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Interview: Goran Matovina


Feature: Interview With Goran Matovina



Recently we had the chance to interview Goran Matovina of Leading Edge Simulations who over the past few years has made quite a name for himself as a developer of add-on aircraft for X-Plane. Please read on to learn more about him, his team and current and future plans.











When did you start developing for flight simulators?


I started messing around with the idea at the end of 2008. Having a look at X-Plane, its Planemaker program, Blender (3D modeling program) and whatever else was out there in the way of payware and freeware. Then some time at the beginning of 2009, I started looking into it a little more seriously by spending more of my free time learning about making a completed flight model.


How many designs have you done?


Released designs, three: Beech Sundowner, Beech Duchess, DC-3. Unreleased work in progress: Saab 340A, Cessna Citation II, Boeing 747-200, Boeing 747-400, Hawker 4000.


The Saab is next to be released and it is very close. The Citation will be some time this year. The flight model and 3D model are done and it just needs some color and code. The 742 will be coded by two programmers. The 744 will follow that as we can "recycle" a lot of the code. The Hawker, well, that's a "We'll get it done whenever we get it done" project.














What do you consider your best or most popular work?


I'd have to say the DC-3 is definitely the most popular so far. My best work? That's a tough one. Definitely the Saab 340A. But that's only because we haven't moved on to the heavy airliners yet.


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


I actually enjoy making aircraft add-ons. It gets challenging and very tedious at times, but I get a big kick out of seeing an aircraft take shape and start to work in the sim.


Typing the manuals at the end of everything is definitely the most challenging thing I have to do. The reason is, when I model something or make a flight model, I can learn from it and carry over what I learn to the next project. I even have a library of pre-made gauges, nuts, bolts, switches, etc. for any future projects.


A manual for an aircraft is a one time deal. I don't like the fact that after I finish typing up a manual, it can't be used for anything else in the future as far as an aircraft add-on is concerned. It's unique to the aircraft it's being typed for. And that's something I sometimes struggle with.










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


Everything I do to my designs I have learned from other talented artists. I have an enormous amount of respect for various developers both in the MSFS 3rd party developer community as well as the X-Plane developer community. I look at what is out there and I try to top whatever else has been done. I look at 3D sites like 3DBuzz and CGSociety to see what has been done with regards to extremely high polygon 3D meshes (used in CGI and product advertisements) and then try to find out what I can do to get as close to that detail as possible while keeping the polygon count down to a level the sim can handle.


What are your favorite projects?


Out of the released products, I'd have to say the DC-3. I spent more time with that project than I did with my own wife. Out of the unreleased projects, well, I'm a Boeing guy. There's something about the look of a 747 to a Boeing guy. And I'm having a lot of fun modeling it!


I'm also enjoying the Saab for different reasons. It's actually a fascinating aircraft.










What software packages and tools do you use to develop?


I use Blender for the modeling and animating of objects. It might surprise people that Blender is quite a capable 3D modeling program for the purposes of making add-on aircraft. My texturer uses Blender and Photoshop for texturing and night lighting.


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


The very first developer that caught my attention and got me into seriously looking into developing was Javier Rollon, who made the CRJ-200 for X-Plane. Then I noticed Tom Kyler's MU-2. I figured, these are just regular guys who had to start somewhere (I'm proud to say that I consider these two developers two of my very good friends that I keep in regular contact with).


After I started developing, I was looking at what other developers were doing, as well as scrutinizing their work, and becoming inspired and motivated by their work. A2A, Milviz, PMDG, RealAir. I look at each of these teams for very different reasons.


As far as a mentor, I would have to say Cameron, my publisher. Three years ago, he took a huge chance on me when I didn't even have any work behind me. And he has guided me through the last 3-4 years.














do you develop payware/freeware or both and why?


I never imagined I would fall into the payware arena as quickly as I did. As I mentioned, Cameron saw potential in my work to make it payware. So, for now, it's payware only. That might change as I have been thinking of making a freeware project to give back to the community. But it has to be the right project and the right time.


The Team

How many people work with you or your team?


At the moment, there are three core developers. Myself, Theo Gregory and Jim Gregory. Cameron, my publisher, has had a hand in programming the Saab 340A, but had to withdraw due to keeping X-Aviation running, so he hooked Jim Gregory up with us and now we're pretty well cemented together. We will have another programmer, who is very familiar with 747's, come on board with the 747-200 and -400 very soon.


What do the various members of the team do?


I make all the 3D meshes, the manuals, the flight model and I make everything move in the aircraft. Needles, flaps, landing gear, etc.


Theo Gregory does all the texturing, night lighting and radio LED displays.


Jim Gregory (no relation) does all the systems programming. And when I say systems programming, I mean less than 5% of the Saab 340 is using generic X-Plane systems. Jim has customized very close to everything...from the autopilot to the way the needles move. Jim also made the Cessna Corvalis (with the G1000) for X-Plane.










What other developers or teams have you worked with and what were their rolls


Apart from two contract jobs (non flight sim related), we haven't really worked with anyone else. The two contract jobs were companies that wanted aircraft designs for a specific purpose. Not for retail sale.


Real Life

Do you have any experience, interest in real aviation?


I started flying in August of 1997 and managed to get my PPL with twin engine rating. I still fly on a fairly regular basis, but not as much as I used to.














Any memorable flights in real life?


There are actually a few memorable ones. My very first attempt at a landing. Flared but pulled back too far on the yoke and, with power at idle, bounced the aircraft on the runway. Very lucky the aircraft had sturdy landing gear.


My first solo around the circuit. And my two long distance flights. One was with the instructor and the other one was a solo. When I flew with the instructor, we flew from Hoxton Park to Canberra. The long distance solo was from Hoxton Park to Goulburn.


Would you like to share what you do in real life?


This is it! I started developing aircraft add-ons full time back when I was signed by X-Aviation. Obviously, I wasn't earning what you would call a full time income when I started, but I was in a fortunate position to be able to dedicate all my time to add on development.


Have you ever considered doing flight simulator development full-time?


Doing it now and I honestly couldn't see myself doing anything else. I've been working as a developer, literally, 7 days a week for the last 3-4 years.















How do you choose your next new design or project?


We all have a big meeting. Theo, Jim, Cameron and myself (I have a lot of respect for Cameron's opinion. When a teenager of 13 years of age can start a site like XPlane Freeware and keep it going for more than 10 years, you know his opinion has a lot of value!). We discuss every facet of the project.


We look at what is already out there in the community. Is the market demanding a particular aircraft (Cessna, Boeing, Airbus, Pilatus...) or a particular type of aircraft (GA, turboprop, jet...).


Once we make a tentative decision on what type of aircraft we would like to see created, we need to know if we can get the resources for building it. We need the docs for the flight model, diagrams and photos for the 3D mesh and textures, and consultants and testers for fine tuning and testing. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how accomodating some flying schools and even commercial pilots can be. Obviously, for security reasons, we cannot get access to an airliner that is actually in service at the international airport, but pilots of those aircraft have offered up their time to take photos and provide documentation and videos of various cockpit goings-on.














Airliners.net is a great resource for reference photos for the modeling side of things, but it isn't possible to get the textures looking crisp without hi-res photos.


Then, when we can positively determine that we can get absolutely everything we need, we take the next step. Jim starts reading manuals to prepare for programming and Theo starts sorting through photos for texturing.


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


Only X-Plane 10 for now. As for the future...who knows.


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


Development is always growing and changing. There are some incredibly innovative developers out there who have done some astonishing work. And all that is a win/win situation for everyone. Simmers get the realism they want and developers are trying to raise the bar further than the previous "big thing", making THEM better at what they do.














Your Thoughts

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


X-Plane has, since its inception, been the underdog against MSFS. So, while it was definitely recognized, albeit slightly, it was usually forced to give way to the MSFS juggernaut.


I've been coming to FlightSim.Com for many years, and it's fantastic that there is an X-Plane banner on the front page and forums.


However, we need more "news" articles. If more sites mention news on any upcoming or released projects on their new page, that would be a great start for getting X-Plane and its 3rd party products known to the public. The information needs to be out there. Make people aware of what X-Plane is and what is being developed for it.


An example of keeping people informed would be that there is a huge misconception that X-Plane's constant updates keep "breaking" 3rd party add-ons. This is simply not true. I have three add-ons out for X-Plane 9 and none of them have ever had issues with any new updates.














If people have the information, they can make well educated decisions based on hard facts from the people that know. Not rumors based on opinions started by a random individual.


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


I'm loving where things are going!


The flight simming community is its own nice little "clubhouse". I have seen some incredibly passionate flight simmers who treat this as much more than just a hobby. I'm stunned when I see bedrooms converted into home cockpits. For many people, it's an escape from the pressures of the real world. And for those with that kind of passion, it cannot be just switched off. This will continue. I have seen forum posts from fathers saying they have kids as young as 5 or 6 wanting to "fly an airplane on daddy's computer". Even my own 6 year old girl started loving aircraft when I took her for some plane spotting at Sydney International a few years back. Nowadays, every few weeks, she asks "Can we go to the airport today, daddy?" She'll even give me feedback on my projects. And she is brutally honest.


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


Promotion, promotion and more promotion. News articles. Information and education. Objective reviews. Staying in the loop with developers and publishers. Personally, I welcome any comments and questions through email, PM or Skype from anyone showing interest in anything to do with X-Plane or my work.


I've noticed what FlightSim.Com has been doing over the past year and it's well and truly heading in the right direction. The recent addition of an X-Plane enthusiast as a moderator is another giant step forward.














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


We really do love what we do!


We're shooting for some ridiculous detail and accuracy and we're always trying to improve on things that have already been done.


We're always trying to outdo ourselves in every area of creating an add-on. Whether it's the 3D model, the textures, the night lighting or the programming. We even challenge each other in what we can do. However, this is usually followed by statements like "Are you completely NUTS!?" or "I punch you!" by the person being challenged. But at the end of the day, we're all ecstatic that we can do this for a "living".


Goran Matovina

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