Our close friends at Aerosoft released their new CRJ for Asobo's MSFS this week (congratulations, Hans!) and this has of course set off an expected flurry of anticipation, desire, speculation and unfortunately, conjecture, as to when more complex aircraft will be made available by other developers including PMDG.
In my (more-or-less) weekly updates, I try to give you a view that focuses on the product that is about to, or has just released, and then shift back to a higher-level view to give you a sense of the broader what is happening longer term in our development agenda. I think most of our customers track these updates easily enough, but occasionally it does sew some confusion because very little of what we share with you is linear. What I mean by "linear" is that we only very rarely tell you "we will do A, then B, then C."
There is a very specific reason for this: The workload of developers on the PMDG team can fluctuate quite dramatically throughout the development cycle, and thus we very frequently move tasks around on the calendar in order to maximize productivity and minimize down-time. If a project gets hung up due to a modeling problem, we won't let the downstream coders sit idle while the modeling problem gets resolved, we simply move them on to some other task in order to keep the general ship-of-progress moving in the right direction.
Likewise, sometimes we simply find that it is necessary to adjust the development schedule due to some external factor and this can open up a gap in the schedule that wasn't planned. We can insert a project, part of a project, an expansion package or some new feature into that down time, thus improving the overall quality of our product line.
Which brings me to the subject of MSFS .
PMDG Products for MSFS
This week, with the flurry of excitement about the CRJ, we have gotten a bunch of folks asking "well, where is PMDG?"
We're right here.
We are at work converting our entire product lineup into MSFS . It is taking some time, primarily because we have to completely reinvent our development process. It isn't simply a matter of adjusting a few lines of code and throwing a new model and texture exporter at the mix and calling it complete. We are building new development tools, shuffling around our entire development process, and turning our products upside down in order to make them as real and lustrous and lifelike as the new platform will allow. We aren't simply porting products in, using the same models and textures and animations. We are completely re-imagining them in order to leverage every ounce of what the new MSFS engine will give us. This means all-new models, all new texturing, new sound recordings (which are expensive and time consuming to make) entirely new lighting capabilities, in some cases requiring entirely new photo-surveys and the rebuilding of source material in order to bring you cockpits that don't look like we dragged an FSX cockpit across twenty years and stuffed it into a really nice rendering engine. We are bringing you incredible, new, feature-rich environments that really shine in the new MSFS platform.
For a while now I have been giving guidance on the release of PMDG 737NG3 as "very late 2021" and even hinted that it might drag into 1Q22. This guidance is a bit softer now, as we are really starting to see our work accelerate in MSFS . I'm going to hold off offering any projection right at this moment, as there are some things that have to happen before I become comfortable saying "yeah, we have cleared all of the hurdles." We have hit our share of knee-knockers, worked through them with some help from our friends at Aerosoft and Asobo- among others- and I fully expect we will hit a few more before we are finished.
This is our first, full, jetliner product in the MSFS platform after all, so we don't entirely know what to expect from beginning to end. But things are beginning to accelerate nicely.
On the topic of MSFS and PMDG
I have been mostly-mis-quoted ten thousand times this week as having said something along the lines of "the MSFS SDK isn't capable of supporting what we do" or " MSFS isn't capable of supporting what we do." I want to be very clear in stating that this new sim is highly dynamic and changing continually. What may have been true in June of 2020 is not necessarily true any longer. From the standpoint of development, we are not currently seeing any major limitations to prevent us from bringing our product catalog into MSFS .
To put that another way, quoting me as saying " MSFS isn't ready for PMDG" is a bit like someone in 1971 using a 1959 quote of the NASA administrator saying "We don't have the technology to land on the moon." Sure- that was true at the time it was uttered- but no longer a factor.
PMDG 747 and PMDG 737 Product Line Updates
As we have been working on the 777 product line, there are a number of small changes that we made to some core logic that is common to two or more of the airliner product lines. For example, we have a bug that is in all three product lines that got cured during the 777 development cycle, so we push those changes to the other product lines immediately in order to ensure that the problem gets exterminated all through the product catalog. For this reason we will be pushing a series of updates for the 747 and 737 product lines over the next couple of weeks.
You will know those updates have pushed because we will announce them here, and/or you will see a notification in the PMDG Operations Center.
PMDG Global Flight Operations
I have been promising a preview of what the environment is like but just haven't gotten around to creating it... I'll chat with the team and see what we are prepared to show you as we start rolling toward moving Global Flight Operations into the live environment cycle.
Updating LNAV, Flight Director and NAVDATA
Now that the 777 is finally out of the hangar, we are preparing to roll a test-case airplane out to our beta teams so that they can begin working with our LNAV 2.0 process. This long-awaited update will replace the LNAV module currently in the 737, 747 and 777 product lines with a new, refined version based upon years of research, industry input, client feedback and improved modeling techniques. Coupled with an updated flight director, we will give providing you with an industry leading lateral navigation process that will bring this aspect of our simulations up to the level of refinement we have been seeking for all of our products. In conjunction with this change, or immediately following this change, we will also change the navdata process in our 737, 747 and 777 product lines to use a database driven system provided by Navigraph, rather than the outdated, customized structure we have relied upon for 20 years. This will allow us to implement a number of modern navigation practices that our products don't currently support gracefully. We'll have more show-and-tell on this as it gets into testing with our beta teams.
If you have hung around the PMDG forum for any length of time, you know by now that I am a sucker for vintage airplanes. Of all of our products, the one nearest and dearest to my heart is the DC-6, as this product represents a hard-working, classic era of aviation where the mere act of intercontinental flying was barely short of a miracle. The sights, sounds, smells of this era of aviation have long since departed the common travel scene, but our DC-6 keeps them alive by giving PMDG customers the finest Douglas propliner simulation available.
We have not pushed any updates for this product due in large part to the fact that it wasn't in need of immediate attention with all of the larger products going on. This has caused some users to wonder if the product line had been ended, and I assure you it has not. (Internally at PMDG, there is a constant discussion about adding the PMDG DC-3 to the classic propliner hangar, since PMDG allegedly knows some guy who operates one and might actually give access to it if asked nicely... I dunno, tho... )
We have been hard at work on the DC-6 of late we think you will be blown away by the improvements. I promised the team that I would do a bit of flight testing with it this weekend, so here is a quick screen grab from my desktop of the DC-6 of her awaiting an evening test flight...
And with that I am off to join my four-engine, fire breathing, smoke belching, oil dripping mistress... I hope you all have a very nice weekend!