Rollercoaster of emotions here, but I hope they take their time.
Tonight's update is going to be a bit more wide ranging than the last few. I have been keeping MSFS topics and non-MSFS topics separated during the past couple of update cycles primarily because most of our activity is focused on the MSFS side of the house. Some of the information I have for you today on non-MSFS topics will be new, but some of it is repetitive and is brought in here simply to "re-state latest" on the slow moving agenda items:
In no particular order of importance, here are the bits of information: PMDG 747 Queen of the Skies getting LNAV and Flight Director Updates to Testing:
This has been a slow process of late, because MSFS development is necessarily consuming development resources like a wildfire in a stiff wind. Dr. Vaos has been time sharing between the 747 and 737 development process and if there is one thing that slows a developer down it is having to constantly shift between topics while working with complexities. The last update we handed our betas was a few months back, and after collecting feedback, consulting with our technical experts and implementing changes, we have also been working to update the flight director logic as it is responsible for guiding the airplane along the path defined, so this needed sprucing up as well.
We had originally envisioned pushing this update to 747 out prior to moving Dr. Vaos to the 737 full time, but a combination of factors upset this plan so he gets the unbridled joy of splitting his time and serving two projects at once. We have increased the nicotine dose on his favorite brand of gum to keep him going. The current plan is still to push this update out to 747 users on P3D, but the timeline for that update is not yet clear. If the build we give to the betas works perfectly- you'll have it pretty much right away.
Reminder: We are no longer maintaining or updating 32bit platforms, so the 747 update will be only for P3D v4 and P3D v5 users. Updates for 777, 737, DC-6, J-41 on P3D Platform:
Given that the vast majority of our development resources are currently focused on the 737 in MSFS, we are not currently at work on any updates in this category. We have a number of items planned and on the agenda such as LNAV, Navdata and Flight Director updates for the 777 and 737, a platforming update for J-41 and DC-6 and some harmonization between P3D DC-6 functionality and MSFS DC-6 but we are not actively moving on any of those items and due to the workload currently being experienced by the team there is no new information or timeline to give you. Future P3D Development Thoughts:
Some folks have expressed concern that we might never return to development in the P3D environment. I think such a decision would be premature at this point and hasn't really been discussed internally. There is also the "wildcard" factor that the MSFS development environment for C++ based development doesn't really exist- so a good portion of our testing still takes place in P3D and any *new* feature development is absolutely taking place in P3D... So while we might not be talking much about P3D, this is the foundation of the process still. NAVDATA Source Update:
We have been talking or some time about moving all of our airliners away from a legacy data format that has been in use in all PMDG products since 2002, moving instead to a modern format deployed by Navigraph a few years ago now. That work has been done in a branch of the P3D 737NGXu and the plan was to move this capability tot he 747 in concert with the LNAV update. That plan has changed and the NAVDATA source improvements will be moved to the PMDG 737 for MSFS initially and tested in that product line in order to keep our development team as centralized on the 737 as possible for the near term. Once implemented we do intend to roll it out across all MSFS and P3D product lines. This change will bring in improved use of navigation capabilities that largely didn't exist when we first built our structure twenty years ago and we are looking forward to that. For 99% of users the change will be practically invisible. PMDG DC-6 for MSFS:
We have a couple of small items that we are going to roll out to users in an update for the DC-6, but we want to wait until Microsoft has gotten the Xbox version un-stuck before we do so- as an update might potentially obscure problems that aren't anticipated with the XBox fix. (That sentence is a mess... I have re-written it four times and **I** know what i mean...)
We have now rolled out our beloved DC-6 to MS Marketplace and thus far we are mostly happy with how that transition has gone. We are struggling with some commonality issues with the PMDG Operations Center that we had hoped to have resolved last week, but now it is looking more like next week? (that is a big question mark.) Normally we like to have these things worked out for users ahead of time- but the Marketplace is a closed environment that doesn't give us an opportunity to test the user experience and adequately prepare for it ahead of time. Given the encapsulated nature of how MSFS installs content- we had to wait until the DC-6 was live in Marketplace before being able to test Operations Center's ability to install liveries for Marketplace users- and we found that some of the assumptions we made were incorrect and required a re-factor that is taking some time. Fortunately, Marketplace users have some liveries preinstalled and the wait won't be too much longer. PMDG DC-6 for Xbox Rollout Issues:
We are still waiting on further updates from Microsoft or Asobo on this topic. Last update we had gave some very high level information that leads us to conclude that there is a conflict between MSFS and the Xbox itself that appeared for the first time with the DC-6 release. I am being very careful not to offer any conjecture here because I think it is important not to share information that may be incorrect or incomplete. Once we have specifics that we are specifically cleared to share with you, we will- including whatever information we can obtain on the timeline for the fix that will unblock Xbox users from enjoying our DC-6 masterpiece! PMDG Global Flight Operations:
Global Flight Operations has also been victimized by the amount of developer resources the 737 has been taking up- and that has slowed down our progress along the roadmap to Early Access for this new product. In spite of this we have managed to add in some interesting new features that I am not quite ready to share- and we are also working on a few others that will really make the product pop for users in the way we want. As always- I am using a lot of words to say something without saying anything- but suffice to say that we are looking forward to opening up the Global Flight Operations environment to users. Pulling PMDG 737 for MSFS Release Timeline:
This is a complicated topic that some folks will understand, and others will not.
We have been planning for some time to release the long awaited PMDG 737 for MSFS prior to year end. We have made the difficult decision to remove the 737 release timeline from discussion temporarily.
Tl;Dr: There are some changes and fixes needed on the MSFS platform that without, we cannot release the 737. We do not currently know when to expect those changes/fixes so we aren't comfortable putting a mark on the calendar until we have that information in our hands.
That is an oddly shaped turn of phrase- and I want to explain a bit further what we are trying to convey: We are not just announcing a delay, or that we are moving the release timeline 30 days or 60 days or 120 days or 365. We are not saying the 737 won't release in January, February, or any other month in 2022. What we **are** saying is that we are putting a temporary hold on giving you any expectation as to when the release might happen because the release is going to be dependent upon some changes that we have requested from Asobo and we do not currently have any clarity as to when we might expect those changes to be made, if at all.
If the changes will not be made, then we will be faced with removing some core functionality that we feel is important to the full enjoyment of the 737, no matter what platform you sim on. For that reason, we are hoping that our requests will be acted upon and we want to give the requests time to be digested, researched and understood by Asobo. Even if the changes we request are acted upon today- we will need to wait for them to wend their way through the testing and release process for MSFS, and such action and a timeline is unclear and thus we want to clarify that information before we simply move the 737 to a new date and hope things work out for the best.
Additionally, we have hit a few key areas of the 737 that we did not anticipate would give us this much trouble because the code for the 737 is very mature, well vetted and thoroughly tested. Unfortunately, the lack of adequate debugging tools, combined with a series of problems that were introduced to the developer tools with the release of SU7 caused extensive build-times and CTDs when working in the developer environment and this brought all 737 development to a stop for a few weeks unexpectedly.
Asobo has provided us with access to some changes based upon the problems we were reporting and these changes have helped to eliminate some of the issues that appeared with SU7 and we are slowly ramping back up to our previously glacial speed. I must be honest though and say that we are very concerned about continued disruptions to forward progress because of problems introduced by updates in this manner. The worst that might happen is that all development stops while we wait for the next update cycle to roll around so that we can get a fix for a breaking change- and that truly is a worst-case-scenario that I didn't worry about until this last update cycle.
Once we have a bit more clarity on the things we have requested- we will be able to give you updated guidance on when we think the release will happen. I shall keep you posted as this unfolds. PMDG 737 for MSFS:
In spite of the release timeline woes, the 737 development continues slowly along it's agenda. There are still some risk technology areas that we are feeling our way through and a few key components that are finally being connected and tested, such as panel back-lighting, flood and wash lighting, etc. Work on the EFB has begun in earnest and we are in the process of finally evaluating functionality areas that might need adaptation to live within the highly restrictive confines of the MSFS environment. The airport map display in the EFB, for example- is driven by technology that MSFS has specifically locked us out of, so we are evaluating how we might retain that functionality while living within the restrictions.
These sorts of things are part treasure hunt, part innovation, part sheer willpower exercise- but we will get through them.
At risk of sounding all doom and gloom- there are some fantastic areas of progress! The flight model is being dialed in, as are cockpit and model animations. We are adapting our aero and engine models to the new environment (literally!) and in-house testing of the airplane is taking place throughout the day and night.
Visually it is coming along magnificently, with Vin deep into the detail work and cleanup now- bringing an entirely new look to the cockpit using lighting and detail that heretofore we have only dreamed about.
In this image, you can see that the reflection of the MCP LEDs on the panel diffuse lighting cover, for example, and the ambient reflected lighting from other surfaces in the cockpit makes for very interesting and convincing lighting play on the top left corner of the MCP. You are in for a real treat when we do finally deliver this magnificent simulation to you- and we cannot wait for that day to arrive.
Meanwhile- I have a gaggle of other images that I want to sort through before letting you see them. A friend of mine is going to help out in showing them to you- and that will make it a bit of fun.
More on that at around 1700Z today... I'll give you a recap when I get back to the office.
Robert S. Randazzo
PMDG Simulations http://www.pmdg.com