Flight sim group put malware in a jet and called it DRM

flight-sim-labs-1

Update: The developers now say they were hunting for one single pirate.

A company who makes add-ons for Flight Simulator X included malware in one of their downloadable jets, players have alleged. The malicious file is called ‘test.exe’ and it is designed to extract passwords from the Chrome web browser, according to the user who discovered it. The company in question, Flight Sim Labs, have since replaced the dirty jet with a clean one. But they say that to claim the file “indiscriminately dumps Chrome passwords” is “not correct information”, adding that the malware was “only extracted temporarily” and that it was targeted at pirates. The head of the company describes the file as “DRM”.

Flight Sim Labs usually make planes you can download for Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X, like the Concorde-X. Or other tools, like one that lets you control the lights on your aircraft. But an installer for one plane, the A320-X (an airbus commonly used by EasyJet or American Airlines) was triggering anti-virus alerts for some players. Reddit user crankyrecursion examined his copy of the installer “simply out of curiousity” and found the embedded malware. He then posted a notice for other players.

“… there seems to be a file called ‘test.exe’ included. This .exe file… is touted as a ‘Chrome Password Dump’ tool, which seems to work – particularly as the installer would typically run with Administrative rights (UAC prompts) on Windows Vista and above.”

“I’m a technical person by nature,” he told us, “and I was keen to understand why exactly the installation package was triggering antivirus alerts so often.”

The head of Flight Sim Labs, Lefteris Kalamaras, responded to concerned pilots on the company’s forums, claiming that the Reddit post was made by someone with a pirated copy.

“First of all – there are no tools [his emphasis] used to reveal any sensitive information of any customer who has legitimately purchased our products… ”

However, he then admits that there is a “specific method” which affects anyone whose serial number matches versions being shared on piracy websites like The Pirate Bay. In other words, the password-extracting ‘test.exe’ file was in all copies of the installer but only “triggered” if the user was deemed a “pirate”, according to Kalamaras.

“‘Test.exe’ is part of the DRM,” he said, “and is only targeted against specific pirate copies of copyrighted software obtained illegally.”

If such a specific serial number is used by a pirate (a person who has illegally obtained our software) and the installer verifies this against the pirate serial numbers stored in our server database, it takes specific measures to alert us… That program is only extracted temporarily and is never under any circumstances used in legitimate copies of the product. The only reason why this file would be detected after the installation completes is only if it was used with a pirate serial number (not blacklisted numbers).

This method has already successfully provided information that we’re going to use in our ongoing legal battles against such criminals.

Unsurprisingly, players were not convinced. They continued to complain and Kalamaras later amended the post, saying that the offending malware has been removed from the installer completely.

“… we realize that a few of you were uncomfortable with this particular method which might be considered to be a bit heavy handed on our part,” he said.

So, yeah, turns out imaginary planes is a muddy business. For context, Flight Sim Labs are selling their A320-X airbus for $99.95 , so it’s not that surprising a black market in these digital aircraft has arisen. This is clearly a problem for those who work on the aircraft and rely on good sales for a paycheck. However, putting password-farming malware into your airplanes probably isn’t the most sensible response.

“I think their official response leaves a lot of information out,” said crankyrecursion, the user who discovered the malware, “and is a blatant attempt at trying to divert attention away from the real issue and back towards piracy.

“I imagine there would be a lot of issues surrounding them having users’ passwords stored on their servers, particularly if the lists included banking details or perhaps work usernames and passwords. Computer code is never 100% perfect and it would be easy for legitimate customers to be swept up in this “pirate-only” DRM.”

We’ve contacted Flight Sim Labs for comment and will update this story if they get back to us.

73 Comments

  1. ahac says:

    I’m pretty sure this is illegal in most countries even if they just target pirates.

    • Cederic says:

      In the UK it breaches the Computer Misuse Act and likely various elements of the DPA.

      Attempting to use those passwords further breaches the Computer Misuse Act, adding to the number of counts.

      Trying to use any evidence acquired in a criminal (or even civil) proceeding is almost guaranteed to fail, as the immediate and obvious defences include, “prove your malware didn’t cause the issue you claim you found” and “prove that the person using that software is the one whose passwords your illegally hacked”.

      • Axelrad says:

        Not only is something like this unethical & illegal (and all the information they claim to have gotten is likely inadmissible in court), but if recent phone & email hacking cases are anything to judge by, it’s going to shoot them in the foot if they try any legal action against pirates at all.

        Because any legal action they’d try to take against a pirate is now open to a counter suit for illegally hacking their computer information – the latter of which is considered a more major infraction pretty much everywhere and usually results in massive losses for the perpetrator when they’re caught (as these guys were).

        • pack.wolf says:

          Plus liability in case the data they collect leaks in some way. And invasion of privacy in case one of their people with access to the data gets stupid and decides to snoop inside someone’s accounts. And maybe illegal wiretapping or whatever the equivalent for emails is if they read someone’s mail.
          Everyone of which you can go to prison for in both countries that I live in. And some of them crimes that by law HAVE TO be investigated and prosecuted by the state if someone rats on them (or a motivated prosecutor reads RPS in his own time), even if they don’t do anything malicious, just because they are COULD.

      • mygaffer says:

        I sent a tip in to the FBI, although who knows if anything will come of it. Companies shouldn’t be allowed to get away with such blatant dispersal of malware.

    • YourMomWillDoIt says:

      it is pretty obvious this is not targetting “pirates” but is an obvious attempt to get at peoples money – to believe this excuse is being completely naive. using google chrome passwords to target someone who pirated their software? complete and utter bs. their intentions were to target rich flight sim enthusiasts and transfer some of their money into their own bank accounts.

  2. pookie101 says:

    And that sound is the noise of future sales of any of their products drying up

  3. Finstern says:

    I cannot imagine a single scenario where mining someones encrypted private data from their personal machines is even remotely legal, regardless how they acquired the product.

    What are they doing with the passwords? Logging into their email accounts to get a more solid lead on who they are in order to sue them?

    Yikes.

  4. Mezelf says:

    Calling software pirates “criminals” is just… How small does your world have to be for your to apply such a label to anyone who downloaded a file from the internet, the same label you’d apply to a murderer or rapist.

    • cqdemal says:

      crim·i·nal
      noun: criminal; plural noun: criminals
      1.
      a person who has committed a crime.

      crime
      noun
      an action or omission that constitutes an offense that may be prosecuted by the state and is punishable by law.

      Seems all right to me.

      The wrong part in all this was using criminal methods to get back at criminals (if that was even the real explanation), not calling criminals what they are.

      • pack.wolf says:

        Is a civil action also a crime? Where it’s not a state prosecutor but their layer vs another layer (which is the most likely scenario for most cases of piracy I’d guess)?
        Because somehow that would be weird, like when a plumber does shoddy work and payment is refused and the two parties let the courts and layers figure it out (and charge both a hefty sum in the process).

      • TWeaK says:

        Your definition of a crime is incorrect, as it includes civil offenses. Copyright infringement is not a criminal offense but a civil one. If you are convicted of copyright infringement you are not a convicted criminal, you are merely guilty of an illegal offense.

        • Bureaucromancer says:

          The thing is that that’s not STRICTLY true. Most jurisdictions do provide for criminal copyright infringement, it’s just not typically used (if it even applies) for non-commercial infringement. Though it has been used on the folks running things.

          See jail time for pirate bay.

    • DefinitelyNotHans says:

      Sounds like one of those “I wasn’t going to buy it either way, therefore I haven’t actually done anything wrong” kids.

      • diamondmx says:

        There’s a good chance this is true for at least a significant fraction of the people who say it. From personal experience, I put all the money I had to spare into gaming while I was in school and University, and it was barely enough to buy the systems I needed for gaming and maybe a game or two per year.
        Now I put literally thousands of dollars into the industry each year. I think they’re getting their money.
        Sure, some people may be lifetime pirates, but there’s a significant percentage of the population who can’t afford to buy every game they would happily buy if they had the income. (And of late, that segment is getting larger) and those people will pay back into the industry later

    • Evan_ says:

      “Criminal” is a good enough word if you want to blur the thin line between murderers, rapists, people who ever smoked a joint or who kept using WinRar for more than 30 days. I don’t see the problem.

    • The First Door says:

      Are you genuinely serious? What the actual heck is wrong with you? Have you lost all sense of subtly or ability to understand graduation?

      Yes, if you commit piracy you have committed a criminal act and are therefore a criminal. If you’ve smoked a joint somewhere it isn’t legal, it’s also criminal. You can go to jail for both of these things. Obviously some crimes are worse than others, that’s why we have different sentences for different crimes. Good grief!

      • Alonso says:

        Not very familiar with terminology or general law in anglo world, but isn’t there a difference between civil and criminal cases, as in having infractions (not considered a criminal offence in many places), and then misdemeanour and felony offences?

        “In California, for example, possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana is considered an infraction. It’s therefore subject to a fine, instead of prison time, and will not be included in a person’s criminal record.”

        link to criminal.findlaw.com

        • The First Door says:

          Yeah, there is definitely a split between criminal and civil things here too, although I’d not know where to start with it, to be honest. But still, my point was that if you’ve committed a crime where you are it’s a crime, and the justice system isn’t so bonkers as to think all crimes are the same!

          Incidentally, I’m not defending this company in any way. What they’ve done sounds ethically and legally massively suspect and their justification of ‘but piracy’ is utter bollocks.

          • Thankmar says:

            But when the crime isn’t a crime but an infraction, shouldn’t the crime be called an infraction and not a crime? Because it is an infraction. Not a crime.

          • Someoldguy says:

            Where are you trying to go with this hair-splitting? Are you suggesting software piracy is not a crime?

          • TWeaK says:

            It isn’t a crime in most parts of the world though, just a civil offense. Therefore if found guilty you are not a criminal. There has been a hell of a lot of marketing/propaganda suggesting otherwise, of course, but copyright infringement is not the same as theft and treated very differently under law.

      • dontnormally says:

        If ever committing a crime is the sole line to cross to become a criminal, i might think it reasonable to assume literally every human being on the planet is a criminal, barring perhaps a very small minority.

    • wwarnick says:

      Maybe criminal isn’t the exact word they should’ve chosen, but in their shoes, the “criminals” they’re talking about are people that are illegally threatening their business. The end doesn’t justify the means, but I totally get their frustration.

    • dsch says:

      You’re unlikely to find much support for that argument here. RPS is a pretty bourgie place.

    • Ragnar says:

      You’re right, “criminals” is very harsh. I prefer the terms “journeymen convicts” or “illegal gamers”.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Thiefs are also criminals. The fact that you have no second thoughts stealing intellectual property doesn’t make it moral or legal – trying the misleading comparison with more serious and evil crimes doesn’t help the argument in any case.
      Having said that Flight Sim Labs should be sued and the company closed, easy call.

      • Zelos says:

        Piracy isn’t theft.

        • Captain Narol says:

          Sorry to burst your bubble, but legally and from the creator’s standpoint, pirating his creation is theft.

          • diamondmx says:

            I agree with everything you said, except the parts that are wrong, such as the part where you said it’s “theft” in the law (look this up before sullying your reputation further – theft is one thing, copyright infringement is another), which is bollocks. And the part where you assume what the creator thinks changes how it’s defined.
            So, all of it. It’s all wrong.
            Sorry to burst your bubble, though, mate.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        I’m pretty sure putting malware or stealing someones credentials on line is *also a crime*.
        So it should be great for the developers to welcome in the pirates to work alongside them.

        I don’t think that is what they were planning… to commit a crime greater than “piracy”, were they? ;)

  5. Kefren says:

    Good old DRM. Introducing risk, security holes, potential problems and inconveniences to customers since Nineteen Canteen. Last time I had hassles with it was when DRM was added to a demo for a game I was vaguely interested in. Not surprisingly I won’t buy the full version while they use that system.

    • corinoco says:

      I think the point here is that it blatantly isn’t DRM; it’s aggressive malware. There is a difference.

      Steam is DRM, but it doesn’t try to steal all my passwords.

  6. RvLeshrac says:

    Not only is this outright illegal in every first-world jurisdiction, no judge in their right mind would allow any of the “evidence” they’ve “collected” to be used in any lawsuit.

  7. Sian says:

    So basically they’re trying to be vigilantes? Yeah, not okay, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like people pirating software.

    On the other hand I’m astonished that anyone is willing to pay almost $100 for a single type of plane in a flight sim. Or did I get that wrong?

    • Slazia says:

      Small market and large time investment. They have to make money.

      And steal passwords.

    • mattr_94 says:

      $100 has become around the normal price for the top end aircraft addons for P3D (the flight sim that most simmers are using after microsoft sold their flight sim brand and code). For comparison another company called PMDG sell their 737, 747 and 777 addons for around the same price. This A320 by FSLabs took about 8 years for them to make and I dread to think how much it cost them to develop.

      The addon itself is incredible, just watch the linked video to see how much detail they’ve modelled even down to things that you can’t even see, such as the fly by wire logic.

      Which makes it even more of a shame that they’ve decided to go down this route to try and stop pirates.

      • Sian says:

        I didn’t know the sim market was that enthusiastic. I mean, they could make less detailed, less work-intensive models and charge less; I’m just floored that this is what the market wants.

        The devs have to be quite passionate themselves to invest this much into a single model, which makes it doubly sad that they resorted to malware for DRM. I get why they need to combat piracy – with prices like these everybody who enjoys the fruits of their labour for free hurts them a lot more than other devs – but this just isn’t the way to do it.

        • mattr_94 says:

          There are already A320 simulations on the lower end of the market, two companies, Aerosoft and Blackbox, have developed more basic versions of the A320 and charge 40 and 30 euros respectively. The market FSlabs have developed for is what is called “study level”, the idea that you have to understand the aircraft and its systems to get it off the ground.

          The Aerosoft A320 for example, has a “co-pilot” system which will program the aircraft and press all the switches required without the user having to understand what is actually going on.

          But anyway back to the shady DRM, it’s amazing that they ever thought they would get away with it, even if it has taken 18 months since they initally released it.

      • Ragnar says:

        8 years to model this plane? I can’t imagine why it would take them that long.

        I worked for a company that made power plant simulators, and even a nuclear plant could be done in about a year.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Flight sim add-on developers are typically very small outfits, often just a single person, although it’s usually a small team for something this detailed. Sometimes it’s contract work, or people working part-time. Long development times are common for the more complex aircraft, because the people who want something like this to fly are VERY fussy about realism.

          Also, it’s not development in a vacuum, starting from scratch. They have to work with an existing flight sim engine — an old, wobbly, and patched-up one, in the case of FSX — in some cases re-writing big parts of the flight and systems modeling. Then you have to test it, and get it to the point where everything matches (to a reasonable extent) what the real aircraft does.

          On top of THAT, if you’re marketing for a sim that’s still in continuing development like P3D or X-Plane, the sand can be constantly shifting underneath as the core sim is updated. So yeah, it can take a while.

        • Cederic says:

          Well, it’s several people-months of work to just go through the aircraft manuals and understand what every single thing on the dashboard does, then program the sim to make that thing happen.

          So lets say they had a team of five people working for six months to do that and then another team doing the visual modelling required, and lets be generous and include the flight model in that timeframe. That sounds more than reasonable, if you have a dozen people.

          Now you have to test it, find out that the manuals were wrong in these instances, find out that flicking these switches in this order causes an engine to catch fire, update the flight model to cope with a specific aeronautics software implementation of crosswind control..

          Now throw in the various failure modes that need to be modelled, and how the sim reacts to attempts to rectify those.

          Maybe you can release to a beta test group now. There’s a couple of months waiting for feedback, another couple making changes and testing them. So we’re around 18 months in and we haven’t even released yet.

          So you release. Except.. you didn’t have a dozen people. You had four, and one of those was the project manager.

          That 18 months just turned into four years, and you’ve only just released. Your customer base has high expectations, they’ve been waiting four fucking years for this thing. So they’re going to spot and let you know about anything and everything that’s wrong with it.

          So you do the decent thing, and fix it. Repeat for another four years.

          Yep. Eight years have flown by, and at $100 per sale, you’ve finally made enough cash to cover the next four years of development on the next aircraft.

          Disclaimer: I made all this up.

  8. Evan_ says:

    I’m the scourge of the seven seas, and I’d love to see how those “legal battles against such criminals” will unfold.

    • that_guy_strife says:

      Hilariousy. Any cracked release from any known scene group will remove or neuter it. As it has almost always been.

  9. Twitchity says:

    Does the company in question have licensing deals with the companies whose jets they’re modeling? If not, they’re engaging in IP piracy on a much larger scale…

    • Zenicetus says:

      This is an unresolved issue that’s been in place for a long time. IIRC, Airbus started making some noise last year about being more aggressive with licensing for hobby-level simulation, but nothing has come of it yet.

      I suspect it’s because these add-on developers are all tiny outfits, operating on very thin profit margins. $100 per product sounds like a lot, but they don’t sell that many. Charging a licensing fee would put most of them out of business. Also, Airbus and Boeing do get a little free promotion every time one of those sexy YouTube promotional clips for these products is released.

      • corinoco says:

        Gulfstream outright ban modelling of any of their aircraft, new or old. Grumpybums; but it’s their IP so it’s their right.

        I’m a hobbyist P3D aircraft modeller; and even I know it’s polite to send an email to ask if you can model someones aircraft.

  10. mxxcon says:

    I’d like for this zealous company to crash and burn under a class-action lawsuit for violating its customers privacy.

  11. Skiv says:

    100 bucks for one plane. Something is seriously wrong here.
    Heck, even EA is cheaper

    • ADorante says:

      No, it’s not. If you have development costs of 100.000 credits over one year and only 1000 customers you have to take 100 credits per piece to break even. EA develops for 5 million credits, has 500.000 customers and can sell for 50 credits and still make more money.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Welcome to the flight simulation hobby. The $80-100 price point for the most complex add-ons (tubeliners) has been the norm for a while now. You’re getting a lot for that money, and can’t really appreciate it unless you’re into flying these things and learning all the systems.

      Smaller and more basic aircraft like Cessnas and vintage planes are usually sold in the $30-$40 range, with regional turboprops somewhere in the middle between that and the high-end tubeliners. So it scales according to what’s in the package.

    • P.Funk says:

      Small market, high fidelity, enormous work load and research, tiny team, relatively miniscule sales.

      That’s the nature of flight simming. These planes are the niche in the niche though. There are countless products that are much cheaper and much shittier. As it stands you’re payin $100 to be able to basically fly a real airplane. You can find real pilots of these airplanes using them on youtube almost without any deviation from how they were trained and did it on the line. That’s a real premium you pay for there.

      Furthermore the background to a lot of these super high end products is they’re doubling as commercial training simulators for people who want to set up some business in this area. These are a serious bit of kit, like a home version of what someone would use to train real pilots at an airline.

  12. khamul says:

    I’ve been working in digital goods of one sort or another for most of my life, and I kinda like being paid for the work I do, which means that I kinda like the business I work for being paid for its product. So I am against piracy, and I have sympathy with DRM.

    But here’s the thing: if there’s one thing that’s been proven over the last few years, it’s that DRM-free as a business model is viable. Hell, ‘pay-what-you-want’, as a business model is viable. The solution to piracy is not DRM. It’s fair pricing. Enough people *will* pay for goods, even if they don’t have to, if they can.

    Which kind of implies the corollary: if a business is having problems with piracy and/or DRM, what does that say about their pricing?

    • Kefren says:

      I agree with you. I make my living from things that can be easily pirated. And yet I never add DRM. And each year things are getting better, with more and more sales (sometimes getting in Amazon top tens). Totally viable. My purchasing decisions go that way too – I buy games and music that are DRM free, often more than I need, just to support people. And I hold back from purchases that have DRM, because I am never that desperate.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It’s not that simple. DRM-free can work when you have a large enough customer base to asborb a lot of piracy. But the market for these expensive aircraft models is tiny, compared to something like a AAA action/RPG game.

      It’s gated by the level of interest you need to learn complex systems, as well as the need for very high-spec computer hardware, additional controllers, etc. The developers need to make every download count as a sale, or they wouldn’t be in business at all.

      That doesn’t excuse the idiocy of using password-scraping DRM, and they deserve whatever they’re getting for this dumb move. But DRM-free just isn’t a good model for something as niche as high end, consumer-level flight simulation.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        That’s a total non-sequitur. There are all kinds of incredibly niche things doing very well on Patreon; the top creator is an American socialist comedy podcast, ffs.

        It’s a great time to be niche, and almost nobody is seriously protecting their content.

        • Zenicetus says:

          You’re ignoring the amount of time and effort that goes into something like a realistic simulation of all the systems and flight dynamics of a modern jetliner. You’re seriously comparing that to a podcast?

          The price tag also includes aftermarket tech support. How many software packages include developer tech support, and don’t charge something for it on the front end?

          • Premium User Badge

            kfix says:

            But, tech support is something that you can charge for, or only provide to verified purchasers, without DRM. And their customers are serious enthusiasts, not kids. I doubt they’ve ever lost more than a handful of actual sales to piracy, regardless of how many people have torrented their stuff.

          • Zenicetus says:

            The developers of these aircraft models don’t charge for tech support. That’s not viable, when you’re already charging $100 for the add-on. And how do you tell who is a “verified purchaser,” without an authorization routine? That’s the whole point of DRM.

            This doesn’t excuse the malware, just talking in general about this particular niche area of gaming/simulation. If all add-ons were free of DRM, there would still be a small number of high-end models made by people volunteering their time and enthusiasm. But I’m convinced we wouldn’t have as many high quality products to choose from as we do now, without DRM to support the business model.

    • syllopsium says:

      Sadly it might say nothing about pricing, but more that there is an insufficient market to support them at any other cost. Dropping from 90 to 50 dollars isn’t worth it if it increases sales by an eighth.

    • MajorLag says:

      I think Valve (via Steam) has been pretty clear in demonstrating to everyone that piracy is first and foremost a customer service problem. More people pirate out of convenience by far than do it to save a few bucks.

      If there’s an exception to that, it’s absurdly overpriced products, which again could be seen as a customer service problem.

      • that_guy_strife says:

        Errr … in my younger years I’d pirate everything. My mindset was that ”it’s virtual, so it should be free”. As I grew older I started having less and less time (and patience) to fiddle with cracks and play mostly not up-to-date games.

        I still pirate other content out of convenience: a show I wanted to see wasn’t on any of my subscriptions. The network streams it for free, but I was geo blocked.

  13. Urthman says:

    Comparing an incredibly accurate simulation of a real-world airplane to some disposable EA game is just silly. People who would really use this thing (as opposed to just wanting to glance around the cockpit, which is likely what many of the pirates were doing) have already spent hundreds of dollars on flight sticks and maybe pedals and this is probably their primary hobby – not “gaming” but flying planes (in many cases both real and simulated).

  14. Yachmenev says:

    I’m not playing Flight Sims, but if paid for a product that tried something like this, even if it’s only intended towards pirates, they would lose my business. And if it was one Steam, I would have fought for a refund.

    The “if you don’t have anything to hide, there’s no need to worry” is a frightening mindset to use anywhere.

    Don’t care the slightest if it’s succesful. A company have no right to include tools that can scan for private things, and I hope (although it’s not likely) that they’re sued for this.

  15. causticnl says:

    they are waaay across the red line with this one. They deployed malware through their network (is it through Steam’s workshop network? then you have a good case to get their products removed from steam since they breached the EULA.) That the malware was deleted when an “good” keycode was found on the client pc doesnt matter, the reason they are willing to deploy this in their products should be a reason to stay away as far as possible from their products in the future.

  16. gorte says:

    This seems insane to me. Driving an executable file from someone requires certain level of trust and this is a crazy misuse of that trust. Who knows what other malware they put on your system when you run that installer? A keylogger, or a rootkit perhaps? Probably neither, but it’s nearly impossible to prove one way or other.

  17. Woland77 says:

    I wonder if they consulted an attorney before they did this. I think this is probably illegal in the relatively lax-on-identity-theft US, and am almost certain it’s illegal in the EU.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      The EU’s new privacy data rules are just coming into effect and they include fun stuff like the penalty being up to 20 million euros or 10% of global profit whichever is higher. What this company did is highly illegal and I hope someone with the disposable income to do it takes them to court.

  18. Sagiri says:

    It’s ridiculous that they would do this, but please take this as a reminder to disable password storing in your browser of choice and delete all the ones already saved in it. Get a real password manager.

  19. Cozzie says:

    I can’t believe they called it “test.exe”. What is this, amateur hour?

  20. Chillicothe says:

    “These Capcom cats seem to be onto something here…”

  21. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Flight Simulation has its very own peculiar brand of power politics and grubby goings-on stretching back years. If it was more mainstream, video game journalists would have scandals to write about all the time. The drama inside of it almost punches above its weight – considering the size of the niche, the size of toys that can be ejected from infant perambulatory devices can be gargantuan. Warring developers at each other’s throats, pitched fan-battles between users of xplane and P3D that make consoles-vs-PC look tame, and some forums that impose such tight control over complaints against their commercial partners that the entire site should have a sponsorship notification. That’s always been par for the course. But recently the hobby seems to be imploding in some bizarre death spasm that reminds me of that bit in Blue Planet II with the eel in the brine pool. This may be a symptom of its success as the hobby expands and so trends towards an Internet Standard, Lord of the Flies MO. Hopefully its just a growing pain and not something that needs amputating.