Developer Month: Soarfly Concepts Interview


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.

Soarfly Concepts are a relatively unknown developer who has worked on various projects in the past. Developer Month isn’t just about those developers who are regarded as ‘popular’, but also to highlight the hardwork of the smaller ones who are very much part of the community.

Read our interview from Mark Piccolo from the developer who gives you some great insight into both a freeware and payware model!

Tell us a little about yourselves and how you got started?

Well Soarfly Concepts started out just me, creating my own little additions to airports, I added a few things to Avsim Library and eventually I added a team member and over time started taking scenery requests.

Me and Dan have been using Flight Simulator since the early 90s. The very first scenery released by Soarfly Concepts was a fictional airport, the Thames Estuary Concept. We don’t sell payware for a source of income it’s simply there as a method of support so we can buy things like higher def ground images and design tools. Not a lot of people know this but we also offer a free service to other devs like making installers, models and beta testing.

What made you decide you wanted to develop for Flight Simulator and why?

I have always been a massive aviation enthusiast and the idea of making my own airports in flight sim was just too good to pass up. I discovered ADE by Scruffy Duck and learnt how to make 3d models.

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

There are 3 team members, myself (Mark), Dan and a new developer called Liam. My background is just a total av-nerd who has a creative side. Dan was raised in Germany in the army and moved to England at a young age, he spent most of his time at air bases so naturally has a huge interest is the world of flight. He is not actually a scenery developer but he does contribute a lot to Soarfly Concepts, in the way of resources. Liam is new only been with us a few weeks, he is based in Australia and should be making an official appearance with a scenery release in a month or so.

What interests do you have outside of Flight Simulation?

I am a budding musician, I play guitar and have a band that makes me deaf 1 day a week. Also I have a 9-5 job with EE so that’s a thing.

Do you have an interesting aviation story you’d like to share?

In real life? Yeah.. I flew from Newcastle to Gatwick once on a Q400 we hit turbulence about 40 minutes in and the aircraft shook like a paper bag in a hurricane, people fell out their seats, then to top it all off when we landed at Gatwick we lost a tyre from the left gear, so we were towed off the runway to a maintenance area. So that’s a fun experience.

Tell us what your typical day is usually like.

Just work, but on Wednesday’s and the weekends I focus most time developing, maintaining the website and if I can fit it in I get onto steam and play a game or 2.

Favourite power drink and why?

Well that’s a tricky one, I try to avoid caffeine but if I had to choose I would definitely say Monster Energy or cheap store brand. Mostly though I am a fruit juice person

Favourite snack and why?

Yeah, pizza. Why? Because pizza.

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

There have been times when I get sick of seeing an airport but I know there will always be a way to make it better. If I run into an issue, I don’t know what it is but I seem to become fixated on resolving it. When it’s resolved that motivates me enough to carry on.

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

That’s a very tough question to answer. I would have to say Gary Summons of UK2000 Scenery, the first payware I ever bought was his Gatwick and I was blown away. I just had to create scenery like that. I spent the next 2 years teaching myself about ground polygons, asm coding and so much more… Yeah he definitely inspired me to push my knowledge to a new level.

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

I think Flight Sim needs a full cross platform (modern) multiplayer system for fs9, fsx, p3d and the Xplanes. It would be nice to see that. But failing that, I would say full world photo scenery. Slightly more ambitious but hey.

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

My all time favourite addon is Fly Tampa’s Caribbean scenery. One of my favourite places to fly in fs. In a close second is UK2000’s Gatwick.

How do you balance your work life and home life?

With severe difficulty. I don’t have much spare time on my hands, ever.

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

Well I have announced Sandown as our next payware but after that I am thinking of a big Australian project.

Where do you see Flight Simulation in 10 years time?

Well FS has been having a bit of a decline in the past few years but with the release of FSX-SE and Xplane 11 I think I see a Microsoft (or more likely Dovetail) Flight Simulator 11. Well fingers crossed anyway.

What tips would you give to aspiring developers?

Learn how to not need sleep.. But seriously, the learning curve is as big as you make it, I started off making afcads in ADE, but if you throw all the cards on the table you’re going to struggle. Just take it one step at a time and don’t rush.

Why did you decide to create Durham Tees valley Airport?

I live pretty much next door to it, so for me it was easy pickings. I have made about a million versions for myself but the place is full of history so I needed to share it with the flight sim community. Also we all love our local airport so I just had to. The scenery took me over a year to fully complete, the funny thing is though I only spent about 10 weeks building it, the rest was spent getting permissions to visit, actually measuring the buildings and mapping out the area.

What’s your standard development cycle?

It depends on whether it’s a request or a project we’ve decoded upon. All requests get released as freeware with the exception of only a few. But if we’ve decided on the project it’ll be payware and we’ll visit the airport, take pictures (or get staff at the airport to do it), I’ll then spend a fortune on a ground image and start to build the scenery. We have 3 beta tests and a final performance test on a weak machine. If everything is all good I’ll release it. Our payware line is called “Flagship” and our high quality freeware line is called “X-HD” for FSX and P3D and “2K4-HD” for FS2004.

As a freeware developer, what inspires you to create when there’s no financial gain?

We have some Payware, but I wont lie money is a bit of an issue sometimes. Our freeware can sometimes cost a fair bit to develop. But as long as people like it, it was worth the bucks. Plus I get to use the scenery too, so that’s a bonus haha.

Anything else you want to add?

I’m glad everyone enjoy ls the freeware and for those who support is with our payware and donations… you’re an awesome bunch who I wish I could thank face to face!