Open Letter to MSFS Developers

Open Letter to MSFS Developers

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Adalbert Malleus started this petition to Microsoft and

I love MSFS, and I’m thankful for it being as amazing game/sim as it is,
but as you’ve probably already noticed it has issues,
Issues so big, I think it would be only honest to call it early access or a beta, considering the unfinished state of it. I take upon myself the mammoth task to sum up everything that needs to be fixed and improved in the game, and even tho I try to be as objective as possible, its still my point of view, so I cannot leave out a bit of subjectivity.
And even if it’s gonna make for long read, I try to make it as digestible as possible. It’s hardly possible to cover really every issue there is, I try to focus on the ones which I see as the most important for me, as well as for the community. But feel free to expand upon this. I also try to avoid issues which are already getting a lot of attention.

When it comes to the issues I could start a up thread for each separately. But it does not seem like developers really bother reading more then just the name of the thread, after it collected enough votes. This feedback collecting system might work to some extent, but if you look on the state of the sim, it does not really seem to be working.

Premium Deluxe edition, from its name, seems like something that would come with a joystick, and that would feature everything including future game content releases from the game developer, maybe even discounts on third party content. But instead, for almost twice the price, you get 10 more planes & 10 more handcrafted airports, so pretty much just 1.4 times more content than the base game has. And when the game developer releases new a plane, you will have to buy it for the full price, there is not even a Season Pass.

A lot of time has passed since the game release, there is really no reason to wall off Premium Deluxe & Deluxe contents from base edition users, and to not let them purchase the planes & airports separately in the marketplace, without the need to fully upgrade to Deluxe or Premium Deluxe. Many people just want some of the content (like Boeing 787 or Cessna Longitude) & would gladly to pay for it. Instead they only have the option to fully upgrade, getting content they dont care about.

The game stands & falls on its game client, therefore finishing its development should come first and foremost.
There should be an option in the settings to skip the opening Logos & have them featured on the loading screen.
The game should be playable offline. Microsoft’s servers will not be here forever, neither will be Xbox live. Your/Our game should stay! An option to have unofficial game servers would be appreciated. Players should not be stuck in a loop on the "Press any key" screen when Xbox live is down. Multiplayer is an enhancement to the game, players should be able to play without it, when its unavailable.

Game download takes ages, which cannot be helped for the Microsoft Store customers, but on the Steam side you could pretty much just download the whole base game off Steam, instead of the small game client, which would immensely lighten the load on MS Servers and therefore could smooth out the downloading for MS Store users. Yes I am aware that it might delay the updates even by a few days, considering you would have to upload them separately on Steam, but I don’t think it would really take away anything from the experience. Except the frustration from slow downloads caused by the overloaded servers.

The option to check integrity of the game and to redownload corrupted parts of it is really missing. By having just the client instead of whole game on Steam you’ve managed to elimate this useful feature Steam has (It was this feature tilting the weights towards Steam when I was deciding on the store to buy the game.) We have mods that change game files, and data storage hardware is not 100% reliable. Considering the big size of the game, it’s really a necessary feature.

Bug reporting should be integrated into the game client, that would also benefit from using usage & hardware data, directly from the sim, attached to the reports.

All MSFS players are testers right now, which is certainly not the experience that most people desire, when they buy a Premium AAA game. This could be, to some extent, solved by separating public releases into Development & Stable Branches, and players could switch directly in the client. Development branch users would benefit from having updates earlier, but they would also be voluntary testers, while Stable branch would be, as the name implies, pretty much a stable older version, appealing to people who desire a consistent & bug free experience over fast updates. You should also focus more on player freedom. Being able to play at any time, not being forced to sit thru the downloads of forced updates when they are released. There should be a bigger time window (few days/week) for players to download the update, before it becomes mandatory. This would also lighten the server load.

Flight time, Achievements & Flight log are really nice features to have, but if they are causing issues, they could be scrapped. Considering there are already external apps doing it better. The lost flight time and log was actually my first big issue with MSFS, which I reported in January. In April when the issue started to be much more wide spread you have finally given it some attention and fixed some of the causes, but even after that there were multiple people that had it happen again. By your flawed game design you force people to save to a cloud, which is unreliable to the point of being save breaking. And what was your way to manage the crisis? Did you offer some apology to people, who lost their saves thanks to you? Did you give off a statement, that would make them trust you again? No, you just pushed a fix to the next Sim Update. And no answer given if the saves can be restored. Answer to the issue: TBD - To Be Determined by what exactly? By if it happens again and even more people lose their saves? The lack of communication is really stunning in this issue. Its one of those issues that can cause evangelist alienation really easily. I was really going for the achievements when I started playing the game, even got the Completionist, then, 3 days later I lost the flight time and log. I haven’t started the game for weeks, and it took quite some strength to overcome the disappointment and hate, and start flying again. Yes MSFS can make people love aviation, but it can also make them hate it if you are not careful. It is quite likely there are people, who have not overcome the loss of the saves and have never started MSFS again. So if you cannot fix it, it might be as well be scrapped for the better.

Its cool that the Player’s profile is customizable with achievement badges, but of what use is it? We cannot display profiles of friends or even random people that you fly along. Either enhance it to the point of being useful, or you can also scrap it.

Marketplace design philosophy is a real mystery to me. Why does it offer me stuff that I already own & have installed? Why do I need to get the World Updates from the Marketplace, when it would be more logical if they came directly to the content manager? What use is a Star rating system when something like the 777 by Captain Sim gets 3/5 stars? The stars should at least go 1 to 10 to be of any use, and there should be an option, to give a text review and feedback. Also to upvote or even review other text reviews. There should also be more options for sorting, like by price, by time of release & so on. And of course more of freeware, or even a full ingame integration of ideally.

Marketplace certification, testing or whatever causes the incredible delays of third party content updates, is really something that needs to be adressed. Currently the delays of updates in the ingame marketplace are forcing people to either buy the content again on external stores or to even pirate the content they legally bought thru you, just because you withhold updates from them. And the marketplace certification also isn’t that useful when you keep payware scenery in the marketplace, that causes CTDs, because it has not been updated for SU5.

World Map is already crazily cluttered by the POIs from the few World Updates. Even tho it might be contraproductive to hide them the by default, it would be nice if the filter settings would save, and stay the same even after a restart of the game. Also filter options to disable the yellow (!) and stars would be nice. And the most useful buttons on bottom of screen being hidden away under the "More" button seems like a weird design choice. There is more than enough of space at the bottom of the screen for all of them.

Plane selection should have more options how to view the list of planes, both the old row of planes, and the current 4 columns are not ideal for easily finding a plane you are looking for. And would be useful to have some more options to sort the planes, alphabetically by manufacturer, by size, by speed, by how much the player uses them, and so on.
Multiple variants (skis, floats, etc.) of one plane really make quite a mess of the plane selection, it would make sense to hide the variants in Variants selection submenu. Also having separate liveries for each of the variants is a fail, worth fixing to make one livery usable with all the variants.

The livery thumbnails do not give enough of overview of what the livery looks like, it would be really useful to have a way to get into My Hangar directly from livery selection, and also to get back from there in just 1 click.

The Ingame Flight Planner needs to be improved quite a lot, (including its much-needed usability during a flight,) but thats already quite apparent when products like Aerosoft’s CRJ or Fenix Sim’s A320 get praised for not using it.

Pop up notifications are an issue, there should be at least an option to disable them in options, I get ton of them spamming me about my slow bandwidth, and sometimes they are even overriding my settings and disabling Bing data. I see it as a malicious behaviour from the game.

Working Around the sim, either by addon code, or even using external apps, is a trend that started appearing more and more lately. What is your takeaway from it? Why do modders have to work around the sim, to make something actually good for it? What have you done wrong? And how can you fix that?
It would be really useful to open up the code, or at least parts of it, to the modders. This way you would work together and not against each other.
Your game is a modding platform, it might not be a great modding platform at this moment, but you can certainly improve lot. Take inspiration from the open moddable nature of ArmA 3.

Its entertaining that you keep the Not Planned fix of Mirrored textures of the 787 on Feedback Snapshot. Don’t you think that shows how much you care about livery makers? Not to mention how much "Premium Deluxe" feels to get locked content, that cannot really be modded without using workaround solutions. And do you plan to do something about it? Nah, Not planned either. Tho I get mixed messages about the Weather system, since you clearly Not Plan to open it up to third party devs, yet you are investigating the Weather & Terrain API. So what’s the deal about that? What’s the point of having 2 not merged entries for one thing, in the feedback snapshot?

A Livery "auto-fixer" should be integrated into the game client, to fix the user-made liveries, when you change the UV mapping of the model. You should let people focus more on their creativity to make new stuff, rather than to force them to endlessly upkeep their creations, because you change something again and again.

Liveries for variety of planes could be sourced from some cloud database, like the ingame database of car liveries in Forza games, similar cloud database would be also useful for flightplans, especially on Xbox. An ingame livery editor would also be nice.

DirectX 12 is the way to go, its nice that you plan it already for this year. Would be nice if you also had Vulkan as an alternative, but I doubt there is a chance for that, when Microsoft is in the name of the game. Having some advanced stuff like Raytracing and FSR/DLSS would be also nice. But more pressing matter is to properly set up LODs and also to make loading of the world as seamless as possible, after SU5 it feels like I’m on dial up connection, considering how slow the world is loading.

More advanced settings of color profiles for the game would be really useful.

Better usage of hardware is something that could really bring out much more performance out of the sim.

Bing maps are outdated to say the least, it would be best to additionally use other sources for satmaps.

Trains are not an issue of tomorrow, as much as they are not an issue of 2023, they are an issue that should have been solved yesterday. Railroad tracks are something that really formed the landscape in a major way in the last century, and when you are trying to faithfully virtually recreate the world, leaving them out is just not an option. Trains could also be used as way to get another developer studio involved to make the new Microsoft Train Simulator as an expansion to MSFS.

World Updates bring landmarks, airports and city photogrammetries, but the new procedural buildings which update the world in most significant way, are always released only later in Sim Updates, which makes sense from design perspective. But from the players perspective it looks as weird delay, and the procedural buildings should be part of World Updates.

Other means of transport, could add a lot to experiencing the world, like walking would not only be useful for walking around the planes, but also walking thru the world would be a novel way of experiencing it, also an option to get into planes, as you walk to them would not only add to immersion, but it could even make it more fun if you could get into planes of other players, to be their co-pilot, passenger, or even to switch seats with them and fly them around. Also adding cars, which would have normal controls (like arrows or wsad) could make the game interesting for larger audience, that might not be interested in flying, but wants to experience the recreated world non the less.

More singleplayer content would also be awesome, Discovery flights might be interesting on first few runs of MSFS, but once you get bit familiar with the world map, they become useless and lazy content, which is worth it only for its music. More Trainings could be useful, especially on stuff like autopilot, VOR/DME, IFR, and with airliners to get familiar with the FMS. Bush flights are interesting, but they take too much time, and just the text descriptions are kinda lazy. It would be awesome to have some proper missions with voice commentary about the places and aviation like in FSX.

Vanilla planes should be fully developed to be study-level, and example for addon makers of what a completely developed plane should look like. Like the developments in physics of vanilla aircrafts are quite impressive, but they kinda fall flat when some the planes are lacking in systems and other features. Stuff as what Working Title is making should not really come as afterthought and mod, but should be a core feature of the base game. The planes should include all their real functionality, like for example if Cirrus has a lever to pull parachute, there is really no excuse for that lever to not work. All inop. controls in cockpit should be seen as bugs.

Helicopters and Gliders, should be already included in base game, even when they are not fully developed, it would make work of addonmakers much simpler, and it could help them not to rely on external apps.

Plane damage, how its done now, is a fail. Getting a blackscreen with a message that something got damaged is more frustrating than getting "You Died!" in Dark Souls, especially after a flight that took multiple hours. It just forces players to disable damage altogether, so its a bad design. Plane damaged only to some extent is still able to fly, and should be possible to fly in the sim, with flying capabilities limited to the damage. And even when the plane gets damaged to the point when it cannot fly anymore, it might still be able to crash land, or it should crash as it would in reality. In a nutshell the damage should be fully simulated. Asobo had really amazingly looking fire in The Plague Tale, and its a shame that it doesn’t get used in MSFS.

Excluding Weapons from the sim, is also a flawed decision, as 9/11 proved planes can be used as weapons. So in a way, by featuring planes, sim already has "weapons". Also historically warfare is an inseparable part of aviation. And even when the sim is not focused on combat like DCS, it feels censored and limited when it forcefully avoids the topic. But if you are aiming for political correctness, the weapons could be turned off in settings, and they could even be turned off by default.

Thanks for reading this far, and I hope this letter can be at least a bit helpful in improving the MSFS.


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