Howto:Write a FlightGear Review

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Objective

Provide a simple framework/guideline for people wanting to review FlightGear, to make sure that reviews are kept constructive and helpful, i.e. so that they can help guide the future of the program.

Why reviews matter

Cquote1.png the whole reset/re-init work seems to be largely based on FlightGear reviews stating how the sim is unable to save/load/resume flights and change aircraft without restarting the whole simulator: FlightGear Sessions#Problem

Those reviews mentioned there predate the reset/re-init effort by several years, and while the original reviews may not be very objective, they did have /some/ merits - and it seems that some core developers do care about such reviews and are sufficiently motivated by reviews highlighting certain issues - for instance, Stuart used to be an avid participant in "usability" discussions, including reviews of FlightGear highlighting the lack of usability - equally, the Qt5 effort could be said to be aimed at making FG more accessbile.

And the FlightGear multicore debate is seeing some attention via HLA - so people certainly care, it's just the timeframe that makes things appear very unresponsive
— Hooray (Feb 5th, 2016). Re: .
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Intro

Cquote1.png Writing reviews others can actually make use of is a skill that requires to distinguish the personal from the universal. Honesty is a requirement, but far from being the whole.

If I criticie a hotel because the plane was late, I arrived late and stressed out and therefore slept poorly in my hotel room, I disqualify myself as a reviewer because what I criticize has nothing to do with the hotel. Though it is undoubtedly honest to claim I slept badly in the hotel room. Similarly, if I have an acquired habit of using right mouse-click to transit from control to view to click and criticize FSX for not doing it the same way, I'm not qualified as reviewer.

Telling a personal story is (unfortunately) often confused with reviewing in the internet - which is why I don't believe in the wisdom of crowds
— Thorsten (Feb 3rd, 2016). Re: .
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Cquote1.png Some points a review could potentially talk about - stimulus material for reviewers:

A check list of things that FG does well, and that other sims do not have or are not likely to have might help with write ups? (for instance the weather simulation, and the way it interacts with terrain to both affect flight and provde visual cues). Examples of aviation situations where FGs strengths at simulating come to the fore would help reviewers. I think the promotional value of specifying unique aspects should not be underestimated for a sim that people currently invested in other sims can try out easily. A list of links to evidence that give measures of the quality of JSBSim as well as accuracy of some of FG FDMs might help, as they can be dropped in reviews to great persuasive effect (e.g. this link from an article in the tour section). FG reviews have to contain some reference of FG's opensource nature and what it means. What are a checklist of positives to include? Are there examples of issues in closed source projects that an open source engine would avoid? e.g. aircraft devs getting stranded by lack of engine development.

(Is the features page up to date? Any journalist reviewing FG would look at that.. come to think of it screenshots on the front page are outdated).
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Cquote1.png Where reviews by journalists from websites with a large audience are concerned...

My understanding is that those websites want news, i.e. things that are new that the public cannot immediately try out and see.. They value some measure of exclusivity.

Is there anything to be gained by contacting journalists/websites and sending them links to 'review code' 1-2 weeks early?. This might make them more inclined to spend time reviewing a freely available sim. It does not matter if the review binaries are publicly available via the unstable branch, it is just sufficient that it's different from the main download link presented on the FG site which most of the public uses.
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Motivation

Cquote1.png Let me for a moment slip into a different fictional persona, reviewing e.g. the T4T Spitfire (which I personally find a very impressive FDM).

In my (fictional) review, I write 'The plane is impossible to take off, it drags to the side when accelerating - I had to cheat and start in-air to fly at all. (...) The gun is complete crap - I was firing at a target right in the crosshairs, and missed anyway (...) it's far too fidgety in the air...' So - what I would write would be all true. Yet the review would be completely misleading. What happens is that I (i.e. the fictional user) had the wrong expectations - not knowing about torque and p-factor, one would expect a different take-off. Not knowing about ballistics and bullets falling in Earth's gravity, one would come to expect to hit whatever is in the crosshairs no matter the distance. Not knowing that an agile plane has to be fidgety, one would come to expect an easy ride. I (the fictional I) am disappointed because my expectations aren't met. Yet the problem is not with the plane, the problem are in fact my expectations. My fictional review would reveal chiefly my ignorance about WW-II warbirds - and probably my unwillingness to read the flight manual of a Spitfire. (In actual reality, I think the planes I did write reviews for FG I spent a week minimum to learn, sometimes a month - I would never try to fly the Concorde for an hour and then believe I have anything meaningful to write into a review).

You might react to this in different ways - you might try to teach the fictional me about how a real warbird is. Or you might conclude that I am just not the kind of user for whom you develop and leave it at that.
— Thorsten (Feb 3rd, 2016). Re: .
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Getting started

Cquote1.png Two things to avoid in writing such a thing: writing what disappoints you because of personal preference, but also taking care, while backing away from that trap, not to fall into the other pit of sounding dry, bland, and impersonal. Nevertheless, things relating to personal preference rather than real user convenience may be inserted so long as A.) it is presented as such, B.) it can relate to other users. C.) it can be proved to be inconvenient in any scenario.

Moreover, the review, with regards to performance, ought to be written by one person but based on the experiences of at least two different pcs with different specs--in other words both ends of the gamut.

Also we should not be afraid to write about bad things in FG--awkward chat boxes, horrible clouds in basic wxr (and basic wxr is necessary for low end pcs) etc. In short, we need an Unbiased, objective, honest, lively, and engaging review.
— MIG29pilot (Feb 21st, 2016). Re: How to write a FlightGear review (brainstorming) ?.
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Features

  • recent Changelogs (link template)
  • recent newsletters
  • Unique Features
  • old reviews

Things to cover

  • FlightGear version to be reviewed, download location
  • background of the reviewer (e.g. previous flight simulation experience)
  • target audience
  • focus of the review
  • expectations of the reviewer
  • simulator performance
  • quality of visuals, audio/effects, aircraft systems
  • operating system, hardware (graphics card, ram, cpu)
  • settings used
  • aircraft/airports tested
  • summary (pros & cons, suggestions for improvement)
  • conclusion / final words

Content

  • Screenshots
  • Youtube videos

Summary

Cquote1.png Most reviews on websites provide a conclusion that sums up the value of a product. Often it's aimed at the lowest common denominator (the worst example of this being a score), and sometimes it even goes against the tone of the rest of the review. Ideally reviews should try to separate out how different categories of people might value FG based on their criteria, as far as the experience of the reviewer allows them to say. (This is something FG reviewers should be conscious of because FG can suffer from a conclusion aimed at the lowest common denominator - which turns out less positive than it could be because of FG's quirks/entry barriers).
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Reviews