Here at PCFlight, we strive to provide information that is both useful and interesting to people, that’s why today we bring you an exclusive interview with the Engineering Project Manager for Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D Flight Simulation Platform!
In this extended interview, I talk to Adam Breed, The Engineering Project Manager for Prepar3D. We discuss many different subjects including the different licensing options for P3D, the addition of new features for V4 and he answers questions from our readers. Enjoy!
First of all, could you introduce yourself and explain what your role is at Prepar3D®?
Hi, I’m Adam Breed, Lockheed Martin Engineering Project Manager for Prepar3D®. I’m responsible for the success and growth of the platform with responsibilities that include strategy, planning, design, execution, and quality of Prepar3D.
We know the licenses for Prepar3D are for Education and Professional use only, will we ever see a license for entertainment?
Lockheed Martin is focused on advancing mission readiness for militaries and commercial aviation pilots through simulation and training – and is not an entertainment company. While Prepar3D offers an immersive and fun way to train, we have no plans to enter the entertainment space.
FSX and P3D are very CPU intensive, will we see better load balancing from P3D in terms of utilising the power of peoples GPUs?
Yes, and you will see the continued progression of the shift to GPU utilization in the first v4 release. Capabilities like tessellation, particles, shadows, and detailed precipitation all shift more processing from the CPU to the GPU.
We asked our readers to submit a few questions and one of the most popular was regarding P3D’s use of a single CPU core, will we see multi core multi thread support in a future update?
Every release features more multicore threading to improve performance. Overall, Prepar3D is already threaded in some of the most important areas. Still, we continue to improve on this as we progress with optimizing the baseline. For example, in Prepar3D v4 the functions that draw the maps/gauges were threaded out to improve performance of 2D drawing. So, we continue to look for ways to improve in this area, but Prepar3D has already made some significant threading progress compared to previous releases.
Another question that was quite popular was to do with rain effects on the wind shield, will this be coming to P3D?
Due to the new way our scripting system works, the old effect method was scrapped. The new way is much more powerful and we expect to see developers utilizing it very shortly. You will also see it added to more of our default vehicles. What might come as a surprise to some users, the Mooney Bravo has a prototype of this effect, but the effect isn’t something we are showcasing yet – it needs more refinement for large scale inclusion.
What’s the relationship between Lockheed Martin and Prepar3D like?
Lockheed Martin is the owner of Prepar3D® and is the company’s flagship simulation software. The entire Prepar3D team are all Lockheed Martin employees and Lockheed Martin integrates Prepar3D as a key discriminator to many of our training solutions and training devices.
Will contoured runways be coming to P3D?
Contoured/sloping runways have been the second most common request (right after 64-bit) since we started work on Prepar3D. It is something we know there is strong desire for and continue to look for ways to include it in future versions.
What other visual effects are you planning for P3D?
We continue to focus on improving performance of the special effect pipeline. Additionally, we will continue to improve and optimize the new dynamic lighting system to ensure even more lights can be controlled and displayed. Also, we look to provide even more tools, interfaces, and options to allow developers to create the most realistic effects possible.
How many people are working on P3D and what’s the team like?
The team is spread around the world and utilizes Lockheed Martin’s 97,000+ employee expertise and feedback. Prepar3D is mainly engineered in Orlando, FL, with Lockheed Martin teams developing and integrating Prepar3D into various platforms world-wide. It is a complex project to manage, but it is also great to have such a large and diverse team developing and contributing to the software baseline.
What was the most difficult or challenging part of developing P3D V4?
Ensuring a well-tested release with countless software and hardware combinations was the most challenging part of developing Prepar3D v4. Prepar3D is an open development platform and it is commercial, so the ways users can configure and setup the software is endless. It is quite a large undertaking to ensure stability with all controllers, graphics cards, sound cards, and custom hardware. Still, it is great to have such a powerful and flexible platform where we can be so highly compatible by default.
What would be a dream feature that you’d like to see in P3D?
Personally, I am a big fan of virtual reality and believe there is a huge training value to the technology. I am excited to see how the technology grows over the next ten years and a big focus of mine is immersive training experiences. So, I’d have to say my current dream features revolve around making a completely seamless virtual training environment.
What’s a typical day like at P3D HQ?
I’d say it is similar to a game development studio. The team is run in an agile-like manner, we do daily stand-up meetings, and the main team is collocated with a large development lab where we test and integrate countless types of hardware. The core team is mostly composed of software engineers, so a typical day is focused on developing new features, supporting customers, and testing capabilities.
Where do you see P3D in 5-10 years?
Each release has grown Prepar3D’s user base significantly, and we are encouraged by how well Prepar3D v4 has been received. So, there are no plans to slow development, and with each release I expect to see an even more powerful global simulation engine emerge. I strongly believe that virtual reality capabilities will be a big component ten years in the future and I definitely see Prepar3D being part of that equation.
Will you ever consider making P3D from the ground up with a new game engine?
The best option for us and for our users is to continue to improve on the platform and deprecate features that would prevent growth. I believe how well we have maintained backwards compatibility has been one of the strongest selling points of the platform. As proven with the 64-bit update, we should be able to continue to make fundamental changes to the baseline without starting over. This will allow us to continue to offer the most powerful and affordable professional simulation platform possible.
What’s one thing, that you think most people don’t know about P3D?
I think the biggest secret is the power of SimDirector. We use it at Lockheed Martin to develop courseware and stage scenarios in P3D. For example, instead of a developer delivering a manual about their add-on, they could use a Virtual Instructor with Focal Points to explain an engine start-up procedure from inside the Virtual Cockpit. Additionally, they could fly a route and then grade a student’s performance based on how tight they were to their actual flown path. The capabilities are pretty much endless and we look forward to developers creating complex scenarios in the future.
And finally, what feature of P3D V4 are you most proud of other than 64bit?
Dynamic lighting has been very well received. Some of the screenshots that developers have been posting have blown the team away. We knew that this was going to improve night visuals, but what we have seen in just the first month of release has amazed us. We are definitely impressed with how far developers are using Prepar3D v4’s new features and we can’t wait to see what is next!
For more information about Prepar3D, click here
Post comments below or on our Facebook page and we’ll do a follow-up interview soon!