What is AirlineSim Technology Demonstrator?
With the AirlineSim Technology Demonstrator, or ASTD for short, we want to explore the limits of what a persistent browser-based airline simulation game can look like given today’s technological possibilities. The unique feature of AirlineSim is its one-of-a-kind reservation system ORS. We plan to take this system to the next level by developing it into a fully-featured Distribution System (DS) that models real-world concepts like interlining, booking classes, fare codes and many more. Then we want to make it the core of a completely new game, built from scratch, with the latest technologies available and a solid design from the get-go. In short: A foundation on which we plan to build the AirlineSim of the future. A truly unique airline business simulation experience as it hasn’t existed before.
What is ASTD not?
ASTD will not be a fully-featured game. It’s a prototype that serves as a proof-of-concept for the fundamental ideas we want to try out. As such, many features that one would intuitively find essential to AirlineSim are not on the roadmap: slots, an aircraft performance system or even cargo will likely not be part of the final prototype, among many other things.
What is the goal of ASTD?
The primary goal of ASTD is to fix the most important underlying design issues of the current generation of AirlineSim. Most importantly, we want to enable players to actually create and operate different types of airlines (like low-cost carriers vs. full-service network carriers), something that is not really possible right now due to the limitations of the existing ORS. At the same time, we want to give players a lot more control over the availability of their inventory, the pricing of their flights and the structure of their networks, including more insight into which connections their virtual passengers actually booked. Overall, the goal is that players have a lot more ways in which they can set their airlines apart from the competition and to go for different segments of the market.
What will be part of the prototype?
Obviously, the core of the project will be the new Distribution System that will grant players never-seen-before levels of control over inventory, fares, booking conditions and more. Less obvious but equally important will be its “companion system” to generate millions of individual booking requests (or virtual passengers) every day. To actually be able to control these systems, the prototype will also feature a brand-new, fully responsive user interface, offering basic versions of airline setup, station management, information databases, scheduling, fare and inventory management and a few other features. Just enough of what is required to allow players to experience the core functionality and depth of the new DS.
In 2022, AirlineSim will be 20 years old. The current version in operation is clocking in at around 15 years, depending on how you count. A lot of things have changed over this time span: New technologies have emerged, server hardware is more powerful than it used to be, and the people making AirlineSim have learned a thing or two as well. At the same time, sins of the past are making the maintenance and especially extension of AirlineSim harder with every passing year, both in terms of technology and game design. So when a very generous funding program by the German government became available in 2021, we took the chance and decided to take a leap of faith with ASTD.
Haven’t you tried this before?
Long-time fans will remember that we tried to implement a feature called “Booking Classes and Diverse Passenger Types” several years ago that never saw the light of the day and might wonder whether it is the same thing. It definitely is not. While the labels hint at similar content, the two packages contain vastly different things: With the “BC and DPT” we tried to graft a very complex change to how AirlineSim works onto the existing, then already 10 year old technical foundation. The technology could hardly cope, the UI and UX was a mess and the feature as such did not actually represent that much of an improvement over how things worked before due to the backwards compatibility it needed to maintain. The DS comes without all of this baggage and allows us to truly explore what is possible.
Is there a chance this will fail?
There is. This project is officially a prototype. If we discover over the course of development that we are unable to reach our core goals for the project, we will stop.
What does this mean for the existing game?
Existing AirlineSim game worlds will continue to operate the way they do today for the foreseeable future. We will also open new game worlds, both temporary and unlimited, over the course of the coming years. Development and maintenance of the game will continue as it has for the past 15 to 20 years and we won’t stop doing this until a true successor to AirlineSim has been completed.
Will it be possible to try the prototype?
Yes, absolutely. As soon as we have completed a period of internal prototyping we plan to move into “open development” almost in the same way as the development of the original AirlineSim started in January 2002: Players with premium status will be able to play with the prototype from the first moment there is anything visible at all, with new features added several times a week.
What is the project timeline?
As usual, we avoid communicating hard dates without being sure we can actually hold them. But due to the public funding this project receives, there are a couple of important milestones we are aiming for: We plan to move into “open development” in mid-2022 and the project is currently scheduled to last until mid-2023 overall.
What will come after ASTD?
Time and the community’s feedback will tell. Technically, ASTD is the foundation for a completely new, greenfield rewrite of AirlineSim. An AirlineSim 2, if you will. Our hope and goal is that by the time the project ends, we will be in the financial and organisational position to take the prototype and develop it into a full product.
How can I stay in the loop about ASTD?
We will keep everyone posted via our usual communication channels like our blog, the forums, Discord, Twitter, Facebook as well as email newsletters.
This project is made possible in part by the game development funding program of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.