Friday, November 20, 2009

Cobwebs and Tumbleweeds...

Been a hell of a long time since I posted here it seems, but I have an excuse in the form of an all-consuming project which is called "supporting the L-39". :)

Life the past few months has been quite an education, I'll say that much. Between bug solving, and learning what it is that simmers like and don't like about the Albatros, and fixing and improving it in two full updates, I've been pretty damned busy. It's been fun though. Aside from the CTD bugs in the first week, thankfully quickly sorted, I think the launch went as smoothly as could be expected. Somewhere in the middle of all that I went to Ireland, which was great, but I don't remember much of it, my head is so full of code these days. It was very green, that much I do remember. Oh and everyone drives like maniacs, loved that part.

Today I sent out what I think will be the final update for the 'tros, v1.3, which sort of puts the lid on the whole thing and wraps it up in nice shiny paper. It includes the last of the major user requested features, namely RXP GPS compatibility, and adds some new paints (those are fun to make!) and other stuff.

So that leaves me really, starting tomorrow, with a whole lot of nothing to do! Well, not really. I have a lot to do actually, but at the moment it mostly involves some thick textbooks and learning little things like C++ and Simconnect. Yes, there will be a second plane, at least one is fully planned. What will it be? Not sure I'm ready to make it fully public yet, still have a lot to figure out first, but it has two engines, one seat, it's not American, and it's FAST. :) I got to sit in one on my vacation, and it's quite simply a badass machine, one that demands respect even standing next to it.

I must say that despite the odd bug and hiccup I feel quite gratified to see that my entirely stubborn and inflexible philosophy on aircraft design did actually pan out in the end, specifically that the majority of users are happy with how I built this thing. Framerate performance does matter most and I feel that there's really no excuse for not making a plane shared cockpit compatible (if it has two seats mind you!) because it's just not that hard to do, compared to the other aspects of coding anyway. It just requires thinking in terms of bandwidth consumption a bit more when it comes to variables and how often they are updated. It's actually kind of an enjoyable logic problem sometimes, and the endeavour to maintain shared cockpit functionality comes complete with some mighty humourous results when you get it wrong!

I did ultimately have to eat a bit of humble pie though when I realized that draw calls do actually matter, just not for the reason everyone thinks. It turns out that excessive numbers of them can, even when efficiently structured, stall the PCI-E bus on heavily overclocked systems. Not good! Luckily I've been able to mostly mitigate that problem in the L-39 updates, and know how to avoid that issue entirely for the next project.

Additionally it's also been a ton of fun getting to know some of my customers by flying with them in multiplayer, something I suspect a lot of devs don't do often. They've given me some great insights into their perspective as end users, things I will be keeping in mind for the next project for sure. Our little (ok, long...) celebratory flight from Vancouver to Vodochody is nearly at an end, and it's been a blast to fly along with so many others in L-39s. I get an indescribable satisfaction from each one of those flights, using the results of a year and a half of hard work in exactly the way it was intended to be used. Hopefully there will be more in the months to come.

Anyway, I'm honestly not sure what purpose this blog will serve going into the future from here. I came to the realization on August 3rd, the moment that the L-39 went on sale actually, that I no longer have the right to publicly say whatever I please about the flight simulator industry and those who partake in it. I gave up that right willingly though, something a few other rather vocal members of this community might want to try doing, but really, after experiencing firsthand what it actually takes to see an FSX plane through to completion I have the utmost respect for any developer that chooses to deal with all the ups and down and pitfalls of this career! Some days I'm surprised anyone bothers, but I'm glad they do. :)

So since I have the right to keep my mouth shut I'll mostly be keeping my opinions to myself from here on out... mostly. ;)

Lotus is now staring at a blank screen once again, for the first time in a year and a half. Whew... here we go again!