Audio for VATSIM–FSExpo Beta Bust

Before I get started, I want to make clear my intentions as to why I’m writing this particular article.  While I’m clearly disappointed, I place blame towards no one. 

Like many in the flight simulation community, my time can be limited at the best of times.  As an IT Manager, I often work 45-50 hour weeks (and I call that an easy week).  The time I carve out for my hobbies (and I have several) also has to share space with the time I spend with my family and often I’ll sacrifice sleep to fit in a flight.  After all, I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead. 

Audio for VATSIM FSExpo test

I first learned about the planned large scale Audio for VATSIM beta test which was being held in conjunction with FSExpo a few weeks ago.  I even discussed it here.  I was excited.  As an individual who has been flying on the VATSIM network since the beginning and someone who has accumulated over 2000 hours (and I realize that’s nothing compared to some other folks), I’m curious to see/hear the future of this wonderful multiplayer platform first hand.  I was looking forward to writing about it and had even planned to record some snippits of the audio so you all could hear for yourself, just what we have to look forward to. 

If I’m not mistaken, I learned of the FSExpo AFV test via a Facebook post on the VATSIM FB page.  The announcement was a accompanied by a fancy graphic (see below) and the graphic linked you to a webpage which had been especially created just for the event/testing. 

Image may contain: text

Last weekend (1 June), the organizers of this even opened up the availability for anyone who was interested, paying attention etc. to go out and book slots for this event.  Those who were successful at booking a slot would automatically be entered into the beta and could experience the new Audio for VATSIM system.  I set aside some time last weekend and promptly when the time arrived, I booked my slot for early Saturday morning (12:20z 6:20 AM MT) from KMSY to KMCO (New Orleans to Orlando). 

It’s all about the details

As a guy who truly understands “details”, I read everything I could on the AFV FSExpo website.  The VATSIM team made it clear that “Routing information would be available 6-12 hours before the event”.  I also read through the list of FAQ’s.  (posted below)

  • What is this thing?
    Beta testing of our new Audio For VATSIM solution of course! We’ll be live at FSExpo beta-testing and demonstrating our new solution, book a flight to join us!
  • Who can book a slot?
    Any VATSIM member in good standing can book a slot! You DO NOT need to have already participated in a beta test. All who book a slot will be added to the beta.
  • When is this going down?
    June 8th and 9th. Check the home page for a fancy little countdown!
  • Where can I fly?
    You can book a slot between any of the event airports listed on the bookings page. The live portion will be taking place at FSExpo in Orlando.
  • Do I need to be at FSExpo to participate?
    Nope! You can fly at home in your pajamas!
  • Why are you guys doing this?
    We want to give you, the membership, an opportunity to experience what we’ve got in store and give us valuable feedback so that we can deliver the best voice solution possible.
  • Can I have a refund?
    Nope!

Nothing in the FAQ’s or on the website mentioned anything about how/where to get the software for the beta nor did it state anything about joining a special Discord server. 

On Friday evening (the eve before the event), I kept checking the website and even as late as 10:30 PM, hadn’t received any email regarding the routing or anything else.  Since I had got up at 4:30 AM that morning, I was pretty exhausted and went to bed just after 10:30 PM.  I set my alarm for 5:00 AM Saturday morning and figured and hour and 20 minutes would be enough time to pour some coffee down my throat and get everything setup. 

Cockle Doodle Doo

No, I don’t have a rooster.  But the alarm went off as planned and I got up and proceeded downstairs to the coffee pot.  Like a good coffee pot, it had already warmed up the water and all I needed to do was insert the K cup and pull the handle.  Within 60 seconds I’d have a cup of strong, black coffee.  Ahhhhhh…OK the day can begin. 

I grabbed my laptop and pulled up my email client.  I had a total of six emails from VATSIM which had arrived just before midnight.  (see below)

Untitled

The first one (booking confirmation) while only received today, should really have been received last weekend when I booked the flight and the other five emails are just duplicates of each other and instructing me of my route and a link to pre-book the flight.

Dancing in the Dark

I’ll admit, I honestly wasn’t entirely sure how this beta test event would work.  While I assumed I would need to download/install something…I also thought that it might be possible that the VATSIM folks in some “behind the scenes” process and based on my VATSIM PID could route my connection to the beta system.  Like I said…I didn’t know and I remind you of the FAQ above, nothing there stated anything which could be helpful in better understanding this. 

#BLAMEAIDAN

Things really didn’t start to go sideways until I attempted to pre-file my flight plan via one of the above 5 emails and the embedded link they contain.  When trying to pre-file, I received a pop-up error stating I wasn’t logged in (even though I was) and the hashtag of #BLAMEAIDAN.

I’m Not Alone

I don’t think I’m alone in my confusion.   In the days leading up to this event, I saw many posts on the VATSIM Facebook page asking “how will we be informed” and all replies more of less stated an email will be received 6-12 hours before the event.  Nothing was ever mentioned about Discord.

Bottom Line

I’m not upset….no, really!  I’m not.  Many of the VATSIM folks working on the beta replied to my Facebook post and offered their assistance.  However, by this time it was already 15 minutes past my departure time I realized I wouldn’t have time to install the beta client and get my flight all setup again and also fly it (assuming there would be delays etc.) and also meet my Saturday morning commitments. 

Instead, my reason for writing this is A. to document my overall experience in exactly what I encountered in the days/hours leading up to the event and I suppose B. to also set my mind (and anyone else) who feels they too were very much in the dark on exactly what to expect and when to expect it.  I have a feeling (through no fault of those wanting to participate) that not everything went off exactly as planned on the VATSIM side. 

My hope is this Audio for VATSIM test today during FSExpo is 1000% successful and I hope that the timeframe of when AFV will become reality for ALL is very, very short.  The old audio codec needs to be put out to pasture and soon. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful Saturday. 

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

P.S.  If you are still reading (and I hope you are), don’t forget to come join my new Flight Sim Helpers Facebook community.  The goal with Flight Sim Helpers is to …..well….HELP those who might need it.  The flight sim hobby has been very good to me and I’m just wanting to give something back.  Also, take the time to bookmark the Flight Sim Helpers website where many helpful FAQ’s are being added with more to come. 


Comments

  1. Jerry,

    When I heard about this blog post I was ready to get here and start getting angry about it… However I completed agree with what you said.

    I had in my mind to release the information about 5 days ago to everyone and give people chance to download and test the beta, and planned to put a few ATIS bots online for you to tune into and check your settings with.

    Unfortunately on Monday this week we found a show stopping bug that meant a rather fundamental rewrite of some of the server side code which would break the clients that we had built and tested ready to go.

    This then mean that the next few days leading up to flying out to MCO on the Wednesday meant working to 3am every night fixing the clients and the problem.

    At this point we didn’t want to push a broken client out to 500 people and have to then get updates sent out.

    We then flew out to the states for our roadtrip down to MCO from MIA, expecting to arrive in MIA and drive a few hours to meet up with Aiden and the techteam to push everything out. However our flight got cancelled and we ended up in ATL instead!

    This then meant we finally met up last night around 8pm to send everything out, by which point it was a manual job with lots of copying and pasting. Unfortunately we lost a few people from the authorised database in the process.

    Today has been very busy thanks to the last minute setup and I didn’t get chance to get back to you earlier.

    Hopefully you are all sorted now and Cant wait to speak to you tomorrow on AFV.

    Thanks for the honest feedback, have a good one.

    Cheers
    Gary (1 of the 2 Volunteer AFV developers)

    • GrizzlyBearSims
      June 8, 2019 - 5:34 pm

      I truly appreciate all you and your team have done to help make VATSIM what it is. I also appreciate the fact that you also took time out of your hectic schedule to reply to me, help me and also respond the way you did.

      I’m also pleased you didn’t get mad at my writing. As I stated at the very top, it wasn’t my intention to hate on VATSIM or the AFV test. I was confused and I also saw posts from others who more or less had the same experience I did.

      I spent some time this afternoon watching a few live streams of pilots who were flying in the event and my ears were amazed at what I had heard. I think as we all know, AFV is something that has been a long time coming and those who are working on it have my utmost respect and gratitude.

      I look forward to tomorrow morning.

  2. I completely agree Vatsim set this up but did not provide any information to download the needed software. I had a reservation that I could not fly due to the inablility to communicate correcty

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