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Prepar3D - Freeware in a commercial product?

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  #1 flybytes

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 09:57 PM

My knowledge of Prepar3D is limited and almost entirely gleaned from this forum, so bear with me if my concerns are premature, but I would like to throw a pebble into the water and see where the ripples lead.

The pricing of Prepar3D does not suggest that it is aimed at the mass hobbiest market, although as a commercial training product it sounds like a bargain.

As a freeware scenery designer I do get irritated when pay-sites hijack my scenery, fortunately these can be discovered relatively easy using a search engine which shows that most software downloaders are reluctant to pay these sites - resulting in very low download numbers.

My concern, and I would welcome feedback from other designers, is that if Prepar3D is compatible with any FSX scenery / aircraft freeware addons would these or could these then be used within it, contributing to someone's commercial gain?

If the product (Prepar3D) requires to be certified for official training by the FAA, CAA, etc, I'm sure freeware software being used would be pretty unlikely - but as I suspect that most of these trainers would not be certified regularly - then surely we are in grey area.

Ray.
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  #2 mutley

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Posted 04 April 2012 - 11:02 PM

Hi Ray,

Only offical responses from the companies involved can be taken as gospel, the rest can only speculation and suppostion as is my reply, but as an old lag I have some experience and hope I speak with some authority.

First off, what do we define as a commercial product? I would say anything something sold for a profit; that could be to the great unwashed masses of flight simmers or to your local uniformed RW flying school! So it is difficult to define FSX/P3D on those grounds as it is just a matter of selling price.

I think the pricing of P3D, at $49 is very competative compared to the initial release of FSX. Lockheed Martin (LM) cannot be seen to promote the sim to the retail/domestic market so long as FSX is still being manufactured and sold by MS (Which it is). However, I think everyone realises that by creating a version of the latest P3D iteration (V1.3) under an academic licence, and not checking validity of purchases even to a basic level, has enabled them to entice FSX users to consider migration. This surely is a shrewd business decision sanctioned by their legal team.

As a designer you probably know the background, but for those that don't, PD3 essentially runs on the same core code engine as FSX called ESP which is (was?) Microsoft's visual simulation platform only slightly different from FSX. There is a SDK that 3rd party developers can program to that allows compatibility. Therefore FSX addons have a near 100% compatibility with P3D as it stands at the moment. However, P3D is about to hit a new milestone, V2, which in relation to FSX will take it to another level of performance, let's say SP3 or even FS 11? (Let's not!...Ed) P3D has its own SDK which is similar to FSX but that will change considerably with DX11 compatibility and better utilisation of memory and processor cycles etc.

The question is, is commercial gain from freeware scenery morally acceptible? It's a sin in my books. It doesn't matter which platform we are talking about the same principles apply. Commercial gain will not be had by LM or MS for freeware scenery, only the distributors of the files, so I think you have nothing to worry about on that score.

If you wish to distribute your scenery without profiteering form 3rd parties then you are more than welcome to upload to our software library and you will be assured that it is being used by good honest folk that are members here.

Well that's my two penneth worth!

Cheers,

Joe
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  #3 allardjd

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 01:43 AM

I'm coming at this from a more simplistic point of view than Mutley...

To quote the late Clara Peller, "Where's the beef?"

It seems to me that a company like P3D/L-M are not going to run the risk of putting scenery elements to which they have no legal rights (assuming the freeware has the standard disclaimer prohibiting unauthorized commercial use) into their commercial/consumer product. That's just not going to to happen with a company like that. If this were 3 guys working out of their parent's basement, maybe so, but not a branch of Lockheed-Martin.

If some of P3D/L-M's industrial or commercial customers add unauthorized freeware elements to their purchased copy/copies you'll never know. Certainly it's possible or even probable that would happen in some cases but it's not quite the same as someone selling your freeware outright on the open market as a stand-alone product. Is it a violation of the terms under which you make the freeware available? Certainly it is, but I'm not sure how you'd prevent it or how you'd ever even become aware of it in most cases.

Another thought that occurs to me is that if someone violates the license of a single piece of freeware scenery by installing it in a commercially utilized instance of an application like FSX or P3D, how much additional value have they extracted from their installation by that addition? Are they likely to be able to increase their revenues from the simulation, however they use it, significanlty for having that scenery there? That strikes me as a pretty intangible benefit, though I'm quick to add that it is still a violation of the terms of use and they have no right to do that. I'm just pointing out that noone is going to get rich doing so.

...if Prepar3D is compatible with any FSX scenery / aircraft freeware addons would these or could these then be used within it, contributing to someone's commercial gain?


If that's the question, then the answer is yes, certainly they could and probably will be at times, just as freeware and even payware is routinely hijacked or pirated today. It happens all the time.

I guess I'm not sure what it is you think should happen. I sincerely hope that you're not suggesting that P3D should move away from the open architecture and published standards that permit 3rd party payware and freeware to be developed for and used seamlessly with the base product. That property of the MS Flight Simulator franchise up to now is one of the greatest contributors to the richness and attractiveness of the genre. Indeed, the promise that current and future FS add-ons will work with P3D is one of the more attracive things about it to the serious flight sim community. If all it could ever be is default FSX/ESP with sea bottom modeling and better frame rates, I think most of us would lose interest in buying it pretty quickly, even at $49.99.

The existence of a robust aftermarket of freeware and payware add-ons was/is a significant factor in the long-term success of the FS franchise. It is equally vital to the future potential of P3D to become the Next Great Flight Simulator. Absent that, it's just another pretty stand-alone simulator like Rise of Flight, IL-2, Lock-On, etc, but without the combat. It won't flourish in the consumer market without working with the add-ons.

I would suggest in those cases where certfication of a simulation is relevant, that's the headache of those who own it and wish to use it to perform a regulated function. It is certainly not incumbent on add-on developers to police that in any way, unless they wish to certify their add-ons in some fashion. At most, a disclaimer in the documentation for CYA purposes is all that would be needed.

John
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  #4 flybytes

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 10:01 AM

Joe,
If Prepar3D is to be sold for $49 then I have to applaud that marketing decision. As you say, that is around the release price of FSX (6-years ago?), £50 here in the UK, which was a bargain back then, considering that it was a quantum leap ahead of FS2004, although it did have some bad press at the time due to it stretching the PC hardware available then. Considering that FSX was still compatible with much of the FS2004 software, the ACES team did a remarkable job - ironically it's only now that hardware power/cost has caught up with FSX that the sim community is eagerly looking for a successor. As usual with any technical replacement - is it to be designed from scratch, utilising all the latest developments for maximum performance, with the likely consequence that it is not compatible with earlier versions, or do you keep loyal customers happy by compromising the design so that much of their library of software addons does not become obsolete?

Intel had this dilemma with its evolution of the old 8086 cpu 8-bit architecture through to the present 64-bit versions, without making any previous version of Microsoft's O/S completely obsolete. This can be compared with the old BBC Acorn 8-bit computer (very popular here in the UK) whose successor, the Archimedes, was completely re-designed using an ARM 32-bit RISC cpu which completely outclassed any INTEL cpu at that time. As almost every small computer in the world is based on the original Intel architecture & MS op system, which decision was right?

My impression of Prepar3D was that it would be more part of a modern version of the 'LINK Blue Box' rather than a replacement of FSX - glad to know I'm wrong.

John,
Don't get me wrong, without the foresight of an 'open' design FSX would probably be now dead in the water - 3rd party software, commercial or freeware, is the lifeblood of FSX.

If Prepar3D makes s/w design tools generally available at reasonable cost (or free), then I shall be looking forward to its roll-out.

Ray.
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  #5 mutley

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 11:20 AM

Hi Ray,

I think the future is bright for P3D, yes it was initially considered a trainer but the functionality and menus etc. are essentially the same as FSX, just in a different format and I feel at home there.The only thing I miss is the free flight start up option you get with FSX, in P3D it loads your default flight waiting to go. I understand this will change in V2 when you will be able to create a flight first.

Lockheed Martin already give away the SDK in their community downloads section. http://www.prepar3d.com/downloads/ for anyone interested in making 3rd party addons.

Anyway, interesting times! I am sure there is plenty of life in FSX and more so in FS2004!

Cheers,
Joe
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  #6 ddavid

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 12:28 PM

With the Academic version, LM have made P3D as affordable as FSX - which is good. The question is: could existing FSX freeware be made available at a charge (nominal or significant) in P3D? Well, the answer, in one instance, at least, is "Yes".

I've been using Jim Keir's (excellent) FSX Mission Editor (FSXME) for a number of years. Although I could use the built in Object Placement Tool (if I learned it's devious secrets...) Most mission developers swear by FSXME. Now, you can download FSXME for free, but, if you want a bit more functionality, you can purchase a user licence (< 20 GBP, I think). Just before Christmas, when P3D was receiving a bit more publicity, I looked into using the FSX version of FSXME within P2D. I found that this was PROHIBITED by LM and that I would need to purchase the P3D Mission Editor (by the same Jim Keir!) for $60 (yes, six-oh dollars U.S.). No doubt, this is a licence for the full-fuction version, but Ouch!

I notice that other FSX payware companies are 'permitting' their scenery/aircraft to be used within P3D - with some exceptions due to compatibility. Whether this is because they see the LM platform as a future sales arena, I'm not sure. Certainly, if the upcoming V2 of P3D is a significant improvement on FSX, then this move seems sensible. I assume that MS are hitching their wagon to MS FLIGHT and are, themselves, not developing FS-Eleven...

We live in exciting times, nes pas?

Cheers - Dai. :cool:
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  #7 brett

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Posted 05 April 2012 - 01:46 PM

Hi Dai, Thanks for bringing that up, it was something I had thought about since I had inadvertently got a look at an P3D instruction page from a web site of his. Jim Keir wants $60 bucks for the new Mission Editor, that seems a bit much but I guess is the going Commercial price. Has he made any improvements to the editor itself or just the simvar extention, that you know of? That also answers the question of why he has pretty much dried up support for the FSX version over the past year or two. He was working on porting it over to P3D. He has also shut down the update server that would automatically check for new updates for the FSX version.
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  #8 PanzerFodder

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 04:34 AM

I was quite keen on getting the $49 Academic version, untill I read the bit below :( .

The academic version of Prepar3D has an unobtrusive watermark in the top right corner of the simulation.

Now that could really be a bummer for your screen shots :( .


So it looks like the $199 version is the one that I would want!, but at that price it's way out of my reach ATM :(
http://www.prepar3d....repar3d-client/



Still sitting on the fence, cheer's...Graham...
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  #9 allardjd

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 06:03 AM

Two words - crop tool...

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  #10 mutley

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 12:22 PM

Here are some shots showing the watermark, it's not that bad?


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  #11 ddavid

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 12:45 PM

Have a look here

I think you need to be registerd to see the images - but the watermark is quite clear.

And easy to crop out, should you need to - although I think I'd keep it in, as P3D and FSX are so similar.

Cheers - Dai. :cool:

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  #12 PanzerFodder

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 04:23 PM

Er! well maybe its not that bad then :unsure:




Cheers and thanks for the info...Graham...
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  #13 ScruffyDuck

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 04:10 PM

ADE is available for P3D on the same terms that it is for FS9/FSX. That is - if you do not make any money for what you create then ADE is free. If you do make money then you need a commercial license - which at the time of typing is $49 per seat (there is site license also).
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  #14 mutley

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 07:13 PM

Thanks Jon,
We have quite a few people here who dabble so they are hobbyists and this is good news :hat:
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