Monday, 14 September 2020

The Passenger Experience...Now Boarding!

We are about to explore two newcomers to the genre of passenger immersion add-ons, and by way of example, allow me to use a well known ground handling add-on which adds tiny animated figurines to your airport aprons.

Yes folks, this may well become your happiest flightsim moment or your very worst nightmare, and that’s because Jekyll and Hyde personalities are about to be given to your Lilliputian marionettes - not only can they walk, but now they can talk, and not only that, they now have an abundance of spirit along with excess attitude too.

We don't often give a second thought to those fare paying peeps in the back, sometimes referred to as "self loading cargo", and we've never been particularly worried about whether they are clasping a drink in their hands or clasping their hands together in prayer. I would venture that this is because simulator pilots have enough to do up front with their procedures, checklists, briefings, and sterile flightdecks. 

And yet the following packages aim to increase the flight crew's workload by adding this new dimension. Now, not only must we contend with iced fuel lines, busted engines, and bird strikes, but the thorny issues of malcontent passengers, troublesome hen parties, missed connections, disillusioned club classes, and buoyant stag party groups is quite literally knocking on our (locked) flightdeck doors.

In the past, Gold braided Captains have paced up and down the aisle to meet and greet their passengers, to provide reassurances, and as airline ambassadors to politely drum up further business. If it wasn't for passenger loyalty, then furlough or severence might have been but a flight or two away. Today, however, it is your job to keep to your company schedule, and to provide smooth rides with silky landings. You may even need to keep the peace or dish out some discipline.

Each package handles the actual experience differently, but in essence, you must keep an eye on the comfort levels, enjoyment, and overall satisfaction of your customers by ensuring, for instance, that boarding doesn't take too long or that you avoid delays and bad weather.

Amongst other things, you'll get to hear cabin announcements and deal with irksome people and maddening circumstances. In short, you'll face the very same awkward situations as seen in many of those fly-on-the-wall airline documentaries that no doubt we have all witnessed.

So then, my advice as a seasoned expert is twofold; first, I would say to you to neglect your passengers at your peril, and second would be to expect the unexpected....

Self Loading Cargo by Lanilogic Technology Solutions

This seems to be a particularly comprehensive and immersive package that supports all major flightsim Windows based platforms, and is available today at a low pre-release price of £12.99. Future updates will be free of charge, and there exists a busy SLC Discord community as well.

The program looks for flight phases and flight configurations in order to establish the proper set of rules, modes, and eventualities. It seems to be highly configurable, even allowing users to create aircraft cabin layouts such that you can interact with the passengers and their seating, your cabin crew, galley, toilet, and door management, and so on.

You interact with the program via a small but inclusive menu system that can be hidden from view. Files are played in a controlled yet randomised fashion such that repition is avoided.

Here's a brief summary of how SLC is described...
  • Self-Loading Cargo simulates each passenger on your aircraft individually - so every decision or action you make affects each person individually.
  • In real life some people are more anxious than others, and equally some people are happier than others. They can be happy and anxious, or sad and chilled out. Or somewhere right down the middle.
  • If something goes wrong, or a passenger gets frustrated, their happiness and anxiety levels at that point in time will be used to determine their reaction to whatever is happening.
  • This ensures that no flight is the same! And just as in real life, you could be the best pilot in the world - but some people will still find reason to complain. Welcome to Self-Loading Cargo. The Personality Simulator.
  • Your Flight Rating Is Continously Calculated As You Fly; right from the off, your flight rating is determined using the passengers individual personalities and feelings as a guide - they'll react to events on the ground, things you do while flying and how well you land - right up until they leave.
  • Reacts to buttons and switches in your simulator (dependant on developer support).
The SLC web site carries a great deal of information about it's inner workings (here) along with a very long list of positive, warning, and negative effects that can affect your ongoing rating, as well as several demonstration videos (here).

The very active and helpful developer intends to increase functionality and improve sounds, and users can create and upload their own airline specific packs which are in turn available to registered users. 

In the above video you will notice that the demonstration is on a WIP developemental build, and it doesn't always run smoothly, but the developer is confident and knowledgeable, and actually I found it all very reassuring.


PACX is another very comprehensive package created by the authors of the delightful TFDi Boeing B717, and comes with countless WAV files, scenarios, and events possible.

This is another very detailed multi flightsim platform Windows-only package, and one that is equally immersive. The cost is $29.99 but a discount has been promised for 2019's Cyber Monday. Check out the linked video below to see first hand what this can bring to your simulated world.
This package includes a huge array of sound files, 600 of them to be exact, and it has a number of notable features that are quite unique, including the ability to interact with it, namely your passengers, "vocally".

Here's how TFDi describe the PACX Experience...

  • PACX offers a variety of systems to provide a realistic in-flight and post-flight experience.
  • Various incidents ranging from minor reseating delays to severe medical issues can happen. It is up to you to handle them properly. This may mean you simply expedite the flight, or you may have to make an immediate diversion. The choice is yours.
  • Extra announcements for customs declarations on international fights and Wi-Fi usage information for Wi-Fi equipped aircraft increase the immersion.
  • Automatic and realistic handling of in-flight service by the flight attendant make the flight feel alive.
  • Interaction can be initiated by pressing the appropriate in-cockpit controls on select third party aircraft like the TFDi Design 717, Quality Wings 787, PMDG 737NGX, PMDG 747 QOTS II, and PMDG 777.
  • Career mode allows you to rank up and vary your passengers according to airline parameters.
  • Awards can be earned for activity, on-time performance, and more.

A few final thoughts...

There have been many other passenger experience packages in the past, including FSPassengers (ESP), FSCaptain (ESP), PassengersFX NG (XP), plus a few more, but none have the depth of the two add-ons mentioned here, PACX and SLC.

Also, SLC and PACX are both multi platform insofar as they support FSX, P3D, and X-Plane, but I have found no mention of MS FS2020. I would think, however, that since the developers have already catered for FSX & P3D, they would include 2020 without a second thought, but whether they charge for it is another matter.

Just to be clear, ground handling add-ons are not required, I was merely suggesting that those animated figures were given, courtesy of SLC or PACX, personality.

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