• KerrSpectives - State Of The Sim

    KerrSpectives - State Of The Sim

    With Kenneth J. Kerr

    Well, this is going to be a very different KerrSpective, because there will be no screen shots to show off how wonderful MSFS is. Actually, it's not the article I was planning to write at all. You see, the airport I was going to feature broke a few patches ago. Also, the third-party aircraft I was going to write about has been totally screwed-up by patch 5. Now, before anyone gets upset at what I am going to say, please understand that I now have around 200 hours in the sim, but I cannot confirm that because the in-game logbook stopped recording my hours for a few weeks. None-the-less, my considerable use of the sim has shown my genuine enthusiasm for it. I am a strong advocate for MSFS, and actually love this product. BUT...it is surely time for a "state of the nation" look at this thing, and time to reflect on the "state of the sim."

    As I write this, it's just over eleven weeks since MSFS went live. In that time we've seen five patches released from Asobo, plus a very quickly put together hotfix. And, while I see some people almost waxing lyrical about how wonderful each new patch is ("It's the best patch eh-verr"), I can't help but ask... If Asobo had done it right in the first place, would there have been a need for a patch at all? And it's not as if each patch merely addresses a few minor tweaks here and there, instead it's big issues, with changes taking place in broad sweeps across many aspects of the sim itself.

    This is why I am forced to say this - We are at a watershed moment in the existence of this product.

    Let's start off with this unfortunate fact. No matter what way you cut it, this is a Beta product. Think back... There was a long period of Alpha, but then only a couple of weeks of Beta before it went live. And since then, big re-writes every two weeks. I hate to say it, but every single one of us who paid full retail price for this were suckered into becoming Beta testers who paid for the privilege. This is not a stable and completed product, it is an evolving series of mistakes, test and try, verify and change, and seemingly "make it up as we go along." It's like trying to build a real aeroplane in flight!

    And what's the evidence of this assumption? The sim itself is the evidence. With every new patch, they seem to break some things as fast as they fix others. And then, they end up using valuable time, energy, and resources fixing their own mistakes. Look, I don't want to cast dispersion on Asobo's programing skills, but I think they have bitten off more than they can chew administratively, and are fundamentally going about this in the wrong way. They have become reactionary instead of proactive.

    This is why it is a watershed moment for Asobo. It's like myself as an author. If I keep on re-writing a chapter over and over again, it's all too easy to end up with something that no longer resembles the first version, and worse, it's possible to lose the plot. If Asobo keeps on acting like a dog chasing its tail, going round in circles fixing fixes, then at some point they are going to end up with such a mess that they cannot go back and correct it without doing a major re-write or a total re-set. Again, a watershed. To Asobo I say, stop this nonsense now, before you break it any further and lose the plot.

    But, it is also a watershed for third-party developers. As of patch 5, my Carenado 182 has some issues, my BlackBox Bird Dog is broken in multiple ways, and reports have also shown problems with the Carenado Mooney, Iris Jabiru, and IndiaFoxTecho MB-339. In some cases the doors and windows no longer open. In many aircraft the switches and buttons are totally re-mapped at the custom coding level. More often than not there are livery issues too, even in freeware repaints of default aircraft. In the MS forum, both Iris and BlackBox intimated that they will need to wait for Asobo to fix things before moving ahead, although Iris has since said they've been able to fix some of the issues. And, while it was hoped that the end of October hotfix might have addressed these third-party woes, it didn't. On top of that, we've already seen that bigger developers like PMDG are holding off until the product stabilizes. I suspect A2A and others are doing the same too. Seriously, how can a third-party developer have confidence in supporting this product under these circumstances? And I will never stop saying, it is the third-party industry that represents the make or break for a sim.

    I remember when I owned and operated The VIP Group twenty-something years ago. One of the most annoying challenges was having to re-do and re-design everything with each new version of MSFS. Back then, we at least had a breather for two years, so goodness knows how maddening it is for developers now, with changes coming every two WEEKS. And so, some developers might simply give up, and re-focus on old platforms again, or they might just place an indeterminable hold on product development for this new wonder-sim. How long will that hold last? It depends on how long it takes Asobo to stabilize the platform, and based on their current tail chasing, I'm not willing to even begin to guess on that timescale!

    So, watershed for Asobo, and watershed for third-party developers. But it is also a watershed for users. Just how many people (long term simmers, not the newbies), have already raised their hands in frustration and gone back to X-Plane, Prepar3D, or DCS? It's not as if these folks have avoided giving MSFS a fair try, they are paying customers who expected better. In fact, some of them even deleted their old sims based on their expectations of MSFS alone, and some are regretting that decision now as they slowly re-build the assets of their previous platforms.

    For many people, each new patch represents not an advancement in the new sim, but a game of Russian Roulette. There is no confidence in incremental improvement, rather a sense of foreboding in which the question is at least implied, "Wonder what they'll break this time?", or "I wonder if it will even work now?" or, "Will this be the patch that sends me back to my old sim?" - And sadly, when these simmers express such feelings in the forums, they are denigrated for doing so by people who say "You should have known what you were buying." Really? Which part of the pre-release development videos from Asobo suggested they were going to bring a beta to market?

    It is time for this madness to stop. Yes, I know people might say "This is just how the software industry works"... Well if this is the "new normal" in the industry, it stinks to high heaven and is a step in the wrong direction. Asobo has got to put the brakes on now and re-think what they are doing, and how they are going about things.

    So what is needed? Well, while the decisions are not mine to make, if I owned Asobo I know what I would do now.

    1. I would stop and take a "fearless moral inventory" of myself, admitting that I've messed up somewhere.
    2. I would have the courage to admit this to Microsoft, suggesting that product sales should be temporarily halted while further development takes place to stabilize the sim.
    3. I would re-appoint a core group of the most experienced and reliable Beta testers ASAP.
    4. I would include within that Beta group every third-party developer with products currently on the market or in development for the platform.
    5. I would temporarily close the public forum, so that I could stop reacting to thousands of disparate voices, with different product experiences and opinions.
    6. I would roll back the sim to exactly what was released on August 18th (They do have back-ups surely?).
    7. I would take the experiences of the past 11 weeks, and use those experiences to begin building slowly, incrementally, and progressively upon that August 18th platform.
    8. I would address one area at a time, put it out to the Beta testers, and respond appropriately to feedback on that one area, completing it and signing off on it before moving on.
    9. I would resist all attempts by bean counters and marketing people to re-open sales until I knew I had a stable product.
    10. I would then, with a stable product, re-open sales and re-open the forum. I would release the newly-revised version, but make no further live changes to it.
    11. I would have a separate development version that only Beta testers could access. Development would continue in a way that did not impact the live public release.
    12. I would plan to release a new version one year from the date of the current release, knowing that it was a stable, sound, and reliable new release.

    If Asobo takes steps like this, they can save this product. If they carry on with their current direction, they will fix, break, re-fix, and re-break themselves into a corner. Meanwhile, sensing an opportunity, maybe Lockheed Martin and Google will get together and shock the heck out of the industry. Who knows.

    So where do I personally stand now on my use of MSFS 2020? Yes I love the sim, but it is a love-hate relationship. Two nights ago, I decided to fly at night over my local area of the Canadian prairie. In reality, at night there are massive areas of darkness, punctuated by the lights of small towns and villages in the distance. Well, the sim represented this nicely... until patch 5. Now, the prairie is lit up like a Christmas tree, with even gravel roads garishly illuminated by street lamps every hundred feet or so. I literally shouted out "That's enough of this BS", and as my dog ran away thinking I was mad at him, I switched the program off in total disgust.

    Later, I fired up an earlier sim again, but it's not the same any more. Yes, it is stable and well-developed with add-ons, but the visuals have been ruined for me because of the taste of what MSFS is capable of. Sad thing is this.... I feel disappointed in the old sim now, but also frustrated with the new. It's a limbo world in which there is no sim-happiness. But then, that's a refection of the real world in 2020 for masses of the global population, isn't it?

    See you in the next KerrSpective, even if I have no idea what platform that will be based in!

    Kenneth Kerr
    Previous KerrSpective: A Thinking Man's Guide To Add-ons


    99 Comments
    1. SpookyDiver's Avatar
      SpookyDiver -
      Agree with you 100%. For the time being I am staying away from MODs, including those from official FS2020 contributors/developers. I am new with Flight Simulators, played with them before when the first FS was released and never got into it I guess because of the lack of realism, but I have been in PC gaming since 1982 and I am used to it by now, because it never fails, every time a game receives a patch, it steps on the mod's toes. It does not matter if the game have a "MOD folder" like the Sims 4, for example, or a "Community Folder" like FS2020, MODs always break and have to play catchup. I think Asobo should have kept the Community folder in a temporary locked state until they iron out the bugs.
      By the way, when the Rex Weather Force app/plugin broke, it took the developer a day to fix it. Liveries/skins broke too, but to fix them, the creators will have to tweak each one of them, which is tedious work.
      I am one of those newbies, so it doesn't affect me much and I am happy if I can just keep my plane in the air, but I can see how someone like you will get upset about it. Now, go pet your dog and give him a treat!
    1. owend's Avatar
      owend -
      Thank you for and HONEST analysis of the state of MSFS. I was one of the holdouts who decided not to buy this sim, realizing it is in the Beta mode and not fully developed to the point where nothing breaks. I have a feeling it will be quite some time before all the issues are resolved. If the sim survives, I will buy it at some point in the future, but not today. I will stick with my P3dv4.5 and watch MSFS to see what happens.
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpookyDiver View Post
      Agree with you 100%. For the time being I am staying away from MODs, including those from official FS2020 contributors/developers. I am new with Flight Simulators, played with them before when the first FS was released and never got into it I guess because of the lack of realism, but I have been in PC gaming since 1982 and I am used to it by now, because it never fails, every time a game receives a patch, it steps on the mod's toes. It does not matter if the game have a "MOD folder" like the Sims 4, for example, or a "Community Folder" like FS2020, MODs always break and have to play catchup. I think Asobo should have kept the Community folder in a temporary locked state until they iron out the bugs.
      By the way, when the Rex Weather Force app/plugin broke, it took the developer a day to fix it. Liveries/skins broke too, but to fix them, the creators will have to tweak each one of them, which is tedious work.
      I am one of those newbies, so it doesn't affect me much and I am happy if I can just keep my plane in the air, but I can see how someone like you will get upset about it. Now, go pet your dog and give him a treat!
      Thank you for your comments, and welcome "back" to our wonderful hobby. Like you, I am happy to "keep my plane in the air." I use flightsim mostly for short VFR flights in General Aviation aircraft. As such, what I really hope for is consistency of the experience, along with a general evolution to better fidelity. The new sim promised the latter in spades, and they went a very long way towards delivering it. That's why I am so saddened when their incremental "fix the fix" approach removes consistency and reliability from the experience. They are capable of more, but the approach needs to be re-thought now, before they get in so deep it is hard to dig out..

      And, the dog is just fine! (See picture below!)
      Attachment 223593
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by owend View Post
      Thank you for and HONEST analysis of the state of MSFS. I was one of the holdouts who decided not to buy this sim, realizing it is in the Beta mode and not fully developed to the point where nothing breaks. I have a feeling it will be quite some time before all the issues are resolved. If the sim survives, I will buy it at some point in the future, but not today. I will stick with my P3dv4.5 and watch MSFS to see what happens.
      In some ways, I wish I had also waited. I would still be happy with P3d, and not frustrated with MSFS. In the past, I waited years to go from FS2004 to FSX, and then even more years to go from FSX to P3d. In each case, the move was from a stable sim to a stable sim. This time, my impatience caused me to be an "early adopter" and that has clearly brought ramifications I was not anticipating. I think the new sim will survive, and it will become stable over time. But, the current approach may not be serving their highest good, and might ultimately lengthen that period. I believe it was another Frenchman, Napoleon, who once suggested they had to fall back to the original lines in order to regroup and advance.
    1. doering1's Avatar
      doering1 -
      I am one of the lucky ones who has not had issues with the sim, but I have only flown the TBM 930 and I have not added any mods. I know the TBM well. The TBM performs as it should with the autopilot, follows flight plans, STARS and SIDS correctly. Manual flight for VFR is also great. Based on the number of issues, I certainly agree that more testing should be implemented before additional patches are released. Point #5 in your comments is definitely correct. I am sure that Asobo Studios did not want to release August 18th. That was Microsoft’s decision. Way to many setups and preferences contributing to reported problems. Examples of flight planning, autopilot and manual control are all part of my latest video flying the TBM 930 into the Courchevel Altiport if interested.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzhgSjRzoNE&t=1945s
    1. max327's Avatar
      max327 -
      Please, don't give up on this sim. Asobo and Microsoft have taken flight simulation forward a giant step. For the first time, I can look out the windscreen and see the world as it appears in real life. That's huge. I guess I'm also one of the lucky ones, because I really haven't had many issues. I'm willing to be patient as this sim is developed and improved, and in the mean time, I'm going to go flying.
    1. mapattison's Avatar
      mapattison -
      I completely agree. I want to buy this sim, but can't sink my hard earned into it yet. If the present path of patches upon patches continues, I have to wonder if it will still be on the market when I do want to make the move. But mostly, I have to wonder what all the so called alpha testers were doing. Flying over your own house forever doesn't make someone a program tester; just another user. Clearly, Asobo didn't get the results they needed from those alpha testers, and the beta testing was way too short. I used to be involved in business systems development, and if these were the best results, I'd have been sacked and the project abandoned. I hope they can find a way out of this mess as we need something better than FSX or FSX spin-offs now. This is an ambitious project and one that we all want to succeed. BTW, loved your VIP addons for FS98. Your add on planes were what cemented me in as a long term flight simmer.
    1. SpookyDiver's Avatar
      SpookyDiver -
      Quote Originally Posted by KennethKerr View Post
      Thank you for your comments, and welcome "back" to our wonderful hobby. Like you, I am happy to "keep my plane in the air." I use flightsim mostly for short VFR flights in General Aviation aircraft. As such, what I really hope for is consistency of the experience, along with a general evolution to better fidelity. The new sim promised the latter in spades, and they went a very long way towards delivering it. That's why I am so saddened when their incremental "fix the fix" approach removes consistency and reliability from the experience. They are capable of more, but the approach needs to be re-thought now, before they get in so deep it is hard to dig out..

      And, the dog is just fine! (See picture below!)
      Attachment 223593
      Thank you for sharing your dog's picture. I had a miniature Schnauzer that used to get on my lap while I work/or play on my PC, or just laydown next to me when he got old. He passed away a couple of years ago and I missed him very much.
    1. stusue's Avatar
      stusue -
      I love the new sim. I love that they released it when they did. I love watching the evolution of the process. It's a magnificent sim to experience even if it's imperfect. And it WILL get better. Remember what FSX was liked in the beginning ? Remember the first few editions of X-Plane ? Geese, remember the first few editions of Android OS ? Give them time and support. My biggest fear is that all the nay sayers will discourage the thinking heads at Osobo and Microsoft and they'll pull the plug if they get too much negative publicity ? Let's keep it positive folks ! We live in an amazing age of technology and creature comforts. We get to have a life like simulator on our home computers. This would have been unthinkable 50 years ago. I say Thank you to Asobo and thank you to Microsoft and thank you to all the third party developers who add to the experience. Thanks to all the positive people on this forum. Let's keep going folks.
    1. guzler's Avatar
      guzler -
      I’m fully behind Asobo, not least because I’ve already invested over £200 into this sim and out of the box it looks the best. I hope that development favours the simmer and not the Xbox flyer however (unless they can do both without drawing out much needed sim elements). Getting the traffic sorted (they appear, disappear, multiple aircraft on runway, traffic on runway etc), getting stability sorted and enabling sub folders in the community folder would be nice. Whilst visually stunning, I wasn’t aware that I had purchased a beta until installing and reconnecting with forums like this because things were broke and I needed help. If I had known, I would of held off for a while. Even little things like not being able to change weather from a loaded flight from one saved earlier become annoying, I assume this is a bug and not an intended omission. All that said, it has brought me back to simming and suspect I’m not alone.
    1. howlak's Avatar
      howlak -
      Each person has his own experience.

      After some days as alpha tester I could not return to P3D, X-plane (and DCS that I use marginally).
      When beta was announced I have paid for MSFS if I was not selected. I don't care if as per today this is a beta.

      No major problems:

      MSFS installed in default location.
      Addons tested one by one.
      Minimum addons when playing they are installed outside the main folder and activated-deactivated according the flight.
      High end (according MSFS) branded PC (HP Omen)
      Good internet connection
      Review of menus each update.

      Finally, I'm not of those thinking that for $ 60 they are entitled to have by default 3 PMDG planes and a lot of A2A planes.
    1. collltip's Avatar
      collltip -
      very good article.I know nothing about computer programming.The authors are clever people but do not seem to realise that computers are different, just as humans are different.I have lost count of the times I have been following instructions on the web and reading if I clik something I will see something.Wrong.I do not see that screen,but the writer must see it on his screen.I got MSFS from Steam on day one.Although they say I have played it for 56 hours,I have actually never got it to start.I sent the computer back to the suppliers and they tried to make it work for 6 weeks without success.If they can not make it start what chance do I have.There should be a PDF manual on how to make it work.
    1. scubaboy3c's Avatar
      scubaboy3c -
      Just my guess, but I bet Asobo was 6-12 months away from being ready to release MSFS. Then a Microsoft bigwig flew it and decided "The planes are flyable, time to start selling it!". Now Asobo seem like they are treading water, just trying to keep their head above water, with the weight of customer expectations pushing them down.
    1. nhuby's Avatar
      nhuby -
      I have been simming hardcore since the first release of flight sim in the 80's, since then I have spent countless money on upgrading PC's every few years and many more hours installing tweaking and fixing software issues.

      This progressed to the point of building a fully functional 738 flightdeck in my basement running P3D.

      I was excited with the news that MS had decided to get back into the flightsim genre and initially planned on buying it on its release date. But after much thought I wisely decided to wait because experience had taught me in the past that it will be buggy and could take a long time to clean it up and stabilize.
      If I was just desktop simming this would have been acceptable, but using multiple networked PC's and lots of custom hardware I didn't want to waste time in troubleshooting the new platform, after all most of us just want a stable platform to enjoy.

      I haven't forgot how MS dumped the most successful software franchise outside of Windows back in 2009, leaving all the flight sim enthusiasts and software developers hanging in the wind either.

      When MS and Asobo stabilize the sim I will revisit supporting them.
      My next wish is that MS would stick to a PC OS with "Windows" and leave all the other bloatware JUNK out!
    1. Scallywag's Avatar
      Scallywag -
      Thanks for an excellent summary of where we are with MSFS. I agree with you completely. As an Alpha tester I was astonished when the Beta phase was so short, and the product launch was not "early access" but a full release. I suspect Asobo were (and still are) under enormous pressure from the mighty MS to "just get it out there". Like you I find it very disappointing that patch 5 has messed up the night lighting, which was, previously, excellent.
    1. targetpractice2's Avatar
      targetpractice2 -
      Its just the usual BS, using their customers as the Beta testers, STEAM set the bar for this where nearly every release is alpha/beta.. a way of crowd funding under the excuse that you can get beta testing without the usual crowd funding milestones / rewards etc. I am not buying any addons for MS2020 tempting though it is.. the free mods yes. But after investing good money in it and actually enjoying it, I dont want to go back to the days of FSX where every mod was a game of find .cfg file to adjust if FSX crashes.. I have a very old pc and actually performance wise I cannot fault Mfs2020 it runs brilliantly, but the continuing faults with the aircraft and forced updates which break something else is very frustrating.
    1. max327's Avatar
      max327 -
      Another advantage to MSFS is that I can pick and choose what 3rd party airport I want without having to buy huge regions or base-packs in addition to the airport. And the airports are reasonably priced. The Marketplace makes it easy to find what you want, funneling a variety of developers into a central location rather than having to search the internet.
    1. nightrite's Avatar
      nightrite -
      I completely agree with the author. I have great hopes for MSFS, but now after 5 patches, the sim has started falling apart. I am so frustrated with it that I have decided to go back to X-Plane. I'll wait a few months and then try it again.
      I've paid way too much money to be a beta tester!
    1. stretch's Avatar
      stretch -
      Kenneth said everything I had been thinking. I won't post anymore opinions about the existing issues; each time I'm met with phrases like stop complaining or you just don't know how to use the sim. I agree with Kenneth so much on the fact that Asobo needs to employ some of us really salty developers, I am sure that would be a help to them. I've written to them and suggested this....no answer. For now I've deleted the simulator. I hope to come back when its stabilized and runs correctly. Kenneth, thank you for your in depth write up....well done sir!
    1. plutone's Avatar
      plutone -
      Agree with you 100%.

      I hope ASOBO will understand (in their own interest) that they have to follow your "12" commandments asap, in order to restore the pleasure of flying to all of us.
      I want to say you many many thanks for explaining the issues so professionally Kenneth, very well done.
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