, can help discourage piracy by not sweeping it under the rug and instead showing people just how damaging it can be. Sadly, I’m sure that for some developers, the losses are worse than others.

    I would also like to echo your sentiments about time. Think about it: say I buy a problem-ridden add-on plane. First, I might have to deal with a fidgety autopilot that makes the flying experience less fun. Then, I might go looking through their documentation to see if the problem has been (or will be addressed). If it hasn’t, I might go on the company’s forum and post. This is made even worse if the company is ignoring massive user complaints about the problem. At any rate, we’re talking about a great deal of wasted time.

    It’s okay if there are some problems with a product; no product is 100% perfect, and I don’t think that’s a reasonable expectation at any rate. But, as you say, these same companies all too often turn on their customers. I can understand the “we can’t be perfect” sentiment, but wanting the product to be reasonably usable isn’t asking too much.

    @Chris: I’ve definitely noticed the ways you have been engaging your customers, and I think it’s a great thing. Developers definitely need to get involved with both their customers, and the flight simulation community in general.

    I’m almost surprised to hear that Aviator 90 will be ad-free. I could understand if it was (and many companies use this as a business model) but going completely ad-free really goes far to show that Angle of Attack respects the community and its customers.

    As you say Chris, we have come to a point where the major flight simulation sites are unresponsive to the desires of the community. They could simply care less, because they already have dominance and use that dominance to keep people coming. In a way, I suppose you could compare them to the US legacy air carriers. They are old-fashioned and unresponsive to customer demands. On the other hand, new low-cost carriers have been greatly successful due to their superior customer service. Perhaps the community would be better without some of these companies.

    What people have to realize is that they can make a difference. If a company ignores the community, don’t purchase from them or subscribe to their content. We as consumers don’t have an infinite amount of money to spend on flight simulation, and we should be spending the money we have on the companies that get involved with the community and create “experiences” worth having.

  7. Jon,
    It’s your fault I got all fired up about this piracy thing! Piracy for me is one of those things I know goes on, but I do my best to ignore it. Whenever I find another site pushing my stuff, it can get me down. Ignorance is bliss.

    With that said, maybe this social media thing answers part of the question to piracy. Maybe by offering an unparalleled experience AFTER the person gets the product, there is really a much greater advantage to actually buying the product. How would this look? No idea.

    If Aviator 90 is ever ad supported, it’ll be very light and only for products of OURS that are actually relevant (like a follow up course πŸ˜‰ ).

    But, as far as putting ads on Aviator 90, there’s no point. I believe in keeping things clean and relevant. By putting ads on the page, it totally detracts from the actual content.

    One thing that bugs me about most of the FS sites out there are all the ads. I won’t do that to the content our team works very hard on.

    I suppose I have a lot of ideals about how things should be, but really I’m open to trying new things, seeing what works, and also let the fans of our tribe guide and direct us to what works.

    With that said, it’s time to get to work and put my money where my mouth is and try some of these things out. I’m way excited for the future and what Aviator 90 and more can bring, and where the resounding feedback like we’re seeing in this blog will take us.

    Awesome comments on this post. Keep it up, everyone.

    • Sorry about that, Chris! Just one of those things that gets to me too, given the state of the community.

      I have heard of companies trying to get people to actually buy the product by offering benefits to those who do pay. Unfortunately, this typically means a “no updates unless you pay” kind of thing and other efforts that amount to very little. I have to say it would be interesting to see how giving those who pay for the product a better experience might help curb piracy.

  8. One thing I remember Bill Lyons doing back in the day was customizing his planes for paying customers. You’d download it, then let Bill know and he’d generate a custom nameplate for the cockpit with your info on it. In at least one case, he’d also make you a hangar with your name over the door. It’s not a bad idea, giving the paying public a little something extra.

  9. Very interesting discussion – And I would completely agree with everything mentioned. Today a business should pride itself on selling it’s customer service and company image, more than their products. And with software companies that only becomes more and more relevant – Since because of piracy it makes it so easy to simply “get” the product, YOU as a developer must deliver much more than JUST a product.

    One great recent example of this was a recent big name combat flight simulator released. I picked it up in the store, and it was a couple of days before I could install it. So I load it up, install it, type in the serial key, activate online, and it installs.

    I go to start a new career, and it doesn’t authenticate. What the heck? Multi-player, single player, nothing. I can’t sign in to the server to create a new game. With this particular game you are REQUIRED to authenticate every single time you start a game, no matter if it is online or offline play! No internet connection? Tough Luck!

    But I still don’t know why I can’t authorize. I search online, find their forum, and download a patch that is supposed to fix it. It didn’t.

    The company has no FAQ on their website. No support option, no address, no phone number, NO E-MAIL or support ticket system. They don’t offer customer support, but they point you the the user forum for help.

    WOW.

    I eventually did track down what the problem was. A family member tried out the game on another computer in their house and used up the single authorization code. It is bad enough that I have to call someone at Microsoft every time I need to install FSX because I often upgrade my computer, it isn’t fun but I can at least stretch given the different configurations I’ve had over the past 4 years…. But ONE TIME activation, and no option to contact anyone from the company to tell them “I’m so sorry. Someone else in the house installed it and I wasn’t aware.”

    What can I do? I’m a busy person, and I set time aside that night to play this sim. I sign up on their forum, maybe more information will be exposed after signing up?

    …I need my authorization code to sign up on their forum… The forum accounts are linked with the game accounts…

    “This authorization code is already in use.”

    Screw it. Did a monkey design their website?

    I never installed the thing. I could have tried to return it, but I’ve worked in retail for 5 years and knew damn well they wouldn’t take back any open Games/CDs/DVDs. I paid $40 for the software and already wasted more of my time trying to fix it – It just wasn’t worth it.

    But on the subject of customer service. It is really interesting to see that this concept truly does apply to everything. Let me compare this to a non software business – Zappos.com – A company that sells shoes.

    In 2008 they had revenues of over 1 billion dollars. How? great customer service. Word of mouth.

    -They offer free shipping on everything. They regularly upgrade customers to free next day shipping. Why? Why not, it makes people happy and they will come back and tell their friends.

    -1 Year returns, with free shipping both ways.

    -24/7 Customer reps.

    And it doesn’t end there. Everyone hired at their offices (including janitors, accountants, IT, EVERYONE) is required to work directly with customers in the call center for 2 weeks, and undergo a 4 week customer loyalty course.

    After the first week of training, new employees are offered $2,000 on the spot to quit their jobs. Because they would rather hire someone who loves the job than someone who is there for a paycheck.

    It just goes to show that you can totally change the old model of how a business operates and interacts with customers and still come out on top.

    Again, turning back to my 5 years in retail as a cashier, management had a “$5 Policy”. It was that no matter what the item was (as long as law allowed it, IE liquor, etc) no matter what the customer said the price was supposed to be, no matter if they were right or wrong, and no matter if you KNEW they were right or wrong, for price disputes $5 or lower, don’t even ask questions. Don’t have them show you proof, don’t tell them they’re wrong, because $5 isn’t worth loosing that customer that spends $6,000 every year at that store.

  10. Hi Bill,

    good ‘rant’…. you’re invited to my upcoming FSGrumpy site … LOL !

    Funny that this has mentioned already a few times in the comments: about a company (in this industry!) needing to be there to ‘serve’ first and foremost and deliver products second.
    THAT is what I set out to do a few years ago with my publishing company… since I was already a simulator enthusiast (user!) for over 30 years (yes, long before MS discovered it), I wanted to make sure that good people would get good products supported by good people!

    I started with Richard Goldstein (great products) and then got in touch with Holger and later Bill and Jon. By now I have more authors working with me, but all qualify in that ‘by good people for good people’ concept.

    User support and community presence is th one thing that counts in this business and personally I am convinced that you’re a lesser player here if you do NOT have a passion for simming and aviation.

    Also, one should not make the error of comparing ‘distributors’ with developers (OR publishers in some cases).
    The distributors in our industry mostly appear to have one interest only: sell as large a number of copies as possible and take as large a piece of the pie as they can for it. (Not withstanding some good exceptions).

    I think that may change in the years to come, since selling add-on’s is getting more difficult, especially if you are not providing any indication of which ones are worth buying and which ones are crap ! Times that one could just dump anything on the market are passing IMHO.

  11. Just to tack on to what Francois said in his last paragraph above. I sure hope you are right about the days of dumping garbage on the market are near an end.

    I think for this to change though one thing that would help is one of the major FS sites to step up and do better reviews. For add-on planes as an example, there are many developers that have made great strides in adding to the flight model, systems functionality, realism, etc. Take for example A2A’s Accu-sim modeling. This should be a sort of gold standard for flight modeling but as long as reviews are not using this and other leading edge products as a benchmark and focusing only on visuals like bit mapping and number of versions that come with the package we as the consuming public are having difficulty figuring out what is what with out buying and experiencing for ourselves.

    Every review of a plane should mention the complexity of the modeling. Are spins modeled correctly? Does it allow for cumulative engine ware? Does it have visual signs that a stall is iminent? Does running the engine lean-of-peak have an impact? Does it include visual icing? Can you destroy the engine by overheating it? This is were FS plane development is at today but reading the reviews at the main FS sites you won’t know it.

  12. Hi Bandsma,

    I agree….. but I know it is not going to happen.
    I have been involved with the ‘major sites’ now for some 10 years, first a couple of years at AVSIM, back in the good old days, and then at simFlight…. and reading many others.

    The problem is that there are NO qualified and WILLING people to do the reviews anymore. Dont ask me why…. they disappeared. At Avsim we now have one guy writing in English, and one or two in the German side, but the ‘famous’ reviewers of yesteryear are simply no more. We’ve been trying to get people to join for over 4 years now… not even news editors step up to the plate!

    I think that is part of the demise of the hobby in terms of ‘community service’. Much has changed, some for the good, abut also some for the bad.

  13. As I see this conversation go on, one thing really stands out to me:

    We’ve all got to rethink the way things work, and be the change for the better.

    Let me give you some examples of what I’m thinking.

    Why reviews? What is the real benefit to these pieces of ‘paper’? Fair and subjective reviewing is all but gone. There are very few review sources out there that will actually give a thumbs down on a product.

    One would argue, ‘why even do a review on a bad product?’. Well, someone out there is buying this product and doesn’t have a review to look at. Guess what? They’re out XX dollars now.

    How can this be solved? I don’t have the exact answer, but why not take community reviews to the next level and ‘vote’ on each product. If one gets a certain low score based on X criteria, it’s dropped from the shop altogether.

    Why support people putting out bad products?

    This gives people in the community a chance to have a say of what is actually working and what isn’t working.

    It’s direct and real feedback from flight simmers to the developer.

    As things move forward in the flight simulation community and even technology for that matter, we all have to be willing to change old ways of thinking before we can move forward in many areas.

    I still maintain the stance that the FS community in many ways is in trouble. Nothing is going to change unless we’re willing to change our small niches and larger spheres.

  14. Nice idea, but ain’t gonna float πŸ˜‰

    There are people ‘benefiting’ from bad products….. like the developer and the shop keeper. THEY don’t care (apparently), as long as it gets sold!

    I myself do not have bad products in my range…. but I could if I wanted to.

    Letting the ‘community’ vote is not really feasible either. Which community? The AVSIM boys. The SOH simmers. The simFlight Crew. Or the Orbx Supporters?

    People vote with their wallet and developers make what’s asked…. when they are not just making things out of their own passion (which are the products I love!).

    I agree things are changing. The market, the products, the world around it, the consumers. And it is getting harder for good developers in general, partly because of the ‘noise’ in the market today (i.e.. bad products mixing with great ones).

    I don’t have an answer either, or I’d be rich. My take on this stillis, as before, to deliver stellar products and even better support.
    That, AND finding new markets….. look east, folks.

  15. That’s part of the issue. As a community we are broken. We are all so much alike yet torn by politics.

    I’m not talking SOH, AVSIM, or simFlight. I consider all of us one community.

    Something has to be done, and whoever steps up and makes it happen will bring a lot of people over to a fresh way of thinking.

    Easy lip service for me to say all this. Actions speak louder than words.

  16. I am not talking politics, although I am sure there is some with some people. But ever since the ‘Net broke out and we had more than just the one Compuserve forum to talk on, people dispersed and formed their own preferred groups and hang-outs. Much like in real life. We are not going to all make ‘Cheers’ our favorite bar. For one, we don’t all live in New York πŸ˜‰

    So there will be and remain various forums, magazines, talk groups, clubs and what not and I don’t think we’ll EVER be able to draw everybody in.

    Not needed either, the various communities (with various interersts often) can all live in parallel.

    A much larger problem is and always has been the enormous amount of flightsimmers that are NOT internet savvy, or interested, and remain pretty much isolated, at the very best serviced by one of the four or five magazines that still survive.

    And the matter of reviews is the same problematic issue as on-line.

  17. I would have to agree that community reviewing could be a problem, considering the wide variety in the community. There are simmers out there that simply want to “kick the tyres and light the fires” without getting into detail, and for those people we have developers such as CLS (which there was quite the discussion about in FSBreak http://www.fsbreak.net/ 52, which isn’t out yet). The problem would be that simmers that prefer detailed add-ons might vote down these products when they aren’t really targeted at them in the first place.

    If I were to review a product that I didn’t like on my blog, I would make it known that I don’t like it and be honest about the facts that shape my opinion. I would not deride the product (there’s no need for that) but I would make it clear that it is sub-par. If a product is really bad, I personally probably won’t be reviewing it because I haven’t made a point of searching out products that look sub-par to review. I do think that sites like AVSIM should have the resources to review the sub-par products, but even if they do, they seem reluctant to review said products.

    What I’m afraid of is that despite the fact that reviewers on sites such as AVSIM and Flightsim.com are supposed to be fair, and they may very well be instructed to be fair in their reviews, they still worry about giving a bad review of an advertiser’s product, because if the advertising is pulled there could be reprisal.

    What I think we really need is a community that, while it might accept advertisements (it has to make money somehow), makes it clear to reviewers that negative reviews will not result in reprisal, even if the advertisements are pulled. We also need more skilled writers with a passion for the hobby, but people like this are few and far between nowadays.

  18. Reviews….. I have yet to write a serious review of any product I’ve purchased, not counting discussions on forum’s. IMHO a review, a thorough, fair and honest review should be quite in-depth. Part of the challenge is that not everyone is looking for the same things. Some of us prefer GA while others prefer the “Big Iron”, some have low end systems and some have high end systems. There are those, as mentioned above who crave extreme realism, who want every switch to work, every system functional etc… Then there are those who want to fire up FSX, pick an aircraft, location and go!… no cares for mixture, prop settings and what the *&^%! is P-Factor???? And that’s there right and god bless ’em. A diverse community and thankfully so.

    My suggestion?…. that we (the proverbial “we”) create some form of “Consumer Reports” for flight sims. The reviews should be a bit standardized with room for creativity and flexibility. As mentioned above it has to review not just appearance, not just performance but does the product do what the manufacturer claims it will it do, does it live up to the billing, the hype and the price? It would be an unfair review to hold the product to a standard not claimed by the developers just as it would be unfair to let a mediocre product slide in a review if the company claimed it was “as real as it gets”.

    Anyone interested in discussing the possibility and/or the parameters of such an endeavor? My interest and curiosity are peaked; I think I’ll start compiling review questions for developers, tests for flight and engine models etc. and see what starts to take shape.

    If you’re interested, send me an email. Maybe nothing will come of it, maybe it will, but it would interesting to see what happens.

    Dave

  19. I think a “consumer report”-style review site for flight simulation might be a good idea. Perhaps the best approach would be to have something of a “panel” of reviewers to review the product, so that several backgrounds are represented.

    I have a few other ideas as well. I’d send you an email Dave but you forgot to leave your address (it isn’t public).

  20. simtechdave@gmail.com is my email. And yes, as you might gather by my email address, I’m a simulator tech…lol If you do something for a living and as a hobby does that qualify as an obsession??

  21. In a word, Dave, yes. That’s okay though, a little obsession never hurt anyone. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks to you guys for making this the most insanely long queue of comments I’ve ever seen. Nice job!

    • Well, you should at least take some credit for bringing the topic up.

      As far as being obsessed with simulators, I think there’s a little obsession in all of us and we all have to be good at something, so it’s not a bad thing at all IMHO.

  22. Maybe this would be something for the Flightsim Consortium to look at in setting up some standards. What ever happend to it?

  23. The Flightsim Consortium died an early death….. reception by especially the larger publishers and developers was luke warm and people were – as usual in this business – too much looking hawkish at each other fearing their little market share might dwindle even further.

    Arnie Lee gave up and I think Abacus is focussing on other things than FS these days πŸ˜‰

    I still believe it was a good idea, but when it isn’t supported by a majority of larger commercial developers, then there’s no life in it.

    Next idea, please ? πŸ™‚

  24. Kinda sad about was a good idea for sure and it could have promoted flight simming alot further than its present state with addition exposure to
    those than have no idea.

  25. I don’t believe anything will truly happen until SIMMERS get behind something, not closed door meetings between developers. This hobby is not what developers make of it. It’s what the SIMMERS say it is.

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