When we create products for customers, we'd obviously love it if everyone felt passionately about using those products. Not everyone comes to an experience with a feeling of passion. For some, using a particular product is a means to an end for solving a problem or getting their work done. With computer gaming and simulation, the situation is different. If you aren't engaged more than casually, you probably aren't going to spend a lot of time with the product.
I have passion for Flight Simulator on a number of levels.
As a pilot, I love the realism. I can practice approaches or fly a flight that I've flown in the real world and feel a similar sense of accomplishment and absorbtion. Flight Sim engages me intensely at times and as an airplane geek, there's just a certain magnetic attraction to all things aviation-related. Even on a scenic flight in FS, the immersion, for me, is thrilling and relaxing in the same way real flight can be.
As someone who has worked on FS, off and on, for nearly a dozen years, I have a certain pride and angst about how the finished product is used and enjoyed by customers. Contrary to what perceptions might be out in the FS Community, less-than-stellar reviews are not fun for us.
I'm interested in how people use Flight Simulator and even how they pursue their simulation hobby outside of the box. I'm fascinated by the fact that some customers to whom I've spoken are so busy building addons or getting involved in online ATC, they don't have time to fly in FS.
My job title falls under a specific group: user experience (UX). In some groups at Microsoft, UX is mostly about creating manuals and Help systems. My team in FS tends to be involved in almost every part of the product in some way. We think of everything we do as impacting the user's experience of Flight Simulator. When we think about adding something, whether it's words or a new UI, we look at it based on the question, "How will this impact the user's experience?" As a result, we always have something to say about everything the FS team does, whether they ask for it or not. And they still love us.
When we created the Learning Center for FS9, we were trying a new approach to user documentation. We wanted it to be a more magazine-like experience because of the amount of rich content our customers have come to expect. The magazine format allowed us to use more multi-media content as well. We were really gratified that for the first time on any game or simulation that any of us had worked on, the Learning Center was mentioned postively in nearly every review of FS9. But we have more work to do.
In this blog, I hope to start a dialog with readers about our approach to helping customers use Flight Simulator. As pilots and FS users ourselves, we know what works for us but we're always looking outside our own experience to better understand how customers of all levels of experience and interest use FS. In doing this, I hope we convey some of the passion that we feel for the work that we're so fortunate to be a part of.