After entering into discussions privately with Chris regarding my review and opinion of this module,
I sent Chris 30 questions relating to VEAO and the Hawk, Chris and I have agreed to post it, unedited with out my intervention or 'modification' to the questions and Chris's answers.
It would be highly biased to edit Chris's answers to my questions to give a 1 sided view of the Hawk, knowing that the developer has come into this thread and voiced his concerns and informed me personally that his view of the module contradicts my testing of the module.
1. Chris, what has been the development time from planning of the Hawk, including gathering of the original team members and drafting the plan to what what released on the 21'st of this month.
For the DCS product from concept to now is just over 4 years.
We were awarded the contract with TFC on 18th Feb 2014 which is when development started in earnest with the original team members. The prior time was negotiating with BAE to build it, gathering information, setting up deals with pilots, getting team members on board, Etc. A module was also being made for the Virtual Red Arrows during that time which was learning how to build aircraft for DCS.
So, development time of the DCS product is just over 2 years.
2. How long until the hawk is in a state that you are satisfied with and committed to stand behind as the Project Manager'?
I stand fully committed behind the product in Beta development as Company Director since it was released officially in April last year and I stand behind the pre-release version when it was released in November 2014.
I will never be satisfied because I have OCD and want everything working perfectly in a stable sim platform. As DCS core product is still being developed we will no doubt encounter more issues. Satisfaction is not guaranteed.
3. in recent light of the release of the EFM, how many butts have you kicked in relation to the testing of the hawk in the lead up to the EFM release over the last 4 months?
We have an internal core team of testers volunteers that contribute significantly. ED also has a team of testers which post bug reports to us.
I have no control over what ED testers test on or report.
I am not a liberty to say how many butts have been kicked on either side due to NDAs in place.
4. what are some of the criticism's the paid testers put forward that you have taken on board and wanted to sort out the most?
What we call critical bugs that I explained in the stream. We have a bug list that is being worked through during Beta that my team and the testers have picked up. These are classed as Blocking, High, Medium or Low. Blocking and High bugs were fixed prior to EFM release.
ED are responsible for Starforce protection on Hawk which both their and our testers check prior to release but you see what happens sometimes, even the sim has CPU and starforce issues.
5. Are the red arrows the only 'real life' hawk pilots who are testing the hawk and giving you the feedback?
The Red Arrows pilots do not test DCS: Hawk. There are 6 independent pilots either serving in the RAF, Royal Navy, Reserves or have left the service that provide feedback on the module.
6. Are there any posts you have written before the release of the Alpha in the official ED forums that you regret? if so name one.
I never regret anything I do or say. It is done or said at that time for the right reasons at that time. People should never regret decisions they make. Just strive to learn from bad decisions, and yes Ive made plenty in my life and learnt from them.
7. Was the fallout with Tango in any way related to the work he did with Aviodev? Probably an NDA here so i'll rephrase, were you personally annoyed Tango was working for Aviodev?
I cannot comment on Tangos relationship with Aviodev, only on ours.
The fallout between Tango and VEAO was not related to Aviodev.
8. How many people have at VEAO have you sacked or 'let go' because their work was not up to scratch?
There is only 1 direct employee with VEAO and that is me. All other developers are sub-contractors under a very strict contract.
We have cancelled numerous contracts because the work was not up to scratch or not developed to target deadlines. The A-4 Skyhawk is an example of this.
9. The hawk is still in Beta, you stated there were 'a couple of things' you said left to do before you declared the aircraft out of Beta, what were those 'couple of things' before the release of the EFM
Ill rephrase your question as the couple of things did not take priority over the EFM. EFM has always been the priority since concept.
The main thing for the big patch as I called it was EFM and updated cockpit textures.
The remaining big items are Radios (which fully work in 1.5.3 and partially in 2.0.2 (this tells you how different the sim versions are)), further updates to the cockpit textures; switches, dials, gauges, Etc., custom weapons and remaining bugs reported by ED testers and our testers.
10. Have your testers loaded up 1 wing and tried to fly the aircraft, meaning taking off or starting in the air and tried attempted to trim it out?
We have tried various lodaouts from the default DCS stock weapons. Depending on the weight it is either possible to take off/fly or not.
In real life you would never a-symmetrically load an aircraft for exactly this reason. We cannot prohibit this being done in DCS (core part of the sim).
When we have the Hawk proper custom weapons loaded, the EFM and trim is built to take those weight loads. What you have as the DCS weapons right now is not realistic to Hawk as weve said many times.
11. Trim tabs, why are they not featured, trim guages in the cockpit don't function, Is trimming the aircraft actually coded yet? fire up the hawk, F2 view, I can't see anything moving both with the aileron or rudder when I attempt to trim either. If it is coded, why is it not animated? When will they be animated
The trim system in 2.0.2 EFM is fully working.
ED changed something in the trim system for SFM flight model in 1.5. That is beyond our control.
Do you know much about the SFM system and how it works in DCS? Basically there is a table of data and we input certain values based on the aircraft like wing span, weight, max fuel. DCS then calculates the entire flight model internally. All we can do is provide certain information in the table.
This is why we cant fix the 1.5.3 trim problem.
Trim gauges, switches and animations are on the Medium list and will be worked on after the patch this week. The animations in the model have been set, the code has been written but the ASM interface written by Tango does not work and needs to be re-coded.
12. If I put together a short list who I recommend could 'do a better job' than the team currently working on the hawk, would you consider reading the thesis and personally contact each individual and ask them their thoughts?
(the clause would be that the list contains members of the official ED forums and here at SimHQ who are currently working on and releasing mods for free publicly at ED, LOF and SimHQ)
We have advertised many times looking for people to join our team. Some have applied and have been tasked with projects.
Its not as easy as getting rid of someone and replacing them like in a normal job.
As an example Tango wrote 8000 lines of code for Hawk. When he left, someone had to spend a lot of time understanding his logic, his coding style and of course how to integrate with EDs SDK.
There would be no benefit at this time in development to replace them for Hawk project.
However; I am more than happy for a short list of people that would be happy to work for us under strict contract conditions which we have with each developer and I would be more than happy to contact them.
13. How many coders are currently working on the hawk. How many hours a week have you delegated each individual to work on the Hawk?
Each contractor spends whatever free time they have during evenings and weekends to code. We do not stipulate a set amount of time as most people cannot commit with jobs and kids.
When we did write that into the contracts, people could also not deliver to timescales due to the nature of developing for DCS. Its not as clear cut as a normal software project I have project managed in the past. Due to NDA with ED I cannot go into more specifics on this.
I am full time VEAO since September last year and do some coding but also run the business, set up events, promotions and military work.
Each contractor works a full time day job and develops in his/her spare time.
14 "We have day jobs" what is your take on developers working with\for ED and it's 3rd parties having "day jobs" and using that as an excuse when they can't make dead lines or fall short with updates bug fixes and the like?
Most 3rd party developers for DCS that I know, and are in contact with, have day jobs. Only if a module is successful and sells lots of copies I assume they can afford to give up their job and work on modules full time.
The only employees I know of working on DCS full time are ED and BST.
Also most 3rd party devs do not have the up-front cash sums to pay people a regular monthly salary.
Its not an excuse, its reality.
15. When was the last time you mowed your own lawn with a push mower? Mowing is actually therapeutic you actually see the benefit after your finished. Do you look at the hawk like you do your front yard every month you look over the work your team has produced and see drastic changes?
Actually I took time out yesterday and mowed the lawn with a petrol driven push mower.
Yes, with the production of the EFM over the past several months and the changes that have been made to the module, coupled with textures there have been drastic changes which I am proud of.
The intention was always to have EFM from the outset. That was a huge milestone in the development and I know the struggle the team had in producing it for DCS due to no fault of their own.
Having 6 independent pilots sign off on it was also a huge milestone.
Going forward there will be no more drastic changes to Hawk, just refinements. But I will still look proudly at the work the team have done, including Tango.
16. Are you happy with the cockpit textures in the hawk or do you at it and in the back of your mind think "they could be better"
I am happy with the new base textures that have been made. We took on a contractor renowned with developing textures for games.
He had a big shock when his excellent work shown in renders did not match in DCS and we have learnt a lot of tricks to get them looking realistic with the sim lighting and environment.
There is still work to do. As an example a recent update to DCS 2 made all the textures super reflective orange (desert colour). ED are obviously still tweaking the EDGE so I do see things like that and think what the frack happened there, what got changed there.
We have to work to the graphics engine we are given.
As I said earlier there are still more tweaks to the cockpit textures coming that were not on the High list.
17. Who's idea was it to work into the module 3 levels of high level cockpit textures and what was the reasoning behind it?
We discussed it as a team with the texture artist. With the advent of high end graphics cards coming on the market, plus the new capabilities of DCS 2 the decision was made to make 3 sets.
As far as I know we are the first 3rd party to do that. More will follow suit.
18. How long did it take the texture artist\s to develop the 3 levels of texture for the cockpit and after the release of the EFM do you think their time could have been spent better elsewhere?
About 3 months.
No, that was and is their contacted job. Each developer has a specific task they are given to work on, in their specific field. That may be modelling, texturing, sounds, coding, animations, etc.
Think of a module like a production line, model first, then textures and animation, then switch dial and gauge integration with ASM and EFM whilst sounds are being made, Etc.
We have contractors in their specialist field work on their specialty. No point moving them to something they are not so good at, thats bad leadership!!
19. Was the FC2 model the same model used for the hawk or was it a complete redesign?
Complete re-design. DCS affords much higher poly count than FC2.
20. What happened to the GPS in the hawk, will I see it or has that now been scrapped?
The GPS model was intended for the aerobatic version during concept. We are not allowed to produce that version.
21. What is the size of the team actually working on the hawk?
Right now today, 6
22. Do you have any external programs that you have used to model the EFM? such as those upwards of $10,000 Australian dollars available to the public used to model the aerodynamics of aircraft? How did you model the EFM simulation?
Our EFM programmer made our own model which has the same purpose. This is his expert field.
23. How many copies of the hawk have actually been sold roughly, I have you quoted as saying "10's of thousands' is it really? how many more have been sold roughly since the release of the EFM?
I will not divulge actual sales figures. Let me put it another way, which you can check online, VEAO made Ł4000 profit in 2014/15.
As I said on the stream, each aircraft costs around Ł100,000 to produce, so that will give you a rough figure.
24. Have ED been pressuring VEAO to push out patches with out testing them?....I'll rephrase that, have you let patches go to ED with out testing them for yourself?
Absolutely not . We have no pressure from ED to put patches out, that is up to us to deliver them using their patch system.
All patches are tested prior to going onto EDs server.
25 What drives\motivates you?
Starbucks coffee. Oh sorry yeah were not allowed to joke about that are we
The sense of satisfaction when you see other people enjoying what you do.
If I was doing this for the money then I would have stayed in Health & Safety on a regular salary.
26 What is a fault that you see in yourself? (my reasons behind this? I have been asked this and you should be asking this to your next job applicant as I do mine. If they can't fault themselves they don't deserve the job, before you all jump the gun. You know my fault, too blunt and too honest hey Remon)
We all have faults. We all make mistakes. My biggest one in terms of DCS development is trusting people and then they screw me over.
Thats why I now have a lawyer charging Ł400 an hour
27. What time frame do you expect the Typhoon to take compared to the development of the hawk? It is not a 2-3 year project as you previously stated with the Typhoon and 12 months for the hawk
Typhoon is a 2-3 year project from start of development to end, roughly.
We decided with Hawk and P-40 to have a base EFM and base ASM that can be used for future modules. This will reduce some development time.
The biggest issue with Typhoon is permission for the actual systems, thats what takes time, negotiating.
28. Would you consider the Australian dollar when your next aircraft goes on sale? A $50 module is currently a $65AUD
The prices for DCS modules market place is set by ED.
If you look on our website and EDs the actual price for the Hawk is $39.99 We have made very few sales at full price and have even dropped the price as low as $12 during sales.
We also dont get the full sale price into our bank.
29. have you ever thought during the development of the hawk that you "have bitten off more than you can chew" or are you always looking at the end result with out looking at the results so far?
Thats a contradictory question right there.
No I have not bitten off more than I can chew. I am fully capable of making DCS modules.
You should always look forward in life, without ignoring the past or present and deal with the issues in front of you as they crop up.
That bit of lifestyle advice Ill give for free
30. Would you still consider a more current version of the hawk such as the 127?
As I said on the stream, it all depends on licensing from the manufacturer. Also we do not want to flood the DCS market with trainers so we are looking at other areas of DCS interest as I mentioned on the stream.