Community Experience in Perspective [Part 4]

By
Goose Wright
March 7, 2018

Part IV: The Great Divide

Ignorance is bliss, or so it’s said, anyway. Or then, there’s this: one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, or something along those lines. And how about this: ‘read neither to believe nor to contradict, but to weigh and consider.’ Have you heard that one before?

The thing is...some people package ignorance and sell it as knowledge. Others will turn up the music and dance the night away, no matter who they keep up. And how many people do you know who get their exercise by jumping to conclusions?

There is a dividing line between those who talk all the time – and those who pretend to listen, and we came to the tip of the lance a few days ago, to another line in the sand. When Orbx finally came to X-plane – last weekend – we came to yet another great divide. The last holdout, the last big name in FsX switched over to the dark side…and then, of course, it began to hit the fan. It had to.

You could read it in comments all over our corner of the flight sim universe, too. “They didn’t use PBR materials,” or “the lighting isn’t HDR compliant!” The point I tried to make at XSR was simpler still: Orbx declared their origins and, perhaps, their intentions with this choice. Meigs Field is long gone, true enough, but Meigs was where Microsoft Flight Simulator was born, so to speak. Orbx was telling us something with their choice, but I’m not sure many were willing to listen. “Yes,” that voice seemed to say, “we’re coming to X-plane – but MsFS will always be who we really are.”

So Orbx finally came and already some people in X-plane are ready to circle the wagons, but you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to figure this one out, folks: their file was overpriced and underwhelming – but – that was the point of the exercise. We waited for almost ten years and they came at us with a file that hardly represents what they’re capable of – and then you look at the next file they’ll presumably release – a disused GA airfield in the rusting British midlands that looks a little like a cross between a brickyard and a city dump – and after you look at the screenshots you shake your head and ask yourself why? Why release airports few will buy? To say, “Look, we came, we gave it our best shot and no one was interested, so goodbye…”

Somehow I doubt that. For some reason I think they’ve done their homework, made their market analysis and come up with what they think will attract a certain type of customer. Probably the customer they want to attract. They have a plan, that’s my guess. If they don’t, I doubt they’ll last in this market – and if that’s the case I doubt they’ll be sorry to go. But you could say that about all the developers who tried to crack our market – only to move on.

And yet, at almost the same time – over the past few weeks, anyway – AeroSOFT released a pile of “version 2” upgrades and updates – for airports like Stuttgart and Zurich and Dallas – and they seemed to be talking to X-plane users, too. Their voice sounded a little like this: “Yeah, we were one of the first groups from the MsFS world to cross over, and we won’t forget you after Orbx comes ‘round.

And then Alabeo released a Mooney M20 – almost the exact same file Carenado released when they first showed up for the X-plane party. Is there an echo in here, or is it, like, déjà vu all over again? Did you forget Alabeo is like Carenado’s little brother? The timing is a little interesting to me...

So, was all this just a happy accident? Or were AeroSoft and Alabeo trying to steal a little of Orbx’s thunder?

Things are coming to a head, that’s for sure, but there are times you have to ask yourself why.

We humans love to divide into little communities, diverging cacophonous symphonies of Us versus Them. One side of the fence or the other, amigo, and no sitting on the fence allowed. Right vs Left in Italy last weekend, North vs South in Korea – for the last sixty seven years. Manchester United vs Real Madrid, the Patriots vs Everybody. You can see it in kids on playgrounds or adults in a courtroom, too. My side, your side, my side is right and your side is wrong – always. FsX has a flight model on rails while Xp renders a drab looking world. You stick to your side and I’ll stick to mine. One man’s ceiling is another  man’s floor.

Funny thing, though. We’re all in this together – whether we like to admit that, or not.

I read an editorial a few days ago dividing X-planers into little groups, basically the pretenders vs the diehard loyalists. Why do we write things like that if not to somehow feel better than the group we’ve just (ever so quietly) belittled? Is it so difficult to understand just about everyone in either the FsX/P3D or Xp community shares one thing in common? We love the idea of flight, the act of flying, even if it turns out we’re doing it on a simulator. Some of us are more technically inclined while others are artists – like some people become painters while others become architects – yet we’re all just people – united by an abiding love for one thing: being up there in the sky. Even if that sky is on a desktop.

So the whole Orbx kerfuffle? Was that just another verse in the never ending Us vs Them thing, so much sound and fury signifying nothing? Or is there something else going on?

Well, it’s too soon to say, isn’t it?

Orbx needs to get their feet under them but I’d say this right now: if you don’t like what they’re selling, don’t buy it. I know that sounds kind of obvious, but I saw a lot of comments that went something like this: “I’ve already got a perfectly good Meigs Field, but this is Orbx, man! I’ve got to get it because, you know...it’s Orbx, man!”

Me?

I will not be buying a brick garbage dump, no matter how cute the textures are. I will continue to buy airports to review that I think are of interest to my readers, or those that intrigue me – in some measurable, meaningful way as a pilot. If the British midlands airport ends up offering a compelling reason to buy, then I will – but I won’t just because it’s Orbx. There are lots of Carenado files I never picked up, never reviewed; the same with AeroSoft. It’ll be the same for Orbx products – as I suspect it will be for most of you.

It would be nice if we could move on from the whole Us vs Them paradigm, but we’re human, and apparently we need some reason to feel better than the fella on the other side of the fence. Yet, in the end it boils down to something very simple, and often quite tragic. Words hurt. When we’re offended, we are because someone has hurt us.You can turn the other cheek and walk away, or you can walk into all the sound and the fury.

Reviewers are journalists, of a sort, and the best reviewers are scrupulously neutral when they look at a product. If they know they can’t be they should move on and let someone else review the file, or they should tell their readers about their bias and try to account for it in their conclusions.

And that’s one of the big reasons why Threshold came to be. There are a bunch of people writing “reviews” who are, in one way or another, getting compensated by the developer, or by the distributor...and you know what? Those are not reviews, they’re advertisements – dressed up to look like a review. Advertisements serve a purpose, true, but what I’ve learned talking to the people putting Threshold together is simply this...people thrive, and markets thrive too, when goods and services are honestly marketed. When a reviewer shouts out how good something is – when he or she knows better – everyone suffers. And maybe developers most of all, because once burned, customers tend to shy away after that.

So, lets come full circle and get back to Orbx and circling our wagons. We, the community that surrounds X-plane, need to cut Orbx some slack. Expectations are running high, maybe too high, and that’s usually not a good thing, but X-plane really needs another good scenery developer. A great one would be even better, but like I said, one man’s ceiling...and all that. We, you and I, will never know what motivated Orbx to come to Xp right now, like we’ll more than likely never understand why they choose to make one type of file over another.

Yet that’s not important.

What IS important?

That they’re here, now, and learning the ropes. That’s all.

The market will take care of the rest, assuming our market still functions as it should. Forming cliques and groups will do more damage than you could imagine now, and always remember...words hurt. Every bully understands that, no matter which side of the divide he stands on.

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