Judging Addons Like Simon Cowell – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: An FSElite Original

An FSElite Original Article Simulator addons. They are the driving force behind most of our sims. I am willing to bet you that if you were to load your sim right now, nothing would be…

Posted: 29-Jun-2016 @ 19:51z

An FSElite Original Article

Simulator addons. They are the driving force behind most of our sims. I am willing to bet you that if you were to load your sim right now, nothing would be the ‘default’. You wouldn’t load in a default plane, nor would you load at a default airport, and you certainly won’t you be flying with the arrow keys! Third party addons are a must for our kind of simulation. But even to know they play a key role in our hobby, there is such things as good addons, bad addons. But what defines addon software as good or bad? There are good addons with bad textures just as much as there are bad addons with good textures, same goes with systems. Let’s pretend to be Simon Cowell for a bit, and judge a few addons and dissect their components to understand what classifies an addon as good or bad.

First off, the good addon. We are blessed in our community to have magical developers who seem to create the up most realistic addons for our simulators at very good prices. Take A2A as an example. Their newest aircraft, the T-6 Texan (Soon to be L-409 Constellation) is modeled to the every switch, button, scratch, or dead bug with extreme detail. Ok. That’s nice. What about the systems? Well, the systems and performance of it is the exact same. The aircraft responds in the exact same way in the sim as in real life. From the behavior of the airspeed indicator to the vibrations on the engine cowling, the aircraft is a real life, living, breathing thing in your sim – complete with a virtual hangar and aircraft maintenance system!

This is a great example of a good fantastic addon.  

Judging Addons Like Simon Cowell - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: An FSElite Original

‘Ok, cool. The engine vibrates. Big whoop. But I want more aircraft with the same quality texturing and attention to detail, but I don’t want to have to attend a college course to be able to fly it.’ Well my demanding friend, there are developers for you too. Let us enter the limbo of addons: all the eye candy, but lacking the in-depth systems. I’m talking Carenado, Alabeo, Quality wings (but I know they’re stepping up their game with the 787).

Now I’m not beating up on them. They are all fantastic developers. With every new product they’re getting better and better, but something is still missing. I’m talking about that last little bit that makes an addon a real simulation of the actual thing.

I think we all saw this coming, but let’s look at one of Carenado’s aircraft, specifically their Phenom 300. I chose this because I personally spent some time in the sim flying it for a review back then, so I can be a bit more hard on it. Of course, the real Phenom 300 is a beast. It may be small, but it packs power like no other Plus it has some of the news features and advancements in aviation navigation. I’m talking synthetic vision, the vertical navigation boxes, full on FADEC. Trying to put this in the sim is pretty much impossible (unless you’re fans of slide shows). But what Carenado released is far from this ‘exception’ that I made with saying it is a hard aircraft to model. Pretty much what you get is the pretty Carenado bumps and shines, but with the default GPS. I think they did re create it and bumped it up a little, but it has no where near the capabilities or function of a real Garmin G1000. There are pages about FIX information and nearest airports, but you can’t key in a full flight plan, can’t get charts on the screen, and can’t navigate with the newest LNAV/VNAV technology. That may seem tough, but it goes further than that. There are very little documents explaining how to fly it, and the handling line is far from the real Phenom, as any other generic jet.

Wow. A lot, right? This is the same with many of Carenado’s and other developers aircraft where you get an amazing model and sound set, but a paper airplane as far as the simulation and realism of the aircraft.

Which could be a good thing! Some people aren’t interested in the systems and would love to look at their sim and be able to think, ‘Yep. This is real. I have a mini world in my computer screen and that is a real king air. No I’m not tripping.’… kind of. You get what I’m trying to say. Just because an aircraft addon doesn’t have the handling line of the real thing, doesn’t mean it’s all bad.

Judging Addons Like Simon Cowell - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: An FSElite Original

Now, in the words of Simon Cowell, “I don’t mean to be rude, but…” the bad. Sometimes, a developer just doesn’t have the proper resources, or adequate time to make an addon. It doesn’t mean they suck at modeling, or haven’t got the ability to texture it may mean that they aren’t as experienced. Maybe they just don’t have the right documentation to guide them through the system side of things.  Now I won’t name any specific developers in this section, but we as a community see all things that are made to be impressive, as most of us can’t model or create aircraft system code (I’m pretty sure that’s English) ourselves. But sometimes an addon just doesn’t cut it. It may load and we may be sitting inside of a beige box with pictures for instruments. Or with a scenery, it may just be the same FSX stock airport, but with the taxiways a different color and new AI traffic at the stands. Or even better, it may be a fantastic airport with every centimeter modeled with extreme detail with moving people and animated gates… but it crashed your sim as soon as you loaded, or on final approach. Didn’t see that coming did ya. Yes, there are some addons that are top quality, but are just way too much for the sim to handle, so it’s pretty much useless. How’s that for your daily dose of oxymorons?

In the end. What does this all mean?

You read this whole article that was kinda vague and repeated what you already knew. Good job, but this article was to shed light on what we judge an addon for. Maybe it’s the eye-candy, maybe it’s the system depth, or even developer’s past products.  

I think the real question is: what’s most important for you? You answer that, then you’ll be the best judge of what a good or a bad addon is. In an environment where realism is held above all else (except FPS), we need to step back and look at addons in general. Maybe not be so snap to call it good, bad, or ugly.

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Calum Martin
Calum has been an avid fan of Flight Sim since the release of FS2000 and has developed his love for aviation ever since.
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