Developer Month: Interview with Aerosoft’s Mathijs Kok

Welcome to the FSElite Developer Month. Our theme this year is about delivering for the community and part of that is delivering great content to you all. As part of our commitment to you all, we’re pleased to announced Developer Month – a month themed solely around celebrating our great development community. Over the course of March, you’ll be treated to some behind the scene looks at some of our favourite developers, stories from the FSElite team, exclusive interviews and more.

Mathijs Kok from Aerosoft was kind enough to spend some time giving us some insight into his personal life outside of aviation and a glimpse into what he believes the future of Flight Sim will look like. We specifically avoided products as we wanted to get to know Mr. Kok a little better personally.

 

Tell us a little about yourselves and how you got started? What made you decide you wanted to develop for Flight Simulator and why?

Actually, I am not a developer (although I did the first Schiphol scenery about 21 years ago).

I started with the FS version for the Atari ST and yes that makes me ancient. 19 years ago, I started working for Lago but moved to Aerosoft soon after. At this moment, I run the internal aircraft development programs (Airbus and CRJ right now) and a few other scenery and tool add-ons. I also manage the support and quality control department.

 

How many of there in your team and what are your backgrounds before becoming developers?

Aerosoft has around 50 employees (it differs a bit as people are employed for projects) but I am responsible for 6 full time developers and 7 people most part-time for the support and quality control.

The older ones are just as me coming from the sim being a hobby, but the last ten years we are mostly hiring professionals that we train for our specific demands.

 

What interests do you have outside of Flight Simulation?

I love cars, I am restoring a V8 MGB and do most of the work on our other cars (Merc S and Porsche) myself. We also live in an old watermill, in the south of France, with a large park. So I spend a lot of time on my 1960 tractor (build in the same month/year I was born) called Betty and cutting grass and trying not to kill myself with chainsaws. Mmmmm, there is a pattern there. If it has an internal combustion engine I like it.

Not a big gamer but with some customers I do enjoy Elite Dangerous a lot. Love Battlefield 1 but I normally get killed in minutes.

 

Tell us what your typical day is usually like.

I work from home and I tend to take it easy in the morning but am normally online at 0900. Because of time zones and because we try to be online when customers need us my most busy time of the day is between 1700 and 1930. I do tend to work a lot of hours. Always try to keep Sundays free, almost never works.

 

Favourite power drink and why? Favourite snack and why?

Red wine because it IS the best power drink. Down to one glass a day though on doctor’s order.
Not a big fan of snacks. Does beacon count?

 

When scenery development gets tough, how do you continue to motivate yourselves?

Does not really apply to what I do, but when things get tough (aka delayed in developments etc) I tend to get depressed first and complain to everybody who wants to listen. Normally my CEO or some other staff tells me to stop being an idiot and take control. Part of my job is to motivate people and complaining does not do that.

To be honest and without trying to sound pedantic, every project seems to go to the same phases and one of them is when it all seems impossible to complete. I have seen it all before and I know that basically you just keep on working. Sometimes with great success and sometimes it’s ‘okay’.

Who’s your biggest inspiration in the Flight Sim community?

Great question but hard to answer.

There are a few names that come to mind but they might not make sense to people who have not been in this hobby for a long time. Maurizio Gavioli, Enrico Schiratti, Miguel Blaufuks, Pete Dowson. These are people without whom this hobby would not be what it is today. I am happy to call them friends. We call each other ol’farts.

Then there are people who I believe are at the top of their field. Stefan Hoffman who does most of my aircraft modeling who I believe it simply the best in the field, Robert Randazzo who made PMDG the powerhouse it is now, Andy Payne who has been instrumental in so many FS (and TS) related businesses, my CEO Winfried Diekmann who I think understands the publishing of add-ons better than anybody else. I only work for people who I respect. These are the people whose advice I seek and will take.

In the end though it’s customers who motivate me. I know it sounds corny but it simply is true. Every single day we get mails from people who simply say thanks for making some add-on. Believe me, these mails make our day.

 

If there was one thing you wanted to see developer for Flight Sim, what would it be?

My favorite complain about simulation of airliners is that the simmer does the work of two people. Flying an Airbus/Boeing/etc is a two men job and a major part of job is to manage the work flow between these two people. There is NO pilot who would ever consider taking off with an A320 with an empty right seat. And our customers are asking for wing flex and complain that the shade of grey of a button is not perfect. Things that simply have nothing to with the tasks of a pilot.

We worked very hard on these issues, by adding a semi intelligent co-pilot in our Airbusses and our Connected Flight Deck that allows you to fly with a friend. But it all does not come close to the very tight interaction between the captain and second officer.

I don’t know how to make that work, but that is what I would really like to solve. Flying on your own is just silly. It is unrealistic and we should get rid of it as soon as possible. Just like we got rid of ATC add-ons and moved on to fantastic organizations like IVAO and VATSIM.

 

Favourite add-on (that’s not your own!)?

SODE. Jeffrey deserves a medal A big one. Talk about value for money, he even allows us to make money with it. Jeffrey will never pay for a drink when he is near me.

FSL’s A320 has ridiculous price and the demands it puts on FPS and VAS make using it with any serious scenery hard, but it is a great add-on. If you are not into flying but basically interested in managing an aircraft, it’s probably best at this moment.

Every PMDG aircraft. They might be too complex for many people but they deliver value for money.

Pete Dowson’s FSUIPC, how could we do without it?

SceneryConfigEditor (sorry don’t know the dev right now). A tool every simmer should have and run once a week to check for problems.

How do you balance your work life and home life?

I don’t. Ask my wife. I work when it’s needed and make up later. I love my work and doing it from a fantastic home office with a woodfire and Labrador.

 

Any hints on what’s to come after your next project?

Anything that we can share is in our preview forum. We always try to be as open as possible and will never say a project will be released when it is done. We’ll always try to give an honest reply even if it turns around and bites us in the behind. Customers accept a lot when you just explain things.

 

Where do you see Flight Simulation in 10 years time?

It all depends on PC gaming, we can do all we want but it all depends on that. Just look art Japan. It used to be a great market for us but it is totally gone because Japanese people don’t have PC’s anymore. Look at the US market. It used to be as big as the rationally strong German speaking simulation market but PC gaming is doing bad in the US. Where you can still walk into a big German/Austrian/Dutch/French/Spanish etc. shop and find several FS add-ons for sale in box, that’s all gone in the US. If the same happens in Europe things look tough. But we do NOT see that. Our sales are fine, our FSX/P3D develop departments (we also have X-Plane and TrainSim sections next to our stand-alone sims developments) is still growing.

Clearly a lot will move to STEAM and platforms like that. But that is HIGHLY dangerous for our hobby because STEAM takes 30% of the money and margins are already very low. STEAM sales will work if the market grows, not when it shrinks.

Overall, we are rather optimistic. FSX is still doing fine, P3D V3 is doing great, X-Plane 10 is doing great and X-Plane 11 is looking to be a massive hit. Then we got P3D V4 and Dovetails new sim. Both supposedly 64 bits. Those will be the new platforms and both will be great (sounding like Trump here). I am not saying we are going into the heydays of flight simulation (1990 to 2000 were) but things simply look good for a company with some money to burn.

Anybody giving a serious answer to how things will be in ten years’ time should be admitted to an asylum. Spoken by a guy who had a 250 to 1 bet on the next president of the US. I owe my favorite redneck 250 cans of a beer called Lone Star. Seriously surprised the shipping costs more than the beer, is it really that bad?

 

Anything else you want to add?

Not really, you seem to cover most things. From my background to my favorite snack via the time I get out of bed and how depressed I get at times.

Slipping into marketing mode. If you or any of the readers like to follow up, drop me a mail at [email protected]. If it is about support, I’ll forward you to [email protected] but anything else I’ll respond to.

 

Check back tomorrow for another interview, but this time, from TFDi Designs.