Developer Q&A: Austin Meyer on X-Plane 9

We’ve been covering the launch of X-Plane 9 since it made its surprise debut on the App Store late last week.

X-Plane 9 is the first flight simulator for the iPhone/iPod Touch, bringing a degree of realism not yet seen in other games for the platform. We’ve been fans of the desktop version of X-Plane for years, and had some questions for Austin Meyer, the chief developer at Laminar Research, the company behind X-Plane.

Slide to Play: You’ve been making X-Plane on the desktop for a long time. What has it been like to move from that environment onto the iPhone platform?

Austin Meyer: Fun as heck! For the desktop sim, there are many thousands of lines of code and hundreds (thousands?) of image files from me, Ben, and Sergio. [STP Note: The other lead developers/artists at Laminar Reaseach] It is very difficult to make major changes to the simulator without re-writing LOTS of code to make the major changes possible, and without risking breaking something in the sim. As well, many customers get used to things working a certain way, and whenever you CHANGE things, many people just assume that the NEW way of doing this must be WRONG. This makes it a little difficult, sometimes, to get things changed in the sim. None of this is a factor with the iPhone, which is a clean-sheet design.

Between the thousands of lines of code, and thousands of customers, it is about impossible to get anything big done.

None of that is a factor with the iphone.

At the moment, the program is more of a simulation than a game’”just like X-Plane on the desktop. Do you plan to change that with future updates?

No, not at all. We will add a few features to the iphone version (map, for example, and maybe an instrument panel) but it will not get ‘game-y’.

Do you plan to let users bring aircraft of their own design, or back-catalog planes, over from the desktop version?

Nah’¦ It is not so easy to import stuff into the iphone. I can not see it being customized.

What is the simulation accuracy of the iPhone version like in comparison to the desktop version?

Within 5% or so. I managed to get ~95% of the accuracy of the big sim over the iphone without busting system requirements.

More generally, what future plans do you have for expanding the application?

You will know what I am doing next when I post an email to the newsgroup claiming what can NOT be done!

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