Nope, not another preview, but a blog post about a little road trip I took on Friday, back down to Seattle, to visit the wizards themselves, ACES Studios. Paul Lange, the lead designer on FSX, invited me over for a tour of their shop and to meet the FSX team, and I have to say I was highly impressed. I'd had the pleasure of meeting Hal and Mike Singer at the Avsim conference but it was great to meet Paul and Phil Taylor and many of the other team members and see the shop itself. And before you ask, yes I got a look at some FS11 stuff, and no I'm not saying a bloody word about it, sorry. ;)
What I can tell you is that they're a seriously cool bunch and I was really impressed with everyone I met. Their passion for flying is simply indisputable. Unlike any other game developer I've worked at or even visited, these guys and girls really do care about what they make. I've been in the business long enough to know the difference.
I'm not sure what struck me more, seeing the truly *insane* amount of aircraft paraphernalia and models on every wall and desk (and floor) or the single unopened Flight Simulator 1.0 box I saw in a glass case. That was quite a moment, had to sort of stop and stare at it for a minute. Thanks Bruce Artwick, we all owe you one. :)
We spent a lot of time talking about FSX and the future of flight simulator and I was really surprised at how many things we agreed on, right down to recent addon aircraft we like. Despite the limits imposed by current hardware and systems their vision of where the software could go is pretty cool and far reaching, and while I can't talk about the bits they're working on for the next version I can say that there's going to be some pretty serious wow factor in it if things go according to plan. Even at this very early stage in its development I was impressed with what I saw. Secondarily I had a little bit of a "cult hero's" welcome there from several people which *really* threw me off. I have a few fans at Aces it seems and I found that quite humbling haha.
Their place itself is quite nice actually. Externally it's your typical business park type layout, though at least they have real trees all around it (are you listening San Jose?) but inside it's anything but dull. Bright, spacious, airy and colourful, lots of windows, plenty of toys around and a very complete hot cafeteria (good calzones!). They have quite the art collection of screenshots on their walls as well, many of them by Mango and Cell, two of the best FSX still photographers out there. I also had a look at some of the art in Train Sim 2.0 and found myself remembering a time when I was very young, a rare moment long ago when trains were actually cooler to me than aircraft. :)
Yeah, ok, that didn't last, but I can see that project being a fun alternative for their art team for awhile especially. I can tell you from personal experience that you can burn out on game art pretty fast if you keep doing the same damn thing version after version, year after year. Franchise games are particularly hard on artists and programmers, so for anyone who thinks they should forget this train stuff and get back to FS, think of it instead as a working vacation for them, good for their well being and by extension for the well being of Flight Simulator.
So my thanks to Paul and the Aces team for a great and highly informative afternoon. It was pretty awesome to meet the people who make a product I've been addicted to for over 20 years. ;)
I didn't even get stuck at the border for three hours on the way home as I usually do. Maybe Canada Customs finally located their brains.