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 1.6.4.2 release update. See changelog for release info!

Development Update - Q1 2024

Posted on Thursday 11 January 2024 at 11:22 by Steve W into Latest News


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Welcome to the development update for Self-Loading Cargo for Q1 2024. In this article I describe the progress that has been made with the application since the last update and what you can expect over the next few months.

Hello Self-Loading Cargo pilots! 

Welcome to this development update for Self-Loading Cargo as we welcome in 2024! I hope you had a fantastic break and are refreshed as we head into the new year.

I just want to briefly mention a couple of statistics which you may be interested in before we get started.

First of all, Self-Loading Cargo pilots have surpassed 650,000 individually logged flights and there are currently between 400 and 700 flights being completed per day which is amazing.

Secondly, the official Self-Loading Cargo Discord server crept past 12,000 members over the new year period with around 800-1500 people online at any one time which is incredible. It does make technical support a little more tricky to manage however - more on that later in the update!

I think those figures are brilliant and a testament to how important Self-Loading Cargo has become to pilots who are using it. The goal of the application has always been to provide more immersion to your airliner flights and I've been told by quite a few people that they struggle to fly without it running nowadays which means it must be achieving that goal. For sure there's a lot of work left to do and plenty to improve, but even at this stage to hear that kind of feedback makes me more determined than ever to make the application reach 100% of its potential.

Thank you, here's to 2024!
Steve

New Additions in Q4 2023:

GSX Integration

One of the major features that was introduced was syncronisation and integration with GSX Pro on MSFS (along with partial support for older versions on P3D and FSX). This ensures that boarding, loading, pushback and offloading can be syncronised the excellent visuals provided by GSX to create a really nice, smooth and immersive ground experience while using both addons. As long-time users of GSX may be aware, flight simulator is a fairly complex beast to contend with and there are a lot of workarounds required to make sure the experience is smooth even if things "under the hood" are going a bit awry so I'm particularly proud that this was able to be accomplished without interrupting the flow of Self-Loading Cargo too much. A lot of that thanks must go to Umberto and the rest of the team at FSDreamTeam for creating such a complex addon and handling the intricacies of flight simulator so well. I hope you're enjoying the integration of both tools and that it adds to your simulator experience.

Checklist and Scoring System

Just after the last development update the new checklist and scoring system was launched which can be displayed in a separate window to assist in achieving a high score and ensuring that the flight protocols are adhered to. There has been a lot of positive feedback around this addition which has resulted in pilot scores increasing over the months since it came out. As Self-Loading Cargo becomes more complex with additional features and scoring, this system will become even more useful because it means that you'll have a real-time "manual" to consult when new tasks are brought online so that you don't get caught out and lose points.

In addition, the flight reports were updated to incorporate the new scoring system with a more detailed breakdown and easier to digest information about each of the score items.

Better Native Aircraft Support

Self-Loading Cargo now has much better native support for the 3D cockpit switches (and features such as APU, cockpit and cabin doors etc) of a growing number of MSFS aircraft including the PMDG 737 series, the Fenix A320, the FBW A20N, the Aerosoft CRJ, the Leonardo MD80, the Inibuilds A3xx series and the Asobo ATR42/72 which allow it to respond to the aircraft cockpit interactions directly - further increasing your immersion and removing the need to click on the application itself for functionality like the seatbelt signs. Not forgetting X-Plane though, it also has support for multiple additional payware aircraft via the SLCSeatbeltsXP LUA script.

Don't forget you can also view the compatibility page on our website at any time to keep up-to-date on aircraft that have native support.

In-Flight Entertainment System

The very first iteration of our in-flight entertainment system was brought online just before Christmas allowing you to view the flight from the point of view of any of the passengers in your cabin. Each seat on the aircraft can have its own independently simulated IFE screen which shows real-time flight information and allows you to navigate various screens as though you were sat onboard. It supports failures (which will be important as in-flight issues are brought online) as well as connectivity issues as already simulated by the on-board WIFI system.

Eventually the goal is to allow passengers to request cabin crew services and products from the screens but this first iteration helps to navigate any bugs or limitations we encounter during development while providing a nice little addition to your in-flight experience.

I hope you're enjoying it and welcome your feedback.

What's Next?

Automatic Updates

The automatic updater for Self-Loading Cargo is almost complete now. Once it is ready it will be available for download and you will no longer be required to manually update your copy of the software. At that point, a minimum version of Self-Loading Cargo will be required depending on any patched issues and their severity. This policy is primarily to assist with technical support requests coming in for issues that have already been solved via patches that people have not downloaded - hopefully this will help them resolve those issues automatically and free up a bit of time spent investigating problems that have already been solved.

Business Jet Operations

I have taken the decision to temporarily suspend the "crewless" addition to Self-Loading Cargo while I focus on completing the airline-related scenarios. There are a few reasons for this, not least the low amount of business jet flights being flown. While I realise this could be because Business Jets are not "officially supported" yet, there's nothing stopping anyone from doing it (albeit with cabin crew) so ultimately the primary goal of Self-Loading Cargo being to provide an additional workload on airliner flights needs to take priority. 

Passenger to Passenger Interactions

This is the next major phase of development and one which will bring quite a bit of dynamism to your flights, especially in terms of passenger satisfaction. Passengers will start to interact with one another - getting cross when having to move out of the way of someone needing to visit the toilet, being noisy, kicking their seat etc. Perhaps more likely on certain flights to certain holiday destinations or with specific demographics. 

This phase will take multiple weeks to work on and refine so updates may be fewer in this stage of the roadmap. However when appropriate I will post work in progress videos or screenshots onto the Discord server and Youtube channel to keep you up to speed. Let's see how it goes.

Voicepack Tooling + Sound Variations

One of the more powerful features of Self-Loading Cargo is its soundpack and voicepacks which are fully customisable and contain sounds that can be included dynamically based on the flight destination, departure, airline, aircraft, time of day etc. However at the moment there is a lot of preparatory work required on behalf of creators to get started (along with some reading from the reference guide in the user manual). I would like to introduce some simple tooling to help facilitate the creation of voicepacks so that more obscure languages can be supported as well as allowing native speakers of the more popular languages to create real voicepacks for the community as opposed to TTS generated ones. I think providing some software to make this process a little easier (and less laborious!) is well worth doing at this stage.

In addition I would like to create more variations of sounds in events within the existing voicepacks so that it feels a bit more "random". Right now there are two or three sounds per event, but it feels like a waste of potential when the application supports unlimited variations so I think some time spent creating more sounds will add even more immersion.

Discord Server / Technical Support

The Discord server remains open (please join!) however I have spent some time over the Christmas break giving some thought to its function and I have decided to close the technical support areas for now to focus more on the community and voicepack/soundpacks sections.

There are many reasons for this, but ultimately it boils down to Discord being a very poor place to manage support requests and it becoming a massive time sink for me. Over the last few months I've noticed that the same questions get asked multiple times, solutions to issues get lost in months of messages and overall it just becomes really hard to keep on top of - especially if I step away from it for a few days. 

For a while now, Self-Loading Cargo has had a technical support section on the website with solutions to common issues that is fully searchable and is accessible to all customers - whereas Discord is only accessible to those customers who actually use Discord. Answering a question on Discord may mean many other customers who do not use it do not have access to the answer if they need help.

Additionally, I can provide much more detailed and personal responses to customers who start a support ticket via email - and since it's ticket-based I can read back the message history far more easily than if it is interspersed with commentary from random Discord users. This makes things easier for me, frees up my time and is much more helpful to the person who asks for assistance.

While I recognise that a lot of people enjoy Discord I ultimately have to do what works most efficiently in order to effectively manage my time to work on completing the software - so for the foreseeable future official technical support is via email and the Self-Loading Cargo website. 

Thank you for your understanding.

That's it!

Thank you for reading this far, and of course for using Self-Loading Cargo. The next update will be in Q2 2024 (April) with further information showing progress and plans but for now, happy new year!

 

 


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