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turbofandude

Fall 2022 Development Update

It has certainly been a while since our last update, but we were holding off making a post to add some highly anticipated features. In the background, we have made significant changes to our infrastructure to support the productivity of our developers and our supporting roles.

With that being said, we would like to welcome @Ethanb_UK to his new role as Support Representative, and @lscott122 on his promotion to Community Manager. We look forward to seeing what both individuals can contribute to their new roles and how it will make a difference to our customers every day.

We've got some exciting content to share today, so read on for more (yes, we know the videos are low resolution; this is to assist in viewing and uploading).

 

PACX

Although we periodically update PACX, it’s due for something new and exciting. @lscott122 and @Jishwaah have been working in the background preparing for the upcoming Voice Packs Expansion!

The Voice Packs Expansion will add a whole slew of new voices (in both their native tongue and English) to further enhance the realism and localization of the PACX experience. With that said, we are pleased to confirm the following languages for the update: 

  • English (United Kingdom, English language only)

  • Australian (English language only) 

  • Spanish

  • German 

  • French 

  • Mandarin 

  • Japanese 

  • Portuguese 

  • Arabic 

As for the question that will inevitably get asked, we do not have an exact release date, but we are targeting a release during Q1 of 2023. 

We are now also hiring for voice actors to support PACX development by lending their voice and becoming virtual cabin crew! This role is open to anybody to apply, regardless of whether they have professional experience or are real-world cabin crew. If you are interested, or know somebody who is, and speak one of the languages above, get in touch today by submitting a short application at https://invernyx.com/apply. Successful applicants will be contacted to arrange an informal interview and to practice with the script before the official recording takes place. If you have any questions about the role, please reach out to Josh Riley via email at jriley[at]invernyx.com.  

 

smartCARS 3 

We have been spending time working on smartCARS 3 behind the scenes. Finally, we are happy to present some solid shots (and a video) of some new features, as well as a more in-depth technical explanation. 

 

Although that doesn’t seem like a great deal of functionality, what is happening under the hood is quite significant. As we have mentioned before, smartCARS 3 is a platform, not simply an application. This platform allows developers (both third-party and first party) to add functionality at any time. What you are seeing above is this concept in practice. 

The flights page seen above is a plugin that we ship with smartCARS 3. That plugin manages your bid flights, will let you search and book a new one, and of course, will let you start a flight the way a smartCARS user expects. The difference is that if a virtual airline wanted to customize their booking experience (think dispatch system, etc.), they could simply create a plugin with our documented SDK that would entirely replace our booking system while still allowing users to benefit from the rest of the smartCARS experience. 

Plugins can add menu icons, provide background services, and interact with the rest of the application with the same level of access we are using to develop core functionality. This means that the days of having to develop or purchase a custom ACARS for a virtual airline are over. You can simply leverage smartCARS and customize it to suit the exact needs of your users. 

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Above, we see the new “Virtual Airline Selector” experience. By default, partner virtual airlines will be displayed with their logo visible. A user can search for their virtual airline via that box and select the appropriate one. You will be able to link virtual airline accounts to your TFDi Design account to make restoring previously selected VAs easier. 

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This new ease of use will not come at the expense of virtual airline customization, however. Virtual airlines will still be able to have custom icons, change colors, modify behavior, and give users shortcuts to launch directly to their instance of smartCARS. 

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Under the hood, there is a plugin repository system, notification system, and inter-plugin communication system driving backend of smartCARS 3. With those features out of the way, you can expect to see significantly more visual progress as we approach the alpha testing/developer preview phase of the development lifecycle. 

 

MD-11 

The highly anticipated TFDi Design MD-11 is progressing well and we are thrilled to announce that the aircraft should be released by the end of September, 2023. We are still leaving this to be very ambiguous, as we would like to allow some breathing room for any issues that may crop up. 

Since our last development update, we have welcomed another 3D modeler to the aircraft design team, with @arwasairl taking up the work on our newly modelled MD-11 cabin. The virtual cabin will allow you to move around the aircraft freely and get the experience of an airline passenger during your own simulator flights. Initial tests in P3D V5.2, the performance impact of the cabin was negligible. It will still be optimized before release, of course, and for those working on more performance constrained systems, we will provide an option to disable it entirely. 

Below are some in-sim screenshots of the cabin! Our cabin is based on the KLM 3-class configuration, so there may be some variances from cabin pictures you may have seen. 

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We have continued work on the systems while the art team has been hard at work on the visual items. The autoflight system has quite a few of its more advanced features in-place. We are still tweaking exact numbers and performance, so we are not going to show it off in-flight just yet, but as of now, the following basic modes all work: 

  • Heading Hold 

  • Vertical Speed Hold 

  • Altitude Hold 

  • Level Change (Speed-On-Pitch) 

  • Speed Hold 

The important thing to note about those modes is that they are the foundation of the more complex modes. We have already worked heavily on the magenta line and navigation data usage (as you can see by the BAYPO9 SID displayed on the ND in the video). We have been really trying to capture the nuances of the autoflight system and it will vary from what you experienced in the 717, even if just slightly. One of the variances in the MD-11 is the pitch up guidance at 80 knots on the flight director (shown below). 

 

 We have also spent quite some time working on the stability assistance systems, the LSAS and RCWS systems. The LSAS is a complex system that assists in landing nose-down authority, speed protection, and pitch smoothing in-flight. We will post another video and/or dev update specifically detailing the ins and outs of the LSAS. We also have the (optional) roll control wheel steering (RCWS) feature. This assists horizontal stability by holding the roll wherever it was left by the pilot. It also will return the aircraft to a standard flight envelope if it is left outside of one (shown in the video below). 

 

Of course, there is the elephant in the room: Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS). We have been hard at work testing, optimizing, and refining our code and libraries to run in MSFS. Credit goes to Asobo for correcting a bug in the WASM compiler recently, so that has enabled us to progress further. Rest assured, although we're showing a lot of content in P3D or our standalone environment, nearly all of this progress translates directly to MSFS. We will have updates dedicated solely to MSFS progress over the next few months as we progress toward a fully flyable state.

 

Community 

Discord has recently released a forum feature for channels, and this has prompted an internal discussion from some of our team about the future of the forums on the website and changing to a standalone blog for our development and news updates. A transitional period will then take place as we train our staff and moderators about how to manage the forum topics and how support will be given to customers who request it on Discord, and how downloads will be done. 

Our Discord has proven to be popular and active amongst our community. Please let us know your thoughts, as well – we want to ensure the best experience for our customers and followers as well as paving a more efficient path for our support staff to assist when needed. 

 

Closing 

As always, we greatly appreciate your support! As we end the quiet period of development on both the MD-11 and smartCARS 3, we are happy to start sharing more with everyone as we progress toward an exciting product line-up over the next year.

Jishwaah

Spring Development Update

Hello and welcome to our first official development update for 2022! 

Since our last update posted at the end of the year, we have made some fairly significant progress towards achieving our goals for the quarter and becoming one step closer to the release of the highly-anticipated TFDi Design MD-11. Our team has been working very hard in the background, and we are proud to start showcasing their efforts so far!

 

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PACX

PACX has quickly grown into a staple for many simmers, and we recently spent several months working on an update to keep it fresh. This update was released on the 28th of April and had some pretty exciting new features. 

We added an improved “start flight” experience, namely via the aircraft cabin preview:

 

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Now, while starting your flight, you can get a better look at the cabin and seating layout. The aircraft begins to fill up in real-time as you increase your passenger count.

We added some in-flight experience customization options, such as better control of the customs card announcement and the ability to specify if a flight number continues or not.

We also added a new In-Flight Entertainment system!

 

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This IFE system allows you to view a live map of your flight, view news from FSElite, and listen to either of JetStream Radio’s music channels! We also added some extra sound options, native support for the FSLabs Airbus seatbelt sign, and fixed or tweaked a host of other items. The full changelog is on our forums here.

We can focus more energy on the upcoming voice packs update with this update out of the way! We are working to create the tools and infrastructure needed to work with voice actors and actresses worldwide to offer a vast selection of accents and languages. We’ll talk more about this once we get further into it.

If PACX interests you, head over to https://pacx.online to learn more. If you want to get your hands on PACX, use discount code PACX10 to get 10% off your PACX order! (Code valid until May 31st, 2022) 

smartCARS 3

While our artist works on finalizing the UI design, the team have been working diligently behind the scenes to establish a remarkable base for our next generation of flight tracking software.

We have designed smartCARS 3 to allow a virtual airline to tailor the experience they want their pilots to have. Below is an example of our smartCARS 3 web API (this is subject to change and is currently still in active development) for searching the details of a flight, straight from phpVMS. In addition, our all-new API will provide virtual airline owners and developers a phenomenal base for their unique modules to allow each VA to have unique modules to support the individual needs of their organization. smartCARS 3, as has been discussed previously, will be a completely new system compared to earlier versions of smartCARS, bringing with it an entirely new level of functionality for everyone.

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We recently accomplished the first working version of our more advanced flight tracking and post-flight review features. Reviewing your past flights will mean more than a few boxes and flight log items. smartCARS 3 will offer data review and experience customization that we never thought possible. We are intentionally vague - we want you to be excited.

JetStream Radio

Our sister company, JetStream Radio, has been hard at work on several new things! In addition to being the primarily in-flight entertainment in smartCARS, as mentioned earlier, JetStream Radio is now front and centre in the PACX IFE.

JetStream Radio is proud to announce their launch of JSR Classics channel playing classic hits music in addition to the recently refined JSR Hits playing the 90s to now favorites. Tune in at https://jetstreamradio.com for flight simulation-related interviews, news, giveaways, and more.

If you are interested in becoming a Show Host or helping behind the scenes, please contact the JetStream Radio team on their Discord server here.

MD-11

Our MD-11 team have been working diligently in the background to bring this project forward in leaps and bounds. While we still do not have an official timeline for release and testing, just know that we are progressing at rates never even imagined during the production of the TFDi Design 717.

The art team has been hard at work on modeling and texturing. Take a look at some of the latest previews before diving into further details.

 

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And, of course, a good update would be incomplete without some beautiful PBR wing shots.

 

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Another exciting area we’ve started working on is the airframe variations! Work has begun on the cargo variant and the P&W engine variant. Below, we can see the cargo model taking shape and the amount of detail in the cargo area.

 

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Below is a very much work-in-progress image of the P&W engine model.

 

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We are continuing to work on mapping and texturing. We expect to see significant progress in these areas over the next few months. One of the most important advantages of our workflow is that the code can advance simultaneously with the visuals.

In terms of system progression, Romel from our team has successfully connected the ISIS and is a true backup - it is a fully self-contained instrument. Complete with all three statuses: self-test, alignment, and operational. As the system is entirely standalone like the real thing, this does not depend on the Primary Flight Display for any data obtained from the simulator, allowing failures of the PFD not to affect the backup displays, paving the way for future development of the failures package going forward.

 

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Collin has been working on the autoflight system recently. We have taken what we learned from the TFDi Design 717 project and used it to build a much more robust autopilot. The added complexity of this aircraft’s automation, such as the RCWS and LSAS, makes it a challenging system to implement correctly. However, the autoflight has been able to hold the aircraft level successfully, and we have laid out the foundation of the code required for the mode logic and FMA. We expect to have an autopilot capable of at least basic flight control modes within the next few weeks.

We are also welcoming a new programmer, Pedro, to our team this week! He will be working on systems code with us to help move the project along even faster.

And in very positive news - our MD-11 repository hit 1,000 commits last week! For those of you who don’t know what that means, our team has written code for the MD-11 and submitted it to our central storage area (repository) 1,000 times!

 

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Our goal is to start working more within the simulators as we progress from here. MSFS previews are coming, but it is easier for us to test in P3D, which is where we will begin. 

Closing

As always, we appreciate your support and patience. We aren’t providing any release date estimates because our priority is quality. We’re working as fast as we can without sacrificing that quality until we’re ready to put some awe-inspiring products in your hands.

 

Thank you for reading, and be sure to join us on our Discord to chat with our developers and stay up to date with the latest developments!

turbofandude

Winter 2021 Development Update


General

Opening
We've been quiet while we've had our heads down recently, but it is time to show everybody what we've been doing! We have changed how we structure some of our development planning by splitting it into seasons. These seasons coincide with the traditional fiscal quarters and, for now, we plan on doing a major development update at least once per season with development streams and shorter updates in between.

PACX
We've been working slowly and steadily on improvements to PACX. Since the last time we talked about it, we've crushed a number of bugs and implemented a few requests from the community. Among these are items like improvements to record filtering, refinements and fixes for certain in-flight announcements, and general stability and performance improvements. We plan to start testing on this update relatively soon after the holidays to keep things fresh.

One of the most requested items for PACX was additional voice packs and we intend to deliver. We've been working on the internal tools needed to create a thorough and immersive voice pack expansion remotely. This expansion will include a number of new voice packs in different languages and accents, as well as some changes to make the experience more realistic in those areas. The good news is that these tools are almost complete. We will soon be putting out a call for voice actors/actresses and/or flight attendants from around the globe to work with us in creating the new voice packs. 

smartCARS 3
The smartCARS 3 team has been working on some impressive items. The user interface is still very much a work in progress, so I will not be sharing any images here, but I will go into more technical detail about what's going on under the hood. smartCARS 3 is a platform as much as it is an application. We have created a plugin system that allows third party developers to have the same level of access to the core functionality that we are using to create it. This means that virtual airlines and communities can create a truly custom and personalized experience while still benefitting from the existing work done by others and by our team.

For example, let's say a virtual airline created a completely custom booking and dispatching system that is totally incompatible with the way smartCARS handles it. This virtual airline could spend a few hours and create a new booking module that their pilots can install that works with their custom system. These pilots can still use smartCARS and benefit from the rest of the features without having to sacrifice the individuality and immersive experience that the virtual airline created.

smartCARS 3 will be a huge improvement from the pilot's perspective as well. We've taken a huge number of requests over the years and we are implementing those as faithfully as possible. Little inefficiencies, such as the un-resizable window and auto-scrolling chat will become things of the past. The flight tracking and logging experience will be much more thorough and refined. The review of past flights will be much more detailed and useful, instead of simply seeing the PIREP text a second time. Even the smartCARS Premium features will become much more compelling and useful - allowing a greater amount of flexibility and dependability from your flying experience.

When the user interface is ready, we will do a deep dive into the details of some of these new features and demonstrate all that it is capable of. In the meantime, just know that we have heard your requests and feedback and they are shaping the future of smartCARS. 

MD-11
The MD-11 has been making significant progress over the last several months as well. We can now officially announce that we have partnered with Turbine Sound Studios to create an immersive sound experience for the MD-11. More and more systems have been brought online in the last few months and functionality is getting more complex and realistic. Since the last development update, we've got the FADEC and engine computers implemented, the first part of the flight control systems and FCC working, improvements and additions to the electrical and hydraulic systems, and work has begun in the pneumatic system. The standby display is also now nearly complete, bringing another complex piece of electronics online in the cockpit.

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In the visual and artwork front, huge improvements have been made. The texturing of the cockpit has started, as well as the mapping and animation of the buttons and switches.

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It's worth noting that the cockpit seems VERY worn/dirty. This is an option - it's easier for us to create it at maximum wear and tear then reduce it than it is to go the other way. You will have the ability to select the level of wear and tear you'd like.

The tools we've created to help develop and test the aircraft outside of the sim have also made getting it into the sim faster, so we expect to see a lot of functionality in the cockpit very soon. The cockpit isn't the only area getting attention, though. The exterior texturing and liveries are well underway. We have a pretty solid list of liveries we want to have available at launch and we're making good progress on them.

As always, all of the images shown here are work-in-progress and not necessarily reflective of the final, refined product. If you see something that is out of place or not quite perfect, feel free to let us know, but it may be an issue we're already aware of and will fix at some point before release. We actively encourage participation via our Discord server.

One final item that we've discussed on some of our streams but haven't officially stated yet is the price point. As of now, we anticipate the product being available as a base pack and two expansions. The base pack will either be the cargo or passenger version (your choice) and the other will be available for a small upgrade. We also plan on releasing a failures package that will include a full failures menu, operations-based failures and faults, and more. As of now, the base price is expected to be $89.99 USD. The expansion packages will be priced fairly with respect to scope and significance of the work required to create them.

Closing
Thank you for reading and if you haven't already, I posted our yearly review article here.

turbofandude

A week ago was FlightSimExpo, which we attended with a bunch of people from our team! If you managed to attend in person, hopefully, you managed to say hello and ask any questions you had to our team directly. This blog post will cover everything you need to know if you did not manage to attend, or missed our presentation.

If you’d like to watch the live video announcement, check out the recording by SizzlingPopcorn below.

MD-11

Our eagerly anticipated aircraft has also made further significant progress since the last development update posted in November last year (that’s a long time!). Our most asked question was whether the MD-11 will be coming to Microsoft Flight Simulator. We can finally confirm that yes, the MD-11 will be coming to both Microsoft Flight Simulator and Prepar3D on day one. The Microsoft Flight Simulator and Prepar3D version will use very similar codebases and, as a result, it should offer a very similar experience (within the technical limitations of the simulator platforms, of course). We also showed the aircraft in Microsoft Flight Simulator with the experimental livery as the original plane was tested with:

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Finally, we talked about some of the extended functionality this aircraft will have. Not only are we intending to cover the main variations (freighter, passenger, etc.), but we also plan on a “failures package” that will allow simulation of non-standard flight procedures.

smartCARS 3

In the middle of the massive news regarding the MD-11, we also managed to show off the new version of the most used flight tracker for Virtual Airlines, smartCARS. In our presentation, we showed how smartCARS will grow from just an application to a platform for virtual airlines. We have built systems that allow airline administrators to add and change elements of smartCARS 3 through our API and allow the application to fit the virtual airline, rather than the other way around.

Through our development of smartCARS 3, we have ensured that it can be run in as many environments as possible. smartCARS 3 will be able to natively support phpVMS v5 and phpVMS v7 without any significant changes being required. We are designing the application with cross-platform functionality in mind, including allowing it to track your flights on various operating systems, such as macOS and even Linux!

PACX

Of course, no product pipeline update would be complete without mentioning our Passenger and Crew Experience utility, PACX. We are working on creating a set of asynchronous tools and workflows to allow us to bring a whole host of new voice packs to the application. We will be bringing new languages and accents to PACX to offer a more native, immersive experience around the world. More information about this update will be released in due course, but our team are actively working on the new features!

Closing

Phew, that was a lot of information all at once. Hopefully, it was worth the wait! We did an interview with FSElite, who asked us some questions regarding the development of our products. You can check out the interview here: 

 

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