Our close friends at Aerosoft released their new CRJ for Asobo'sMSFS this week (congratulations, Hans!) and this has of course setoff an expected flurry of anticipation, desire, speculation andunfortunately, conjecture, as to when more complex aircraft will bemade available by other developers including PMDG.
In my (more-or-less) weekly updates, I try to give you a view thatfocuses on the product that is about to, or has just released, andthen shift back to a higher-level view to give you a sense of thebroader what is happening longer term in our development agenda. Ithink most of our customers track these updates easily enough, butoccasionally it does sew some confusion because very little of what weshare with you is linear. What I mean by "linear" is that we only veryrarely tell you "we will do A, then B, then C."
There is a very specific reason for this: The workload ofdevelopers on the PMDG team can fluctuate quite dramaticallythroughout the development cycle, and thus we very frequently movetasks around on the calendar in order to maximize productivity andminimize down-time. If a project gets hung up due to a modelingproblem, we won't let the downstream coders sit idle while themodeling problem gets resolved, we simply move them on to some othertask in order to keep the general ship-of-progress moving in the rightdirection.Likewise, sometimes we simply find that it is necessary to adjust thedevelopment schedule due to some external factor and this can open upa gap in the schedule that wasn't planned. We can insert a project,part of a project, an expansion package or some new feature into thatdown time, thus improving the overall quality of our product line.
Which brings me to the subject of MSFS.
PMDG Products for MSFS
This week, with the flurry of excitement about the CRJ, we havegotten a bunch of folks asking "well, where is PMDG?"
We're right here.
We are at work converting our entire product lineup into MSFS. Itis taking some time, primarily because we have to completely reinventour development process. It isn't simply a matter of adjusting a fewlines of code and throwing a new model and texture exporter at the mixand calling it complete. We are building new development tools,shuffling around our entire development process, and turning ourproducts upside down in order to make them as real and lustrous andlifelike as the new platform will allow. We aren't simply portingproducts in, using the same models and textures and animations. We arecompletely re-imagining them in order to leverage every ounce of whatthe new MSFS engine will give us. This means all-new models, all newtexturing, new sound recordings (which are expensive and timeconsuming to make) entirely new lighting capabilities, in some casesrequiring entirely new photo-surveys and the rebuilding of sourcematerial in order to bring you cockpits that don't look like wedragged an FSX cockpit across twenty years and stuffed it into areally nice rendering engine. We are bringing you incredible, new,feature-rich environments that really shine in the new MSFSplatform.
For a while now I have been giving guidance on the release of PMDG737NG3 as "very late 2021" and even hinted that it might drag into1Q22. This guidance is a bit softer now, as we are really starting tosee our work accelerate in MSFS. I'm going to hold off offering anyprojection right at this moment, as there are some things that have tohappen before I become comfortable saying "yeah, we have cleared allof the hurdles." We have hit our share of knee-knockers, workedthrough them with some help from our friends at Aerosoft and Asobo-among others- and I fully expect we will hit a few more before we arefinished.
This is our first, full, jetliner product in the MSFS platformafter all, so we don't entirely know what to expect from beginning toend. But things are beginning to accelerate nicely.
On the topic of MSFS and PMDG
I have been mostly-mis-quoted ten thousand times this week ashaving said something along the lines of "the MSFS SDK isn't capableof supporting what we do" or "MSFS isn't capable of supporting what wedo." I want to be very clear in stating that this new sim is highlydynamic and changing continually. What may have been true in June of2020 is not necessarily true any longer. From the standpoint ofdevelopment, we are not currently seeing any major limitations toprevent us from bringing our product catalog into MSFS.
To put that another way, quoting me as saying "MSFS isn't ready forPMDG" is a bit like someone in 1971 using a 1959 quote of the NASAadministrator saying "We don't have the technology to land on themoon." Sure- that was true at the time it was uttered- but no longer afactor.
PMDG 747 and PMDG 737 Product Line Updates
As we have been working on the 777 product line, there are a numberof small changes that we made to some core logic that is common to twoor more of the airliner product lines. For example, we have a bug thatis in all three product lines that got cured during the 777development cycle, so we push those changes to the other product linesimmediately in order to ensure that the problem gets exterminated allthrough the product catalog. For this reason we will be pushing aseries of updates for the 747 and 737 product lines over the nextcouple of weeks.
You will know those updates have pushed because we will announcethem here, and/or you will see a notification in the PMDG OperationsCenter.
PMDG Global Flight Operations
We are currently refining the public-facing aspects of our newsimulation environment. We have had our beta teams for the 737, 747and 777 programs working in the Global Flight Operations environmentfor some time and effective with the release of the updated 777, allthree main PMDG products lines are connected and able to use the datainterchange appropriately. Much of the work taking place here has beenun-glamorous and related to server load sharing, active load balancingand those sorts of critical-but-boring tasks. The good news is thatyou don't generally worry about those until you have a full productspecification in place and know what to expect of it in terms ofuse. Read into that what you will.
I have been promising a preview of what the environment is like butjust haven't gotten around to creating it... I'll chat with the teamand see what we are prepared to show you as we start rolling towardmoving Global Flight Operations into the live environment cycle.
Updating LNAV, Flight Director and NAVDATA
Now that the 777 is finally out of the hangar, we are preparing toroll a test-case airplane out to our beta teams so that they can beginworking with our LNAV 2.0 process. This long-awaited update willreplace the LNAV module currently in the 737, 747 and 777 productlines with a new, refined version based upon years of research,industry input, client feedback and improved modelingtechniques. Coupled with an updated flight director, we will giveproviding you with an industry leading lateral navigation process thatwill bring this aspect of our simulations up to the level ofrefinement we have been seeking for all of our products. Inconjunction with this change, or immediately following this change, wewill also change the navdata process in our 737, 747 and 777 productlines to use a database driven system provided by Navigraph, ratherthan the outdated, customized structure we have relied upon for 20years. This will allow us to implement a number of modern navigationpractices that our products don't currently support gracefully. We'llhave more show-and-tell on this as it gets into testing with our betateams.
If you have hung around the PMDG forum for any length of time, youknow by now that I am a sucker for vintage airplanes. Of all of ourproducts, the one nearest and dearest to my heart is the DC-6, as thisproduct represents a hard-working, classic era of aviation where themere act of intercontinental flying was barely short of a miracle. Thesights, sounds, smells of this era of aviation have long sincedeparted the common travel scene, but our DC-6 keeps them alive bygiving PMDG customers the finest Douglas propliner simulationavailable.
We have not pushed any updates for this product due in large partto the fact that it wasn't in need of immediate attention with allof the larger products going on. This has caused some users to wonderif the product line had been ended, and I assure you it hasnot. (Internally at PMDG, there is a constant discussion about addingthe PMDG DC-3 to the classic propliner hangar, since PMDG allegedlyknows some guy who operates one and might actually give access to itif asked nicely... I dunno, tho... )
We have been hard at work on the DC-6 of late we think you will beblown away by the improvements. I promised the team that I would do abit of flight testing with it this weekend, so here is a quick screengrab from my desktop of the DC-6 of her awaiting an evening testflight...
And with that I am off to join my four-engine, fire breathing,smoke belching, oil dripping mistress... I hope you all have a verynice weekend!
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