My thoughts on the Cloud Surf Team A380


Yesterday, a developer called Cloud Surf Team announced that they would be developing an Airbus A380 for Prepar3d.

Queue loud cheers and a round of applause. Except… wait, WHO!?

That’s right, the shock announcement came from a team that is pretty much unknown to the Flight Sim community. Cloud Surf Team have only been around since August 2016. Well, publicly anyway. Don’t get me wrong, FSElite are extremely supportive of new developers, small developers and large developers. Size, in this case, doesn’t matter. However, there’s some really troubling aspects of this ‘announcement’ that has me worried and concerned.

Let’s begin with their development history. Of which there is very, very little.

The team originally announced back in August that they would be developing an Airbus A340-500 for FSX and Prepar3d. As of yesterday, this project has been cancelled in favour of this “A380”. So this begs my first question: If they were unable to complete this project, why do they think they can develop an A380? My honest opinion would be that they can’t.

I believe the main reason for the cancellation was that the project’s scope was becoming too great for them, development overran massively, and that there was competing products which offered a similar level of depth.

To quote Cloud Surf Team directly:

“We have decided to put the A340-500NG project on gold indefinatley, The main reason we have decided to do this was that great developers such as BlackBox Simulations were already developing one and they have the knowledge base and resources to create a A340-500 that would have been a lot more in depth at the time.”

Poor spelling and grammar aside, it’s clear that the team didn’t hold much hope out for their project. What it did do was allow them to learn from their mistakes and put their team of 6 to work on their next project.

So why do I believe the team are out of their depth?

I think it’s easier to share a timeline of their A340-500 development:

August 2016

  • A340-500 product announced.
  • Product due to be released in August!
    • “We estimate release to be around the end of August” – Facebook
  • Announced that the A340-500 will have the same level of complexity as CLS with a $15-$20 price tag. Price will increase to $40 as product receives updates and complexity
  • On August 8th, the first VC shots were posted. The Virtual Cockpit is “50% complete” (Note; the product is due out this month)

  • On the same day, the post for help with animation and someone who can “make installers with serial codes”
  • Near the end of August, these images were shown off of the external model. Claims this is 85% complete

September 2016

October 2016

The August release is missed massively and the developer says the following:

“so far the plane is 95% complete
cockpit 30 %
coding and flight dynamics 100%”

Now pushed to a December 2016 release along with the following screenshot of the external model:

November 2016

The developer gives this statement:

“The cockpit is only around 30-40% done modelling wise as our moddler for the VC currently has exams, so he is studying for!

So we are still aiming for a beta to start at the end of november however the begging of the beta will
mostly probably only be using a decault A321 cockpit whilst we finalise our own VC!”

December 2016

Another push on the release date and the developer says they “are in contact with Airbus” to help them “see how it flies and the technical side of things”.

January 2017

PROJECT CANCELLED

So in the space of 6 months, we went from nearly completed, to not completed and then finally cancelled. The developer claimed in October 2016 that the flight dynamics were 100% completed, yet in December, were contacting Airbus for technical information.

You can also tell that this development is still going through standard UK education. Look at the dates:

  • In September, the developer says he’s “back at school”
  • In October, he talks about the holidays.

Not definitive proof, but the poor spelling, grammar and the ‘exams’ would certainly suggest that this isn’t full time development.

Before you mistake me insulting the developers for being in school, this is not the case. I am simply pointing out that the developers won’t be able to dedicate that much time to a full blown A380 project.

Let’s fast forward to today.

The developer makes some pretty bold claims.

– Cabins unique to the livery (Only in P3D 64bit)
– All 13 A380 variants (haha yes there are 13… more on that to come…)
– Fully functional cockpit… or as real as it can get!
– OIS System

Cloud Surf Team have committed to making their aircraft 64-bit compatible in an age where they have no idea about what the future could hold. We all know that Lockheed Martin will do it, but it’s a bold claim for the developer to create an aircraft with this so much forward thinking.

Next they state they will create all 13 variants of the aircraft. Great, but let’s get one out before you give yourself too much work.

As for their “fully function” cockpit, this just won’t happen. After seeing their renders from above, it’s clear their skills won’t match the standard for what simmers consider “fully functional”. In fact, they’re already saying that they may have to “downgrade” their model to counter any issues from VAS.

They then shared a live stream of development of the external model, where they will soon work on the “pedo tubes”….

So I had my concerns at the announcement. What makes things worse is what happened a few hours ago.

Many of you probably remember NLS. The development team that were bringing the A380 to our sim. They were quite open about their product updates, then disappeared, then reappeared… and now, we have no idea. Until now.

Cloud Surf Team have been in contact with a Facebook group called Next Level GFX (a different name to what they used before), and if you head to their Facebook page, it’s clear they’re not in the Flight Sim market. – https://www.facebook.com/NextLevelGFX/

These guys are willing to “sell” their current development files to Cloud Surf Team for 20,000eur. By doing this, CST are saying it will ‘speed up’ development time, as the following list is what 20,000eur will get them.

– The model in its native form (95% done)
– VC Model (75% done)
– High Res day and night textures
– HD 2D panels
– All the manuals
– Documentation
– Files to help with the FSX/P3D importation
– Full OIS (the EFB in the A380), it includes all the manuals and performance data from EK and QF A380’s for both engine models

To which CST replied saying they would have to:
– Finish the exterior
– Finish the VC
– Perfect everything
– Code the plane
– Create the final details

I also want to add they’re looking for C++ coders as their current coder has a job training it for a living.

Of course, as this team still appear to be in school with no previous development experience (and thus no budget), they’re ASKING THE COMMUNITY TO DONATE!

WHAT!?

WHAT!?

WHAAAAT!?

They’re asking for people to donate 20,000 euros with no proof of concept, no previous experience and a shoddy development practice!? They do say that if you donate over 5euros, you will get all the files they have? Yay, so you have my money and I get your broken, non-finished files? I get more value from buying oxygen for 5euros.

Of course these aren’t my only concerns, some other points I want to raise:

  • It’s taken 6 years for developer FSLabs to bring their A320 out with a large dedicated team of talented people
  • Aerosoft have plenty of publishing and development experience. They’ve spent many years perfecting their products
  • The reason developers have worked on other models of the Airbus family is the fact the data simply doesn’t exist for the A380. There are fewer carriers and very few documents on the plane’s characteristsics
  • Airbus won’t give a unknown developer (or any for that matter) confidential data on the plane
  • There’s a reason we’ve not seen a decent A380 for the sims yet, so why does this small studio think they can do the impossible?

I’m sorry to say, but nothing adds up and I am confident in saying that people will be wasting their time and money on this “project”. There’s no proof, and no indication that we’ll see the project at all.

Continue following the project if you wish, but until we see something concrete, actual and could come out, FSElite will not be following Cloud Surf Team.

If the development team want to get in contact and put me in my place, feel free to do so and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Until then, our official advise is: DO NOT DONATE TO THIS DEVELOPMENT TEAM.


7 Comments

  • James Douglas

    6th February 2017

    Hi Mate,
    While we appreciate you thoughts, i will just correct you on a few things… if thats okay?
    Firstly we were just stating that our coder knows his stuff as he does C++ training for his living…
    Secondly we weren’t asking for the money, we were simply suggesting that we could have brought back the NLS A380 project but it would have come at that cost…. We do listen haha and it is quite easy to say that the community will not be backing an unknown developer without proof and that is fair enough, looking back it was a pretty bad idea anyway… but hey we learn from our mistakes right?

    Thirdly the performance data is available, some through a simple search and others we have from a few EK pilots who we personally know…

    We know a lot of people have also said that we should start small, and although we probably should, we aren’t we are just going to give this a really, really good go first!
    We did underestimate the A340 (i love the timeline :P) but that is why we havn’t set a date or time frame for the A380

    So be my guest don’t follow us, and i don’t blame you, but in the next few months when more and more previews start coming out, maybe then reconsider looking at what we are attempting to do,
    In the end it is a Super Jumbo, and the systems in it are like no other on the market to date…

    Reply
    • Calum Martin

      7th February 2017

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      1 – I stated that your C++ developer was full time in another job hence no time to code for this project.

      2 – You seemed quite serious about the donation thing having posted twice asking if people would support it

      3 – The data is out there sure, but not in the detail you would need to make it “as real as possible”.

      The fact you haven’t set a time frame for the A380 is irrelevant. The A340 in comparison to the A380 is a simpler project so I fail to see how you can drop one and then consider an even bigger project! Makes no sense.

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  • Speedbird

    8th February 2017

    Per my knowledge NLS main job was as an animator, and I think NLS GFX was his company’s name.

    Reply
  • Mark

    8th February 2017

    Thanks Calcum for this really important news.
    I will spread this info in several places, including my website because everyone should be aware of such a scumbags.

    Regards

    Reply
  • FSXLiveries

    8th February 2017

    Sorry for second post but I can’t edit first one.
    It looks like the owner of this pseudo-team has removed all twitch videos and any info about A380 from their FB page.

    Reply
    • Calum Martin

      8th February 2017

      We saw! Not to worry, we have saved the relevant information and our article still stands up.

      Thanks for letting us know.

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