The developer behind AI Lights Reborn Professional, FSReborn has taken some time to speak to us and give the community a little insight of some of the behind the scenes of development. The utility is unique in that it offers users the ability to adjust and make AI lighting much more realistic. Whilst the software sounds basic, it actually offers a wealth of customisation for the user. To help highlight some of those features, Raul from FSReborn is here to give you guys some tips and tricks. Also, you will learn a little about the development process and how the product came to be.
Before you read the interview, be sure to familiarise yourself with FSReborn’s AI Lights Reborn Professional. You can pick up your copy from their site for £25.00.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
Hi! My name is Raul, I am 43 years old and I am CEO of Flight Sim Technologies Limited which is a family own business in the UK. I have been a software developer since I can remember, everything started when my dad brought home a PC commodore 16 when I was about 10 years old and since that day I discovered my passion for Software Engineering.
I also work as .NET developer team lead for an international company alongside with CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) responsibilities to keep an international datacentre running 24/7.
What first got you involved in flight simulation?
Since I was very little (my mum claims since I was 4 years old!) I had an enormous passion for airplanes in general, I started in the world of aviation by having a large 3D collection of airplanes, my dad had a career that required for him to travel all the time and he used to bring me 3D airplanes from all over the world in order to help me with my personal airliners collection.
So my room was just covered with a collection of 3D airplanes with airlines from all over the world. Everyone thought I was going to be a pilot, and indeed that was my plan unfortunately some events in my life got in the way and I was never able to achieve such dream. But the world of flight sim took care of it when I discovered MS Flights Simulator 95!, and since that day I have been using flying simulators.
Tell us a little more about why you decided to make AI lighting much more realistic?
Everything started when I changed from FSX to P3D 4.1. I wanted to upgrade my simulator to experience the x64 bit world. However as soon as I launched P3D I noticed how the default lights for AI traffic under P3D were not as good as I was expecting.
I reached out via AVSIM forums to see if anybody else was experiencing the same issue and to my surprise there were thousands of users complaining about the same issue.
Since nobody had a solution, I had invested lots of money and time to migrate to P3D already and I am a developer myself, I decided to research further and find a solution using my skills. This is how the freeware edition was born.
When did development begin and what challenges have you faced?
I released the free edition back in September 2017 and within the first weeks over 5,000 people downloaded the free edition and wrote amazing feedbacks via email and forums.
The experience was very rewarding, especially when people took time to write to my email and forums to express how pleased they were with the freeware. Suddenly by Christmas 2017 the numbers of users using the freeware were almost triple and they continued to rise every month so inevitably an incredible amount of requests for improvement started to reach at the gates.
Unfortunately, the freeware was unable to deliver what most people were asking for, so this is how the concept of AI Lights Reborn Professional edition was born.
AI Lights Reborn Professional edition developing started around February 2018 and I was able to demonstrate an alpha edition in Vegas during the Flight Sim show 2018.
One the biggest challenges for me was the lighting / effect system under P3D, this is an area that not many developers work with since everyone prefers to work with 3D modelling (airplanes, airports, etc.). Therefore I found lots of issues with the SDK since functions that were supposed to do certain things were faulty or not doing the required functionality as per documentation.
So I decided to fly to Vegas as I wanted to meet Adam Breed and Lockheed Martin engineers face to face. During the show, I asked Adam if I could be part of the Lockheed Martin Beta program. My objective was to work more closely with them in order to improve the effect system as much as possible.
I was accepted in the program and since then I have been working extensively with LM developers to improve many areas of the simulator and I must say the experience has been incredible. You see Lockheed Martin engineers are just fantastic! I never expected them to be so willing to collaborate, listen and help 3rd party content developers as they do.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my most sincere gratitude to Adam Breed for giving me the opportunity and to Rob McCarty, Bradly Butter, Brad Shiver, Clifton Crane and Beau Hollis for all their help with the effect systems improvements during development time.
Another really big challenge was the integration of my add-on with others, AI Lights Reborn Professional edition is fully P3D SDK compliant while retaining compatibility with over 100 add-on’s currently available in the market. I can tell you it is not easy to do!
What is your development team like? How many people are involved? What experiences do you have (in development, aviation or anything else)?
I am a software engineer with over 25+ years of experience as a developer, but you copuld see I have even a larger experience in flight simulators. Flight Sim Technologies / FSReborn is a family own business where I am the software developer and my wife is in charge of the finances (is this not the normal anyway? lol). However, I do not consider myself a single man business.
You see at FSReborn we work and collaborate with many other 3rd party developers in the flight sim industry. For example, we are constantly in touch and exchange source code or knowledge with developers from Alpha India Group, Just Flight, Parallel 42, LatinVFR, Flight1, FSPAIX to name just a few, the list goes on. This is because we see other 3rd party content providers (freeware or payware) as our colleagues rather than our competitors.
This approach allows our developing network to expand very rapidly and it has been incredible beneficial for everyone, for example if anyone has an issue with a particular problem, SDK function, lack of knowledge, or requires to test something or a simple fix for a particular need, we are more than happy to extend our hand at NO COST to our colleagues and we receive very often the same in return.
We also have a team of more than 30 BETA testers all around the world which are incredible valuable. Without these guys there is no way I would be where I am today, so we consider each one of them part of the FSReborn family.
So I see FSReborn as a big entity with one of the biggest developer and knowledge network base that you will find currently in the flight simulation industry.
What are the key differences between the free edition and the professional edition?
The free edition installs a single set of fixed effects to all your AI Models without making any distinction of what type of aircraft these are.
The professional edition goes beyond and analyses your entire AI Model fleet to understand what each individual aircraft is, what light system is using, verifies each individual AI models is installed correctly –it will alert you otherwise- and finally create specific effects for that particular aircraft type.
So for example, an Airbus type should have double flashing strobes on the wingtips but a single flashing strobe on the tail. While a Boeing type should have single flashing strobes only.
Another key difference is the lighting effects are not fixed anymore; you can alter all the effects parameters yourself in order to make the effects more or less visible in your particular system, you can add more dynamic lights, change the texture type / shape of the lights, the intensity of the lights, the size of the lights anything you can imagine. All the changes can be done in real time so the user can appreciate how your simulator will look like while changing any of these parameters.
This is very important because no all simulators specifications are the same, for example, user A might use a 4K large 60” TV while user B might have a simple 24” HD monitor, at the same time user A might use PTA with certain settings while user B might use REX EF with other settings. So for both simulators, the colours and sizes of effects would be different given all the variables involved. AI Lights Reborn Professional edition allows the AI lighting system to be adjusted for each individual circumstance, making AI models lighting to look and behave as close as possible to real-world operations.
Another advantage is that it can change how lighting effects are scaled under P3D. Our own lighting algorithm scaling techniques are closer to how it occurs in real-world as oppose of how P3D does it by default.
There are many other features included with the professional edition and people can check these via our website, we will also implement very soon a new type of landing lights which can be done only with P3D HF2.
This is thanks to a new feature included with P3D 4.5 HF2 which LM engineers kindly added after we requested it, and I have a feeling everyone will like to have these new types of landing lights when they see what they can do…
What tips and tricks do you want to point out to someone who may have just purchased AI Lights Reborn Professional?
First I encourage everyone to see our full video tutorial, this can be accessed via our public AVSIM forums and it is pinned at the top. We decided that having a user manual for this type of add-on wouldn’t be effective and instead my good friend Rob Ainscough who is part of our developing network created a full hour video tutorial. Thanks, Rob for all your hard work with this. I have no words to thank you enough!
Second I encourage everyone to use the FSReborn light scaling techniques as it will allow them to experience how navigation lights scale in the real world. This can be set via the configuration tab.
And finally I encourage everyone to explore the Graphic User Interface slowly; the idea was to allow all user types to be able to experience the best from their environment lighting. But you always will be able to obtain the best results for your system by using the expert interface.
You have attended flight simulation conferences in the past. What have you enjoyed most about them and why does it benefit people to go to them?
As a developer it is a great opportunity to meet all the people that support you, my favourite part is when people arrive at your booth and ask specifically for you because they want to express their gratitude or just simply because they want to meet you, it makes you feel very valuable and that your work matters.. so it is just great!.
My second favourite part is I get to know in person many of my BETA testers and many other 3rd party developers’ colleagues. I have so much to learn from all of them and it is really wonderful to see them, exchange views and share drinks after the show.
For people considering attending these shows, you will feel your passion for flying being ignited again which is extremely important to keep your passion for the hobby alive. It is also a great opportunity to ask questions to your favourite 3rd party content developers and get an insight of future development, what it takes to create your favourite add-on and meet other people with your same interest.
What does the future hold for FSReborn?
We will go as far as our customers want us to go!. We will continue to work hard and deliver as much as possible what people dream to have for their simulators.
And before everyone wonders and asks, yes we are in touch with Microsoft and yes we are already under Non-disclosure agreements. So will you see our current add-on’s ported to new Microsoft Flight Simulator? The answer is simple: IF the new platform SDK allows us to do so, YES! Plus much more…
Anything else you would like to add?
Hmm, I think I have said enough no? ha-ha. Well, I think the last thing I have to say to everyone is to help each other; this hobby is not fantastic just only because it allows our dreams of becoming pilots coming true. It is great because you meet amazing people around you and collaborating and helping each other is what will make our hobby much better.
Thank you to Raul for taking the time to speak to us.