Interview: X-Crafts at 10 Years

Whilst X-Crafts celebrates its 10 year anniversary, Jordan caught up with founder Marko Mamula to chat about the past, present, and future.

Posted: 26-Apr-2024 @ 20:48z
Updated: 03-May-2024 @ 15:13z
Interview: X-Crafts at 10 Years

Aircraft developer X-Crafts, famous for their focus on bringing the Embraer airliner range of aircraft to life within the world of X-Plane, celebrates their ten year anniversary this year. FSElite sat down with Marko Mamula, X-Crafts founder and Director, to find out what the journey has been like for the past ten years but to also discover what the next ten might entail.

What did you do before you started developing aircraft?

Well, I was around 17 then, so I was just doing what any other 17-year-old would: Learning how to use Photoshop to swap faces on family photos. Luckily this became really handy when I later started creating custom liveries for X-Plane, the first of which actually featured faces of me and my best friend across the A330 fuselage! Later on I remember creating many liveries for the freeware 757RR and the QPAC A320, which by the way was the basis of what later became the ToLiss Airbuses! The QPAC A320 was Torsten’s first project in X-Plane as far as I know.

Interview: X-Crafts at 10 Years

If you didn’t develop Embraer aircraft, what would you develop and why? 

Honestly, that’s really hard. After 10 years I feel like Embraers are part of my identity now, and making anything else would feel like cheating on my girlfriend! But if I really had to pick, I would probably go for the A220 series, because I love regional jets – The flights are shorter and more engaging.

You’re still working on the Lineage 1000, do you have any updates in terms of progress or timeline?

As was reported by FSElite a few weeks ago, we’ve now completed modelling the luxury cabin of the business jet version of the Embraer E190 – the amazing Lineage 1000. Finishing the 3D model allowed me to generate the shadows (ambient occlusion) for the interior 3D models, and I can now see which sections need fixing or modifying. Once those are fixed, I can jump straight into texturing the cabin, which I am super excited about because it will feature many unique and new materials in X-Plane.  

The model of the cabin and other sections is not the only difference compared to the commercial E190 though. We will also need to adapt the flight model and make sure that the fuel system with extra tanks works correctly along with many other smaller changes. While each developer at X-Crafts works on one project at a time, I spend around 20% of my time working on Lineage, 15% on E-Jets v1.1.0, 15% on ERJ Family, and 20% making sure that X-Crafts runs like a well-oiled machine. And then the remaining 30% is spent planning my upcoming wedding… which let me tell you, is a lot more complicated than developing an airliner for a flight sim! So it is unfortunately impossible to make any guesses on the release date, but I’d really love it to happen this year!

As you can see, our 2024 is packed with projects, so there’s a lot to look forward to, we just don’t yet know in which order they will be finished. However, the next X-Crafts release is coming very soon! The Free E-Jets by X-Crafts: 10-Year Anniversary Edition are set to be released at the beginning of May 2024, so keep an eye out for that!

I actually had the privilege to go and visit a real-world Lineage 1000 last October, which was an incredible and unique experience. These jets cost around $53M, or $16,000 an hour to charter, and you can see the luxury in every inch of the plane. So the fact that I was able to run around with a camera (while avoiding confused flight attendants) and take hundreds of reference pictures was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. After the visit, I realised that many of the sections of the X-Crafts cabin were not exactly correct, so I went back and remodelled many cabin parts. This took a lot of extra time, but at least I can now confidently say that this will be one of, if not the most accurate 3D models of the Lineage cabin ever created.

We also have a real Lineage pilot helping us with any questions. We were very lucky that he reached out to me (during a YouTube live stream with Q8 Pilot!) because the Lineage is a relatively unique and rare airplane, so finding any pilots who use X-Plane and would be willing to help us is quite a challenge. But we’ve now got everything we need to create an amazing rendition of the Lineage 1000, which will be our second business jet, after the popular Embraer Legacy 650.

The Embraers for MSFS are also X-Crafts models, are there any other collaborations you’re doing?

That’s right, we are collaborating with FlightSim Studio on the E-Jets for MSFS. Right now we do not have any other collaborations in the works, but the good news is that the Lineage 1000 will also make it into MSFS!

Embraer has been manufacturing the E2 range of aircraft for a few years now, is there an E2 variant coming?

We do plan to eventually work on the E2 variants, however, that would be in the future as developing the E2 will take a few years. I always say that we want to be great, not big. So instead of being a fast food kind of developer spitting out completely new add-ons every year and jeopardising the quality, we want to focus on improving our current products as much as possible and deliver maximum value to our customers.

Also, the E2s are relatively new, which means that the resources required to develop them are scarce, and the number of pilots who would be able and willing to help us develop the E2s to match the level of the E1 is much smaller. Additionally, the E2s have many new parts, like new wings, new belly, new landing gear, and an almost entirely different cockpit, so it will pretty much be like creating a whole new add-on. So yes, we have our eyes set on the E2s, but not anytime soon.

So what’s next for the immediate future of the EJ range?

So far 2024 has been a very busy year for us. We’ve had 2 new developers join, which also brings a lot of new adjustments before everyone settles in. We’ve been working on the upcoming E-Jets Family v1.1.0, which will bring the most requested features like FMS Speed, ILS Autotune, and Steep Approach among many other things. We can’t wait to release this version, as it will once again raise the bar for Embraers in flight simulation.

After v1.1.0 is out, we anticipate a few releases with bug fixes and new smaller features. But ultimately we plan to continue improving the E-Jets for years to come. We want to be able to always provide the most authentic experience of flying these jets and there are many areas in which we can still get better.

Where do you see yourself in another 10 years?

Great question, that’s what I ask myself every morning! I want X-Crafts to be like a fine dining restaurant, where you don’t have to think whether you’ll have a great time or not, you will just know. Building that trust takes years, but that is my ultimate goal.

In my view, there are 3 key elements needed from 3rd party developers to create a great experience in a flight sim. Firstly, you need a great and authentic aircraft. Second, you need confidence in the developer and the reliability of their products and customer support. And last, you need to have fun. Because, ultimately we all do this for the love of flying, and if the experience isn’t thrilling or enjoyable, then what’s the point? There is so much more to having a great experience in a flight sim, not just the aircraft add-ons, and that’s what I want us to focus on as well. 

We are already offering many additional and free services like our Weekly Real-World Flight plans, an eBook with all the tips and tricks I learned about X-Plane in 12 years. We are also building a collection of How-to guides that will help everyone eliminate frustrations with X-Plane, for example, how to boost your frame rates and more. We are also offering an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into flight simulation with our Not-A-Newsletter, which has grown into a great community of nearly 20K subscribers now! 

So my goal with X-Crafts is to make sure that we consistently tick all those boxes while always raising the bar higher.

What are you most proudest of in the last 10?

Honestly, I’m extremely proud that only a handful of us nerds managed to recreate the E-Jets at such a high standard when the real jets were created by thousands of people. Keep in mind that we often have to solve the same problems that they have to, only their resources are a million times higher! And that’s the case for all great flight sim developers – Despite our small teams, what motivates us is pure love for aviation, and that allows us to move mountains. So next time you download your next add-on, whichever it might be, remember the hard work that went into it. And if you like it, go tell that developer! It will make their day.

I would like to thank Marko and the X-Crafts team for their dedication to recreating a whole suite of Embraer aircraft for enthusiasts or ‘nerds’ like us. I would also like to thank Marko for giving us a little insight into the X-Crafts journey over the past ten years. I wish them all the very best for the next decade and beyond.

More From:   X-Crafts
Jordan Williams
Jordan works in operations for a brewery, pub and hotel company in London. Discovering flight simulation when the 3x CD FS2002 was released, he then followed the natural progression up until P3D, where he switched platforms to X-Plane 11.

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