I wish you well with your freeware projects, but if your goal on freeware development is primarily for recognition and not personal use first, then I think you have a tough road ahead unless the freeware you are producing is revolutionary or fills some gap that is not otherwise filled. This is the same with modding for any games or sims but especially in FSX where there is so much high quality payware available and the bar keeps being raised (thankfully).
There's only so much time and energy you can pour into a project. And believe me, I know the "Just *this* took several hours of work?" feeling.
It's all contributing to an eventual "Screw this, I'll go watch butterflies for the next year" burnout. Many a developer suffers, suffered or will suffer from this.
So it's not primarily the recognition as much as self-motivation, but an occasional pat on the back does not hurt anyone.
Also, all of my stuff is filling a gap in the freeware sector; otherwise I wouldn't have a reason to do it in the first place. I don't know what counts as revolutionary for you, but so far, I've implemented fully modeled lighting into my Dornier, moving rain and working wipers (not present by default in FSX) into the Convair and working wipers and (actually lethal) icing into the 737. Try to find any of this in most payware.
And it's not just me. Other freeware authors implementing more realistic prop and jet startup sequences or 1940s long range beacon networks or blowing up engines or model configuration with a mere entry in the title= line of a repaint instead of a clumsy external tool or semitransparent window frames for improved visibility or Ground Controlled Approaches or start up sequences like on the real thing and I could go on and on and on...
All these things take hours and hours to implement, but get largely ignored because, say the model is still in beta, doesn't have an adjustable pilot seat, is french/russian/obscure, needs user intervention here and there, etc...
I get the feeling that most MSFS users have forgotten about everything that's not polished to perfection and maximum user friendliness.
Someone once told me "mod for yourself not anybody else"
What i have repainted are aircraft/helos that i like and nobody else has done the texture....releasing it for download is a bonus for the community imho. Not as time consuming at modelling but there ya go.
That's the premise.
It still would be nice to get a "Thank you", repaint or screenshots of someone using the stuff though, you know...even if the other person doesn't use it or or uses it only once or doesn't download it at all. Just a (hollow) sign that the developer does the right thing.
So I'm still trying to get a concise summary...but if I'm reading it correctly you are basically upset that freeware offerings don't get the recognition that payware ones do and that incremental increases to the quality of payware are leaving freeware in the dust and/or killing the incentive for those developers? Is that about it?
The basic issue is the question of how a freeware developer can survive in a community that's not even content with the already very good payware.
If so, well, that certainly is an opinion to have, but I'm not sure I buy it. Hell, have you seen how much action still exists in the EECH and EAW forums?
EECH, Strike Fighters, Kerbal Space Program, IL-2, Freespace, EAW and many more are/were basically raised on freeware. There may be the odd payware add-on for some of them, but it's nearly not as much of an infestation as it is for MSFS(X).
There was a kind of healthy balance between free- and payware for FS2004 (at least that was my perception) and it basically eroded with the (perceived) "no limits" FSX.
FSX and X-Plane are already most of the way there. Yes, there are differences, but if you went back twenty years and did a side by side comparison of PC flying versus the real thing you'd find a dramatic closing of the gap between virtual and reality. And why? Because of two things - innovation and money. You had and have technological increases, and you have people willing to invest in software development in hopes of making a profit. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I'd argue that some developers that do the job for money are actually more passionate about the genre than freeware designers. They've staked their career and family and everything else on tying together their passion for simming with the hard knock life of being a sim developer. So I'm happy when they are rewarded.
And in turn, you're allowed to demand more and ever more from them?
Do you actually know how godawful of a job commercial add-on development is?
You think that $40 for a non-systems plane is steep, but split up the earnings from, say 500 copies sold between the team members and hold it against the number of hours invested you end up with an hourly wage at third-world level, if at all. Hence most, if not all payware developers need additional income from real world sources thus limiting their time available for development. Most also have families.
And now they release their models and not get the amount of sales expected and beeching customers because of a missing feature or a few bugs and cries for even more of everything in the next model. Not speaking of the godawful nagging and complaints when the next release takes longer than projected due to this.
Keep that in mind and weigh it up against this:
Improvement in flightsim technology doesn't stem from what add-on makers make of it but from the sophistication of the base software. As it's not financially viable anymore for a big publisher or game studio to make a mass appeal flight simulator, you won't have any large strides in underlying technology for any time to come.
Prepar3D is FSX 2.0, but not aimed at the consumer market. FSX add-ons work in it and it has the potential to be a replacement at the cost of your interests not driving the overall development direction. It also might do away with some of limitations and bugs in FSX and offer better development tools.
X-Plane is on the same level as FSX by now, but since it's made by a rather small team that needs to be fed, you only see rather limited progress in each version. (Not to mention that it is very different in look&feel from FSX.) You can, of course, base your future on XP but you'll have to basically throw away all your FSX payware.
And then there's FlightGear. Unlimited potential, but nothing at all for the consumerist FSX fan.
These are three platforms way more suitable to provide a "next level" base.
FSX, with its limitations, bugs and already overworked (payware) developers, is *not*.
Unless, of course, there's a "great mysterious council" of developers chugging out improvements for everyone (see IL-2's continued patches), so that development can be streamlined in some areas.
This is totally utopian though, since FSX is a competitive environment in which every sale and extra feature counts.
So far, I've only experienced two and a half cases, in which payware developers are/were actually working for benefit to everyone. One case is payware devs helping out in forums, another is a payware dev actually publishing a fleshed out tutorial on a nonstandard model feature and the half one is developers announcing modules that ship with SDKs to make other aircraft support them. Doing stuff like smooth cockpit lighting or tieing YASIM to override FSX' flight model? Forever buried under Non-Disclosure Agreements.
And despite your gnashing of teeth, I don't see good freeware developers getting left out of the acknowledgements. I think in my PC Pilot articles I've used and recommended dozens of freeware airplanes, sceneries, and utilities (we've even included many of them on our cover CD). So I'm not sure where this perception that because Level D wants to model the brake temperature test switch equals no appreciation for Dino's T-45 comes from..
Would you still recommend Dino's model if there was a payware T-45 with a bit more of everything?
Are you still going to recommend Dino's Tomcat after Aerosoft released theirs?
Would you recommend a freeware DC-9 if there's already Coolsky's and SkySimulations'?
Tl;dr, I've invested way too much time writing this.