Welcome to Developer Month 2019. Between April 8th and May 8th 2019, we will feature a variety of developers, publishers, community personalities and more who will tell us their story. From written interviews and blog posts to video interviews and more, we have curated a range of interesting content to maybe even inspire you to be one of these developers in future years. Please enjoy Developer Month 2019 as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you.
We couldn’t have put together Developer Month without the support of all the developers & publishers involved. Also, huge thanks to Thrustmaster for their assistance in sponsoring Developer Month.
May 1st: Laminar Research (X-Plane 11)
X-Plane 11 has grown into an incredibly popular simulator amongst many thanks to its powerful engine, incredible visuals and the growing number of supporting developers. Marty from the team has taken time from the busy life of promoting X-Plane at events across the world to take part in Developer Month. We find out how he joined the team, some of his biggest challenges and also his tips for staying motivated.
Tell us who you are and what you do to support the X-Plane project/brand?
I’m Marty Arant and I might as well come clean at the beginning and say that I’m 71 years old. That makes me one of the old guys still working in the desktop consumer flight simulation business. I started a flight simulation company producing add-on products in 1996. It was called AETI until we incorporated in 2001. Then we changed our name to Vmax Flight Systems. Years later we sold off our product line and modified our name to Vmax Aero Systems International (or VASI). My intent at that time was to retire and do part-time consulting in the flight simulation marketplace, as I had done several consulting projects with EA and some other entertainment groups in the past. It was during this time in 2010 that I meet with Austin in Columbia and started discussing how I may be able to assist Laminar in expanding the scope of their marketing activities. So I started on a part-time basis and it has now grown into a full-time position. So much for my retirement!
What is a typical day like for you?
It varies but I usually start out by checking the blogs, forums, and news sites to see what is happening in the flight simulation arena. The rest of the day is spent doing various marketing projects for Laminar and assisting with support. I also take care of our Steam account, which has grown to be a huge part of our business during the past few years. I also handle support for Steam. I work with all of our dealers and distributors worldwide on questions, orders, and marketing plans. For the next several weeks much of my time will be getting ready for the upcoming Flight Sim Expo in Orlando. In addition to being in charge of staffing and our booth, I’m busy preparing for our Landing Competition, which takes place on the last day of the expo.
What inspired you to join the Laminar Research team?
Well, I had used X-Plane for years myself to keep up my piloting skills, so when I saw the commitment by Austin and the team to continue to improve the product , I wanted to be a part of it.
What is it like to work with a large team like Laminar Research? How do you communicate and share ideas?
We do have a large team of developers, programmers, and artists but we are also spread around the world. So we communicate and share product code over the internet via email, Skype, and text. We do get together in person twice a year for planning purposes… and also to have some social time together and fun.
Tell us a little bit about your place of work. How do you maintain dedication and discipline to working to deadlines, etc?
I work out of an office in my home, like everyone else at Laminar. I think I can speak for all of the Laminar team members in saying that we are serious about X-Plane development and love the work we are doing. Discipline and dedication are therefore not a problem.
What is your favorite feature with X-Plane 11?
It is and always has been the realistic flight modeling. I’ve been a pilot since 1972 and have both instrument, multi-engine, and commercial ratings. The flight model in X-Plane just feels right, and this is not the case with other consumer-level simulators. We hear this from pilots every day. Real pilots are our biggest and most loyal fans. Austin started working on the first versions of X-Plane by creating a flight physics based on actual aerodynamic forces like lift, thrust, and drag being acted upon by a virtual atmosphere. This means that when a designer creates a 3-D model of an aircraft in X-Plane, it’s going to behave like a real aircraft. The realistic flight characteristics in X-Plane be lost on some virtual pilots, but it’s never lost on real pilots.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your line of work?
I would say there are too many things I would like to do and too many ideas I would like to see implemented… and not enough time them.
Have you ever tried or attempted any development for X-Plane 11? Have you shared any ideas that has made it into a release version?
We all submit ideas on a regular basis and especially during our planning sessions. So yes, I’ve contributed some general ideas for product features. But I leave the programming to the geniuses at Laminar.
How do you work with the community to bring them the information they want to hear about the product?
We interface with the community in a number of ways. It’s interesting to note that there are actually multiple communities… and not just one. There is, of course, the hobbyist or enthusiast community. This is probably the community to which most of your readers belong. But there is also the pilot community, which is growing every day due to the cost of operating and training in actual aircraft. Plus, there is a growing educational market for X-Plane. In addition, there are now millions of X-Plane mobile users running our mobile version on their iPhones and iPads. We engage in a number of marketing activities to reach all of these groups. We have become very active during the past few years for example, in social media. Laminar has very active Facebook page and Twitter feed. In addition we participate in all major flight simulator expos and events around the world. We just returned from AERO in Friedrichshafen, Germany, where we showed X-Plane VR in our booth. Upcoming in June is the Flight Sim Expo in Orlando, Florida, where we are a major sponsor and will be hosting a Landing Competition as a finale to the event. Of course we also participate in numerous forums and advertise in major flight simulation and aviation publications.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved in a similar role as you?
First and foremost… you really need to love aviation and flight simulation if you want to make a career in either of them. There are many opportunities opening up at this time due to the severe worldwide pilot shortage. So whether you’re interested in pursuing a career in real aviation or flight simulation, there are plenty of choices available for a career.
Thank you once again to Marty from Laminar Research (X-Plane 11) for taking part.
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Stay tuned as Developer Month continues tomorrow. Misha from Orbx takes center stage tomorrow.