Interview With Andras Fabian
Tell us a little bit about yourself and the sorts of things you have done or enjoyed besides flight simulation? (This can included jobs, education, interests, hobbies, accomplishments, places lived, etc.)
Hi, let me introduce myself quickly. I am Andras Fabian, in my mid-thirties, with a nice little family, and a cool, non-flightsim, but strongly computer related (like databases, servers, etc.) job in southeastern Germany. And even though I live in Germany (half of my life in the meantime) originally I come from Hungary which is the reason for my "non-typical German" name. But don't confuse it with my pseudonym Alpilotx, which has really nothing to do with a real name (still, I like to use it in full, and not shortened to "alpiolot" like many do in some forums ;-) ). It originates from the time when - and almost nobody knows this - I created my first login here at FlightSim.Com (roughly 15-16 years ago), and needed to come up with a user name (but why exactly it ended up to be "alpilotx" ... I can't recall anymore).
Beside flight simulators I am an "outdoor" type of guy. This means, that I like to spend time outside. I even do my daily (not so short) commute to work by bicycle, go skiing in winter, go mountaineering or hiking in the summer (mostly in the European Alps), and in between just go climbing indoor or on real rocks (which we have plenty in my region).
Do you have any real world aviation experience, fly any planes, or own any aircraft?
No, I don't fly myself, but dreamed about it all the time while I was a kid. At school, I have even considered becoming an airliner pilot one day. But then, time passed, and instead I studied computer sciences, because computers became a big hobby too. In the end, I wouldn't say I regret this decision, and in the very long run, this effectively paved the way to be where I am today. Namely, combining my love of flight in general, and my knowledge (and partly also kind of "love") to computers, data structures, algorithms, science, etc.
When did you first get interested in using flight simulators and what attracted you use them?
That's a very long time back, but will sound quite similar to many other "flight sim enthusiast" interviews I have read over the years. Yes, it started with the good old C64, and the - at that time - SubLogic FS 2.0. Because - as I told above - I was always fascinated by flight, it was the most natural thing to grab the first possible flight sim software I could have. And there were quite a few beside FS 2.0, like "Fighter Bomber", or "The Jet", etc. (these are the few names I can recall from the C64 era). Then, as time passed, and computer systems changed, I still never stopped to try every possible flight simulator (I am sure I have still missed too many) I could come by like FS5.0, FS5.1, FS95, FS98, FS2000, FS2004 or Gunship 2000, all the Comanche sims, etc.
And slowly I also learned, that there was that other sim, X-Plane ... which I heard of first when it was - maybe - around Version 5 or 6. But I only really switched over to it, when it reached Version 8. It might be interesting, that there was "another" reason, why I did this switch so happily (at that time from FS2004). It was because X-Plane started supporting Linux with Version 8, and this coincided with my own motivations, which moved me away from the Microsoft Windows world. So, it was a perfect match ... and I never regretted the change (neither to X-Plane, nor to Linux - even though I still have a lot to do with MS Windows products in my "normal" day job).
Do you develop flight simulation full time and if so what made you decide to go full time?
Well, I have already given away the answer a few times above so the answer is clearly "no". Although I really, really enjoy the things I do for X-Plane, I also enjoy to have it as a "hobby" (even though many outsiders would call it - without hesitation - something more like a job :-) ) which gives me enough freedom, to do it all at a pace which I find appropriate (which can strongly vary over time ... sometimes I am full in, and sometimes I don't touch the sim for weeks) and enjoyable.
What advice would you give other aspiring developers that would like to make a living designing for X-Plane?
I think, at the moment there are only a few developers out there, who really do full time development for X-Plane. Which might be for the simple reason, that the X-Plane market is - in many areas - still not big enough to let someone bet his entire living on it. So, whoever intends to step in (in a commercial way) needs either a very good financial backing (like winning the lottery - yes, in that case, I might go full time :-) ) or just some other way to secure his everyday living. That removes the big pressure of needing inevitable success, which rarely comes at a snap (and almost never, when you would need it the most).
Second - and this might sound obvious - of course it's highly recommended to take some time to really, really understand the basics of how X-Plane's different systems work. I can only talk for the scenery, but I can assure you, that it's not a simple beast and also - in some areas - quite different from its big cousin (for good and bad). On the other hand, after so many years I do (already) appreciate it the way it is (which didn't come overnight :-) ) and I am sometimes surprised, how people don't understand this or that. But quite often it's not their fault, and it helps me to realize, that I am quite deeply into all of this technical stuff of X-Plane, and need to step back and describe things on another level (which I do every now or then in all the forums I participate in).
I have a third advice especially for scenery developers. Know the real world, embrace its beauty and then try to capitalize on this in your work! This is not only a romantic idea, but can have real, practical implications. For example in my Global Scenery work I have more than once benefitted from my hiking trips in the Alps. I made it a habit, that when I change something in my raw data, rules, code etc. I go out and re-check some of the regions which I know from real life. Because I know those regions, I very quickly notice, if something is totally wrong (which of course was and is the case many times). And similarly I can imagine, that any scenery developer, who has seen the objects / landscape he models, can more quickly see problems or things which don't work as intended in the simulated environment.