Welcome at FlightDeckX’s first Developer Q&A session! Andrey Sheybak, Lead Developer of xEnviro Ultimate Environment Engine, took the plunge and kindly agreed to answer 10 questions we believe the community might be interested most in! That said, lets dive right into it!
FlightDeckX: Andrey, thanks for having us! xEnviro is a rather new product compared to other offerings on the market. Yet, xEnviro is deemed one of the best weather solutions available out there already. Before we talk more about this success, please tell us about your personal approach to flight simulation in general.
Andrey: Computer based flight simulation is one of those amazing things that allow ordinary people with no aviation background to be introduced into aviation world. This is also a very universal tool that can be used of course for fun and leisure but also to get some valuable knowledge or to polish your professional skills.
FlightDeckX: Ok, let’s talk about xEnviro. xEnviro was released almost a year ago after an extensive development period. Now a lot of folks are using it and rely on it for their flights. Did you, back then, even dare to think that xEnviro would be such a great success?
Andrey: Never actually thought about this. Just few days back Mikhail surprised me with the number of active users. And we are still in the beginning of the very long run that is to bring more interesting and long awaited features to X-Plane world.
FlightDeckX: How did xEnviro all start? What was the reason to take on such a huge project?
Andrey: This all started back in 2012 when I moved my home cockpit to X-Plane 9 and decided to increase clouds drawing range (see screenshots).
Andrey: Then I added my air parcel based weather model which I was using in other projects since 2002. It was very nice to observe dynamically growing clouds in X-Plane (see this video on YouTube). My continuous passion to bring simulation closer to what I usually see from the cockpit made me adding more and more features to this project. Unfortunately due to my very frequent relocations between countries this project has been put on hold with a short attempt to continue in 2014.
FlightDeckX: xEnviro is an all-in-one solution for environmental simulation while most competitors rely on the exchange of default clouds with custom ones only. What is your development philosophy behind all this? Or in other words, what vision for the future do you have in mind for xEnviro?
Andrey: Complexity. All the atmospheric effects are closely connected to each other. Clouds, light effects, visual effects, sounds, all have direct or indirect influence on each other and all of them together determine our experience and overall immersion in the environment. This is very logical to set up and use all the complex dependencies within one plugin. Not all of the intended effects implemented at the moment but hopefully will be added in the future.
Simplicity. Computers are here in our world to make our life easier by taking all the unneccessary actions out of our scope and take care of the actions that require attention switching and can be done automatically in the background. So let’s use this opportunity to benefit our simming experience. Personally I hate setting up, starting and connecting tons of different addons just to discover some of them are incompatible with the others. Ideally I would like just to have only one button “go” leaving all the dirty job to the computer. But it’s just me and this is not always suitable for users who have a similar passion to constantly tune and adjust flight simulator look and behaviour. So I will be keeping some kind of a balance between both approaches but having simplicity as my priority.
FlightDeckX: After the initial release of xEnviro you pushed a lot of updates within a rather short time frame. After the release of the most current version 1.06, the release of updates suddenly stopped, leaving a lot of folks wondering what happened. Can you talk about the reasons for this?
Andrey: Two reasons. The first reason for a break is that version 1.0 having almost five years old architecture is based on conventional billboard implementation and does not allow us to move forward and use modern technologies available for us today. The second reason is a pity coincident when shortly after xEnviro release the majority of users have moved to a new unstable platform of X-Plane 11 so I decided not to chase the constantly changing simulator but instead use this time to prepare xEnviro for the next huge jump ahead. Today when xEnviro architecture change has been completed I can finally go back and address all the issues with X-Plane 11, publish SDK, improve some procedures, start adding required features that has been planned for version 1.1
FlightDeckX: You are constantly giving updates to your customers on your Facebook page. Yet, no release estimates were given yet regarding the upcoming major update. While this is common practice in FS development, I still have to ask, when can we expect the next update?
Andrey: Despite few items being under revision I’m ready to submit 1.07 for beta testing but my work schedule is very demanding this month so yet again I’m not able to say when this is going to happen. Currently rc01 has been submitted to the Test Team for evaluation.
FlightDeckX: xEnviro users often moan about the fact that Weather radars of their favorite aircraft don’t work with xEnviro. Why is this and what are you planning to do about it? Are you in contact with the major aircraft developers (e.g. IXEG, FlightFactor, JarDesign etc.) to solve this issue?
Andrey: We had a meeting with FF and JAR and we drafted a sort of technical requirements for the weather radar data interface. 1.07 does have this interface implemented and the same details will be published on xEnviro SDK page soon.
FlightDeckX: Currently xEnviro only allows for the use with live weather. Will you implement historic and custom weather options in the future and if so, when can we expect such features?
Andrey: Historical weather as well as VATSIM and IVAO will be implemented as planned in 1.4 and 1.5. Custom weather is a big question as it requires some redesign and a lot of work both on the server side and in the plugin itself which will lead to another big break in the development process.
FlightDeckX: Can you talk about any other surprises xEnviro customers can look forward to in the future?
Andrey: It won’t be a surprise if I tell you 🙂 Actually I’m trying to stick to the roadmap as much as possible so all the important features has been already revealed.
FlightDeckX: As said before, version 1.06 is the most current version of xEnviro. Although you were working months already on the next version, no screenshots of the intermediate development versions were made available yet. Can you show our readers some screenshot of the upcoming version?
Andrey: Development screenshots and videos are usually ugly and far from being perfect therefore for many users such images can be disturbing and confusing causing unnecessary worries and flames so I rely on my Test Team members to decide what images can be published.
FlightDeckX: Andrey, thanks a lot for your time! We at FlightDeckX are looking forward to what the future will bring for xEnviro and wish you all the best!