Jumping right in to the airport, we can immediately see the hard work put in by these two developers. My eyes were drawn right to the terminal building right in front of me, which had a level of detail I’d be content with in a $30 scenery.
This high-quality theme continues through the airport, with a fantastic rendition of the Air National Guard buildings and beautiful PBR ground textures springing out to me as great features when I had a look around.
We had the chance to sit down with the developers of this scenery, Connor (X-Codr) and Cam (AeroDesign) to discuss their first combined project.
Without further ado, Cam and Connor, welcome to Threshold!
Sam: So, first question - how did you guys start developing for X-Plane? When did you come to start working on sceneries together?
Connor: I [started] developing personal stuff in 2016, and I started working on my first free scenery KJFK for the gateway in August 2016 because I got tired of large 2d airports and I wanted to do something about it. I eventually I got into custom modeling airports after several updates of my free KJFK. I got into payware with Sedona UHD in August of 2017. Cameron came to me as a beta tester for KDEN in mid 2018, and we started working on KMGM together in December 2018.
Cam: I started developing back in the X-Plane 10 era when I saw Justin (Misterx6) producing these amazing sceneries. One day I decided to give it a try, so that's when MGM was born back in 2015 I think. When X-Codr was working on Denver at the time I looked up to him for feedback. After some time the development of MGM fell through with my old group which was referred to Crashsite at the time. Afterwards X-Codr and I were becoming really good friends and I messaged him asking if he wanted to help me out and he did, which I greatly appreciate him for helping me out.
Sam: How do you choose your airports, for both payware and freeware projects? How did Montgomery stick out?
Connor: Well for me with Montgomery I didn't have much of a choice, Cameron came to me with it, and it was a good opportunity to collaborate with another developer and I had been wanting to give a freeware package back to the community anyway. So it was really just a perfect set of circumstances for Montgomery. For my other airports, I generally either do an airport this interesting to me, for example Sedona and Telluride were both very interesting to me, or I try to fill a need in the community, such as with KDEN which had been widely requested. I also try to make sure I pick airports that would be somewhat popular, that way I'm not just making a nice airport that no one will really enjoy using even if they do download or buy it.
Cam: Personally as my first airport I wanted a relatively small airport to do. I did some looking around on google maps and looked for neglected states. That's where I found MGM, a nice place that was pretty neglected in the X-Plane world. Besides MGM, in general I like to look for feedback from the X-Plane community and see what they prefer. I also like to look at what aircraft are in development so when I remembered the Rotate MD-11 and the SSG CRJ-700 being made I figured that Grand Rapids would be a nice option to have since of the cargo/regional routes there.
Sam: How much time would you estimate you guys spent working on Montgomery? Did it compare to either of your most recent payware projects?
Connor: Well for me I'd say I spent about 5 months on Montgomery, so around 1 thousand hours, though a lot of that was experimenting with new techniques in speeding up development and improving the quality. But compared to Denver, it was a nice and easy airport, the only way to describe Denver is massive, so Montgomery was definitely a nice break. I'd say it was comparable to the time it took for the original Sedona and it's update, along with the original Telluride.
Cam: I still have the old terminal model of MGM which was created back in late 2014. Work didn't really start until Connor was done with Denver but during summer I probably spent 25 hours a week on it. Montgomery was an airport that we wanted to blow out of the water. We wanted it to be the best freeware scenery ever made for X-Plane 11 period. CMH doesn't reach the level that MGM does due to how small MGM is. One day I would love to change that.
Sam: About the airport specifically - which parts did you find most challenging about this scenery? The most fun?
Connor: Well, I'd say one of the biggest challenges was synchronization between the two of us. Of course all airports have their challenges, such as outdated imagery and oddly shaped geometry, but really the biggest struggle in my opinion was we always seemed to get out of sync and sometimes we'd end up with some data loss. For example, Cameron had to correct some tar lines like 4 or 5 times because it always seemed to get lost between sending each other new versions. It was a very different experience than just developing by yourself, but I think towards the end we got started to get the hang of it.
How have you guys worked on this scenery? Do you both specialise in the same things or do you both assist with each others weaknesses?
Connor: I mainly do 3d modeling, texturing, and asset creation.
Cam: I mainly focus on WED stuff, and Connor helps teach me a lot on 3d modeling creation and texturing.
Connor: And we do help each other out, for example, Cameron made the base terminal and tower models at KMGM.
Cam: To this day we still both teach each other new tricks such as the color grid for blender which I showed him last week I think.
What is the point at which you think a scenery is “good enough” to release? Was there such a point with Montgomery?
Cam: The way I look at it is that there is no point where I think a scenery is good enough. There are always things we can do to make it perform better or make it look nicer. Montgomery is an airport that we definitely tried to reach that point with.
Sam: Obviously having this as a side project means more focus will be set on payware endeavours, though do you think you’ll ever return for another Payware for Free scenery?
Cam: I think in the future [when] we have time then sure.
Connor: I personally don't see a return to Payware for Free in the foreseeable future. I'm definitely not going to say I'm never doing it again, but for the time being, I have no plans of doing it again as I need to focus more on creating high quality products that can eventually be a way of supporting myself. So, in short, not in the immediate future.
Regarding your own personal brands; Cam, you’ve just announced Grand Rapids as your next scenery - Connor, is there anything you can reveal about your next project?
Connor: My next project is something small in southern Indiana. That airport in KEVV - Evansville Regional Airport! The main motivation for this airport is that I have a contact I've gotten to know pretty well over a couple of years who actually works at the airport. It's also a very nice airport, I'm pretty excited to get this airport out to the community and I'm hoping to make this my best airport yet. Stay tuned for more news on the project!
On that note - Connor is excited to share more news on the Evansville Airport project and will make a formal announcement soon. As always, Threshold will keep you posted.
Young talent is a great thing to have in any industry. What advice do you have for anyone just starting out with X-Plane development?
Cam: Start small and work your way up. Starting small can help you out in the long run since you will be getting some good practice in for future projects. Another thing I would say is ask for help if you need it. This community is amazing since everyone is wanting to see people succeed, and they will help if you need it.
Connor: The biggest advice I have is to start small. Don't worry about making it look great, just ok. Then gradually work on making your airport and 3d models more detailed and more advanced. And above all, familiarize yourself with how X-Plane works, and watch lots of videos of 3d modeling/texturing. A good starting point is to make a small gateway airport, then slowly work your way up into custom modeling.
What are your thoughts on the X-Plane community as a whole? Are we headed in a good direction at the moment?
Connor: The X-Plane community is an amazing place. With the introduction of X-Plane 11 we've seen huge growth in the community, which is great for developers and Laminar Research. We have a lot of great people in the community, in fact I'd say the vast majority contribute to the community with their positive and polite attitude alone. But as with any community, we have some challenges. One of these are the occasional "bad apples", these are the pirates, and the people that are just downright rude to everyone about everything. Thankfully these people are absolutely not the majority, but as much as I hate to say it, some of this negative behavior seems to be on the rise, and this hurts everyone in the community. Thankfully though we have a lot of positive forces in the community. And for all of those people that provide constructive criticism, that are polite, and that contribute to a friendly atmosphere in this amazing community, I want to give a huge thanks!
Cam: I think the X-Plane community is a nice and helpful but like any community certain parts can be a bit negative or toxic. Of course this shouldn't surprise anyone. In general I like taking any advice and trying to improve my work based off of it. In the end I just want to put out a good product that I want the community to love. But personally I feel like the community has been getting more and more negative. The reason why X-Plane is a community is because we all love aviation and we should continue to spread that "love" instead of hate.
What do you guys think of Microsoft’s new flight sim? Does your personal view differ from the one you hold in your capacities as X-Plane developers?
Connor: My personal view is I need that now. It just looks gorgeous, even Austin admits that. But, that is quite a bit different from my professional view. My biggest concern is if they can actually deliver, and what kind of development environment will it be. Sure screenshots and videos can look amazing, but what is it actually like when you are using it? How will it withstand the test of time? And what kind of development workflow will it be? Will it turn into a complicated mess that makes me turn away from it at first glance, or a straightforward easy to learn development workflow like X-Plane? I hope to see Microsoft deliver an amazing product with all the resources they have, but there are a ton of unknowns at this point, so there is no way I can give a firm answer. At this point my thinking is sure I'll look into developing for it, but, I'm not getting my hopes too high as a developer. And to be perfectly honest I don't know if any new flight simulator will be able to pull me from X-Plane.
Cam: Personally, Microsoft's new flight sim looks absolutely amazing. Of course I need to wait for the official release to see how it runs and plays out before having a final judgment on it. I would love to develop for it in the future if the opportunity arises but I need to see how the development cycle is going to run for me.
I’d like to give a very big thanks to Cam (AeroDesign) and Connor (X-Codr) for getting in touch with us about this interview, it’s been great!