Aircraft Development with Javier Rollon

Jennifer Roberts

Laminar Research: Can you provide a little background on yourself and your interest in aviation?

Javier Rollon: Well, as a flight sim enthusiast, I always tried to fly anything that was possible in any computer, starting from the Spectrum 48k, Amiga (F18 Interceptor was a blast!), and PC. Of course I spent a lot of time in the Microsoft Flight sim series, and finally I arrived at X-Plane 8 and 9. Coming from FS9 I saw how X-Plane was still using 2D cockpits (something I hate. I know lots of users love them….).

After some flights with X-Plane, loving its flight dynamics but not its graphics, I decided to make a 3D cockpit for a plane that I liked which only had a 2D one–the Texan. I used my background as a graphic designer in the games industry, working in titles such as Crysis2 for Crytek in Germany.

LR: Why did you decide to start making aircraft & how long have you been creating X-Plane aircraft?

JR: As I said, I love flying so it was the most natural step when I felt that I wanted to have a better experience with the Texan. I didn’t decide to make a plane, just a 3D cockpit. After that then, when I was successful with it, I decided to make the jump into a plane.

I have been creating X-Plane aircraft since 2008.

LR: What’s the most challenging part about creating aircraft?

JR: For me, programming as I am not a natural programmer. I have had to learn C++ from zero to make some plugins. But if we talk about my part (graphics)– the wheels. Always they are a kick in the (…..) as some of them are very complex in motion… and have to be put on ground correctly. Also the flight dynamics are a headache….

But the most challenging is finishing the plane and trying to convince the rest of the people that “your” plane is worth enough to pay a good amount of money for it. When things are free, the good opinion usually comes easy. But paying is another story.

LR: What’s the best or most rewarding part?

JR: When people start to fly your plane and everything goes smoothly, no problems, and people like it and tell you about that. That’s for sure!

LR: Do you have a 3rd party program or tool you find invaluable?

JR: Yes. I work with 3DStudio Max. Yes, I know Blender is a powerfull program, and for sure it’s better now than when I started using it in my first planes (because there was no exporting plugin for Max). But Max is the tool I started with in my professional career and I make things faster with it. But that is only a “simple” tool. The best is my stubbornness to finish what I start. Lol!

LR: What’s your favorite creation?

JR: The CRJ200. Not because it is my best in graphics (that it is not. That is the J32 maybe), but because it was a very difficult job that I succeed reaching the end of after 3 years of work, as I needed the help of a programmer, and it was really difficult to find the right person. The “ability” to jump over all the problems that were happening in the development of that plane, and being the first plane with an internal, 3D, functional FMC inside in X-Plane, makes it the most satisfactory creation.

The Jetstream32 is close because it had a huge problem for me–programming the systems. In that one I made them myself, learning C++ from zero.

LR: Who or what do you look up to or get inspiration from?

JR: I get inspiration from every game I have played. There are lots of people that complain about games, and say “Be careful! This is not a game…this is a Flight Sim.” They don’t know that all of the technology that makes them enjoy this magnificent flight sim comes from games. Still all flight sims are really far far far away from the technology used in games. Every time I see people complain about FPS in flight sims (also myself) I wonder why we cannot make similar games. We can find ones like GTA5, The Witcher3 with incredible programming, incredible graphics, far distance viewing… millions more polygons than flight sims, and they are always over 30 fps with the same hardware as any flight sim.

I have gotten inspiration from the very first game I played in Spectrum (Thro’ the Wall) until the latest one I continue playing still. I usually don’t give too much attention to people that makes the software. Usually the “most important person” in the development of the product is “only” that. There are lots of people behind the wall that other people usually don’t know about. That is why I prefer talk about companies instead of people that I get inspiration from.

LR: What’s the most important thing for new artists or people just get started with aircraft development to know?

JR: To be patient. If they are not, then they better forget about starting any project. But that I think is a general rule for everything in life!

Never miss an update.

More X-Plane news comes every month. Sign up below to never miss an announcement.