As I often say, unless you’ve had your head under a rock the past 48-72 hours, you’ve certainly heard about the BIG flight sim news. No, the biggest flight sim related news to break over this past weekend didn’t come from the halls of FSExpo19. As the curtains were all about to close on what appears to have been another extremely successful FlightSimExpo, Microsoft (yes…Microsoft) was making an announcement waaaaay over on the other side of the country, at the hugely popular E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles that they were returning to the flight simulation market in 2020 with Microsoft Flight Simulator.
My Initial Reaction
The first I heard of this was on Sunday afternoon. I was kicked back in my lazy boy recliner and saw a Facebook post stating something about a new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. My first thought was someone’s made a YouTube video and in true “click bait” fashion titled it that way and all it will end up being is P3D with a ton of addons. But….but…much to my surprise that was not the case.
In addition to the E3 announcement, Microsoft has a fancy website and an “Insider Program” already setup to support the announcement. On this website it states, “Microsoft Flight Simulator is the next generation of one of the most beloved simulation franchises. From light planes to wide-body jets, fly highly detailed and stunning aircraft in an incredibly realistic world. Create your flight plan and fly anywhere on the planet. Enjoy flying day or night, and face realistic, challenging weather conditions”.
Take a Deep Breath and slowly Exhale……
Here’s what we know so far. Not much! It appears Microsoft Flight Simulator will release sometime in 2020. It appears it will be available for both XBOX and Windows 10. It appears (based on the info available) the video was “captured in real-time 4K”. In the grand scheme of things this really isn’t enough information to even warrant talking about it, yet here we are….talking about it! You literally will not find a single flight sim community NOT talking about it. It’s everywhere…yet what we know is…not much!
In addition to not really knowing much (at this stage) about this new Microsoft Flight Simulator everyone has opinions. Yes, this includes yours truly. Of course I do! Simply, you can’t have been involved the hobby as long as I have and not have an opinion or three. I’m human…I do and I’m going to share a few of my thoughts with you. Whether you care to read them, agree with them is up to you. Here goes….
There seems to be a lot of criticism from some regarding the opinions and comments made by others with regards to this announcement. A lot of what I’m reading which would fall into this category is being made by those who have only been involved in this hobby 5 minutes. They weren’t around a decade or more ago to read/hear about all the things Microsoft Flight Simulator was to become. They weren’t around when the hype surrounding Microsoft Flight could be cut with a knife and the giant sucking sound which occurred when all the excitement evaporated when reality set in.
Most who will read the words I’ve written can be grouped into the hardcore flight simulation community segment. We’ve all grown up through the various iterations of the wonderful Microsoft Flight Simulator product and were all equally let down when it became no more. Yet, we tightened our laces and settled into one of two courts with that being Prepar3D and the second being X-Plane. Some are successfully straddling the fence of both and there’s a small segment which have stayed behind with FSX or FSX Steam Edition and yes, as funny as this may sound….a portion are still stuck on the FS2004/FS9 island. But regardless, we all shed our tears for what was Microsoft Flight Simulator and we’ve moved on. So yes, we have a right to our opinions and we have a right to be somewhat skeptical of this new project.
You’ve often heard myself and others talk about what a niche community we have. It’s true! The flight simulation community isn’t as big as some might want to make it out to be. While competition is a good thing, over saturation isn’t so much. Can our community support three major flight simulation platforms? I’m not so sure, but could Microsoft have a trick up their sleeve?
I Love History
As previously stated, our community is small compared to other popular “gaming”communities. While many of us don’t consider our flight simulation to be a game, by the way it’s not…it’s a simulator. We still get compared to other communities. Anyway….
Despite the fact there are a few other simulator options out there, the two major players at this point in time are Prepar3D and X-Plane. Before we dive too deep in discussing these, let’s take a minute or two for a history lesson.
Microsoft released FSX in 2006 and FSX Acceleration (SP2) a year later 2007.
Microsoft sold the intellectual property (IP) including source code for the commercial use side of FSX SP2 to Lockheed Martin in 2009.
Lockheed Martin released Prepar3d v1 in November 2010.
Microsoft released Microsoft Flight in February 2012 (the same year the Mayans got the end of the world wrong).
In 2014, Dovetail Games announced a license agreement with Microsoft to distribute Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition. FSX : SE was released in December 2014.
In 2014, Dovetail Games also announced their plans to develop a “next generation” flight simulation product further developed on Microsoft’s technology and bring this to market in 2015. However, Flight Sim World wouldn’t come to fruition until 2017. In April 2018, Dovetail announced Flight Sim World development would be closed.
In a nutshell, while Flight Sim World was supposed to be the next generation flight simulator product developed on Microsoft technology, the end result wasn’t what the hard core flight simulation community wanted or needed.
Will Microsoft Flight Simulator Take Flight Again?
With the history lesson out of the way, I’ve gotta say that from what I see in the 1 minute and 44 second trailer…I’m amazed, I’m impressed and I’m highly, highly optimistic. Let me repeat that…I’m highly optimistic! But as I stated earlier, what we actually know beyond what our eyes are taking in just isn’t that much. For example….
What about our current add-ons which have been developed for FSX/P3D? Will they work? Who knows. However, if I were to take a really big guess (and that’s all it really is at this point) I would say NO! No, our current add-ons won’t work. Especially not right out of the gate. The next question folks will ponder is, will it cost to get current add-ons for the new sim? We just don’t know.
But let me say this about “our current add-ons”. I constantly see complaints (especially in the FSX/P3D communities) about the fact that P3D is just a rebranding of sorts of FSX. While it is, it also isn’t. Meaning, Lockheed Martin have done some really awesome things to make P3D v4.5 what it is today and P3D v4.5 is truly lightyears from FSX. But…..but…I firmly believe in order for us to truly turn that corner and reach a point that we can say “THIS…THIS RIGHT HERE…Is the next generation flight simulator”, well….we’re gonna have to say goodbye to all those ancient and archaic add-ons we’re so desperately trying to hold onto. Enough is enough.
Having said that, (again because we just don’t know much at this point) will 3rd party scenery actually still be needed? Of the scenes depicted in the short trailer, are we looking at default? If so, dang…that’s impressive for default scenery. But my guess is, out of the box Microsoft Flight Simulator will have some heavily detailed areas and others not so much. But again…we just don’ t know.
The information available today does confirm we can fly anywhere on the planet. So most likely this will be just as inclusive as FSX was. But does this mean every airport, every city, every town will be modeled? Again….we just don’t know. Of course, there is speculation some data might actually be streamed into the sim as one flies along. But at this point we really just don’t know.
But visually impressive/immersive scenery is only part of the equation. The hardcore flight simulation community will also expect the same impressive/immersive experience in the aircraft as well. At this point in time, there’s no evidence proving or disproving this important fact.
Bottom line and this is just my opinion. If (and that’s a really big IF) Microsoft Flight Simulator provides us both the visuals and the level of immersion we have come to expect from Prepar3D and X-Plane, then I believe this could (at some point in the future) live up to being called the next generation flight sim. But can our little community support a big three concept?
The Ace in the Hole
Several years ago I discussed at great depth the confusion surrounding a topic that I’m going to bring up once again. This topic is possibly…the ace in the hole that Microsoft needs to have any success. Obviously, success might simply be “If you build it, we will come”…back. But as I pointed out earlier, it’s gotta be done right. An arcade game isn’t what we’re looking for. But back on topic…
Could Microsoft actually force a change in how Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D is sold? What am I talking about? Of course, I’m talking about that 800 lb. Gorilla sitting over there in the corner called EULA or End User License Agreement.
Reflecting very briefly on that history lesson from a few moments ago, in 2009 when Microsoft sold the commercial side of FSX to Lockheed Martin the intention was P3D would not be marketed as “Personal Consumer Entertainment” software. However, nothing has prevented individuals like myself to purchase, download, install and use P3D v1, P3D v2, P3D v3 and now P3D v4. While we can make every attempt to pick a few words out of the existing P3D EULA which gives us a right to use the software (training, simulating and learning), the very bottom line is many of us are using P3D for “personal consumer entertainment” purposes only, which is exactly how we all once used Microsoft FSX. My fear is the right set of attorneys in the right courtroom could argue that Lockheed Martin is operating outside of the agreement established by Microsoft. Hey, if an individual was able to sue a fast food establishment (and win) many years ago because the hot coffee she ordered through the drive thru in which she accidentally spilled on herself, then certainly anything might be possible here.
We simply don’t know much! It looks dang good and if done right, it could be a success and win many of us back to the Microsoft family. This will especially be true depending on Prepar3D v5. Which like MSFS, we also don’t know a lot about. As more information becomes available, I’ll certainly provide my opinion along with everyone else. But just remember…I have my opinions and you will have your opinions. These may be the same, may be similar or might be completely worlds apart. But at the end of the day, they are just that. Opinions!
Before I get too deep in the weeds with this blog posting, let me first start off by saying a BIG THANK YOU to every single VATSIM member. Regardless if you are a pilot, ATC, supervisor, management, technical development team etc. Thank YOU! I say this because I believe the success of VATSIM is down to each and every one of US. Regardless of how many years you’ve been a member, regardless of how many hours you have accumulated on the network and regardless of your position within the VATSIM network….VATSIM is and always will be successful because of each and every one of us.
Secondly, I do want to call out a few individuals. These are folks I personally didn’t know until recently. But in some way over the past 48-72 hours I’ve interacted with via Facebook, Discord or my own blog site and helped me get everything going so I could participate in the Sunday session of the Audio for VATSIM test during FSExpo19. These individuals are: Matthew Ciafarani, Aidan Stevens, Mats Edvin Aaro and Gary Oliver.
Finally, if you missed the previous blog posting which I detailed all the issues/frustrations I experienced in attempting to get started titled “Audio for VATSIM – FSExpo Beta Bust”, then take a few minutes to bring yourself up to speed and also read the comment left by Gary Oliver. The issues which prevented me (and several others) from joining in on the Saturday testing are explained in Gary’s comment and are all certainly understandable. I earn my living in the IT world and yes…”Stuff” happens. I want to once again state for the record that I didn’t write the FSExpo Beta Bust post as a way to “hate” on VATSIM. I believe it was well received by VATSIM management and serves to document my experiences. That’s it!
Audio for VATSIM
By late Saturday evening I had finished up my running around, completed the chores on the “honey do” list (guys you know this has to be a priority) and settled back in the lazy-boy with a movie in the DVD player and the wife happy. With the help of the folks mentioned above had access to both the Audio for VATSIM (AFV) Discord server and the AFV website. I had the updated vPilot client downloaded and pretty much everything set.
The main testing on Sunday was scheduled to begin at 1330z (7:30 AM MT). I woke up around 6:30 and made my first stop the coffee pot. Nothing ever really happens until I receive my first application of java in the morning. With coffee in hand, I proceeded down to the man-cave and powered on the Beast Mark V and the other PC’s I use for flight sim. My flight sim setup is a little more complicated as I run other applications in a networked setup to offload some of the CPU processing where I can. Anyway, I quickly got the AFV vPilot client installed, configured and installed a brand new Southwest 737-800 livery for the event.
New Southwest B738 in the Heart livery. Parked at KMSY.
The Big Easy
I decided to fly the same flight/route which I had signed up for on Saturday. I loaded up Prepar3D v4.5 and the PMDG 737-800 in the Southwest Airlines “Heart Livery” at the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, Louisiana (KMSY). While I didn’t have any ATC at time of departure, I did have company on the ground with an Air Canada Airbus at the nearby gate.
Pushback complete and ready for taxi.
I completely forgot about voice UNICOM, but went ahead and typed my intentions out via text. It wasn’t until I got airborne that I heard another pilot speak on 122.80. I must say, if everyone remains on their best behavior, then voice UNICOM will be awesome.
Southwest Flight 1066 wheels up
Making our left turn to join the departure route. Mississippi river and Lake Pontchartrain in the background.
Once I reached my cruising altitude of FL350 and out over the Gulf of Mexico, I was able to tune into Atlanta Center and could hear through my own headset the new “Audio for VATSIM”. I was blown away.
There’s more to the new Audio for VATSIM than what meets the eye EARS. Of course the major benefit has been a long time coming and I’ll discuss more about this in a minute. The two images below represent those who (at the time) were connected to the beta VATSIM server where the FSExpo AFV tests were being conducted. I had just departed from KMSY (climbing through 17,000 for FL350) and you can see my audio range is represented by the red circle around my aircraft position. These circles essentially represent our VHF transceiver range.
Upon reaching my TOC (FL350) my audio range is much greater. With regards to voice UNICOM, I’ll only hear other pilots which fall into my VHF radio range. Likewise, the same applies to picking up ATIS reports. While I initially had my reservations about voice UNICOM, after more thought on the subject I believe it will be a good thing in the long run. Yes, it will get abused…but I also know that VATSIM will hold those who abuse it accountable.
While voice UNICOM does slightly break the immersion for those who fly commercial jets, our level of immersion is also broken anytime we fly today with out constant ATC coverage. Voice UNICOM will certainly be a major benefit to VFR flight, of which I certainly hope to do more of.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. For the past several years I’ve actually loathed the ATIS audio. I stopped “listening” to ATIS audio a very long time ago. This doesn’t mean I don’t pickup ATIS info, I just preferred to either receive it via text in vPilot or grab the text info from VATSpy. I know it’s an age thing and I know my ears are paying me back from that Van Halen concert back in the late 1980’s. But wow…what a concert and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world. But I digress….
Yea…my hearing isn’t what it used to be and the ATIS audio of the past was most like listening to the adults speak on Charlie Brown. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a listen to this.
But I’m really pleased to say that with the new audio codec, ATIS audio is very pleasing and easy to understand. Here’s the ATIS info from Mickey Mouse International…err, I mean Orlando International Airport.
Let your ears be the judge
I recorded a short segment of my flight once I reached Jacksonville Center airspace. In the span of approx. 7 minutes, 30 seconds you’ll hear several audio transmissions between ATC, myself (Southwest 1066) and several other pilots. These were all flights arriving into Orlando KMCO during the early stages of testing on Sunday morning.
What do you think?
While there was one pilot with much lower audio levels than anyone else, I could still make out what he was saying. I believe once the new Audio for VATSIM becomes the new normal and everyone has a chance to adjust their audio levels, this new system will truly enhance all the wonderful things about flying in a multiplayer ATC environment.
For me, this is the very best thing to happen to VATSIM in its (and my) 18 year history. While I’ve been amazed at what my eyes have witnessed over the years, the lack of a truly powerful and supportive audio system has been been a major let down. The team responsible for developing and bringing the new Audio for VATSIM into reality deserve very accolade we can give them. Audio for VATSIM will propel the VATSIM network well into the future and beyond.
The Million Dollar Question! When?
As we know, the testing which took place this past weekend during FSExpo19 was not the only testing held for the new audio system. However, this weekends event was by far the largest. From both what my ears experienced as well as what I’ve read on their Discord channel…I don’t think we’re very far away from having AFV into full production. However, at this particular time there have been no firm announcements. We can only speculate if we’re just days/weeks away, more than a month or ???? I have a feeling we’re closer than we might think.
Well, that just about brings this posting to a close. I will have a few blog posting updates this week (pending I find the time to write them). I plan to document my thoughts on a few newsworthy items of recent and will be digging through all the info I can find on product news from FSExpo19.
If you follow the happenings around the flight simulation community, then you should be well aware that the 2018 FlightSimExpo which was held in Las Vegas on 9-10 June was a success. Flight Sim enthusiasts from around the world flew into LAS for the event and just about everyone I’ve heard from had nothing but positive thoughts regarding the 2018 event and look forward to 2019 and beyond.
As the dust begins to settle from the event, the organizers have been quick to communicate to those who attended the 2018 event regarding their opinions for future shows. Specifically their interest/opinion regarding specifically where they might wish to see the 2019 event held.
From what I understand the survey sent out to the 2018 attendees, identifies a list of six US cities including ATL, DEN, LAS, MIA, MCO and SAN. The survey also includes a write in slot as well. But most likely people will focus on the six named cities.
Of course, yours truly would absolutely love to see Denver named as the 2019 host city location. Denver (and the surrounding area) has a lot to offer and would be well suited to host the 2019 Flight Sim Expo and even future years as well. Denver International Airport is the international destination of many European carriers including British Airways, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Icelandic and Edelweiss. It is also a major hub for United Airlines and is served by most all the US carriers including American, Delta, Frontier and Southwest just to name a few. While the event would certainly save me a lot of $$$ and allow me to even sleep in my own bed, is Denver (or any of the other cities listed) the best choice for FlightSim Expo 2019 and beyond?
In short, I say NO!
Yes absolutely, Denver (and all the other cities) have excellent airports with plenty of flight options. Yes, Denver (and all the other cities) have plenty of state of the art conference facilities which could host this type of conference. Yes, Denver (and all the other cities) also have a suitable nightlife to keep everyone entertained after the conference event ends for the day. But….neither Denver…nor any other city listed has the nightlife that Las Vegas can offer. Especially when you think about location and proximity.
Consistency is Key
I believe the key to having a successful conference year after year after year is consistency. I believe it’s important to hold annual conferences around the same time each year and in the same location each year. While one might could say that holding a conference in Denver on an annual basis could get old and stale after a few years, I really don’t think the same can be said for Vegas. After all….when I think of Cool…the image of the Rat Pack comes to mind. Frank, Dean, Joey, Sammy and Peter absolutely understood just how cool Las Vegas was and still is.
The other advantage to holding a conference in the same location each year ultimately comes down to cost. Once a conference can establish themselves as an annual event, the organizers should be able to better negotiate deals with the hotel/conference center and pass those savings down to the attendees or use it to better enhance the event itself.
If the organizers of FlightSimExpo care to listen, I say Vegas Baby! Consider moving the event up the strip…but keep FSExpo19 in Fabulous Las Vegas. You’ve got a really good thing going here….keep it consistent and it’ll grow.
Yes I realize some will say (in a nasally voice), “but Las Vegas is too hot”. I’m actually writing this (to be posted next week) while I’m traveling for work. I’m currently in MCO (Orlando) and this is how the weather report was posted earlier today online “Hot, Sticky, Steamy, Soupy, Wet, Swampy and Nasty”. Does that sound fun to you? Yes, it’s hotter than a two dollar pistol in Vegas, but remember…it’s a dry heat. MCO can’t claim that! Oh no….just Nasty!
FlightSimExpo 2018, PMDG’s “Secret” Project Announcement and More Ramblings from a sleepless night is the topic of this article from GrizzlyBearSims. Ladies, Gentlemen and children of all ages….as I’ve often mentioned during my YouTube videos…I occasionally suffer from bouts of insomnia. I generally fall asleep quite easily, then wake up a few hours later with thoughts and ramblings knocking around in my head. Tonight I went to bed around my normal time feeling exhausted from work to only wake up in the middle of the night with the desire to write.
This coming weekend 9-10 June, Flight Simulation enthusiasts and AvGeeks from around the world will gather at the Flamingo in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada for North America’s newest flight simulation and aviation conference, FlightSimExpo 2018. Created by simmers and developers, FlightSimExpo is being advertised as “the only community-created and driven flight simulation conference in North America”.
This thing is going to be huge and I can certainly understand why they picked Sin City to host the first event of its kind. The sponsor list reads like a who’s who of all the major players from the world of flight simulation. With Orbx being listed at the top of the pyramid and just about everyone else I’ve ever heard of in my long history with this hobby is involved. All the big name YouTube/Twitch personalities will also be in attendance. I certainly wish my travel schedule would have permitted me the opportunity to attend. But there’s always next year!
Unfortunately, all available tickets have been sold for the event so we’ll just have to sit back and wait for others attending the event to begin spreading all the news and joy with the rest of us on the interwebz. I’ll be tuned into all the regular FS news channels and will share any major news along with my opinion right here on GrizzlyBearSims.com.
PMDG’s “Secret” Project
At some point over the weekend, we’ll finally know what PMDG’s “Secret” Project is all about. Speculation has pretty much run amuck the past few weeks as to what this “secret” project could be. Some are saying it’s a new aircraft model and others seem to think it could actually be a brand new sim platform. It appears whatever this “Secret” Project is, it’s been in the works since 2008. I have some thoughts and ideas on what this “secret” project could be and most likely what it will not be which I’ll discuss in the next few paragraphs.
First, this isn’t the first time PMDG has identified a new upcoming project using the term “Secret”. So just because the hype leading up to FSExpo2018 is convincing everyone this could be the next best thing since the old pocket on a shirt, it may not be that big. But as I said, speculation is running wild and before I run through the potential list, let’s talk about the history of PMDG first.
Firstly, PMDG is an acronym of Precision Manuals Design Group and was founded by Robert S. Randazzo. PMDG got its start by producing detailed flight manuals (hence the name) for the Microsoft Flight Simulator Boeing 747 and 757 , but soon moved into the development of freeware and later quality payware aircraft models. Today PMDG develops some of the finest study level aircraft for the Microsoft FSX, FSX Steam Edition, Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D and X-Plane simulation platforms.
Their current list of supported aircraft models include Boeing 737-800/900 (-600/-700 expansion pack), Boeing 777-200LR/F (-300ER expansion pack), Boeing 747-400 Queen of The Skies II and the Douglas DC-6. It should be noted the Douglas DC-6 was the first aircraft developed by PMDG for the X-Plane platform. Also of note, the Jetstream 4100 is available for FSX only and their MD-11 (FSX only) was officially retired. According to public information, PMDG is currently developing the Jetstream 4100 for P3D and the Boeing 747-8i/F expansion for both FSX and Prepar3D.
As I mentioned, speculation as to exactly what the “Secret” project for 2018 has been discussed in all corners of the internet. Also, let’s keep in mind that we have been told this “Secret” project has been in the works since 2008. 10 Years, a decade. Of course, just because something has been in development for 10 years, doesn’t mean it’s been actively worked on all this time. After all, PMDG only has 8 employees according to Wikipedia. A quick Google search has uncovered many of the possible scenarios which I’ll list below with a few comments/opinions from yours truly…this list will start with the most bizarre and eventually work our way into perhaps the most likely scenario. At least from my viewpoint…here goes.
PMDG will make us pay for all our aircraft one more time. This one ranks highest on the most bizarre, but if you are unfamiliar with flight sim and especially PMDG, allow me to bring up up to speed. As I’ve discussed a few times, the one factor in my decision to embrace P3D is the fact that a large majority of the add-ons I purchased during the time of FSX have been re-developed to function in P3D. Most importantly, many of these have been re-developed to work in P3D v4 (64 bit). Of all the add-ons I own (and I own a lot), most have been made available at no additional cost. Meaning, some sceneries I purchased to use with FSX (sometime after 2006) have been redeveloped to work in P3D v4, with installers made available some 12 years later and at no additional cost. While this list consists mainly of scenery add-ons, a few of my favorite aircraft have also been made available for P3D v4 at no extra cost. But when P3D came onto the scene, PMDG made the decision any aircraft you had previously purchased for FSX would need to be re-purchased for P3D. While we were all down on our knees after that punch to the gut, PMDG then kicked us again and said, AT FULL PRICE! Yes, it was a hard pill to swallow especially knowing that PMDG didn’t really have to completely rewrite every line of code with these aircraft. But considering they provide the very best study level Boeing models available for P3D, we all opened out wallets, whipped out the credit cards and said…”Take Our Money”. But fear not….I don’t believe PMDG will be announcing we must all re-purchase our favorite aircraft AGAIN for P3D (at least not at this time).
PMDG will develop an Airbus aircraft, specifically the Airbus A380. As PMDG have established themselves primarily as a Boeing shop, I’m not sure I see this as an option. Another small piece of information I’ve found on the internet, it appears Randazzo very much dislikes Airbus. He’s often used the line “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going”. Of course, a study level Airbus A380 would certainly be a money maker and I’ve known folks who would sell their soul just to make a buck. The other factor that I believe doesn’t make sense for the A380 to be the “Secret” project is there is already a study level Airbus A380 currently in development. But of course, this really doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, the only thing that matters is who brings their version to market first. PMDG most certainly could have been working off and on over the past 10 years on the A380 and we would have never known it. In addition, IF they are working on an A380 it most likely release long before any other possible developers version.
PMDG will develop a new flight simulation platform. If you know a little history, this doesn’t sound too far fetched. We’ve known for a year or two that PMDG was involved in a conglomeration of well known flight sim developers who negotiated with Microsoft to acquire the rights to continue developing FSX as a flight sim platform. However, during the negotiation process, Dovetail Games flew in with a better plan and obviously deeper pockets and walked away with the rights. This of course led to the FSX Steam Edition, Dovetail Games Flight School and Dovetail Games Flight Sim World. Only FSX Steam Edition has survived and you can read my article titled “And then there were two…” for more info on the demise of FSW. To continue with this thought, we need to look at the facts. We’ve been told by PMDG that this “Secret” project has been in the making since 2008. Microsoft had been releasing versions of their popular flight simulator every 2-3 years with FS2000 releasing in 1999, FS2002 in 2001, FS2004 (FS9) in 2003 and FSX in 2006. After the release of FSX in 2006, the flight sim community (best I can remember) just believed that FS11 would be the next in the franchise and life was good. Even in 2008, I doubt anyone felt any turbulence approaching. In 2009, it was reported that development behind the MSFS product was being heavily affected by Microsoft’s ongoing job cuts and there were rumors the entire dev team would be laid off. Soon after, we learned the news about the ACES team being laid off and speculation began to build on exactly what the future was for the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise. The point I’m getting at here is in 2008, PMDG was still a relatively small company. I’m really not sure they would have had the need or desire to think one day they would build their own flight simulator platform. The whole Dovetail scenario didn’t occur until 2014. As far as this scenario goes, I feel it’s more likely that PMDG (and that conglomeration previously mentioned) have some how negotiated with Dovetail Games to take over where they left off with FSW. Or perhaps negotiated with Lockheed Martin to distribute Prepar3D for entertainment purposes. Or none of these scenarios at all.
Here are my own ideas as to what the “secret” project actually is….Once again, let’s open our history books to the year 2008. After all, this seems to be some key date in PMDG’s history.
PMDG will release the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 for P3D v4. Now this would certainly be a crowd pleaser and many, many credit cards would gladly be whipped out to pay for this. PMDG actually released the MD-11 in 2008 for both FS9 and FSX. At that time, the only other wide body aircraft available from PMDG was the 747-400 (version 2) for FSX. The MD-11 was loved by many and for those still running the boxed version of FSX, it’s still flying the virtual skies hauling passengers and freight all around the world. As of two years ago, the worldwide fleet of MD-11s totaled 123 with Fedex operating 57. With PMDG’s decision to retire the MD-11, it’s left a big void in the virtual aviation hobby.
PMDG will release either a Boeing 757 or 767 for P3D v4. Another absolutely WIDE void in the virtual aviation hobby was created when the wonderful Level-D Boeing 767 was officially retired. I owned the Level-D 767 for FSX and just before PMDG released the 777, the 767 was my favorite aircraft to fly. In the real world, the Boeing 767 continues to fly the skies in vast numbers with over 700 still in service as both passenger and cargo operations. Even after the 767 is retired from passenger service, it will still proudly fly the skies as cargo aircraft. As for the 757, rumors about rumors have long existed that Level-D would eventually make a 757. The excitement was quite high for this news as the community had been wanting a study level version of the Boeing 757 for a long time. Even today, with both QualityWings having a 757 for FSX (and P3D v2/v3) and CaptainSim offering a 757 for P3D v4, the community still lacks that study level quality version. In the real world, 738 Boeing 757’s are still in service with Delta, Fedex and United Airlines having the largest fleet still flying today.
Something YUGE? Again, I have been using Google to parse as much info as I possibly can regarding this “Secret” project PMDG is announcing this weekend. In Jan. 2017, Robert S. Randazzo posted a lengthy discussion topic regarding status updates on somethings PMDG had been working on. This posting discusses many things including PMDG RainMaker, 747-8, 777, NG3 (not to be confused with NGX) and the Jetstream 4100 (J41). Down many paragraphs he mentions “We originally thought the J41 would release in late summer and showcase this new effect (PMDG RainMaker), but product development hit some snags and is still in holding since we moved development resources over to a major (massive…YUGE, even!) project that we haven’t announced yet”. He further mentions that we won’t see the “PMDG RainMaker” effects until the 747-8 expansion. So….something YUGE! Is this code for something? I’m not sure, but elsewhere on the interwebz I found a discussion regarding speculation that PMDG might have been working on the Boeing 747-200. How do I connect “YUGE” to the B742? G-HUGE is a registration number for a British Caledonian Airways Boeing 747-200. Yes, I agree…this is a stretch of the old imagination. But I’m starting to become delirious from lack of sleep now.
If I were a betting man and of course this announcement will take place on Saturday, 9 June in Sin City (Las Vegas), so place those bets now….I would say the most likely scenario will be either the MD-11 or 767/757 option. Either (or all) would be a really big deal in the flight sim community. Either (or all) would fill a really “YUGE” void in the flight sim community and would just strengthen the Boeing offerings PMDG already has in their portfolio. But we’ll just have to wait until Saturday to learn what new thing we can expect from PMDG.
A Few More Ramblings
I’m starting to drift off to sleep now and need to jot down a few more thoughts as I can’t be guaranteed to remember them when I wake up later. A few years ago I wrote about a similar flight simulation conference called FlightSimCon. While FlightSimExpo (which is what the majority of this blog posting is about) claims to be “the only community-created and driven flight simulation conference in North America”, I suppose there has been a lot of confusion in recent weeks about these two conferences. Anyway, in the past…FlightSimCon was held in the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT (Bradley International Airport KBDL). While I believe attendance was always good, it was a difficult location to get to for the majority of the attendees. The organizers of FlightSimCon for the 2018 event have since changed the location to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Dallas, Texas. However, this event falls two weeks AFTER FlightSimExpo and appears not to have as many sponsors/exhibitors. While I understand these are two different conferences, operated by two different groups…the planning could have been better. The flight simulation community is rather small in comparison to other gaming communities and I personally don’t believe two events of this kind can survive especially when the are scheduled two weeks apart. The majority of the excitement certainly seems to be around the FlightSimExpo Vegas event as the list of sponsors/exhibitors consists of all the major players.
Finally, I really hope you enjoyed the first installment or Leg 1 of my “around the world” WorldFlight 2018 tour which released here on my blog site on Wednesday. Look for Leg 2 on Saturday morning and my hope is to be able to deliver at least one leg each week and occasionally some weeks could have two legs.
I’m sorry this has been a lengthy/wordy article. Yes, there’s a lot of info to digest and some of it, or perhaps none of it will come to fruition. That’s OK with me, it’s been a fun walk down memory lane. If by some freak chance something I’ve listed here does happen, then I can only thank the Flight Sim gods for waking me and placing the thoughts in my tiny brain.
Until next time….As Wesley Snipes would say…..
P.S. Yea…I also enjoy aviation movies.
For legal disclosure, the Wesley Snipes (Passenger 57) GIF is copyright of whomever created it and to the producers/directors and Mr. Wesley (tax man) Snipes himself.