If you have spent time with PMDG in the past, you know that silence from us normally means that we are quite busy. This could not be more true than at this moment.
I am happy to report that we are rolling up on the end of the initial development and testing phase for the PMDG 737-700 for Microsoft Flight Simulator. This has been a thorough, and thoroughly exhausting period of beta testing and we are very happy with the quality level now. We anticipate that during one of our meetings next week we will finalize the release date for this product and communicate it to you here in a specific, release planning announcement.
I want to take this moment to share a few more details of our plans for the PMDG 737 for Microsoft Flight Simulator product line.
Eventually our 737 product line will grow to include the entire Next Generation and MAX product lines. The initial release phase is focused on the Next Generation series and we are not yet publishing any information about MAX.
In order to make our products more accessible to users, we have previously announced a change in the way we are breaking the product line into segments. The initial product to release will be the PMDG 737-700 for MSFS. This package will include the 737-700 in passenger, cargo and BBJ variants with multiple winglet styles and a full and complete set of options and configurations in order to provide a highly realistic, highly customizable user experience.
The BBJ airplane, for example, comes with a BBJ specific cockpit and includes a wide range of BBJ options such as 0-9 auxiliary fuel tanks along with BBJ specific panel layout changes, placarding and systems operations. Each airplane comes with it’s own fully featured set of ground support equipment, a customized pushback (that you can drive yourself using your hardware controls, if you like!) and hundreds of customizable options, failure modes and realism selections that will allow you to match your 737 to just about any configuration in the real world.
At approximately six-week intervals we will be adding a new 737 package to the product line, to include the PMDG 737-600 for MSFS, PMDG 737-800 for MSFS and PMDG 737-900 for MSFS each as a stand-alone package that will include real world variations of the airframe type and it’s various unique flying, handling and options qualities.
Each package can be purchased individually in order to give customers total flexibility to acquire and own only those specific models in which they are interested. This is a change in our approach to selling simulation expansions that has it’s genesis in customer feedback and we hope it will give all of you greater freedom to pick and choose how you engage with our products in a manner that is cost effective and rewarding to you.
Another customer driven idea that we are enacting with this release cycle is to treat the release phase for this series of 737s almost as if it were an early access phase. The term “early access” doesn’t really apply since each product will be almost entirely finished when it is made available to you, but there are features that we wish to add to the product line that we can only dedicate resources to after the initial product release cycle begins, so we will have a two-week development update cycle pushing new features to all 737 owners during the initial 24 weeks after release.
Features that we anticipate adding after release include such items as:
- An all-new cockpit tablet reflecting capabilities that the out-mode Category I Boeing EFB doesn’t provide for. (I’ll have more details on this new feature a bit later!)
- New, high-res passenger cabins in one and two-class configurations, as well as a high res BBJ layout and cargo layout as appropriate for those two airframes. The versions currently contained in the product are significantly higher resolution than any of our P3D products but have been experimenting with amount of detail that we can add to MSFS and have decided that entirely new cabins with unique cabin features can be added- so resources will be dedicated to competing this effort once the product rollout period begins.
- Model detail area updates: As we completed the entirely new model series for MSFS, we are finding that some areas that are traditionally treated with low-res modeling and textures can now be updated to fully accurate detail levels. Areas such as the gear bays which are normally given only low res treatment are being rebuilt at the highest resolution possible, providing a preflight-level quality to the models as we go.
- Various other changes to the avionics, etc.
All of these updates will be pushed to users at no cost via updates for all of the products and will allow us to showcase for you just how wonderfully detailed we can make areas of the airplane that we have traditionally ignored in order to save resources for the operation of the flight deck. The Microsoft Flight Simulator platform does such a great job of resource use that we can bring you thinks we never really wanted to include because they were such a strain on resources. We have some really creative ideas that will bring a whole new level of enjoyment to simmers of all levels and the bi-weekly update process will let you share in those practically in real time.
Once we reach approximately the 24-week mark after release of the 737-700, we will slow the rate of updates in order to devote greater resources to wrapping up the 777 development, but we anticipate continued support and tweaks for the 737 series being made for many years to come.
What is in it?:
This is a hard question to answer, because not amount of effort to list for you what is included will prove to be all inclusive or entirely accurate. We will have more detail in a specific post on this topic, showing off the new product and providing a deeper dive into what it offers, but suffice to say we are about to release an entirely complete, feature rich 737 with entirely customized engine and flight modeling, accurate, complete flight management, and accurate autopilot and flight director system with fully operable LNAV, VNAV, AUTH throttle and heads up guidance system. The airplane functions entirely on custom made, highly accurate systems with many of the behaviors and quirks unique to the 737 present within the simulation thanks to our highly skilled development team, research capabilities and input from maintainers, operators and manufacturer/MRO experts.
What is missing?:
One question that gets asked a lot (and ignored, sorry!) is “so what did you have to take out of the PMDG 737 to make it work in MSFS?
The answer, quite simply, is “almost nothing.”
Sure, there are some features that we opted not to bring over to MSFS because we felt that they weren’t necessary. For example, it was not necessary for us to retain a good portion of the process we used to control ground steering in P3D as MSFS has a far better system when it comes to such things. We have also made a late decision to remove the old-style Boeing EFB and replace it with a newer, tablet style that will give us greater freedom for such things as displaying Navigraph charts, flight planning data, graphically based cockpit options (which are currently controlled through FMS-based menus) and that sort of thing.
At the end of the day, the PMDG 737-700 for MSFS is a far more feature-rich simulation of the 737 series airplane than we have been able to produce in previous platforms and that has us very excited. We have shared the airplane with a few non-PMDG/non-PMDG beta individuals and their feedback has been highly enthusiastic. We think yours will be as well once you have your hands on her!
How is performance?:
It remains really quite good. Even as we have spent the past two months ramping up the sounds and visual quality, performance has remained exceptional. Our beta testers will be able to give a broader concept of this when we release them from the Cone of Silence (look! an aviation joke!) but for those who are worried, don’t be. If you are running MSFS well with other products it is highly likely you will run the 737 just fine without any changes as well. My development rig is three years old with an early i9 and a 2080Ti. It is running the 737 well and smooth at default and customized airports without any reduction in visual quality. I have been shooting video at Dzierwicki Design’s KRNT (of course!) with frame rates nearing 40-45fps and smooth as silk. KRNT is an incredibly heavy scenery due to it’s detail and complexity. At other high-end airports performance is similar and at default scenery locations such as FMEE I am seeing mid-low-50s without reducing my visual quality at all.
So- over all we are really quite happy with performance, and we think you will be as well!
Can I get a Discount?:
We are not offering any discount/trade-in/upgrade programs for the 737 product line, with one exception:
Back in November 2019 when we released the PMDG 737-NGXu for P3D, we thought that the PMDG 737 for MSFS would release in approximately Aug/Sep 2020. We felt that users buying the 737NGXu for P3D would be best served if we offered a move-up program that allowed them to upgrade to the PMDG 737 for MSFS when it released, and that more customers would feel more confident making the transition if we offered this program to smooth the way. If you purchased the PMDG 737NGXu prior to 2359Z/31DEC19 you are automatically in this incentive program and do not need to do anything further.
Those customers who qualified for the program (which ran through NOV/DEC 2019) will automatically receive $99.99 in credit toward the purchase of the PMDG 737 for Microsoft Flight Simulator product line. You will be able to use it however you see fit, in any combination of purchases that suits your taste. If you elect to purchase a 737 that costs less than your earned credit, you will retain the additional for a future purchase, no questions asked, and all handled automatically at PMDG.com. Our goal is to keep it as simple and straight forward for you as possible. I’ll have more details on how to use your credit in a future update as we get closer to actual release.
Product Pricing: TBA, but we think you will be pleased.
Where Can I learn More?:
On Friday evening at 2230Z/1830EDT (US) Jeff Turner from SkyBlue Radio has invited me to spend some time chatting with him on his show. I’m sure we might wander into the topic of the 737. Who knows? Tune in and find out. https://skyblueradio.com/
Can you give us something other than a wall of text?:
Why yes, yes I can.
Now that development operations are winding down (for me, at least!) I am beginning to turn my attention to some videos to show off various features of the airplane. This will not be a tutorial series per se, but instead will serve as small bites of information that will allow you to quickly see the depth of features available to you as a user of the PMDG 737 product line. We hope this will show existing PMDG users new tips and options that they perhaps have never considered, while showing new PMDG users just how much depth and sophistication comes with a PMDG product.
In addition to hearing directly from us, we anticipate unleashing our beta testers next week to share their experience with you. We are also beginning to evaluate many of the simming centric streamer requests that we have received, as well as the simming media and the like- as we feel it is important for many customers to hear from voices they know and trust when making a purchasing decision. We haven’t yet decided who of those folks will get to see this project in advance, but we anticipate making those decisions in the coming days.
And finally- here is a quick image for you, as a reward for sticking with me through all of this text. This image is actually three weeks old and was supposed to be included as part of an update on 23MAR that unfortunately never got posted because I found myself in a place without internet. When I returned to regular office hours, I was so swamped with catch-up work I just never quite got to it!
I think this image will give you a good idea the sort of quality you can expect. You can see the detail level of the surface of switches, the embedded lighting within them, the setscrews in the knobs, the anti-reflective coating on the digital displays and the screens, and the eagle-eyed will notice that this image came from an airplane being test-fitted with the fuel indicating system for the auxiliary fuel tanks on the BBJ. (It wasn’t operating at the time the image was taken, but it is now…)
It may be hard to believe, but the detail level has actually improved from when this image was taken.
Okay- that is all for this short update tonight. We have exciting days ahead- and a bunch of information to be sharing as we roll rapidly toward the release date announcement!
That is all for now- I need some sleep for a change!