Threshold Investigation: The Stolen 737 MAX
September 1, 2019
“Threshold Investigates” is not a title we use very often at all - saved for only for the worst of circumstances. Unfortunately, it’s come to this again with the surfacing of a stolen version of the Ultimate Team’s 737 MAX 8.
Let’s start with a bit of background - the Ultimate Project, as we're sure most people are aware, is run for the purposes of making high-quality renditions of the 737 NG fleet. The team works closely with Zibo mod creator Lubos Zibek to integrate his systems in their aircraft, the 737-700, -900 and the controversial 737 MAX.
Threshold had the honour of exclusively debuting the 737 MAX for X-Plane in September 2018, and since then developer Daniel Johnson has kept development on the down low, fearing PR backlash in line with previous releases from the freeware team. For more information on the status of the real 737 MAX, see the bottom of the article for some exclusive information.
A user posing under the popular Breaking Bad character "Walter White" has obtained an early copy of the Ultimate 737 Max, combined assets from RG_Mod's 737 MAX and released it under his own "WW" brand without permission from the 737 Ultimate Team, violating the Team's EULA and Copyright terms.
- The user began posting modifications of the released Ultimate 737-900 and 737-700 on the Ultimate 737 Discord server.
- When he declined after repeatedly being requested to take it down, he was removed from the chat server.
- A new account on twitter was created 8 days later to provide updates to his -700 and -900 modifications, still unauthorised from the Ultimate Team
- By the 7th July, he has releaved that he has obtained an early WIP copy of the 737 MAX from the Ultimate Team and posted various shots of the stolen copy over the next few months
- Prior to release, he justifies his work through lying about the Ultimate Team handing over the project to him
- The released please was essentially an early copy of the Ultimate 737 MAX combined with the controversial RG_Mod 737 MAX edit
- Upon publication of this investigation, WW labelled the piece as "Fake News" despite clear evidence pointing towards a redistribution of a stolen work
How we got here:
The chain of events leading us to today’s article began back in June, when a user in the 737 Ultimate Discord server by the name of Walter White posted modifications to the 737-700 and 737-900 Ultimate. These modifications were small and included system and visual updates to the 737 series. Ultimate developers requested the mod be removed for breaching legal terms included in the aircraft package, which White refused and he was subsequently removed from the chat server.
Eight days later on the third of July, the embattled developer set up a social media account, where ever since he’s provided updates on “his” line of “WW” (standing for Walter White) 737s. By the 7th of July he had moved past his mandate of “just making the planes up-to-date” by posting a screenshot of the Ultimate’s in-development 737 MAX 8. Over the course of the next month, White continued to post various previews of the stolen aircraft.
This brings us to the present day. On August 31, White went live with Twitch user “ChandlerFPS”, who flew the stolen aircraft in a two and a half hour livestream. During this time, the streamer deleted messages from critics, stating in response to questions about the MAX’s legitimacy with “some people just can’t be thankful!” Later in the clip, he defended the actions of the developer by saying “If you don’t like it, just don’t use it! It’s as easy as that”. The actual developer of the aircraft, Daniel, does not appreciate these comments.
White wasn’t finished there, though. After the stream concluded, he put out another post attacking the statement put out by Ultimate moderators speaking of his antics. He ironically tagged our Threshold Editorial account, as opposed to that of the moderator who posted the statement. In the post, he says:
“your statement about 737-MAX that you put out is wrong and not true. All assets that I have received are on the paper and person who shared files with me gave me authorization and permission with full agreement. From legal point I became co-owner of those files.”
What the (Actual) Developers think
This, of course, was not the line proclaimed by the actual developers of the 737 MAX. To find out the real situation, we reached out to the developers behind the controversial aircraft for their view on the latest developments.
Firstly, here’s Dan, head developer of the MAX, who sat down for a brief chat with us earlier today:
“I do not know who ‘Walter White’ is, though I can recognize [that] his copy of the Ultimate 737MAX is a very old beta copy that is not representative of the project today. As a result of our history with failed release dates I’ve kept quiet about our progress until the very end of development.”
Furthermore, Daniel confirmed to Threshold that the 737 MAX has significantly changed and improved since its last beta state many months ago, promising more news on the ‘real’ version in the coming days.
Some of our own investigative work concluded that the fuselage textures/mapping White provided was that of the ever controversial RG Mod. RG Mod also made a 737 MAX, but it lacked a MAX cockpit. White combined the RG Mod 737 fuselage with the 737 Ultimate MAX cockpit. The key difference between the RG Mod MAX and 737 Ultimate MAX fuselages is how they handle mapping/texturing around the APU (auxiliary power unit). The RG Mod texture uses the 737 NG style APU texture, while the 737 Ultimate MAX has a different type of APU mapping/texture. We can conclude from this that the texture has been copied from the RG Mod (it should also be noted that the below livery was also stolen and converted from the 737 Ultimate MAX).
Here’s a comparison between the two:
We also reached out to Zibo himself for comment, who echoed Daniel’s thoughts about the legitimacy of the aircraft and went on to say:
“...I did not work on the MAX. I promised Daniel (developer MAX) to help him with systems - ND, PFD... I think Audiobird created FMOD for MAX. I never installed MAX (beta) on my PC.”
Furthermore, we reached out to AudiobirdXP (Ollie Schmidt), who’s responsible for the FMOD sounds (which have been stolen as well), as well as texturing of the 737 Ultimate NG and MAX. Ollie replied with the following:
“..I can only chime in regarding the following aspects: Assets made by me that were reused, and FMOD sound by me. I didn’t follow his "project" apart from telling him off clearly without impact. I asked and warned him repeatedly on behalf of the entire Zibo team to take it [WW 737s] down.”
What this whole situation boils down to is that Walter White stole assets from the Ultimate team (using them without consent) for his own product, which is in violation of the EULA agreement bundled with all Ultimate downloads. It explicitly says that you are not allowed to “modify and/or distribute them in any way without written permission”.
Both developers have confirmed to Threshold that this policy is still in place, and formally request White not release the file in accordance with the policy.
Exemplary investigative work from a Threshold team member meant that we were able to acquire a copy of the stolen aircraft early, thus allowing us to present a side-by-side look at the aircraft. The investigative work done by this team member allowed for the removal of many of Walter’s close associates from the community as well.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of the WW (Walter White) and Ultimate 737 MAX. We're aware the images are not of the highest quality, so if you'd like a closer look, check out the link below for the raw files.
If you’d like a close look at these images, see the raw comparison files here.
Resident Threshold developer Peter Tram comments that the two are “remarkably similar”, speaking particularly to the glossiness of the displays and perhaps most blatant of all, the Ultimate branded tablet to the left of the captain’s seat.
In summary, we can conclude with almost 100% certainty that Walter White’s 737 MAX is directly stolen from the Ultimate Project's 737 MAX. This makes the distributor of the files, Walter White, by definition, a pirate.
In conjunction with that, everyone who uses the stolen 737 MAX would also be taking part in piracy and must be treated as such.
We hope this investigation informed our readers to not take part in internet piracy by using this aircraft. Reiterating our own piracy rules (present on all social media platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Article comments, Discord etc.) - “Piracy is absolutely not tolerated. Violators will be permanently banned.”
Will the Real MAX Ever Come Out?
The question seemingly on everyone’s lips: What about the real MAX?
We asked the developers in separate interviews today about the release date of the MAX - Daniel, ever quiet, reminded us that MAX development is purposely kept secretive because of the large amount of PR backlash from other similar Ultimate Project announcements.
He did, however, say that the real MAX “has everything there, it just needs polish.” When shown the copy Threshold obtained of White’s version, he laughed and exclaimed “my version in its current state is ten times better than the one he has”.
Johnson understands the frustrations of fans of the project over secrecy and will allow for some new shots of the MAX to be published in the coming days. There is potential for a release date to be included with them, however, he made sure to add “our history with failed release dates” might affect his decision over the next few days.
As always, Threshold will be all over further developments.
Threshold encourages informed discussion and debate - though this can only happen if all commenters remain civil when voicing their opinions.