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 3rd – Sergio from Helisimer
Whilst not a developer in the same respect as others we have featured, Sergio from Helisimer is very much a part of this community and produces incredible content for those with a desire to learn more about helicopter simulation. We couldn’t resist interviewing someone who is part of the media world, along with us, to gain some insight into how Sergio turned the passion of helicopters into an incredible resource for the community.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Well, I’m a 43-year-old developer (not an addon or flight sim developer but more of a windows/web dev) from Portugal. I’ve been simming for over 25 years and started with MSFS 4.
I am also the founder and editor of HeliSimmer.com, a website dedicated to helicopter flight simulation, completely sim-agnostic.
I’m also involved with a few addon/sim/hardware development companies, helping them with their products. On some of them I act solely as an “advisor” or provide input about their products and help them develop them. On other companies, I help them test stuff and/or gathered a small team of pilots to do so.
You are renowned for your love and passion for helicopters. Where did this enthusiasm start?
I have always been curious about helicopters but, like most simmers or aviation lovers out there, I didn’t pay too much attention to them. People usually prefer the action fury of combat jets or the glamour of airliners as they identify themselves with those aircraft.
Helicopters, nonetheless, were very present in my memory since I was a kid as I started to notice them being used to save lives. The characteristics of these machines were amazing and allowed for a huge amount of different missions. Saving lives – one that really resonates with me – was one of them. It was a big part of what made them so interesting to me.
Back in 1997, when FS98 was shipped with the first helicopter in the series – the Bell 206 – I was curious, but I still didn’t pay too much attention to it. Especially because I couldn’t fly the darn thing. I came back to it now and then, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I decided to really dedicate myself to helicopters and drop the airliners and props I used to fly until then.
From them on, most of my simming time would be spent with this kind of flying machines. I think that during the last 20 years or so, 98% of my simming time was spent on helicopters.
Have you had many opportunities to get involved in helicopters in the real world?
The helicopter market here in Portugal is small and helicopter flights in general are expensive but they are even more here since our wages are not exactly stellar. I’ve only flown in a helicopter once – courtesy of my amazing wife, which offered me the flight.
Other than that, I’ve talked to a few pilots and visited a flight school or two but, unfortunately, I never got involved with the industry.
Why did you decide to get involved in reporting heli-related news and content to the community?
This is kind of a 2-parts story, actually. Bear with me if you want to learn a bit of the history of HeliSimmer.com.
Back in 1999 I was a huge fan of a game called SWAT3 – the 3rd instalment of the SWAT series. I loved it so much that I decided to do a fan site which became one of the two most visited SWAT3 websites in the world. Back then I had over 14,000 pageviews/day. That’s fourteen thousand! And, remember, this was in 1999! These were amazing numbers for a fan-created website back then.
If AdSense existed like it did half a decade later, I would have probably gotten rich (AdSense nowadays sucks, you probably know that).
The website eventually shut down (it literally died of success as I couldn’t afford to host it anymore – true story), but I gained a lot of experience back then. I was in touch with the development team, learned how to deal with the community (I was also made a moderator for the official Sierra/Vivendi forums) and I loved the experience.
A few years later I learned about HoverControl and learned a lot about helicopter flight simulation with the team and the community. The website was more about the forums and a few articles but not about news. So, I decided to start a free pdf magazine about helicopter flight simulation, with news, development articles and product reviews. Rotorwash Magazine was born but, due to lack of time (mostly because I was writing articles but also doing the layout of the magazine), it died after 2 issues.
But the bug was there. I wanted to do something for the community. Especially the helicopter flight simulation community. The idea kept in my head. The name HeliSimmer was something I had on my mind since then and, finally, in 2015, I decided to go forth.
I had lost my job so I had some time on my hands as I was working on a project to start my own business, so I decided to try a content management platform the best way I know how: to actually use it on a project. In this case, HeliSimmer.com. I started it using Wordpress, in order to reduce the time-to-market, as I wanted to release it regardless of that platform I wanted to try, but I had plans to migrate it at a later stage, which I did.
So, in a nutshell, HeliSimmer.com was born from my will to get involved, serve and give back to the community. I love being involved with the simmers, the companies, bring you guys the news and help everyone in general.
Have you seen a change in people’s appreciation for helicopter simming over the recent years since you started HeliSimmer.com?
Definitely. People are more aware of helicopters, learn a bit more about them in both the website [www.helisimer.com] and our Facebook Group [https://www.facebook.com/groups/helicopterflightsim] and they now understand that these machines can be fun.
More than that, they realize that helicopters ARE hard to fly (it’s not their fault) and that others have gone through the exact same problems but have managed to overcome them.
You’ve started to venture out and attend events. What is this like for you and how has it helped with the direction for HeliSimmer.com?
I need to thank our community for that. I started a Patreon page [https://www.patreon.com/helisimmer] to help me do that and, although we didn’t completely reach the goal, it’s allowing me to do it – although a bit more limited in terms of events I can attend.
I was able to go to Cosford last year, for the FlightSim Show (where Calum and I finally met!) and I will attend (and speak at) the FlightSim Expo in Orlando. I am still trying to figure out if I can attend Cosford this year again.
Sergio speaking to the community at events (and clearly telling Jarrad to put more helipads in…)
Being able to attend these events is not only a humbling experience, because I am doing it thanks to our community’s support but also very exciting and something I never thought I’d be able to do outside Portugal.
Taking to developers face to face, provide my input directly, answering some of their questions regarding the rotary wing aspect of simulation and overall interacting with the community (simmers, developers, companies, etc.) has brought me and HeliSimmer.com closer to the community. In a global, digital world, facetime is still very important, and people start seeing you as a fellow human, a guy with a passion and not just a name on a monitor.
This opens doors. It makes a real difference and that has been a game changer in the way I can reach out to people and how folks now see HeliSimmer.com. It’s almost as if it became “a real thing” because people meet me in person and talk to me. Because of that, I got more involved on some projects out there.
What are your primary goals for HeliSimmer.com in the next 12 months?
I have a couple of plans for the website. Some things are already in motion but since HeliSimmer.com is not how I put food on the table, things take time.
One of the things I’d want to finish is the e-learning platform I’m developing for the website where users can take courses about helicopter and helicopter flight simulation. That’s a major goal. After that, other things will come that some readers have been asking me about, but I’d rather not talk about them right now.
Other than that, I want to keep expanding our reader base, help more and more companies, reach out to other developers – especially hardware developers such as Thrustmaster, Logitech and others – and make them aware of our market, which is a niche inside a niche but which can still be catered, sometimes with a low investment on their behalf.
How do you think you’ve impacted on developers / publishers in recent times? We’ve seen a lot more scenery product includes helicopter landing pads (which I assume you’ve had a hand in )
Well… Yes! Some developers have come to me and tell me they have added helipads on their scenery because of me and that I have made them more aware to the community. Adding them is not very time-consuming and it can suddenly make your product a lot more attractive to a group of simmers that would probably not even look twice at your scenery!
I know of other developers that are considering doing helicopters after being in the market for years doing other kinds of addons as well.
At the same time, I’ve been able to bridge the gap between the community and developers or manufacturers as well. By having a platform that is being followed by a few thousand potential buyers, companies now have a way to expose their products to the persons that are interested in them.
Our audience is their target and vice-versa. So, companies get a targeted audience and our readers have more and more exposure to the products they are potentially interested in, to improve and expand their passion.
As a media outlet, what are some of the challenges you face?
I wouldn’t say there are “challenges”. This is a passion project that I make out of love and I have had the luck to find a few persons that help me now and then with articles and reviews.
Nonetheless, if you want to call it a challenge, the biggest one would be the lack of income that could allow me to focus more on the project. Like I said, this is not how I put money on the table and it’s not my goal either, let me be very honest about it.
I don’t want HeliSimmer.com to become a job but I would like to be able to do a bit more of money with it that could allow me to attend more events (I’m still putting some of my money when I travel) an perhaps set more time aside to develop features (the current website was developed by me).
Despite these challenges, what do you do to stay motivated?
Passion, passion, passion.
The passion for the hobby, the passion for helping the community and the passion for sharing all this with the newcomers and get them to realize helicopters are fun and our community is one of the best out there.
You may not be a developer within the simulator yourself, but you have a good understanding of the community and so forth. What would your advice to developers out there looking to make products?
Listen to the community. Understand how it works and what’s needed in the market. We have a lot of room for a lot of products in this market, especially good helicopters with realistic flight dynamics.
The community is eager to get great products and, if you think about it, there are not a lot of good helicopters out there. Yes, it’s a small market when compared with the airliner market, for example, but helicopters have simpler systems and the community is growing.
Thank you once again to Sergio from Helisimmer for taking part.
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Stay tuned as Developer Month continues tomorrow. Developer legend Bill Womack takes center stage to discuss on of his new upcoming airports.