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interest in a client for a commercial MP network?

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interest in a client for a commercial MP network?

Postby coma » Fri Jun 03, 2011 9:23 pm

Hi everyone, this is my first post here, so I hope I'm posting in the right spot.

I'm in the process of launching a new online network that provides traffic and ATC for a wide range of simulators, from X-Plane/FS9/FSX users in a home setting, to pilots using mid-range training devices at a flight school, all the way up to Level D full motion simulators at high end sim centers or even airline training departments.

Multiplayer networks with ATC are certainly not a new concept. I'm sure everyone knows about VATSIM/IVAO at this point. There are no networks, however, that cater to commercial flight training organizations, or even to student pilots and instrument students. That is the market which this network aims to serve. Additionally, I have strong evidence that there are a reasonable number of sim enthusiasts on various multiplayer networks who would be interested in participating on a subscription-based network with the promise of guaranteed ATC presence, quality, as well as a host of technical features that are simply not found on other networks.

We have completed development of the initial client for X-Plane and are nearly finished with the initial FS9/X release. I'm contemplating adding a FG client, but I know so little about the community in terms of the raw numbers of pilots that use it, or the likely level of interest that it will generate.

Make no mistake, this network is NOT going to be of interest to everyone. The initial ATC coverage area is relatively small (about 240,000sq miles, covering California and small parts of Nevada and Arizona). Expansion is likely in the future, but not to a global scale. Additionally, a base level of skill/interest is required to meaningfully participate on the network, generally at the real world student pilot level or above. That, or the pilot, should be interested in learning how to properly interact with ATC and other aircraft on typical VFR and IFR flights through our extensive training program. There's plenty of fun to be had in Class E/G airspace, but if pilots enter Class A/B/C/D, they're expected to comply with most of the applicable regulations, or at least be on the path to learning to do so.

I'm writing, then, to ask two things:
1) does anyone have a sense of the size of the FG community (ie, active pilots) ?
2) can anyone help me gauge the likely interest level of the community? I know that might require some sweeping generalizations, but what I'm getting it, is are there sufficient numbers of FG student pilots or enthusiasts who want to work on real world procedures?

Without sufficient numbers, it's likely that developing a FG client won't be worthwhile in the short term. I have to spend my time wisely in these early days, so I'd appreciate as much feedback as possible, good or bad.

Subscription fees for retail use will top out at just below $20/mth once the system is ramped up, but we'll offer substantial discounts prior after the initial launch to get a critical mass of users on the network.

For those who would like to know more about it and watch a few demonstration videos, feel free to visit the PilotEdge site.

Again, to be clear, this is not a competitor/replacement for VATSIM. It is designed to serve a market which VATSIM/IVAO are not designed to serve.

Thanks for any advice or input. I've been an X-Plane user since 1996, but this is my first time seriously looking into FG.
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Re: interest in a client for a commercial MP network?

Postby kyokoyama » Sat Jun 04, 2011 1:44 am

So basically, this will be something similar to VATSIM, but for all three of the Simulators and a higher focus on reality?

I guess this is a nice idea, but the fact that it's a proprietary system will probably turn down most users of FlightGear -after all, the major point of FG is that it is free.

As for answering your question, from what I have observed, there's probably at least 20 to 40 active forum members, a hundred or so regular multiplayer pilots, and... ...well, the rest, I've no clue. Some of the other, more experienced forum members can probably provide a more accurate view in this.
There's always been interest for FG users in real-world operations to an extent, which is why SquawkGear (a client to connect VATSIM to FG) and TGA (monthly event focusing on real-world commercial flight procedures) is prevalent in our community. For that reason, this network may be of interest to at least a few users... However, as I said before, the fact that you have to pay for the service may turn many, if not most or all potential users down.

If there's any more questions, I'd be happy to answer as much as I can.
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Re: interest in a client for a commercial MP network?

Postby coma » Sat Jun 04, 2011 7:43 pm

kyokoyama wrote in Sat Jun 04, 2011 1:44 am:So basically, this will be something similar to VATSIM, but for all three of the Simulators and a higher focus on reality?


That, and more.

Existing MP networks are not suitable for pilot training. They don't provide any assurance that at any given time, ATC will be able to provide a reliable, worthwhile experience (either because of lack of presence, or lack of training). That, and the radio systems on existing networks do not operate like real world radios. Commercial sim operators simply don't have the option to use VATSIM/IVAO for pilot training, either (afaik), even if they thought it would be feasible.

The goal is to build a network to support real world pilots, and commercial sim outfits. Additionally, there MAY be some sim enthusiasts who would benefit from guaranteed ATC presence and quality (although, I agree with your assessment, it's not for everyone, by any stretch).

What I'm trying to work out is how many FG pilots fit into category #1 (r/w pilots looking to do meaningful training), or #2 (enthusiasts who are looking for a network with these capabilities). One thing I didn't mention is that we also have 500-550 recorded aircraft flying around 24/7 for people to see and follow, ranging from VFR pattern work, to VFR cross countries, to military high speed low level formation flights along published MTR's (military training routes). Enthusiasts that have tried it so far have really enjoyed that aspect of it, too.

I guess this is a nice idea, but the fact that it's a proprietary system will probably turn down most users of FlightGear -after all, the major point of FG is that it is free.


I understand that completely. Unfortunately, there are significant costs associated with provided guaranteed ATC 15x7 across a number of facilities, hence, the need to charge people to use the system. There MAY be opportunities for a modest number of pilots to fly without having to pay, via a 'frequent flier' program that I'm considering. This will allow ppl to fly for free if they meet certain hourly requirements each month. This will provide a base level of live traffic on the network, in addition to the recorded traffic (the difference being that the recorded planes don't talk on the radio).

I don't mean to go into so much detail, or to sound defensive, but I wanted to try to clear up the difference between this and VATSIM, as many people draw the comparison right away, and don't immediately understand the fundamental differences.

As for answering your question, from what I have observed, there's probably at least 20 to 40 active forum members, a hundred or so regular multiplayer pilots, and... ...well, the rest, I've no clue. Some of the other, more experienced forum members can probably provide a more accurate view in this.
There's always been interest for FG users in real-world operations to an extent, which is why SquawkGear (a client to connect VATSIM to FG) and TGA (monthly event focusing on real-world commercial flight procedures) is prevalent in our community. For that reason, this network may be of interest to at least a few users... However, as I said before, the fact that you have to pay for the service may turn many, if not most or all potential users down.


Gotcha. Yes, if the pilots aren't in need of the services that we have to offer, then I completely agree that they're not likely to be willing to pay anything for it. As long as the service is well-understood, then I'm happy with the outcome (ie, ppl are making an informed decision).

Generally speaking, if ppl are happy to fly with or without ATC, then this is not likely to be of interest to them.

Thank you so much for taking the time to help out with the numbers...that was very helpful.

If there's any more questions, I'd be happy to answer as much as I can.


I just might take you up on that :) The frequent flier program is a new concept that I've been working on in the last week or two. I think it might be a win-win for the network, and for sim enthusiasts who might be excited to fly on the network, but not excited about parting with any $. A limited number of slots might be available for just such a group, provided they meet a reasonable flying/communication standard.

Thanks again. Please let me know if anything I said so far doesn't make sense, or requires additional detail, I'm happy to shed more light on it. I'm very new to this community and I don't want to flood this forum with information that isn't welcomed or asked for.
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Re: interest in a client for a commercial MP network?

Postby Gijs » Sat Jun 04, 2011 8:56 pm

Welcome Coma :)

Looks like an interesting project that you're setting up! I dare to say that there are some FG pilots that would paritcipate. However, it is questionable if there will be a "profitable" number of participants from our community. The best indicator I think is our monthly TransGear event; in which a group of pilots gather around several airports, guided by voice-ATC to simulate realistic air traffic. Of course this is on a fixed time/date - more people will be able to participate on your network - but TransGear has 10-15 pilots at max.

So, I don't think you'll see much response from the FG community (at this time). But this can change ofcourse, once the network is up and active. Depending on the number that you call "worthwhile", tt might be better to concentrate on other sims first and get back to FG later on...

Cheers,
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Re: interest in a client for a commercial MP network?

Postby coma » Tue Jun 07, 2011 2:09 pm

Thanks for the input, guys. Based on the number of pilots that attend your scheduled events at the moment, I would agree, there doesn't appear to be an interest in flying with ATC, regardless of whether it's on a commercial network or otherwise.

I say that because I did mention in my posting the possibility of a program which would allow people to fly for free, and it still didn't receive any significant response.

No problem, I appreciate your time. Once the network has launched and has achieved some traction (some people respond much better to something that is tangible and available as opposed to a preview of what is to come) then if there is significant interest, I will revisit this, but for now, I'm going to shelve the idea.
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