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The Issue of Freeware Quality

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Hi all,Here is an excerpt from the editors page of the latest version of Flight Simulator World Magazine written by Tim Dickens."...freeware quality has pretty lagged behind the new developments and technology incorporated in the simulator. Most of the freeware scenery, aircraft, and instrument panels availavle today for FS2002 are not much better than what we had in FS908, while the technology in the simulator, and what is truly available to make use of for developers, has advanced about a light year.... ...And of course there are exceptions to this, as a handful of freeware releases are certainly top-notch. But they are by far the exception and not the rule." (T.Dickens)These are certainly very interesting comments, and appear to be the exact opposite of the conventional wisdom on this forum which often times asserts freeware quality is as good as what the commercial developers are putting out.Tim also notes what he believes is the primary reason for this "time"; it takes time to develop the skills necessary to produce high quality add-ons. Much more time than was required in previous versions.Tim also notes something that has been brought up on occasion on this forum as well, the apparent lack of appreciation of freeware authors works. If it takes much longer to produce something that is being appreciated less, then what is the motivation of the freeware authors to continue to produce freeware ?I think Tim hit the nail right on the head, I'm sure some will disagree.Ernie.

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Well Tim brings up some good points. That said, I do think feeware authors need more appreciation esp. conidering the time involved. I don't think we can blame freeware authors for not using the latest tehnology, and anyway I am not sure I fully agree. If we are talking abvout planes fine. But what about add-ons like TTools, taxispeed etc? These pushed the technology also - and have proven of benefit to the whole community. There is alos the issue of the lack, preceived or real, of support of MS for the add-on market. Do you have a link for the article?

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I think that we should all be thankful for anyone developing freeware addon's for FS. It's rather easy for someone to judge or criticize any addon. But have you tried to repaint an aircraft? To make a new aircraft model fly proper? To edit an airport from scratch? I have and its not always that easy and it does take a lot of time. We need to appreciate these "freeware" developers for what they bring to this hobby of FS, not for what they should be bringing.Everyone who uses FS addon's should continue to help support sites, like AVSIM, which don't ask for money for their services. Thank them when you can, but by all means, if they have revenue generating banner ad's on their sites, click them. It doesn't cost you anything but a few moments of your time, it might mean a few extra cents for the site. While it doesn't seem like me much if just one person does it, but thousands of clicks do add up.[div align=center]http://members.cox.net/joshieca/fstimeslink.gif

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T.Dickens certainly did not hit the nail on the head. He states that quality freeware releases are "by far the exception and not the rule"Would he explain all of the Posky, HJG, PF, Allied FS Group, FFG, Mike Stone, and Terry Gaff aircraft on my system? How does he account for the excellent Princess Juliana scenery, all of Shez's sceneries, Nanji's bush flying packages? What about Mike Hambly's sounds? What about Richard Probst's panels? This is only a small section of the hundreds of great developers!You want to talk about quality being the exception? What about that dreadful DC-10 package (something about flying to Hawaii on an FS5 model?). What about PSS's Nimrod and Shackelton package, which had many glaring problems? And please, let's not forget those who could not cut it as designers, and went on to pirate freeware files as their own (without a CAREnado in the world)Some payware packages truly deserve their cost- Dreamfleet, PSS, and the PIC team have shown this. What really boils my potato is people who constanly belittle the achievements of the freeware designers in one big swoop!Who developed flexing wings? How many people have sat and marvelled at the sheer beauty of HJG's 707? How many people are just on pins and needles waiting for Paul Golding's a310 panel (I am, so please, Paul! Release!!!). How many people have swapped out Wilco's 767 model for Posky's?Freeware is what is making this community such a great place to be. And it's all thanks to the developers who put up with comments like the ones made by Mr. Dickens.Of course, the devil in me says it's easy for T.Dickens to criticise freeware authors- as an editor for a flightsim magazine, he gets payware packages sent to him for free all the time!

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Hey Ernie,I remember talking about this in the old PF forum. In the FS98 days, planes were much easier to paint (well, easier may not be a good term, but less complicated) and PF regularly had "Aircraft mega-dumps" where they would release a model with just about every conceivable paint scheme that plane flew in. (the Airbus, DC-9 and MD-11 series were my favorites, and that 1st night-lighted 757, man she was a beauty!!) :)This was still a monumental task, but it is pretty much an impossibility with today's paint techniques.I personally think PF's old FS98/2000 planes look great in FS2002, and man what frame rates you get with them! :)Today, our beloved Freeware designers do such a great job on every one of thier creations that I sometimes spend more time gawking at them then flying them. :-lol Heck, I don't have time to fly even a tenth of all the wonderful free birds I have in my hangar (Falcon 50, F1, Ziln, F-16, A-10,AH-1,Fuji blimp,PFG, FFG, POSKY, et. al., the list goes on).This is a great hobby, and it would be nothing without the freeware people giving us all these great add-ons.Thanks to all of you. :-beerchugRegards,Steve Dra

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>Would he explain all of the Posky, HJG, PF, Allied FS Group, >FFG, Mike Stone, and Terry Gaff aircraft on my system? How >does he account for the excellent Princess Juliana scenery, >all of Shez's sceneries, Nanji's bush flying packages? What >about Mike Hambly's sounds? What about Richard Probst's >panels? This is only a small section of the hundreds of >great developers! Yep, yep and yep. I agree 100% with you, Mike. I think the Deb (by Geoff) is the best plane around, payware, part of FS, or whatever. I just downloaded the Vegas scenery last night and it's incredibly awesome. The ultra-lite I flew around downtown Vegas was also free and more fun than anything I've done in FS for a long time.>Of course, the devil in me says it's easy for T.Dickens to >criticise freeware authors- as an editor for a flightsim >magazine, he gets payware packages sent to him for free all >the time! Well, the devil in *me* thinks there might be more than a little collusion involved here -- after all, those same payware people pay for ads in his magazine and he might not be the most objective person in the world when it comes to complimenting freeware and disparaging payware.

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Totally agree with you Mike! Mr. Dickens must have written this editorial last Dec. I was totally in disagreement with the article when I received my issue last week. I'm glad someone brought it up in this forum. I hope the freeware authors continue their outstanding work. I look forward to even more outstanding commercial products too. Jim

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>Of course, the devil in me says it's easy for T.Dickens to criticise >freeware authors- as an editor for a flightsim magazine, he gets >payware packages sent to him for free all the time!Yes, but Tim has quite a long resume of top quality freeware and Commercial products he's developed.If anybody's in a good position to assess the current state of freeware quality it would be Tim Dickens IMO.Since the entire letter can't be posted here, I could see how some could take the 'excerpt' as criticism, but I didn't read the the full letter that way.Regards.Ernie.

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G'Day Y'all!Well, I'm certainly no authority on this subject other than I know what I like when I see it; and a LOT of that has been freeware.As far as opinions by sources that take in revenue from the very manufacturer they're providing advertisement for, I generally take with a large grain of salt,As a general rule, I almost NEVER buy any software that's more than twenty dollars without first checking reviews on it. Up to twenty bucks I'll take a gamble if the proclamations on the box really catch my interest, but also, sometimes at my loss. There have been some things I have bought where I believe they spent more time and money on the marketing and box artwork than they did with the actual software.Then again, the opposite has happened too. There were some where the artwork on the box all but turned me away when I later learned that the product was a pretty good piece of work, but not that often.The reviews I usually search for online are the ones that allow "USER" reviews and comments, besides those of the hosting site itself. The users are the ones who have spent their hard-earned money on it and I believe are going to give me a more honest opinion of the product I am considering.Well, just like here, (re: FSMaintenance, FSMeteo, etc.). I will far more quickly make my decision on a purchase that has received rave reviews in a forum post than I will by what the manufacturer has to say. Being relaistic, how often do you see real truth in advertising. Nobody is going to tell you what "doesn't" work because they were pressured into meeting the bottom line and releasing the product too soon; hoping that they will pacify their customers with a patch in a month or two; if you're lucky to get that with some, no names mentioned.Anyway, that's my two cents worth. These product "experts" can say all they wish. I know what I like when I see it and there's a LOT of fine freeware out there. I can't tell you, those of you who put in the hours, how much I appreciate it. Oh yeah, when I was a flight instructor and we'd have some yoyo in the office saying that he was an "expert" at something, one of us would usually retort, "An expert is the combination of two words, ex, meaning has-been, and spurt, meaning a drip-under-pressure." There are professionals, and then there are "experts."Every time I would roll over another hundred hours in my log books, I would think I was pretty good, at least until I reached the next hundred hours and look back and realize how much more I had learned and improved, and also realize that the next hundred hours would see me even better, but never an "expert." Although I ALWAYS strove to be a professional when it came to my students and my work.Jeez!! I warned you all that I can be longwinded when I get started!Cheers!Heather

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I have no payware on my system, only freeware. I want to support the people who put long hours into making these aircraft or scenery and get virtually no recognition. I've tried to get into aircraft modeling, but it's very complicated. All the developers like Mike Stone, POSKY and many others do deserve more recognition and thanks. As for all freeware going downhill now, I don't think that's true. Everyday I go on google.com and find more & more excellent developers making new projects for free.

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>Would he explain all of the Posky, HJG, PF, Allied FS Group, >FFG, Mike Stone, and Terry Gaff aircraft on my system? How >does he account for the excellent Princess Juliana scenery, >all of Shez's sceneries, Nanji's bush flying packages? What >about Mike Hambly's sounds? What about Richard Probst's >panels? This is only a small section of the hundreds of >great developers! With all due respect to those groups (because I respect what they do), their packages are technically incomplete. For those why fly in spot view, these will suit fine, but for those who actually fly, it takes a lot of time to find a merely decent panel for all those aircraft. With groups like PSS, for example, or PIC, there are panels for those aircraft that are bar none, and have yet to be equaled in the commercial field by people whose job is to develop.>You want to talk about quality being the exception? What >about that dreadful DC-10 package (something about flying to >Hawaii on an FS5 model?). What about PSS's Nimrod and >Shackelton package, which had many glaring problems? And >please, let's not forget those who could not cut it as >designers, and went on to pirate freeware files as their own >(without a CAREnado in the world) >Some payware packages truly deserve their cost- Dreamfleet, >PSS, and the PIC team have shown this. What really boils my >potato is people who constanly belittle the achievements of >the freeware designers in one big swoop! And, again with all due respect to freeware designers, there is quite a bit of lousy freeware out. People just don't have the nerve to say it because they'd get flamed.>Who developed flexing wings? How many people have sat and >marvelled at the sheer beauty of HJG's 707? How many people >are just on pins and needles waiting for Paul Golding's a310 >panel (I am, so please, Paul! Release!!!). How many people >have swapped out Wilco's 767 model for Posky's? Sure, freeware developed flexing wings and other major functions. But, if I am correct, PSS pioneered the field with tilting bogies, textured gear bays, and textured flaps, and lets not forget the pioneers at DF who invented left/right clicking gauges instead of using ones with miniscule click spots. And, many people have swapped Wilco's 767, but the fact of the matter is, they didnt publish the PIC package to be the best visual, its marketed to people who need a good panel, and a realistic flying experience. Unless you fly from spot view, you shouldn't absolutely have to swap the models. >Freeware is what is making this community such a great place >to be. And it's all thanks to the developers who put up with >comments like the ones made by Mr. Dickens. Freeware AND payware make this community a great place to be. Wether or not people like you acknowledge it, both have done their parts to advance the simulation, and if you ignore one, you're merely ignoring all the achievements people in that field have made.>Of course, the devil in me says it's easy for T.Dickens to >criticise freeware authors- as an editor for a flightsim >magazine, he gets payware packages sent to him for free all >the time! As far as this goes, I agree with you a little, but it works both ways. If the Falcon 50 were a payware package, how many people here would have bought it? I doubt very many at all, because people who support freeware fanatically have some idea that by supporting payware, they're killing freeware. And, another example, if some of the lower quality freeware out there were being sold, im sure that would have been added to your list of crap payware, and you wouldnt have bought it. But because its free, its great! Now lets look on the flip side. Say the Dreamfleet Archer were free, I'm sure everybody here would own it, fly it, and love it. But its not, so people have to stick to their "morals" and not support it because it costs money. Now, I used those previous examples to illustrate my point that, the freeware world loves its contributors because its free. Because people don't want to spend their money on an add-on, for whatever reasons. When a reviewer gets a package for free that would normally be payware, he regards it as incredible because of the same premiste that I just said, its free. Now, I'm quite aware this is a very touchy subject, so as I've tried my best to keep things civil, I hope anybody will refrain from outright flaming, and instead keep this as civil as possible in order to keep this thread from being locked for that reason.Scott

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Scott- I agree with you on many points! Freeware authors cannot be expected to achieve the same level of detail as payware authors for many reasons. However, some do :-)I am also with you on the whole visual model issue. Freeware authors have that down. However, panels are still the domain of Payware, I'm afraid to say. There have been some good efforts, but nothing has come close to what the "big boys" have done.However...From the previews of the new 727 panel coming, HJG's new dc-8 panel, and John Gibb's 737NG panel (which will feature aging buttons!), we can really see a renessance in panel design. It peaked in FS98 with a whole bunch of really great panels. However, it did subside when 2000 came out. But now, you're really going to start seeing some amazing things (take a look at the radio stack Fr. Bill designed, it's in the Panel Design Forum)I'm sorry, I was going to carry this more, but it's quitting time! C-ya all tommorow :-)

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>I am also with you on the whole visual model issue. Freeware authors >have that down. However, panels are still the >domain of Payware, >I'm afraid to say. There have been some good efforts, but nothing >has come close to what the "big >boys" have done. Yep true, Its the gauge programming I'm sure that is the most difficult. You also have to be a darn good programmer to make top quality gauges using one of the harder programming languages to master. To make top quality panels like PIC, PSS, and DF you also need access to Aircraft Operating manuals, and probably some access to the real aircraft itself. So you can do proper research and investigate how the real instruments behave. Take up close photgraphs, etc etc. And of course access to a pilot who can also give you detailed information as to how things behave. I would assume some have access to a Commercial Graphics artist as well, that seems to be the casewith the PSS panels.That's an awful lot of effort to put up for zero compensation.That to me explains why there are almost no Freeware Navigational Displays, moving maps, FMS's, or GPS's to install on FS2002 planes and panels. There would be little justification putting that amount of effort to develop then make it freeware.Ernie.

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My point of view is:If you put a lot of effort on your work, then it's your choice, you chose to do it so why would people pay you?But, if you feel you should get paid, there's no problem in aksing for money in return for me, I don't see it as a crime, and I'll fully repsect your decision. But for some reason, I don't think it's right...dunno why, really, although I'd never boycott them or start a flame war, or anything (I even have some payware myself, but I must admit some times I regret buying them). Sorry, that's just the way I feel....I don't want any payware developpers to feel accused of something horrible in any way, ust wanted to show my point of view :)

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> But for some >reason, I don't think it's right...dunno why, really, I'll help you out. At a point, development of "top notch" payware becomes intensely time consuming. Research, research, development, more developement, then programming, more programming, & then support. Then the "bar" is raised by another payware company & the cycle starts all over again!My point of view, which I see is also the point of others---------------------- As of now, aircraft that are my preference require superior flight dynamics, stunning exteriors with working parts, VC cockpits that are far beyond the defaults in graphic quality, & 2D cockpits that look real as well as being highly functional. I expect much reaearch to get these planes as close to the real ones as possible, just to enhance the virtual experience. Let's face it, everything I want is getting far beyond the scope of just one person & is very time consuming for even a group effort. Considering this effort takes away from family time, party time, holiday time & everything else you can think of, then the effort should at least provide some extra cash!!----- wouldn't you say??L.Adamson

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>If you put a lot of effort on your work, then it's your choice, you >chose to do it so why would people pay you?The point is in several cases because of the effort involved, you wouldn't even choose to do it, its just too much work....But if the opportunity to be compensated for it arises, that would be the only way you would even consider doing it.Its not like the developer is going to do it, and he is deciding whether to go payware or not. In many cases its either go payware or don't do it at all.Ernie.

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Well said! I agree 100%. The fact is though, that developing is a full time job for a lot of these guys. Now, keeping that in mine, imagine how long it takes between productions from some of those payware groups. That could give you a good idea of how much work they put into it. Now, while freeware does get a lot of effort put into it, the amount of effort it would take to compete with a payware product would mean that the freeware release a hell of a long time to complete.Scott

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>With all due respect to those groups (because I respect what >they do), their packages are technically incomplete. I agree with everything said above.The truth is there are few feeware developers with know-how, vision and patience to spend 17 months developing a single cockpit (ala Bill Grabowski). Therefore what you mostly find these days are aircraft exteriors, some of them exceptionally well made (POSKY) but still this is not what simulation is all about (at least for me). If POSKY did not even exist it would not fundamentally change the way I experience FS2002. On the subject of scenery it is again searching for quality in the vastness of quantity. Out of airports I download maybe only 20% remain on my PC longer than 24 hrs.There are exceptionally few freeware downloads that would truly transform the sim experience. Ed Truthan's water got to be one of them. Michael J.

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I would have to agree with what Tim has said. FS has advanced so much in the past few years, and it seems like by the time the freeware developers can create quality work for it, the sim is outdated. There IS a lot of quality freeware out there, which has been mentioned time and time above, but there is also a lot of freeware out there that isn't of real high quality. Sometimes when I go searching for a panel, I take a look at some of the search results, and think to myself, "What was this guy thinking? That doesn't look ANYTHING like the real panel" I agree that the actual simulation of the aircraft is what we're after, but I like to view the beauty of these planes as well. In conclusion, there's a lot of good freeware out there, but after we've seen great work from POSKY, and company, they've set the standard, and you don't want to have to "retreat" to work of lesser quality, which compared to the work of POSKY and company looks pretty bad...TIMMY!!

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What's the point of this thread? I think well of Tim Dickens, and certainly the freeware authors have always included beginners and experts and everything in between. This remains true today. Thank goodness that's true.The beginners during fs98 are some of the experts of today, and if there were no beginners today there would be fewer experts in the future.Who cares if there is a difference now or in the past with the overall level of quality?The freeware authors have always designed for many reasons, including the love of using their tools and learning new things. I'm having more fun now than ever, even thou I'm still working on my second fs2002 upload. I suppose Tim may feel good or bad about my work now compared to a few years ago....lol....I don't worry about it. Bob BernsteinEdmonds, Wa.

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"Out of airports I download maybe only 20% remain on my PC longer than 24 hrs."Airport design is the area in which I would agree with Tim Dickens' commentary. During FS5/FS98 times we used to get excellent airport renditions by the tons... Not so anymore today. Today, the best airports are definitely commercial designs. German Airports Collection, English Airports, UK2000, LAGO's Amsterdam etc., etc.And yes, there are some exceptions, but it is the exceptions that make the rule.Stamatis

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This is very true Bob. Well said.The main point of my editorial was that a lot of these good folks get very discouraged at some point along the way, due to lack of support and appreciation from the community, and in some cases, from outright abuse.I can think of quite a few very talented developers, going back to the "old days" of FS 4 over 10 years ago. Not that many of them are around any more. Sure, some of them just lost interest in the hobby, or simply don't have the time in their lives any more. But I have had quite a bit of correspondence with a number of guys that simply got fed up and threw in the towel. And it's really a shame. [link:www.fsheartland.net]http://www.fsheartland.net/images/Heartland_sig.gif

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Tim,If that was your editorial point, please allow me to apologize in casting *any* aspirtions on you -- it was unfair to draw conclusions from only an excerpt.I'm not the sort who doesn't think a programmer should be compensated for his or her work, since that's what I do for a living (programming, that is, although lately compensating people for their programming also seems like an occupation for me :>) And I also vastly appreciate all the freeware effort that's out there. So I fall on both sides of the fence.I do think the timing of the "Perfect Portugal" package couldn't be better for purposes of this discussion, however. Can't dredge up the exact quote (and the author's first language probably wasn't English so it doesn't come across perfectly) but there was something to the effect that they wanted to release this package as freeware in order to raise the bar for all the payware scenery authors out there.That, to me, is probably the loftiest goal of a freeware author, and I applaud it tremendously. I haven't seen the scenery yet (I'll download tonight and test it, although that area of the world isn't where I'm used to flying) but if it truly does set a high standard for others who charge I'm all for it. For me, the bottom line is this: if you are going to charge for whatever product you provide, it had darn well better be significantly better than what I can get for free (or program myself). To put it another way, I don't think anyone providing freeware has an obligation to live up to any standard, but if you're going to charge me hard earned bucks for your stuff you better not be selling crap, unless you offer either a free trial or money-back promise.

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