Category Archives: Airport Madness 5

Our New eCommerce System

fs_button05We have made some changes to the way we collect money and provide download links to customers.  After five years with PayPal, we’ve switched to Fastspring, a leader in the eCommerce and merchandising industry.  PayPal has always been a handy service, one that I use personally for a great deal of online shopping.  But what I dislike about it is the experience a customer has after they click that shiny yellow ‘Buy Now’ button.

You are immediately whisked away from our website to a checkout page, much like when you buy a pair of used ski bindings on eBay.  After payment is made, some are redirected to a download link, others not.  Our back end system attempts to send customers an email with a download link, but not everyone receives this.  I have always stood by, waiting for angry emails so that I can manually send download links to customers, but it’s probably not the best way to do business.

We tried such a change three years ago to a different eCommerce company, but immediately noticed a sharp drop in sales.  I suspected that customers felt safer using PayPal, so I switched back to them.  Are people more likely to purchase when it’s the familiar PayPal form?  I am personally very cautious about where I give out credit card information, but when I see that the website is verified with the ‘lock’ symbol in the address bar, I feel safer.

I sincerely hope that this new system pleases everyone.  All customers are now receiving their product links immediately and securely.  Fastspring is the best in the industry.  By the time Airport Madness: Time Machine releases, the new system will be running like one of those fancy Swiss pocket watches.

Notice how vague I was just now, regarding Airport Madness: Time Machine’s release date?  That’s another blog post entirely 🙂

AMTM Progress

Airport Madness: Time Machine is progressing nicely.  If things seem quiet around the website lately, it’s because we are hard at work on our current project. I’ve promised you all that this game will be ready by May.  Wow, I sure am good at setting challenging goals for myself, aren’t I?  May should be do-able.  I’m sticking with May.

blogImageSo far I’ve bragged about all of the stuff I am ripping out of Airport Madness in this version, such as radar and pilot voices, but I haven’t elaborated much on what’s getting added.  The coolest part of AMTM definitely has to be the story, which is based on the history of aviation with a few twists.    Each level begins with a popup, introducing the current year, what’s new, as well as a newspaper that describes the real-life aviation events that took place in that year.  As much as I love this newspaper feature, it’s taken a bite out of my time and pushed back the launch date by more than a week.  This is the story of my game development career.  I come up with an idea that a few folks will look at and say, “Hey, neat”, then I spend an inappropriate amount of time creating it.  My new motto should be, “If it’s not adding fun, don’t do it”.  Oh, well.  I will learn for next time.  What number are we at now, Airport Madness 5?

The heaviest workload has been endured mainly by our artist, who has had the task of managing the growth of an airport against aviation history’s timeline.  You see, we add new detail to the airport in 6-month increments.  So from 1925 to 1970, the airport evolves with nearly 100 small expansions.  In 1930, for example, we build a beautiful passenger terminal, only to bulldoze it seven years later for a bigger one.   And in 1933, our beautiful farm with it’s red barn gets bulldozed to make way for airport expansion.  A new terminal gets built, which takes nearly three years to complete.  After construction is complete, WWII breaks out and this area becomes a military base.

Another challenge is real estate.  What starts out as a small piece of farmland becomes a busy airfield.  As this field expands, we begin to run out of screen space.  When this happens, we do a zoom-out, which enables us to show you more detail. 1934 is when we first start to run out of room, so we shrink the details to fit.  The next zoom-out happens in 1955.  As the background detail gets shrunken to fit the screen, so must the airplanes shrink, to fit the smaller appearance of runways, taxiways and parking spots.

As usual, I’m running fashionably late with my latest game.  Look for it here next month, and if you haven’t already signed up for our newsletter, be sure to do so, and stay informed of Airport Madness: Time Machine’s release.

Designing Gameplay

So I was playing Airport Madness 2 today, and I managed to beat my old high score of 260,000. In fact, I beat most of today’s high scores, which means I’ve still got it. 20 years of real-world ATC experience was not all for nothing.

With each new version of Airport Madness, sales increase. But I often wonder if that’s only because my following has grown. Is AM4 really as good as AM2 was? I am trying to put my finger on what was really cool about this game in the beginning, and I plan to stick to that like glue.

I’ve learned that making the planes faster does not increase fun. Keeping things slow makes it more challenging, because the decision and it’s consequence are farther apart in time. The fun in AM is predicting whether a takeoff will work. Is it a good decision to ‘line up’ a departure while still waiting for crossing traffic to land? Sometimes we dig ourselves a hole, but fail to get out later on.

I’ve learned that adding pilot voice does not increase fun. Nor does radar. Nor do user profiles. These are gimicky, and will not exist in Airport Madness: Time Machine.

AM1 and AM2 were cool because the airports grew. The reward for playing was the unlocking of runways over time. I truly hope that AMTM will deliver on this. It offers an airport that starts as literally nothing, and grows up to handle 747s, 50 years later.

After building nearly 20 games over the years (autocorrects to tears, LOL) I’ve learned that some aspects of a game can be added immediately before release, but others must be baked in from the beginning. Like, for example, the story. A time machine? Why? Does it matter? I have a rough idea of how I will explain this to players, but there is still time to change my mind.

I copied Angry birds. Well, not completely. I merely stole their concept of short, unlockable levels. In AMTM, if you pass a level, you have the option to move on, or replay the level to earn more stars. I think it’s a good fit for this game. There will be some who want everything unlocked all at once. “I want to play the FINAL level, damnit!” And there will be some who don’t want the levels to be short. Some people like to play for endurance. So I will add a ‘continuous play’ feature.

The good folks at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco think I should add a virtual currency system to the game, so that you have to open your wallets every time you want a special new aircraft or an additional runway. Statistically, there’s more money in it for me if I do. But I truly hate such games. I did this only once, in Approach Control iOS, but it fit. Each additional sector cost a buck. Your game play was not limited in any way, but additional levels were a buck.

I am old-fashioned. I like the idea of offering the product with a front-end price tag. Gimme your money, and the game is yours. The levels are all locked, but that’s your job to unlock them by being the best air traffic controller you can be.

Upcoming Airport Madness 5

While it is true that we have been busy porting some of our games to iOS lately, our priority is always Airport Madness. Our upcoming next version in the series offers an airport that grows and changes over time.

This next version is named (drumroll please)…. “Airport Madness: Time Machine“. That’s right. You time travel. Without spoiling the game’s storyline, let’s just say that the game definitely has story to it.  Check out this teaser video!

As we test the completed parts of our game so far, watching the little grass field slowly develop into a major international airport across a lengthy time span, it feels like watching a child grow into an adult. I’ve given the game a few test plays, and it’s definitely got the “fun” factor. But it’s got something more than just fun play mechanics. It’s an experience. A really neat creation that does not simply describe aviation history to us, but shows it to us, and allows us to interact with it. “AM5” will be particularly special to aviation history buffs, although I don’t look forward to the corrective emails that I am sure to receive. “Hey, the Douglas DC3 did not enter service until 1936.”. Sure, I can’t wait until those start coming in.


Although most of AMTM is based within the 20th century, the image above is from the year 2068. There are only a few key changes to the present day. Most notably: moving taxiways, airships and gyrocopters. In addition to the year 2068, there will also be the opportunity to zoom way ahead, to 2173. What will future airports look like? Our concept is basically what we feel is obvious. Airplanes will become faster and larger. Airports will become more efficient. What we will show you is an airfield where things happen fast. Planes move at ludicrous speeds, and decisions must be made quickly. Thousands of people are moved in and out of the field every minute. We will post a screenshot from the year 2173 shortly. 2173 is the real future airport we’ve mentioned before.

What’s the story?

Oh, yeah.  About that.  You are a training air traffic controller at a small airport, present day. You go on your lunch break. As you exit through the tower basement, you hear a strange humming noise. What is it? A brief investigation leads you into the old ‘equipment room’, essentially the tower’s junk yard for old radar equipment. You fall through the floor. Ouch! Falling through a floor really hurts! But what do you discover? A strange device which takes you back to the year 1925…

This next Airport Madness should be a good one!

Our Next Big Thing: Part 2

Our office is feeling a bit like Santa’s workshop these days.  We are hard at work on our fifth version of Airport Madness.  Back in July, when I decided that there would be a fifth version, I made a clear rule that our assembly line be super efficient, capable of building additional game levels with ease.  But of course, this game has taken on a very interesting shape, and now contains a great deal of complexity.  The efficiencies that we built in early on are now feeling rather slow and antiquated.

It really amazes me how much code is required to drive a few planes around.  In Airport Madness, an aircraft must have a reasonable degree of logic.  It must have the ability to recognize a runway that it isn’t supposed to cross.   And know that it must wait for a parking gate that’s occupied.  A 747 must know better than to attempt to park at the flying school, and vice versa.  No Piper Cubs are allowed to park directly in front of the main international terminal.  Conflict management is complicated, too.  I’m not just talking about the ability to detect collisions.  When two taxiing aircraft are converging, they must mutually decide who will give way, and who will keep taxiing.  This requires a bit of trigonometry magic (anyone remember inverse tan?).  It gets interesting when you have four or five aircraft in a cluster.  Sometimes you get a dead-lock, a stale mate.  There must be logic that deals with this.

In the fifth edition of Airport Madness, your airport grows.  Slowly.  And as the little changes are introduced year after year, the code must change with it.  In 1938 I decided to lengthen a runway.  This means every aircraft must understand the specific new taxi routes, arrival routes, and departure routes.  But only for that particular year, because in 1939 high speed exits get added, and every aircraft must now understand these new routes, too.

The biggest nightmare I think has to be the artwork.  Our artist must be an architect, an airport designer, a city planner, and must be an expert at dealing with people like me.  The game’s timeline is very delicate, as airport and city objects are in a constant state of either generation or destruction.  The artwork for AM5 is going to be truly amazing.  There’s a great deal of it, and it’s demanded that we be as efficient as possible with regard to the user’s CPU, GPU and system memory.

We will keep you posted as we make progress!

Airport Madness 4 Update 1.40 Now Available

There is an update available for Airport Madness 4, free to those who have already purchased this product. We’ve added some really cool effects to nearly all levels, and fixed a few minor bugs. I will admit to you, we’ve been sitting on this artwork for nearly six months, but have been too busy to implement it. There are still a few more pieces yet to be incorporated, but we will definitely get to it by Christmas. Most of these effects don’t happen right away. You have to patiently play, for roughly 10-15 minutes before these occur.

Level 2 (the City) now has smog. It comes and goes throughout the level, making it slightly harder to see the aircraft (as in real life).

Level 3 (the Caribbean Island) has a “flood” effect that changes the topography during the monsoon. I really like this effect. Some may feel it’s a little “too soon” to be making video games about flooding, but we assure you, this was in the production pipeline since May. I find it darn near impossible to control the situation with the clouds rolling over top of the airplanes. A few updates ago we came close to removing this weather, but one of our users pointed out that it is entirely real. Air Traffic Controllers sometimes cannot see airplanes when there is poor weather.

Level 4 (Area 51) gets a couple of cool effects added. At the beginning of your session, the airport gets hit with a terrible sandstorm, which looks like a ghostly orange gas, but if you look closely, you see the entire topography get blanketed and partially buried with sand. Later on in the sequence, after the military training flights rip across the airfield, and after the pilots start complaining about seeing strange things, and after the odd red gas appears, and after the bright flashes, and after the UFO sighting, everything kind of settles down to normal. That’s when the military decides to do some heat-seeking missile experiments, which don’t end well.

Level 6 (ski resort level) gets proper runway snow removal activity.  Once the snow storm hits, the supervisor informs you that one of the runways is closed due to snow removal.  Scramble to get arrivals moved to the other runway, while holding those departures.  Watch the pretty snow plows clean the runway, strip by strip.


We’ve had issues with planes jamming up on congested aprons.  With each new version of this game, we learn stuff.  So we’ve borrowed some of our hot new code from Airport Madness 5 and stuck it into Airport Madness 4 and it seems to have done the trick. Hopefully no more issues.

Definitely grab the update, as I promise you will like the additions. If you haven’t bought Airport Madness 4 yet, you can get it here.

Our Next Big Thing

We are pleased to announce that we are working on something very exciting, for release in the near future. I know, I know. I have promised an update for Radar Chaos Hawaii Edition, some fixes for Airport Madness 4, and Radar Chaos for iPad. These will be done soon, but I cannot ignore the demand I get for more “Airport Madness”.

Airport Madness 5 will release in April of 2013. That’s a very realistic guess, based on all of my past release date failed promises. AM5’s theme goes back to the core of what made Airport Madness cool in the first place. It is inspired by Airport Madness 2, believe it or not. AM2 was fun because it was an airport that grew, level upon level. AM5 will not offer a 6-pack of fresh airports like it’s predecessor, but rather, an airport that grows up over time. We take you back to 1925 and put you into the control tower (Although radio-equipped towers did not start appearing in the United States until 1930, controlled fields began to appear in the United Kingdom as early as 1921. Take that, aviation history buffs :). As the game progresses, you will witness the airport grow from just a tiny grass field in 1925, to a multi-runway wartime airfield in 1944, to a giant sprawling airport in 1975, with passenger jets and several terminal buildings. Witness Lindbergh, the breaking of the sound barrier, the first passenger jet, and the birth of the Boeing 737.

Imagine what it might have been like to witness aviation in 1925. After WW1 there were many fighter pilots looking for something to do with their flying skills. Many of them created air shows where they would perform stunts, while others offered paid rides to the public (think “Great Waldo Pepper”). In 1925, flying mail services became very popular, and the world saw such aircraft as the Curtis Jenny, Ford Tri-motor, and Boeing Model 40. There was some passenger travel, although this did not truly begin developing until the late depression. In 1940 WW2 came along, giving aviation a giant boost. It wasn’t until after WW2 when the passenger travel boom truly began.

This next version of Airport Madness will definitely have a story to it, supported by an explosion of beautiful artwork. The artwork is our top priority in the development of this game, as it is essentially a walk through time, and therefore demanding of “eye candy”. Plus, AM5 will be much more “game” than earlier versions in it’s structural design. There will be nearly 100 levels, each with a duration of 3 to 15 minutes, depending on your ability. After a level is unlocked, it can be revisited at any time.

We are working hard to bring you something new and exciting. We are holding back some key details at this time. The full extent of the game’s theme is still a secret, as is the product’s final name (It won’t be called “Airport Madness 5”).

So, stay tuned! You will not want to miss this next version of Airport Madness.