There’s a thread over at Avsim: “THE most needed improvement to the next version?” (talking about Flight Simulator) asking for people’s input on what they’d like to see in a future version. They’re not alone, of course. There are threads just like that one all over the Web. Flightsim.com, for example, has a whole section devoted to the topic: FS10 Wish List Forum , and of course we get all sorts of mail at Tell_fs@microsoft.com.
How do all those suggestions impact the development of a product like Flight Simulator?
Do they even impact the development at all?
I think Hal summed up best what our approach to building a product like Flight Simulator is when he said “Flight Sim: (Reality – Last Version) = Goals for the Next One.” Which means, all those suggestions?
We’ve already thought about ‘em.
Now I don’t mean this in some arrogant “we think of everything and don’t need any help with what to do, thank you very much” sort of way, and to be accurate, sure there are ideas we haven’t come across before. But the simple fact of the matter is that just about every one here in ACES is first and foremost a consumer of the products we make. And contrary to popular opinion, we’re smart, creative people. We’re just as passionate as our users, and we have the burden of having to sign our name to the product. Think you’d like hearing that your product sucks day in and day out?
But the threads and discussions and mails do make a difference.
What do I mean? Well, like I said, there pretty much isn’t an idea or suggestion that’s come down the pike that we haven’t thought of (or seen from some earlier suggestion), but there’s just no way we’re ever going to be able to get it all in one version. So we have to edit. We have to plan and research. We have to prioritize.
Customer suggestion is key for that. Flight Simulator 2004’s weather system for example, came from a couple of versions worth of feedback, combined with technology that would finally enable us to make it look good. Is the weather system 100% finished and done exactly the way it is in real life? No… but it is light years beyond what was done before. Always room for improvement, but that can be said about any area of the product. The question becomes given the resources we have, and the tech available, what areas do we need to work on? Again, customer feedback is an important data point. We should never degenerate into design by committee, but we always listen to our customers.
We can’t always make them happy, but we always listen.
Don’t get me wrong here, probably half the suggestions we get aren’t so much for new features, but for bug fixes and/or feature extension (two separate things often confused with each other). That goes onto the pile as well.
As far as simulations of the sort that we here at ACES do, the job’ll never be complete—at least until what you see on screen is an exact duplicate of what happens in the real world, which is something I can guarantee you isn’t going to happen for a least a few years… ;)
So keep ‘em coming. We read ‘em, and they do make an impact. Whether what you’re looking for makes it into the next version of whatever, or the version after that, someone here in the office is waiting for your mail, so he or she can jump up and shout: “See! See! I told you we need to implement the frim fram dihedral co-efficient! You laughed at me, oh yes, you laughed at me, but Bettina Framke of Stuttgart agrees with me. With ME”!
Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but you get the idea.