Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The News

By now everyone has heard the news: Microsoft is closing down ACES.

This is not a happy day; there is no joy in people losing their jobs in this economy. And having your product canceled really hurts. I have worked on programs that have been killed after I left the team, and I have worked on programs that have been killed while I was working on them, and either way, it really, really sucks.

What does this mean for X-Plane? That is something we are trying to figure out now. Halting development on MSFS is an earthquake within the flight simulation world; it was not a scenario we were planning for last week. In some ways, it changes everything, but in others it does not.

In particular, a lot of things have become high priority that were always important, but are now on a much shorter time table. Improving our documentation, simplifying the user experience, etc. Our current users have already learned the quirks of X-Plane, but we now have more people trying X-Plane for the first time and tripping over those stumbling blocks.

We are only a few days away from going beta with X-Plane 930. 930 was a huge patch for us already, with lots of new features "saved up" over several months, but now it is even more stuffed, since there are also last minute features to make the sim easier for new users, and to add in new capabilities that we are being asked about.

So to current X-Plane users, I ask two things:
* Please be patient with us, and with new users - this is a very busy time and a lot is changing very quickly.
* As always, don't panic. The first beta always has a few problems with certain video cards, and one or two really gross bugs. The quality of the betas will improve very quickly in the first week or so. Squeamish users should simply wait a few weeks, or skip beta entirely. Third party authors: please test your add-ons as soon as you can! The sooner you report the bug, the sooner we can fix it!

Our mission with X-Plane has not changed: it always was, and still is, to make the best flight simulator we possibly can!


vc said...

Good news! How'd you get to be so darn yet uncontagiously eloquent!? Your style of writing doesn't emerge quickly from a typical brain (although there is no such beast). Please tell me you spend some time editing before posting - like 15-minutes or so.

Rod Kay said...

I own X-Plane and without question X-Plane produces great aircraft & accurate aerodynamic/handling models, however it is not [yet] my primary flt sim of choice. As a long time MSFS user there are two significant elements that deter me from making the swap to X-Plane at the moment.

The World
I have a huge amount of time & money invested in the environment in which i fly; the scenery, terrain mesh, textures, and weather. For me the world in which i fly is of equal importance to the realism of the aircraft/systems. X-Plane does not yet come close to matching the scale & detail avaialble in MSFS. I realise that scenery is likely a matter of licensing rights, but if there is any way you can obtain the MFSF scenery class rights and /or create some form of conversion tool so we could bring our existing 'world' to X-Plane then that would be fantastic.

Commercial Add-on's
I almost exclusively fly PMDG/Level-D aircraft. I also utilise many of the add-on programs that work with these. I understand securing outside commercial support is all about having viable marktet share to ensure return on their investment, but even the announcement of such partnership/future development would entice. I would imagine now is a favourable time for X-Plane to start courting these companies.

At present there is no imminent reason for MSFS users to make the swap. The closure of ACES does not mean that our programs suddenly stop working, but get both of the above and you will have a very attractive proposition for mass transition to X-Plane.

What follows then is the phenominal support of tens of thousands of freeware developers & enthusiasts who are the people that truely have the power to make X-Plane the defacto flight sim.

Regards & Good luck,

Benjamin Supnik said...

Rod -- the issues you bring up are ones we hear about a lot...since FS X came out (and raised hw requirements), users have been steadily looking at X-Plane, but often it comes down to a particular add-on.

When it comes to airport scenery, the conversion path is simplest; Jonathan Harris wrote a really good converter for MSFS BGL-based scenery; visit's scenery forum to see the threads on this tool. For mesh scenery the conversion is non-trivial.

Unfortunately, airplanes probably represent the hardest conversion -- a PMDG airplane is filled with MSFS specific code, and is intimately tied into the MSFS SDKs, even if it does replace a huge amount of the core sim.

I have no doubt that that level of airplane is possible in X-Plane, but would PMDG want to port? I don't know...the concern I hear repeatedly from MS third party companies is: market share; they want to target the widest available platform.

Chris W said...

Something I'm quickly learning about scenery for both MSFS folks and X-Planers alike, is that they don't want better-looking scenery, they want BETTER scenery -- as in satellite textures.

Of course this might be prohibitively expensive, but thousands of Tileproxy users can't be wrong; you just can't beat the real thing.