The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.
— Tom Cargill, Bell Labs
Over the past few months we have been hard at work fixing a lot of bugs and performance issues for our upcoming “global” update. We are not done just yet but are getting closer.
In the spirit of transparency, we decided to give you an official update on where we stand and what to expect for the next few months.
The first 90%
“Global” represents a big change for us. Infinite Flight started as a hobby project many years ago and evolved into a full featured flight simulator with multiplayer and ATC, something that no other simulator (desktop or mobile) offers natively. During this journey, we took many shortcuts in order to iterate quickly and do our best to meet the demands of a growing audience.
For “global”, we had to revamp a lot of code due in parts to those shortcuts we took but also to some decisions we made a while back when we were young and stupid. ;)
All of this work is more or less done. At this point we can say that the global update is “feature complete” meaning that most features we needed for global are done and most issues introduced by supporting a full scale planetary terrain (instead of flat small regions) have been solved.
The other 90%
The biggest roadblocks at this point are performance and memory consumption. Simulating a full scale Earth with accurate topography and 15m satellite imagery takes a lot of memory (RAM) which can cause the app to crash after a little while if we are not careful (the app itself doesn’t crash, the OS automatically kills apps that use too much memory). We currently still have a lot of issues on devices that have less than 2GB or RAM but are working hard to solve those.
About performance, there are still many optimizations we need to do, especially on Android. Recent iOS devices (< 2 years old) seem to be very stable but we still have to improve some bits to make sure we don’t kill your battery. :)
One solution we put in place is to offer a few different rendering quality levels; the pictures we have posted so far are usually from the highest quality with full atmospheric effects.
Our “Low” quality settings are closer to what we currently have in the version that is in the App Store (with satellite imagery instead of repeated textures).
Those quality settings are something that we will continue to optimize down the road as we find better techniques that fit in our performance budget.
Low/Medium Quality Rendering (simplified atmospheric scattering simulation):
High Quality Rendering (full atmospheric scattering simulation):
But really, when is the update?
We really don’t know. There are still a couple of problems to which we don’t yet have a clear solution for, so we can’t estimate the time it will take to implement.
That being said, our current target is to ship this update - WARNING, HIGHLY SPECULATIVE - during summer. Please understand that this is subject to change.
One more thing
We mentioned this in the past but we wanted to reiterate: the 15m satellite imagery (what you see in most preview pictures so far) is limited to certain areas of the world at the moment; here is what is covered so far:
More precisely, the area covered by 15m satellite imagery are:
- Australia and New Zealand
- Contiguous United States 48 states (CONUS)
- Alaska Mainland and Hawaiian Islands, US
- Canadian provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia
- Western Europe and surrounding area (33 countries)
- Japan, Taiwan, North and South Korea
- Israel, Syria, Jordan, LebanonLibya, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Western Sahara
- Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan
- Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain Kuwait, UAE)
- Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti
It would probably take many months of non-stop flying at high speed to explore all of it but we wanted to set the right expectation.
The imagery for the rest of the world is very low quality at the moment (500m/pixel, looks very blurry) but the topography (elevations) is accurate (between -60 latitude and +60 latitude) and will still have airports to explore. Our plan is to gradually improve the quality of the remaining areas as we are able to acquire new datasets.
We can’t wait to finally release this incredible update that will take Infinite Flight to the next level. Our team remains hard at work and appreciate any show of support you can spare to help us through the remaining problems we have to solve.