Payware & Freeware

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Archive: Oct 21 2013

[Editorial] “Why would a flight sim user ever use a freeware aircraft!?” “I only use payware.” “Oh, that addon is only "freeware" quality.” “Hey, that freeware addon is almost "payware" quality!”
As an avid user of both freeware and payware aircraft and scenery products for FSX, I am sometimes taken aback by the unique perceptions of flight simmers across the community. I have read statements identical or very similar to the above on innumerable occasions while observing addon development advance throughout the years, and these sentiments are definitely becoming more frequent as of late.

While I have a "virtual hangar" and global landscape full of  great payware products, I also find myself using numerous freeware scenery as well as aircraft addons, and being just as content with them as I am with those possessing a price tag. My beliefs and activity in this regard seem to differ significantly from most (or at least the most vocal) in the community who possess payware...and only payware....products. These users seem to be either unaware of freeware developments, or dismiss them immediately. This is an apparently popular trend that is echoed by the thought process which states that an addon is automatically of higher quality due to being payware. I find this assertion patently false, and I hope that some examples further in this article will support my stance, and assist in promoting a few freeware aircraft and scenery addons that the community may not be aware of.

There's no doubting that more often than not, it's the payware products that set a benchmark in flight sim technology advancements. We've seen this through the immense popularity of products from the likes of PMDG, A2A Simulations, and FlyTampa, just to name a few. On that note though, while freeware may not always be "revolutionary" in terms of what it brings to the table, it can certainly compete at an equal or nearly equal level with a number of payware products out there.
Feel free to take a look at the following freeware examples of full aircraft and scenery addons that, in my opinion, are up there with the best of payware for FSX.


Aircraft:

  • Project Tupolev Tu-154B-2. This is an advanced systems-simulation of a Soviet-era jetliner, and comes with an approximately 300-page English-language flight manual that is required reading to learn how to operate the aircraft. A version of this addon (the FS2004-only freeware Tu-154M) was used at one of the real Tupolev training locations in the past. http://files.protu-154.net/pt-154b2_fsx.html
  • Aircraft by Tim "Piglet" Conrad, to include such things as the Antonov An-32, Fairchild PT-19, Pilatus PC-7, Grumman Tiger, and many others.
  • Aircraft by Dave Garwood, to include the Auster Autocraft, De Havilland Mosquito, Britol Beaufighter, and others.
  • The aircraft by French team Restauravia, including the recently released Mirage 3. http://restauravia.fr/html/creations_fsx.html
  • The numerous and varied classics by Rob Richardson such as the Cessna 310 and Avro Shackleton, just to name a couple. http://robertjamesrichardson.co.uk/page4.html

Scenery:

  • Sunskyjet's KPHL Philadelphia Intl....one of the pinnacles of freeware scenery: http://www.sunskyjet.com/
  • The ever-continuing "Airports of Norway" project by Andrew Thomsen. The file name on one website is aon_3_5.zip, for reference.
  • Innumerable New Zealand and Pacific island airports by Lawrie Roache.
  • Ant's Aussie Airports series. http://anthony31fs.wordpress.com/

And many, many more....if you actually look!


I'm sure we're all familiar with those payware companies and/or products who may not always meet expectations, and may be considered to be "infamous" by the wider flight sim community. I won't name names, but I believe that this significant degree of disparity in payware quality does a great injustice to the perceptions of the work put forth by a number of freeware authors, as their free work may always be seen as below par, just satisfactory, or "good for freeware". With that in mind, what does "freeware quality" mean? What's the boundary defining freeware quality and payware quality? Can a freeware addon be of high quality without stating that it's of "payware quality", as if to imply that payware takes the default position of always being of higher quality?

As flight simulator technology has advanced, especially since the release of FSX, we've seen a steady increase in the number of payware releases and a comparatively noticeable decrease in the number of freeware releases. I am speaking of full aircraft addons and fully realized custom scenery, not repaint-only files or minor AFCAD/airport parking modifications. It's obvious that meeting end-user expectations has steadily become more challenging as simulation frameworks (FSX, X-Plane, P3D, etc) have developed. This means that workloads have increased, and some authors that may have previously created content for the "love of the hobby" now cannot devote that much time to release a product for free. This does not necessarily mean that the freeware authors still out there are not putting in that higher amount of work to release truly high-quality products, still for the “love of the hobby”.

While payware certainly has the majority stake at least among the active community spread across the major forums, it's worth investigating the freeware output that still exists and is sadly disappearing with each passing day as more end-users adopt a "payware only and always" stance. Freeware does not always mean low-quality, and payware does not always mean high-quality, rendering the terms "freeware quality" and "payware quality" rather useless as the boundary varies widely depending on who you ask.

So, expand your addon horizons to what's found in your favorite addon website's file library, pay attention and comment on news of pending freeware releases, and don't automatically make the negative associations that the term "freeware" seems to have taken lately. It doesn't cost anything to give a freeware addon a try!

-An anonymous AirDailyX Reader