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#1391876 - 07/23/04 08:15 PM An open letter from a former KOE developer  
Joined: Mar 2004
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Xeidos2 Offline
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(originally drafted May 19, 2004)

An open letter to the flight simulation community,
especially those interested in World War One aviation.

By now youve heard that the development of Knights Over Europe has been stopped. This letter is not an attempt to explain what happened during the development of KOE that lead to its demise nor is it an attempt to fix blame on those people and companies responsible. Instead, this letter is an attempt to explain to the community what their options are in getting a new WW1 flight simulation made.

What would it take to finish KOE? If you had approximately $125,000 and 9 to 12 months of solid engineering time and a really good lawyer, you could have it on your store shelves by Christmas, 2005. (These are estimates made by an artist, take them with a hugh amount of skepticism)

Where would this money come from? Large game publishers? Not likely. The mainstream game industry has abandoned flight sims since 1999. Why? Its very difficult to make a good one and not that many people buy them when compared to other types of games on the market. So theres no point in trying to have the members of your favorite forum have a petition drive to get some large publisher pick us up and finish KOE. Theyre not interested in anything unless they can be guaranteed sales of 100,000 copies. And as we all know, its when a game is re-designed to reach a mass market that most game-play problems are introduced into flight sims.

At the recent E3 convention there were over 1000 new games presented. According to the information on the official E3 site, only 3.9 percent of those games were simulations of any kind. KOE wasnt there even though we could have been and should have been, but thats not my point in writing this.

What about a mid-size or small independent publisher? When Aspect Simulations first went looking for publishers in 2003, some small publishers showed interests in KOE. But none of them could offer the financial support needed to complete the game.

What if we took the parts of KOE that were finished and put them into a different package than the one originally announced and publish it ourselves over the internet? We could use the revenue that came in and then finish KOE as originally designed. That course of action was studied but not pursued. The flight sim community had pretty high expectations as to what KOE was going to be and if we put out anything less, we would have been criticized so badly on the forums that no one would have bought any copies, certainly not enough to support finishing development. The concept of the flight sim community supporting a product through different stages of development is too different from what has been done in the past to expect that it would work now.

So what options does the community have if they want to see a new flight simulation game? Especially one devoted to World War One aviation. From my perspective I see that there are two options open to them. One is what I call the hobbyist development team. A bunch of programmers and 3d artists get together and in their spare time they build a flight sim. I can think of at least 3 different examples of this kind of project: Target For Tonight, The Targetware series (Target Flanders) and Birds of Prey. The 3d content in these sims has been incredible and there are talented modelers all around the world who have helped these projects. But the programming or engineering side of things hasnt gone so well. Correct me if Im wrong, but none of these projects has yet to get beyond open beta, even though theyve been worked on for years. I dont think theres anything wrong with the teams. I just think that theyre all keenly aware of how incredibly hard it is to make something as complex as a flight sim in your spare time.

The second option would be for the flight sim community to set-up a not-for-profit organization. Call it the Society for the Preservation of Flight Simulation, or whatever name people can agree on. Then use this outfit to have fund raisers, much like the public radio stations in the States do, and use the money to pay the salaries of programmers who are hired to write the code for a flight sim. There are all kind of things that could be done to raise money. Artwork made for game UI screens could be made into art prints and sold. Squadrons could raise money to commission certain textures made or even specific aircraft created. If people paid dues, then theyd get a big discount on the price of the finished game. The non-profit could publish a newsletter letting members know the inside scoop on the progress of the games development. Of course, if the outfit was set-up in Canada they could always apply for a grant from the government. Or we could go to the Department of Defense and say that were training future operators for UAVs.

Once the basic code was written, it could then be adapted to whatever kind of flight sim the society wanted to make. 3d content could be purchased or donated. Once a game was assembled and tested, it could be distributed over the internet and people could download the game or have a CD mailed to them. Money from the sales of the game would go back into the not-for-profit and they would use the money to pay programmers to do research and development on the next generation of flight sims. If a game did well Im sure some publisher would buy the rights to it and put it in a box so that it could be put in the stores.

Why is it so hard to program a flight simulator that youd have to hire someone to work on it full-time? The way it was explained to me (remember Im the art guy and not one of the engineers) is that almost all of the code that programmers have to work with in making games is designed primarily for first person shooter style games. To get this code to work in a flight sim requires a great deal of customization and optimization. To get it to work right a programmer needs months of time to focus on the details. If one is trying to do this in their spare time and there are a lot of outside distractions then the task is next to impossible.

The part of this concept that I like the best is that the marketing people dont have to get involved. It would be flight sim people having flight sims designed and made for themselves, not the mass market. The making of a good flight sim can still be a profitable undertaking it just will never be as big a profit as some other types of games.

So as I make back-ups of the KOE development files and store them away, and I get ready to stand in the unemployment line and practice saying paper or plastic I reflect on the future of flight sims and wonder if the flight sim community has the will and the wisdom to change the way it works. If they keep waiting for big publishers theyll have to settle for more and more arcade style games if they get anything at all. If they wait for hobbyists the wait will be a long one. The content will be first class, but the underlying code writing will take a long time. I like what theyre doing over at Targetware but Im not going to pay $120 a year to fly online. If they organize and support a not-for-profit theres no telling what will happen as thats not been done before.

If the past is any indication, Im sure the future will be something totally different than anything I imagined.

John MacKay aka Xeidos2
3d/2d artist Knights Over Europe Aspect Simulations
3d artist Target Rabaul Beaufighter greatly modified by YAK
3d artist Target Korea F3D Skyknight and texture for F9F-2 Panther
3d artist Victory Over Guadualcanal Aspect Simulations
3d/2d artist Confirmed Kill Eidos Interactive
3d/2d artist Flying Nightmares II Eidos Interactive

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#1391877 - 07/23/04 08:52 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Blacksheep02 Offline
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Thanks to you and Eddie W for replying to us on the forums to let all of us know what was going on with KOE.

The idea of a community funded flight sim was discussed in another thread, first jokingly, but I truly considered the prospect. Some thought it would be impossible, others thought it would be truly feasible. I truly think that a community funded and designed sim is the only way we will ever get the style products we want. Thankfully for WWII there is an Oleg Maddox with a publisher like UBI who is willing to publish and distrube a high quality sim. But for us in the WWI community we have no such man, and no such publisher.

So why not attempt to do this? If we don't the end result will be what we have now, nothing! And it will remain that way for a long time as there are no other major WWI flight sims anywhere near completion. I think we truly should discuss the possibilty, and I'm open to help in anyway I can. I've got a website, and can build them to, so I think I could help with the promotion of a project like this.

What would you be willing to do is the next question I ask, and does anyone else think a project of this scale s possible?


-Blacksheep
The Sheeps Pen
#1391878 - 07/23/04 09:15 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Guderian Offline
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Thank you John for taking the time to explain this, and thanks for your efforts even if it didn't work out this time.

Quote:

The second option would be for the flight sim community to set-up a not-for-profit organization.
I actually think that's a brilliant idea. The 125.000 USD you mentioned comes to 2500 people investing 50 USD per person. Surely this is not an impossible number?


"I prefer to fly alone ... when alone, I perform those little coups of audacity which amuse me" - Ren Fonck
#1391879 - 07/23/04 09:28 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Osram Offline
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This post is full of nutrients I will have to digest it and also I will forward the link to someome that might find it interesting \:\) .

Still, some random first thoughts. :p
Excuse me if most of my replies are to secondary issues.

Quote:

By now youve heard that the development of Knights Over Europe has been stopped.
:(

Quote:

What would it take to finish KOE? If you had approximately $125,000 and 9 to 12 months of solid engineering time and a really good lawyer, you could have it on your store shelves by Christmas, 2005. (These are estimates made by an artist, take them with a hugh amount of skepticism)
The lawyer bit sounds bad \:\( . $125,000 is peanuts to a big publisher, but of course, like you say, if they are not interested in flight sims, that does not help.

Quote:

The concept of the flight sim community supporting a product through different stages of development is too different from what has been done in the past to expect that it would work now.
It is a bit different, yes, and so it would turn of some potential financiers. OTOH it is what IMHO has to be done (generally speaking) and for example you could say Oleg does it with Il2, Il2:FB, AEP, BoE, PF etc. To create a flight sim engine fomr scratch is a HUGE job. To use it for one game is financially stupid IMHO. Also, you can not up the price much without loosing so many customers that on the end you get less money than for a standard price of say 50$. So, you need to sell the engine multiple times, using different enough "clothes" (possibly theaters) so that you can re-sell it. This is IMHO a win-win situation for developer and customer.

But the problem in your case will probably be that the first iteration already has to be fun to play. One problem why a flight sim is so hard to produce is that you can leave off very little without it stop being fun.

I am a coder, so let me speak mainly code. You NEED the following modules:

1. 3D gfx (planes, objects)
2. Terrain engine
3. FM. You might just get away with one FM instead of two (easy and realistic), but it will reduce appeal.
4. Weapons model and damage model if peaking a combat sim
5. Sound
6. GUI
7. AI and/or MP. leaving off one of the two is possible but limits audience a lot.
8. Input code

Things for a "full sim" that you might leave off:
9. Communications with other planes and/or the
ground (ground controller in WWII etc).
10. Campaign

A few words about how hard it is to do a flight sim. IMO it is more difficult to do a high quality flight sim than a high quality fps. You need virtually all the aspects of a fps plus historic research and missions, campaign plus physics model (FM / weapons model / DM) is more complex. The only thing where I would see the code for a fps as more complex is if the code is equally well suited for indoor and outdoor. Then it virtually needs two gfx engines.

On a forum for professional game developers, I recently saw this sentence about a buggy fps: "They had no chance. They only had 30 developers for 3 years".

The reason that flight sims are still produced in spite of the staggering costs is that a modern (last 5-10 years I would say) flight sim may contain all modules it needs, but the quality is far below most fps. There are a ton of things that could be improved in any current flight sim.

Quote:

A bunch of programmers and 3d artists get together and in their spare time they build a flight sim. I can think of at least 3 different examples of this kind of project: Target For Tonight, The Targetware series (Target Flanders) and Birds of Prey.
You should say a hobby team that ultimately wants to sell the sim. There are more than 10 "hobby" teams altogether. Apart from some teams that are simply not up to it, the problem with all teams I know is that they are too small.

#1391880 - 07/23/04 11:06 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Xeidos2 Offline
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Osram,

I appreciate your comments, especially since you're a person who has "been there and done that."

While I'm still not at liberty to go into details about what we had and still needed to do on KOE, of the list of things you mentioned I had the impression that we had over half those things well covered. Again - I'm the 3d guy and not a programmer. But I could fly my models around and shoot other planes down and each plane handled differently.

We were a small team to begin with (I had to smile to myself when I read some people's posts, they must have thought we had 30 or 40 people)so when we lost only a few people we quickly got to a point where finishing KOE as it was originally announced became almost impossible. But we were relunctant to announce anything because we weren't about to give up until we considered every possibility and we were trying to figure out what we could do. My folks are from Canada and I was born in Texas, which means I'm inclined to be stubborn and don't know the meaning of quit.

Well, we do have a plan and we're starting to execute it, but it will be a few months before we have anything to say or show publicly.

I got the idea for setting up a not-for-profit org after listening to the public radio station here in Denver. They just raised $600,000 so people could listen to classical music on the radio. Judging by what we were able to do with our small team, we could have made 2 or 3 sims with that amount of money.

It'll be interesting to see what comes of all this.

#1391881 - 07/24/04 01:37 AM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Badsight Offline
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IL2 used a Lucas Games Star Wars game engine

which i dont know (x-wing vrs TiE ? dont laugh , its true)

#1391882 - 07/24/04 02:09 AM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Ajay Offline
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I would put up 50 usd if that would keep non arcade sims in development even if it meant years of waiting...god its only a good bootle of scotch and the cost of fuel to the shop and back ;\)

I am sure all the whining on forums does not help sims at all and would not be surprised if it is actually the simmers themselves who have done most of the damage to this market.How hard must it be when you are only in development and people are whinging their ass off because of some bloody trivial thing they see in a screenshot.

Idiots.

My 50 bucks stands when or if it is ever needed...who knows i may even be able to contribute in some other small way to with models as well.

cheers..lets keep sims alive and stop shooting ourselves in the foot.


My il2 page
Seelowe Campaign
Cliffs of Dover page
CloD
My Models
Tanks/Planes/Ships


#1391883 - 07/24/04 10:28 AM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Dantes Offline
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Good luck to you and the other members of Aspect on your future endeavors and I'm sorry that it didn't work out. We waited and got nothing, but you worked on something that never got to see fruition. I do not envy your position.

This is really sad news. I hope KOE can get the financing in order to continue. If they find another publisher, are they legally allowed to use the development made with Destineer's financing?

I wish Aspect had been more forthcoming about this. It seems they have learned some hard lessons and hopefully in the future they will realise communication and self-promotion are important, especially if they feel their position is tenous. A backup plan next time?

S!

#1391884 - 07/24/04 11:21 AM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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JAS Gripen Offline
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Suomi Finland
\:\( \:\(

Truly , the worst case scenario again happened. But I appreciate that a team member took the time to enlighten us.

It's a shame that in a market saturated with indifferent RTS and FPS games no major publisher does see any potential in presenting a simgame to stand out from the rest.

It appears that the future of flight-sims, if there is ssuch a thing, is in the East. I'm skeptical about hobbyist approach ever producing a WWI simgame I'd like to play. Perhaps forthcoming BoB engine of 1C/Maddox Games could do the trick. Since 1C has released "fantasy" planes in FB/AEP series the lack of definite data about many WWI crates should be no absolute barrier anymore.

In any case, any successor to RBII is far, far beyond the horizon \:\(

A sad day.


-It's the campaign engine, silly!-
#1391885 - 07/24/04 11:46 AM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Alain-James Offline
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So sad to learn such news - even if for some years now, we're unfortunately used to such simulation "industry" news.

Be sure we'll keep an eye on this tragedy - and don't hesitate to ask us if there's something we may do - you know we were with you from the start, and that's still true!

Best luck and wishes.

S!

Alain-James

#1391886 - 07/24/04 12:37 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Heini von Seppel Offline
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That is really sad.

I was looking forward to a up to date ww1 sim more than anything else. However I'm not the mass market.

Thank you for your letter. It is appreciated.

Good luck for your future.

#1391887 - 07/24/04 02:22 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Bloody interesting, Xeidos2.

The very low number of sims being developed is amazing for those of us that love sims, but then you only have to look at the volume markets such as FPS's and RPGs to understand.. (I happened to see the other night that there are 1.4million registered users at the main site for the RPG Neverwinternights, for example.)

We have seen some of this small developer/small distributor stuff with Battle of Britain (both the original release and our current work). If you have a niche product, you will be dealing with a niche channel/publisher and therefore find eagerness high but cash low.

People really don't see the thousands of hours that go into developing a game engine, as you rightly say. You can fiddle with Artwork in a moment, but that's all a bit pointless if the core game is no good. They also almost never appreciate just how many issues 'trivial' changes can introduce. With BoB we have a different situation in that we are working on a 'finished' game, but it has been quite repeatable that a single new feature will yield multiple new issues, and these often come out much later. If only people knew just how long it takes and how hard it can be to pin things down. Mercifully it is possible to attract a mature and reasonable community who don't destroy your efforts on a whim but expectations are nevertheless very very high when dealing with highly informed sim buyers.

I have been following Target for Tonight with anticipation for a long while, and that one is certainly suffering. Did they not have a not-for-profit motive too? Of course, I don't think they had an organised funding campaign in mind.

It's a great shame that your project has stalled. The worst thing would be that the code now rots away somewhere. Rowan had the goodness of heart to release the source code of their last two sims to the community, but they were in a different place from where you are right now, so I am not suggesting that as an option for you.

Unless WW1 suddenly becomes more sexy and combat aviation simmers become less demanding, this is a tricky situation.


"Ah yes, Michael (Parkinson)," Bader replied, "But these Fockers were Messerschmitts..."

BDG BoB Developers Group: Eleven! years of passion for historical recreation of the Battle of Britain.
#1391888 - 07/24/04 04:39 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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JAS Gripen Offline
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Suomi Finland
Quote:
Originally posted by Bader:

Unless WW1 suddenly becomes more sexy and combat aviation simmers become less demanding, this is a tricky situation.
Too bad Mr.Cruise did not choose to do a WWI movie - not that I complain about a BoB movie, mind you. Now something like a major (good) movie about WWI airwar would definitely do the trick.

Ok, I'm dreaming.


-It's the campaign engine, silly!-
#1391889 - 07/24/04 06:59 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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As far as movies go I think the closest we're going to get is King Kong. It's going to have Curtiss O2C-1 Helldivers. Finding plans for one is like finding hen's teeth.

#1391890 - 07/24/04 07:09 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Blacksheep02 Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by JAS Gripen:
Too bad Mr.Cruise did not choose to do a WWI movie - not that I complain about a BoB movie, mind you. Now something like a major (good) movie about WWI airwar would definitely do the trick.

Ok, I'm dreaming.
I've always considered writing a WWI aviation movie. It would bring attention to WWI, which has become the most forgotten war, and perhaps it just might get people interested in WWI aircraft. I always think stuff like this is possibe because I'm still a college student trying to figure out what I'm going to do. I actually worked out a basic outline for a WWI aviation move 3 years ago, its just sitting in a notebook along with 5 other movie script outlines I've written. Maybe I'll actually get working on it. What the hell, mine as well try and write it and see where it goes from there


-Blacksheep
The Sheeps Pen
#1391891 - 07/24/04 08:00 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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JAS Gripen Offline
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Hey Blacksheep , no need to scratch your head trying to come out with an exciting story - just take Nungesser and make him American for the movie. (With the present anti-French climate in the US I guess this is not only advisory but mandatory...)

Nungesser had it all: a major ace, hairy escapes, stubborn guts to fly when he should have been grounded for wounds, women, wine and an the affair with notorious Mata Hari. And to cap it all a mysterious disappearance after the war instead of boring "he grew old" or some anti-climatic death in a mail-flight crash.

Make him shoot down the Baron and to have a brush with young Gring who cowardly escapes.

There, a surefire blockbuster for you \:D \:D


-It's the campaign engine, silly!-
#1391892 - 07/24/04 09:29 PM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  

**DONOTDELETE**
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Unregistered


Im real sorry to hear this, hopefully things will work out in the future.

Kess
The Promised Land


#1391893 - 07/25/04 12:54 AM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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Quote:
Originally posted by aussie jim:
I am sure all the whining on forums does not help sims at all and would not be surprised if it is actually the simmers themselves who have done most of the damage to this market.

Idiots.
I second that...
I third that...
I fourth that...

#1391894 - 07/25/04 01:23 AM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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FlyXwire Offline
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Well gee wiz, how loyal do you have to be to a genre, or a marque, or for that matter a market before we get a new retail WWI flight sim?

How passionate do you have to be for flight sims in general, and how much time should we spend on these forums discussing ideas and wants for the "next generation" to come?

Some of us have spent hours here forwarding ideas, and exchanging views, keeping the flame, and generally making talk in the dark days while we waited for KOE to surface with another update!

The question again is "who the heck is to blame when a sim project tanks"?

Blame the simmers..............what the hell are you talkin' about!!!

#1391895 - 07/25/04 02:30 AM Re: An open letter from a former KOE developer  
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What some in the flight sim community consider the exchange of ideas and information, others consider to be the continual rantings of obsessed whinging and moaning caveman who really ought to go out and get (at least part of) a life beyond flight simming.

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