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DaveCT2003

2017 Ushers in Big Change in Flight Simulation Development

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Those who watch the flight sim world carefully will have noticed a growing trend in our world where products are concerned, namely the dispensing with any level of testing of products before they are released.

 

I'm not going to debate whether this is good or bad for our community, just point out that is likely has become the norm for paying customers to perform work traditionally done by the developer, which means the customer are paying to become testers of the products themselves.

 

As an experienced tester of flight sim products, I note today that a product was released that has so many discrepancies that it would have never been released by the developers I normally work with - problems that were so easy to find (they literally jump out at you) and correct that I could have resolved the 20 or so issues myself in less than an hour effort, which begs the question why did the develop not even check his own product before release?  I would have been embarrassed to release a product with the number of easy to spot and resolve problems as this product has, and I'd have been embarrassed to say I was on the testing team (though I seriously doubt there was one).

 

Now the flip side of this means that we'll get products faster, and if the developers act quickly to correct issues identified by customers will get error free software faster.

 

Again, I'm not weighing in on whether this practice is good or bad for the community, it's really up to individuals to say for themselves.  But what I will way is that given the number of products I'm seeing that had little or no testing (and I promise that the number of products is likely larger than most of our community knows), I do believe that developers should tell customers if the product has or has not been tested when it's released. I believe that's the fair, honest, and honorable thing to do.

 

NOTE:  Late last year FSFX released an Alpha version of Chase Plane to the community.  They were upfront about the product being in Alpha, yet the product was so highly functional that most all users thoroughly loved it. I had the opportunity to become familiar with this product for a few months before it was released, and I personally voted for the release. The way FSFX released it was terrific, and I believe that FSFX established a model for how and when an Alpha or Beta should be released to paying customers.  Now, I have to be honest (and I always will), Chase Plane was at the level that most tested payware is when it's released - the guys at FSFX are just so open and honest that in their eyes it was a Alpha.

 

I've been in the flight sim community for well over 30 years, and I'm very happy to see our community growing like it's presently doing - everyone should be!  But growth means changes, and not all of them will be good. We also have developers who are younger and younger, and while talented they lack a little experience and are quick to jump to decisions with their products. Without the presence of standards or a body to weigh in on important matters (which will likely never happen), it's up to the paying customers to decide what is, or isn't' acceptable.

 

Okay, post now officially far too long.  Thank you for listening.

 

 

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I agree with your concerns, which seems to - at least to my knowledge and experience - stem from gaming; paying for beta is quite normal on main stream outlets like Steam. This phenomenon has now reached our little part of the pond. I guess I'm ok with it. It might enable more fledgling developers to get into the market and stay there before their funds run out, which in turn is good for us as consumers. However, as you say, we will on the flip side of that receive products most of us would deem sub par, all the while we pay for the unfinished product.

 

As the saying goes: there are upsides and downsides to everything.

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I agree with your concerns, which seems to - at least to my knowledge and experience - stem from gaming; paying for beta is quite normal on main stream outlets like Steam. This phenomenon has now reached our little part of the pond. I guess I'm ok with it. It might enable more fledgling developers to get into the market and stay there before their funds run out, which in turn is good for us as consumers. However, as you say, we will on the flip side of that receive products most of us would deem sub par, all the while we pay for the unfinished produc

 

Andres, you're correct regarding your assertion that paying for beta games via Steam has been going on for years. However, those early releases are normally offered at a substantial discount. My son does this often; he usually pays $12 - $20 per game that typically sell for $50 or more. Unfortunately, that phenomenon has not carried over to our little world. Most developers charge full price, or offer minimal discounts to procure their unfinished products. I find that business practice to be unsatisfactory and choose not to engage in those programs. There are simply too many "Airsimmer" and too few "PMDGs" in our world...

 

I find it comical that developers expect us to assume the risk of buying an unfinished product, help them find and resolve bugs, and assist with fine tuning their respective products while charging us full price. That's unfair, IMO....

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I disagree with paying to beta test as well. Some will do this anyway so publishers will get away with it. 

 

Ironic it is kind of like how Regional Airlines will pay a pilot $20,000 a year when starting out. There is always a pilot willing to take the job regardless, this feeds on peoples passion for what they are pursuing when the airline knows they can get away with it.

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just point out that is likely has become the norm for paying customers to perform work traditionally done by the developer, which means the customer are paying to become testers of the products themselves.

 

Yes and no, depending on the developer and a possible reason why.

 

The cost (payroll) of some of the small developers as they create products for us continues over an often long period of time with the payoff being when the job is 'done'. Some developers have the financial resources to sustain this financial obligation during development (think PMDG/A2A/MilViz) while others don't as you mentioned above. Some are in between like ChasePlane  and TFDi. Typically there's going to be enough commentary either at these forums or elsewhere giving a potential buyer the information they need to make the correct decision for themselves.

 

I just bought Chaseplane last night (haven't installed it yet) based on everything I mentioned above and for me, I think all will work out just fine.

 

Cheers,

Mark

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I'm ok with it. If you don't want to use early access and pay full price then that is fine. You get a release product but pay the full price for it.

If you want to help a Dec and get a discount then jump on the early access. I tend to as I want to help smaller devs as there aren't enough.

I'm not saying there aren't any but I'm struggling to think of any add ons that recently came out as early access that didn't have a discount on them.

So long as you are told it is early access then I can't see the problem, but they need to follow through with finishing the product in a reasonable time otherwise it is out of order.

 

Chris

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Buying a pre-release (Early Access, Beta, Alpha etc.) is certainly a risk. As someone said, Airsimmers is a prime example of what can go wrong with this concept. I think that it is capital to let the user know when it's a pre-release and not to pretend the software is finished when it's half baked.

 

This being said, software are getting more and more complex and it becomes increasingly hard for developers to do the testing in an efficient amount of time. Sometimes the software is working perfectly for a tester pool of 10-15 persons but goes catastrophic when released to public. By releasing it early, more bugs gets fixed in a short amount of time. At the end, everybody wins.

 

Another great part of a pre-release process is customer feedback. As the developer is still deep in the code and still in the development phase of the software, it becomes possible to make major changes to the code to accommodate user-submitted ideas and improvements that wouldn't have been viable after the "final" version. To give an example, we have rewritten major parts of the turbulence system in ChasePlane based on customers provided feedback.

 

I think pre-release software have their reasons to be but sometimes, things don't always go according to plans.

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I purchased Chaseplane about 10 days ago. I will only purchase beta software from trusted developers like FSFX Packages, LR (XPLANE 11) Air Hauler 2 etc.

It all depends on their reputation, feedback etc.

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The only power that you hold over how well they make their products is your wallet.

 

If no one buys their products they will either go out of business or be forced to make better add-ons.

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Anyone who purchases a beta or early access product and then complains really has no one to blame but themselves. I'm speaking generally, ignoring some obvious disasters that should never have seen the light of day, but if it's beta - expect that there might be issues and/or major changes.

 

I've found that those who go into a beta project with the idea of getting in on the ground floor and helping shape the development of an add on are much more tolerant than those who are trying to get a finished product at a low price.

 

As for the developers, as Kevin Menard said - there are so many configurations out there today, there is no way a small dedicated beta team could cover all the potential conflicts. Frankly, IMHO, the current state of systems absolutely demands that an open beta be done else the developer faces some serious headaches on release.

 

Vic

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Personally, I regard buying a beta release of something as a way of encouraging a developer and saying: 'yup, you're making something I want, keep going'. and in doing so of course ensuring that they ain't skint whilst doing the work. As a consequence, if there ever is anything like that in progress, I'm usually in for the early access. It can sometimes be a risk, but more often than not I've found it works out okay. But, they do need to be upfront about that being the process (as is the case on Steam with early access things).

 

That's a world away from someone taking the money for something that is claimed to be finished and then spending two years (and sometimes never managing) to sort the thing out. True it might not always be the intent to mislead if someone bites off more than they can chew development-wise, but there have clearly been cases with FS add-ons where that has occured and we all know which developers we're talking about with that malarkey, some of whom have been repeat offenders at it as we know.

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why did the develop not even check his own product before release?

 

Because a directly competitive (and better in my view) product was announced to be released today (which is one day after).

I've seen a few similar cases before. Some developers will not finish (forget beta testing!) a product and will release it hoping to get some money before the competitive one is out and takes over the flow of euros/dollars.

 

The only cure is to keep common sense, a pinch of caution and patience, and refrain from buying some products without thourough checking what they are like and waiting for opinions (these usually come very quickly).

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I think that it is capital to let the user know when it's a pre-release and not to pretend the software is finished when it's half baked.

 

Exactly.  The problem isn't that developers sell not-ready-for-primetime software - it's when they don't disclose that that's what they're doing.  What gets people angry is the bad surprise of finding out that what they thought was a finished (or at least release-ready) product wasn't.  Developers that launch early have to manage expectations.  Transparency is everything.

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I think, there is LESS LOVE  for the project and less interest for the experience the user will have by using the product, and, much more focus and desire for the money...

I'm talking about the mindset of the developer, not whether a developer should ask money for his effort.

Fortunately there are still developers who love their projects and respect the experience of the users.

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