Earlier this week, we wrote about three flying games available for your Nokia Lumia smartphone. One of those games was Infinite Flight and we’ve been lucky enough to catch up with the CEO and Co-Founder of Flying Development Studio LLC, Matthieu Laban, to find out more about this realistic flight sim.
Tell us about Infinite Flight. Who’s behind it?
“Infinite Flight is a civilian flight simulator. It’s an app for anyone with or without a passion for aviation who wants to experience the feeling of flying an airplane and allows the user to fly multiple aircraft (14+) from the small Cessna 172 to big airliners like the A340, Boeing 747. It features missions, tutorials, configurable weather settings, 130+ airports in 2 regions and more. Infinite Flight is an ever evolving project that we’re constantly trying to improve by using feedback from the users. We gather this feedback from a dedicated site and the most popular features are implemented. If they’re possible, of course.”
“Behind this project is Philippe Rollin, CTO and Co-Founder, and myself, Matthieu Laban, CEO and Co-Founder (pictured at the top of the post). Two developers with a passion for aviation, flight simulation and 3D Graphics. I take care of the aviation and flight simulation parts, while Philippe specialises in the 3D engine, terrain and weather systems.”
Why did you decided to create a flight simulator?
“We were both working on bits and pieces of simulators for a while. I more on the flight simulation part, and Philippe was experimenting with terrain rendering. We decided to join forces to create a new flight simulator in 2010, shortly after Microsoft decided to discontinue their flight simulation product.”
“The original goal was to create it for PC, but as Windows Phone release came close, it was decided that shifting focus to a smaller platform to begin with would be a wise choice.”
Are there any other projects you work on, besides Infinite Flight?
“Infinite Flight is the only project we are are working on. Flight simulators are a special breed of games, and they can’t really be finished. There’s always something to improve or add to the app. We’ve been releasing updates for a year now, about once every month or two, and there is still years of work for us judging by the statistics on our feedback site.”
What sort of research do you have to go through to create a realistic flight simulator?
“It has mostly been through Google and Wikipedia to find out about how to compute lift, drag, and other forces that act on airplanes”
“Same goes for each individual airplane specification. The hard part is to support multiple types of airplanes with a single physics engine. Airplanes don’t all behave the same way, a Boeing 787 will be much slower to react than a F/A-18, so the physics engine has to take all sorts of parameters into account to make sure the flight model is as accurate as possible.”
“Each airplane has dozens of configurable variables from lift curves, weights, thrust of engines, to landing gear springs… We’ve been lucky enough with the flight model so far, pretty much every airplane we’ve put in the app has behaved somewhat realistically by inputting the real world data in the airplane settings.”
How many man hours has gone into creating Infinite Flight?
“We lost count of it, but it’s probably in the thousands.”
What language do you write in? Can anybody at home create something similar?
“We write the app in C# and the 3D rendering is done with XNA. The User Interface is done using XAML which we parse to render it with XNA.”
“Anybody could write their own app, there is nothing special about this app, it’s been developed with the standard Microsoft Windows Phone SDK. All it takes is time and passion :)”
What sort of problems do you have to overcome when developing/maintaining this game?
“Performance has been a big issue and continues to be one of the biggest problems we have across platforms. The original Windows Phone devices were pretty slow and we had to spend a lot of time optimising the app to get a descent frame rate. Optimisations were done both on the flight sim code as well as the 3D engine. The biggest bottlenecks were garbage collection and the weaknesses of the GPU.”
“Other than that, it’s the typical debugging issues you encounter in any apps. One specific to our app might be that we spent quite a bit of time making sure the physics engine was as accurate as we could without sacrificing performance too much.”
What’s next for Infinite Flight? What are the future plans?
“We have plans to port Infinite Flight to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 as well as other platforms on the market. Our next order of business is to improve the terrain system. We’d like to support bigger areas with more detail (3D objects, etc…). After that, we’d like to implement networking, improve the weather system… We have work for years to come.”