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Guest robains

3rd party providers and reviewers seriously lacking...

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Guest robains

This is going to be somewhat harsh on 3rd party providers and reviewers and it doesn't apply to all of them just a series of problems I've had with Aircraft providers, scenery providers, and other 3rd party add-ons as of late.Background/HardwareI'm on vacation so I figure it's time to do some Flight simulation with FSX SP2. I'm feeling the need to support the 3rd party community and I go on a scenery, aircraft, add-on buying spree (about $500 worth when all added up) ... support the community! My PC is a pretty powerful unit (not the best, but not bad) ... I'm a software engineer by profession so I have a lot on knowledge regarding OS, hardware, etc. ... My system:Windows 7 64bitIntel QX9770 CPU at 4 Ghx with 1600Mhz FSBTwo ATI 5870's (Crossfire disable for FSX)4GB Corsair dominator RAM1500 Watt Silverstone Power SupplyASUS P5E3 Deluxe motherboardCreative Labs xFi Elite two Intel 160GB SSD, one Samsung 120GB SSDMy system is about as solid as one can get for game playing and simulations, it runs everything without a problem (including FSX, Crysis, Civ V, Starcraft II, etc. etc.)Just Flight - MD 80/81Installs fine, got the SP1 (which for some reason was not included in my download) and installed fine. Load up FSX and select the Just flight MD 80 ... sitting at the gate with NO VC cockpit ... errr, huh? So I do the usual, start surfing for folks with similar problem and try to fine a resolution. So I find more users on the Just Flight forums that have reported the same problem ... the hint was it's some conflict with VC++ runtime distribution, apparently the developers of the MD 80 use a much older VC++ runtime, not the one you'll find on Windows 7. But again, no word as to exactly what VC++ runtime will work. So out goes my Email to the Just Flight support folks ... waiting for an answer/solution.I had read all the reviews of this product and not a single mention of the VC++ issue and possible incompatibilities with Windows 7. Ugh ... onwards ...Flight 1 - Ultimate Traffic 2Again, installs fine. Load up FSX, hint KSFO sitting at the gate and no other aircraft ... wait and wait and wait ... finally 1 minute later aircraft start to appear. So I scroll around to look at them and my once rock solid 30 fps is now 10 fps!! I'm only running at 15% traffic ... so I "try" to take-off and come round for a landing ... just impossible at 9-10 fps. So I exit FSX and FSX crashes ... more ugh ... I get some error message that pops up about "smartassembly not supported...". My guess is a .NET framework related error. Sure enough, I visit the Flight 1 forums and see many threads with folks having this problem. Since Windows 7 comes with .NET framework 3.5 SP1 but it isn't enabled by default, have to goto the control panel and enable it. That solved the FSX crashing problem but my fps hit remains, time to uninstall this product ... ugh.Again all the reviews I read of UT2 were great and not a single mention of these problems nor the fps hit. Once again, ugh ... onwards ...FS Commander 9I have FS Commander 8.6 and enjoy the product, good solid product. So I figure FS Commander 9 will be better. I install FS Commander 9 on a different PC as I use WideFS client to communicate with FSX ... this setup worked fine with FS Commander 8.6. Doesn't stress my FSX PC since FS Commander is running on another PC. All good ... then the bad ... FS Commander 9 can't work with network drives and/or mapped drives?? Say what?? Scratching my head once again, I go in search of answers from various forums. And once again, I find a host of folks with the same issue - how is paying for an "upgrade" and getting less functionality a good thing? FS Commander 9 will work if it's on the same PC as FSX, but that's definitely not a good way to run it. So far I'm batting 0 for 3.This time I did find one "review" but it was not an official review, just a poor customer like myself warning others of this rather BIG functionality issue. The "official" reviews all praise the product and again NO mention of the missing network connectivity. Once again, ugh ... onwards ...MegaSceneryEarth - Download OptionI've really enjoyed the scenery from this folks and still do ... expensive, but pretty good quality and the support is good. However as of right now (Sunday 12/19 10:25am PT) I can't even get to the www.megasceneryearth.com web site, let alone be able to actually download the scenery tiles I ordered ($180 worth). Just last week I was able to download some of my scenery but it took a long long long time (about 2-3 hours per scenery tile) ... I contact the megasceneryearth support folks and they were very helpful, and sent me the DVD's. However, that's not really fixing the download site problems ... I plan to buy more in the future and want a viable download option. I let the MegaSceneryEarth folks now that somewhere along the way their web hosting service is throttling their bandwidth, they disagreed with me, but it was pretty obvious IMHO ... but I continued with downloads (a several day process). However, now it appears the MegaSceneryEarth web site is completely down, not just my download links, but the entire site. Batting 0 for 4.And again, reviews for MegaSceneryEarth have all been positive, no mention of download issues nor site availability issues. Once again ... ugh! Well it's not all bad, the folks from HiFi simulations with ASE has worked flawlessly, no massive frame rate hits, no crashing of FSX ... I had upgraded from ASA to ASE and they were kind enough to make that a free upgrade. Which is sorta ironic, the ONLY free product I got is the only one that works without a problem.So this leads me to my conclusion:1. Official reviews are seriously lacking in content, please if you wanna be an "official" review you MUST check the forums to see what problems folks are having and validate with the developer(s). Reviews also lack any details of actual FPS hit, give some real numbers not a vague reference. And finally, if the product is an aircraft, please state whether or not they use the same key mappings as default FSX or use something else, so those of use with GoFlight and/or other hardware can determine if we want a product that doesn't provide a standard FSX key map.2. Testing and Deployment of 3rd party FSX software leaves MUCH to be desired. You can't expect folks to be hunting for solutions to problems that frankly should not exist and should have been caught in beta testing. Remember this is "entertainment" for most ... searching for hours to find fixes (if you're lucky) is NOT entertaining.Again this doesn't represent ALL 3rd party developers nor all the official reviewers, I just got very unlucky this time around batting 1-5 in the success department. But that's no excuse, the reality of the problems remain. Over the many years of flight simulation, the patterns above are unfortunately pretty common. And frankly, it's just NOT good enough. It pushes people away from flight simulation rather than towards it ... and the official reviewers should either be labeled as advertisements or they should do considerably more work if they really want to do their readers justice. I know these aren't "bad people", they're just rushing to get stuff out the door (be it a review or software) without going thru necessary steps to provide the best possible experience.I know this is a pretty negative post, but it is what it is and I'm sorry if it has offended anyone. But the end result of my experience has left me looking for other forms of entertainment. Perhaps other's have more tolerance and time than I, but I would ask those 3rd party devs and reviewers please try to bring back the "fun" in flight simulation ... I think it is in everyone's best interest if these products were more polished and met the demands of a wider scope of users.Rob.

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Hi Rob - I have to say I agree with you completely having had the same experience in the past. The only option that *I* have as a user/purchaser is to visit the support forums and google the various products before I purchase. Many of the reviews are nothing more that puff pieces si I read them with a grain of salt.I guess what I'm asking is - Is there anything you found out *after* purchase that you couldn't have found out *before* purchase?Vic


 

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Rob, are the problems you detailed any different than any other segment of the computer software/hardware industry today? Or any other retail/service operation, for that matter?I upgrade my accounting software and I loose features that I previously used and it doesn't play well at all with the very Internet Explorer shell it relys so heavily upon - the support is amost non-existent, despite numerous similar complaints and one can only wonder if there was ANY beta testing.....Same goes for my CAD/home design software - I am essentially forced to upgrade for compatitbility reasons only to loose features to now more expensive versions and my software is no more "compatible" with my hardware and OS than before - it's now worse. I purchase a new cutting edge graphics card and the drivers are so poorly written it is rendered nearly useless out of the box - no end in sight there either. I could go on with similar examples from everything from software to insurance to tools for my construction business - point is, it seems any notion of "quality" and pride in how we conduct business has taken a back-seat to almost everything these days. I'm NOT trying to insinuate ANYTHING against the dev's you mentioned, just relating my own experiences and opinions. I feel your pain. I have to constantly resist the temptation in my business to "join the crowd, if you can't beat'em..." because if I did, I would fully expect to be unemployed very soon. I try to do what Vic suggests and research before I take the plunge, unfortunately that doesn't always work either anymore.Edit: what is so ironic is that the very platform we purchase these addons for was somewhat flawed out of the box, too. There were several changes made IMHO that regressed the sim from it's predecessor(s) and were never addressed in any of the SP's - simple stuff, I'm speaking of - and no I don't expect perfection - just some objective thought and implementation while moving forward.


Regards, Kendall

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Hi Rob,Good post, and I do agree with you to some extent, however I do have to diasgree with the FS Commander 9 issue. I have it networked fine with FSX on the other PC. Whilst it can be touchy sometimes, it does work.I read most reviews, and they do not normally sway me apart from the one the other day on the E-jets V2, which is probably one of the only ones that I have read that is tempting me to get it.. :( the review was well written in my opinion and full of detail. I guess it depends on who does the review and the glitches they get, it is difficult to get a balance. It is also important that reviews are only based on the reviewers experience and whilst it may inform generally about the product, I tend to normally read up on forums after the review.Having said all that, I do feel there is sometimes a sense of holding back on some reviews in regards to issues like pricing and sometimes it would be beneficial to compare similar products to maintain a little sense of competition in that regard.


stephen.png

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For one thing there is a review feedback forum, but it is pretty much unused. I suppose in theory this would be a place to register problems not turned up in a review. From what I've seen/read, I think reviewers spend quite a bit of time on their reviews, but at the end of the day, can only really report what their experience is on their system. Now maybe there are some folks with several different testbeds, but that's a chore to keep up. Just the deltas between XP x86 and 7 X64, then throw in everything else (like locale settings or alternative language installs) that could possibly impact FS and addons.scott s..

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Guest robains

Great responses, thanks everyone!As far as FSCommander 9 -- I couldn't get it to see my Windows 7 shares (FSCommander 9 was on my Vista 64bit PC, FSX on my Windows 7 PC). But I had no problems with FSCommander 8.6 finding the shares. Could someone give me a hint on how to get FSCommander 9 to work over a network? I was not able to save any flightplans to my Win7 share. I also was never able to update my airports DB in FSCommander 9. Vic,Agree with you 100%, I should have gone to the forums first rather than use the reviews as my guide. Hard part about going thru the forums is determining a "real problem" vs. OE (operator error) -- but I agree that similar problem/issue "patterns" can be extracted which often means a "real problem" which could have helped me decide to buy or not to buy.Irocx,You are correct, but about the only point I might distinguish is that "business" applications require that we find solutions to get a job done. Entertainment software (such as FSX) is supposed to be about entertainment, having fun, not about adding stress and/or requiring hours of research to discover there is no solution until a patch is released. Guess I'm saying it's a little different gaming vs. business. In the business sector there is more pressure to release software sooner, but in the entertainment/gaming industry (espeically with FSX 3rd party software) I don't see why or where the pressure is? Either way though, it's still no excuse for poor quality control regardless.Scott967,I don't know if "official" reviewers get paid, nor how much they get paid if they do. Perhaps the pay doesn't warrant the work required to do a fully qualified review? Some of these reviews are in published magazines so I gotta imagine they get paid a enough to require full investigation of a product, but perhaps not?Torkermax,I agree, version 1.0 is almost always a risk, probably better to call it Beta. But in the case of the MD 80/81, it's been out since April and has an SP1, but still no VC cockpit (hopefully I'll get a response from JF support, but it is the holidays so might not be until next year).FYI, www.MegaSceneryEarth.com is still down as I type this so I can't get the remaining $100 or so worth of scenery tiles I purchased. Support request has gone unanswered ... hoping someone will get back to me.

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I very much doubt that there are many reviewers out there who get paid for their efforts. At most, they may be lucky enough to get a free copy of the product being reviewed. Same thing for beta testers. Most would be volunteers who beta test because they love the hobby and like the opportunity to get their hands on the software before everyone else.There simply isn't enough money in flightsim software to pay for the kind of quality assurance that you are asking for.

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I very much doubt that there are many reviewers out there who get paid for their efforts. At most, they may be lucky enough to get a free copy of the product being reviewed. Same thing for beta testers. Most would be volunteers who beta test because they love the hobby and like the opportunity to get their hands on the software before everyone else.There simply isn't enough money in flightsim software to pay for the kind of quality assurance that you are asking for.
Very well said Tom. :(

Best regards,
David Roch


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And Merry Chrismas to you too, Rob. While your difficulties are unfortunate, there are many other mitigating circumstances.As Tom says, this is a very small community and a very small market; tiny might be a better word. So, sales volume simply does not justify or even permit high development costs.Secondly, developers, reviewers, etc. are enthusiasts just like you, just like me. Very few of them are professional, degree-holding experts with important day jobs in the industry. Think of them as somebody exactly like you who decides to make FS better in some way, and then either share with other enthusiasts (freeware) or try to make some money (not much) in order to pay the rent and buy the burgers (commercial.) But, they are the same enthusiast no matter which way they go, and while many are quite accomplished, and their products reflect this, just as many, if not more, do the best they can. Reviewers in general do not get any money for their work and yet give their efforts and time to provide us with a limited idea of a product.So, it is not really fair to go too far in the complaint department; if anybody is unsatisfied with a commercial product, then they should ask for their money back. But, there is no reason to criticize those who work for free in a small hobby like ours. In the end, FS is a computer game, a pastime, a nice hobby. Is it right to expect that it should come up to the same quality standards as automakers (Toyota?), agro-business (salmonella in your lettuce?) or enormous computer and software makers (iPhone antenna?)? If even the biggest and richest don't get it right, then maybe the problem is that life is not perfect and we must get used to it.All the very best wishes for joy in your holiday season.Luis


do.png Hot, humid Caribbean paradise!

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And Merry Chrismas to you too, Rob. While your difficulties are unfortunate, there are many other mitigating circumstances.As Tom says, this is a very small community and a very small market; tiny might be a better word. So, sales volume simply does not justify or even permit high development costs.Secondly, developers, reviewers, etc. are enthusiasts just like you, just like me. Very few of them are professional, degree-holding experts with important day jobs in the industry. Think of them as somebody exactly like you who decides to make FS better in some way, and then either share with other enthusiasts (freeware) or try to make some money (not much) in order to pay the rent and buy the burgers (commercial.) But, they are the same enthusiast no matter which way they go, and while many are quite accomplished, and their products reflect this, just as many, if not more, do the best they can. Reviewers in general do not get any money for their work and yet give their efforts and time to provide us with a limited idea of a product.So, it is not really fair to go too far in the complaint department; if anybody is unsatisfied with a commercial product, then they should ask for their money back. But, there is no reason to criticize those who work for free in a small hobby like ours. In the end, FS is a computer game, a pastime, a nice hobby. Is it right to expect that it should come up to the same quality standards as automakers (Toyota?), agro-business (salmonella in your lettuce?) or enormous computer and software makers (iPhone antenna?)? If even the biggest and richest don't get it right, then maybe the problem is that life is not perfect and we must get used to it.All the very best wishes for joy in your holiday season.Luis
You are absolutely right Luis. And on the same subject: best wishes for the holiday season.Pierre

Pierre

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For one thing there is a review feedback forum, but it is pretty much unused. I suppose in theory this would be a place to register problems not turned up in a review. From what I've seen/read, I think reviewers spend quite a bit of time on their reviews, but at the end of the day, can only really report what their experience is on their system. Now maybe there are some folks with several different testbeds, but that's a chore to keep up. Just the deltas between XP x86 and 7 X64, then throw in everything else (like locale settings or alternative language installs) that could possibly impact FS and addons.scott s..
OMG...I would hate to think what would happen if someone posted a negative review there. Have you not seen the arguments here between some of the Dev's and their "customers"? That is not really a bad thing because no one wants to visit the forums everyday to view verbal fist fights. I really don't think that the "problem" is with the guys who write the reviews or the DEV's. Having read what must be millions of post.....well, a bunch for sure over the past 10 years or so, I have come to the conclusion right or wrong, most all real or imagined problems with FSX and add ons are my fault....and yours too!Point Number One:Many of the treads you see things like "we are just a small user group" "Microsoft is not making any money off us". These statements are true to a point. However, it must be pointed out that love them or hate them, they are one of the largest and most successful companys on the planet. One fact that you can take to the bank is that they are not going to continue to spend millions of dollars to develope FSX, or Flight if there is no profit to be made. We in the "Flight Sim Hobby" need to stop acting like the commercial vendors and developers are doing us a favor by producing a product. It is a very simple procedure really. If you like a product and it fits your needs then purchase it and enjoy! If it does not fit your needs or you just don't like it then ask for your money back politely and tell them why. That works everytime at Wally World and Lowes. Oh you bought a product from a company that does not have a demo version or refund program. Then my friend you are the one who is at fault.Point Number two:Dev's and vendors, intentional or not, many times your answers seem to imply that you are doing us a favor by even marketing a product. I have to think that you do not mean too come across that way. Like any hobby, many of us have thousands of dollars invested in hardware and software. As a sub group of the hobby we do not deserve that kind of attitude. As someone said recently, Flight Sim is not a life and death situation....it is much more important than that!! LOL! As a consumer, I do not recall ever having heard in the Golf Pro shop anything like "Geese...Golf is just a game man. I can order that 400.00 putter for you but get real! I have a putter right here and it's only $10.00....why don't you just buy that one. I am way to busy to order what you want. It just does not happen! Yet, someone in a forum ask about a feature and the answer was very similar to "God man it is just a simulator! Don't you people have a life!!? It was not a pretty thing. Now....this is about us and not them, As good customers we need to not reward that attitude with our hard earned cash.Point number three:There are many kind folks out there who expend a lot of time and energy working to improve our hobby. I don't have to list them. If you have spent more than a few days enjoying our pastime, then you already know who they are. The rest of us need to follow their example and give back. I will be the first to raise my hand and say that I am way guilty. If more of us were involved in helping others then our hobby would grow and more money would get spent and we would get much better toys to play with. It may be as simple as a few private messages to help someone with a problem. I have always wondered why there are no local "flying" clubs either virtural or real world. An example that comes to mind is the hobby of RC modeling. Many local clubs show up at the mall to show off their hobby and recruit new members with a good deal of success. I have searched the forums and I just don't see that sort of activity. There are many folks out there far better at organizing such groups but I live in Pensacola, Fl and if there are any folks in this area interested then PM or email me. There it is....that simple....be a part of the solution, be a good consumer, demand better products, treat the dev's with a little respect and the toys will come.I hope everyone takes these remarks in the positive way they are intended. AVSIM is a great conduit of information and it sure would be nice to have the entire community come together to promote our hobby. It would be a win-win for all concerned.

Sam

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Guest robains
I very much doubt that there are many reviewers out there who get paid for their efforts. At most, they may be lucky enough to get a free copy of the product being reviewed. Same thing for beta testers. Most would be volunteers who beta test because they love the hobby and like the opportunity to get their hands on the software before everyone else.There simply isn't enough money in flightsim software to pay for the kind of quality assurance that you are asking for.
I suspect that might be the case, but I honestly don't know the financials from these various commercial products -- do you have access to their financials (profits/loss, quanity sold, etc.) and can share? They seem to be able to crank out product after product so I'm guessing they're making enough money or else they would just stop. But many of the developers actually own various aircraft so your not going to find much of a bleeding heart from me - real aircraft aren't cheap.As for the reviewers, again I suspect you are correct ... I recall doing some work several years ago for FS, I had massed many many hours of real ATC chatter -- a good 100+ hours of work recording and then adjusting the recordings to correct format, trimming, etc. etc. I was contacted by a vendor and who wanted all my recordings and in exchange I would get "listed in the credits". In hind sight I should have asked them to show me their financials before I agreed to give away 100+ hours of work -- it would NOT be fair to see that Vendor making a bunch of money from others work they got for free.Luis,I didn't and still don't know if the reviewers work for free, so you can't really blame me for that (see above). But you need to keep in mind that these products often cost more than FSX itself, sometimes A LOT more so it's difficult to toss away $100's of dollars on products that don't work.Flight 1 UT2 is a good example of how NOT to sell a product. Their support is aweful, darn right rude! Some of the suggestions above are spot on in terms of going to the forums to try and "discover" the real truth about a product and it's support -- however, in the case of Flight 1 UT2, they do NOT permit access to their support forum unless one has a valid product license. So I have to purchase the product before I can really find out the issues/problems with it -- that IMHO is NOT good business practice and certainly isn't good for the community.But please do bare in mind that a "community" exists because of consumers (like myself), not the other way around. Our contribution to the community is by buying products. It's reasonable to expect that those products at least work and don't have really serious flaws (like no VC) -- I can live with small issues here and there, but what I'm seeing lately are products that don't install, don't work at all when installed, and crash FSX.And a happy holiday to all.Rob.

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Flight 1 UT2 is a good example of how NOT to sell a product. Their support is aweful, darn right rude! Some of the suggestions above are spot on in terms of going to the forums to try and "discover" the real truth about a product and it's support -- however, in the case of Flight 1 UT2, they do NOT permit access to their support forum unless one has a valid product license. So I have to purchase the product before I can really find out the issues/problems with it -- that IMHO is NOT good business practice and certainly isn't good for the community.Rob.
Strange. I bought UT2 the day it became available. I have used it ever since and experienced no problem whatsoever on 3 operating systems (XP32. XP64 and Seven 64) and I even changed hardware twice. Neither have I ever seen the developers being rude to anyone on their forums. User feedback about the "real truth", whatever that may be, was available on many public forums including this one. If you were so unhappy, why didn't you ask for a refund ? For Flight1, it is 30 days, no questions asked.

KInd regards

Jean-Paul

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Strange. I bought UT2 the day it became available. I have used it ever since and experienced no problem whatsoever on 3 operating systems (XP32. XP64 and Seven 64) and I even changed hardware twice. Neither have I ever seen the developers being rude to anyone on their forums. User feedback about the "real truth" whatever that may be was available on many public forums including this one. If you were so unhappy, why didn't you ask for a refund ? For Flight1, it is 30 days, no questions asked.
I was thinking the same thing. I have had UT2 since it came out, updated to the current version SP2 and love it, lots of accurate traffic with minimal FPS hit. As well, I have never seen anyone being rude on their forum. I will say this as well about their service. When I first updated to SP2 I was having a smartassemably error that I couldn't solve and they went as far as having Tom Main, one of the developers of UT2, actually give me a phone call one night to get it sorted out. It turned out that in my case, even though I had all three simconnects installed on my system, I had one version of simmconnect that had been updated by MS and UT2 required the newer version to work correctly. I'm not saying that they will call of their customers, but in all the years of using FS, that was the first developer that actually went that far to help me with an issue.Like Jean-Paul said, they have a 30 refund policy so you can get a refund if your not satisfied with their products.

Avsim Board of Directors | Avsim Forums Moderator

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Am in agreement with Robains. I rarely buy commercial software now after being stung by reading innaccurate reviews and buying rushed software releases that don't work properly.I will try software from Flight1 and Eaglesoft purely because they offer a money back guarantee. Other developers take note.I won't risk buying from any other company apart from Real Air Simulations (SF260/Spitfire/Duke). Excellent releases and brilliant support. Long may they continue to produce good-looking accurately simulated software. To be fair the Quality Wings 757 is also now very good although it has taken a few months to get SP2 out.I still find it amazing that companies claim to use beta-testers but continue to release unfinished or buggy software. I don't take any notice of reviews now as most are written by people with no real-world flying qualifications (with a few rare exceptions). Reviewing a complex addon with no knowledge of how the systems work in real-life renders the review useless to those who want to buy it BECAUSE it replicates the real thing. I want a product that simulates the real aircraft (within the limits of FSX). To me that is what a SIMULATION is all about. Looking pretty is not good enough. Especially for the silly kind of money companies expect us to part with without trying the product first.I do applaud those developers who continue to produce excellent freeware for our community (Open Clouds/Rick Piper etc). Thank you for your time and patience in supporting our wonderful hobby.

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