Damn my impoverishing ethics! Damn them to hell!

From: Stephen Sprogis <stephensprogis@hotmail.com>
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2012 18:04:34 -0400
To: dan@dansdata.com
Subject: Extra money for you

Hi Dan,

   I see you would like to recieve some extra money, so I'd like to offer you $10 a day to display an ad banner for Virtual Pilot 3d. I'd be happy to pay you the first 3 days upfront via Paypal, and every Monday thereafter as long as we're in business. Let me know if you're interested.



I ditched Burst Media as my annoying-banner-ad provider on dansdata.com a while ago (they didn't close my account with no explanation, I QUIT, that's my story and I'm sticking to it). So just sticking a hard-coded banner at the top of every page and getting a no-muss-no-fuss seventy bucks a week for it doesn't seem like a bad idea at all.

(DealExtreme showed some interest in running a banner too, which would be a very natural fit for the site, but we had a lot of trouble communicating. Their banner-ad-buying person does not seem to be one of their English-understanding people. Perhaps when they complete their long voyage to the new and improved dx.com, which is now working fine in parallel with the old site, they'll have another go. If someone reading this is from DealExtreme, or anywhere else that is in honest business and would like to buy a simple whole-site ad on dansdata.com or this blog, talk to me!)

I'm not going to stick a static ad on my site if it's promoting a terrible piece of software, though. So I had a little look for reviews of this Virtual Pilot 3D thing, of which I'd never heard.

Those reviews seem oddly thin on the ground. Hit one in my Google search is a press release, hit two is virtualpilot3d.eu, and hit three is a page on virtualpilot3d.eu called, of all things, "Virtual Pilot 3D™ Scam", full of what seems to be machine-translated gibberish.

That weird European site also has a page called "Virtual Pilot 3D™ Is Not Flightgear", which explains:

...As previously noted, a division or segment of society Flightgear was a very special reason. The FG and the Virtual Pilot 3D™ There are major changes between.

Virtual Pilot 3D™ some outstanding features include:

* Enhanced plug and play system running smoothly.
* Very complex and require technical knowledge to start a game without having to perform a quick easy way.

...et cetera.

Presumably this was also machine-translated from something else, but I think I get the gist. Why are they so enthusiastic about telling us their flight simulator isn't some other flight simulator?

Back to looking for reviews. The fourth hit is people discussing Virtual Pilot 3D on a flight-sim forum, one of whom points to the Wikipedia article for the free open-source flight simulator... FlightGear.

It would appear that the Virtual Pilot 3D people have, at time of writing, been unsuccessful in getting that Wikipedia article to not point out that their commercial product is a rebadged version of FlightGear.

You can't take Wikipedia as gospel about everything, though, and it doesn't have any sources for the specific claim that Virtual Pilot 3D, as opposed to other commercial flight-sims called "Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator, etc", is a FlightGear rebadge job.

So let's take another tack.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun covers pretty much everything worth knowing about PC gaming. When some oddball game comes up for $2.49 on Steam and I've no idea what it is, Rock, Paper, Shotgun almost always has a review.

They also have a regular column, The Flare Path, about military strategy games and flight-sims. I wonder...

Well, that was easy. The Flare Path for the 24th of August is, entertainingly, titled "Don't Buy VirtualPilot3D".

My name is Tim Stone. I've been a flight simmer for thirty years, and a flight sim critic for 4369 days, 9 hours, and 37 minutes. In all that time I don't think I've ever loathed a piece of software as passionately as I loathe the game you are currently thinking about buying. If you can spare a moment I'll explain why.

Oh, my.

The Virtual Pilot 3D people didn't just copy FlightGear; they also ripped off demo videos and images from completely different flight-sims, and photos from real life, presenting them all as being from Virtual Pilot 3D.

VP3D pinched picture

Picture allegedly of Virtual Pilot 3D.

NASA flight simulator

Picture definitely on a NASA site.

And then, there's this...

Fake testimonial

...oh, just read it, it's funny.

This isn't the worst case of game "authors" ripping things off from other people and hoping no-one will notice. The worst case would be the point-and-click adventure game Limbo of the Lost, which also scored coverage on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and even has its own wiki. (The wiki is largely devoted to tracing the illegally-copied sources for every component of Limbo of the Lost, including little-known indie oddities like Thief 3 and Oblivion.)

But gee, the Virtual Pilot 3D guys really are trying for the game-scam gold medal, aren't they?

Well, there goes my ten bucks a day. It's normal for annoying Web banner ads to sometimes be for scammy products, but deliberately running a constant ad for known scam-software exceeds the limits of even my highly elastic ethics. If the guy was offering me a thousand dollars a day, then since he's not actually selling fake antivirus software or botnet infectors or something (as far as we know...), I'd run the ad, take the money, kick half of it back to local charities and sleep the sleep of the just. But I doubt I'd be able to haggle him up that far.

So, until Sir Dolly Santos of the East Umbopoland Embassy To Nigeria comes through with that $US57,144,000 he promised me after I wired him $500, readers are still cordially invited to reward me for my honesty concerning Virtual Pilot 3D by making a small donation.

No, wait. Make it a large one.

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