• KerrSpectives - A Thinking Man's Guide To Add-ons

    KerrSpectives - A Thinking Man's Guide To Add-ons

    By Kenneth J. Kerr

    KerrSpective - MSFS Add-ons
    A freeware repaint of the stock Airbus A320neo, sits on the ramp at the payware version of Innsbruck airport (LOWI) by Orbx.

    Hey there folks, it's Kenneth J. Kerr here, and thank you for joining me in this second episode of my brand new series, KerrSpectives, where I offer my personal perspectives on the flight simulation industry.

    As I write this, we are one month into our collective experience of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator platform, and of course the opinions are legion as well as divided. Some hate it, and some love it. Some swear by it, while others swear at it. Well, love it or loathe it, it's here to stay. And what's also here is the sudden explosion of addons, so today we're going to offer some important thoughts, guides, and KerrSpectives on the world of MSFS 2020 addons.

    Whenever a new version of a sim is launched, whether that sim be from Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, or Laminar Research, it typically takes a little while for the supply of addons to grow from a trickle, to a stream, and then to a river. But this time, with MSFS 2020 it is different. One month in and the floodgates are open, with hundreds of addons already available, and growing by the day.

    This might be due to the fact that many people had access to the alpha and beta, and had time to work some things out. But, it is also due to the fact that a larger audience has been attracted to the sim by virtue of it being pushed not just to niche-hobbyists, but also to gamers in general. With reportedly more than one million copies sold, and the SDK being easily available to all, it's little wonder that things are different this time around.

    Needless to say, as the addon supply increases, there's an immediate temptation to go crazy. It's like being a kid again, looking round the stores just before Christmas and being told you can take your pick. However, this is not a time for mad excess, it is a time for restrained discretion. With that in mind, you may want to ask yourself some very pointed questions.

    What Do I Really Want And Need?

    If you've been around the industry for a long time, you probably look at your hard drive and find an absolute ton of downloaded freeware files, and a small fortune's worth of commercial products. Chances are that some of them were purchased several times over as each new version of the sim rendered your existing collection obsolete. So do you really want to go through that process all over again?

    In my personal development books, I often remind readers that "A lesson will be repeated until it is learned". So are you going to repeat the lesson, or learn it and act differently this time?

    This is an opportunity to do things differently. So, instead of downloading everything new as and when it is released, or buying every single airport or aircraft that comes onto the market, why not look at your past simming preferences and be more discerning?

    How many aircraft did you buy in the past, and only fly a few times? Are there airports you never landed at again? Then why fill up your hard drive or put pressure on your budget just to repeat the same mistake?

    Make a list of the aircraft you REALLY want, and which airports you REALLY need. If it means waiting a while, then wait. Enjoy what the sim offers now, and hold out with discernment and discipline for a feast of what's really important to you, instead of gorging yourself on the eye candy you'll get sick of quickly.

    Whom Do I Trust And Where Will I Go?

    Over the years, through experience, many of us have gravitated towards supporting certain developers and frequenting certain websites. We know we can trust their name, or their brand, or their online presence. However, once again it's a little different now.

    Suddenly, there are new names appearing. Many of these are brand new to the flight simulation genre, and armed with the SDK they are trying out their hand at designing sceneries, or the modification of existing files. And, as these new names appear, we're also seeing a sudden increase in new websites eager to bring those files to the public.

    But here's the rub. Do you know these designers? Can you be certain of their quality of workmanship? Can you be sure that they know what they're doing? Or is there a possibility that some sub-standard files will crash your program and your computer?

    And when it comes to the new websites, or files available through numerous other locations, can you feel confident that these files are free from malware or viruses? And do you have any idea who the people are behind the new sites? Some of them have so many adverts on them that you have to be very careful where you click "Download here" as you might just be downloading something you really don't want.

    The flood of new addons is largely coming from unknown designers and being offered through brand new websites. And while I am not suggesting that every new designer, and every new website is suspect, I am saying that we must be discerning, and perhaps a little cautious until trust is established. The fact is that the legacy websites such as FlightSim.Com and Avsim, are still the go-to choice for experienced designers to distribute their files through. You are free to try out the new (I am), but remember you are walking into untried territory when you do so. In the process you might indeed find new names to trust, and even new sites that you frequent, but it could also be a somewhat risky journey along the way.


    24 Comments
    1. neilfb's Avatar
      neilfb -
      Well said Kenneth. I said when I first tried the beta that 2020 will be a world beater and I think it will go on to outsell every other flightsim providing they can sort out the problem users seem to be having with the heavies!!
    1. shp18et's Avatar
      shp18et -
      You talk about 'new developers' ripping people off - when some have the stalwarts as you would call them are doing exactly that putting out shoddy rehashed merchandise...... several which you showcase above.....don't think I can take you seriously your obviously a 'bought' man.
    1. graaant's Avatar
      graaant -
      A fine, informed overview, touching on all the questions I would have asked. Thanks, eh.

      Before the new sim appeared, I was sure I'd hang on to my previous one -- along with all the payware -- and go back for occasional visits, but every time I do so, I don't last longer than five minutes or so. Amazing leap, MSFS 2020!
    1. wcs3's Avatar
      wcs3 -
      @SHP18ET

      So, let's call it out--since Kenneth featured only one "showcased" product in his post/photo. If you don't like the quality of the products Orbx or anyone else has released to this point, or you don't like the value proposition (too expensive for a "rehash", that is your assessment as a potential customers. Others, in the free market, will come to different conclusions about value.

      There is no need to talk about people being "bought" or releasing "shoddy rehashed" work. The market is the market, and it's what makes this hobby so amazing--some folks won't purchase ANY add-ons and rely totally on the freeware market (where you are also free to walk-on-by), while others love certain payware vendors or avoid others.

      Be courteous and respect others in our hobby--you are free to ignore those that you want, but no need to inflame.
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by neilfb View Post
      Well said Kenneth. I said when I first tried the beta that 2020 will be a world beater and I think it will go on to outsell every other flightsim providing they can sort out the problem users seem to be having with the heavies!!
      Yes, it will outsell them all. It cannot help but do that with the targeted penetration into new markets. It also will because it provides such an advanced starting out platform visually. But, the ongoing work must continue for years by Asobo to also to "up the game" within the sim. If they do that, they will never need to release a new version, just new updates.

      - Kenneth
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by shp18et View Post
      You talk about 'new developers' ripping people off - when some have the stalwarts as you would call them are doing exactly that putting out shoddy rehashed merchandise...... several which you showcase above.....don't think I can take you seriously your obviously a 'bought' man.
      I genuinely thank you for your very honest reply. You are stating your opinion, just as I am stating my perspectives. I defend our mutual right to do that.

      I agree with you that companies re-issuing a new version of an existing product do need to be careful about what they are doing. If there are things to improve on, then they should take the opportunity to make those improvements in their new version. This would be far better than charging the same customers money again for the same thing without changing anything. That's partly why I suggested that we review our spending habits. In some cases I have several versions of the same product over the years for FS2004, FSX, and P3d. Not sure I would buy them again if there was no significant improvement. (Or unless it was a must-have in my eyes).

      You mention the word "shoddy." That's a personal judgement. What's sub-standard to one person might be perfect to another. Again, we all approach the hobby differently. For example, a person could call a study-level airliner "accurate", but to me it would be "too complicated" based upon my preferences and personal perceptions. I also recognized that Carenado has their detractors, it was something I didn't hide. Instead I praised their visual skills, and that is a strength. I also called them out for not supporting the very stores that have helped build their success.

      Change of subject. If you decide not to take me seriously, that's fine. However, I will take this opportunity to answer your suggestion that I am a "bought" man.

      In the review...

      1. I purchased the Carenado 182T with my own money as a customer, for my own use, based on my own choices and preferences. I did not buy it to review it, I reviewed it because I had it, and had used it. Carenado had no idea I would mention it in any review.

      2. I bought ORBX Innsbruck as a customer, again with my own money. I grabbed it because I liked the discount I would get as an owner of the AFS2 version. ORBX did not know I would review it.

      3. Taburet Fishburn was supplied by Flightsim.com as a review copy at my request. I had no contact with Taburet, and Nels expects my total honesty and unbiased reporting in my reviews. To do anything different would be unethical, "bought for" as you suggest, and unfair to our readers. Notice that even though I got it free, I did point out the FPS problem. And, when Taburet gets this issue under control, (if it is something in his product causing it), I will gladly tell people that too. Taburet is generally good at what he does, and I personally want to encourage him to keep going.

      4. I bought Smoothtrack with my own money. No contact with the developer.

      5. Flightsim.com supplied the copy of the SoFly manual at my request. I have yet to give it a proper review, but will, and it will be honest in reflecting my personal, unbiased, uninfluenced opinions.

      6. Aerosoft Paderborn/Lippstadt was free from the Microsoft store. Anyone can get it. I was genuinely impressed and wanted to tell people that.

      7. Neil's farms are free. They cater to my kind of flying, and so I highlighted them with genuine enthusiasm.

      8. The Tiger Moth was free. It no longer works after the patch, so I reported on that.

      9. Landmarks. I did not call out a specific freeware artist, but I did mention a couple of commercial companies only because they are the first ones now doing commercial landmark additions. The products I mentioned were not illustrated, used, or reviewed. I cannot review what I have not used, but I can mention them to inform the reader of their availability.

      10. Repaints, just a quick mention of freeware.

      As you will see from the list, I do not get every product for free, and I very rarely have contact with developers. I do get some products supplied, but the supply of a $10 dollar product in return for a 14-hour session of concentrated work as a professional writer really does not influence my writing. I typically charge $50 to $100 an hour as a professional writer, and significantly more for a speaking engagement. I am doing these reviews without pay for the love of the hobby, and even the supply of a thousand dollar product would not influence my writing.

      I served three Canadian newspapers as a journalist, and I also owned an independent news business. I spent two years as a professional biographer. I have authored and published more than ten paperback and hardback books across several genres. In my writing, I have always been very honest, critical, sometimes very opinionated, but never "bought." I resigned from one newspaper once because the editor changed my unbiased opinion in favor of an advertiser! While you had every right to express your opinion that I was "bought", I hope you will take time to read this reply, as it allows me to address that suggestion very openly. Should you continue to decide I am not worthy of your trust, again that is your individual and absolute right.

      Enjoy flightsimming. No matter what we might disagree on, we do share this hobby. And, that gives us more in common than differing opinions on certain products.

      Regards
      - Kenneth
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by graaant View Post
      A fine, informed overview, touching on all the questions I would have asked. Thanks, eh.

      Before the new sim appeared, I was sure I'd hang on to my previous one -- along with all the payware -- and go back for occasional visits, but every time I do so, I don't last longer than five minutes or so. Amazing leap, MSFS 2020!
      Is that a Canadian "eh" in there? You know, I had a hard time with that when I first moved to Canada from the UK. I was always used to people saying "eh" as an invitation for my response in conversation. So, in those early days, I would begin to respond while they kept talking! Used to it now, after 32 years in Canada, but still don't say it myself - LOL

      I also thought I would keep using an earlier sim, and the small fortune's worth of addons for it. BUT, I flew the same area in both sims back-to-back and my old sim felt cartoonish by comparison. I did not expect that. I also shut it off after about five minutes. BUT, to be fair I was comparing a photo scenery area in MSFS 2020with a non photo scenery version in my old sim.

      - Kenneth
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by wcs3 View Post
      @SHP18ET

      So, let's call it out--since Kenneth featured only one "showcased" product in his post/photo. If you don't like the quality of the products Orbx or anyone else has released to this point, or you don't like the value proposition (too expensive for a "rehash", that is your assessment as a potential customers. Others, in the free market, will come to different conclusions about value.

      There is no need to talk about people being "bought" or releasing "shoddy rehashed" work. The market is the market, and it's what makes this hobby so amazing--some folks won't purchase ANY add-ons and rely totally on the freeware market (where you are also free to walk-on-by), while others love certain payware vendors or avoid others.

      Be courteous and respect others in our hobby--you are free to ignore those that you want, but no need to inflame.
      Thank you for this perspective. Yes, we are part of a free market as consumers, and so are the developers. As such we must all make our own choices, and support (or not support) the companies we resonate with. The lesson for the purchaser is to be sensible according to their own preferences and budget. The lesson for the developer is that not everyone will buy their offerings just because they release them. The commentator provided a reminder that companies should not just re-issue old products without giving consideration to improved quality. I think ORBX got a slap in the face with their first version of London landmarks, and I'm sure that was a wake-up call for them.

      - Kenneth
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      A quick note:-

      In my article above, I mention that I got significant FPS drops in Taburet Fishburn. For comparison, I received a copy this morning of Taburet Shoreham, released today. There are no such FPS drops in this product. A few visual anomalies, but no performance hit as in Fishburn. I am leaving this feedback to be fair to the designer, and to accurately report my findings so far.

      - Kenneth
    1. shp18et's Avatar
      shp18et -
      Wcs Ken showcased many products in his article not just Orbx as listed above - the Carennado Cessna has received a very low rating on the flightsim store -Carenado are well known for producing eye candy but not really addressing any of the 'issues' with the bugs in their products, Orbx has already issued a very poor re-hashed product and in the past has made misleading statements about its products -anybody that dares to criticise their products or address issues with them is usually shut down quickly by baby bully boy Vennema and his cronies, the Taburet Fishburn is inaccurate and poor quality, anybody who has flown into Fishburn in R/L could tell you that ... - so I was merely pointing out that established purveyors of products cannot be trusted as well, as Mr Kerr goes to great lengths 'erring caution about 'new developers' - some of whom hopefully will have better ethics and regard for their customers than some of the established developers have done so. Articles like this influence peoples buying decisions - it is only fair to call out issues to give a different perspective.
    1. graaant's Avatar
      graaant -
      Quote Originally Posted by KennethKerr View Post
      Is that a Canadian "eh" in there? You know, I had a hard time with that when I first moved to Canada from the UK. I was always used to people saying "eh" as an invitation for my response in conversation. So, in those early days, I would begin to respond while they kept talking! Used to it now, after 32 years in Canada, but still don't say it myself - LOL

      I also thought I would keep using an earlier sim, and the small fortune's worth of addons for it. BUT, I flew the same area in both sims back-to-back and my old sim felt cartoonish by comparison. I did not expect that. I also shut it off after about five minutes. BUT, to be fair I was comparing a photo scenery area in MSFS 2020with a non photo scenery version in my old sim.

      - Kenneth
      Nova Scotian, then Canadian ... ! Can understand why the 'eh' might be a bit tough for an ex-Brit; maybe it was my childhood years in South Africa with its "hey" that made the 'eh' a natural fit.

      A small point, but to continue: my comparisons have involved Orbx TrueEarth GB in my previous sim, so the sceneries have been close to identical, and a very highly-rated (and fairly expensive) GA aircraft I'd loved since it was released. You found the experience cartoonish; sad to say I've found the old sim surprisingly cardboardy, flat, by comparison, having lost a ton of immersiveness. Just the eye of this beholder ...
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by shp18et View Post
      Wcs Ken showcased many products in his article not just Orbx as listed above - the Carennado Cessna has received a very low rating on the flightsim store -Carenado are well known for producing eye candy but not really addressing any of the 'issues' with the bugs in their products, Orbx has already issued a very poor re-hashed product and in the past has made misleading statements about its products -anybody that dares to criticise their products or address issues with them is usually shut down quickly by baby bully boy Vennema and his cronies, the Taburet Fishburn is inaccurate and poor quality, anybody who has flown into Fishburn in R/L could tell you that ... - so I was merely pointing out that established purveyors of products cannot be trusted as well, as Mr Kerr goes to great lengths 'erring caution about 'new developers' - some of whom hopefully will have better ethics and regard for their customers than some of the established developers have done so. Articles like this influence peoples buying decisions - it is only fair to call out issues to give a different perspective.
      Good to hear from you again. You raise some good points here, thank you for the comments. Also, thank you for your reminder that my writing can influence buying decisions. I really did not think of it that way when I wrote the article, but you are correct. I will keep that in mind and make sure I remind people that my perspective might not be theirs.

      - Kenneth
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by graaant View Post
      Nova Scotian, then Canadian ... ! Can understand why the 'eh' might be a bit tough for an ex-Brit; maybe it was my childhood years in South Africa with its "hey" that made the 'eh' a natural fit.

      A small point, but to continue: my comparisons have involved Orbx TrueEarth GB in my previous sim, so the sceneries have been close to identical, and a very highly-rated (and fairly expensive) GA aircraft I'd loved since it was released. You found the experience cartoonish; sad to say I've found the old sim surprisingly cardboardy, flat, by comparison, having lost a ton of immersiveness. Just the eye of this beholder ...
      Maybe today I will fly my A2A Cessna 172 in True Earth again in P3d. Will be interesting to see how that feels after one month in the new sim's photo scenery and visual dynamics.

      Never been out east. I lived in Ontario for 19 years, and now 13 years on the Saskatchewan prairie. Furthest east I got was Ottawa. When the world returns to the old normal, I must come out there and see the coast. I do miss the sea a lot, having previously lived in Inverness, Scotland.

      - Kenneth
    1. djfierce's Avatar
      djfierce -
      Hello Kenneth, thanks for taking the time to put this information together! As I wait for a machine to play this on I appreciate all the information I can glean while I watch others already enjoying.

      Your point of downloading everything in sight hits home. I have so much freeware downloaded for FS9 that much of it I'd have no idea if I ever touched it. Back then, the stock airport experience outside of international travel was so vanilla that you kind of had to. I hope the 2020 release at least improves on that.

      You listed some companies who have mentioned future releases, any chance there are any whispers of QualityWings bringing some of their payware aircraft to the game?

      Thanks taking the time! - James
    1. ssbn622's Avatar
      ssbn622 -
      I really need a C208 amphibian to get the most out of the new MSFS2020. It's been ten years since we had one. C'mon Carenado or somesuch, get with it already!!!
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by djfierce View Post
      Hello Kenneth, thanks for taking the time to put this information together! As I wait for a machine to play this on I appreciate all the information I can glean while I watch others already enjoying.

      Your point of downloading everything in sight hits home. I have so much freeware downloaded for FS9 that much of it I'd have no idea if I ever touched it. Back then, the stock airport experience outside of international travel was so vanilla that you kind of had to. I hope the 2020 release at least improves on that.

      You listed some companies who have mentioned future releases, any chance there are any whispers of QualityWings bringing some of their payware aircraft to the game?

      Thanks taking the time! - James
      Hi James,

      Thank you for commenting. Oh I indeed identify with the massive collection of files. I bet I still have floppy disks in a box somewhere, with stuff going back to pre-FS5 days. And as for the files since then... And just like you, some were never touched, and some were experienced once or twice and forgotten about.

      The stock airports in MSFS FS2020 are a mixed bunch. Yes, there are some "hand edited" ones, and these are fairly good, although it is telling that some companies have issued commercial products that replace a few of these hand-crafted ones already. Then, there is the vast majority of airports. These provide somewhere to land and take off from, with buildings and facilities. However, the buildings look nothing like the real airports in these cases. Again this will be an opportunity for third party companies to stay in business for years. I have also found some stock airports that are completely devoid of any buildings, and some airports that are missing entirely.

      I don't know what Quality Wings is doing, to be honest I have never bought any of their products because they do not cater to my kind of flying. (low and slow General Aviation). A quick look at their website does not instantly reveal anything about the new platform. I would suspect that the more complex the aircraft, the longer we shall wait, as in the case of PMDG and A2A.

      Regards
      Kenneth
    1. Mac6737's Avatar
      Mac6737 -
      I have only one comment. You mention the SoFly Manual favorably.

      Like many others, I bet, I rushed to buy this on Day One, given the monumental stupidity of releasing software of this complexity without a manual. I found the SoFly offering almost totally worthless. You're right that it's lavishly illustrated, with pretty screenshots and frippery like a history of MS flight simulation. Too bad it doesn't tell you very much about using the sim, and most of what it does tell you will not be news to anyone who's graduating from FSX and/or P3D.

      IMO, the most confusing aspect of MS2020 are the camera controls. But the SoFly product doesn't tell you anything at all about the "ShowCase" camera, which is really the "drone" (which, BTW, precludes control of the damned airplane!) Really shallow treatment.

      Finally, you say this manual is being updated constantly. That's nice. Too bad if you've already paid $13.50 for the DL. Can you update? Who knows?

      Mac6737
    1. loki's Avatar
      loki -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mac6737 View Post
      Finally, you say this manual is being updated constantly. That's nice. Too bad if you've already paid $13.50 for the DL. Can you update? Who knows?

      Mac6737
      If you bought the guide from the FlightSim Store here you just need to log back into your account and download it again (as Nels notes when he posts updates to the front page here).

      https://www.flightsim.com/vbfs/conte...pdate-To-v1-40

      As for the content, you should try reaching out to SoFly with suggestions for future updates. They have already added new sections and are likely open to feedback.
    1. Mac6737's Avatar
      Mac6737 -
      Thank you, loki.

      As it happens I DID buy it here. At first blush, looks like there is a bit more.
      Nothing on why there are in fact no waves.
      And I haven't found anything on wind settings yet.
    1. loki's Avatar
      loki -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mac6737 View Post
      Thank you, loki.

      As it happens I DID buy it here. At first blush, looks like there is a bit more.
      Nothing on why there are in fact no waves.
      And I haven't found anything on wind settings yet.
      The drawback with third party documentation for something as complicated as MSFS is that they will be always be behind. And this is on top of trying to document every little feature in the sim in the first place.
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