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 8th – Thrustmaster
Welcome to the final day of Developer Month. The past month we have delivered on our promise of providing daily content covering a wide variety of developers in different roles, platforms and more. It’s been an incredible journey and none of this would have been possible without the support of Thrustmaster. What a more fitting way to conclude Developer Month than speaking to someone at the team from Thrustmaster.
Thrustmaster are well known in the gaming industry for their suite of peripherals. From racing steering wheels to of course, flight simulation products. The Thrustmaster team are spread across the world seeking feedback from users everywhere to provide better experiences and products as they continue to refine their selection. Two of their most recent releases include the TPR Peddal Set and their T-Flight Air Force Edition headset – both of which we have reviewed.
In our final Developer Month interview, we speak to Gilles Raulet, Thrustmaster Development Director to talk about his journey, what products he enjoys and how the team celebrate downtime after a big product release. We also dabble into some Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) related questions, considering that is a big focus for the Thrustmaster team.
Can you tell us who are you are and how you first got involved in working with Thrustmaster?
Hi, my name is Gilles Raulet and I am the Thrustmaster Development Director. I first started to purchase and distribute Thrustmaster products in France, then I was in distributing it across Europe over 26 years ago.
Our company took over the Thrustmaster brand in 1999 and I joined the product team. We already understood the market & product from distributing it, but wanted to increase its reliability and solve the issues we faced when distributing them. The first product we made after acquiring the brand was the HOTAS COUGAR, a full metal replica stick and throttle, when all previous Thrustmaster hardware was plastic.
My interest in developing the product line into authentic high-end gear leads me to where I am today directing the product development team.
What can you tell us about the process behind creating a new flight simulator product? What can you tell us about the R&D process from behind the scenes?
After endless discussion with influential simmers and sim game developers, we write a detailed specs book for a specific flight sim peripheral. Different teams evaluate the peripheral from a mechanical point of view, an electronic point of view, the software interface point of view, and of course the game integration point of view.
If we are designing an official replica, a further debate between the full team about how to remain loyal to the original while also ensuring it makes sense for the gaming or simulation environment.
The last thing we need to take into account is the target price. How can we match the target price that allows most gamers to experience the gear without bargaining on the immersive gaming experience we planned in the original spec book.
Once we have the full picture of technical specs, design, and target price, further debate is had about how to balance the requirements. How to execute the functionality via software, firmware or mechanical modification. We debate how the simming environment is different from a real piloting environment and how to set the force of each button accordingly. What is limited in a real pilot’s environment but possible in sim game and how can we capitalize on that? How are simmers seated, how are they viewing the game (VR, TrackIR, 3 screens, or just a laptop?). We need to take everything into account to maximize functionality and value.
After all the ingredients are in the prototype and we’re confident that we have maximized its functionality, we contact some key simmers to beta-test in differing gaming environments on different software titles. This helps us give the user experience and identifies what needs to improve before the product hits shelves for the mass market. This whole process can last between 2-4 years!
How do you use community feedback and reviews to improve products?
We have a loyal network of beta-testers who have proven their capacity to keep secrets. We are constantly reading flight sim and software forums, getting direct feedback from software developers. All of this will enrich the spec book for next product, or help us finetune our rolling roadmap of target projects and updates. Community feedback will also help us set the parameters for our lab torture tests to try and emulate extended usage and eventually nullify wear and tear issues.
Combat simulators are a big focus for Thrustmaster and the range of flight sim products produced. Why do you think people should try out those types of simulators? What challenges do they bring?
Combat flight sim games put you in the spectacular situation with an immediate need for reaction or anticipation. People should try to fly combat sims when they’re looking for a real shot of adrenaline. It’s essential that you “fly good, don’t suck.”
Do you guys celebrate or often play together as a team? I imagine some of the competitive dog fights in a combat simulator are pretty tense!
We all wish we had more time for this! We have demo stations for our whole office to use, and of course, testing gameplay is an essential part of our jobs, but we rarely get to enjoy the fun side of flight simming as a team.
From your personal experience, if you could step back in time and do one thing differently to how you got to where you are today, what would it be and why?
I would have brought the TPR Pedals to market much sooner and expanded the flight stick ecosystem of grip add-ons for our pro-level Hotas systems much sooner as well. There is a growing demand for high-end flight simming that it’s hard to keep up while maintaining our rigorous standards!
It must be challenging to create high-quality hardware to people all around the world. What do you do to keep yourself motivated throughout?
It is definitely a challenge that some simmers don’t fully understand. So many simmers are highly knowledgeable about electronics and programming and sometimes will go all the way to prototyping a solution. So they say “why don’t you do this or that” but making one functional prototype and producing 1000s in stable mass production at a price consumers will pay are two very different things. In the end, it pays off when the products we sweat over for years are well-received by the market and the community, we feel satisfied that our hard work paid off.
What advice would you give to any aspiring developers keen to get involved in creating hardware?
We usually see the best fan mods while monitoring the community so we know there are some very promising hardware developers in the making out there! If you’re serious about transitioning to hardware development, contact Thrustmaster and start the process of coming to work for us!
Thanks to Giles from Thrustmaster for taking the time to get involved.
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That is it! Developer Month has come to a close. We’ll have one final article in a few days time summarising the entire month, along with some behind-the-scenes footage to enjoy.
Be sure to head back over all of our previous Developer Month content from the past month. We hope you have enjoyed it and look forward to seeing your feedback!