Well that post title is a bit of a tongue twister.
I have a few quick notations to make for you regarding pending products and updates, and then I will roll into a larger update for you regarding the previously announced PMDG 737NG3 for Microsoft Flight Simulator. I have been sitting on news about this new product for a year and I’m not going to show you much, but this is the beginning of being able to share with you a greater sense of what is taking place behind the scenes at PMDG, so grab yourself some coffee, or something with coffee liquor in it, and settle in for a long read.
PMDG 737 NGXu Cargo Expansion: The PMDG 737NGXu Cargo Expansion is going into beta testing later this week and we anticipate that it will be a short beta cycle prior to release. This new expansion to our 737 product line represents fun new 737 experience that will add a totally new dynamic to your PMDG 737NGXu flying. The cargo expansion will bring you the BeDeck conversions that result in the 737-700 BDSF and 737-800 BDSF (BeDeck Special Freighter) as well as the 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighter. The initial release will have the blended winglet option for these three, and we are touching up an 800 BCF with scimitar winglets that we will roll out in a micro update once that model completes testing a bit later. (This airplane literally just appeared on the scene, so we are adding it to the 737 cargo product mix right away.)
Included are detailed models showing even the fine detail differences of these two implementations of the freighter conversion process. In addition to the models, we have added specific cargo related operations to the ground handling routines, and of course the associated functions required in the Electronic Flight Bag, auto-ground-ops etc.
The liveries available via PMDG Operations Center will include a nice spread of operators to include DHL and Amazon Prime branded airplanes from a range of operators.
To use this product you need to have the PMDG 737NGXu Base Package installed at a minimum. It is only dependent upon the base package. I’ll have a dedicated product announcement on this product with images and descriptions in the coming days!
PMDG 737NGXu Boeing Business Jet: The BBJ expansion is nearing completion and will include both the BBJ/BBJ2 fleet types. This product is about to start alpha testing and we anticipate rolling it out to you in the next couple of weeks as well. More details pending in a future update… A full visual overview will be presented here as it goes into beta testing.
PMDG 777 Update: We have been a bit O.B.E. during the past few weeks, as the development team is split among a number of projects to include both the products mentioned above, converting our existing products to use the latest Navigraph data, updating our new LNAV and the flight director logic on all product lines, the 777 update and mapping out a strategy to bring the 200ER variant to market finally. Oh- and of course we have also been diverting development resources to Microsoft’s new platform, which I will discuss below… Needless to say progress on the long awaited 777 updates is slower, but progressing nicely.
Currently the 777 has been brought up to FMS parity with the 747 and is now ready to commence communicating within the PMDG Global Flight Operations environment, and initial testing is underway to verify the behavior of it’s new fuel system.
PMDG Global Flight Operations: The PMDG Global Flight Operations team has been quietly expanding testing and bringing new users in via invitation in order to test out some aspects of core functionality. We anticipate a few major announcements specific to Global Flight Operations, along with news about how to join the Early Access program for Global Flight Operations in the coming weeks.
Fleet-wide upgrade of magenta line drawing, LNAV and Flight Director: We have been talking about the fact that this project has been underway for some time. We are close to pushing it over to beta testing in the 747. (Mid-August == close in this case.) Once we have it stable and well tested in the 747, we will then convert the 737NGXu and 777 models to use the newer technology and push it to you in the forum of an update for each of those products. It might take a couple of months to roll out across the entire product spectrum. Somewhere in this process we are also going to push an update to the way we read and use navigation data so that we are finally able to use the modern navdata being provided by Navigraph.
PMDG 737 NG3 for Microsoft Flight Simulator: And now for the main event.
It has been nearly a year since I told you that PMDG stands squarely behind Microsoft’s re-entry to the simming market and we intend to release all of our core product lines (PMDG 737, PMDG 747, PMDG 777, PMDG DC-6) into this platform upon it’s arrival. Since that announcement I have been largely silent on the topic primarily because it didn’t seem to make much sense to share with you the few bits of information that I am allowed to share when so much of what we might share is subject to embargo.
With Microsoft’s announcement of the pending release date for their initial version of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) I have been cleared to give you a bit of a view behind the scenes in order to help set your expectations with regard to PMDG’s products in the coming weeks and months. (For the wannabe lawyers: Yes… We have permission to say/show you what is here. 😁)
Our first product release for MSFS will be the PMDG 737NG3. This product is being built using the core capability that emerges from our historic line of 737NG simulation technology. This product is not merely a conversion of the Prepar3D product line, but is a complete rebuild adapted specifically to utilize the new simulation engine of MSFS. It would be hard for me to overstate the enormity of this task and I will cover some of the reasons for this description in another post perhaps. Suffice to say that for the first time in 23 years, the entire PMDG development team is learning to work with an entirely new development process that bears little resemblance to the methods and technology we have been using for nearly a quarter century. For a number of years, we have all hoped that one day we would see a new simulation platform that capitalizes on the existing core simmer ecosystem while leveraging everything modern hardware has to offer. MSFS is rapidly growing to give us what we have wanted with all of the benefits that come from the speed and capability of a big-budget development effort.
The Faustian Bargain here is that we cannot simply drag our existing code sources over, click a few buttons and output a new product for you. What is required here is a top-down engineering effort to bring our existing technology into the simulator while simultaneously learning everything we can about the new platform so that the product will leverage the new platform in order to give you the greatest simulation experience possible.
I try very hard to stay away from superlatives, but in the case of seeing our prized 737 appear within MSFS it is hard not to dump them judiciously into paragraph after paragraph. Microsoft and their partner, game developer Asobo, have really given us something spectacular to work with in the MSFS engine. As Jason and Vin have been working through the process of building new models for MSFS, they have come spectacularly close to near-photographic quality of images and you can see this in a few of the images here.
The lighting engine in this simulator is spectacular at all times of day. In it’s current, still-in-development iteration, the lighting is so convincing that I dare say one of you reading this right now is going to succeed in fooling one of the major airliner photo sites with an image of a PMDG aircraft taken within MSFS over the next couple of years. Maybe not right away, but we are getting very close to seeing the core simulation engine capable of incredible visual fidelity and I will stake a year’s subscription to PMDG Global Flight Operations on that certainty one of you is going to pull it off.
Other aspects of NG3 that you can expect are an entirely new flight model designed using the new capabilities of MSFS, along with a similarly new sound model built to capitalize on capabilities brought to us by the new simulation engine. We have done wonderful things with the 20+ year old methods given to us with FSX and Prepar3D, but this new platform opens up doors we only gazed upon wistfully in other gaming engines. At the core of your airplane, the simulation will remain pure PMDG, with all of the features, failure modes, complexity and simulation value that you have come to expect from our products. We have yet to find any functionality that will be lost, but we are looking at a number of new features we can add to our products moving forward.
These images of the flight deck are intentionally shown without the airplane powered up. This is not done for any purpose of showmanship, but is a decision made intentionally because the powered up flight deck simply isn’t ready for you to see yet. There are aspects of the MSFS SDK/API that aren’t finished, and functions still missing that we need in order to bring everything fully to life. We are fortunate to have a wide open channel with Microsoft and Asobo so once these features are implemented, debugged and ready for prime time, we will share those results with you. I am eager, however- as this new simulation engine allows us to do so much without “hacking” the platform to get the results we want- and the finished product really shows improvement.
Note: Yes, these images are watermarked. Yes- it annoys us also. Yes- that will go away here once the product goes into open release.
Many of you saw the huge leap forward in the complexity and detail of our 737 cockpit model with the release of our NGXu product in November. The PMDG 737NGu is leaps and bounds ahead of the nine year old NGX model you had been using prior to release of NGXu. You will see yet another generational leap forward with the model being used for the new PMDG 737NG3 for MSFS in large part due to the dramatic increase in what the simulation is capable of supporting in terms of model detail, resolution, textures and lighting. The NG3 flight deck is factors larger in terms of polygons and texture size, yet provides no discernible negative effect on the performance of the simulation.
Our modern platform has finally arrived.
We are looking forward to bringing you more previews as our work progresses, but please do understand that we are building our first product release on an entirely new platform and this is taking time. Currently we are looking at a beta testing horizon well into 4Q20, and a release event currently sometime out in late 1Q21. These times could shift forward depending a number of factors and they could slide further out also. Right now it is really hard to tell.
I will keep you apprised of progress with occasional updates on the PMDG 737NG3 as it progresses through development. My hope is that the things currently slowing us down will finally lose their grip on our productivity and we will accelerate enough to give you news of a closer-in release timeline as we near the end of summer. (For the news sites that are rushing to be the first to regurgitate what I have written here, please do not shortcut the previous sentence by saying “Randazzo thinks release might happen at end of summer.” That isn’t what the sentence says. Please slow down, re-read what I wrote- and report accurately that I think if we see the timeline shift it will happen at the end of summer… )
The astute will note that in this thread I am speaking only of our own product without addressing many points about MSFS itself. I will do that in a separate thread, as putting all of that into a single conversation is a bit like trying to eat your entire birthday cake at the same time, and we wouldn’t want you to get a stomach ache, would we?
All of the images provided here are “in development” and changes are being made daily as we work to get the animations and parts flowing as they should. These are still early days and Microsoft has only *just* given us permission to share some of these images with you (including the watermarks… sorry!) but more are coming. These are exciting times to be part of the simming community and we are eager to get started with this new version of our favorite short-hauler.