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Francois_Dumas

The Next MS Flight Simulator

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I have been reading with great interest the information now available as to the next version of MSFS. Like, I am sure many, I have tried other sims and though some of them are technically better,the sheer flexibility of the Microsft product has meant that enthusiastic amateurs and commercial developers have unleashed a vast creative force to not only provide extraordinary new features for the very large audience of flight simmers, but has also given to Microsoft many of the gains that will be embedded in the next version. And all praise to MS for making its design codes so freely available and reaping the benefits of such an enormous volume of creative enterprise. But it also creates a dilemma for the user because as I read the forums and scan and frequently succumb to the payware, donationware and freeware accessible in overwhelming volume I am now genuinely concerned about MY investment. I happily discarded the first MS sims when the next became available. In the last changeover I reluctantly uninstalled the previous version because there was too much incompatibility and for my system technological indisgestion with endless hangups. I did sacrifice a fair investment in add-ons but one I was prepared to accept. This time however there is a dilemma of great magnitude and potential cost. In the past for instance I shied away from scenery add-ons because I needed to alter code which may be simple for the expert but frightening for the computer illiterate: now someone else codes into their whatever-ware the flattening switches and I only have to add the new airport,mesh, or landclass into the scenery library. What is all this about then? Simply that I have invested several thousand dollars directly in add-ons of both aircraft and scenery to my base program. I cannot afford to let that investment evaporate. The early promotional literature for the next version - MS ACOF is saying that airplanes designed to the existing design rules will be compatible-but does that mean with a patch or not? And will I have to laboriously attach every aircraft and acceptable scenery addition to the new program? I accept that many features now provided by utility programs to improve everything from ATC to taxiway signage will be outdated, but there still remains a mass of material that will either be lost or may just never be transferred. A universal product must always be accessible to the rank amateur, or arcade player, but the ex real world fliers such as myself or the squadrons of devoted simmers will always want more than the defaults,and will readily buy or share more realistic additions. So, at this stage of the development of the next version can it be released as an upgrade as well as a stand alone? And I am sure that for most of us it is not an issue of cost. Recall too, that Adobe was able to do so with Photoshop, a highly complex product. If it could be, then it would remove from me my first ever conflict: is it more prudent to stick to a significant investment in my vastly augmented existing program or write it off for the benefits of the new. Microsoft could help by stating immediately what design rules will carry over into the new: and what the commited user is required to do to make his/her stock of expensive materials compatible. Otherwise we too will be forced to choose between the excitement of the new and the major financial commitment that we have made to the present version; which with its many faults that could have been easily patched, we have learned to live with. I want to go with the new version, all I would hope is that Microsoft takes us with them rather than challenge us to choose.

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With Flight Simulator, the FS Design Team at Microsoft are going through their normal product evolution, so it would be in their best self-interest to have much of what works in FS2002 work in FS2004. Microsoft has already stated that any FS aircraft built or scenery designed using the format stated in the SDK for FS2002 will in all likelihood work equally as well in FS2004. Creating a new product that is incompatable with prior versions is not in Microsoft's rule book, but at the same time, offering an update to the existing product, rather than introduce an entirely new version is NOT in Microsoft's best interest any more than it is for us. Based on their comments (press-releases) and from my own experience with them, the next version of Flight Simulator is a souped up version of FS2002, with many of the issues experienced with FS2002 corrected. Because of the two year turn-around between versions, not all features of FS can be addressed in any one version. With FS2000, Flight Simulator received the most changes and advances in its basic core (as compared to FS98), but with FS2002, only the basic core was improved (or corrected) to enhance performance. A few additonal aircraft were added and scenery was enhanced greatly, but it was only with the new features of interactive ATC and autogen that totally new ground was covered. With FS2004, its the addition of a whole new way for weather to appear that would seem to have been their greatest challenge, with all the other new additions or features being merely extensions or improvements of what they introduced in FS2002.Bottom-line? It would be my assumption that most of what add-on you've installed into FS2002 will probably work fine in FS2004!Bear!

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Bear: Thank you for your thoughtful response, although I would hope reasonably soon the MSFS team will be able to confirm your assumptions and maybe in beta testing they might allow compatibility trials to be run. My caution arises from the experience of the many, who could not understand how there was not even one patch provided for those first glaring lapses in 2k2 that were early identified. It also later contrasted poorly with the readiness of the CF3 team to quickly patch some early problems. I hold absolutely no fashionable dislike of Microsoft, and I look forward greatly to FS2k4 as the next step in this highly addictive hobby of flight simming. But like MS I, too, want to protect my investment, and myself from my wife who seems to know fairly accurately,and mutters darkly, about my spending on the next must-have addition. Please accept the thanks of many from Australia and NZ who gain great information from AVSIM, and to you for your reviews and commentary.

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Without breaching any agreements I have with Microsoft I CAN tell you that most if not all FS2002 add-ons are currently being tested by a very large team of alpha/beta testers. This is even encouraged by the MSFS design team and clearly signals a desire from their part as well to make FS2004 as backward compatible with FS2002 as possible. So far most add-ons I have tried work without a glitch. Only one needed a small change in a config file.In general I think it is safe to say that you face the same classic dilemma most businesses in the world face: should we upgrade or not, and what will the additional investment really bring us? In many cases, the answer to that is: 'yes we should, and allas, it will not bring us much we can use...' But NOT keeping up with software (and hardware) advances will hurt them somewhere down the line and many just opt to not risk that and pay.... Best regards,Francois :-outta Francois :-wave[table border=0 cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0][tr][td valign=bottom" align="center]"At home in the wild"[/td][td valign=bottom" align="center][link:avsim.com/alaska/alaska_052.htm]Don's Alaskan Bush Charters]"Beavers Lead the Way"[/td][td valign=bottom" align="center][br][tr][td valign=top" align="center]http://www.fssupport.com/images/moose4.gif[/td][td valign="top" align="left" colspan=2][/td][tr][/table

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>My caution arises from the experience of the many, who could not understand how there was not even one patch provided for those first glaring lapses in 2k2 that were early identified.<I'm really curious, what "...glaring lapses..", are you speaking of? I was on the AVSIM review team for FS2002 and frankly I (we) were quite impressed about how glitch free FS2002 was. Its been nearly two years since FS2002's introduction and to this day I'm not aware of one single reason any patch was or has ever been necessary.On the otherhand, CFS3 is a different story.Bear!

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Once again please accept my appreciation for the thought that you have put into responding to my inquiry. I am reassured by your response and your very direct experience with the new version. I hoped that my initial contribution had indicated clearly that I wanted to migrate to the next version if at all feasible. However it is true that there is still a very active community of flightsimmers who are using earlier versions and building additions for them, therefore the desire for the next You-Beaut version is not always shared. My enquiry comes from one who is an early adopter, almost always standing in line for the top-priced version of any software, but who,in this case, is faced with choosing between the latest and best, or writing off a considerable investment. Your answer frankly has been of more help than anything the developers have put out, and I am heartened by it. Roll on the new, but please Microsoft provide a genuine customer service this time. Patch when necessary and do not tell us you are so busy on the next version that we should wait two years to have fundamental problems corrected. We are desperately loyal, but please maintain our faith by remembering that we are customers who do have choice, although reluctant to exercise it.

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Bear: I seem to have stirred an unexpected response, and after your helpful comments I do not want to spark an unnecessary debate. Suffice it to note that after a series of user comments in this and other forums Microsoft put out an emphatic statement that they would not patch 2k2 as they were concentrating on the next version. All I was hoping this next time around glitches can be patched to add to consumer satisfaction. I note in another of your forums that one reader wants more complex panels, but I disagree with that argument. MSFS must be saleable to a broad audience and therefore must have simple aircraft. For most of us sim addicts there are now many detailed and demanding add-ons that add to our sense of reality as well as test our skills. Would it be possible for avsim to set out techniques and tricks to help us to migrate our aircraft and scenery to the new platform?My original question has been well answered and I am grateful. Roll on the new.

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macca22au,I didn't mean or intend for my inquiry into your statement concerning a patch for FS2002 as being a negative at all or meaning for it to spark any kind of debate, I was truly just curious as to what you thought had been a real problem with FS2002 that needed addressing, that's all. :-) Its my understanding that if a software program fails to operate as advertised, then an upgrade or patch would be called for, but with FS2002, it only seemed to me that everything they (MSFS design team) claimed, seemed to work or function quite well and across a wide spectrum of various systems. Its been my experience with the MSFS design team that everything they claim appears to be true and it seems they always hold back on some additional features as sort of nice surprise to us all.During their presentation at last year's AVSIM Conference, the way MS approaches the design of FS and they develop their priority listing for Flight Simulator was quite interesting and frankly I believe that most in attendence agreed with their team members. Regardless how anyone dresses it up or attempts to hide the truth, the bottomline is that MS is in the business of designing and selling computer software for a profit. The more you sell, the better off you are for continuing to develope the software for future releases. How do you do this? That's easy, just design the software to have a bigger appeal across a broader expanse of users! Bear!

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Bear: I wasn't going to reply but after enjoying everything but taxiing with Flight 1's great Meridian, you have prompted a reply. The problem with the turboprop taxi speed was known from the first day of release. After all didn't we all try out the Caravan as a great new aircraft, and all reacted to it's outstanding handling characteristics in all but on the ground manouevring. Yes I know that work arounds were designed by third parties but they all required changing code. There are many like me, I believe,who are former real world pilots, but pretty unsophisticated computer users. My claim is that MS should have patched this, and yes, the other glitches rather than leave it to 3rd parties to offer help - help that many of us cannot implement through a lack of skill or courage: or both. My work around? As soon as speed builds up, put the prop into beta until the plane slows sufficiently and then back to idle. About as primitive as blipping the ignition on WWI aircraft.

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Bear: I was going to let the matter drop, but I am presently enjoying Flight 1's excellent Meridian. It is great to fly in all aspects except taxi-ing. From the time we all revelled in the Caravan when FS2k2 was first introduced the excess taxi speed was raised in the forums and reviews. Returning to the turboprops through the Meridian brings me back to the same problem which could have been fixed by a patch. My solution of alternately using idle and beta is hardly a professional fix. Yes I know that third party fixes are available, but they always involve changing code. I am a former real world pilot but a computer illiterate so code changes are too risky for me. Excessive course changes in IFR ATC, scalloping glideslopes are also amongst the problems that were early identified. I am sure there are many like me who cannot confidently apply 3rd party solutions, but would simply ask Microsoft to support their loyal customers by supplying periodic corrections and patches.

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DON'T COUNT ON IT 'BEAR'. MICROSOFT IS MOTIVATED BY THE ALMIGHTY PROFIT. EVEN THOUGH THEY LOOK LIKE THEY JUST ABOUT GIVE AWAY MSFS,THEY ARE MAKING A MID COURSE CORRECTION, OR VECTORED BY ATC(BILL GATES)TO CHANGE MSFS NOW THAT HE HAS HOOKED THE FLIFHT SIM FANS ON TO HIS PRODUCT TO CUT OUT THE THIRD PARTY FREEWARE AND SALE THE 2ND PARTY SHAREWARE A PAYWARE ADDONS. THEY HAVE TO PAY A LICENSES FEE. THAT'S HOW THEY WILL PROFIT FROM THE NEXT VERSION. I KNOW ANOTHER COMPANY THAT PULLED THE SAME TRICK, AOL.

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"THEY HAVE TO PAY A LICENSES FEE. THAT'S HOW THEY WILL PROFIT FROM THE NEXT VERSION."From where did you hear this? The rumor mill? I don't think Microsoft would be so foolish, as one of the reasons the franchise has lived on as long as it has are the freeware and payware offerings. Those offerings amount to nowhere near the volume of MSFS sales. But they no doubt add to MSFS sales. If freeware authors and payware authors were restricted in the practice of add-ons by the hassle of paying and documenting license fees, then MSFS's sales would suffer. It won't happen. Simple economics.Let's say Microsoft demanded ten percent of sales for add-ons, and the average payware add-on sold 5,000 units. For the sake of argument, let's say that the add-ons cost 20 bucks apiece--$100,000 for a 5000 unit run. But let's also say a developer pulls out, not wanting to deal with the hassle, and their add-on was the go/no-go decision for someone purchasing MSFS (for some, I think the UK VFR scenery was such a product). If MS's sales suffered by even 500 units at $50 per unit, they'd be losing more than twice what they would have gained by getting a license fee on one product alone. As a programmer who paid a nominal fee for a programming product I use personally and professionally, I can say this rumor is purely bunk. There's a much larger community Microsoft can go after--those of us who code other applications for the Windows OS's. Microsoft never has. Windows would suffer the same sad fate, as what's built it is third party support. I think Mr. Gates knows that. You don't rise to the top without understanding that allowing people to tag their product to yours is the best way to get people to buy yours. It's worked for MS brilliantly for years, and I doubt Bill will change it soon.-JohnP.S. MY CAPS KEY IS STUCK. SORRY IF MY P.S. SOUNDS SO LOUD :)

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