Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Interview: Aerovery Lab, Developer of Flight of Nova (Early Access 2022)
Updated: Sep 22, 2022
Flight of Nova is a space simulation title that has been striking out on its own when compared to other space flight games and simulators that are currently available. After trying the February 2022 demo multiple times, Skyward Flight Media reached out to its developer to request an interview.
We would like to thank the developer not only for the interview, but also for press copies of Flight of Nova which we used to write our first impression and run a week long giveaway. Congratulations to JettStorm and Rhett for winning!
Our interview with David Lloyd from Aerovery Lab comes a little over a month after its initial early access release with its developer now able to reflect on how it is being received by the public and how far the project has come.
After trying the demo and early access release version of Flight of Nova, I was very motivated to reach out for an interview. Thanks for accepting!
Thank you! My name is David Lloyd, solo indie developer from Switzerland. Being a fan of flight sims since my childhood, and a programmer too, I ended up making one. It seems I made the sim I never found anywhere. The one I always wanted to find.
Is Flight of Nova your first game development project?
Flight of Nova is not my first dev project. But it is the first one that reached early access release on Steam. I worked on a helicopter simulation in 2016.
Certain details in this game give the impression that its developer has a passion for space flight. What inspired you to start creating this simulator?
Being a fan of flight sims since my childhood, and a programmer too, I ended up making one. It seems I made the sim I never found anywhere. The one I always wanted to find. Before making games, and for a long time, I regularly searched for new flight simulations online. Around 2010, I discovered the Orbiter (now Orbiter 2016) project originally made by Martin Schweiger. That sim just blew my mind. After that, I found 'Lunar Flight’ by Shawn Edwards and also played it a lot. I think these two simulations were my main inspiration.
Recently, there are many games or simulators set in space that have combat as a core part of their gameplay. Why did you choose to remove combat from Flight of Nova?
I thought a simulation can also be exciting without any combat. It is possible to create tension/conflict through threats or dangers that do not involve combat. These threat/danger aspects are not yet fully developed in the Flight of Nova, as the game is at a very early stage.
Instead of combat, what are players tasked to do in Flight of Nova?
The player is flying transport ships to make deliveries of materials. There are also search missions. As most of the ships have a VTOL flight mode, the player learns to hover in order to land properly and also scan ground objects. There are also orbital station platforms to dock with that have docking ports.
I feel like removing combat was a good decision. Not being frequently shot at makes the finer details of flight more prominent. This simulator features realistic gravity and orbital physics, atmosphere density data, and drag calculations. Can you talk about this in more detail?
I started to play with gravitation in 2015 and shoot objects in orbit around small bodies and see what happens. It was fun to find the correct launch direction and force to get a circular orbit. No atmosphere was involved at that time. After a while I looked at Kepler and Newton’s laws and implemented the math, this was only to have instruments that display orbital data. I wanted to verify that it was really working, and that the data was consistent.
In 2017, I used earth atmosphere data about air density to have a ‘progressive' atmosphere. Before that there was a ‘proto’ atmosphere that stopped suddenly at 100 km. (lol).
Also using real earth atmo data made it easier for flight tests and to balance things using real publicly available reentry data. After setting the atmosphere air density, I made a certain amount of reentries in the simulation to adjust parameters. Then I went for an approximation of energy calculation due to drag, which also leads to a hull temperature. Of course this hull temperature calculation is -very- simplified.
Orbital mechanics are very well simulated in-game, but sometimes we felt a bit lost when de-orbiting. In the future will there be a way to plan a route with your orbital burns and maneuvers to better navigate in zero gravity environments?
A tool to ‘aim’ at specific outposts from orbit will be added. This will help to target a designated area on the surface before de-orbit. About orbital maneuvers, like transfers, or have a 3D visualization of current orbit and a target orbit, all that will be much more difficult to design and implement.
Planet NVA-31 is where players will spend their time. It has a diameter of 12'700 km. What advantage does having a full-scale planet in your game give you?
The advantage is having a huge surface area to build the game and create areas for missions.
Is there an idea of how many orbital stations and surface outposts could be in the fully released game? What does the player do at these locations?
For the outposts, there is a maximum of 199 possible land bases per planet. Each base can have up to 40 buildings. The player is taking transport and search missions at these land bases. This is the same for the orbital stations in the near future.
It is unclear at this point how many orbital stations there will be in the fully released game. The game should reach the state of full release in approximately two years. For now it’s an early access release period.
You've mentioned limits about outposts per planet. Is there a chance for new planets to be added to Flight of Nova?
Yes, there is a pretty good chance for new planets. Two more planets are planned.
Are players able to fly multiple spacecraft in this game?
The EA release currently has two spacecraft to fly. The Freighter TL-01 and Shuttle CF2. Soon a third one will be added.
As shown by your videos on Twitter and the "Hot Reentry" mission in the demo, the damage modeling of spacecraft seems relatively comprehensive. How deeply does damage affect gameplay?
Currently the damage is only visual and does not affect the gameplay/aerodynamics. I had something in place to affect the flight model when damage was taken, but it wasn't conclusive enough, so I turned it off. I intend to work on it to affect aerodynamics when parts of the spacecraft are damaged or detached.
Something that we were not expecting was a story. The opening cinematic in the demo and what seems like an interaction with an unknown spacecraft imply there is more than meets the eye. Is there anything you can say about the story at this time?
I prefer to keep this a secret for now, so as not to spoil the surprise. At the moment in the early access version, there isn't more about the story than in the demo. It will take me some time to add these story elements into the game and realize my vision.
While the demo loads, it states that playing with a gamepad controller is recommended. Everything works well with a controller, but are other devices supported? Are there any hardware limitations?
HOTAS / HOSAS are also supported. The current limitation is a max of 5 USB devices simultaneously connected. I will probably increase that to 7 soon.
While Flight of Nova has received much attention recently, it has actually been in development since 2015. How do you feel about the project in 2022?
It is amazing for me to reach the current stage, and to see that some people like to play it. It is incredibly rewarding… but there is still a long way to go to fully realize everything that has been planned.
Are there any milestone achievements during development that have encouraged you to pursue releasing a full game?
In March 2020, when for the first time, I made the project public and started showing images, and I saw people's reactions. It was an important moment.
It has been over one month since the game's release into early access. How has feedback been? Any new development priorities in the short term?
Lots of feedback, lots of enthusiasm. It seems that the target audience is happy with what they experience in the game. It is amazing for me to see it. This gives me strength to continue the development and bring the simulation to its final destination. There are lots of short term improvements on the list.
Thanks for this interview and congratulations on the early access release of Flight of Nova! We look forward to watching the title progress further in the future.
Thank you so much for contacting me about the game.
About the Interviewer
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.