Infinite Flight Developer Interview
Conducted by Dominic Smith
Matt, what were your reasons for deciding to create a flight simulator for the mobile market?
Infinite Flight was initially started from a side project I had been working on for many years. When Microsoft decided to cancel the Flight Simulator franchise, I was working in Silicon Valley for a popular graphics card company. One of my colleagues and good friend (Philippe) and I decided that the timing was right to enter the market and join forces to create a new flight simulator based around my original flight model. After a few weeks, we quickly realized that while it would take years for us to reach the same level as existing simulators available on the desktop, we could create a minimum viable product for the mobile market. This product could then (theoretically) be updated frequently (based on community feedback) so as to build something competitive.
About 6 months later, we shipped our first version: Windows Phone in 2011, iOS in 2012, and a year later on Android/Amazon.
To summarize, it's not something that was decided in one day, it's more of an organic chain of events that made us go from a standalone hobby flight sim to a commercial mobile app.
Tell us about your products and what you feel are its strongest and most fun features for the end user.
Infinite Flight features dozens of airplanes, ranging from the Cessna 172 or Cirrus SR22 to large airliners like the Airbus A380, Boeing 777, as well as fighters, warbirds, and more. It has many flyable areas with hundreds of airports (full taxiway layouts), weather configuration, autopilot, flight planning, realistic flight physics, multiple camera views, extremely functional controls, time of day settings, replay system, and much much more. We also recently added a new multiplayer mode, we call it Infinite Flight Live. It's a world where all pilots connect and fly together with radio, real time weather, etc.
The target audience is very wide as we've received feedback from students, real world GA and airline pilots, retirees and professionals; so quite a broad spectrum.
In terms of strongest features, I'd say it is a mix of flight physics, detailed airplane models and our new Live (multiplayer) feature, the latter being the strongest one. Infinite Flight Live opened up a whole new world of possibilities and reinforced our commitment to community engagement.
There's an extremely active community of fans on several Facebook groups, and these guys organize daily events and fly-ins in Live with different themes. We're going to reinforce this in our next update with more features for Live, including Live ATC where users will be able to act as ATC controllers for tower/ground/approach, etc. To give you an idea, it will be something similar to what is already available on IVAO/VATSIM. We've been beta testing this for a few months and all the testers love it!
We also organize official weekly events, with different themes each time. This brings a lot of pilots together (think half hour queues before take off at KLAX).
How is beta testing implemented at Infinite Flight? Is it open to the public, or do you have a set team?
We have a core team of private beta testers; these include passionate users we've recruited over a period of time. Occasionally we do have open public betas. In fact, we actually have a semi open beta right now for the new ATC features we're incorporating. We couldn't really use the production server since the changes we made broke compatibility. Because of this, we opened a semi public beta. We do however filter the types of users we accept in this group. We need people that can help us find bugs, not give us more work if you know what I mean.
What would you say the biggest challenge is when it comes to developing for the mobile market?
The biggest challenge is the hardware. For two reasons; first, because even if mobile processors are getting more powerful each year, we still have to deal with a wide variety of device configurations. The second challenge we face is mostly related to Android. Some vendors release way too many mobile devices into the market without paying much attention to the graphics drivers they ship with them. This can lead to rendering problems that are hard to diagnose and fix, especially if this is happening on some obscure phone that only ships in one country.