If you haven’t seen, throughout the month of July, Orbx has been putting together a range of sales, offers and community engagement through their #FlyJuly event. We’ve teamed up with Orbx to offer the community some original content. If you didn’t know, Orbx is a huge team of people and whilst they employ numerous people, they also have a range of independent developers who work exclusively and publish content through Orbx. Some of your favourite airports (Dubrovnik, San Diego, Stockholm) are from these independent developers and we want to shine the spotlight on some of them as part of the FlyJuly celebrations.
Tell us who you are and what it is you do within Orbx?
My name is Radoslav Tucakov, I’m 41 and I’m a dentist by education but my love for simulation got me to scenery development and I’ve become an Orbx scenery developer five years ago, as I can remember. I can say that I’m an old-timer since I started with my flight simulation hobby back in the ’80s.
Do you remember your first scenery development? What was it and what were some of the biggest lessons you learned during numerous development cycles?
I was one of those kids fascinated with civil aviation. I can vividly remember the day I first entered the Yugoslav Airlines DC-9 on a flight from Belgrade to Ljubljana back in 1988, the sound of APU running, that famous rear entrance with stairs, and perfect flight I have had. That was love at first sight… Just a few weeks after my first flight I’ve tried Flight Simulator 3 or 4, I can’t remember precisely, on my father’s computer. Just try to imagine the happiness of a 9-year-old boy “flying the plane” on a PC.
From that age I was only interested in flight simulation when it comes to video games, years have passed, numerous sims have changed, I had it all, but I didn’t have my favorite local airports. My first experiment with scenery design was on flight sim 98 and that’s how I started and I’ve never dreamed that it would become one of my future jobs. I’ve created numerous more or less appealing freeware addons for fs98, fs2002, fs9, fsx, and after a few years, I’ve created a small design team, with 3 friends. We manage to create 3 payware scenery addons (Belgrade, Tivat, and Osijek airport) with which I was partially satisfied. The team was small, we couldn’t provide great support to customers and I realized that I need to learn and polish my skills in terms of visuals and performance of my scenery addons If I want to continue making them.
I always wanted more since I’m a simmer too. I was one of the guys from the community flying long haul flights online on VATSIM or IVAO while polishing my textures and editing 3d models for my scenery to entertain myself during long boring flights. Yeah, I multitask and relax that way. That’s kind of stress relief for me. Money wasn’t the driving power for my business but the pure love for what I’m doing, and I just wanted to make enough money to be able to update my computer regularly and keep with the paste of flight sim evolution.
In that time Orbx was in their early days too and I was fascinated with the work those guys did. “Come on!? 3D grass! Butterflies!?!?! Those wide coverage areas and surroundings! You must be kidding me!?” : I was thinking back then. Then people flow came out, nature flow, etc. I wanted to be a part of that team and create my favorite airports with those technologies but I didn’t believe that I was good enough. I knew something but not enough… Not long after that, I can’t remember on which forum, I found a post which was talking about one young designer from Orbx team called Misha Cajic. ”Hmmm, that sounded like the guy from the same region I’m from. I did my homework, searched the web for the guy, contacted him with my ‘portfolio’, and gave him a proposal for the Dubrovnik project. That’s how I started working within Orbx. Misha was and still is my, guru, teacher, and consultant. The level of cooperation and understanding we have is amazing and I think We did great work at every airport We’ve created together. Yes, I know that there is always something that can be done better, improved, but the life of a designer is tightly connected with constant improvement of skills.
How has your development skills changed over time?
I’ve started creating my first scenery objects using ”EASY OBJECT DESIGNER” back in 1999… Do you even remember that program?! When I compare my early works with the things I’m doing now I can just say “Thank God I wrote that email to Misha”
When I said earlier ”constant improvement”, I was thinking of improving modelling skills, making sceneries with more details with minimum impact on performance. Learning how to optimize the scenery, smartly use all those new features like PBR for example, but not destroying the performance, was and still is my NO 1 goal! Most of the designers are skilled to create fascinating and complex models, excellent textures, fantastically looking airports but just a small amount of them know how to make jaw-dropping work with minimum impact on your CPU and GPU. I think I’m learning from the best “guys in town” if you know what I mean! The direction I’m constantly heading to is a great mix of visuals and nice performance on mid to high mid-range computers. To be honest I’m still learning but I’m more or less satisfied with the results. The point is that every new project is giving you new challenges and by solving them you grow professionally in every way. That’s one of the reasons why I love this job.
What new technology is most exciting for you right now?
You must realize that I’m Prepar3D guy since I developed my skills making addons based on FSX SDK and all those derivatives of it, so I can only speak of Prepar3D technologies.
Basically the sloped runways are the thing that we lacked in the P3D world. I’m looking forward to implementing them in my future projects. Like most of you guys watching video previews of upcoming FS2020, I must say that I’m excited about it like that ”9-year-old boy” from the beginning of this interview. I hope Microsoft will produce a great platform for us simmers and designers. It looks more than promising but let’s wait and see.
Your latest airport, Rijeka, what’s the story behind that product? Why did you develop that airport? What are some of your favorite elements of Rijeka?
To be honest I’m somehow selfish with the selection of the airports I create. If the airport doesn’t fascinate me in some way, and if I don’t feel passionate about it I rather don’t work on it at all. You know, I was born in Yugoslavia. I flew to most of those Adriatic airports. I just love them, All of them from Portoroz in Slovenia down to Tivat in Montenegro. Such great childhood memories. Memories of blue sea, those old jet planes, the smell of salt and jet fuel mixed together. Rijeka is special in many ways, that crazy ”communist” architecture, my friend architect would kill me for saying this since that is a Brutalism, but you know what I mean. Concrete, concrete, and more concrete! I just find Rijeka airport somehow fascinating for those reasons and it is one of the rare Croatian airports that didn’t change a lot from the days it was built. The contrast of summer Holliday resorts and Oil refinery near the airport, big KRK bridge, which was the longest reinforced concrete arch bridge at the time it was built, were the reasons to make the decision to work on Rijeka airport.
You’ve also developed airports such as Dubrovnik, Pula and Belgrade – what excites you about destinations a little lesser known in the world?
As I told you before I was the kid that was missing the favorite airports in the sim and that was the main reason I’ve started creating those airports. I wanted to popularize the region, to show people how interesting EX Yugoslavia airports are. I also wanted to popularize region because it was more or less deserted back in the days I started flying online on VATSIM.
Someone can say this is just a smart business move to find it’s own region of interest as a designer’s niche, but for me, it’s more than that. It’s not just a job! It’s a passion.
Dubrovnik is a fascinating city. I’ve visited it numerous times in my life and believe me it is amazing. If you haven’t been there put it in your ”must-visit list”. You won’t regret it.
When it comes to Belgrade, you must understand that it is the capital of my country, my closest, and dearest airport. The city is also amazing, the contrast of east and west, a mix of architectural brutalism and older styles, I mean, that was just ”must-do” project for me. I owed it to simmers from the region, my friends from the community.
Then Pula… Just tell me where else can you find such a greatly preserved Roman arena than in Pula? I love that city!
How does being part of the Orbx team help you with your scenery development?
Being a part of the Orbx team is the greatest thing that happened to me when it comes to simulation, my hobby, and my work. The fact that I’m making money from something I love doing so much is a blessing. The support I’ve got from all those guys from the team is just amazing. They make my wish come true, I learned a lot from them and I’m still learning. So I can just say thank you Misha, Jarrad, Holger, Ed, and all the guys from the team that I have forgotten to mention, for all the things you’ve done for me!
Flight simulation continues to expand and grow with new simulators. What are you most excited about?
I think we are all hyped about the new FS2020. I’m no exception. I’m waiting for it as a developer and simmer too, and keeping my fingers crossed that it delivers everything that Asobo studios and Microsoft promised. It looks like VFR flying will be better than ever, and opportunities for us, scenery developers, will be endless. I’m hoping for the outstanding optimization of the sim’s engine and the most advanced SDK we ever had. It seems that the future of flight simulation is bright. Isn’t it?!
For newcomers to flight simulation, what advice would you give them to starting their journey into this world?
Oh. Now I feel so old! I’ll give them a few. Never get frustrated with the sim, relax, learn, and enjoy the virtual world of flying. Interact with people that know more than you, ask them anything you don’t understand about flying and the most important thing enjoy this hobby because it has never been better than it is now. When I was starting, flight simulation looked like a joke compared to what we have now. With so many great aircraft and scenery developers around and so many great products, you’ll easily make your dream fleet of planes and collection of the fantastically created airport sceneries to fly to.
Huge thanks to the team at Orbx for arranging this great interview with Rasha. Of course, also thanks to Rasha for taking the time to talk to us. You can find out more about Rasha’s latest airport here.