Eagle Dynamics founder Nick Grey responds to ‘early access’ controversy

Sometimes I think the DCS World community, all due respect to the many voices within it, tend to elevate issues to levels that seem extraordinary. Of course, room for debate is essential and the community has said quite a lot about early access, developer resources and priorities, and all of the things that matter to us since it was announced that developers would temporarily be shifted from working on the DCS: F/A-18C Hornet to the DCS: F-16C Viper project. Now we have a very interesting and well timed response from Nick Grey – co-founder of Eagle Dynamics.

From Nick Grey himself

Nick Grey is co-founder of Eagle Dynamics and a substantial personal investor in the company that has provided us with high fidelity combat flight simulation for over 20-years. Grey, responding to a very detailed thread on r/hoggit discussing the issues of the F-16C, early access, and more, addressed concerns and some of the realities that the Eagle Dynamics team face. I think it’s a great message, it’s well timed, and it’s a very worthwhile read.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your very detailed message.

I am the Founder of ED with my good friend Igor Tishin in 1991. We released our first product in 1995 with a 3 man dev team. It has been a labour of love ever since.

Today we have some 125 programmers in the team, all dedicated men and women who are committed to doing their very best. Each and everyone of them can find jobs which pay significantly more but stick with ED for the love and passion. Since Igor passed away last year from septicaemia post cancer treatment, Katia has taken the job of CEO with both hands and is doing a fabulous job. This is a first class team of guys and gals on a level I have yet to meet in my 37 years of business.

Your post is very insightful and we appreciate its content and the tone is honourable too.

Please know this:
– without early access we would spend 50% more time and money to engineer the products as developers work better and faster with direct user feedback and when they see their product in the market.
– we would not be profitable.
– we would be vulnerable to customer ‘fade’ as they switch to other products or genres.

– we would not enjoy the ‘right’ to imperfection

You have very cleverly identified some of the above along with other realities we face such as the need for permanent innovation and engine renewal. Boyond daily bug fixing, the fundamental issues such as new graphics challenges (Vulkan, effects, mutli-threading etc), network improvements, sound improvements, new damage engine, dynamic campaign, web RTC, new game statistics engine, new weather engine, etc etc are all part of our roadmap and more than 50% of our staff work on these elements which are not directly module related. Without ‘early access’ few of the these could be done and yes you are right, we only have this avenue to finance ED as well as my personal investment. I wish we had ‘office or IOS’ to make life easier believe me.

Needless to say, I welcome all community input, in fact I read all community messages in order to help me guide our small company to a level where we can do a better job for you, our faithful community. I apologise if we don’t live up to your expectations but believe me we are really doing our best to satisfy our customers in good faith and with honesty.

Thank you for your faithful involvement and for your continuing support and thank you all for your help in making us a better company but please do keep us loving our job… in the words of Abraham Lincoln: ‘A drop of honey gathers more flies than a gallon of gall’.

Respectfully yours
Nick Grey TFC/ED

NSSGrey responding to a post on r/Hoggit

Insights

The DCS: F-16C has found itself in a fair number of controversies. This latest one does provide us with some interesting insights into the business behind DCS World.

With the amount of discussion on the topic, it was useful to have such a response from the company’s founder and this gives us some insights into the business that is behind Eagle Dynamics.

I suspect, though I can’t speak for everyone, that many of us and even those of us who follow things really closely, don’t fully understand or appreciate the nature of the beast that is owning and operating a flight sim development studio. Eagle Dynamics is actually a bit bigger than I had in my head with 125 programmers (not counting some of the other admin staff that surely exist I assume) rounding out the development on modules, core features, etc.

It seems too that only about 50% of those programmers are devoted to specific modules with the rest of them working on a whole host of features. Nick mentioned features such as Vulkan (a new graphics API that should improve render speeds in the future), sound, damage, the dynamic campaign and many more in his post and I think we sometimes don’t fully appreciate both the time needed for those kinds of features to be built nor how they factor into the total experience.

Importantly, Nick mentioned how valuable and essential the early access system is for Eagle Dynamics. Nick mentions that it crucially provides the developers with direct user feedback that they then go to make the products better. So some of our gnashing of teeth at various points can and does a difference in terms of bugs and fixes both to the core features and to the modules.

One of the most effective examples of that recently was a video by The Grim Reapers who came up with a work-around for the carrier bounce bug. That apparently inspired Eagle Dynamics to find and fix that bug (coming soon).

At the end of the day

There’s been considerable discussion, much of it well written and very respectful. Regardless of who agrees with whom, I think it’s important to air issues out and have the discussion but I think it should always be done respectfully.

I do think this issue, particularly of the shifting of a few developers, is more of a molehill than a mountain (as the saying goes). Though I wrote in my previous post on the subject that early access is a kind of promise between developer and consumer that the product will ultimately be finished, it’s also a kind of bonus for those of us who want in at the ground level and are happy to be along for the ride as the next aircraft is developed.

There is and never has been any obligation to buy in during early access and I’ve maintained for a long time that you should buy a module only if and when you’re comfortable doing so. Part of my mission with Stormbirds Blog is to make sure that I provide all of you with as much timely and high quality content as I can so that you know what’s happening and can make decisions that make our shared hobby of flight simming entertaining and fun.

As much as early access is a bonus for us, and a promise between ourselves and Eagle Dynamics, there’s also the sometimes cold reality that that early access does for Eagle Dynamics. Financial viability, profitability, direct user feedback, and sustained support for DCS World are what helps keep the lights on and the virtual airplanes flying. I don’t know about you but I’d like to keep them that way!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. scottgridley says:

    This is a great blog, underappreciated in my mind, with really great insights and information. Please keep up the great work!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Collin says:

      I’ll second that!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Blue 5 says:

        Totally agree: best blog on flight sim stuff and my first port of call to check what’s going on.

        Re: the article. I don’t know exactly what prompted Mr Grey posted his response but it was:
        a) Courteous
        b) Totally understandable
        c) Made sense to me from a business perspective

        In fact, I have a new respect for DCS after that message. I’;m still unlikely to buy the F-16 but I enjoy what I have, I do not begrudge the sometimes-slow update pace (though have previously been somewhat skeptical of wider progression).

        What he probably cannot say, however, is the degree to whcih the whole endeavor has a solid plan: the degree of 3rd party input and uncertain time-frames means that the whole remains less than the sum of its parts. I understand why this is so, but nevertheless I do sometimes wonder whether a ruthless clean-up exercise might be better with a focused strategy (“Everything post-’45 we will pursue”) and euthenaize the disjointed elements.

        But that’s simply my perspective externale

        Liked by 1 person

    2. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Many thanks for the kind words!

      Like

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