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Interview: Craig Richardson


Freeware Focus: Craig Richardson



We recently had the chance to interview freeware aircraft designer Craig Richardson. Craig has created quite a variety of both old and new light planes which have been very popular with downloaders.



When did you start developing for flight simulators?


My passion for aircraft comes from my father who makes flying model aircraft, radio controled and free flight (rubber powered). From a very young age I was taken to airshows at RAF Halton and Old Warden here in the UK. I was in awe of those vintage planes! The pops and crackles of the engines gave me goose bumps all over.


I remember back in June 1995 and I was given BAO Flight Shop for my 17th birthday, I was so excited! I loaded it up and (tried) modeling something; this was 6 AM before my day at school 🙂














So with BAO Flight Shop (which I still have), the first add-on I created was a Messerschmitt Me-163. All I can remember is that it was very blocky.... The first model I uploaded to the web was a Flying Flea here at FlighSim.Com which is from 2003.


I soon bought FS2002 Professional which had Gmax included on the CD which is basically 3ds max without a renderer, and I soon started creating add-ons. The learning curve of this software was very steep for me as I had never used anything like it before, but with a little determination and SEVERAL years later I can say that I'm happy how my planes look in the sim.


How many designs have you done?


I've made around 40 unique aircraft models for both FS2004 and FSX, but most of my planes have different variants within the packages.


For example the Heinkel He-51 has two variants; the production model with wheel spats and tail skid and the prototype variant which has a tail wheel and no wheel spats. The Erco Ercoupe has several options for different configurations by using a clipboard on the passenger seat, with a single click you can add and remove parts including wheel spats, hub caps and landing lights.


Pretty much anything can be done by making custom animations and visibility in the model such as the Corby Starlet's daggable canopy and the Optica's winter kit. Although this sounds quite easy I can assure you it isn't unless you are fluent in XML, it's like learning a different language.


What do you consider your best or most popular work?


Probably my most popular aircraft would probably be the Heinkel He-51 for FSX which took over a year in development, showing 1482 downloads from my site alone. The Heinkel was one of those projects where you start on the exterior model and then you start researching the interior... that was the problem! Between myself and Huub Vink I think we had about three or four photos of the cockpit and panel, In the end I think it turned out pretty close.














The most difficult part about modelling the Heinkel was getting the fuselage the correct shape, so many different angles on that nose, all I can say is that it took a few goes to get it right... I really tried to push my modelling abilities on this project seeing how the virtual bar has been raised so high these days by other development groups.


What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of a project?


Finding data on older and rare aircraft including good cockpit diagrams and photos can be very difficult and sometimes requires artistic license.


What are some of the unique or special things your designs have or can do?


My Ercoupe has a clipboard on the passenger seat which you can select different airframe options and extras including wheel spats/pants and different canopy configurations. On some of my aircraft the red button on the control stick does certain things. For instance, in the Heinkel He-51 it displays or hides the bombs and in the Corby Starlet it removes the canopy, and in the Optica it adds the "Winter Kit".


What are your favorite projects?


I'm not sure if I have a favorite as I'm passionate about all of them but I do prefer the older aircraft because of their visual character and the fact that most of them haven't been modelled in Flight Simulator before, which gives myself and others the chance to get a feeling of what it was like to fly a plane that is either in a museum or non-existent.


What software packages and tools do you use?


The main packages I use are: 3ds Max 9, Photoshop, AirWrench, FS Panel and Sound Studio.


Who would you consider to be your mentors or inspiration in the development world?


Probably the master of flightsim was Bill Lyons. His aircraft and sceneries were something very special and I wanted to make planes like his.














The Team

What other developers or teams have you worked with and what where their rolls? How many people work with you or your team? What do the various members of the team do?


I have worked with a few developers including Huub Vink and Damian Radice (painters) Pam Brooker (flight dynamics) and William Ortis (Lionheart Creations). I don't really have a team as such, I do most of my own work but if I'm really struggling to get something right I'll ask on the forums for help.


Real Life

Do you have any experience or interest in real aviation? Any memorable flights in real life? Would you like to share what you do in real life? Have you ever considered doing flight simulator development full-time?


My first flight in a light aircraft was a de Havilland Tiger Moth, which was an amazing experience which I thoroughly recommend if you get the chance.


My full time job is a baker. I have thought about developing for flight simulator full time but from what I can see it's not very lucrative.



How do you choose your next new design or project?


When choosing the next project I usually look through my collection of 3-view drawings I have and if anything catches my eye I'll start researching.


What simulators do you design for now and what ones do you plan to develop for in the future?


I currently design aircraft for FSX and Prepar3D. I did give X-Plane a try but didn't get on with their system. I will continue to develop for FSX/Prepar3D as those are the main sims in my book.














In what ways do you see development changing in the future?


With the release of Prepar3D to academics, professionals and developers this has given the simulator community something to look forward to as it's being constantly updated every six months or so, and rumors of version 2.0 maybe this year (2013) this gives developers more time as they don't have to race against the next major version of Flight Simulator.


Aircraft models and systems are becoming more and more complex. When I started designing you didn't have a virtual cockpit, click switches, reflective glass, bump maps, the list goes on and who knows what will be in future releases of Prepar3D or the next GA sim but the future is definitely a lot brighter than three years ago.


Your Thoughts

What can sites like FlightSim.Com do to support the hobby?


FlightSim.com is a great resource for the community with the huge file library and forums for almost anything FS related. The payware reviews are also a great addition.


How do you feel about the future of flight simulation in general?


I believe the future of flight sim is with Prepar3D although there is AeroFly and X-Plane among the civilian simulators and I'm sure there will be more to come...


What are some of the most important things a site or community can do to help the developers?


I have seen in a lot of forums, people commenting about things not working on such and such aircraft/scenery, the key here is to be constructive in your comments to help us developers make a better end product. We're not perfect 😉 and things do slip under the radar.


What would you like people to know about you or your team and work?


I make planes for Flight Simulator because, well I love it! I put a lot of effort into the planes. Development can take as little as two weeks for the Jeannin Taube or up to one year for the Heinkel He-51.






Craig Richardson
View Craig Richardson add-ons in the FlightSim.Com file library

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