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Francois_Dumas

What is it with the latest SDK's?!?

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Over the last few weeks we have seen a number of SDK's being released in fairly quick succession. I want to voice my opinion on the, in my view, deteriorating quality of those SDK's. :~PIt started off in a well appricatated (from my side at least) release of SDKs of reasonable quality. For example, we got the Traffic SDK, which would do all kind off error checking and was very good when it came to generating AI Traffic, as far as I've seen it, it was better than any 3rd party software that tried to do the same. A good effort, to say the least. At that point I was wondering, if Microsoft indeed is providing a better customer service than I was used to from the past. :-hmmmHowever, it went downhill from that. The effects SDK was still of very good quality, but I released my own version of this SDK based on my experiments a few weeks beforehand and basically didn't learn many new things from the SDK. Plus, a few questions still remain unanswered, eg howto get a smoke column to be visible from 20km or more distance.The second to last one was the MakeMdl SDK, which didn't tell me any new things, most things stayed unclear and some of the switches I have found remained undocumented. The use of that one was really rather limited.And now the MDl SDK, which doesn't really deserve the name 'SDK' in my opinion. The section on the model header is completely wrong, the BBOX section isn't mentioned at all, nor is it explaned how the parameter block really works. The only thing I learned were all the GUID's for the parameters and that was it! :-madWhere are we going from here now? What are we to expect for the highly anticipated scenery or terrain SDK? Can it get any worse than that? :-8This post is not intended to be purely Microsoft bashing, since that won't lead anywhere. I firstly wanted to make the point that the quality of SDK's is severly dropping and I'm not very happy about it. I understand that developing those SDK's is a major effort and costs quite a few resources. I'm grateful that the team around MSFS is putting all this effort in, to make this sim so much more enjoyable for us. However, Microsoft is not exactly known for the best gaming support that is out there. The top rank is probably still taken by id software, who allow the gamers to completely modify their games, offer fully functional editors (they hired a guy from the community to do that!), and even answer personal emails! We flight simmers can only send feedback back to microsoft, but won't get any answers. Despite the warning that we won't get any answers, I tried nevertheless, but obviously unsucessful. I think Microsoft still has a lot to learn when it comes to this level of customer support and hopefully recognises the importance of this kind of feedback. From rumours, I heard that the support for FLY! is quite in a different league. If Microsoft doesn't take this issue seriously, the selling numbers will change.I personally am the opinion that the existing SDK system doesn't work. Firstly we have to wait for over half a year to get the SDKs and by the time we actually understood them and filled in all the missing pieces, the next version of MSFS gets released. And apart from SDKs there is no other help, as the SDKs are unsupported by Microsoft. This has to change. Maybe now FS2K2 has the edge over other flight simulators, but if FLY (and others) will continue to offer a higher level of support, this support will find it's way into the future versions, draw larger and larger groups of enthusiasts like me, and MSFS will loose the superiority in the long run. The high level of customer support I'm asking for may be resource demanding, but is not just a bonus. In the long run it will be a necessity since many gamers aren't just happy to just buy a game and play it anymore, but also want control over the game to add own customisations. And they want the support and tools for just that!I hope that someone from Microsoft is reading this and realises that their job might be at stake in the long run (once noone will buy this game anymore). So come on guys, please give us better SDKs and better support, and if necessary hire someone to do it :)Cheers, Christian (8-|PS: please don't post any pure M$ bashing posts after this, otherwise this thread will just be taken down I suspect. Rather, give some constructive critsism and maybe some ideas how we can put this message across to Microsoft / the FS group. Maybe we can start some sort of petition? :-beerchug

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Hi, Christian, I can only say that I agree! When FS2002 came out my opinion of Microsoft went up a few notches, as it really looked as if they had listened and put things right accordingly. But now I'm sad to say my opinion has fallen somewhat, largely because Microsoft have made it clear that they will probably not attempt to fix the problems. Before someone dives in I want to make it clear that I regard FS2002 as a superb flight simulator - but nothing's perfect. I too have been a little critical of the SDK's. Of course it's great that they have released a lot of information - but a huge amount is still missing. How can it take eight months to release a scenery SDK? But there are hopeful signs - Tucker Hatfield has stated that the aircraft SDK will be shipped on the CFS3 CD's. Also, several FS2002 SDK's are primarily late documentation for programs already on the CD (makemdl and FSedit). On the CD there was no documentation on how to use the Gmax exporter/makemdl and the animation tag names were not documented. Without the efforts of Chris File it would literally have been impossible to produce animated aircraft in Gmax. To try and hide the very late release of that essential information as an SDK is very poor to say the least. I was an early Fly! fan when it came out, but I have transferred all my affections to Microsoft's baby. But Fly! has one extraordinary asset in the shape of Richard Harvey, the lead designer. Richard participated actively on the Fly! forum right here at Avsim - and still does as far as I know. There was a *huge* stream of interaction between him and the users, including myself. Many, many problems were put to rest, either by information from Richard or fixes in the next patch. The comparison with Microsoft is stark. If some kind of purely technical lines of communication could be established between us, the users, and Microsoft, maybe through the good offices of Avsim, then it could be a huge advance. Sometimes I feel just a tiny bit annoyed when I think of the endless hours spent by developers (you, Christian, are a shining example!) trying to unravel the secrets of FS, when all the time the information is probably sitting on some desk at Redmond. They say that Microsoft read these posts - if so they are perfectly aware of the problems. But they say nothing. My guess is that the developers themselves are itching to reply, to try and help us, but I assume it's corporate policy to stay silent. The conventional explanation for this silence on the forums is that if they answered they would be subjected to a barrage of abuse. My answer to that is that much of the potential abuse is caused by their refusal to come out and speak for themselves. I believe that if they did speak on the forum (if necessary rigurously limiting it to purely technical issues) then it would quickly turn to a barrage of heart-felt thanks and appreciation. And it wouldn't harm sales, either. Perhaps there are significant numbers of Fly! users who can't stomach the thought of buying Microsoft at the moment. It's all very sad.... So here's a suggestion to Tom. There could be lots of variations on the idea. Set up a special forum for (primarily technical) discussion between the development team and us, the users. Microsoft (or an Avsim representative) would have the right to delete any threads or posts that they deemed abusive or unsuitable. Think how something like this could transform the FS world. Am I dreaming? Who knows.... I'm still waiting with gritted teeth for the scenery SDK. I still cling on to the hope that one day I - or my gandchildren! - will finally be able to design proper coastlines in FS! Best regards, Chris

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I think these are good ideas, Chris. The forum you suggested may be a very good solution, but I wonder if this would be possible to realise, since Microsoft has their own forum and may be reluctant to use another system. Anyway, good thoughts. I also wouldn't think that a 'Microsoft forum' at avsim would attract many negative posts, hey, I would be so greatful to get feedback from the FS team, I'd never remotely think of insulting any of them. More likely, I'd use this icon a lot :-notworthy (hey, its not working anymore, bring back :-notworthy!!!) :-lolWhile I'm thinking, the staff of id software are actually participating in a public forum (as is Richard Harvey as you pointed out). They read public posts and answer quite a few questions. I think, sometimes they even learn stuff from the community. In the long term such a forum can only benefit both, us and the FS team.Another solution I thought of is that the FS team would spend some time to actually reply to emails that go in. I'm not saying that they should answer every single email, but if they could answer the occasional quick email, that would be a step into the right direction...Anymore thoughts on how we can get the message across to Microsoft? Don't let this thread die already. We may not be able to change anything, but if we don't do anything now, for sure we'll keep complaining about the state of support and SDKs for quite a few more years... I think it's at least worth a shot to somehow get the message across to Microsoft. Who knows, maybe they would even welcome some user initiative to get a tighter involvment of us users...Cheers, Christian

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This looks like a business decision: MS is not going to release a product (Scenery SDK in that case) on which they spent a lot and which is probably involved in the upcoming CF3. Chances are that the gradation in the SDK release kinda matches the amount of $$$ invested in each (the earliest were the cheapest). Scenery is apparently where MS' market and technical edge really is.

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Since I am thinking along the lines you are thinking, does that make me a cynic too ?? :-lolChris's: I like the idea of a 'MS Contact Forum', but I would be very surprised if Microsoft would like it as well...... I would like to be surprised though ! ;-) :-outta Francois :-wave[table border=0 cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0][tr][td valign=bottom" align="center]"At home in the wild"[/td][td valign=bottom" align="center][link:avsim.com/alaska/alaska_051.htm|Don's Alaskan Bush Charters]"Beavers Lead the Way"[/td][td valign=bottom" align="center][link:www.avsim.com/vfr_center/mainpages/vfr_flights_main_page.htm]VFR Flight Center]"Looking Good Outside"[/td][/tr][tr][td valign=top" align="center]http://avsim.com/hangar/air/bfu/logo70.gif[/td][td valign="top" align="left" colspan=2]http://www.fssupport.com/images/moose2.gif[/td][tr][/table]________________________Francois A. "Navman" DumasAssociate Editor &Forums AdministratorAVSIM Online![/bemail: fdumas@avsim.com________________________

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Christian, my feeling is that such a forum is unlikely at the moment, but maybe in a year or so.... I would bet that the FS team would love the idea (assuming they can spend the time!) but of course they are part of a huge corporation, and corporations generally don't change overnight. But there are encouraging signs. I recall reading something that suggested there may be moves toward making the games/flight sim divisions more autonomous. And Tucker Hatfield said that he wants to see more interaction between Microsoft and the users. Of course he was referring to CFS3, but then CFS and FS are two sides of the same coin. I think everyone would agree that more involvement would be a wonderful idea, provided it remained civil. It would be nice to hear Tom's thoughts on the matter. I'm sure he would have his own ideas. Another suggestion on a less ambitious scale: say once a month Tom would put up a post requesting questions to be forwarded to Microsoft. After collecting and filtering the questions he would pass them to Microsoft and then post their answers. One example question: can the visibility distance for effects be increased and if so, how? Anyway, here's hoping that we will see at least a move in the right direction! Best regards, Chris

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