As I keep an eye on new releases and products already available to us simmers, there is a name that caught my attention, MilViz.
Not only do they appear to provide some very good Flight Sim addons, but the actual models themselves, aside from being of very good quality, are not what you normally see being produced by the established suppliers of payware aircraft for Flight Simulator.
Casting an inquisitive eye over the MilViz website, it gets quite interesting...there are models, animations and other products for defence contractors, manufacturers, simmers, and just about anyone who may need high quality, highly detailed models for any purpose, from Sales/Marketing, Operational Support to Simulation.
So naturally, I decided to approach this very interesting developer so us folks at Avsim could learn a little more about the people behind MilViz, a solid team supplying us with models with a difference. Colin Pearson was more than happy to give us a bit of his time.
Q - Colin, thank you for your time. Milviz is not our typical Flight Sim developer, I am very keen to know more, specially after browsing your website, can you please tell us about you first, your background?
I’m an old school 3d guy... started way back in the 90’s doing TV commercials... then moved into movies and VFX, then hard modelling for contract work, magazines, TV shows, IMAX films and finally, game development as an art director in 2007.
I was working until 2011 as a Creative Director (note the caps!) for a game company and, when we had our first kid, it was decided I would be the stay at home dad. So now I do that and this, full time.
Q - Milviz, what was the original dream? How did it start? Who was involved?
Milviz itself started as a hobby but, as time went on, it grew and grew... My fascination for all things military had helped me a great deal in the movie and gaming world (lots of contracts relating specifically to weapons)
Milviz was and is still owned and operated by me but we are now many people worldwide and it’s gotten pretty crazy...
Q - What were the first products? What type of software was used? and why?
The first products that were FS related were made for Alphasim. We did lots of planes for them. We had been doing a large contract of 72 aircraft models, including cockpits for a Japanese firm and Phil had seen our site. He, needless to say, was impressed. Back then, it was FS 2004 and things were not as they are now... so we had a lot of work dumbing the models down to a level that would go into the FS. Michael Davies was working closely with me, teaching me the ropes and making suggestions... We were using max 8 at that point. It was easiest and I owned 3 copies.
We were the first ones to use baked shadows and textures that are now used by almost every dev (Ambient Occlusion) and that changed things. We were also the first to really push the limits of poly and map counts in FS planes. We did get slammed occasionally for FPS issues but we fixed those as quick as we could.
At one point, I was doing models for 5 different devs... and then, I stopped.
For reasons better left unsaid, I decided that it was time to put MV out there as a dev. We had the models but no coders... I got lucky on that front. Bill Leaming (aka N4GIX aka Fr Bill) and Chuck Jodry both accepted to work with us and that was it. Now we have 5 coders, 3 FD experts, 6 modellers, 4 painters, 3 livery painters, one web person, one project lead, and me, as well as the testers, who, I must say, are freaking amazing as well as being even more difficult than I am...
Our team is comprised of, as far as I am concerned, the best of the best. We even have a couple of geniuses on board... (no names for those guys.. their heads are already too big!)
Q - With this is mind, what is the background of your team now? mostly programmers? military? has it changed over the years and why?
I think MV is different from the other dev companies because, though I am the boss, I generally let the coders, artists and the others have their way. They drive the bus... I just steer it (and keep my foot on the brakes!)... Mostly, the people who do the testing are active military or active pilots. I’m a big believer in making sure it flies right, looks right and feels right and pilots are the best for that.
The team I have now is amazing for that. Really. AMAZING.
I’ve always gone for the best I could afford... I think that’s what gets you quality these days. I would like to think that our stuff has gotten better but the only people can answer that are the clients...
Q - What is Milviz these days, mostly programming for Flight Sim or production of Digital Models and Animations? can you tell us about how Milviz approaches these markets?
Whilst MV’s major thrust used to be the military market, that’s toned down for me in the recent past as I just don’t have the time for it... So FS has become our forefront product.
We also do books, magazines and TV stuff as well as the occasional model for movies... but it’s mostly FS stuff for now. When the little one is older, I will probably go and get myself a “real” job. Maybe.
Q - Do you look for a ratio in your Flight Sim add ons? Certain balance between civilian aircraft to military? How are the projects chosen?
There is no balance... though it would appear that we’ve done one military and then one GA etc... it wasn’t planned that way. When we decide what to do, there is a process but it’s so ephemeral that to try and have it make sense would ruin it. (i.e. I don’t have the answers!). Of course, there are some that I just decide, we’re doing that one... Others, they’re sort of percolated... Like the KA350... and the 737-200.
Q - What resources have you got at your disposal for your military add-ons? For example, the F-15?
I have resources that only a couple of other devs have and more possibly because of my past work for the DoD and MOD and I actually have a security clearance as well. Not a very high one mind you but I also know lots of people from the books I’ve worked on...
We are still learning how to approach the FS market. It’s not been easy to break in and I do hope that with the F-86F and the upcoming projects, we’ll be accepted and well regarded. I think we’re the underdog right at the moment...
Q - The F-86 was recently released, can you tell us a bit about it? Why was it chosen? What do you aim to offer in this package? Simulation? Total realism? A "lite" package? Who was involved in the development and how was it put together?
The F-86F was originally going to be a two pack... the F-86 and the Mig-15. The idea was to use the tech from the F-15E so that they could fight. However, due to circumstances beyond our control, that didn’t happen.
In terms of realism, we always strive to make our products as real as we can within the realms of actually flying the plane. I.e. if it was prone to icing in the canopy, we do that. If it would flameout if pulling neg G’s for 10 seconds... it will flame out.
I’m really not big on the whole “being a mechanic” for the plane... Then I’d want a “be a mechanic” sim no? (here I am being direct again!)
The team was quite large and you can check it out in the manual available on our website...
Q - You also offer Beech Baron 55, Cessna 310 and must say they look great! But why these long serving light twins? Is this the start of a line of add ons? What can we expect in the future?
We started with the light GA’s mostly because, at least initially, we had access to them and that helps a lot when you’re making a model. As well, the owners were VERY generous with their time and their efforts.
We are presently working on a 737-200 cargo combi, a King Air 300/350/350i, a AH-1W Super Cobra, Bell 407, P-38 Redux, Ju-87 D5/G2 Stuka and, something special as yet unannounced though not exactly secret, a Mitsubishi Mu-2 as well as others in the pipe that are secret! I like to have at least 10 in the pipe at any given time...
Q - The helicopters available for FSX are also quite unique, the UH-1, the AW109, S64 Skycrane and none other than the Chinook itself...how difficult is it to create and model helicopters in Flight Simulator? Why were these models chosen?
We were doing a split with the Nemeth brothers up until recently and I was usually choosing the choppers because I liked those ones... but I also listened to what people were asking for...
We’re only now getting into the coding and FD’s of choppers so... not sure how it’s going to go but we’re hopeful.
Q - Your personal favourite Milviz add on?
The F-15E without a doubt. It’s still the only addon in the world, ever, that can track and shoot down any plane in the FS world. And that is a fact. As well, it’s pretty darned cool looking and that start up sequence is SWEET!
Q - Product Support by Milviz? Is it mostly email based or via your forums?
We use our forums and those on Avsim. Though we have been knocked for our customer support (usually because I’m a bit undiplomatic and too direct whilst being pestered about RTFM questions), I’ve always insisted that we offer the best we can to our clients. We try our level best to fix the issues and, if you bought it off of our site directly, you have 30 days to return it. Guaranteed.
That’s a good deal in my books. Plus our team members are so awesome.. they answer most of the questions so that I don’t have to apologize quite so much! LOL!
Q - Finally, the future...what can we expect from Milviz? Are there any updates planned for your existing line? New aircraft coming this year?
We have lots coming but, sadly, probably not this year... but who knows.. that may change!
We are always pushing the limits of what FS can do and soon, we will be moving into the P3D arena (certainly with our next products).
Many thanks for your time, Colin, wish you and your talented team the very best .
Keep an eye on them folks, MilViz has serious targets and they know how to get them!