It’s been rather quiet here recently and I’m glad I can break the silence by saying that we’ve been very busy working on some exciting new stuff. The customer project that took a lot of our time during the last half year is about to go live and I can finally dedicate more time to AirlineSim again.
So let’s get right to it:
New aircraft types
I know many of you are waiting desperately for new aircraft types like the 787 or the 747-8. Therefore, a few weeks ago we broke with one of our principles and decided that we will introduce the new types despite the new aircraft performance system being far from ready. We announced that it would probably take roughly two weeks to introduce them since simply hacking the data into the database hardly takes any longer. But during the tests on our internal test servers we figured that a lot of tuning had to be done and that we wanted to touch some of the older aircraft types again that are too far off performance-wise. Especially the latter poses a problem to existing game worlds as to how the parameters affect current operators of the types. We have not come to a conclusion yet and we have yet to decide on how we proceed with this. Until then we have to ask for little bit more patience.
What we know for sure: We will soon (as in: date has yet to be determined) launch a new game world that will include all new aircraft types and the adjusted old ones. No existing airlines - no legacy issues! This brings us to the next topic of…
When we applied a necessary performance fix to Nicosia lately which caused a temporary 10% revenue dent for the airlines in this game world, we were faced with a hefty outcry in the community which we did not see coming like this. Besides the mood on the team sinking to an all-time-low, this event got us thinking about what caused this emotional reaction in the first place. Why do so many players react allergic to demand variations? What if the dent wasn’t caused by a technical issue but an economic crisis, a terror attack, a natural disaster or any other unforeseen event that real airline managers have to face all the time?
Our conclusion was: AirlineSim has become too deterministic, too static. In a game world running smoothly without technical issues, other than the varying amount and size of opponents, there is hardly any dynamic component to the game that causes existing airlines to adjust to a mutable environment. Once an airline has conquered its spot on a certain airport or in some region, there is almost nothing that can kick it off its throne. It will just continue to grow to humongous size until there are no more slots and/or traffic left and build up an enormous cash reserve that makes it even less likely for the enterprise to tumble. Once in that state, you start to feel very uncomfortable should anything mess with this monotonous growth because it will be extremely work-intensive to adjust a 1000+ aircraft airline to the new scenario.
Based on this conclusion, we have decided to implement the measures described below. We know some of you are seriously going to hate these, but we will go forward with them either way because we see them as a long-term improvement of the overall game. As with the new aircraft types, the changes will be first introduced in the new game world mentioned before.
- AGEX - the AirlineSim Global Economic Index: The idea behind this one is that AirlineSim simulates the airline industry of a virtual world. As such it only simulates a small part of a global economy and if this surrounding economy changes, it will have strong effects on the airline industry. In reality, there is a rule of thumb that a general change in economic growth affects the transport industry 3-fold, so if the global economy shrinks by 2%, in transport figures go down 6%. We don’t do it this complicated: The AGEX will simply provide an index of the current economic situation. This will affect passenger and cargo numbers and airlines will have to adjust on a regular basis. Each game world will have an individual AGEX curve, so if you’re looking for a challenge, pick a game world with a recession going on. If you want easy airline building but are happy to accept that the next dent will arise sooner or later, choose one with an increasing AGEX. In-game the index is represented like in the picture below (subject to change). Important: This feature will be introduces on all game world, including all existing ones. But we will make sure that the AGEX factor at the time of introduction corresponds to the current demand level of the game world. Therefore there will be a soft transition to variable demand numbers.
Revised demand calculation: This has been on our list for quite some time but we thought: When we’re about to cause a stir anyhow, this would be right time to get this done. Currently, all traffic is country-based. This causes quite weird traffic flows like people in Algeria having a string tendency to fly to the Caribbean due to their strong ties to France, while almost German-only holiday destinations in the Northern Sea have traffic to all major cities in the world. The new system works on more fine-grained regions that are hand-crafted after real circumstances and will be adjusted continually. They remain invisible to the user though.
New (temporary) traffic data: As you might know, AirlineSim used actual traffic data from a world airline schedule file several years old. We have been replacing this with more up-to-date data but we see it as a temporary solution. Since real-world schedules represent capacities and strategic airline decisions rather than actual traffic flows and as such cause a buttload of problems in our demand calculation, we want to switch to a custom system that allows us to model the traffic flows based on economic and cultural factors instead. Exampe: Right now Dubai is a huge airport with gigantic demand in AirlineSim because Emirates has built its hub there. But in fact, local traffic to Dubai is very limited and most passengers only use it for transfer. They actually represent Asia-Europe or some other traffic. We do not have a timeline for this new model yet, but you will hear about it here as soon as there are news.
Future changes: Part of the new “more dynamic paradigm” is that we keep our options open for further changes to all systems, including those that affect demand. In the past 2 or 3 years we avoided such changes at all costs because we were afraid of the stir they might cause. No more. We think change is good, change keeps this game alive. We are 10 years old this year not because we remained in the same spot forever but because we adjusted, tried new things, moved ahead. It’s time to get back to this!
As recently mentioned, we are working on fixing our most urgent performance issues right now. The most important one is the statistics or rather the long response times they cause on some pages. We have a new team member that is currently in the “boarding process” and who might be able help us tackle these issues. Naturally, we do not have concrete dates for these changes, we just know that the probably won’t make the new game world yet but that we work as fast as possible to get them out the door.
Ok, in case you did not want to read this resemblance of War & Peace, here’s the TL;DR for you:
New game world will be starting "soon"
Will feature new and adjusted aircraft types
Will feature several changes to traffic calculation and data
Will introduce the new AGEX ecnomic index that affects global booking numbers
All changes will also be installed on existing game worlds after a testing phase on the new server
We will change our policy regarding changes to the game affecting demand from “Hell, don’t touch this!” to “Yeah, go for it!”
Performance improvmenent for existing and new game worlds are in development.