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Guest cwright

Are there any MS FS developers that come to these forums?

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I've yet to see any posts in the forums that claim to be from anyone on the Microsoft FS development team but then again, I'm relatively new to Avsim and flightsimming in general. I would think it extremely strange if their developers and marketers didn't keep an eye on flight sim forums throughout the internet if for no other reason just curiosity as to how their product is being used.If they are looking, and I suspect they are, why no replies or are they replying and simply being anonymous about it? Since my foray into scenery design, I have some real questions about hidden features that might exist within the program that somehow I know exist and aren't documented in the SDK's. For one thing it would be extremely surprising to me if MS's engineers have to reload the program each time as we do to see the effects of their scenery edits. When I write a program I always include backdoors into certain code areas that I can get to for rapid testing that bypass long procedural code. Game programmers write "cheat codes" into their games, not only because the gamers now expect it for entertainment, but because they are necessary during the debugging phase of development. How can you test a game program if your test player constantly gets killed within the first few seconds of testing. Instead you create a God-mode or jump-ahead ability that allows you to get to an area you want to troubleshoot.I'm convinced there are similar "cheat codes" within FS that allow scenery reloads during program operation simply so program designers don't have to sit around making their high salaries watching the game go through lengthy program restarts.Anyway, if any MS staff is watching and my assumptions are right, it is to your advantage to let us in on some of these secrets including others such as autogen file formats, assurances that new versions aren't going to completely wipe out past aftermarket addons, etc. Imagine how much more productive we scenery designers could be if we had a tool that allowed us to slew around in FS to an area we wish to create scenery for, get detailed information through your SDK about files, data, and paths used to create that scenery, and then use our expertise to create objects, coastlines, mesh, photo tiles, autogen, etc. If we then saved our edits to addon scenery areas and then had a way of communicating to FS to reload the scenery info in the immediate area and redraw the 3D scene, we could see immediately what our next steps would be. Aftermarket addons to your marvelous program are its lifeblood in my opinion and anything you can do to encourage that is job security. Please give it a thought.Art Martin

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Hello Martin,(sorry for my English)I am not a MSFS guy!A great post and a great tool, you want to develop!Yes, I think the release of the detail SDKs in time (when they will release the next game), will save time worldwide!We want to enjoy and develop further a game, and we do not want to

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In addition to what Horst says, we might also imagine that there are other things that prevent the FS Team from actively participating here: - they are pretty busy and on a very tight schedule working on the next version of the game, so probably do not have much free time; - they want to avoid conflicts, abuse, and other unpleasantness that will invariably be directed at them; - the inner workings of the game are a trade secret and Microsoft does want to protect its trade secrets from competitors (the one that is left, anyway).Art, the FS Team does participate in the fora, they do answer specific questions, and are very willing to be as helpful as they can or are allowed to be. However, it is well to remember that add-ons of any kind are not what makes or breaks Microsoft products, particularly those, like FS, without competition.Best regards.Luis

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Hello,Luis, I think, it is better to write down my thoughts in a wonderful forum, then writing emails to some person.We heave to write down our thoughts in forums!!The mass will change it!And the mass will understand it!Microsoft can not handle this! But they should listen to the thoughts, and to our necessary.Kind regardsHorst

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Luis, I do understand that the anonimity might be necessary to prevent the harrassment that would surely come from the less reasonable members and lurkers. I'm not so sure though that MS isn't pleased they have this huge external base of freeware and payware competitors to their own payware additions. This is a unique product that they could never keep up with on their own supplying all the vast worldwide needs of the public. I think without the aftermarket stuff out there that FS would die a slow death, even if MS ramped up their own production of addons. They're simply never going to put the love and attention to detail into products like we scenery designers do. I'm not creating my Phoenix photoreal scenery for the public. I'm creating it for myself so I can fly around familiar surroundings. It's just a nicety to share once I'm done. When Holger created the recent NW America scenery he most likely did it because he has these strong ties to the area. I'm sure your own favorite projects are the ones where you live. Microsoft, just like all huge corporations, has an absolute right to their intellectual creations and legally need not share a lick of it with any of us. However, all of corporate America right now needs this major dose of humility, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it makes great business sense in the long run. We're just in this mode where all problems and solutions seem to only deal with the immediate. I hope they get it eventually.Art

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Hi Art.Microsoft has indicated it may be willing to release SDKs prior to the release of flightsim versions, but has not yet acted in that direction.In the past, SDKs are released much later in the life of the product ( if at all ).As Luis writes, there is little motivation for the design team to support 3rd party developers of after-market addons. They are concerned with the development of a complete product, not a do-it-yourself kit. They really don't care if the LWM polys leave a stubborn flatten behind, because they never rework the original LWM. Oddly, programmers such as yourself support the idea that further MS involvement isn't needed, as the simmers are clever enough to devise their own solutions! And that is a point I have demonstrated before. There is some truth that they will not waste time writing or polishing an SDK if the designers and simmers are not sophisticated enough to handle it.To be fair, MS has already released a great deal of information for designers. And, perhaps more importantly, they have maintained a history of backwardly compatible code. For example, in FS9, they added only a little bit of enhancement concerning LWM and VTP code, which we were able to decipher in a few days. They could have just scrapped LWM and VTP entirely, and left terrain designers in the cold. Likewise, landclass, waterclass and photoreal remained about the same over severaL versions. And autogen was about the same as FS2002.So there is a policy to maintain some design continuity between versions, and that is for the benefit of simmers that have collected 3rd party scenery and aircraft.The addition of code for making landable surfaces attached to objects was in response to frustration over a poor implementation of this in previous versions, and was aimed primarily at 3rd party designers. The MDL/BGLComp/XML coding was a simplification object placement for endusers. So progress has been made.I do know the design parameters of new versions only has room for so many improvments or SDKs. There is a realistic budget to maintain, and time constraints are also a problem. Writing, and error-checking an SDK can be very time consuming, and the authors need to be paid.The MS design team does occasionally read postings from AVSIM, and sometimes makes private communications to some members of the forums. Sometimes, members are invited to share in the design process as advisors or beta testers... those members cannot divulge their secrets due to non-disclosure agreements.Dick

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"The MS design team does occasionally read postings from AVSIM, and sometimes makes private communications to some members of the forums. Sometimes, members are invited to share in the design process as advisors or beta testers... those members cannot divulge their secrets due to non-disclosure agreements."Dick, sign me up if there's a secret decoder ring included.Art

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Hi Art Martinthis topic has been flogged to death. I think lots of designers if not every designed 100% agrees with your comments. I think most designers cross the line where they just get fed up and write a post like this, I certainly have crossed it and posted something like this. In the end, I realised, if I want to continue I just have to suck it up and deal with all the hours wasted. (Strangly enough there is a large group of pure users/non-designers supporting the MS stategy. I wonder if they still would if designers would call it quits, but we're probably too mad to ever give up). I cannot believe that almost 4 years ago I had this vision of turning 1:20,000 data of New Zealand into amazing MSFS scenery and just now I'm about to release a first set. All this time included hacking into bgls as when I started all of the terrain bgls where undocumented.My personal conclusion? I did put me off MSFS designing. I'm still doing it and I'm about to release some amazing scenery for NZ and the Cook Islands, but I don't dedicate all of my computer spare time to scenery designing, I dabble into other things, at the moment pocketpc game programming, but I also got into car racing sims, which get better and better. My enthusiasm comes in phases, but is a lot less compared to a situation where a lot less low level design/hacking would be involved (ie better tools would be availabe from MS).Obviously, MS doesn't think they'll get much out of investing more time into the community, so we just have to cope with it and draw our own conclusions on how much spare time we're comfortable to invest into the half-support from MS.Cheers, Christian

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Hi Art,In general I agree with what has been written above.I think we should also not forget, that the FS users that come to websites like this are maybe only 5% of the total FS market. A lot of people just buy FS in their local shop and never know you can use addons with it etc. Those users in the communities on the internet are only a small part of the total FS sales and you can not expect from MS that they spend very much effort to please only a small part of the users.But some time ago their was a job opening at MS, where they were looking for someone to manage the contact with the different communities for FS etc. Have a look at this post:http://www.scenerydesign.org/forum/showthread.php?t=722The ad itself is gone by now :).So I do have hope that in the future we might see some improvement, but on the other hand I can very well understand that MS is not going to build in features that maybe only 1% of the users of FS would ever use. That's just not a good way to spend their money :).

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Hi Art.http://forums.avsim.net/user_files/113705.jpg:)Christian is right, of course. He is Christian Stock, the true "father" of all LWM and VTP terrain design. For months, Christian toiled alone with hex editing to unravel the secrets of LWM and VTP. I joined him late in the game, and between us, and a very few others, we were able to create the decoder ring known as TMFMacros.inc, and forced MS to publish the terrain design SDKs dealing with that topic.I was actually offered a decoder ring, but I had to decline, as I cannot keep a secret!Dick

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Well believe me I'm not really put off by Microsoft's secrecy. Just been told all my life that if you want something, it's not going to come unless you ask for it and that was the purpose of this post. I considered sending requests directly to Microsoft but they don't exactly make it easy to figure out even where to direct your questions to. I think they have their own support forum on the Microsoft site for FS but I can't access that from work because it's a "game site". My guess is that they're really looking more there for questions like "What's my minimum requirements to run the sim?" or "What color joystick works best for jets?". Questions and requests like the ones that scenery designers come up with really have to go to technical folks, the down and dirty programmers that work on systems like this day in and out. I figured they may just lurk in forums like this. My real hope is to convince them that releasing things like they've done with their SDK's is truly in their best interest just as the "cheat codes" for popular computer games mysteriously appearing shortly after the game's release. Even if the people on Avsim represent only a small percentage of the overall FS users, we're the seed that cause our friends to take that first look and get hooked. It's the rabid fan base that are your best marketing tool. When I used to run a volleyball league, I constantly used my hardcore volleyball players as recruiters for more and more people. You have to constantly refresh your beginner base or you end up with this tiny clic that eventually dies out. I think MS would be smart to hilite this rabid aftermarket community within their product marketing. Then when you're buying a $30 program, you're buying much more - access to this network of users, software, and support that MS doesn't have to spend one dime on. In the meantime, how would I hack through FS looking for "cheat codes"? lol.Art

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>So I do have hope that in the future we might see some>improvement, but on the other hand I can very well understand>that MS is not going to build in features that maybe only 1%>of the users of FS would ever use. That's just not a good way>to spend their money :).... but what an opportunity for MS, Arno. Imagine if they found a way to make purchasers aware of the availability of add-ons. Done right, that could directly increase their sales, and justify more effort on the SDKs.I've been patiently waiting for their community contact person to become visible. I like this initiative. And I wonder how that could work logistically? I can't imagine an email address would be published!Another way for MS to justify the expense (at the risk of being flamed): I'd be willing to fork out $ for a decent SDK with compilers and other tools that worked, had meaningful error messages and documentation that was complete and accurate. And sign an NDA for that matter.Jon

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Art, I really wish Microsoft could participate freely on this forum but it probably won't happen. This is a battle that's been fought many, many times. It will only be won if there is a huge change in the corporate mentality of Microsoft. We should be thankful that they do indeed support scenery designers with plenty of SDK's etc., though they could do a lot better. But it's certainly worth discussing the future directions for FS, particularly as the FS team do read the forums, even if they never openly reply. Your comment about editing scenery in near real time is interesting. It was possible in FS2002, but Microsoft decided to take it out from FS2004 for no obvious reason. I hate to think how much time I have wasted waiting for FS to reload after editing scenery or testing AutoAsm. It can be so different. I speak from personal experience. A year ago I knew nothing about game engines, but that's changed. I think the future of games and simulations will be based on universal game engines. It makes no sense to design, say, a car racing game based on a limited game engine that's only good for car racing games. What we need is a system that can accurately simulate the physics of the real world in a completely generalised way. Then the system could be used to create any kind of game: car racing, first person shooters, strategy - and flight simulators. A year ago I thought it would be a pretty neat thing to create such a system but I didn't think it would happen for a long time, if ever. But now I know my dream has been achieved, in an amazingly short space of time. These systems already exist. They're called - um - game engines. They are truly extraordinary beasts. I have first-hand experience of one of these engines: the CryEngine that powers the amazing Far Cry game. And now back to the original point: scenery editors. The CryEngine editor is simply stunning. It's probably the best one out there right now. And it is completely real-time. In editor mode you move about the scenery area just as if you were in the game. About the only difference is that you see all the labels and helpers you would expect to see in an editor. But it gets even better: simply hit CTRL-G and you ARE in the game, after waiting all of half a second. In this mode you can play complete missions. Hit ESCAPE and you're back in the editor. As an example, imagine this: in the editor, select the terrain tool and paint some terrain, let's say to create a small hill. When you've made the hill select the vegetation tool and paint grass and trees all over the hill (these are extremely realistic vegetation objects, not just textures - oh, yes, and the trees and vegetation can sway extremely realistically in the wind). Finally create a flock of birds above the hill (the system incorporates an amazingly sophisticated flocking algorithm that can be used for birds and fish). Then hit CTRL-G and seconds later you're walking up your brand-new hill. I think you'll agree that most FS scenery designers would kill for something like this - I certainly would! But that's just the beginning. The editor gives you control over everything from terrain, ground textures, water, the sky and lighting, objects and buildings to AI human beings and animals. One thing currently lacking in Far Cry is the ability to create flyable aircraft. One group just announced that they have created flyable aircraft though it must have been difficult. Things should change when the long-promised C++ SDK comes out. Then, if it does properly support flyable aircraft as expected, it should be possible to use Far Cry to create quite a neat little flight simulator! I hope that Microsoft will move in this direction. It makes little sense to develop very complex systems that are only good for making flight simulators. Either creating a new engine or licensing and developing an existing one could allow Microsoft (or any competitor!) to develop flight simulators that are far richer, for example by adding the human element. In Far Cry you don't have AI vehicles. You have AI humans that climb aboard the vehicles and drive them away! Imagine seeing a crew drive up to their 767 and climb the stairs to the cockpit. Board the aircraft yourself, take a spare seat in the cockpit and watch the crew starting her up.... This is still a few years away. However, Microsoft have been advertising jobs for AI character designers. Who knows? FS is an amazing program - and yet in many ways it now looks pretty primitive to me. It has a lot of catching up to do with lots of other games on the shop shelves. But Microsoft may do it, they certainly have the financial muscle. So let's look forward to future FS versions that really will be 'as real as it gets'! Best regards, Chris

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