Service Pack One if By Land, DirectX Ten if by Sea

Recently, one of our MVP’s (Most Valuable Professionals), Nick Whittome (a fellow I’m moderately proud to call a friend to the extent that it gets me generous gifts of whiskey) posted a bit to his blog that I thought I should speak to here. Nick was responding to one of his readers who was asking about whether or not we’re going to release any updates for FSX prior to our planned DirectX 10 update, and, if so, why we haven’t announced anything yet on our official web site.

Nick’s post can be found here.

For those of you that prefer to read without clicking (and I know who you are), or, if you’re simply afraid to go to a site entitled The Naked MVP, here is what I, Microsoft, think are the relevant bits, conspiratorially ripped out of context:

"I tend to agree that it should be more officially noted that an update for FSX is on the way. Maybe a news item or something on the website.    However, I suspect that the team are simply too busy working on a pre-DX10 update for us all. That said, I have emailed the relevant people and I am making sure they are still listening 🙂 … if you want official clarification that a service pack is on the way, read this post from Paul … "

The posts Nick links to include this comment from our lead Game Designer, Paul Lange:

"Between my cryptic posts, presentations in the Netherlands, and posts from Phil and Adam, it should be common knowledge that we are working on a pre-DX10 update (SP1) or what you will call a patch. People are still speculating about what will be in SP1 but I think we have made it clear we are working on our top issues."

Paul, in turn, mentions our new Senior Graphics PM Phil Taylor, who has posted on public forums, and now on his own blog, the following:

"We are working thru the set of tasks we identified for SP1, are getting closer to closure and a final test pass, and should have more to say as far as details in the next couple of weeks.
The only things I can say is:
a)we are not toning down the experience and
b)we are aiming at a targetted set of perf and content fixes."

To clarify a couple of things in Phil’s comments:

SP1 = "Service Pack 1"

Perf = "Performance", ie, frame rate.

"Things I can say is:" = "Things I can say are:"  🙂

"targetted" = "targeted" – Double-:)

Way back on January 23rd, even I said:

"As far as FSX is concerned, work on Service Pack 1 continues apace, and the early performance benchmarks have me feeling cautiously optimistic. Why cautiously? Because I spent 8+ years as a Test Engineer, and 7 years as a police officer before that, which means I don’t trust anyone or anything at all ever."

Okay …

Clearly, we are working on an update for Flight Simulator X. We’re even going a little nuts and calling it not just a patch or even a Service Pack, but "Service Pack 1".  Does that mean there will be more than one? Not at all, but it doesn’t mean that there won’t, either.

So why are we dropping hints, but not announcing anything formally on the FSInsider website (which, by the by, is due for a re-re-overhaul very soon, which will make the articles that nobody knows we’re publishing regularly far more "discoverable", to use the vernacular of the technoscenti)?

The primary reason is this: Right now, we don’t know exactly what it will include, or exactly when it will be released.

Obviously, we have a rough schedule in mind, but, if we announce a date and miss it, then we’re subject to all manner of conspiracy about why we’re arbitrarily holding it back. If, by some miracle, we announce a date and beat it, well, then we rushed it to market. If we go into too much detail about content or goals for the update, then we run the risk of unwittingly promising something that we don’t yet know we can’t deliver (anyone remember seeing screenshots from E3 of a checkbox in our display settings labeled "Cloud Shadows"?), opening the list of changes to near limitless debate, etc.

Yes, I know that our discussion of the DirectX 10 update seems to fly in the face of this reasoning, but that was a very specific exception, promising to take advantage of new features enabled by the Vista / DX10 platform at some point after it became available.

We’re being as transparent as we can be, but, to be blunt, there’s simply too much noise for us to deal with as a whole if we simply come out and formally announce that we’re doing something before we have much greater confidence in the what and the when.  We’re the ones who have to decide, right or wrong, how much we can do, and when we can release it.

Informally, those that really, really want to know what we’re up to can find out – information around our team these days, with blogs and forum posts and the hidden webcams that Nick has installed in our offices that he doesn’t think we know about, is more available than it has ever been. We’re able to communicate more openly and directly with our customers than at any time in the franchise’s history.

Rest assured, the instant that we can provide more details we will. Beyond what’s been said already, there is one thing I can guarantee with absolute certainty:

Some people will be happy, some people won’t.

And some small percentage of that last group will despise us regardless, perhaps even going so far to agree with the likes of Charlie on AVSIM who accuse us of "…obscene intention(s)" and claim that the battle of customers versus Microsoft is " … every bit as important as our Revolutionary War was to the United States."


Keep your eyes open for Paul Revere

Anyway, because Nick’s question is a good one and he and our customer base deserve the best response we can give (and because, as mentioned, he’s good for a bottle of excellent whiskey on occasion) … I will use the magic of copy and paste to reiterate the only thing in this post that’s actually important:

Rest assured, the instant that we can provide more details we will.

It won’t be long before we know a lot more, and we’ll be too excited to keep quiet about it any longer.

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9 Responses to Service Pack One if By Land, DirectX Ten if by Sea

  1. Owen says:

    Great explaination, Hal.  I agree about getting those articles a bit more "exposure," as I have been trying to post blog entries highlighting some I find of particular interest.  Have you guys thought about possibly incorporating RSS into your site?  Also… quoting FSInsider:  "Free membership is coming soon! By joining you\’ll be able to meet and keep in touch with other members of the community. You\’ll receive a free, monthly e-newsletter. And you\’ll gain access to special content, features, promotions, and downloads for Flight Simulator X. To learn more, keep an eye on this site!"  I think this extension would really make FSInsider a new "hub" for FS enthusiasts – somewhere to convene on a bit more official level.  I hope that ball is still rolling!Owen

  2. Francois says:

    … the above then begs the question: Hal, did you get my last e-mail and if so, what do you think of my \’forum question\’ ? 😉

  3. Carsten says:

    Hi Hal…
    good article, good to hear that developments are going on.
    I understand, too, that you can\’t give us official information about dates, especially on fsinsider, but can you give us a hint?
    When SP1 will be released? And when the DX10-Update will come? Perhaps no dates, but just a little information?! March 2007, Q2 2007, etc…

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