Here is a brief update on the progress of our latest air traffic control game, Airport Madness 3. We are putting on the final finishings to this product, as well as final testing for problems. We are aiming for a release date of Friday, June 25, 2010. Airport Madness 3 will have a sticker price of US$9.99. There will be a free version available in early July.
Unlike the full version, which offers a one-hour ‘level-based’ exercise as well as ‘continuous-play’ mode and ‘challenge mode’, the free game will offer a sudden-death ‘How much traffic can you handle?” challenge that gradually builds in intensity and complexity. The free version will exist on Facebook as well as a variety of game portals on the internet.
My apologies for not posting more progress updates for our latest air traffic control game, Airport Madness 3. I’ve been a bad blogger (Sigh…). Progress on Airport Madness 3 is actually moving along very well. We estimate a release in mid-June.
We have lots of neat new features to brag about: Emergencies, challenges, snow, runway assignment, speed control, holding patterns, change of active runway, plus a mammoth-sized resolution of 1000×725. That’s about as big as we can make it without disqualifying the 15% of you who are still running 1024×768 resolution (You know who you are 🙂
Probably the coolest feature of Airport Madness 3 is the Adobe AIR platform, which automatically checks for product updates. The release of Airport Madness 2 in May of last year was rather painful, as there were several minor adjustments that needed to be made during its’ first month after release, requiring buyers to have to visit the website for update information. Now it’s all automatic. Technology is so amazing.
Here are some screen captures of Airport Madness 3. Please bear in mind, the actual resolution is much larger than the images below. These images are only meant to show off the parallel-runway operation. To view an actual-size screenshot, click here.
Airport Madness 3 is progressing well. You may have noticed that the release date has been pushed back to June 2010. We learned from the release of Airport Madness 2 the value of thorough testing before release, and we intend to launch a solid game with hopefully no major issues.
When you create an air traffic control game or simulation, you must build a great deal of “intelligence” into the aircraft. For example, if two aircraft are taxiing towards each other on crossing paths, how do they decide who-stops-for-who? What at first seemed like a programming challenge quickly revealed itself to be a trigonometry nightmare. For example, how do two artificial aircraft decide who should stop in the image shown here? The answer is, whichever aircraft has a smaller relative angle to the other shall stop. I almost had to phone up my Grade 10 math teacher to figure that one out. Creating this simple rule added a couple of weeks to our project. We also received a great suggestion from someone to incorporate pushbacks into our game, whereby an aircraft is moved backwards out of its’ gate before commencing taxi. However, the concept of backwards-moving airplanes threw a wrench into our formula above, since all of the relative angles get thrown out of whack when you reverse direction. As always, we developed a workaround to the problem. However, these things require time.
You may be asking yourself, “Doesn’t air traffic control decide who taxiis and who stops?”. In reality taxiways are controlled, however parking aprons are not. In the real world of air traffic control, most of the “action” is on the runways and in the air. Controlling taxiways is generally kinda dull. Like the earlier version of this game, Airport Madness 3 is about runway management including airborne conflictions. The apron/parking conflictions are left to the pilots to figure out.
Airport Madness 3 has had a few other challenges, most notably the large resolution which increases CPU demand on computers. After building out the game’s foundation one month ago (a very basic no-frills single-level test platform) we noticed some performance issues as well as some unusual aircraft behavior. We decided not to move forward until these issues were resolved. I am pleased to say that these issues have been successfully eliminated and we are now moving forward with the addition of pilot voices, game options and other details. Please sign up for the newsletter above to be first in line for its’ release.
Here are some screenshots from our latest air traffic control game, Airport Madness 3. Our blog platform has changed. For the latest news and release information, check out the new blog on our website.
I have a list of user requests that I am diligently working through, as I hammer out the code for Airport Madness 3. So far, many of these requests have been easy to add. You wanted to see emergencies? Easy. You wanted to give holds? No sweat. You wanted to assign runways? Hmmm…
Airport Madness 3 will offer the users a limited ability to assign different runways. As in the real world, there is always some flexibility but there are very few airports that operate in free-for-all fashion.
At any airport there are never enough taxiways. Whenever two aircraft stare each other face-to-face on the same taxiway, there is rarely enough room for them to pass, and turnarounds are difficult. It’s not a dangerous situation due to the low speeds involved, but the pilots do have to stomp on their brakes, shut down and call for a tug. Many a real-world controller has inadvertently created this very scenario! And when they do, they are said to earn the “Golden Tow Bar Award”.
As much as I would love to give users absolute taxiing freedom, I’m going to keep it realistic. When a 737 calls ready for taxi clearance, you will have the option of assigning a couple of different runways, but there will be a structured flow. For example, by default arrivals will come to you established on final approach for runway 06 or runway 12. You can cross them back and forth between the two runways if you like. Similarly, when a departing aircraft calls for taxi clearance you can taxi them for either runway 06 or runway 12. This maintains a natural flow of traffic.
If you get bored of the 06/12 operation, you can choose to operate the airport using runways 24 and 30 in the reverse fashion, still maintaining a natural flow. You will not be permitted to get any more creative than this, however. In real life, if you were to taxi an aircraft for runway 24 with arrivals using 06 your coworkers would hate you 🙂
I have been busy coding my next contraption, Airport Madness 3, which is well underway. I sincerely hope to launch Airport Madness 3 by April, but I am hesitant to promise an exact release date. It then becomes a promise that I am either forced to achieve, or likely to miss.
This next version of the Airport Madness series will hopefully be a huge leap in the right direction. I have listened carefully to everyone’s suggestions, and shall try to implement most of them. The big feature that AM3 brings to the table is airborne conflicts. In AM2 you had to watch the runways very carefully. Now you must also learn to watch the sky for conflicts.
When it comes to my Air Traffic Control games, I have more than one audience. Most of my customers and followers are not pilots or air traffic controllers, and do not demand anything too heavy from me. Give us more levels. Fine. Give us pilot voices. Fine. However, there is a smaller group of followers who are die-hards. I don’t know who they are, or what they do for a living. Quite possibly they are real controllers, or perhaps just very smart individuals, but they really want me to hike things up a notch or two. Like, give us real-world wake turbulence separation requirements. Give us runway cross-overs. How about an ASDE surface detection display and low-visibility operations? Yikes.
Much of this is do-able. However, it must be kept fun. If I make things too realistic, I’m going to scare off those who play my games to fill their coffee break, and don’t have time to complete 6 months of ATC training in order to play Airport Madness 3.
I am making initial plans for an Airport Madness 3. I do not offer a release date, but I am thinking somewhere around January 2010 (give or take 3 months). My goal is to make Airport Madness 3 similar in concept to the first 2 games, but a vast improvement. The free version will be the usual teaser, but the full version will be a full-screen game creating much more involvement with the airborne aircraft (i.e. assigning turns, holds, different runways).
At the moment, Airport Madness 3 will contain the following improvements over AM1 and AM2:
- Pilot/Controller voice
- A complexity setting (beginner, normal, advanced)
- Real-world rules of runway operation
- A much larger screen for the “full version”.
- All-new airport layout
- Improved graphics
- Airport vehicles, cars, boats, birds.
- Assignable runways
- Different types and speeds
- Special operations, such as training aircraft and balloons.
If you have any suggestions please email me.