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Editorial on Add-on Development

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I consider myself an avid Flight Simmer not unlike many throughout the world who have enjoyed the progress and development of this hobby. Over the years I have enoyed using Microsoft's Flight Simulator, watching new developments in visual effects, and seeing the variety of add-ons; many of which, from freeware to payware, I have enjoyed and to this day remain in my collection -- PMDG's 737 being the latest and struggling to get it's product firmly in the air. I once thought Microsoft ought to be paying these guys to develop the aircraft while they build the core sim. It has been a good experience from the beginning and I feel has allowed me to go onto earning Private Wings where I can take the enjoyment of flight beyond the realm of simulation.While on the topic of commercial add-ons, I am beginning to see a trend that disturbs me. There is the wonderful product that is presented for all to behold and many are downright so good they belong on the FS2004 CD. However, beyond that, appears a valley full of competition that diverges greatly. I supose rather than collaborating on efforts, commercial vendors repeat the same mistakes and ill-will of their counterparts while many exceed their competition in poor service, poor support, lack of availability, program errors: bugs and whatever other critters you want to throw in to the mix, online packaging, etc. This movement toward poor commercial add-on development is exceeding the developers of multi-million line software code and is downright absurd especially when considering the cost of purchase which can be as much as one half if not greater then that of the parent software in which the add-on runs.If I take the recent developments of Software Simulation Workshop, the frustration level, aggravation, and trial by fire makes the experience go even beyond that. I have already committed myself, with greenbacks galore, to possessing their first add-on aircraft, the Airbus A-310-300, and am now glad I thought not to pre-order which, in my opinion, is akin to giving a thief your money to invest although I have gone down that road before with another developer of add-on software. Add to that once the A-310 is released and the money is placed into the coffer, I am not able to download the file, able but it is corrupt, and then the file size changes and I can't download it anymore unless, of course, one contemplates the definition of a successful download as the ability to save to one's computer a file with a name -- said file need not have any contents and 0 MB files are included.Beyond that to only mention that the add-ons vendor's server is crashing due to massive hits while the forum and all its helpful contents are deleted by the Vendor to rescue the server is mere icing on the cake. May I remind you all this for a mere $37 dollars and a head full of expletives -- not literally but nearly so.This, I feel, is about the lowest an add-on developer can go to not have their infrastructure in place, their product ready to go when they say it is ready, and my money for nothing in return. I do hope this editorial is considered because after Captin Sim's 707 is released, I have no interest (and I assume others may be close to feeling this) in commercial add-ons anymore and this may be a consumer trend that helps correct these problems.Now of course we consumers have our part to play in this conflagration from pressureing add-on developers to provide release dates, to harassing developers to release their product, to complaining about price, to posting ill will in their forums, etc., etc. you know who you are....HERE HERE. I suppose frustration and lack of suport go hand in hand with bad feelings as an unexpected bill to an empty wallet.However I am certain this situation need not exist if there is some measure of expectation on the part of the developer and eventual customer. Some add-on developers have already redefined the genre by not releasing publish dates, providing minimal information needed for the discriminating consumer, and established a viable reltaionship with its' customer base. I can only hope ther development continues and that other developers learn from positive examples that do exist out there.Thank you for reading my opinion -- The opinion expressed in this editorial is not Avsim's and therefore Avsim takes no responsibility for

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Hello SkylaneRG, You have expressed, in your excellent essay, what some of us sincerely believe in regards to 3rd party commercially available software releases. To be fair I truly must say that many of those 3rd party commercial vendors do indeed produce a very decent package and bend overboard in providing excellent support. Unfortunately that is not the case with others who even have "support" forums on AVSIM. I will say that, in most cases, I quickly learn which sources are reliable and which ones to avoid, lovely rhetoric or not. Again may I say your essay was excellently written.Sincerely

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sounds like you are describing all marketplaces...you have the market leaders, you have the challengers to the leaders, and you have the rest, some of the rest are up and coming, some of the rest are declining, some are theives, some are just honestly offering very little and pricing that offering fairly.what I don't see is the "trend" you speak of. you said: <>I doubt there is any trend that drives companys to produce poorer and poorer quality products. Would it be more correct to claim that more and more companies are entering the market? This could dilute the overall quality of the marketplace, but would not represent a trend to any of the pre-existing companys. If so the real trend is that the market is simply getting larger. An expanding marketplace makes it more difficult for the consumer to choose and be guarenteed high quality. So how do consumers solve that problem in other markets? "Consumer reports" is one way..and other consumer advocacy vehicles exist...like internet sites like Avsim...Tom's hardware website rates computer products and gives you test results and comparitive features articles...very helpful, (ever notice that individuals always argue for the components they have when responding on bulletin boards about computer hardware...without ever noting that they have no basis for comparison)...that's what Toms does for us...they get all the products delivered for the purpose of review and tries to fairly compare them.Perhaps you should start a website that would be a consumer advocacy for payware addons? That would be an effective action that could solve the problem I'm reading into your concerns expressed.Course, if I'm off base...c'est la vie...and have a great day!Bob Bernstein

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As one who produces both freeware and commercial products I feel I must (once again) defend the commercial designer. Most of the commercial designers I know are part-timers trying to earn a few extra bucks to make ends meet. We work very hard to design the best models we can. Sometimes what the publisher wants and what we as designers want is not the same. Many users complain that the models lack this detail or that one or have bugs. If I had the time, resources and was paid what MS aircraft designers get, I

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I don't think what Skylane RG is saying is a case where the "commercial-payware developer" needs to be defended, or the other way around. I think his comments can generally be proven from time to time. What we the developers try to accomplish is far above and beyond the normal scope of the simulator itself. Take into account that our products need to work in such a wide variety of "user environments", can make for a nightmare of support issues if not properly tested. In our case we busted into a well established scenery market with our first product. In some cases we had to personally assist our customers with their .cfg files to make sure that with 3 different layers of scenery (by other developers), ours could work with the other ones. The bottom line is actually very easy. For us, we made sure that we not only had support emails in place but forums also. We did private in house beta testing, and made sure that customer emails were answered quickly...thankfully we still haven't had to issue a single refund for LCY2003 (since we released in March). This is mostly due to the fact that we were able to get to each and every customer quickly (which is not that often). I think that good solid designing, then testing is key to releasing a quality product. I also think that coordination from time to time is a must. We were able to easily make our sceneries compatible with the VFR photo scenery with 1 phone call (they sent us their CD and we made an update), withing 48 hours.Anyways just some thoughts...commerical payware companies (at least this one) have these issues in the fore front of our minds when we set out to produce a product. We are simmers also...maybe thats why :-)

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