• The Corner #54 - A Whole Lotta Nuthin'

    A Whole Lotta Nuthin'

    By Chip Barber (8 January 2011)

    As you may be aware, I have been struggling of late with a distinct and unpleasant flagging of my, shall we say enthusiasm for digitized flight. No, it's worse than that. I've become bored to tears. Jaded, perhaps? And I, of all people, who as you well know has spent a King's ransom (and a really popular King, too, not some little runny-nosed king in some fly speck kingdom) on damn near everything conceivable for flight simulation. You name it, I've either bought it, bargained for it, worked for it or whined to the developer until it was presented to me for no other reason than to get me to shut up and leave. And despite my terabytes of acquisitions, I somehow remain seriously unmotivated to do what I have so dearly loved doing for so long.

    This, of course, begs the question of the origins of this FSFunk of mine. And I may be wrong about this, but one answer that is continuously presenting itself to me is simply that, as digital flight enthusiasts/hobbyists, we've pretty much reached the end of the line with the technology that is available to us. Seriously. Where is "It"? To be sure, I have been chomping the bit, checking the PMDG web site daily if not hourly, waiting for them to release their 737NGX. Hell, I've even deleted FS2004 entirely and reinstalled FSX in eager anticipation of this bird taking residence in my digital hangar. But otherwise, nada.

    What is, and where is, the next Big Thing? Sure, we can all fantasize about the next mega version of FS from Dear Uncle Microsoft, but what of it? First, who will have the hardware capable of running it? By last count, we are up to seven, count 'em seven, core chips. And what, pray tell, will be required by way of RAM? Just how many Gigs may one place on those things, anyway?

    So, perhaps you see the dilemma. I'm very excited about the PMDG bird that was supposed to be released by the end of last year. Putting disappointment aside for the delay in release (but to be fair, PMDG enjoys a fabulous reputation and one way to screw that up royally is to release a product prematurely), let us ask ourselves: Just what is new?

    Do you recall the release of FsPassengers? That was something different. Oddball to be sure. Offbeat, even. But it was new, and different. And it added a new dimension to our flight simming experience. Same thing with FSCaptain. Different from FsP, and also a product that enhanced our immersion factor. And others, to be sure, such as FS2Crew, It's Your Plane and Multi Crew Experience to name a few of the, in my humble opinion, "biggies". The ones that really set the cat among the pigeons. All these wonderful products added in their own particular ways to our experience. Different roads to the same destination: encouraging we FSMorons to more easily convince ourselves that we are not middle aged, over weight and out of shape simmers sitting in front of our monitors making believe we are flying airplanes. And speaking for myself, it worked fabulously!

    But it occurs to me that the real problem is that it has been too long since some developer out there has had the flash of genius and software-writing acumen that has resulted in something new, exciting and so revolutionary as to put us (well, me) back on the flight deck. Something tres' cool that simulates some portion of the piloting experience that has not been done before, but something that is so integral to the experience that to suddenly have it available to we simmers, we find it grabs us by the shorties and twists us around and says to us "Ah Hah! You didn't think this could be duplicated digitally, did you? Nooooo, but we have and you bought it, installed it and so now are thinking Holy Crap I Really Am Flying These Idiot Fisherman Into The Alaskan Wilderness!". Is this too much to ask?

    Where are these programs today? I've worn out countless pairs of digital sneakers during my perimeter checks of our FS world, in my effort to find something, anything that will spark an interest. It is not that FsP or FSC or Active Sky or any of those other wonderful add-ons have suddenly become lousy. They are just as good as they've always been. They're just ... old friends. They've become familiar. Don't misunderstand me: I do not mean to derogate any FS product, particularly the ones I've mentioned. Quite the contrary. These I hold in the highest esteem, shining examples of the genius of software writers/developers who apparently share our love and devotion to digital flight. It's only that I've lived with them and flown with them for so long now, that geez, the "Wow" factor has diminished.

    So let's consider... A program that accounts for wear and tear on your bird, and bills you accordingly for your lousy pilotage. Been done. A program that emulates the distress of your passengers when you do some goofy maneuver like the ever popular celebratory barrel roll after successfully completing a STAR. Got it. A program that bitches at you if you fail to follow a checklist or neglect to turn on your taxi lights or whatever. Yep, got that one too. One that makes it rain in a really cool fashion, or makes the snow so realistic that one finds oneself grabbing a sweatshirt even in the summer. Fer sher, got that one and about dozen just like it.

    So, where are we going here? Have we reached the proverbial end of the road? To be sure, those who are new to our beloved stupid hobby will have years of enjoyment as they discover that with which we have become so accustomed. But I imagine that eventually, they will occupy spaces similar to my own. We've got a whole lotta crappola designed to enhance and multiply our immersion factor and damned if most of it does just that. But sooner or later, I'm afraid the noobs will come to our own conclusion: We're not really flying!

    Short of waiting on PMDG to knock my socks off with their new 737, I just don't know what to do. What is new, unusual and cool that is coming down the pike, I find myself wondering. Scenery perhaps? Orbx has some pretty nifty stuff that did manage to catch my eye, but by the time I got home I'd forgotten which product it was that caught my fancy. Maybe some other kind of enhancement like FSCaptain. I really like those. I keep nosing around, but unlike those heady days of yesteryear when it seemed like the moment I'd finished entering the old charge card numbers, *boink* there was another piece of software seducing me into opening the old wallet again.

    C'mon developers! Wow us again! Tempt us with your software guaranteed to cause firmware! Maybe I've just gotten too darn old and have moved beyond the ability to become moved by a piece of software. I think I'll just grab a cold, frosty Molson and wait on that new FLUFF and see just how firm PMDG can make the old firmware.

    Three Green!

    Chip Barber
    [email protected]

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