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Cloud Surf Team Update – Post-Article, Developer Stories and Official Statement

Well, that escalated quickly!

We knew that publishing an article shedding light on dodgy practices from developers would see us getting a lot of attention, but we certainly didn’t expect the level we have received. So firstly, thank you to everyone who supports us, and also those that offer criticisms to help us better ourselves. Of course, regardless of article, we also keep our Community Charter in mind and have massive respect in ensuring we deliver for the community. The community isn’t just us the consumer, but also the developers and publishers who work tirelessly to bring us great content.

And this is why I conducted the investigation into Cloud Surf Team. Something was dodgy from the start, and before I knew it, I was down a rabbit hole that needed more and more exploration. Of course, this exposed Cloud Surf Team for what they were.

We’ve heard from multiple people since then about their experience with the “CEO” of Cloud Surf Team, James Douglas. Of course, they all point to the same thing: he knowingly and willingly was using models from Thomas Ruth and other developers for his own personal gain.

As we said yesterday our original source provided us with plenty of information between them and also James himself. It was all related to the use of freeware models which they would “edit” slightly to avoid possible copyright infringement. I am certainly no expert in copyright law, but this is very much a non-ethical practice especially in our small community.

Here are just a few samples provided to us showing that James knew what he was trying to do.

Sadly, all this information came too late for one developer who was the unfortunate person behind the live streaming via Twitch.

As soon as he caught wind of the article and the exposure FSElite delivered, he immediately deleted all the content from his Twitch channel. Now, we admit that due to this, we were quick to point blame at the streamer as he was there with the modelling, making edits as though the model was his own. We have since heard from him, and he had the following to say (cleaned up spelling and grammar):

“Some months ago a guy asked on Facebook to join a team to develop an A380. I told him that I am a modeller and could possibly help. After a while he came up with the Cloud Surf Team. I said well okay give it a go. When I first saw the A340 model in blender I was very surprised why this thing was upside down, and how the old modeller found the right files over the years with these strange names.

Well James wouldn’t tell me by then. I went on modelling my own thing until James came up with the idea to ask Project Airbus for permission to use theirs. After a while I was told “yep you can use it”. We just have to make a few adjustments. So I did and then was told its okay to stream it.

James at that time didn’t do anything at all, except writing these unprofessional posts. Even I, as a German, could have done that better. I always thought why are we all working when James not doing anything?”

This particular developer then showed FSElite some screenshots of the model work he had actually completed for Cloud Surf Team:

As you can see, he had good intentions, but was misinformed by James about the reality of what was going on. Should this guy have known better? One could argue yes, but he was working (and streaming) under false pretences.

The developer hopes to continue working on the model independent of Cloud Surf Team with a possible free release to the public in the future.

It wasn’t only this member of the team that left Cloud Surf Team, but we heard from several others all stating they were no longer a part of the team due to the shoddy business practices of a 17-year-old who tried to rip off the Flight Sim community. Not only was it members of his team, but also other well-known flight sim community members who shared information regarding their exchanges with James.

Of course, they all pointed to the same thing: James willing and knowingly used other files to pretend they were his business’ own.

Soon after we exposed him, he emailed FSElite with this official statement:

Hello FS Elite and the rest of the FS community…

Firstly i want to clear up an confusion,

-We used a freeware PA model, which we did think we could edit and give away

– I will hold myself accountable for this, we had a team of 8 but only one other person knew about it and he doesn’t want me to say his name so i won’t

I’m 17, i’m sure when you were around that age you also made some mistakes, I have made a really, really big mistake and I’m going to have to accept the consequences for that,

We never accepted any donations from anyone and myself and the other person who knew were about to tel the group in the next week or so that we should made it freeware (whether that’s still allowed we  will never know!)

Obviously we have disbanded and everyone has left, I have sut the page down but it will take 14 days to close for good….

If anyone knows how i can personally apologise to PA that would be great, I really feel bad about what I have done and want to make it up to them and the community.

I just want to say that i know that in the short term, I will be disliked even hated but I hope many of you in the long term will be able to forgive me and move on,

Also if any of you were thinking of doing what we have done, PLEASE don’t its stupid and you ill be caught out….

Anyway,

Sorry,

Best Regards,

James

Their official Facebook page has now been shut down.

We will be keeping an eye on James and any involvement he may have in future projects to make sure the lesson has been learnt.

Unless anything else significant is uncovered, FSElite will no longer be posting updates regarding this subject.

Thank you to everyone for the support and we hope we’ve provided you with a great deal of insight into the matter.

Cloud Surf Team Update – Piracy and Fraudulent Development Practices

I recently posted an in-depth look at Cloud Surf Team and their announcement of the A380 they claim to be developing. If you’re read the article, you will know I have valid reasons to believe they will turn out to be another vapor-ware developer with no substance.

What made matters worse is the fact they’re asking people if they would help “donate” up to 20,000 euros for a dumped A380 project from NLS. The 20,000 euros would go towards the modelling, flight dynamics and more. Again, a developer with no proven record asking for money so soon is a massive red flag in my books.

With that article spread among the community, someone who was previously involved with Cloud Surf Team contacted FSElite team. This person will remain anonymous. Proof has been provided to FSElite regarding the legitimacy of their involvement, as well as a detailed account of the mishaps of Cloud Surf Team.

From this point forward, we shall refer to this developer as Charlie.

As a result, we are branding Cloud Surf Team as a fraudulent developer, and one who steals other people’s works to sell off as their own.

Whilst it is true that have yet to make any money from the practice, they were still very much going to go ahead with selling the product via SimMarket in an attempt to make money off of someone else’s work.

Charlie is no longer involved with Cloud Surf Team, and as such has no knowledge of the current status of the A380 in ‘development’. However, they did provide detail into the process of the A340-500 they stated was in development.

From the get go, the team were completely out of their depth. Charlie’s task in the development of this product was to create the virtual cockpit for the A340. We showed you “previews” of virtual cockpit yesterday. This was in fact simply a conversion of the default FSX Airbus into a A340 model. Not piracy, but still not the “custom cockpit” the development team was promising. In fact, this is the same practice that JustFlight use for some of their aircraft. This is not the fault of Charlie, but the development practice that was approved by Cloud Surf Team’s owner James Douglas.

Like us, Charlie was told that the development team was 6 members strong, yet despite this, Charlie had no contact with anyone else from the development team. Charlie was simply there to do some modelling work, nothing to do with animators or texture artists. He was told multiple times that his “trustworthy” friend would do texturing, animation, coding and modelling in 3D. Of course, none of this happened and it’s believed these people simply do not exist.

At the same time these conversations were going on, James had been emailed Charlie asking if it was a good idea to copy someone else’s modelling and change a few things to make it “legal”.

The idea was to use Thomas Ruth’s model and change some values within the CFG and .air files. James then said that this “isn’t classified as being copied”. He went onto say that Cloud Surf Team can simply say they used Thomas’ one as a “basis.”

I hope you can understand that I won’t be able to share the exact conversation without breaching my sources trust. I have seen evidence of this conversation.

Outraged by his comments, Charlie decided to go through some of the previews the team shown off from the A340-500 and tried to dig up any information about what had been said.

Charlie broke it down for me to fully understand.

Issue #1 – The program used to show previews

I’m not a developer, but according to Charlie this preview is a big hint at someone who has copied work. The program shown above is called MDLConverter, which is used to primarily to extract models from FSX. According to Charlie, this would be illogical as you would simply show your original modelling data as opposed to an export of a model. Of course, this points to the fact that they had been using Thomas Ruth’s model. Thomas Ruth did in fact create a freeware A340.

Issue #2 – Pre-Model Animations

Charlie assures me that when developing an aircraft, developers create the model first, animate second.

In this “preview”, you can see that the rudder is full right. In this software, it will automatically show the animation at the end of the cycle. Now what is strange is the fact that despite the fact they said they have an animator on the team, Charlie was told the work was on-going. So in which case, how did they suddenly have animation on the aircraft. Again, the answer would point to Thomas Ruth’s A340 model.

Issue #3 – It looks just like Thomas Ruth’s A340!

So not an issue, and clearly subjective. However, here’s a shot provided to us for comparison.

Despite not being from the same angle, it’s very comparable. Of course, there’s no definitive proof that this is the same model, but the similarities are distinct.

For example, look at the landing gear. It looks exactly the same. Also, remember that Cloud Surf Team have no ANIMATORS so how were they able to recreate the flaps and landing gear? The conclusion would be, as we keep saying, a stolen model.

At this point, Charlie took it upon themselves to provide absolute proof that the models were one of the same. Whilst sadly he wasn’t able to provide evidence, he said that when pulling the models into some software, the 2 matched up completely.

What does this have to do with the A380 announcement?

Well if Cloud Surf Team intend to continue development, they’re going to have to prove to the community that their work is in fact, THEIR work. I honestly believe it will be the same situation using a different model and trying to get away with it.

Now following on from our A340 discovery, myself and Charlie agreed that this A380 was probably the work of Thomas Ruth again. Now a quick Google will show he helped contribute with the Project Airbus team on the virtual cockpit. So we took a chance, downloaded Project Airbus’ A380 and loaded up the model into both ModelConverterX and Blender.

First, here’s some comparisons in ModelConverterX. The top image is from CST’s Facebook page of a preview and the bottom is a screenshot I took with Project Airbus A380 loaded in ModelConverterX.

I hope you agree, the resemblance is uncanny. Everything from how the model is animated to sizing, etc is EXACTLY the same. Of course, this wasn’t enough and needed some more evidence to show that this A380 was another freeware model that Cloud Surf Team were trying to steal.

They made the mistake of trying to stream their development. So we spent a little time watching their ‘live’ streams, which turned out to be literally the developer talking over some music, whilst he makes a few clicks here and there on the model he has in the Blender.

I contacted Charlie and asked him to take a look at their recent Twitch stream – https://www.twitch.tv/videos/120162592

Whilst he didn’t work on the A380 project itself, he pointed out some things he felt were wrong with what was going on in the stream.

Take a look at the screenshot from the stream:

I specifically want you to look at the file names on the top-right-hand side.

Charlie pointed out that any developer would name these files a little more specifically to ensure they knew exactly what file did what. Not only that, but something so quick in development, there were already an awful lot of files within this object.

So I took the Project Airbus A380 into Blender and guess what, it had exactly the same file name set up. Take a look:

Same file names throughout. That’s right, Cloud Surf Team didn’t even bother to change the file names before a live stream. This is all the evidence I need to declare that Cloud Surf Team are defrauding freeware developers and tricking the community into believing the work is their own.

The fact they have the audacity to even consider donations is simply disgusting and should not be condoned by anyone.

I strongly suggest that people spread the message about the foul practices of Cloud Surf Team and ensure that any posts or articles about the announcement of the A380 is removed. There will be no aircraft, no systems – nothing. It’s simply a con and a trick to earn some quick money.

[EDIT – So CST have said they will not be going down the donation route. Most likely because we called them out on their bullshit. As far as I’m concerned they’re looking for people for no reason as they have no product to offer. This retraction of donation does not change our stance on the matter. They tried to trick people and we won’t let them forget what they tried to do to do the community.]

DO NOT DONATE. DO NOT SUPPORT. AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

If Cloud Surf Team would like to get in contact, please use of contact page and we’ll open communication if you have a rebuttal.

I would like to thank Charlie for the support and for giving us so much insight into Cloud Surf Team’s foul practices.

For now, FSElite consider this case closed.

Looking Back: The Gimli Glider

Our “Looking Back” feature takes us into the past of Aviation. This could be a famous incident, a milestone for aviation or an educational piece to help Simmers.

On Saturday, July 23rd, 1983, things were about to get a lot more exciting at the racetrack/former Royal Canadian Air Force Station Gimli, Manitoba.  Due to a fuel calculation error, Air Canada flight 143 ran out of fuel at 12 500m (41 000ft) asl about halfway through its flight from Toronto, Ontario to Edmonton, Alberta.

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Image Courtesy of SimBrief

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