Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Arafo, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
VEAO January update
First update of the new year and wow what a ride 2015 has been!!
As you know 2015 saw a lot of challenges for VEAO; we said goodbye to some old friends within the team for various reasons and said hello to some new friends too.
Such is the life of software development, especially when people are generally doing this in their spare time. Life gets in the way sometimes.
I feel we have come out of it better as a team and we now have a really solid core of developers in each discipline of developing for DCS.
We have learnt a lot of lessons, especially with the big update with DCS 1.5 and 2.0 and the new functionality that has brought.
It gave us a whole set of fresh new challenges but we have overcome them, and found some new ones along the way. Again such is the life of development.
We had three main air shows along with our friends at TFC in Duxford last year and are looking forward to three more this year with them, with hopefully some sneak peaks, early access and the usual you expect from us at Duxford.
We currently have over 30 developers each working on their discipline for developing for DCS, these being:
Digital display programmers
3D model artists
And of course myself
Each person works on multiple projects; however throwing more people at one specific problem does not always speed up development. Yes many heads are better than one and all ideas are good ideas but each aircraft has it's own unique challenges to overcome and a lead person in their discipline has to have control, with overall project management keeping it all together.
That is good software development project management and DCS is no different.
So, what does it take to make a module for DCS, well let me enlighten you...
First we have a 3D model of the exterior and cockpit developed.
This is generally done by one person and is better to keep it to one rather than many.
Then the exterior has to be textured along with the cockpit. This is done normally by two different artists.
External model "painting" is vastly different to cockpit texturing and our team have learnt some great tricks over the past several months to get the best out of DCS 1.5/2.0 and it's new graphics engine, using tools like the Quixel suite and other applications.
During the texturing stage the animations team will work with the 3D artist to get all control surfaces on the exterior animated and then move onto the cockpit switches, dials, buttons and gauges.
This sometimes throws up a conflict that the 3D artist didn't pick up, like landing gear intersecting with the wing as an example. So these two teams along with the texture artist communicate almost hourly or daily so they are all working in unison.
Once the basic textures and animations are complete it gets handed off to the ASM and EFM team and the digital displays team if the aircraft has requirement for it.
They integrate all of the cockpit functionality and flight model functionality. Sounds easy but it's really not.
Now back in 2014 Pete and I discussed having "templates" for ASM and EFM and these have been coded during 2015 (with more due in 2016) ready to "drop-in" to each aircraft. This saves a lot of development time as most aircraft have the same functionality; altimeter, air-speed, lift, drag, acceleration, Etc.
This means that during 2016 and beyond we can build up a library of templates that can be used for all aircraft in our development schedule; single engine non-afterburning jets, Radial engine, Merlin engine, twin afterburning jets, Etc.
Each aircraft is then tweaked to be specific to it's performance curves and cockpit functionality and then handed over to real life pilots that fly them for feedback.
Our sound engineer, during the development process, will go out and record as many sounds for the specific aircraft as they can. This isn't always easy as you have to fit in around maintenance schedules, military access and a whole host of other challenges to record clicks, whistles and whooshes. Simply pointing a microphone at an overflying aircraft won't do.
Our tireless researcher Dom trawls the Internet, goes to museums and generally makes himself a pain-in-the-arse to collectors to gather as much information as possible on an aircraft.
This could also be talking to pilots, tech engineers and the owners themselves.
Yes we want our modules to be as realistic as possible and all of this will help us to do that.
We have three main project managers right now; Pete of course working on all spinney prop things and the older jets, me on Hawk and Typhoon and Mike on military projects.
There are sometimes cross overs on military and consumer projects like Hawk and Typhoon where both Mike and I will work on both and I leave Pete to handle the main consumer projects.
Of course Pete and I talk continuously throughout the day, more than to my girlfriend much to her dismay sometimes...
Touching on the military stuff, the business is split into two arms; consumer and military.
Consumer is you guys, the DCS community, and the "public" side of module development and military is, well what it says, military projects.
We work with defence and aviation companies, consultants and manufacturers on a vast array of projects, which some benefit you, like Hawk and Typhoon and of course I can't go into detail about what we do for them but during 2016 that will take up most of my time, along with completing Hawk and Typhoon development for you guys.
Typical development of a module is roughly 12 months from conception to first pass flying in-sim depending on the complexity of the aircraft and it's systems. Something like Typhoon obviously takes longer due to it's digital nature and getting access to tech manuals, aircraft themselves, Etc.
I think it's been said somewhere before but each aircraft costs roughly £100,000 to develop, more for the complex ones like Typhoon.
Now that's a lot of sales we need to make just to break even right.
So, we very carefully consider a number of things when deciding which aircraft to develop and our roadmap is very specific for a reason.
We also talk a lot with other 3rd party developers, TFC and ED about what we're doing and for the good of DCS itself which also has an impact on what gets developed.
Also we talk to manufacturers about we can do and can't do. This has a big impact on choosing aircraft.
Sometimes you may think "why are you doing that one..." or "why don't you do this one..." and hopefully this will give you a glimpse into why.
At the end of the day every person on our team has a passion for developing for DCS. We all love flying in DCS and we do value your opinion, our customers.
Ok, so for a general update...
I'm not going to do a specific plane update for each one but instead give you a summary of where we are at in general and my plans for the business in 2016.
We are currently in contract to develop the following aircraft:
Spitfire Mk. XIV
We are also quite far in development on two more, the Wildcat and SeaFury.
Due to the delays on Bearcat we are aiming to replace this with the Wildcat whilst it gets re-developed.
Most of these modules are slated for release during 2016 and 2017 and once we have a few of them out Pete and I will discuss what comes next and we'll talk to people and secure contracts.
What's changed since the December update, well not much I can post about. The teams are tirelessly working around the clock fixing bugs and developing but also took some time off over Christmas to rest and relax.
Everyone is back hard at it refreshed for this year.
P-40 is giving us a major headache. We got the engine working only to have very violent vibrations when sitting in the cockpit and the team are pulling their hair out to figure that one out.
I decided to take it off of pre-sale on our website due to the delay and I'd like to thank everyone that bought the pre-sale. We'll get it to you as soon as we possibly can. No one wants to get it out to you more than Pete and I.
When we're confident it's very close to release and stable in DCS 1.5/2.0 (like we were last year in 1.2.16) I'll put it back on pre-order.
My aim is to have Hawk EFM, cockpit re-texture, working radios, custom weapons and bug fixes all complete by the end of February taking it out of Beta and into release during March.
That's my aim at least and the Hawk team will do everything possible to make this happen.
I'll update you more in February on both of those projects.
All the rest are in various stages of development that I've talked about above, but the focus for the entire management team right now is Hawk and P-40, rest assured.
Thank you once again for you support, patience and most of all your belief in us as a 3rd party developer for DCS and we look forward to a great 2016 for DCS!!
Chris, Pete and the entire VEAO family.
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