Which Flight Simulator Software is right for you?

Back in the early days, we didn’t have much choice when it came to selecting flight simulator software.  When I was a teen back in the early 80’s, I had a Commodore 64 computer.  I had a version of flight simulator which ran on the Commodore 64 computer.  In those days you only had a small selection of airports to fly to and from and typically only one type of aircraft.  I spent many, many hours flying the Cessna around Meig’s Field in Chicago.

As time passed, the sophistication of the various flight simulator software titles evolved from just one aircraft and a few airports to any aircraft one could imagine and an entire globe full of airports with tons of eye candy to look at while flying from point A to point B.  Today, flight simulator enthusiasts have many different software platforms to choose from when it comes to setting up their flight simulator.

I’m going to break down the options you have in the various flight simulators available today and provide a brief description and even some opinion regarding each of the available options.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

I’m starting off with Microsoft Flight Simulator since I very much consider this the grandfather of all today’s flight sim applications.  While Microsoft discontinued their popular Flight Simulator franchise many years ago, many enthusiasts continue to use their two previous editions of Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9) and Flight Simulator X (FSX).  Actually, the first several titles I’m going to list below were all born from much of the original FSX code.  As I stated, many still use both FS9 and the original FSX boxed edition today.  However, due to their age…I feel for those looking to get started in this exciting hobby entertain other available options.

Dovetail Games – Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition

In July 2014, Dovetail Games announced a licensing agreement with Microsoft to distribute the popular Microsoft FSX via Steam.  Dovetail Games made a few minor tweaks to the application to help improve performance and fix many issues which Microsoft had failed to patch before they mothballed the flight simulator projects.  The Dovetail Games Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition (FSX SE) is still available to purchase via Steam for $24.99.  Since the release of FSX SE, many third party payware add-ons or DLC have been made available.

While FSX SE remains a 32 bit application, with the impressive list of available add-ons (which most have been optimized to function well with FSX SE) this simulator remains an excellent starting platform for the brand new flight sim enthusiast.

Dovetail Games – Flight Sim World

Around the same time Dovetail Games announced their licensing agreement to distribute the above mentioned FSX SE, they also announced they had plans to develop their own flight simulator platform.  Just last month, Dovetail Games announced and released Flight Sim World as an early release (beta) product.  Flight Sim World currently sells for $24.99 on Steam.

At this point in time, not a whole lot is known about the future of Flight Sim World (FSW).  There’s a wide variety of opinions regarding this simulator and how much support it will receive from 3rd party developers.  I recently wrote an opinion piece regarding my experience with FSW which you can read here.

In a nutshell, Flight Sim World is not a complete re-write.  There’s still a lot of the old FSX baseline code which exists within the sim.  However, Dovetail has developed it into a 64 bit application and of course this is great news from a systems performance perspective.

Unfortunately, the “what we don’t know” about Flight Sim World is about the only thing giving me some pause.  The way I see it, (and this is just my opinion) but as FSW is born from FSX…if Dovetail doesn’t get the 3rd party developers involved and allow them to develop the content we all expect to see in a sim, then this may never get off the ground.

The Importance of 64 Bit

Before I proceed with my article, I just want to touch on one very important piece and that is the importance of a 64 bit application in today’s modern technology world compared to the older 32 bit architecture.

I’ve written many pieces regarding the obstacles we’ve all faced in trying to wring out as much performance as we can from the older 32 bit applications like FSX (and early versions of P3D).  As we drifted further and further away from the date the original FSX code was developed, we’ve pushed harder and harder on that ever important envelope referred to as VAS or Virtual Address Space.  Essentially available RAM.

Unfortunately, simply adding more RAM to a PC isn’t the solution.  A 32 bit application (like FSX) will only utilize up to 4 GB of available RAM regardless of the amount available in the PC.  Running down to the local hardware store and buying an extra 8 GB of RAM will do nothing to help prevent those pesky OOM’s or Out Of Memory Errors.    Of course, these OOM’s are (for the most part) self-inflicted by piling on visually stunning add-on payware in the form of ground textures, enhanced airport scenery and highly detailed study level type aircraft.  In other words, for the most part….the base FSX application works well until you begin adding the eye candy.

Let’s continue with the list….

Lockheed Martin – Prepar3D

In 2009, Lockheed Martin announced they had negotiated with Microsoft to purchase the intellectual property (including source code) from the Microsoft ESP side of their flight simulation division.  ESP was the commercial side of Microsoft’s business in developing flight simulation applications.  Prepar3d version 1.1 was released in 2011, P3D v2 in 2013, P3D v3 in 2015 and finally Prepar3d version 4 (64 bit) in May 2017.

For me, P3D v4 has become my personal standard and it is what I use for my day to day flight simulation enjoyment.  While P3D v4 (just like versions 1-3) still very much contain original baseline ESP code, and much of the base scenery hasn’t been updated since the days of FSX….the 64 bit architecture is a noticeable “night versus day” difference maker for this very popular flight sim application.

Unfortunately, the only real drawback to P3D comes down to their EULA or End-User License Agreement.  To put it mildly, it’s confusing.  Essentially, P3D is licensed under the following structure:

Academic – ($59.95) Designed to offer the academic community a platform to develop hands-on STEM lessons.  While the academic version of the software is the same as the professional version, there is a watermark visible  signifying the acceptable use of the license.  The academic license is provided at a discount for students.  Currently, there are no requirements to prove eligibility for the academic license.

Professional – ($199.00) The P3D Professional license does allow for training, instruction, simulation and learning.

Professional Plus – ($2300.00)  The P3D Professional Plus license is designed for real world business customers who are going to use the software for extensive training purposes.

Developer – ($9.95/Month) Registered software developers can subscribe and receive two full copies.

I’ve written about the confusion of how the P3D EULA simply doesn’t offer a license for basic entertainment purposes only.  It is for this purpose, I personally purchase the “Professional” level which does specifically identify simulation as part of the acceptable use of the software.  I feel this is also the right thing to do considering that I do often stream and record my flights on YouTube, Twitch etc.  Plus….I’m not a student.

All versions of P3D are still available for purchase on the Prepar3D website and all are offered at the same price.  So if you are truly interested in the P3D platform, I would saddle up with the brand new P3D version 4.

Before I venture away from the topic of P3D allow me to address one thing.  Many are upset, disappointed etc. with the fact that Prepar3D version 4 is simply a 64 bit update of the original ESP code.  Meaning, much of how P3D looks by default hasn’t changed since FSX hit the store shelves almost a dozen years ago.  While I truly understand what many are saying….I must also remind everyone that P3D has never been directly marketed to the general consumer for mere entertainment purposes.  The real target audience of P3D is the commercial, professional and academic side of things and I suggest that perhaps…just perhaps the criteria is just different.

Needless to say, I for one am extremely pleased with P3D v4.  If Lockheed Martin had followed the suggestions from those demanding a new game engine, the wait would be much, much longer.  P3D v4 is performing extremely well on my gaming system and is allowing me to finally enjoy ultimate realism without the need to worry about the crash due to running out of memory.

X-Plane

Just a reminder, my list is not ranking the titles in any particular order.  X-Plane has been around for a number of years and it should be noted that X-Plane was the absolute very first to release their flight sim platform built on the 64 bit architecture.  Their recent release of X-Plane 11 has been making news and is certainly a worthy consideration.  One of the great things about X-Plane is the community behind it.  It truly reminds me of the old Microsoft Flight Sim days where the community truly worked together to develop quality freeware add-ons.  Unfortunately, for the FSX, FSX SE and P3D titles….most add-ons will be payware (with a few exceptions).

For me personally, while I do own X-Plane 11, I’ve really found it to be a struggle to forget the old Microsoft ways of controlling the sim application.  Fortunately for my old mind, much of how FSX was controlled (again from the application level) is absolutely the same in the most recent version of P3D v4.  Plus my extensive collection of add-ons continue to work well.

Freeware/Open-Source Alternatives and a warning

There is an open-source alternative to flight simulation software available from FlightGear.  While I’ve never spent any time testing or flying using the FlightGear flight simulation software, I know others do use it and there are methods of importing planes from Microsoft Flight Simulator into FlightGear.  In addition, there is also an on-line client for the VATSIM network called SquawkGear that will allow you to use FlightGear to fly on-line.  It is extremely encouraging to see developers like FlightGear contribute to the flight sim community with their open-source program.

Unfortunately, there are some individuals who have taken the open-source code from FlightGear, made a few minor modifications and are attempting to market the product under various names such as Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator etc.  I first learned about this back in 2010 and blogged about it here and here.  But please….don’t take my word for it.  Read the official statement released by FlightGear and judge for yourself.

What should you choose?

Unfortunately, we all have different interests and we all have different budgets.  If you’ve previously been involved with the flight simulation hobby and are looking to get back in…then I would recommend either Prepar3D v4 or X-Plane.  What we know about these two platforms should prove these will both be around and will see continued improvements and enhancements for many years to come.

However, if you are brand new to flight simulation and are looking for simply an entry level starting point to help you understand some of the basics of flight and serve as a litmus test if you want to pursue the hobby further, then I suggested giving the new Dovetail Games Flight Sim World a solid look.  While this sim is in early access (beta), the current price of $24.95 won’t be money wasted even if you decide in six months you want to move to P3D or XP.  I’m very impressed with the tutorials in FSW and believe they can be most helpful in helping you achieve a better level of understanding in the principles of flight.  I believe this to be extremely helpful.

As time permits, I do plan to feature more flight simulation content on the GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel.  Most likely, I will provide some videos from Flight Sim World and of course also Prepar3D v4.  While I do own XP 11, I’m really just not comfortable enough with that platform to do it justice.

I hope this information has helped you.  As I recently discussed, I truly believe 2017 will be a great year for flight simulation.  I wish you the very best in your new aviation adventure.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Prepar3D v4 Add-ons Compatibility List

If you are curious as to what add-ons are currently compatible with the 64 bit version of Prepar3D v4, then look no further than this extensive spreadsheet list which is updated frequently as more add-ons are released for this awesome sim.

The highly anticipated 64 bit version of Prepar3D (P3D v4) was released only one week ago, but already dozens of 3rd party add-ons have been either made compatible or confirmed to already be compatible with P3D v4.  On the very first day of release, many 3rd party developers already had released new installers and the list continues to grow.

Over this past weekend, PMDG released their almost new Boeing 747-400 Queen of the Skies II for P3D v4.  While I own the PMDG 737 NGX and the beautiful Boeing 777, I had yet to pickup the 747.  But I’m excited to say that the Queen now lives in my hangar and here’s a recent flight image of this beautiful airplane.

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I can also report that on the above mentioned flight using the PMDG 747-400 (flying as Atlas Air Cargo), I departed from Denver KDEN (Flightbeam add-on scenery) and arrived in Dallas/Ft. Worth KDFW (FSDreamTeam add-on scenery) with all graphics settings maxed out and P3D v4 performed like a dream.  I simply could not do that in P3D v3.x without an Out of Memory error crash.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to get more of my large collection of 3rd party add-ons installed and configured into P3D v4.  At the present time I’m also working on a video review of the new Dovetail Games Flight Sim World and will also begin showcasing some flying action from the new P3D v4 on my GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel along with Farming Simulator 17 “Let’s Play series”.

Thank you for reading my blog and thanks for subscribing to my YouTube Channel.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Why Flight Simulation?

A little over 5 years ago I wrote a series of blog postings from a “How To” perspective with regards to the exciting hobby of flight simulation.  While some things have changed, some things haven’t.  Over the next few weeks I plan to re-release these articles, but will tweak and update the information so it’s more applicable today.  After all, a lot has changed over the past 5+ years.  For todays installment, I’m going to discuss Why Flight Simulation?

To some individuals, a computer based flight simulator is just a game and to many others it is much more, it’s an important hobby.  I’ve even known many younger individuals who were inspired to pursue aviation careers and became pilots and air traffic controllers as a result.  Regardless of your motive, one can learn and experience many different aspects of aviation and even learn something about geography through a computer based flight simulator program.

For me, flight simulation changed from being “Just a Game” around the year 2000.  As it was around this timeframe when I was first introduced to the world of internet based virtual airlines or VA’s.  I’ll discuss VA’s in more depth in a future article.  Before 2000, I would load up a flight in my simulator, pick a destination, take off and come back in a hour or two and land the plane.  I was happy if I could land within a hundred miles or so of the airport.  However,  with a little practice (practice does make perfect after all), I could navigate my aircraft and found it was actually interesting to fly the aircraft versus letting the autopilot do it.

Tip – It is easy to get caught up in wanting to fly “Big Iron” aircraft like the Boeing 747.  However, you’ll learn more about flying and navigating when spending time in the default Cessna type aircraft which are featured in all versions of the popular flight simulator programs.  Work your way up from the single engine prop models just like real pilots.

While I have no desire to take flying lessons or earn my private pilots license, the flight simulation hobby has taught me much about aviation, about the world we live in and I’ve met some really wonderful people as a result.

Next time I’ll discuss what flight simulator software is right for you (there are many to choose from) and some tips on setting it up.  Thank you for reading my blog.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT

Fine Print:  Unfortunately I feel the need to state for the record that my “How To” articles and tips are for flight simulation purposes only and should not be used for real world aviation.

2017 A Great Year for Flight Simulation

With new releases from Dovetail Games, Lockheed Martin and X-Plane….2017 is shaping up to be a really great year for flight simulation enthusiasts.  Arguably, the above mentioned developers ARE the future of flight simulation and no doubt will bring many new participants into this wonderful hobby.

For me, flight simulation was my very first video game passion which started in the early 1980’s.  Over the past 35+ years I’ve learned a lot and met many wonderful individuals through the hobby of flight sim.  As I anticipate a surge of new interested individuals to this hobby, over the next several weeks I’m going to write (in some cases re-write) a series of blog articles to assist in eliminating the confusion in all things flight simulation.

Just like other forms of simulation based games, flight simulation offers much enjoyment for a wide variety of interests.  Do you enjoy flying low and slow and taking in the scenery?  How about high and fast while simulating the captain of a modern jet airliner?  Or do you fancy becoming a propeller head and learning the art of flying non-fixed wing aircraft?  Something for just about all interest levels can be found in the wonderful genre of flight simulation.  Join me as I will help you better understand all your options and help you get started in flight simulation.

In addition to seeing more helpful content on my blog, I also plan to begin featuring flight sim related content on my growing GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel, and will occasionally stream flight sim related content to both YouTube, Twitch and Smashcast channels in the near future.

Stay tuned…..and hold onto your hat!

Until next time….

Jerry

Way to go Orbx

If you have been involved in the hobby of flight simulation longer than 5 minutes, you know what a grueling process it can be to get all your payware add-ons downloaded and installed into the sim.  Especially in the past 5+ years when Lockheed Martin has released several different versions of their wonderful Prepar3D.  With each version (v1, v2, v3 and now v4) required new installers due to minor or even major updates and changes at the sim level.

I own a lot of payware add-ons for my flight sim addiction.  Yea….it’s an addiction and I suppose recognizing it as such is half the battle in dealing with it.  But I have perhaps several thousand dollars (shhh, don’t tell the wife) invested in payware add-ons which help to scratch this itch I have for all things flight sim.  But each time a new version of P3D was released, it takes many, many hours to round up all the updated installers, patches etc. etc. etc.  The other dilemma is when a new version of P3D is released, it takes developers some time to work through their suite of add-ons and publish these updates.

Thankfully, much of my flight sim investment portfolio is from Orbx.  These are the wonderful and talented developers who have helped to transform old, out-dated (and often inaccurate) ground base textures, land-class textures and some of the most amazing airport sceneries you will ever see.  If you are a GA or General Aviation enthusiast (flying low and slow) then you probably already know all about the Orbx magic.

Some months ago, Orbx released an update to their FTX Central application which simplifies the process of obtaining both updates of the products you are licensed to use, as well as simplifies the overall install process of these items. Since FTX Central knows who I am (via secure login), it checks the inventory of items I’m licensed to use along with the inventory of titles already installed and in one central location I can select what needs to be installed and what needs to be updated and the process is both quick and painless.  I think we all agree that the less time it takes to tinker with getting software installed, means the more time we have for flying.

The image below shows the Orbx FTX Central application.  Within the FTX Global Range of products the items listed have been updated for P3D v4 and ready to be installed.

orbx 1

Installing couldn’t be easier, just click the “Install Product” button and voila…..

orbx 2

I’m really looking forward to experiencing Prepar3D version 4.0 with the Orbx FTX add-ons.  We finally have a sim which is capable of running all the wonderful eye-candy from so many wonderful and talented developers.  Best of all, from the perspective of Orbx….much of what I own has been purchased many years ago and even though the sim (P3D) has evolved, Orbx has not charged for their updates and this is a truly amazing decision on their part.  But of course, Orbx isn’t alone.  But this is a topic for another day!

If you would like to learn more about the add-ons available from Orbx, please visit their website.

Until next time…

Happy Flying

Jerry

Dovetail Games Flight Sim World

Hello Fellow Flighsim Enthusiasts….

As most should know, Dovetail Games released their “Early Access” version of Flight Sim World (FSW) recently.  I wrote about this subject back on 4 May and expressed my hopes, opinions and just general thoughts regarding this new entry.  Much of the content I used to form the basis of my opinions came from Dovetail Games Announcement video which you can view from the above mentioned blog post.  Outside of that one announcement video I have tried to restrict my viewing of other videos, live streams and blog postings on the subject of DTG’s FSW.  It was my desire to remain as neutral as possible so that I could form my own opinions and present them to you here.

Early Access

Before I begin to open up about my opinions regarding DTG’s FSW, allow me to say the following.  The Dovetail Games Flight Sim World is an early access product.  As with any early access, beta, pre-release, work-in-progress etc. etc. edition of any software, there most likely are bugs, there could be bugs found and more importantly what you see, may not, most likely will not be what will go into the finished product.

Comparisons

I’ve been flying computer based simulation games since the early 1980’s.  My love and fascination with aviation started as a young boy and has progressed into adulthood.  While I know longer have the desire to “learn to fly” in real life…flight simulation (much like my interests in other simulation based games) is an important element in my life and serves as a much needed stress reliever when of course the applications are working correctly.  LOL

Because of my long history with flight simulation based applications, I’m sure you can understand how difficult it is to simply “turn off” my knowledge, experience etc. with other flight sim titles.  As a point of reference, the first flight simulator application I used was on the Commodore 64 in the early 1980’s.  This was developed by a company called subLOGIC.  subLOGIC sold (or was acquired) by Microsoft in the early 80’s to be further developed into the very popular Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Here’s a short video (not mine) showing 60 seconds of recorded footage of what Flight Simulator looked like on the C-64.

Anyway, sometime in the very late 80’s or early 1990 timeframe I graduated from the C-64 to the PC and one of the first software packages I purchased was Microsoft Flight Simulator and I’ve owned, used and very much enjoyed every version up to Microsoft FSX.  So having said all this, I have tried to look at Dovetail Games Flight Sim World with an open mind, I’ve tried not to compare it to anything in the past, present or possibly future and most importantly, I’ve approached this review fully understanding what “Early Access” means.

Let’s Get Started

My apologies for taking so long to get to this point in the article, but I felt it was important to lay the cards on the table.  One more small piece of information I want to make public is I have not been asked, nor have I been paid to write this review.  While I received DTG FSW at no cost, this was only because I had purchased the DTG’s Flight School and in doing so, earned me a no-cost version of FSW.  Here’s my open and honest review of the “Early Access” version of Dovetail Games Flight Sim World.

Dovetail Games Flight Sim World

Flight Sim World is the new (currently in early access) flight simulator developed by Dovetail Games and sold exclusively through Steam.  At the time of this blog article, FSW is available as an Early Access release for $24.99 as of 18 May 2017.  If you purchased Dovetail Games Flight School, then you should have access to download/install FSW at no cost.

As part of the base package, FSW includes the entire world and includes several single and twin engine prop aircraft to get you started in your flight adventures.  The application is 64 bit which meets with the high demand from these types of application games.  If you are unfamiliar with the struggles we’ve had over the past several years with under-performing flight sim applications, then please read this article.

Install and Setup

DTG’s FSW installed just like any other Steam application.  I was able to quickly configure my CH Products Flight Yoke and Rudder Pedals, but support for my extensive collection of Go Flight hardware is unfortunately not supported at this time.

Application Performance and Stability

Overall I’ve spent approx. 6-8 hours flying around and the overall performance from FSW has been more or less what I expected it to be.  For the most part performance is better than FSX but I don’t believe the application itself is as fully optimized as it should be.  But then again, this is early access.  To be honest, while I did occasionally view my FPS counter, I don’t use FPS as the end-all-be-all in determining how an application/game is performing.  Application lag, stuttering etc. were mostly at a minimum and I think would/will be improved as the game matures further along the early access process.  During the entire time I’ve spent with FSW, I didn’t encounter a crash or application failure.

Visuals

As was the case with DTG Flight School, the default visuals are much, much improved from FSX.  While it’s not as impressive as FSX or P3D with Orbx Global Scenery, for a default (out of box) product….it’s pretty darn nice.

Flight Dynamics and Realism

This is somewhat difficult for me to judge.  First, I’m not a real world pilot and second, I haven’t flown default level aircraft in many, many years.  I’m a huge fan of the more complex, study level type aircraft from developers such as PMDG, A2A etc.  But FSW does very much remind me of default FSX and I found the aircraft easy to fly.

My overall impression

Again, making every effort to not compare FSW with any other product I will say that for it being an early access product…I was quite pleased overall.  However, I feel I must state the following which slightly causes me concern regarding the future of FSW.

Much like we say “behind every great man, there’s an even greater woman”….behind every great simulation game there’s a long list of very successful 3rd party partners which help make the game even better through mods and add-ons, I fear if Dovetail Games doesn’t change their plan on how they may force 3rd party developers to exclusively market via Steam, then FSW may never fully get off the ground.  Please read this for background information.

In a nutshell, DTG may require all 3rd party developers to market their add-ons exclusively through Steam.  Let’s use PMDG as an example.  The almost brand new PDMG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II sells directly from the PMDG website for $134.99.  The cost to market something on Steam is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40%.  So if PMDG truly believes their 747 is worth $134.99 they either will take a 30-40% hit on their profit (not likely) or pass along the costs to us consumers.  Therefore, increasing the cost of their 747-400 Queen of the Skies II to a whopping $175.  Of course, nothing is official at this time…and Dovetail could re-consider their marketing requirements.  Stay tuned…

My Very Bottom Line

I simply can’t deny that in some ways I simply couldn’t prevent myself from making comparisons to FSX, P3D and even X-Plane.  I consider myself to be a hard-core simmer with regards to my enjoyment of the flight simulation hobby.  I like the eye-candy that some of the 3rd party add-ons provide.  I enjoy the more complex aircraft add-ons from the likes of PMDG, A2A, Aerosoft, Carenado etc.  I also enjoy using my additional add-on hardware from Go Flight which helps to add to the immersion level.  Finally, I do from time to time enjoy experiencing multiplayer action via the VATSIM network and at this particular time…none of these boxes get checked with Dovetail Games Flight Sim World.  But of course, I’m reminded of the fact that this is an early access product.  Things can and may change….

Should you consider DTG’s Flight Sim World?

It’s difficult for me to recommend an early release product of any kind.  After all, it’s your hard earned money and not mine.  But if you are new to flight simulation, have a desire to try it out AND have an extra $24.99 in your pocket, then DTG’s FSW might be a good entry point for you.  If you don’t like it, or if it doesn’t perform to your expectation you can always request a refund via Steam.

I’m going to continue to keep my eyes and ears open to any news on this subject.  I may occasionally test out new enhancements made throughout the early access process, but if you ask me if Flight Sim World will become my “Go-To Flight Sim” the answer is no and I hope to share all the reasons for this along with exactly what my “Go-To Flight Sim” is in a future blog post.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Flight Simulator 11 is finally here

While we’re still a few hours away from the official release of Prepar3D v4 (64 bit), over the past few days I’ve watched a few videos showcasing the new simulator and even some comparing it to P3D v3.4.  Not surprisingly, some people are losing their minds and being critical of Lockheed Martin by saying this release should simply be P3D v3.5 or complaining that some of the same issues which have plagued the software since the days of FSX continue to exist.

As the title of this blog post states, Flight Simulator 11 is finally here (or will be in a few hours).  What I mean by this is simple.  Everything which has been released by either Microsoft (MS Flight), Dovetail Games (FSX Steam Edition) and Lockheed Martin (Prepar3D v1 – v3) may have pretended to be the next evolution of the wonderful Flight Simulator we have known and loved going all the way back to the subLOGIC days.  However, everything since the Microsoft original release of FSX has only been  has only been pretending to the next iteration of this flagship product.

Yes, Lockheed Martin did do a wonderful job with the later version of Prepar3d v2.x and with v3.x.  But what we’ve been needing since shortly after FSX was released way back in 2006 was a 64 bit version to take full advantage of the hardware.  Again, everything else has just been marking time until this day.

While I realize X-Plane was the first to introduce a 64 bit flight sim, for some of us who have had a large investment in add-ons for FSX and which have been almost fully compatible through all the versions of P3D AND for the most part will also be made available for P3D v4 (at no extra cost), plus the general working knowledge of the sim is the same all the way back to FSX….well, it’s been a very difficult bridge to cross.

I’ve speculated time and time and time again on where the future of flight simulation is going and who will carry the torch proudly for us.  I’ve felt really good about Lockheed Martin since v2.x, but now…..now this is all new territory and the sky is not the limit.

I can’t wait to purchased, download and install Flight Simulator version 11, errrr I mean Prepar3D v.4.  We’ve been waiting a long, long time for this day and the day has finally come.

Until next time…

Happy Flying in a world without OOM’s.

Jerry

The Last OOM?

In less than 24 hours, Lockheed Martin will release the highly anticipated and very long overdue 64 bit version of Prepar3D version 4.  With this release, will we finally see an end to the out of memory issues we’ve all experienced with FSX and every version of P3D?  Have we experienced the last OOM?  Can we once and for all stop worrying about how much (or how little) VAS we have?  Are those little ding, ding, ding noises just as we are on final approach after an extremely long-haul flight going to be a thing of the past?  I darn well hope so….

If you are an FSX or P3D user and don’t know what the acronyms of OOM or VAS stand for, or you haven’t encountered those ding, ding, ding sounds just before you are rudely presented with the error that says “Too Bad, Too Sad…we don’t care that you’ve just spent 12 hours flying and are in the final 5 minutes of flight, but you’ve run out of memory and we’re about to ruin your fun”, then I suggested you read this post.

Taking the Plunge

Sure…I might as well!    While I owe a review of Dovetail Games brand new Flight Sim World FSW (and I’ll get that done soon), in a nutshell I don’t believe (at this time) there is any chance I’ll spend a great deal of time in FSW.  Reason being is lack of 3rd party aircraft, scenery and such.  I don’t see FSUIPC making its way to FSW anytime soon and without that, it really limits just how much fun I can have in the sim.  NOTE:  I said it will lack how much fun I will have.  Your mileage may vary depending on what you want from a flight sim.

But yes…I do plan to purchase P3D v4.  But I’m also doing so knowing it will be some time before some of my favorite add-ons will be made available.  Some developers will have content ready on day 1, others will have their content after the first few weeks etc. etc.  From what I’ve read, much of the add-ons I currently own will not require a repurchase to obtain the P3D version 4 installers.  This is great news…but it’s more or less the commitment that many of these developers made when we all began speculating about a 64 bit version.

By the way, I have been flying lately as I’ve been playing around with both FSW and enjoying flights in P3D v3.4.  I experienced what will hopefully be one of my last OOM crashes on Sunday when I was flying from KDFW to KMEM.  Just within about two minutes after landing (thankfully) the system just said..”Nope…you’re done” it has used up 100% of the available 4 GB of VAS which is the dreadful limitation of 32 bit applications we’ve all been dealing with.  It was a great flight other than that.

My Future in Flight Sim

All things being equal, in the past 6 months I’ve been using P3D v3.4, X-Plane 11 and Dovetail Games new Flight Sim World.  As I’ve stated many times, I have a large dollar investment in FSX/P3D, so much so that I really can’t afford to seriously look at X-Plane as being a full replacement  and still be able to enjoy the hobby in the same fashion.  I have many years of experience with the Microsoft Flight Sim family of products and still find the X-Plane way of doing things about as difficult as trying to hammer a nail into the wall using only my forehead.

You can expect to read my first impressions on the 64 bit version of Prepar3D version 4 in the coming days/weeks.  I might even record my thoughts and make it available on my YouTube channel.  Stay tuned…

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Reputable Mod Sites for Farming Simulator Mods

In recent days, we’ve heard of even more mods being ripped off and uploaded to questionable mod sites without the original mod authors permission.  In many cases, the individuals who are perpetrating these offenses may also edit out any credit to the original mod author and some will even go so far as to take credit for the work themselves.  These acts are killing our hobby and often lead to two possible outcomes with the first being the modder simply quits modding, or an even more damaging action is to take his/her mods underground where only a select few individuals/friends have access to the work.  I actually view the underground/privatization of mods to be more damaging to the hobby than the modder actually quitting, simply because it limits the audience who can have access to the work.  In other words, this action punishes those who just simply want to enjoy the mods which of course is the intended action.

What can be done?

In today’s environment, the short answer is nothing!  Until there is a secure and reliable system in place which would allow a mod creator to lock, protect, encrypt his/her work AND the software intended to be used with these mods (Example: Giants Farming Simulator 17) offers the mechanism to recognize an authentic mod and ignores un-authentic mods, absolutely nothing can prevent these types of crimes.  YES!!!!  Absolutely, these are crimes.

Mitigating Steps can and should be considered

While it is true that nothing at the present time can be done to stop the mod theft we keep hearing about, there are steps we can all take to help protect and support our modding community.  The first one is actually rather simple and doesn’t require a lot of effort.  It’s something we should have all learned at a very early age and it’s called “showing appreciation”.  I think the vast majority of modders fully understand their work will be subject to theft.  However, I think often the issue might be that we as the majority who make up the user community don’t always show our sincere appreciation of the hard work our modding community does for us.  Often times we act like a bunch of spoiled brats by bugging the modding community asking stupid questions like “When will X Mod be available” over and over and over.  Or even worse, we too easily criticize these works because they don’t work, look or function the way we want them to.  Guess what people???  Just like my favorite artist, Peter Paul Rubens, The modder who most likely created that mod, created it in his/her vision.  They didn’t create it just for you.  So please keep this in mind.  Also, I would challenge everyone to say “THANK YOU” to all the mod creators you know or come into contact with.  A little act of kindness goes a TREMENDIOUS WAY!!!!

But what else can be done????

So here’s where this article will better match up to the title or subject line.  Keep in mind there are dozens and dozens and perhaps even more mod hosting websites on the internet.  Which are reputable and which are not?  Where can you go to ensure you are downloading an authentic mod which hasn’t been stolen and posted elsewhere?  I’m going to share my list of sites which I use and why I use them.  But before I do that, let me also recognize that some mod developers may host their own mods on their own website.  Two really awesome mod developers come to mind and they are Blacksheep Modding and GTX Mods.  This blog posting is more geared towards the hosting sites which are not privately operated and the list of those will now follow.

Giants Mod Hub

The Giants Mod Hub for obvious reasons is my top “go-to” mod site for FS17 mods.  The mods uploaded to the Giants Mod Hub are controlled by Giants and while a mod might be uploaded which has been tampered with without the original mod authors permission, Giants will quickly remove it when they have been made aware of the offense.  The simple fact that mods can be downloaded/installed/updated directly from inside of Farming Simulator 17 is also a really big plus.  While I wish Giants would further develop their mod distribution system to allow for searching and perhaps would organize the mod listings in the same fashion as the game organizes them, would certainly serve as a huge benefit to the users.

PC-SG

I’m not only a proud member of PC-SG, I’m also an admin and part of the management team.  I know the owner of the website and other members of management very well.  Each of us are active in the simulation gaming community and each of us has a passion for helping others.   Last year I wrote a detailed piece about the PC-SG Community and every word of that continues to stand today.  But even since that article was written (11 March 2016) we have expanded our mod hosting capabilities by creating our own Mod Review and Testing Team.  The individuals who make up this team are all outstanding individuals and many are also mod developers.  All mods hosted on PC-SG are stored on our own fast/efficient servers.  We don’t bombard you with rude and crude internet pop-up ads and we don’t throttle our download speeds.  We have earned the respect and trust of some of the best modders including Stevie, Blacksheep Modding, Johnny Vee, SOB Modding (just to name a few).

Modding Central

Like PC-SG, Mod Central is operated by individuals who truly care about our hobby and community.  They have a very professional and easy to use website and offer mod downloads both hosted on their own servers and also some linked to external sources.  Mod Central also offers a friendly member forum to ask questions and obtain support for many of the mods hosted on the site.  Modding Central is also a partner with PC-SG.  The people behind Mod Central are some of the most talented individuals you’ll fine in our hobby.

American Eagles Modding

American Eagles Modding (AEM), is another friendly community with member forums and a variety of mod downloads.  Typically if I’m looking for equipment for an American style map, I’ll first look to AEM.  Many of the John Deere pieces of equipment I feature in my YouTube “Let’s Play” series were downloaded from AEM.  AEM hosts their own mods and I’ve never experienced any delays or rude pop-up ads when using their website.  Like PC-SG, AEM also has a review and certification process for mods uploaded and hosted through their servers.

FS-UK

Finally, FS-UK rounds out the list of my typical “go-to” websites when searching for mods.  I like their mod organization where I can see both new and trending mods and also search based on the version of Farming Simulator.  In addition, they also include a member forum and some of the best modders will feature their “Work In Progress” mods on FS-UK. FS-UK also has a mod review team and I believe they work hard to test and certify many of the mods hosted on their website.

Marhu.net

While Marhu.net may not be as user friendly for us English only speaking individuals as others I’ve previously listed, but with a little effort and using the right internet tools we can still do OK in navigating their website.  Some of the very best mods for Farming Simulator will be posted to Marhu.net by their original mod creator.  Unfortunately, the mods listed on Marhu.net most likely will be hosted somewhere else with a link provided to that location.  These links may direct you to a dropbox location or perhaps to another mod hosting website.  In some cases, the link will take you to a mod hosting website called uploaded.net.  Now if you are a subscriber of my YouTube Channel then you know I often (and very frequently) opine about my dissatisfaction about uploaded.net.  I have my  reasons and for the sake of educating my viewers, I’ll share this information in just a few minutes.  Keep reading!

Other Considerations

If you are an active mod user, you may be thinking that I’ve left out a long list of other mod hosting websites.  Some might be accidental, but some have been omitted intentionally.  For sake of overall professionalism and courtesy, I’m not going to call out or blacklist particular websites or mod hosting services.  As stated, there are many…but most do not go to the same level of not only safe guarding the original mod author, but also safe guarding the individual user from extreme internet pop-up ads, click-baiting schemes and possible mal-ware infested server downloads.  I’m not opposed to internet advertising as it does cost real money to operate a website with the server capacity to host mods.  However, I believe some of these websites could dial down the amount and type of pop-up advertising they are subjecting their visitors to.

But are any of the sites not mentioned used by the original mod creators?  Yes…absolutely!  You’ll find mod developers using a variety of mod hosting websites which I have not listed by name.  I may also visit these sites and very often will download mods.  If you look through my extensive mod list, you’ll see links to many of these sites I’m referring to in this section.  Are 100% of these mods genuine?  Keep reading to find out.

Now just a few moments ago I spoke about uploaded.net and how truly irritating that website is.  I don’t know who operates that website, but I believe it is safe to say that they are only in it for the $$$.  Meaning, I don’t for a minute believe they care anything about the gaming community or the users.  They subject visitors to rude and often times crude internet pop-up ads, click-bait ads and throttle their download speeds for non-paying subscribers to something resembling that of an old school 1200 baud modem.  Again, while I’m not opposed to supporting the costs of running websites and server hosting sites, the cost of membership for uploaded.net is expensive (in my opinion).  Uploaded.net premium membership fees start at $5.99 for 48 hours of access, $10.99 for one month, $27.99 for three months on up to $108.99 for two years.

Of course, the above mentioned fees are also being shared with those who upload mods to that website.  Meaning, a mod developer who uses the uploaded.net website to host his/her mods will earn a small fee for the number of downloads.  I’m not going to get into whether this practice is right or wrong.  I’ll let you decide based on your own feelings whether this is a good or bad idea.  But I will just remind you, that Giants also rewards the top mods (and their developers) with a small monetary compensation.  You can read more about that here.

Verifying Authenticity – Can it be done?

Short answer, yes….longer answer is not easily and certainly not with any absolute accuracy.  The reason behind the longer answer goes back to what I mentioned earlier.  At the present time, there are no security measures in place to prevent someone/anyone from making changes and/or uploading elsewhere.  What I’m going to say next might be somewhat out of character for me.  But for most mod violations where simply a mod has been downloaded from the official location and uploaded elsewhere, the individual doing this is just simply too ignorant to edit the mod to strip away the actual ownership/credit information contained in the mod.  They simply download it and upload it to another site and pretend they are the original creator of the mod.  While it takes some effort to verify this information and of course the mod needs to be downloaded to confirm, it certainly can be done.  But in many cases the operators of these websites are too slow to act in taking down the unauthentic mod and the damage is already done.

I ran into a situation a few months ago where I created a YouTube video to showcase a popular mod.  The video contained artwork which I had created to use as the title and thumbnail artwork, this artwork also contained my YouTube name of GrizzlyBearSims.  Another individual after watching my video, decided to download the mod then take a screenshot of my video logo and upload that to another mod hosting website.  Another YouTube content creator discovered this and mentioned it to me.  At first I wasn’t going to do anything about it.  But after careful consideration I determined this could confuse someone into thinking I had uploaded the mod and I didn’t want to set that impression.  But it took me several emails to the admin of the website to have the mod removed.

Final Thoughts

As I stated at the top of this article, at the present time NOTHING can be done to stop the abuse and unauthorized distribution of mods.   While we can list out every reason why this behavior is bad for our hobby, at the end of the day it is left up to each and every individual (YOU and ME) to do the right thing.  Doing the right thing is more than just not stealing and uploading mods without the consent of the individual mod developer.   I believe it is just as bad to continue to use a mod you know has been compromised, yes…even privately.  Finally, as a YouTube content creator…I believe we have a responsibility to never violate the trust of our modding community by using mods of questionable backgrounds in our videos and live streams.  While I pride myself in maintaining a current mod spreadsheet which lists each and every mod I use, along with the location where the mod can be downloaded from…I will happily place my right hand on a stack of Bibles and swear that (to my knowledge) each and every mod listed is genuine and hasn’t been compromised.  But in an effort to do everything I can to protect the modding community, I plan to perform an extensive review and will remove the physical mods and the listing which I can’t be certain of.  Will you do the same???

Thank you Mod Developers

To any original mod developer who may be reading this article, I believe I can speak for the vast majority of enthusiasts who dearly love and treasure the hard work, dedication, attention to detail and passion each of you put into your works of art.  Many of us just simply can’t do what you do.  Even some of us (myself included) just don’t have the desire to learn…it’s just not something we are interested in doing.  But we genuinely recognize how your pieces of work (regardless of how little or big they are) change the game play for us in such awesome ways.  Farming Simulator is an awesome game.  But without mods, the game wouldn’t be as enjoyable and exciting and certainly wouldn’t be so over a long period of time.  Your mods allow us to lose ourselves in our own little virtual worlds and in my opinion, is better (and less expensive) than any shrink on this planet.  Please don’t stop creating.  Please don’t take your mods underground.  Please know that we love what you do (even though we don’t always show it) and know we will always support you.

Until next time…

Happy Farming!!! (with authentic mods only)

Jerry

Dovetail Games Flight Sim World

Look at the calendar.  It’s not April 1st and this is no April Fools Prank.  Yes…finally we have the much anticipated news regarding Dovetail Games official entry into flight simulation with Dovetail Games Flight Sim World.  I’ve frequently blogged about this very subject for what seems like eternity.  From the very early days of learning that Microsoft had authorized Dovetail Games to market and release FSX on Steam, we’ve been hearing about Dovetail’s plan to develop the next generation of flight simulation software.  Actually, this is a direct quote from a Dovetail Games press release dated 2014 Dovetail “is currently investigating new concepts in this area and is expecting to bring a release to market in 2015”.  OK…so they’ve missed their mark by a few years….but ladies and gentlemen….please sit back, relax (and turn off those darn electronic devices) because things are about to get interesting.

If you are new to my blog site, please take a moment and read an article I wrote back in November 2016 titled “Flight Sim News”.  If you are not new to my writings, then you can skip that as you’ve already read it.  Yesterday, Dovetail Games announced their new flight simulation platform they have titled “Flight Sim World” (I guess to line up with their new Train Sim World franchise) and I couldn’t be more excited.  Now time will tell exactly what all this means, but the one really important element is this will be a 64 bit application.  To date, the only 64 bit flight simulation based platform is X-Plane.  The old Microsoft FSX (boxed edition), FSX Steam Edition and even all version of Prepar3D is only 32 bit.    If you want to learn more about the challenges of trying to run an 32 bit application as complex as Flight Sim built, then read an article I wrote in February 2014 titled “Out of Memory (OOM) Errors”.

Importance of Early Access

Dovetail Games Flight Sim World will be released this month (May) via an early access process.  This is also really great news and all the proof is coming direct from Dovetail Games Executive Produce Stephen Hood when he says, “We’re bring Flight Sim World to Early Access, we believe it makes no sense to work in isolation…so we wish to work with the community, engage with them, to shape the future of Flight Sim World over the coming weeks and months”.  He further states, “We intend to develop a platform that stands the test of time over the next 5-10 years”.

Under the Hood

With the launch of Dovetail Games Flight Sim World, they have moved away from the old DirectX 9 to DirectX 11 and moved it from a 32 bit to 64 bit platform while also working to rebalance the  usage between the CPU and GPU.  This is also a very important change as today both FSX and P3D is very CPU dependent and doesn’t take advantage of today’s modern and powerful GPU’s.  The hardware technology of today far exceeds what FSX and P3D can do with it.  These older applications just don’t touch the full capabilities.

Third Party Opportunities

One of the unknowns from years ago was just how Dovetail Games would work with 3rd party developers.  Over time, and as they continued to work with their FSX Steam Edition, we saw evidence that Dovetail Games was serious about working with the various 3rd party developers like PMDG, Orbx etc.  Simon Sauntson with Dovetail Games leads up their Third Party division and mentioned Dovetail has actually engaged with many 3rd party developers to develop content which is part of the core application of Flight Sim World.

Simulation, Simulation, Simulation

Stephen Hood, acknowledges the importance of an “As Real As It Gets” experience as he states “As a Pilot you care hugely about the environments around you, it has to be accurately portrayed in Flight Sim World in order for you to fear it”

More Information

Want more information regarding Dovetail Games new Flight Sim World, visit their website, visit the Steam page, visit their Facebook page and watch the video below.

Jerry’s Final Thoughts

Dovetail Games….Just Take My Money and take it now!  Honestly, I’ve had my doubts Dovetail could, would create the truly “Next Generation Flight Sim Platform” and not just pickup where Microsoft left off with Microsoft Flight.  Which in most everyone’s opinion WAS NOT A FLIGHT SIM PLATFORM, but more of an arcade game.  Of course, time will tell and not much else is really known at this time regarding which 3rd party developers are onboard with Flight Sim World.  Honestly, I’ve not really done much with X-Plane.  Meaning I’ve not spent much money on add-ons and such.  I still find that old habits are so hard to break and trying to un-learn the Microsoft way which is still very much engrained in P3D.  I’m hopeful that some of the “Microsoft Way” will be a part of Flight Sim World.  Of course, not so much of it that it chokes the new application down.  But as I have stated many times, some people may not openly embrace Flight Sim World as it will mean (most likely) replacing add-ons which had been previously developed for FSX/P3D (32 bit) with newer 64 bit versions.  But this is how we move forward….

I’ll keep you posted on any new news I learn from this.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!