Hello there! The current release version of Self-Loading Cargo is "1.6, The Interactivity Update"!
Be sure to check out the changelog to see what's new and the development roadmap for information on future releases!

😊 RELEASE UPDATE - 1st July 2024, 1800z - Please ensure you are running the latest release update. See changelog for release info!

Development Update - Q4 2023

Posted on Monday 02 October 2023 at 22:30 by Steve W into Latest News

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Welcome to the development update for Self-Loading Cargo for Q4 2023. In this article I describe what's been going on in the background since the v1.6 release of the application in August and what you can expect over the next few months.

Hello there pilots! Welcome to this development update for Self-Loading Cargo. 

It's been a couple of months now since v1.6 released and I'm humbled by the response to it from the wider flight simulation community - a lot of work went into transforming the application into what you see today and I admit I was a little nervous about how the new UI and functionality would be received. Thankfully, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive despite a number of little niggles that have needed attention over the last few weeks, mostly related to specific addons such as the IXEG and Flight Factor aircraft. Hopefully, especially with the next patch (1.6.1-pre5) which is releasing in a couple of days, those small issues that some people are having will be a thing of the past and we can start to see some accelerated development of all of the things that are planned on the roadmap.

Before I get onto discussing the next stages of work however, I'd like to just look back at what was achieved over the last couple of months since the initial release.

New Additions

Push To Talk for Voice Recognition

One of the main feature requests after launch was the introduction of "Push To Talk" functionality for voice-recognition. When it first launched, Self-Loading Cargo was "always on" when listening for voice commands and in certain circumstances that resulted in them being recognised even when nothing had been said (for instance if you had a fan running in the room). With the introduction of "Push To Talk" this is now a thing of the past and you are able to select between either mode depending on your personal preference making the whole experience much nicer.

Better Cabin Layout Validation

A lot of work has happened behind the scenes to better validate the community cabin layouts. A lot of the bugs reports that were coming through were actually related to issues with layouts that were created (and used) by community members and causing issues that I had not foreseen as being possible (!). Obviously that is not the fault of those creators because the validation being used told them that the layouts were good - so a lot of work has been done to tighten up the logic when publishing new layouts and work still continues to get this fully watertight. This is an ongoing process because I'm sure there will always be new ways of breaking things but we seem to be getting there now and virtually all of the layouts being published are being validated correctly and working well.

Revamped Scoring + Checklist System

Releasing this week as part of v1.6.1-pre5 is a revamped version of the internal scoring system. This has taken over a month to integrate and test but has forced a "sweep" of the entire application to make sure the logic is as solid as it can be (which is a good thing!) before I start adding more and more functionality.

Why not watch a preview video?

Why revamp it?

One of the more humourous bits of feedback I received was that using Self-Loading Cargo was a bit like "doing an examination without knowing what the questions are" which actually had a fair bit of truth to it! When I actually thought about it, if you aren't "me" who knows how everything in the application works, how can you know if you're supposed to be making an announcement without actually seeing the button commands? How do you know what is required to get pushback started? How do you know if you're doing everything correctly to maximise your score? To be fair, I did write a handy guide and sample flight in the user manual - but who wants to read that while flying?

For this reason the scoring system also now has a dynamic checklist built into it to show you exactly what items each phase of flight requires, and whether or not you've completed them. You can turn the checklist items off if you don't need (or want) them, but they're there while you get used to the software and also there when new functionality comes onboard so you should never struggle again.

Harsh Scoring

In addition to the issue of not knowing what was supposed to be being done while flying, there were a few people who mentioned that Self-Loading Cargo was very harsh when scoring certain things - for instance if you didn't have the landing lights set "ON" immediately after descending below 10,000ft you would receive a "fail" on your pilot report. Similar results were had for things like "airspeed slightly above 250kts", "seatbelt signs not being set quite on time" etc. 

The next iteration of the scoring system now supports progressive failures for certain score elements - so basically the longer you take to do something, the less points you will receive (resulting in a bigger penalty). What this means is if you have, for instance, a +20 point potential score for turning your landing lights on correctly below 10,000ft you will simply see that score decreasing every second... 20,19,18.. until it reaches 0 - at which point it will continue to progress as a failure with -1, -2, -3.... etc  This allows you to maintain most of your score if you're a few seconds late, but also punishes you harder if you do forget the lights for a few minutes.

A similar thing can be seen when making a slightly delayed departure - you won't immediately lose all of your points for being a few minutes late, but you won't necessarily receive the full score that you would have achieved being completely punctual.

Some items, however will still result in an instant failure - for instance if you land without the crew being seated you'll be penalised fully.

I feel this is a much fairer system all round and a lot more fun.

Dynamic Scoring

The system also allows for the injection of score items "on the fly" if and when certain scenarios arise. For example if you are taxiing to the runway and perform an extended time "hold" you are expected to let the passengers know what is going on so that they don't think something is wrong. In that case, a score item will be placed into your report ready for your action. If you do not make an announcement or take too long to do it, you will be negatively impacted. If you do make the announcement in a timely manner, you will receive a bonus score. 

What this means is that the more scenarios and issues you encounter during your flight, the more potential you have for getting more (or less!) pilot points than those who do not experience the issues. In short, you're rewarded or penalised based on what actually happens during the flight and not just in a linear fashion.

This will be much more obvious and important once the technical, medical and cabin issues come online over the coming months and why I thought taking the time now to develop this new more dynamic scoring system was a worthwhile investment. 

Hopefully the revamp will make using Self-Loading Cargo a much more pleasant experience for those of you who enjoy seeing if you can get maximum points for your efforts.

Landing Rates

Oh and before I forget - yes, landing rates have also been looked at.. you can now choose between favouring "passenger comfort" or "specific landing rate (ft/min)" when your landings are judged.

Discord Server

The Community Discord Server is now open again albeit in "slow-mode". Why "slow-mode"? Well - put simply, I feel like it makes people type more considered posts if they are unable to post continuously. This increases the quality of support requests, decreases the volume of random nonsense and helps Discord serve a purpose as a support forum that compliments the knowledgebase on the website and email. I personally don't have the time or inclination to spend my days wading through lots of random waffle from a small minority of people who seem to live on their computer, as terrible as that sounds... so while you're welcome to participate in the Discord server (and I encourage it) for Self-Loading Cargo support purposes, I'm not going to open it up for "general chat" again.

What's Next On The Agenda?

So - with all that being said, what's next as we head towards the end of 2023?

GSX Integration

I know that there are a lot of people absolutely chomping at the bit to get "GSX integration" with Self-Loading Cargo to help sync up the boarding and deboarding phases, as well as the pushback and this is my next port of call after the v1.6.1-pre5 patch releases.

I will release each phase of integration as a 1.6.2-x update as each portion is done in the following order:

  • Boarding/Loading Sync
  • Deboarding/Unloading Sync
  • Pushback Integration

A word of warning though - I'm not going to compromise the logical flow or stability of Self-Loading Cargo's current or future features just to accomodate GSX's requirements, nor am I going to put "hacks" in place to force things to work. I'm fully aware of the many workarounds GSX has to do to get things to work in MSFS/P3D already and I'm not prepared to provide any GSX-related support just to get things up and running smoothly with Self-Loading Cargo especially if they then stop working due to future changes made by the GSX team - if I can make things work with GSX with zero config changes / setup options then fantastic, everyones happy.. if I cannot, I'm afraid my official stance will be "Self-Loading Cargo does not fully support operation with GSX so you either need to disable one or the other, or accept any issues that come with using both". I don't really want that to sound as negative as it does because by all accounts there may not even be any issues making a smooth experience once I get moving on it, but I do want to set some realistic expectations around this portion of work. Please remember that Self-Loading Cargo must also support X-Plane whereas GSX has no such requirement.

Let's see how things go - from the research I've done so far I'm confident I can make it happen.

Automatic Updater

I have started writing a separate automatic updater to make installing new patch releases much easier - this will be releasing shortly.

Additional Captain Soundpacks

The Spanish Captain Voicepack is currently being generated via our text to speech engine and will be releasing shortly. The voice commands already exist, this will be the digital sounds for "button" mode. Further voicepacks will be being added as and when allowed by our API limits. You can also check out the Discord server in the meantime, because some community voicepacks have been released (and some excellent cabin crew packs are available too).

Streamlining The Settings

One issue Self-Loading Cargo does now have is that while it is quite flexible and supports workarounds for various aircraft addons, it can be a little difficult to manage all of them efficiently - it does suffer a little from settings-itis or "too many checkbox options". I would like to make some of the settings much more obvious (or automatically applied when an addon is detected) and incorporated into the main user interface rather than being on the settings screens - the multiple volume controls are a big one that I think could be made much simpler.

Flights Sans-Cabin Crew

Business Jet support is coming for those who wish to fly flights without the cabin crew onboard. The new scoring system allows for crew-related scores to be substituted for ones which will be managed by the captain in lieu of crew being onboard, so this has in effect already been started.

Cabin Layouts - Lazy Loading and Smoother Experience On The Website

I need to improve the speed of the cabin layout page on the website because it's a little slow and frustrating at the moment when flicking between pages, making creating multiple layouts a little arduous. This will be rectified shortly.

Next Development Update - Q1 2024.

That's it for now I think - thank you for your continued support and feedback. Now, let's get this final 1.6.1-pre5 patch out and GSX integration working! 


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