Developer Interview with Andrew Garrison, Creator of Simple Planes
Over the years there have been many great flight simulators that brought us to various worlds to fly in and fight in. Today it is the pleasure of CombatACE to feature this interview with Andrew Garrison, the creator of a very neat flight sim called Simple Airplanes. Which isn't as simple as it sounds. For those who aren't familiar with the game; Simple Planes allows you to build and then fly your creation. There are thousands of mods that players can use, in case they're aren't up to building their own aircraft. Over the years there have been many interesting aircraft that took to the virtual skies of Simple Planes. Some of the have been based on actual aircraft or fictional aircraft from various anime series. Yet there are still a few aircraft that are the creations of people's wild imaginations. Some fly and some don't. It's as simple as that no pun intended. CombatACE reached out to Andrew Garrison, the developer of Simple Planes, and kindly took some time to do this interview with us.
Thank you Mr. Garrison for taking the time to do this interview with us. To get started, your bio states how you bought a book about game development and taught yourself how to create games. What motivated you to create some of your earlier work and continue with teaching yourself how to make games?
My first experience with programming was when my computer lab instructor showed us the simplest possible program you could write. I still remember it:
10 x = x + 1
20 print x
30 goto 10
After seeing him type that in on an Apple II and then run the program, for some reason I thought that was amazing. I had no idea programming was so accessible. After that I started getting books and learning on my own. I started making text based adventures, and soon started making graphical games. Soon after getting started with programming, I realized that I actually enjoyed programming games more than I enjoyed playing games. I was hooked.
You shared on Youtube how Scorn is the second game you ever wrote. What was the first game, and how did it compare to Scorn?
The first game was called Red Pulse and it was very inspired by space invaders. The art in that screenshot is actually by another random person on the internet. The original version with my artwork looked terrible, but someone downloaded it from my Geocities website and liked it well enough to to update the graphics for me. They did it free of charge! I was blown away by their kindness.
So you went from being a self taught amateur to a well educated professional over the years. What motivated you to create Simple Planes?
SimplePlanes was the next logical step after SimpleRockets. We wanted to make a game that our players would enjoy and I reasoned that most players that enjoy building rockets would also enjoy building airplanes. Also, Philip and I are both previously worked as software engineers at Boeing and we both love flight sims, so we were excited to build our own.
The game looks very simple, but most know it's more challenging than it let's on. Speaking of those challenges, how hard is it to get proficient with Simple Planes?
Building planes is hard, but we did our best to make it as easy as possible. You can follow the Build Your First Plane tutorial and have your own plane up and flying in minutes. Becoming proficient obviously takes much longer, and it varies with each person and their own prior experience and knowledge of airplanes. There doesn't seem to be an upper limit to what people can create either. I am often blown away by what the players are uploading to SimplePlanes.com.
Now what kind of challenges did you and your team encounter while building Simple Plane and how were those challenges overcome?
We didn't actually know if it would be possible to make a game where the player could easily create airplanes. Several months into development and I was starting to have doubts about it. We kept working through it and obviously things worked out, but there was a big stretch during early development where we were more than a little stressed out.
After that, there were several challenges, but one that was a particular pain was getting the game to work well on mobile. It was difficult to get the performance good enough on mobile and it was very challenging getting the user interface to fit and work well on mobile.
Do you have any fond memories that you'd like share about the development of Simple Planes? Was there any moments of discovery that occurred as a result of an accident?
I can't think of any Louis Pasteur-like accidental discoveries but I will always look back fondly on 2014 when Philip quit his job to come work with me. He went from a high paying salary job to making $0/month, working with me in my basement on a $30 folding table from Walmart. I was still living on sales from my previous games, but there were quickly declining. We were trying to build a game that we didn't know would be possible, while learning Unity, a game engine we had never used before. It was stressful, but things worked out in the end and I will always look back fondly on that year.
What are the limitations, if any, for someone who wants to build their aircraft or spacecraft?
Custom cockpits are particularly difficult to do well in the game. The built-in cockpits often don't look the way players really want, so they tend to want to build their own cockpits but there's no great way to go about doing it. They have to slap a bunch of parts together and painstakingly nudge them into place. It takes a very skilled player to get a good looking custom built cockpit.
Other than aircraft, what else can be made? Could someone make a weapon to deploy? Or a satellite to launch?
They can do all of the above and so much more. In fact I just saw that our highest rated player on SimplePlanes.com just uploaded a space shuttle with multiple stages
capable of delivering a satellite into "space." Don't mind that the clouds are still above you at 500km altitude.....those are just space clouds.
There have been several awesome players who built bombs and missiles. Also, some players even make incredibly detailed guns
Do you care to share any of your plans about future for any of your titles? Will there be any updates or are you and your team planning on the next big project? I'm just guessing here, but would you ever do something like Simple Cars?
We are currently working hard on SimpleRockets 2. I'm really happy with how the game has progressed in the past several months and I can't wait to share it with everyone, but we're just not quite ready to unveil anything yet. We also have a completely different kind of game in the works. It's a much simpler game, and has been sort of a back burner game, and in a weird way, a relaxing project to work on. Building complex sim games like SP and SR2 is extremely difficult, and sometimes it's so nice to work on a game that is actually simple. We're hoping to release it in the next 1-2 months. We haven't decided on what project we'll tackle next after SimpleRockets 2, but most likely it won't be SimpleCars. I'd like to do a robotics game, or maybe a game about evolution.
We do plan on doing at least one more substantial update to SimplePlanes, maybe more. Ideally we will release a new update for SP at the same time we release SR2. So much work to do!
What is the most bizarre aircraft you have seen built, for either Simple Planes or Simple Rockets, and it could still fly?
The Flying Toaster is the first one that jumps into my mind. It fires bacon missiles and actually can eject its toast.
I understand that game development isn't cheap. Having said that. If your company, had the time, money, and staff, what would be a title that you'd like to create? What adventures would await a bold gamer?
To be honest, I couldn't be happier with the games we are making. They are the kind of games I've always wanted to make, and the kind of games that I enjoy playing.
Again Mr. Garrison thank you for taking the time to this interview with us. Do you have any final thoughts that you would like to share with your supporters?
Thank you for the interview questions and thanks for playing!
If you're interested in getting your hands on a copy of simple planes, we invite you to visit their website here:
We also invite you to share the results of your creation and tests on our CombatACE forums where we'll look forward to seeing what you can come up with.