Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

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Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby toprob » Sun Jan 03, 2021 3:18 pm

There's a lot of text here, so I'll break it up with some screenshots of the upcoming Taieri airfield for MSFS. A work in progress, so what you see is not what you'll get. I've set the weather to blah because anyone can make a MSFS scenery look great by setting it to dusk and making it rain. I want to make scenery that looks good even if it's a dull old day.

Sure, some people found 2020 very successful, especially those who were in a position to take advantage of changing markets, or those who can shut off feelings of empathy for others. But I suspect that most of us didn't enjoy the ride, and even those who came out unscathed would probably not describe the year as 'meh'. Me, I hated it. I could have happily gone through my entire life without experiencing a pandemic. So while 2021 has a lot to live up to, I'm not even half-way convinced that the worst is over.

Personally I dealt with a few issues which were not covid-related, but were compounded by it. I won't go into those here, though. Business-wise, covid didn't really make much difference. Having a product which can be sold entirely without physical contact in any way certainly helps. The 'stay at home' promotions were quite successful! But my sales had already been reduced long before covid, initially due to the announcement of MSFS, then things got very lean when the new sim was released. This is part of the fun of being in business, especially in a market which wouldn't register on most people's radar. I have almost supported myself just from flightsim development for the last 15 years. I just had to look that up, and I'm amazed it's been that long, this month is my anniversary, so I should celebrate with a good book and a glass of cheap wine.

One result of this downturn was that I am no longer on track to reach the expected sales figures for NZCH. For this post, I actually checked the total sales for the first time, not quite as dismal as I thought, and with commercial licensing included I would be very happy with the result so far, but ongoing sales will be few and far between.

Still, I am more excited than normal with what we have, and are yet to get, with MSFS. Sure, it's unfinished, but even that is a good thing -- FSX was 'finished', but it wasn't the ultimate sim. If we are lucky, in a year or two we will have something which we hadn't expected, or even deserved. Note that I'm mainly looking at this from my perspective, as a developer, who has spent hours per day within the sim over the last three months and probably only taken off half a dozen times:) Flying is for those who can't handle the thrill of scenery development....

I won't be making any promises here, I've always very aware that I'm not great at fulfilling all my promised projects. That's not to say that we'll never see a Real NZ Aerofly or X-plane scenery. However Aerofly FS2 will need to fulfill a lot of their promises first, and I still have the same issues I always had with the X-plane community -- I don't know if the few who threaten me and my business are part of an actual concerted group, or just a bunch of kids, but it still scares the crap out of me. And I'm not just being paranoid, I have dealt with this sort of thing before, and had to work hard to protect myself. So any X-plane development will probably need to be a joint effort, outside the Godzone/Real NZ label.

So that leaves MSFS. Oh yeah, there's Prepar3d as well, which is still a great sim, but as I've said, sales of Prepar3d scenery are just not happening. Committing to something new for Prepar3d would need a huge resurgence in sales, mainly of NZCH, which is my 'current' main product. And I may have already suggested that the FSX version of NZCH was probably the last FSX project I'd ever complete. FSX, I love you, but you should take a well-deserved retirement, and let your offspring soar! I would suspect that I've not sold more than 20 copies of NZCH for FSX, and that took months of work to complete. I don't actually know the figures, as NZCH is just one single multi-version product, and I'm not counting those who bought it for Prepar3d and have since downloaded it for FSX.

Image
I revisited Taieri recently, to get updated photos and see what's new. This hangar has been tidied-up, the doors are the same but the rest is patched and repainted. I still prefer the old version, which you see here.

Speaking of retirement, this is another option I've considered lately. For the last three months I've been living off my mum's estate, and I've acutely aware that if I don't actually manage to sell anything in the next 6 months, when I can get my pension, then most of that will be gone. According to my calendar, it's 171 days until I turn 65. Yeah, I'm counting it down, why not? Apart from the fact that it isn't healthy to do that. But there is still the possibility that I can release something or two for MSFS, that will actually sell well. This is by no means certain, neither the release itself nor the good sales. A lot of people assume that there is a huge market for MSFS addons, but there are also an awful lot who are happy to use the default for as long as they can, and/or take advantage of the increase in interest in freeware releases. That's where relying on a market which is a tiny corner of a small niche market becomes quite fun. If 40% of my normal customer base chose not to use Godzone MSFS scenery, then 'fun' becomes 'interestingly scary'.

Still, a couple of things make that less of an issue. First, I'll still get the pension, so the likelihood of not covering the rent is a lot less. If I can gradually increase sales from MSFS products, then it would still be a good business for me. And secondly, developing for MSFS is just so much fun, I'd do it even if there wasn't any income. Ok, I could be bluffing, just don't call me on that.

So without any promises or commitments, here are some thoughts of how developing for MSFS could work.

Image
Oh, that grass! The real airfield is beautifully mown, I need to figure out how to display this.

As I've said, the sim is not finished yet, and hopefully it will always be an ongoing project. But I do notice the lack of certain things, all affecting NZ scenery, which I'd like to see addressed. Such as the mesh. This doesn't really affect my projects that much, this is just my own idea of what makes NZ great to fly in, mainly the pointy bits. Then there's the SDK, which is even less finished than the sim. Many developers are releasing projects which rely on some default features, simply because it's not possible to customise these yet. I will probably do the same, but there's still the hope that some of these will be addressed before my first MSFS release.

Which will be... hmmm. This is more of a business model, although as a businessman I make a great scenery developer. Here's the plan I'm going with at the moment, but it could change at any time. The plan -- or the Plan, if I'm being truly pretentious -- takes advantage of the photoscenery included in MSFS, so the need to make huge chunks of photoscenery just isn't there, so airports-only initially. And since some of these old chunks of photoscenery included more than one airport -- think Real NZ Dunedin -- it may make more sense to release individual airports. So while we are thinking Real NZ Dunedin, it's a good time to say that the first release may be Taieri, separately followed by NZDN. Taieri would not be everyone's choice, but it is mine, because it is the best project for an aging, non-aviation nerd with asperger's. It has character, charm, just enough detail to make it interesting, and isn't always overrun with dirty smelly aircraft roaring and belching. In fact, I like to sit at Taieri within the sim's development environment, and listen to the birds as I tweak the scenery.

Image

Pricing the Plan has taken some thought. Some ideas have been thrown away just because they are not relevant -- for example, in the past I've updated current scenery with each new version of Prepar3d. These are mostly quick fixes to make sure everything works as it should, but doesn't always include many newly introduced features. It makes sense to just update the current orders with the new download, so it doesn't mean charging for updates. Sure, it can take time to do the update, but this is recouped by selling more scenery. With MSFS, these won't be simply repackaging the P3D scenery. Forgot to mention, I'm talking new versions of the existing Real NZ scenery here. However this won't mean a total rebuild either -- I normally start with the existing 3D models, for instance, rather than start from scratch. But sometimes I do start from scratch, and most models are tweaked, plus have added detail. And although I start with the original textures, these are normally doubled in size, which means reprocessing all the photos which were used to build the textures, plus having to create the PBR elements. So to be fair, I might end up doing 60% more work, thereabouts. That's a guess, and not really based on anything except my gut, which coincidentally is 60% larger than it was before 2020....

It would therefore make sense to offer a discount for those who have purchased prior versions. There's just one technical reason why this won't happen, though. Take Nelson for instance, this will hopefully be reworked in MSFS soon. After the release of Nelson, I moved my online store to Wordpress/Woocommerce, and at the time I looked at the cost of moving all accounts, but in the end it wasn't affordable, so I have just left the old Store as it is, and if you want to redownload an old Store purchase, you just go through the old Store. Then there's Simmarket, and the old PC Aviator(?) stores. One outcome is that I really have no single database of those who own Nelson, so offering a discount becomes a complicated job. So option 2, just give everyone the discount. Makes perfect sense, especially taking into account the unknown market. Many people have said they want to pay less for MSFS addons, for whatever reason. So this is good way to try a cheaper product.

What this price will be is not yet set, but let's look at the current new Real NZ product price, NZ$38. For simplicity's sake we'll work with a 50% reduction, so a release like NZCH or Real NZ Dunedin would cost NZ$19. Now Real NZ Dunedin, which will essentially be release one and two, is made up of two smaller airports, so each could be NZ$9.50 each. This isn't the $5 airport which many have suggested, but close enough to EUR or US$5. NZCH would be NZ$19. Now one outcome might be that the market will grow to twice what it is now (or was before MSFS, really.) This is one reason why people want to pay less, they say 'hey, you'll have a much bigger market with MSFS, so it's fair to take the hit.' I can't see this happening, even if I get to support the Xbox version, as any gain in user numbers doesn't relate at all to the wants of real flightsim fans. And we ain't gonna suddenly get twice as many real simmers here in NZ.

But to balance this, as I've said, about 40 paragraphs ago, I'll be a pensioner soon, so at least the rent will be covered already. I'd like to earn a lot more, going forward, but it seems a lot more likely that I'll earn a lot less. But I'll still be doing what I love.

Image
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby Charl » Sun Jan 03, 2021 3:56 pm

Wondered what was going on in the RealNZ corner of Godzone...
Think about it, there has never been a better time to do serious scenery for a sim: good base product, ongoing improvement, a Covid-bound audience, the list is long.
I still haven't installed MSFS, maybe a lovely bit of NZ scenery will light the fire.
Look forward to seeing your stuff, I thought the photos above looked just like the real thing :)
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby ardypilot » Sun Jan 03, 2021 4:56 pm

Thanks for the insight into the development world Rob- I'll be keen buyer for any of your sceneries regardless of price point. A high res mesh for NZ could be a world wide best seller on the FS Marketplace I reckon- not sure what sort of % cut MS would take to have it hosted there though... Keep up the good work, and be sure to keep dropping teasers of your projects when you can!
Andy.

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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby Naki » Sun Jan 03, 2021 5:00 pm

Awesome ! I will be a purchaser of what ever comes out of the production line.
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby Karangi » Mon Jan 04, 2021 5:51 am

I personally will continue with p3d for many years. Spent so much on it now. MSFS still has a few to many bugs too. Thanks for the great sceneries so far.


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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby NeilF » Mon Jan 04, 2021 10:07 am

Great post Rob, I have purchased all the sceneries you have produced to date for FS9 and FSX and will continue to do so for MSFS as they are released............ :groupwave:
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby jpreou » Mon Jan 04, 2021 12:57 pm

I haven't sim'd for ages; not since I stopped RL flying really as my simming was really an extension of that; or 'training' / practice for that in any case.
My financial position isn't what is used to be either with my wife not working much and expenses have increased while income has not.
I have not yet purchased MSFS for these reasons stated above, but I will do my best to purchase your airports Rob, finances allowing, in preparation for when I finally come back on board I'll have a library ready to go. Right now, MSFS I think is not quite there in terms of mesh, bugs, oddities, etc but seemingly growing stronger all the time, so I'm keeping a close eye on it.
I'm also looking at VR again and while the HP Reverb G2 now seems it might meet my high expectations, I suspect the combination of that and MSFS would push my rig over the edge. There's no money for the headset anyway, let alone a new rig, so I guess it is a moot point! :)
Keep trucking Rob and I'll try to purchase if I can.
--
Jeff, ChCh, NZ
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby mfahey » Mon Jan 04, 2021 6:47 pm

Hey Rob - I have all your FSX and P3D scenery, and was even a subscriber to your "magazine" type subscription way back in the day and the also later subscription program too! You are a great developer with a real eye to producing art so close to realism. I will be buying anything you publish for MSFS - Bring it on! :)
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby bernief » Mon Jan 04, 2021 7:04 pm

Hello Rob.

Thanks for reminding me about Christchurch. I had never actually got round to purchasing it. Went to your store and got a nice surprize. The price is discounted to NZ$19.00 instead of $38.00. Bargain eh.

Thanks for the discount. Purchased and am downloading as we speak. Don't spend the money all at once LOL.

Cheers Bernie
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby toprob » Thu Jan 07, 2021 2:09 pm

Thanks for all the comments, and especially for the order, Bernie! I'm very much aware that I have a very loyal bunch of supporters, most of them here. Many have gone above and beyond over the last decade, which sometimes catches me by surprise. Jeff, are you implying that you might buy my scenery if you can't use it? That doesn't make any sense to me:)

This week (/month/year, coincidentally) has got off to a reasonable start, although funnily enough I've earned more on the sharemarket* than via my Store. Thanks, final US elections results!

*Yes, I'm aware the market goes up and down, and you only really gain (or lose) when you sell, but I can dream.
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby jpreou » Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:47 pm

toprob wrote:Jeff, are you implying that you might buy my scenery if you can't use it? That doesn't make any sense to me:)


Yes Rob, as a) to support local content creation and b) I will use it eventually I am sure, if I cannot use it right away - inevitably sooner or later I'll get MSFS 2020 ! :)
--
Jeff, ChCh, NZ
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby Splitpin » Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:38 pm

Rob ...you build it, I'll buy it . 100% interesting post.
And I'm proud to say I've been with you "on the ground" for some of your work. :rockon:
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby Barrington » Fri Jan 08, 2021 11:02 am

Hey Rob,
I also have bought all your great scenery from the start - both FSX & Prepar3D and have always been impressed so will definitely continue at your pace.
I know it's a hard task to make a dollar but keep it going if you can as I am sure you will have the support again as you start producing................
Cheers :cheers:
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby Dash8captain » Fri Jan 08, 2021 2:39 pm

Me too Rob, and you have helped me a lot over the years getting stuff installed anytime I had an issue

Anything more you create, you'll know I'll be buying it
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby ASHLEE » Thu Jan 28, 2021 9:39 am

New to X plane 11 51r1
I have been an avid follower of Fsx for many years and spoiled rotten by Robs scenery additions. Thank you Rob retirement is alright the body wears out but the brain can still remain sharp and active.
I purchased X plane 11 51r1 as my only additional simulator to FSX and upgraded my cpu to cope and it runs surperbly no stutters and very happy with performance. But I miss the nzff chat and the ease of fitting addons.
My question to the forum is has anyone noticed who uses x plane 11 51r1 that Milford sound 3D version when landing on runway 29 from the west that the beginning of this runway is obstructed with trees and a fence obstructing the landing view. The second issue is that Tekapo in 3D has its runway lined in trees also. Alexandra airport is lovely and clean my old stamping ground.
I cannot track where X plane are getting these airports for the 51r1 version 3D scenery as displayed in Gateway scenery map as X planes gateway Gps co ordinates don't show up on my ini file.
I have no plane addons and only have lindimans north and south island scenery files of NZQN,NZAA,NZCH,NZWN with his yOrtho4XP_Overlays threw Torrent download.
Am I missing something your help would be appreciated as I really only fly in NZ and land at obscure strips most only Known by us retired SI high country farmers
Thanking you
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby toprob » Tue Feb 09, 2021 3:24 pm

Today I dropped an updated aerial image into MSFS for Taieri, this is my first attempt at CGL files which replace the aerials with a locally stored image. This was easier than I anticipated, considering that developers are having a lot of issues with this, going by the posts on FSDeveloper.com, but since I'm starting with a geoTIFF from LINZ combined with some different software, it works as advertised! Only issue is a thin white line around the masked edges, but that isn't a major issue.
This is a more recent image than the one I used for Real NZ Dunedin, so it's worth having. Natively 10cm/px, the max for MSFS is 15cm, so not a bad result. Just some hoops to jump through to colour-match the terrible Bing map images.
Here's some more shots, the last shot is an older one, pre-aerial imagery, to show the improvement on the distant hills using Kelvin's TrueTreesNZ.

Image

Image

Image

Image
And lastly compare this with an older screenshot, before I added Kelvin's TrueTreesNZ. I love this little addon, the default didn't even try to show trees on the hills in the distance, now I get nice dark clumps! Not entirely sure that it's the tree file which does this, but it's worth having anyway.

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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby Charl » Tue Feb 09, 2021 4:33 pm

Could get yer boots muddy in that!
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby Olderndirt » Fri Feb 12, 2021 12:58 pm

Nobody can ever compete with petabytes of scenery so that is for sure an MSFS exclusive but, in other areas, I think Xplane will always have them beat. Obviously not an MSFS flyer but I was a Beta tester and saw enough to say 'not my cuppa'. I remember being on your subscpition sevice for FSX and it was really fine work - the same, converted to XP, would be great.
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby Radar88 » Fri Feb 12, 2021 4:57 pm

Just spotted this in the post
toprob wrote:
Image
And lastly compare this with an older screenshot, before I added Kelvin's TrueTreesNZ. I love this little addon, the default didn't even try to show trees on the hills in the distance, now I get nice dark clumps! Not entirely sure that it's the tree file which does this, but it's worth having anyway.

Image


The explanation for why the default trees are absent on the hills in the distance along with the misaligned default Tree Height and Density of overgrown Trees can be seen in the recent MSFS Developer Q&A Twitch Series: Top Community Question 27/01/21 Asobo Team discussion see Time Stamp 48:25​ Overgrown trees issue

The MSFS Feedback snapshot has Tree Density listed as Ongoing Improvements, it's on the backlog for Asobo to look at down the development track likely later this year.

The current Tree situation given is to do with Tree scaling and limited native flora species that could be initially implemented upon release. Trees were made much wider than they are in real life. The benefit of doing this in MSFS was to provide a far broader Tree coverage area, allowing for a smaller number of trees to be used in order to cover a greater area of Tree coverage.

Basically if you put accurately model Trees into MSFS then they wouldn't cover the correct amount of area per coverage distance, so you would need millions more of them. Having millions more would affect an overall Sim Performance suffering from autogen deterioration issues.

Once DirectX12 optimization has been implemented due mid year. This should give Asobo some working head room for performance increases meaning that Asobo could potentially be able to shrink down the width of the Trees thus increasing the number of trees and native flora species available, leading to some more realistic Tree height appearances and coverage.
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Re: Hey, 2021, it's great to see you!

Postby hazza » Sat Feb 27, 2021 8:10 pm

Hey Rob, I (and some of my friends) too will support you regardless of price >nzflag< . I personally think you should price the MSFS scenery at your "old" rate (major airports $38, smaller $19)! For the amount of effort this is probably more than reasonably priced. Whilst I don't have money to throw away I WILL pay to support good work.

Cheers

Harry

PS - do you have any sort of time frame estimate for your first project?
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