Exclusive Interview with Dovetail Games Flight School Creative Director, Steve Hood
2016 is a big year for the Flight Simulator franchise. Dovetail Games have taken over the reigns from Microsoft and are putting out two Flight Simulations in 2016. Dovetail Games Flight Simulator will offer the complete Flight Simulator experience, whereas Dovetail Games Flight School will provide an introduction in the Flight Sim world. We have a chat with Steve Hood, Creative Director on Flight School and find out a bit more on Flight School and Flight Simulator.
Flight Simulator is an iconic simulation game with a rich history and a loyal fan base, how do you tackle developing a new version of a game like Flight Simulator?
To put it simply, we look at everything. By this, I mean we take a really high-level view of what we’re trying to achieve before immersing ourselves in the subject matter. I started out by researching what had gone before, how people reacted to it, what they liked and disliked and whether there were any consistent opinions which pulled on my own ideas about what a new Flight Simulator should bring to the party.
Additionally, we have spent an incredible amount of time interacting with flight simmers on social networks, various forums, and at events, gaining an understanding of what fuels their enthusiasm for the hobby, so we can capture these elements while improving the platform and bringing it up to date.
We have had to make brave decisions about where we start and where we want to go, however the team here is exceptionally motivated, direct and effective.
Our goal is to deliver an experience that will move flight simulation forwards. We are starting at the beginning with student pilots in mind and we’ll grow from there.
Flight School is all about learning the art of flying, is it aimed solely at the new comer or is there enough there to teach seasoned Flight Sim fans a thing or two?
Flight School has been developed to give anyone wants to try flight simming the chance to do so. While established simmers will likely already know what we are aiming to teach, it is a chance for them to preview some of the technology we have implemented which will be carried over to DFS.
Of course if they fancy brushing up on their skills or putting them to the test, then Flight School has a range of pilot license tests and missions that will do just that.
What made you decide to split the franchise into two parts, Flight School and Flight Simulator?
We have spent the last two years listening to existing and would-be simmers alike, discovering what keeps players simming and what stops those who would like to get into flight simulation from doing so. We have learned that flight simulation appeals to an incredible amount of people, but a lot of them find it too hard to get started. It is our aim to reclaim and attract those would-be simmers, but in order to do so, we need to present flight simulation in a way that doesn’t initially overwhelm them.
That is where Flight School comes in. It was our intention to create an experience that makes flight simming accessible to anyone who wants to try it. Doing this as a standalone release allows us to focus on tailoring the experience more towards these players.
The latest trailer appears to hint at out of cockpit learning, e.g. learning how to study maps. How much out of cockpit content can we expect?
Most, if not all of the content is based in the cockpit. At the end of the day, our primary objective is to pique the interest of people who would normally shy away from an overly complex simulator, and we believe the best way to do that is to get them up in the air. This isn’t by any means a serious study sim. It’s more to get players acquainted with the basics of flight simulation.
Will Flight School be limited to light aircraft or can we expect to see some commercial aircraft make an appearance too?
Flight School is based around light aircraft. The world of general aviation is generally where pilots begin to learn to fly in real life, so it felt like a natural starting point for Dovetail Games Flight School.
Will the learning continue on into Flight Simulator or is it more a prerequisite to get the learning completed first in Flight School?
The learning will definitely continue in Dovetail Games Flight Simulator. As we add new aircraft, we will also add corresponding lessons and missions in order to provide a detailed, in-depth experience across the board.
What has been the hardest part about taking over the Flight Simulator franchise?
The hardest part has been the prioritisation of some features over others. We would love to have everything included in this simulator from day one, however the practical realities mean we have to start somewhere, and with our focus on transitioning virtual student pilots into virtual private pilots we’ve inevitably had to side-step more demanding aircraft and delay their introduction until the full simulator is released.
What has been the best part about building Flight School?
The best part about building Flight School is realising my dream to build a flight simulator. Honestly, it’s been in the back of my mind for many years and to be part of a company committed to flight simulation, to be building a flight simulator…well, it’s pretty fantastic.
Flight School is exciting to develop because we’re trying to take what can be a very complex subject and introduce it to a new audience; the flight simmers of the future. That doesn’t mean dumbing anything down. It means delivering the experience in a more engaging and accessible format.
VR is really the talk of the town at the moment, are there any plans to bring VR support to Flight Simulator?
While we are primarily focused on making a fantastic PC flight simulator, VR support is something we will investigate further in the future, as it would be an amazing opportunity for the franchise.
Back in August 2015 Dovetail Games announced that Flight Simulator is coming to Xbox One. Is that still the case and if so how will it vary from the PC experience? Will it be playable via a controller or will a keyboard and Flight Stick be required? (Editor Note: It has since come to light that Flight Simulator 2016 was never planned for Xbox One)
A console release is something we may consider for Flight Simulator in the future, but for now, we are focused on making Dovetail Games Flight Simulator the best PC flight simulation experience possible.
Finally, there is no doubt going to be plenty of aircraft to master between Flight School and Flight Simulator, which aircraft will command the biggest challenge and which will be the most enjoyable to fly?
Is there such a thing as most enjoyable to fly? I think everyone has a personal favourite. For me I immensely enjoy the DA42. It looks beautiful, and it’s sufficiently more powerful than the other aircraft.