Anton is our web services guy who manages the Master Server and the Leaderboards. I spoke at length with Anton about these two hotly debated issues and he helped me to clarify some of the public misconceptions about what Master Server does and how it operates. For instance, some like to say Master Server ruins Multiplayer because of the communication to it. That’s hogwash. In MP only the game server connects to the Master Server and the server only communicates to the Master every 30 seconds and sends about 15kb worth of data when the server is really full. Even less data if the server has a few people on it. The load Master Server puts on MP is miniscule and irresponsible comments otherwise are a crock. Anton and I discussed what a future Leaderboard could look like and how it would differ from the current system. We have some good ideas, but with anything it takes time and resources to affect change. Thanks to Anton our system is unique and if more forward looking than other simulations.
Ever wonder who made our beautiful GUI? Well, it’s my friend Vitaliy. He is the person responsible for the nice user interface ROF has and this can be some of the most difficult work in a simulation believe it or not. Usability and organization is not always something that is easily accomplished in a PC game. However, the ROF GUI has evolved into a very complex yet user friendly system that when you compare it to other sim products the quality is unmatched. I discussed some cool ideas brought up by the community with Vitaliy such as connecting custom Response Curves to different airplanes and Global Chat interface. All is possible of course, just need time and right now Vitaliy is hard at work on the new Career interface. A very beautiful piece of work this will be.
Here is our comrade Viktor or “Viks” as you know him. One of the best, if not the best pilot in the ROF sky. Sure it’s not fair that he works for us, but he has the killer instinct! Actually, he is a super nice guy that has many important responsibilities including customer support, research and mission design. Viktor is another versatile member of our small team that includes so many smart, versatile guys. Viks has his ear to not just the English speaking community, but also the Russian one was well. He helps bridge that communication gap and give us a true worldwide view of the ROF community and its concerns. Currently he is working on designing the mission templates that will be used in the new Career mode. Looking at these templates is exciting because they will help our Career mode generator really become interesting. We also discussed how in the future it may be possible to give users access to these templates to create their own mission templates for Career. We don’t have any kind of ETA on this, but it is an idea for the future assuming we have enough time and resources down the line.
And I cannot forget to introduce you to two guys that really make ROF shine — Michael and Alexey! Michael is our Lead Modeler who makes our amazing aircraft and oversees the modeling team and Alexey is our Lead Texture Artist. ROF would not be nearly as popular without these two guys creating plane after gorgeous plane. Our skin templates alone make skinning a snap and Alexey has shown such creative vision in how our cockpit textures appear. Michael’s team has created some really amazing models considering how little research material actually exists out there on some of these planes. Yet every time they come to life as a realistic model of an extinct or nearly extinct WWI warbird. All I really could tell Michael, Alexey and Gosha (who is not pictured and lives outside of Moscow) is to please continue the good work! But we did discuss the challenges of creating an SDK for different aspects of ROF like ground objects, vehicles and airplanes. We need to work on this and we will. Our technologies are always evolving and keeping an up to date document on such technologies is not always easy.
Alexey and Michael
I discussed many issues with the team during my visit such as how our product differs from others and why some in the community misunderstand why ROF works differently than other simulations. Take multiplayer for instance. Some say we have bad MP code since we can’t have 100 players on a server. Well, this is because our MP code is synchronized in every way from elevator and rudder position to damaged parts falling through the sky. Something other sims do not do and such an omission (De-synchronization we call it) lowers the amount of data passed between computers which allows for more players at the expense of realism. We wanted to create a quality and realistic experience so we built support to track all conditions and not cheat on the data and animations. So our MP code is very good after all and we simply max out what the hardware is capable of. However, maybe this was not the best idea as most users were unaware of this issue. Sometimes striving to be the best or most real can backfire. Its things like this that give us room to change to better please the community. It’s always a tough call though and there are trade-offs and sometimes fidelity can be left behind to please the masses. This type of issue becomes crystal clear when you talk to the team in person like I did on my visit. There isn’t anything any other team is doing that we do not understand or cannot do ourselves. The technology is the same whether you are flying a Camel or a Spitfire and the ridiculous arguments on the forums melt away once you understand the tech and people behind ROF.
During my visit we also discussed and debated topics such as what kind of product we could build next and how to raise more money from outside sources to keep simming alive for the long-run. Not a simple solution. With less than a handful of sim developers left and with some long-time principal people leaving sim development all together, you must ask yourself what is necessary to keep the genre going. Is it simply a battle of last man standing? Maybe our next product won’t be a simulation at all? There are so many questions, so few options. Who knows, as the market continues to change and by market I don’t just mean the simulation market. The PC games market as a whole has changed in big ways recently from distribution models, to community expectations, to game design. The future is uncertain for many, not just some.
However, the future lies with the community as it always has. If you support teams like ours new products and new ideas will spring forth. If the community chooses to succumb to its worst habits the hobby will die and you’ll only have outdated products to play with. However, theROF team is a truly special bunch that pushes the limits of innovation to try and keep the worst from happening and they deserve their day in the sun. I hope my highlighting of the ROF team and my visit to Moscow has helped to put a human face to one of your favorite PC simulations. If you like what they are doing please continue to support them by telling your friends about the virtues of ROF and purchasing our products. Remember, as my comrades Lenin and Stalin told me in Red Square, “We need money for the Revolution!”
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