Definition of “free-for-all”:
a disorganized or unrestricted situation or event in which everyone may take part.
For many years, people have asked me to give players the freedom to assign any runway to arrivals and departures in Airport Madness. I know you all want the power to assign a departing aircraft runway 26L, an arriving aircraft runway 08R, runway 35 to another departing plane, then sit back and watch how it all plays out. People want this game to feel completely real, and not be restricted by the artificial limitations imposed by me.
Having worked as an air traffic controller at five real-world airports, I can tell you that this is not generally how it works. At a quiet airport, perhaps the air traffic controller will offer a pilot the runway offering the shortest taxi, or reduced flying miles. They may even entertain the same thing for an arrival. However, any airport that is even slightly busy will establish a sensible traffic pattern for arrivals and departures. Take Las Vegas. They will select a traffic pattern such as, arrivals to runways 01L and 01R, departures from runways 07L and 07R. They’ll never sneak a 737 in on 19L because they want to be extra efficient.
The traffic pattern decision might be made by a supervisor (if there is one) or at a smaller airport, by the controller. In either case, it is a decision that is made based on winds or noise abatement. Once the pattern is established, it is not strayed from. At least, not until the winds or airport conditions change.
With Airport Madness 3D I have tried to create what I feel is realistic. While you are able to change the traffic pattern, this decision must be made at the beginning of each session. In an early beta version of this game I tested the free-for-all scenario. Besides discovering that it’s not much fun dealing with irreversible traffic jams, a very obvious problem came to light: how can the player untangle such traffic snarls on their taxiways? Air traffic controllers have invented a special award that they give to their coworkers who create such jams. It’s called the Golden Towbar Award. Unless an airport has a thorough layout of taxiways, it is very hard to serve a single runway in both directions. In the real world, airports establish a traffic flow and everybody sticks to it.
Designing flight paths takes up the majority of my development time. There are so many measurements required, and so much testing to be done. Developing a free-for-all game would quadruple my workload, and I don’t think it would be worth it. I think most players would rather that time be better invested in other game features.