I guess that most developers have been giving this some thought over the last few months, with the promise of some new and updated simulators which move away from the MSFS-based system of FSX and Prepar3d. With Orbx announcing their commitment to Aerofly FS2, and just yesterday their screenshots of LOWI in FS2, I've decided to jot down some ideas on what could happen. This specifically relates to NZ content, as that's what interests me. So, what are the choices?X-plane 11
This has now been released, so it would be the ideal time to get stuck into some local content. I do plan to give this a try, in fact I've done some sample scenery areas, but I'm not yet ready to show anything, at least until I decide whether this is something which I can fully commit to. The trouble I still have with X-plane is simple -- from a scenery point of view, which is 90% of my interest in sims, I have never seen anything which surpasses the MSFS-based sims, except for night lighting, and some water effects. Since I never fly at night, this effectively means nothing to me. Since a lot of my visuals in Prepar3d are the result of addons, I'm happy to sit and wait for some third-party or otherwise addons. Until then, I am keen to potter around and see what I can create, but I'm not all that fired up by X-plane.Aerofly FS2
This is still in development, but is available as a payware beta. From the start, I have been impressed by this, mainly because of the photoreal content, and the atmosphere/lighting. The lighting in particular is a major factor for me, Prepar3d is the best of the MSFS-based sims, but still it is the very same old engine which we've had for years, so Aerofly's much more modern engine is what will sell me. However, as expected, this is very much system-based, so you will need a killer machine to run it properly. Basically, if you want to see it at its best, you will probably need a GTX 1080 or similar. It will run on much lower systems, like mine, don't get me wrong, but for top-notch visuals, I'd need to spend some serious money.
Orbx have committed to Aerofly, at the expense of X-plane, and I can certainly see why -- LOWI is a recently-released FSX/Prepar3d title, and as such is a top quality scenery, as expected from Orbx. But seeing the Aerofly screenshots
, this is a different league -- same scenery, very different atmosphere. Orbx Prepar3d scenery will never look 'real' to me, although it does look nice, whereas these Aerofly LOWI shots look like photos. And all using built-in visuals.
Sure, there are limitations with FS2, for example the water is photoreal, and to we're still a long way away from world-wide coverage. It is pre-release, after all. But committing to developing for AFS2 would be a tricky decision.So, what could happen?
Someone could easily run with full-on development for either platform. At the moment, this probably won't be me, not because I'm not itching to get stuck in to both sims, but because it would take a financial and time investment which from past experience, won't give me any real return. Well, maybe it will, but initially not enough to support myself. When I started out full-time eleven years ago, I did have enough funds to support myself for a year, but now I have enough to support me, let's see, carry the two... till Friday. Plus also there's Orbx's commitment -- Orbx have no plans to do any further MSFS development for NZ, but since they already have plenty of NZ resources, which they didn't get a huge return on, they might just dump the whole lot on AFS2, and even if they promptly abandon it like they've done with NZNI/NZSI, it would make any other development very risky. X-plane would be less risky from this point of view, but I'm still not convinced that following the release of AFS2 and Prepar3d v4 it could become anything than a niche sim.
But if someone else was to do this, then I'd fully support them. I think that both sims will have a reasonable distribution arrangement, via Steam, so this probably wouldn't mean having to set up a store, but I'd be happy to promote anyone in any way I could. I wouldn't attempt a start-up with less than $50,000, so if anyone has more money than sense, get in touch with me. I'd also be happy to make scenery for any sim on contract, but initially it would probably mean payment in advance.
One of my main goals would be to see some of the existing Godzone photoscenery in both sims, that's where I'm heading, so I may have something to show in a month or two.