Is this the end?

The recent developments of Microsoft shutting down the ACES studio are making me a bit sad. Let me try to explain why.

When FSX was released it included some great improvements over FS2004. I am talking from a scenery designer perspective of course, so I was most happy about the improved terrain engine, that allows more resultion that 4.8 meter on the photo scenery, a better autogen system and the improvements to the modelling SDK, which means that more things can be done without tweaking the code. In my job I am also working with visual simulations and I can assure you that most of these systems can simulate the entire world with the ease that FSX can, so from that point of view it is a great product.

But from a developer point of view FSX is also a big step backwards. Personally I think developing for FS2002 and FS2004 was most fun. In these two versions you could really build anything you imagined. The scenery design techniques were very flexible. Want to make a completely working docking system, of course you can. Want to make an animation of a hangar door that is trigger by the approaching aircraft, of course you can. I have great memories of how we were searching for those limits in the community.

But in FSX that is all no longer. The scenery format is so restricted that I don’t even have to think about a conditional scenery object, triggered hangar door animations or seasonal textures on my object. And then I am not even considering a completely working docking system, which is much more complex. The progress on the points I mentioned above have removed all the flexiblity to make interesting and nice things for the developer.

All this time I was hoping that this step backwards with FSX, would be the price we had to pay to make three steps forward again in the next version. I believed that if we would use the product we might find some work arounds and in the same time we could make sure ACES knew about the flexibility we wanted, so that the next version would be better again.

Now ACES is closed, the development of a next version will at least take longer. And personally I am not sure if I can keep motivated to develop for FSX given all the restrictions it puts on the developer. I have always enjoyed most to find the edge of the product, make realistic and complex objects, like working docking systems. FS2004 was great for that and FSX makes that almost impossible. Maybe it is time to move back to the FS2004 techniques and start making those interesting and challenging objects again? I guess the future will tell…

8 thoughts on “Is this the end?

  1. I must admit I was shocked with the shutdown of ACES. Why not at least keep the team together and hive it off to another company.

    Is this the end of the line for FSXI? But as you said, FS9 had many things going for it that FSX doesn’t and I still fly it, with my vintage scenery, far more often then FSX.

  2. Hi Arno.

    You’ve pretty much matched my feelings. In fact, FS2002 may be more flexible than FS2004. I remember “Busy Objects” seemed to open up object movement, that was crushed by FS2004.

    I’m interested in what designers, such as aircraft, airport, terrain, and object designers think about this.

    I don’t hold much hope for FS11 ever being developed. CFS3 was an experiment in the sim’s development, and was not received well by developers. It used a new team for it’s internal coding, so all continuity was broken. And what little was offered in SDKs was pitful from that new group.

    Oddly, I don’t think Bill Gates would have approved of this, were he still calling the shots. He was a fan of the FS series.


  3. I think this also means the end of ESP, but we’ll have to wait for some official announcement from MS on this point. Even if the product is still sold, I doubt they can offer the support that comes with it without the people they just fired.

  4. Arno, please don’t ever think of FS9 as ‘going back’. OK a lot of us still use FS2004 and even FS2002 it seems. Is it not possible to try and convert objects etc from FS9 to FSX?
    At the moment you are developing ModelConverterX, are you going to give up now? I wish I had you brains, mine are only capable of making simple VB programs that I use with FS9, for example – a small program that directs the Autopilot with heading and altitude, changes the Nav1, Nav2 and ADF when you type in the correct numbers. Updates the altimeter reading every 5 seconds.
    What I am trying to say is there must be plenty to do with FSX still.
    Anyway I do like reading your blog – so keep that up!

  5. John, I am certainly not going to give up any of the tools in the near future. I will continue with ModelConverterX. After that I guess the next challenge will be to see if some tweaks can be found to add things to FSX that were easier with FS2004.

    The only thing that is lost is the hope that the next version will gives us the improvements of FSX, with the flexibility of FS2004.

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