Houston … we have a problem! This cliché term has been beaten to death but for a lack of a better phrase, fits the title of Francois Dumas’ latest treatise quite well. Francois makes some very valid statements that have been on my mind for quite some time.
His analysis that the FS market is in a 3-way tier state is accurate and I’ll summarize here: 1) People who are completely new to the FS franchise with FSX being their first introduction who are not aware that an entire global online community exists that further supports this platform 2) A small group of experienced FS users who have made the move to FSX due to hardware upgrades, etc. and 3) A substantial portion of experienced FS users who either have chosen to remain with FS9 or have reverted back to it for a lack of being able to run FSX with current hardware.
Francois’ bullet points of the ‘problems’ that are being dealt with by developers hit home, as I am deep in this mix. I totally agree that it has been almost impossible to develop for a "moving target" which has been the case with the release of two free updates *and* the expansion pack of Acceleration within a period of single year. Each has posed different challenges to us as developers on the outside and it has not been fun.
Yeah, I know. Being an MS FS MVP means that I’m supposed to be making everything appear rosy and wonderful – well I would be a liar if I were to say that was the case. Up until the release of the Twin Comanche, I completely felt that the FS add-on market had all but dried up completely. Things just were not going well for payware developers for the very reasons that Francois points out. Many of us were moving in the direction of developing for FSX, albeit a moving target, we were doing our best to keep our heads above the waterline and put stuff out there on the market. This is what Microsoft was encouraging us to do – support FSX with enhancements.
We (as in Eaglesoft) did that very thing – but unlike the Field of Dreams "we built them, they did not come." People were having such a challenge getting FSX to run as default, there were very few who were willing to take chances running 3rd party add-ons that were heavier in terms of performance load by sheer design. Yeah, it does take a bit more muscle of a computer to run complex glass such as Avidyne Entegra displays versus a default aircraft running all steam gauges. SP1 was effective and it would be a disservice to ACES for not mentioning that performance did improve with it and thus did help us 3rd party folks … a little.
We at Eaglesoft have been taking quite a bit of flak over our decision to make FS9 projects and FSX projects of the same aircraft separate payware downloads. That conscious decision was made by the entire team because of the intense work that is required to have an aicraft work in FSX versus what it took in FS9. The bulk of that workload being placed directly on the modelers (yep, I’m that guy). This work entails time away from each of our families or other activities. It’s just not worth doing it for "free."
Francois poses the question on what our future holds. I’m not sure, but things are looking up. The near-default performance of the FSX Twin Comanche has been very successful and I hope that continues well into the future. Now that we have a better understanding on what we’re developing for (FSX SP2) and it is not going to change, we as developers can now sort through all of the mess and figure out what we really need to be doing.
Vista and DX10 "preview" – I haven’t mentioned this until now because of the uproar it has created. It is a single checkbox of an experimental preview of how things are to look into the future. Eaglesoft’s products are developed for use in DX9, the current stable platform that FSX is built to run on. How about cutting developers some slack and leave the true DX10 stuff for FS XI – and let us cross that bridge at the appropriate time? We have enough of a challenge with DX9 FSX right now, thank you.
I agree with Francois that 2007 was a dismal year in terms of how things "went" for those of us in the 3rd party commercial development arena. I am glad to see it go. Here’s to hoping for a better 2008!!