An interesting new debate on AVSIM today - or, at least, a new debate on an old topic: Will 3D virtual cockpits replace 2D instrument panels?
Read the thread here.
In my opinion, our vision, our design for each release of Flight Simulator could be distilled to a pretty simple equation: Take Reality, subtract the Last Version of FS, and then set about minimizing the difference. Some aspects of that difference are pretty big - we can't do wind in your face, motion (without a lot of extra hardware, and we're not really in that business), and we don't want to actually kill any of our customers if they make a mistake, hard as that may be to believe.
Other differences, though, get a little smaller every time - the scenery, the weather, the aircraft, ATC; no one can reasonably argue that all of these things don't look and act a lot more realistic today than they did 25 years ago.
Even in those, areas, of course, we still have to make compromises and take certain liberties in order to try to squeeze the full 360 degrees of sights, sounds, and feelings of flying an airplane, and cram it into glass square that might only 15" diagonally. That's why 2D panels have pop-ups, virtual cockpits support zoom, and why we include things like pressing "w" for the mini-panel, and shift-enter to raise your seat to see the runway better. Real airplanes don't have pop-ups, pressing the "w" key, if I can happen to find one, doesn't do anything in the airplanes I fly. And yet I argue in favor of those features, and would even go so far as to say that they help make the experience more realistic.
Because when we're forced to compromise, we also try our best to compensate. In real life, people can look around, crane their necks, use peripheral vision - these things are hard to do sitting in front of a monitor. Not everybody has multiple monitors, motion platforms, VR goggles, or an HDMI port at the base of their skull. So, we compensate, and do what we can to let our customers make the experience their own. If you want 2D, you've got it, if you want 3D, you've got that, too. If your machine isn't the fastest thing around, you can trade some scenery or weather detail for a few precious extra frames per second. If you're not much for landing, then turn off crash detection.
What it comes down to, then, is this: wherever, whenever possible, we compensate by giving the user a choice. "Jacks of all trades and masters of none?" That bristles a little, but I have a lot of respect for Peter, even though we've not met in person, and have to admit that he may be right - as long as he remembers that we have a lot of different customers, and they each prefer their own particular trades.
I think another person I 've always thought highly of, Geoff A., said it best:
"I would say the more options for the end user to customize this sim the way they want it -the better. That after all is why MS has been the most succesful sim-the ability to customize it to your own personal preference."
There are a lot of big names on the thread, some of them make or refer to some of my very favorite add-ons, add-ons that have found their own ways to compensate, so many of them just beautifully. Flight Sim as a product abounds with choices, Flight Simulation as a hobby, even more so.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.