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pryoski

Open letter to developers who wish to or currently simulate GA type aircraft for X-Plane

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Dear X-Plane GA developer,

I believe a lot of the X-Plane GA flying public feel as I do; but I have no proof of that other than my own personal experience and from anecdotal observation.

 

Observation 1.

Similar to their tuber brethren, the GA simmer loves detail and complexity for its own sake. Please simulate *All* the switches and functionality in the cockpit. The more complete the sim is, the happier we'll be.

 

Observation 2.

Conversely, the GA simmer hates it when visual function is omitted because the detail in question is deemed to be *unnecessary* in the scheme of simulating the experience. Case in point; toe break movement in rudder pedals. Patently unnecessary in simulating the flight experience ... has no teaching value and takes coding time … but; we like it and we notice it when your newer planes now don’t show this feature.

 

Observation 3.

The GA simmer will always feel let down by a switch that does nothing. If it’s painted in the cockpit it should do something! It’s a real bummer to try fiddling the Aux. Air switch and then realising it’s not ever going to activate … or finding that the Hobbs-meter has been stuck on 62.5 hours for the last umpteen flights.

 

Observation 4.

Some of you are getting this already I think, because a lot of the newer crop of GA developers are incorporating *completeness for the sake of completeness* into their planes. Others appear to be stuck in the past. If you claim the plane is a high-fidelity treatment, please make it so … I will not buy an aircraft from a developer who lets me down in this area even if I find it *very hard* to resist the *shiny* … but resist the shiny I will. I promise that I will only buy those planes from developers who create very complete GA aircraft … or who promise to keep working on a plane until the high-fidelity grail has been reached.

 

Observation 5.

Good enough just isn’t good enough anymore, I'll be voting with my wallet.

 

Observation 6.

Flight modelling is generally pretty good. :)

 

 

In a nutshell

We want PMDG/IXEG/LES SAAB/A2A level of completeness in all our planes ... even if it is just a model of a para-glider. 

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Kris, I think you're going to save yourself a significant amount of money in this hobby.

 

I understand your wishes; in fact I share some of them myself.  But I think it's far too much to demand of even the most populous platforms, much less X-Plane. Time, budgets, return on investment, potential users, even a lack of skilled coders to create all of these desired features for every release, these all impact the feasibility of what you're wanting. And if you were to boycott every developer who wasn't aiming for 100% functionality right off the bat, you'd be depriving developers of the chance to keep refining and improving through successive releases.

 

I think it's far better to encourage and suggest the features you want, and then be willing to meet the developers (with your wallet) somewhere in the middle.

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Hi Jim, upvoted you because I think you're mostly right, but I'm hoping that we'll be headed that way eventually.

 

I didn't want to use the boycott word but I guess it could be seen as that :), I'll just have to be happy with the planes that fit my buying criterion and fly some of the bigger planes more often.

 

I'll probably cave in and get the A2A for P3D as well lol.

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Hi Kris,

 

okay, read your letter and we'll stop release of new products immediately until we have the money, time, and experience to offer you an A2A level aircraft. Expect our next product in 4 to 5 years with X-Plane 12.  :wink:

 

 

...

 

 

No, we won't, of course. Sorry for the slight sarcasm. I actually understand where you're coming from and have thought a lot about it, too, because as a user I also want to have deeply simulated aircraft. For quite a long time I have complained about the lack of A2A level aircraft for X-Plane, also in public (in Geman-language in FS MAGAZIN, for example). But once I started to work with vFlyteAir, my views changed -- for two reasons:

 

1. It's really hard to achieve something like A2A. Starting with access to the real aircraft and flight experience with that. In the Cherokee 140 we were lucky that Walker does use this aircraft. But for the next project this possibility for first-hand experience does not exist. A2A have the advantage that, as far as I know, they have first-hand experience with real aircraft for all their products. Also, A2A have not always been on this high level they have now. It took them many years and constant updates.

 

2. You suddenly have to take care of user requests and user feedback. And there you get also the opposite of your open letter. There are some who demand more complexity. And there are equally some who thank us for not having a deep simulation (this was the case with the SR20). This is a problem: Whom should we believe? Users like you? Users who prefer "light systems" aircraft? Of course we try to take the medium approach.

 

The 2nd point is related to the highlighted word:

 

 

 


We want PMDG/IXEG/LES SAAB/A2A level of completeness in all our planes

 

Who is "we"? You mentioned "the GA Simmer" -- a very broad term. Does this include the other group I mentioned? If not, who should develop for them? Or should they stop using X-Plane and go playing a "flying game"?

 

In my opinion, it's also a mistake to say "low system depth" = "bad product". Aircraft with low depth can be good products, too, if the overall package is fine: This means: no glaring bugs, good flight model, useful and consistent documentation, constant updates and the developer should make clear before purchase that the aircraft is for entertainment, not study.

 

In the end, I think the market will be similar to FSX/P3D: How many developers of really deep GA aircraft do you find there? There's A2A, Marcel Felde's Katana, ... most others have medium complexity, not study-level... All types of products find happy customers. It is similar in X-Plane, and this is good.

 

How do you handle these aspects in your letter? Currently, the consequence of your letter is basically: "Either get to A2A level (and if this includes changing your entire business model it's not our problem) or stop your business (because we won't buy your products anymore)". 

 

 

I'm not sure if this would be good for the X-Plane market which finally, after all these years, offers options for everybody.

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I hear where you're coming from Mario; there are real economic constraints etc, but as you say you used to think like me before you became a developer. I love your Cherokee by the way.

 

Your perspective back then (via your example) includes the *we* sentiment that I refer to. Basically *we* are all who share the want for more depth and accuracy and represents a nebulous and hard to quantify group of people :). It'd be nice to be able to run an accurate census!

 

I'm NOT giving an ultimatum. Developers are free to keep developing however they wish just as I am ultimately able to choose products that align with my wants ...

 

The EDIT - You are also ABSOLUTELY correct .. there is a market for non study sim level. I am just expressing a want :)

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Who is "we"? You mentioned "the GA Simmer" -- a very broad term. Does this include the other group I mentioned? If not, who should develop for them? Or should they stop using X-Plane and go playing a "flying game"?

Very good point Mario!

 

This is something I see quite often in forum threads, where people say things like:

  • We XYZ definitely need this / that feature ...
  • Everybody agrees that this / that is a must have feature ...
  • All users see this / that as a showstopper, and should have highest priority ...

In the best case, this is just some shortsightedness on behalf of the poster, in the worst case, its just pure manipulative wording .... Because I doubt, that any of these posters (or at least less than 1%) have real statistic data to support their observation.

 

All these sentences do overlook, that the flight simulation community is MUCH more diverse than one would expect. And this is mostly because flight simulation is an extremely (and beautifully) diverse are, where users have a lot of different approaches and preferences.

 

Thus: I openly request users to stop using sentences like I posted, and try to think a bit more openly / broadly about the entire flight simming business.

 

PS: I am definitely (and explicitly) want to emphasize, that I am not wanting to stop anyone from being critical (and write criticism) ... its just about the fact, that the way you do it (the wording) can make a very big difference in how it is perceived (and if you reach you goal before turning down the recipients interest / mood).

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I could also lobby PMDG to make me an Aztec and the Beaver, Otter & Twin Otter family lol.

Please, AltPilot .. I explicitly pointed out that I don't have statistical information. In fact I thought I went to great pains to point out that I don't! 

I'm NOT being shortsighted .. I'm expressing a want. When you say I'm being shortsighted, YOU are telling me that I should be happy with what I get? Wow .. that's not nice you know.

My *criticism* as you put it was lightly worded. It was very general and alluded to examples of things that my flying buddies and I have talked about in passing.

I'm sure you don't need to get upset about it. Please reread what I wrote and understand that I wrote without a hint of rancour though it's still my right to choose what I'll buy and what I won't. I've just decided as an INDIVIDUAL to exercise my choices :)

There are all types in the flight simming community. I may even be a minority; even then I'd like to let my perspective be known just in case anyone decides that it's a good idea ;).

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All, by way of further explanation, I have a substantial stable of Carenado planes. 

I have recently become acquainted with REP, and they are a godsend. SimCoders have influenced my desire for more accurate performance and henceforth I'll only be buying the planes that SimCoders have a REP plan in place :) ... not because I hate Carenado but because I love Carenado + REP! 

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I don't think that Andras/AlpilotX was meaning to insult you.

 

I think with "shortsighted" he was just referring to the fact that for a single individual its own wishes are often the most important, and that some users forget (he did not speak directly of you, but in general) that there are opposite, but still equally valid wants.

 

Maybe in the sense that some users don't consider that in the long run a balance has to be found. This balance can either be in a product itself (such as in a "medium" complexity aircraft that is suitable for a large group), or in the market (which has a place both for PMDG and CaptainSim).

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But from a community point of view, in which I envision a welcoming community where old and new users of FSX, X-Plane, DCS and others play and fly together, with respect for each other and each other’s decision for one product or the other (without flame wars… just yesterday I read one on Facebook related to PMDG’s decision to release the DC-6 first for X-Plane instead of FSX; I honestly don’t understand how somebody can feel personally insulted by such a decision), DTG’s approach is creating just another fragment and border within the community.

From Mario's EXCELLENT article @ http://flyingxplane.apps-1and1.net/the-playful-the-serious/

 

Just thought I'd re-iterate Mario's excellent analysis!

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Just thought I'd re-iterate Mario's excellent analysis!

 

Thanks for the quote ;)

 

I just want to add that of course everything I say has to be taken with a grain of salt, because due to my work for vFlyteAir and partly Aerobask (manuals) I have of course a personal interest that people continue to buy our aircraft -- even if they have light or medium complexity ;)

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Yes, we often see the word "we" thrown around in posts like this, when in reality every simmer wants something different. If we are to believe the stats from X-Plane, most people fly with the mouse anyway.

 

Simulating all switches is going to hugely increase the cost and time required to develop such addons. Personally, I don't care if the circuit breakers or air vents aren't simulated, what I do care about is that the plane looks good visually, doesn't cost £200 and flys somewhat realistically.

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circuit breakers

 

By the way, in Carenado's early X-Plane releases, I think it was the Cessna C185F, the circuit breakers worked. Okay, it is not SO difficult in X-Plane to have basic breakers functionality, but still -- Carenado with circuit breakers! :) Back then I asked Dan Klaue about that, and why he did not include that feature in later releases. Well, users simply did not care about that. :(

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Well, Mario already summed it up all very well! Thank you for that!

 

Its not about insulting anybody here ... its about general observations in the community (which I made over many years), and how most users easily miss the view from the other side (the reasons for which any developer makes the choices he makes ... which is often much more complex than most of you might imagine .... AND usually the developer also has a much better statistical understanding of his user base).

 

And I repeat: I am definitely NOT against criticism. Constructive(!) and well worded (which can be hard) criticism or wishes are very useful and important to make the developers aware of what one is missing / looking for etc..

 

For me its about this "we all know / everybody agrees" way of - well, little bit - manipulative writing which I can't stand (and is sometimes revealing about the user who uses these terms).

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Well personally I don't need every single switch to be functional. Circuit breakers etc. are not really used during normal operation, and if you want, you can still check that they are in as part of your checklist, even if they're not functional.

 

I really like A2A's aircraft, and sometimes I take the time to follow the checklists to the letter. However this takes time and effort. Sometimes I'm tired after work and only have an hour or less to play the sim. So I just want to do a short, relaxing flight. Going through all the procedures would take up most of that hour. On those days, I'm grateful for my Alabeo planes...

 

The main reason I prefer GA over tubeliners is the simplicity and pure "flying" as opposed to operating complex systems, so this may have something to do with it. I get enough of managing complex systems at work. At home, I just want to relax :smile:

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If we are to believe the stats from X-Plane, most people fly with the mouse anyway.

 

That is amazing! 

By the way, in Carenado's early X-Plane releases, I think it was the Cessna C185F, the circuit breakers worked. Okay, it is not SO difficult in X-Plane to have basic breakers functionality, but still -- Carenado with circuit breakers! :) Back then I asked Dan Klaue about that, and why he did not include that feature in later releases. Well, users simply did not care about that. :sad:

 

Yes .. and even un REP-ed the Carenado C185 is one of my favourite airplanes which I regularly fly :)

 

 

The main reason I prefer GA over tubeliners is the simplicity and pure "flying" as opposed to operating complex systems, so this may have something to do with it. I get enough of managing complex systems at work. At home, I just want to relax

 

I understand Jimmi! That is why I love bush flying GA. :)

 

I also like to drive my car. When I drive my car, I know all the switches work and yet I can still jump in and take it for a spin. I do the same for the AirFoilLabs C172 because in reality it's not a complicated plane; but I choose the AFL 172 over the Carenado 172 (which I own) and the X-Plane default 172 because it *feels* better and it's more complete ... maybe just in my mind lol!

 

BTW, I can live without circuit breakers being modeled either especially in larger planes ... but nice to have in the smaller airplanes I think.

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One more aspect - or example respectively - one should not forget: the 80/20 principle (or be it 70/30, …). It’s not that hard to achieve 80% of a goal, namely by investing 20% of effort. For the remaining 20% of the goal, you need 80% effort.

 

Even more extreme in this regard is e.g the Formula 1. The car of a midfield team needs, say, 90 seconds per lap. The team invests e.g. 100 million $ per season. The top teams are driving 2 seconds (=2.2%) faster. But they have to invest 500 million $ (=400% more) per season for that. Actually totally mad and unreasonable. Of course, F1 is a special case, but you see the point.

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I don't see a point in replicating all circuit breakers, with full functioning electrical systems.  More than not, a lot of breakers, as well as fuses, won't be reset in flight. I think that too many simmers get into the "what if", and want to play with items to the point of expecting "break downs" within the systems, and are disappointed  when simulation doesn't portray it accurately. Kind of like the "what if", if I intentionally  crash, or make a very hard landing.  It a developer has the capacity to model all electrical systems, then fine. I just don't expect it to be a requirement, or a "bar" that must be met, since single pilot operations,  won't be chasing down most electrical failures in flight, and flight engineers took care of most it, on those larger vintage machines.

 

P.S.  --- even these single engine planes take an incredible amount of wiring.  Unless you're just part of a group, who builds wiring bundles on a board, for commercially built airplanes, it can take weeks or months, running it all ( as in more sophisticated experimentals).  I don't think a GA developer needs to learn the whole process, just to replicate it for the flight simmer. If a simmer wants to learn the whole process, then by all means, start studying. 

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I don't see a point in replicating all circuit breakers, with full functioning electrical systems.  More than not, a lot of breakers, as well as fuses, won't be reset in flight. I think that too many simmers get into the "what if", and want to play with items to the point of expecting "break downs" within the systems, and are disappointed  when simulation doesn't portray it accurately.

 

You're right! Scrap the breaker modelling.

I guess what I'm really looking for is complex flight management a'la P-51 in DCS ... actually nearly all the modules in DCS (I own most) but, and it's a big but ... I'm not at all interested in the combat flight sim element and DCS doesn't have a civvie element at all.

 

I think some GA planes have that in X-Plane already or a just about there (AFL, Red Eyes, vFlyteAir) and SimCoders REP applied to Carenado planes I think is a good idea heading in the right direction.

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TBH, A2A's modeling of systems goes beyond DCS's IMH.

 

OTOH, the flight dynamics and overall physics modeling falls way behind what DCS fine tunned, custom developed models offer. A2A's P51d, or a recently P51d released for X-plane 10, can't really be compared to DCS's p51d in this area... Strangely, rotary wing perform a bit better in X-Plane than fixed wing, in comparison to that reference sim, but still not to the level of DCS's uh-1h, mi-8 or ka-50.

 

The simplest test I do to a new flightsim, when possible, is flying a good glider model. With 35 yrs flying gliders, I think i am credited enough to express my opinion, and for sure MSFS and X-plane have really lausy performance, even for the best models I tried on both. Even Aerofly 1 did a much better job, and none compares to the quality of Condorsoaring or SilentWings... Why can't a "simple", unpowered ( less effects to simulate ) be made to fly plausibly on this sims ? I really can't understand....

 

As a simmer, I was "forced" to use combat sims like DCS and il2 BoS because I can't find anywhere near quality in flight dynamics - maybe Aerofly 2 can offer some good alternative, but I do not own that one.... So, as much as I would like to use aircraft in X-Plane, I decided to completely give up and use the sim simply as a visuals generator, a task it does pretty much convincingly... and fly a Boeing 747 which is as detailled as it could be in a PC-based platform.... flight dynamics, systems and weather modeling wise ( I also benefit from the visual aspects of it's weather modeling in X-Plane ).

 

If a GA could be designed for X-Plane performing at least as good as the props in DCS, even if only flight dynamics wise, I would feel really glad about it....

 

Last time I spent some time and enthusiasm with the flight dynamics fine tuning in X-plane was with an Me 109 G-2 commercially available for X-Plane. I made some suggestions to the author which were incorporated in the first patch, and indeed the level detail, flight dynamics and systems wise, is very good, way above the best offer of a similar ww2 warbird for the MSFS and derived platforms, but still way behind DCS or IL-2 ....

 

I don't like to see the need to do things out of the sim core in order to enhance flight dynamics, just as A2A and PMDG do with MSFS and derivates... I accept it when it comes to complex systems modeling of course, but heck! A complex core like the one X-plane offers should, IMHO, do much better....

 

I'll wait and see what XP11 will bring of new in this area...

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I think it's great that there are at least a few GA models with deep systems modeling, but if that were a baseline requirement, I wouldn't be able to fly some of my favorite planes in X-Plane because they're not as popular as the typical GA planes.

 

If the bar was raised that high for payware, we'd probably have a stable of only the most popular Cessnas, Pipers, and Beech planes that would sell in large enough numbers. We probably wouldn't have the planes I enjoy flying like the MU-2, the Turbo Goose, the LES DC-3, or the Twin Otter. These are what a systems nut would probably call medium-level sims at best, not actual study sims. But I love flying them anyway. I'm glad someone cared enough to model them even at this level, because they would probably never be done at all if the requirement was 100% systems modeling. 

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I can easily say I've spent much time enjoying releases of minimal complexity, just as I have spent months at a time enjoying 'ownership' simulations such as Marcel's DA20.

I personally enjoy having working breakers, even if the underlying systems that might cause them to pop aren't modeled. The fact that they aren't yet a guaranteed thing in every developers release means that I still have a little bit of a 'oh wow' moment when I explore the cabin of a new release and find them present. However, it's very true that the majority of the time they're simply eye-candy (mouse-candy?) and once discovered, they're not really used much.

A few things in my memory stand out though: On the Dodosim 206, there were only a few breakers modeled, but they were absolutely a key part of the startup routine. The fact that they were present AND intended to be used every time you started or shut down the 206 was wonderful.

Also, on the enjoyable Globe Swift that was released by AH for FSX/P3D awhile back, it had a single animated breaker on the panel that had an exposed LVAR but no functionality. It was for the electrical operation for the hydraulically activated gear and flaps. I coded a custom gauge for the Swift that allowed for wear and tear caused by flap over-speed to be persistent, and cause a partial flap failure where only one side would fail, which in turn caused an interesting amount of roll / yaw that had to be counteracted while attempting to raise the remaining good side. The catch was that I also caused that 3D modeled and animated breaker to pop, meaning that the pilot had to reset the breaker before trying to raise the flaps.. or even lower the gear for landing.

It was quirk, likely not a terribly accurate simulation, something that I couldn't really share since I heavily borrowed flap failure sounds from the RealAir Legacy, but it was enjoyable. And of course I would of never have been able to tie it into a working breaker, had it not been modeled in the first place.

I guess this really brings me into something I've been thinking about.

Where I really appreciate the work done by developers isn't necessarily into things that are simply for looks, but for things that teach us that there are consequences for not doing things correctly. The idea of persistence, even if it's very minor, is something that I think is a great area to be explored. One of the major strengths of Marcel's DA20, or the A2A fleet, is the enjoyment of keeping an aircraft in good running condition by treating it properly. One of my favorite memories of the first version of RealAir's Legacy was the first time I came in on descent far too fast, lowered the flaps, and was treated with the loud 'bang' and resulting flutter when they failed.

I think this is an area that GA developers could carefully explore. There's likely a fine line here - you don't want to alienate customers that don't care about such things or just want things to work. For all of the enjoyment I have gotten out of my A2A aircraft, I've also faced annoyance when the real world weather I was flying in gave me a very chilly morning, and I just couldn't get my 182 to start without killing the battery, forcing a trip to the hangar. There's a point where it likely becomes too real. But it's an interesting thought process, and there's likely numerous small ways for developers to introduce subtle (and optional) methods to reinforce proper operation.

On that topic, I was also recently thinking that perhaps a lot of this weight doesn't need to be carried by the developers. Wouldn't it be great if the platform itself did the heavy lifting? The portion of the XP11 features presentation about PBR got me thinking about this, when Ben was talking about developers not needing to create different reflective materials, but simply defining a set of criteria for how the material should reflect light and letting the rendering engine do the rest. The same theory could apply to systems - the idea being that a developer could provide a set of criteria for an aircraft (temperature limits, oil use, rate of accrued wear, anything really) and it could be up to the platform to provide the ability to track these things, in the same way that it might track fuel usage, for example, and all the developer might have to do is provide feedback (if desired) to the user.

Just thinking out loud there, and I know there's 'bigger fish to fry' but (in my mind at least) the idea sure sounds neat. :wink:

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Where I really appreciate the work done by developers isn't necessarily into things that are simply for looks, but for things that teach us that there are consequences for not doing things correctly. The idea of persistence, even if it's very minor, is something that I think is a great area to be explored.

 

Persistence is an interesting idea, although if it's modeled realistically it would also include things like small reductions in maximum piston engine performance over time due to component wear. Also slightly lower maximum airspeeds as the rivets loosen up and the airframe goes a little bit out of alignment, etc. No older plane performs exactly like a brand new one fresh from the factory, which is basically what we get every time we load a model in our flight sims. I'm not sure how many people would want something like this.

 

There is a small nod to accumulated wear in the FSEconomy game, where the virtual dollar value of planes is higher when they're brand new (i.e. first appear in the database), and the value declines a bit as they accumulate hours logged in the game. You also have to pay for 100 hr. service, and even engine replacement after a certain number of hours. So you may still be flying a factory-fresh plane every time, but at least you're paying fees related to accumulated wear. Both the accumulated airframe hours and how close it is to the nearest overhaul or engine replacement affect the price you pay when you buy a "used" aircraft in the game. On the other hand there are no penalties for mishandling the aircraft in a way that would cause damage, so it's just a minor attempt to model real world impacts of plane ownership. 

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Comparing to DCS is tough as most of the flightmodel has to come from the aircraft developer not the sim as in FSX/P3D/X-Plane. DCS  have the same level of access to the real thing as A2A in most respects, that's why they are so good.

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