Ever wonder what it's really like to develop your first app? Meet Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin from Flying Development Studio LLC. In this interview, Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin answers our questions and offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what it was like to create Infinite Flight and get it released into the App Store.
AC: Tell us a little about your or your company. What is your background?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: Flying Development Studio is a startup founded in 2010 by Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin, two developers who are into 3D graphics programming and aviation.
Philippe is the 3D guru of the team, he works on the 3D engine, optimizations, and various technical aspects of the project while Matthieu, who holds a pilot license, takes care of the simulation parts of the game such as flight physics, flight planning as well as user interface.
AC: Infinite Flight is your first app. Why did you want to start developing for the iPhone and iPad?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: Infinite Flight was initially released on Windows Phone in April 2011, we always had the idea of a port to iOS in the back of our mind but always thought it was more of a long term goal. Later that year we started porting our simulator to Xbox 360 since the development environment was very similar. Being almost done with this port, we realized that a lot of work we did also applied to an eventual iOS port of Infinite Flight. In September 2011, we gave iOS a shot. It quickly appeared to be in our reach and we decided to put most of our efforts into it since then.
AC: Tell us about your app. How did you get the idea?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: Being a pilot and a flight sim enthusiast, Matt had worked on flight simulator projects for years before Infinite Flight was born, experimenting with flight models, rendering, etc… In 2010, a year after the demise of Microsoft Flight Simulator, we got together and thought there was space for a new PC simulator on the market. We then started prototyping to create a fully featured PC simulator. However, after a few months of development, we realized that the task might be too complex, especially because of the high expectation of flight simulator enthusiasts.
Starting on a mobile platforms seemed like a more realistic goal, and since our initial code base was all in C#, Windows Phone was the obvious choice as our first target,
AC: How is this app different from similar apps?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: Infinite Flight is a Flight Simulator, it has most of the same features that other sims have, but we’ve added our own touch to the genre. Our inspiration is based on popular game out there, but mostly on Flight Unlimited 2, which was one of the best flight simulators ever released (in 1999).
We differentiate ourselves with features like the cameras, the position resets, where in case of a crash, you can rewind 20 seconds, just before something went wrong, instead of going back to the start screen.
One of the important things that sets us aside is the passion we have for the product and the willingness to listen and learn from our users. We put in place a feedback page (http://feedback.flyingdevstudio.com) where our users can submit and vote on suggestions. This help us prioritize the most important features our users are interested in as well as engaging our community.
AC: How did you choose your pricing model -- ad-supported vs. freemium vs. paid? What influenced your decision?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: Mobile flight simulators are a niche market. We can’t expect the same audience as the 100s of thousands casual games on the market. We decided to have our users make a small initial commitment to Infinite Flight in the form of a paid app the same way we are committing to them with content (free and paid) and free feature updates. Our track record on Windows Phone show that we are dedicated to this project and that we are not in this market to make a quick buck; Infinite Flight is not a one time wonder, it is our passion and we want to share it with as many people as possible.
At $4.99, we are priced competitively compared to similar apps. It is especially true given the fact that it is the same app for both iPhone and iPad (we don’t have a separate app for “HD” content). We will soon offer In-App purchasing allowing user to purchase new content. New content price will vary, but we are committed to also release free content to increase the overall value of our game for first time users.
It is also worth noting that new features (advanced weather, better terrain … etc) will be added with each update. We do not plan to charge for new features.
AC: Do you have experience developing for other platforms? How does it compare to the iOS development process?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: Windows Phone is the only other platform we have experience on. Both have their pros and cons but overall it’s pretty similar for us as we use the same programming language and cross platform libraries. (MonoTouch and MonoGame/XNA)
AC: How long did it take to get your app from idea to App Store?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: We started porting the app to the iPhone in September 2011, and submitted the first version to the App Store on February 2012, so about 5 months of development. At the time we were both working on Infinite Flight on our spare time.
AC: What was the biggest challenge you faced while creating this app?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: The most challenging part was to port the 3D engine from using XNA to OpenGLES 2.0. We used an open source library (MonoGame) that is a port of XNA for iOS but didn’t have any support for 3D.
Other challenges have been adapting various aspect of the game to account for a wider range of devices (new display resolutions, devices with less memory, differences in accelerometer precision…etc)
AC: What was the best advice you received while developing your app? Where did it come from?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: Keep it simple, release early and iterate.
AC: Looking back on this experience, if you knew then what you know now would you do anything differently?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: One thing we would have done differently is porting the app to the iOS a bit sooner. The community is so much bigger. We’ve had more feedback on a couple days that we’ve had in 10 months of presence on Windows Phone.
AC: Do you have any future plans for this app? Where do you see it a year from now?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: What’s great about a flight simulator is that it cannot ever be completed. The goal is to get as close to reality as possible, and there is always a point where you have to cut a corner. As time goes and devices get more powerful, we increase the quality of parts of the simulator one at a time. Our users have requested airplanes, sceneries and features that give us work for more than the year to come. Things like Air Traffic Control, networking, missions, IFR flights, clouds, realistic weather simulation, better terrain, better lighting, atmospheric rendering… this is a never ending list!
We also would like to port the app to other platforms, such as Android, Windows 8, Mac…
AC: Besides your own of course, what is your favorite app right now?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: ForeFlight, not a game but a wonderful app for flight planning and real time flight information.
AC: What apps do you consider essential to your day-to-day life? Why?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: The Twitter and Facebook apps. This is how we keep in touch with our users.
AC: Do you have any new apps in development? What can we expect to see from your company in the near future?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: We’re working at 100% on Infinite Flight. We don’t have plans to work on any other projects at this time.
AC: Any last words? What else would you like our readers to know about your company?
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin: We are a very small team, 2 developers, and this is our one and only project. We are 100% committed to it and want to build a quality product for flight simulation enthusiasts. We don’t pretend being perfect on our first release, but we surely aspire to perfection with each new update. Don’t hesitate to send us comment / feedback directly, we will do our very best to respond in a timely fashion… we are nice people with a passion
Matthieu Laban and Philippe Rollin from Flying Development Studio LLC offered some interesting insight into their development process. Please take a moment to thank them by sending a message on Twitter or share this article with a friend to spread the word about their apps. If you have additional questions, ask them in the comments and we'll get you the answers!
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