Winding down 2020
Winding down 2020
As the "year of doom" slowly winds down, it is time to reflect on the past few months and give some outlook of what's to come in 2021. No matter how discouraging and difficult 2020 has been for most of us, the flightsim community truely has reason to celebrate. With the advent of Microsoft Flight Simulator, we witnessed an incredible jump in available technology that will keep our shared Hobby up-to-date for many years to come. Despite its flaws, the new sim certainly raised the bar of what's possible. I dealt with the challenge presented, by re-inventing the entire workflow of flightsim add-on creation to ensure that future Wing42 products will stay current and offer a great level of satisfaction to our customers. To give you an idea what a task this was, here's a list of skills and software I learnt to get our first add-on into the new sim:
- New 3D modeling program: switched to Blender and wrote the exporter to get 3D models into the new sim
- New Texture toolkit: switched to Substance Painter to create high-fidelity PBR materials
- New programming workflow: all animations, visibility conditions and mouse-interactions are now programmed as "templates" - a yet undocumented feature of the new sim
- New sound engine: WWise will henceforth be used for all Wing42 aircraft for MSFS
- New aerodynamics model: I left figuring this one out to Pamela Brooker, who did an amzing job with the Bleriot XI!
- New editors and debug tools: the new sim comes with a lot of new tools you need to learn and understand to create MSFS add-ons.
It took around one year of hard work, I clocked on average around 70 hours per week for the last 12 months to get everything up to date. This was motivated by the need of making Wing42 a viable business - which has been an uphill battle for most of the time. Meanwhile, the economic reality was as follows: sales for the FSX/P3D Vega dropped to almost 0 ever since MSFS got announced in mid 2019. And as much as I want our first ever addon to finally get her out of the for eternity lasting Early Alpha, the survival of the business was and is my top concern. I decided to get the Bleriot XI out of the door as our first product for MSFS, because she does not require a lot of kerfuffle around the programming - she lives off the detail in the 3d model, a great flightmodel and compelling sounds. And while I am very well aware that a lot of Vega customers are upset about this decision, I truely hope that you can at least understand why it was necessary to make this decision.
So far, the Bleriot XI sold around 500 units. It's not too bad, considering the quirkyness of the aircraft, but it's also not quite enough to get by. Do the maths: revenue of 500 aircraft on the one side, on the other, one year of development plus a bunch of software licenses. However, the good news is that this is by far not the end of the lifespan of this awesome add-on. Wing42 just got approved for the MS market store, so we will hopefully reach many more customers through this avenue. Furthermore, we're still waiting for a number of reviews to come out, both in digital media and print. Besides others, the Wing42 Bleriot will get some attention from PC Pilot, as well the German magazin FS Magazin and I honestly can't wait to read what they say!
In case you haven't seen our trailer for the Blériot XI yet, Make sure to check it out! It was produced by xApron and I was blown away when I first saw it, it's so beautiful:
So what's next?
My prediction for 2021 is that I will be just as busy as 2020. If you follow my Wing42 account on social media (@simwing42 on Twitter and Facebook), or if you are subscribed to the newsletter (which you should!), you should already have a rough idea what I have planned for 2021. I am currently working on three projects: the Boeing 247D for MSFS, the Lockheed Vega for MSFS and the Lockheed Vega for P3D/FSX and I am slowly making progress on all of them. The MSFS Vega is almost done, but I ran into some issues regarding the programming and sounds. It should be sorted out in time. The FSX/P3D Vega will finally come out of the long-lasting "Early Access" with an incredible amount of features! I am currently working through the bug list, which gets shorter and shorter every week. The Boeing 247D is in its early stages of development. The exterior model is around 90% complete, interior around 40% and everything else hasn't started yet.
One thing you should keep in mind is that all MSFS aircraft will be delivered without our Prop-o-Tronic physics engine - at least for now. It will simply take way too long to re-write the whole module for MSFS and I honestly cannot afford the extra development time right now. Once Wing42 is on a more stable financial foundation it will be my top priority to get those aircraft more alive!
What about the Forum?
You probably saw that I disabled the forum for now. The reason for this was that I simply didn't find the time to tend to it due to the high work load. I am not quite sure what to do about it in the short term and I'm open for suggestions. I like the idea of users helping users, but it's too much to add to my to-dos right now. Keep in mind that I simultaneously do 3d design, textures, sounds, code, answer emails, create artwork for marketing and tend to other social media accounts. If anyone wants to help out by managing the forum on the behalf of Wing42, I'm more than happy to receive your suggestions!
Meanwhile, if you ever run into any issues with our products, feel free to send me a message via twitter or facebook, or send me an email with your question.
I think that should bring all of you up to speed how the "year of doom" was perceived by me and also what to expect in the next 12 months. But as it always goes: plans might change. In any case, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year, albeit in lockdown.
All the best