I’ve often commented on how much I enjoy the Steam gaming platform update process. Of the Steam games I enjoy (Farm Sim, Truck Sim etc.) when a patch or update becomes available, the Steam client seamlessly (for the most part) installs that update and I don’t need to worry about anything. Likewise, both ATS and ETS2 have even simplified a portion of their mod update abilities via the Stream Workshop. While some gamers might not understand just how wonderful this concept is (for Steam games), it’s only recently made it’s way into the flight sim world.
Historically speaking, anytime we’ve needed to update something in the flight sim arena (FSX and early versions of P3D) it’s been somewhat of an arduous task. Many times applying a service pack or updating scenery would/could lead to issues downstream. I would often forgo taking updates until such time I felt I really either had no choice or perhaps it was time to do a complete and full re-install of everything including Microsoft Windows. But as the title suggests, things have become much, much easier with regards to updating certain elements within Prepar3D v4 and yes….it’s the way it should be.
The P3D update process really couldn’t be any easier than how Lockheed Martin have made it for us. Unless you are absolutely brand new to P3D and only purchased v4 AFTER the latest update (4.1) became available then you probably already know just how easy it is to apply updates. By the way, this same update process existed within v3 (perhaps earlier but I just can’t remember). Essentially you can update P3D by uninstalling only the component you desire to update, then simply install the new updated component. Typically this would be the “Client” component. Complete and easy to follow instructions are available on the P3D website and YouTube also offers dozens (if not more) tutorials on how to safely update the P3D platform.
How we did things yesterday, is not always how we’ll do things tomorrow
Change can be a really good thing! And this is really why I decided to write this article. Upon initial release of P3D v4 some folks began to lose their mind regarding how developers began to change the way add-ons would get installed. Since the dawn of time (as it relates to flight sim) add-ons would get installed in the same directory structure of the sim. This concept worked fine (I suppose), but did present its own set of challenges when it came time to applying updates to the sim. Starting with P3D v4, add-on developers began to utilize the “Documents” method of installing add-ons.
For years the philosophy behind how to build the perfect sim PC consisted of at the very least two hard drives. One HDD which contained the Windows operating system and other applications not related to flight sim. Then a second HDD (preferably SSD) for the sim software. The idea behind this was one could get away with a smaller HDD for Windows and invest their money on a larger/faster and preferably SSD drive to contain the sim and all things related to the sim (scenery, aircraft etc.)
When I built my current gaming machine, I took it one step further and even included a third SSD drive for my Steam games to run on so I could truly keep flight sim separate on its own SSD drive. But with more and more developers moving to the “Documents” method of installing software, things started to get a little tight on my main HDD. Thankfully, if you are also experiencing (or starting to experience) congestion on your main HDD due to more and more add-ons being installed into the “Documents” folder, there is hope for you. You can simply relocate the Documents folder to another drive. As I’m a fan of giving credit where credit is due, I’ll just simply direct you to an already existing YouTube Video which discusses just how to safely accomplish this task.
Now back to the update process discussion….
But it truly gets better…
Oh yes it does! I can’t remember who did it first…perhaps it was PMDG or perhaps it was Orbx, but these were the first two I noticed including a control panel update process for installing incremental updates to their products. Since that time, other developers such as FSDreamTeam and FlightBeam have also moved to this concept and it’s truly amazing.
Specifically speaking about Orbx, I own a lot of Orbx scenery. When I say a lot, I mean….A LOT! Thankfully, Orbx has never charged a fee to upgrade any of their scenery from FSX up to P3D (including P3D v4). Because Orbx has a really large catalog of wonderful scenery, it was somewhat of a daunting task to constantly venture out to their forum site to check when a particular scenery title had made its way to being updated. But through their updated FTX Central client, it knows every piece of Orbx software I own and tells me when that particular title has been updated for V4 or includes an incremental update. As you might have guessed, it really is just as simple as point and click to install scenery or scenery updates.
As I mentioned, both FSDreamTeam and FlightBeam have also developed a similar control panel and it couldn’t be easier to keep everything updated. Thank you to all who have moved to this process.
One can only hope…
that others will follow. I’d love to see developers like Carenado, FlyTampa and others follow suit. Maybe they will….maybe they won’t, but I do feel the developers who have moved in this direction have set the bar which others will be measured against.
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.
Installing couldn’t be easier, just click the “Install Product” button and voila…..
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!
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”
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.
The highly anticipated Dovetail Games Flight School arrived on Tuesday via Steam just in time for summer. If you are new to the world of flight simulation, during the summer of 2014 Dovetail Games obtained the rights from Microsoft to distribute Microsoft Flight Simulator X and more importantly develop the next flight simulator in the series. Dovetail Games released Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition in December of that same year.
During the lead-up to the release of FSX Steam Edition, we had been hearing about the plans Dovetail Games had for the future of flight simulation. In a press release Dovetail Games stated they were investigating new concepts in the area of flight simulation and expected to bring a new release to market sometime in 2015. Well…the ball dropped in Times Square and no “new concept” in the area of flight simulation from Dovetail was produced. But we all know that software developers often make plans and then delays occur.
Anyway, the Dovetail Games Flight School is actually a good sign (and a good thing for our hobby). First, it proves that Dovetail Games is capable of developing something of their own related to flight simulation and Second, I’m hopeful the success of this product will further convince them of the popularity of our hobby.
I’m traveling on business at the moment and won’t be home until this weekend. But I have purchased Dovetail Games Flight School and will spend time with it in the coming days/weeks and will further review it. From what I’ve seen on various Twitch live streams is the product is good for the price. Dovetail Games Flight School is available from Steam for $14.99 USD.
During a few of these live streams I saw comments from viewers complaining about the level of detail in the ground textures etc. Folks, this is a $15 piece of software. The purpose is to teach you the fundamentals of flight. You can’t expect Dovetail Games Flight School to include Orbx level of detail. Also, some were complaining that the airports featured in Dovetail Games Flight School were out of date. Well…most likely the airport textures are a copy/paste from FSX. Again, this IS NOT A BIG DEAL! Again, from what I’ve witnessed in several Twitch streams, Dovetail Games Flight School is value for money.
In closing, what are my expectations of Dovetail Games Flight School? After all, I’ve been flying computer based flight simulators since the early 1980’s. Well…I want to learn more. I want to further polish my skills to further enhance my realism through simulation efforts. I’ll be sure to provide an update, “First Look” type blog posting in due time.
Well…I must turn in now. I have an early start tomorrow. Remember, if you enjoy flight simulation and are interested in joining a mature and relaxed virtual airline, please visit virtual Air Logistics. virtual Air Logistics is a virtual airline I started back in 2013. virtual Air Logistics, a different kind of virtual airline for a different kind of virtual pilot.
The virtual world aspect is nothing new to us sim pilots. We nailed the virtual concept down many years ago and each year we’ve worked hard to make it better. While the early days were limited to a single player game, over time this has blossomed into what we enjoy today with multi-player groups like FlightSim Nation, Flight Simulator Network and even larger true-to-life experiences with VATSIM and IVAO. With Microsoft Flight Simulator X and add-on scenery such as Orbx Pacific Northwest and Stark’s Twin Oaks Airpark, one can be fully immersed in what Microsoft has been calling “As Real As It Gets” for many years. It’s hard to imagine it getting any better than this.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the online virtual community called Second Life. Second Life has been around since 2003 and as of 2010 has an estimated 18 million registered accounts. Yours truly has one of those 18 million accounts, but I’ve not visited the community in over 2 years. At a very high level glance, you register for a Second Life account and install their free client software. Second Life is absolutely free to join and use, but free accounts have many limitations. When you join you create an avatar and move around within the Second Life virtual world. Second Life has become popular in the corporate world as well as the arts, science and religious spaces as well. One can even buy property in Second Life.
I would estimate my account dates back to around 2006 or so, so I by no means can be considered as an early adopter of Second Life. I played around with it on a free account and then upgraded to a paid account and then completely lost interest even before my one-year subscription expired. While it was cool moving around the different virtual areas and meeting people, (I even explored the Titanic) I felt it was missing something to keep me fully engaged. Plus I got the impression I was mainly interacting with kids and very young adults. It got old really fast.
The one element to Second Life that I always thought about was how it might be neat to be able to combine some aspects of Second Life into the Flight Simulator hobby or vice versa. For example, as I stated earlier in Second Life one can buy land. The land purchase can be either already developed or can be undeveloped space. While I never purchased land in Second Life, the idea of being able to do something like this in relation to the Flight Simulator hobby interested me. Of course, I’m not a software designer and never really took the idea outside of my head and shared it with others. Thankfully someone else had the same idea and did act on it.
I recently learned of a project called Andras Field which has been in development for several months and available for download/purchase since 30 June 2010. Andras Field is a fictive airport located in Southern Bavaria, close to the Swiss and Austrian border. The add-on software is available through Aerosoft and as of this blog posting, the current version is 1.10 (full build) with update 1.12 applied on top. Updates are made available as property is sold. More about this later.
Again, as of this blog posting Andras Field is sold through Aerosoft for $27.36 USD. This price is very competitive for all that you get with this add-on product. Andras Field is more than just an airport, it is an entire airpark including a 7,006 foot asphalt runway, 2,000 foot grass glider base and a 6,000 foot water runway. Need space to land your favorite heli? No worries…you’ll find plenty of space at Andras Field to do just that. Still want more?
Andras Field includes all the amenities one would expect in a self-contained airport city. You’ll find servicing facilities, restaurants, hotels and residential properties designed by pilots for pilots. When ready to fly, your airplane can be rolled out of your private attached garage and in minutes you’ll be on the active runway.
But how does all this tie in with Second Life? Well…like Second Life, you can buy commercial or residential property for real money at Andras Park. You can have the developers place a standard house/hangar or you can model your own to have placed on your plot for all to see including your name on the street sign. Updates are made available every ten days or so.
I haven’t decided if I’ll buy some virtual property. But I have had fun with this software add-on.