Sunday, October 6, 2013

Big update on the FSL A320 project!

FSX. Lefteris Kalamaras has given a huge update regarding the status of the FlightSimLabs A320 project. According to Lefteris, the team is burred deep in code and visual improvements. As for why the updates are few and far in between, the developer states that the attention to detail and systems will be to such a great detail of accuracy, there is no point in rushing or cutting corners on any part of this project. The FS community has shown a great deal of excitement and interest over this project and we all are very curious to see just how FSL will deliver. But the biggest question is: will there be wingflex? Thanks to ADX reader: Jonathan Bleeker for the tipoff!

"Hi all,

Quite a bit of time since we updated you with our status... sometimes it's true that with our heads so deep into the code, it's difficult to come up and take a breath... there's quite a bit of development going on in the Labs, I won't tire you with the same old "it's very complex" reason, but it remains true today. Those of you who have read my status updates in the past will understand that my roots are in programming and development, so my skill set is more honed towards writing code than spreading hype and marketing fluff. As such, forgive me for sometimes forgetting that it's nice to put a little bit of text together for you all, if only just to say a nice hello and give you some heads-up on our status.

So - what's been going on:

We're doing great.

The team is working hard, as always and every new alpha release brings more functionality to our testers and advisers. Technical terms, such as "extended vertical profile calculations", "altitude/speed constraint triplets", "leg fuel prediction variability" are included in our daily discussions. While these discussions might excite me personally (didn't I say my background is in programming and development?), they don't offer themselves as presentation material for public consumption, not just because they tend to be dry in nature (calculating the Dx/Dy step for TCF/TAD predictions is in itself a matter of various US Patents but hardly instagram-worthy), but also because if we attempt to start such discussions in the forum, they have a tendency to diverge significantly into other forms of human fun (such as the displays we had recently).
We have also been working hard on the visual aspects of our simulation product - external model and virtual cockpit have been receiving lots of attention (always with the help of our advisers and testers). As is usual historically in such projects, code programming takes significantly longer than the development of visual elements, but in our case, we use that to our advantage - it's typical that some of our visual work has been done over more than once, as each round of alpha testing might identify elements that we wish to improve upon and beautify.
Why, then, "are we so late"?

Well, we are and we aren't. As I mentioned previously in my past "update" notes, I originally set the bar very high in terms of what we wanted to deliver, but failed to realize how hard that is in terms of development - in the past, all our simulation projects had been done solely with the entertainment market in mind, meaning that we were able to "cut corners" where corners could be cut (to a degree that would allow us to stay within the 18 month development time frame period).

With the A320-X family, we aim much higher - we want our product to be able to deliver proper functionality in so many different areas and each one requires absolute attention to detail. As such, where in the past we'd spend two-three days to develop the cabin pressurization system (for example) and call it "good enough" as a platform, in the A320-X it took us significantly longer to develop, as it tied into the bleed systems, our pneumatic simulation model and also took account of sealant leaks where they might play a role in the real aircraft. It also tied into the electrics wiring - the switches and knobs that control pressurization are properly tied into our electrical grid which meant that work in electrics had to coexist with the development of cabin pressure calculations.
This is but a small example of what attention we bring into our product - but it also means that we can't be accurate in estimating how long each system might take to fully be developed. Thankfully, it also means that when they are complete, these systems are so elegantly done they can be plugged into each aircraft type without requiring much more than the rewiring for each aircraft's input / output requirements.
I have been discussing with our team how we can bring some visual elements to life for you before our product is released. We have a few ideas that we will be showcasing in upcoming posts but for now, I just wanted to write you a small update just to say that we appreciate your continued support (it's amazing how much of that you keep showing us every day) and to ask for your understanding when there's some time between updates - I know it's frustrating, I've been there myself as a customer, but it's even worse as a developer because we're the first to want to give you the fruits of our labor.

That is all for now - I have asked Bob Lyddy, our new QA manager, to keep me honest in providing these updates so if I don't come up with a new one soon, you now know exactly who to blame (see how easy it is to point fingers elsewhere? :) ).

Talk to you soon!"
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Unknown said...

Not sure what big news you speak of ? the guy (and I have a lot of respect for him) just wrote about why it's taking so long to develop his add-on. he did not give any release date information nor an indicate as to where "thing are at" nowadays..
I don't foresee a release for another 6 months IMHO.
Maybe it's for the best, I don't know.. maybe he should think about making it compatible with P3D V2

Pirx said...

For me, there are quite interesting products in development, in the line of PMDG and Majestic. These are the FSL 320 and the Enigma 737 classic, perhaps also the Coolsky Fokker.

As a simmer I wish the best luck to these developers because this is the kind of product I want to fly.

Todd said...

Don't worry, Josh. Everything that works in v1.4 will work in v2.0, according to multiple beta testers I know.

Unknown said...

This is all very well, but with P3D v2 on the horizon, will they be supporting this or is this going to be FSX only, in which case it will be a big failure.

Unknown said...

Last I heard if my memory serves me correctly, I remember reading on their forums that it is for FSX only. FS Labs seems to have a very similar approach to P3D as does PMDG and does not indicate it wants to support the platform. If I recall, one of the lead team members at FS Labs used to be part of the PMDG team. It seems with regard to P3D, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Unknown said...

If this is an FSX only development, then its destiny can be written with one word - FAILURE.

While Prepar3D may not be radically different from anything FSX has to deliver, Prepar3D v2 will change everything. Any developer who thinks that FSX users, who have been dying to have a totally new installment of their favourite flight simulation platform for many years, will hang around to use FSX because their product is FSX only, need their head examined.

Once Prepar3D v2 is released and shows to solve all the nasty memory errors and numerous visual hiccups of the dated FSX DX9 engine, the FSX user base will all do the switch, it's a no-brainer.

It seems obvious that FSL have completely failed at being able to stick to their initial A320 development/release timeline and any business risk assessor will tell you that they need to release this for Prepar3D v2 as well, or they will lose out majorly on sales, meaning it will be a business failure.

The irony of this particular development is how Lefteris speaks of their absolute attention to detail, their pneumatic simulation model etc., which they are developing for an entertainment platform, when in fact it would seem that this is so hardcore that it merits being developed for a professional use platform such as Prepar3D v2.

PMDG managed to squeeze out their 777 just in time, as their FSX only strategy is about to catch up with them too. Why would any user invest their hard-earned money in products for a dead platform, when there are so many developers, the Aerosoft A320 comes to mind for example, that offer Prepar3D support already.

As Lefteris points out above, he has his roots in programming and development. My advice to him is to get someone on board who can give him some sane business advice, do some risk assessment, as these seem to be areas for which his venture is ill equipped.

Toaster said...

They said hundreds of times, that a there will be something "following" the initial fsx release. So this A320 won't remain a FSX-only product.

Their "training/enthusiast/commercial" product sounds exactly like what you want.

Unknown said...

I imagine that the FS Lab guys are in total panic right now, but are trying to give us the impression that everything is cool. David raises some very valid points and if they don't manage to release their A320 before P3D v2 hits the market, they will have a massive problem.

If I had the opportunity to invest in FS Labs and their business plan showed no development support for P3D v 2, then I would not consider giving them even one penny, as they will go under.

Hopefully someone from FS Labs can shed some light on their current position towards supporting P3D v2.

Unknown said...

I agree with every word.
Well said !

Iain said...

I don't agree with the P3D cheerleaders here, IMO that platform is simply not stable or mature as FSX simply because it's more of a 'living beast' - every new version can potentially break existing addons, especially with complex payware aircraft. If LM releases P3D 3.0 or even 4.0 a year from now will the 3rd party developers continue to spend time and money endlessly updating their addons? At least with FSX the developers have the certainty that the vast majority of FSX users are running one version (Acceleration) and they have a critical mass - similar to FS9 at its zenith, which P3D cannot match.

And then there's the legal aspect. As a defense contractor LM is simply not interested in dealing with hobbyists and people like Orbx are simply taking advantage of the grey area in the EULA and LM's silence to sell more stuff. I think what inevitably will happen is LM will probably say "No" followed by cease and desist letters to the users/devs. After dealing with Boeing's lawyers PMDG is wise enough not to get into the P3D business, and Lefteris, being ex-PMDG, would know the risks.

The biggest problem facing FS Labs I think is that it's simply taking too long, and in project management time costs money. I think they are well aware of what happened with Airsimmer, which got too ambitious with their first project and ended up running out of time and money. Also don't forget that Aerosoft's Airbus X is getting better all the time, and the longer FS Labs spend on chasing perfection more potential customers will just give up and buy Aerosoft's offering.

Unknown said...

P3D cheerleading? Please feel free to continue using a 2006 platform, that is by now so mature, it's getting cobwebs.

I'm pretty sure that the first screenshots we'll get to see of P3D v2 will knock everyone's socks off. Any serious flight simmer thinking of staying with FSX once P3D v2 becomes available, needs a serious reality check.

Jerome Zimmermann said...

Just in case you need a subtle nudge to move onto something new and exciting called Prepar3D v2, take a look at this, it's a real eye opener to all users still having doubts about what the new platform can and will deliver:

Unknown said...

I hope you words are heard in the heavens. I can only imagine what something like the FSL 320 will create as an immersion on P3D V2

Iain said...

@David Macpherson and Jerome Zimmermann

A good looking sim won't solve the development problems payware devs face, which is a constantly evolving platform - similar to what happened previously in the FS series with a disruptive new game every 2 years. (FS98, FS2000, FS2002, FS2004 etc.) However with P3D (and X-plane) it's happening faster with more frequent updates. It's like building a house on top of foundations which are constantly shifting, and complex addons will eventually break requiring time consuming patching work, potentially with every new version of P3D. (IIRC PMDG took 1+ year full time to port the 747 to FSX) I can guarantee you all those Orbx sceneries for P3D WILL eventually stop working, and you'll be stuck with the choice of sticking with an outdated version of P3D (which is incompatible with new addons) or discard the addons. Developers will not support their products forever with each new version of P3D,

Another problem with such shifting foundations are that payware aircraft development takes many years, and by the time you finish the addon code base may no longer be compatible with the latest versions of P3D. What do you do then? Spend another year fixing problems and then see another new version of P3D on release day? Rob at PMDG actually stated at the Aerosoft conference that he prefers the stability FSX gives because he knows the FSX code base won't shift from underneath him, which is something that can happen with P3D. (and X-plane)

As for the users, people will stick to the sim which the have invested the most time and money, and right now it's FSX. I know that because I used to be a FS9 die-hard due to the fact I have nearly every addon aircraft and scenery there is, all sorted to perfection under one roof. I only moved to FSX 2 years ago not because of better graphics, but because of the lure of big new addons like the NGX and the fact that my dual-boot system (I have FS9 on XP x64) no longer works with constant hardware upgrades. With FSX being the "end of the road" for most retail users (i.e. those who will not play tricks with P3D's EULA and potentially end up with unusable software) it is rapidly becoming what FS9 was at its peak, with addons for nearly every aircraft and every major airport in the world. This is why FSX will remain as the best platform for many users for many years to come, despite its graphical limitations.

Jerome Zimmermann said...

Add-ons such as FS Dreamteam's CYVR and PMDG's 777 bring FSX to its knees, even when coupled with modern, state-of-the art hardware. I have an i7-3930K CPU coupled with a GTX Titan GPU, and I will openly embrace a new platform that will make full use of modern hardware that FSX is simply unable to exploit properly.

As far as compatibility is concerned, the mere fact that developers like Flight1 and PMDG have actually built a Prepar3D block into some of their add-ons to actively resist working with Prepar3D, demonstrates how very compatible FSX add-ons are with Prepar3D!

We live in an evolving world, car models change every few years, mobile phone models seem to change almost faster than we can put on fresh socks, most here will agree that a brand new version of FSX is long overdue.

There are fundamental issues with FSX that are far worse than any teething troubles we are ever bound to experience with Prepar3D v2. I'm looking forward to the release of Prepar3D v2 with tremendous enthusiasm, whatever best experience we've had in FSX can only get better :-)

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