First Impressions: Flyout by Stonext Games
Few things are as fascinating as aircraft design. From a very young age, I'd marvel at books showcasing the evolution of aircraft throughout the years, and then proceed to take all these ideas now brewing in my head and sketch dozens of different designs. And I know I'm not alone - this childhood dream of creating one's own flying contraptions is likely what gave rise to one of the most unique sub-genres in gaming: Flight (and space) simulation games focused on craft design and building, such as Kerbal Space Program and SimplePlanes.
Released in an Early Access state in November 17th, 2023, Flyout sets out to put another name on this small but decorated list, and it brings many novel features to the table. Let's take a look at this new aircraft design flight sim and see what it has to offer! BUILDING YOUR CRAFT To design something, one must first have a goal in mind. In order to explore enough aspects of the game to cover it in this article, I set out to create two basic aircraft: A piston engine-powered aerobatic aircraft, and a 1950's-era jet fighter. When booting the game up and loading the editor, you will be greeted by a sight familiar to anyone who has played a similar game before: An empty space with a single cockpit in the middle. In Flyout, this sight is made all the more daunting by the fact that there is currently no in-game tutorial due to its Early Access state - something the developer himself points out on the game's Steam page. Ah, the endless void. In this empty space, it is our goal to summon an aircraft out of nothing - that's the magic of this type of game, after all. If you have experience with similar games and know the basics of what makes an aircraft fly, then you should be good to go - however even KSP veterans might be initially challenged by their first contact with the game's mechanics, which have a rather steep learning curve - and in exchange, allow for a level of flexibility not seen in any other game of this genre. Early stages of building. One of this game's best features is being able to turn fuselage "panels" into holes, allowing for the creation of cockpits with comparatively little effort. The game's flagship feature is its procedural fuselage parts , with their unique cross-section editor. This tool grants the player fine control over fuselage shapes - those familiar with XPlane's Plane Maker should feel right at home, as this works in a very similar way. The player creates fuselage cross-sections - or stations as they would be called in industry parlance - defined by a set of points, initially circular in shape, and then moves these points around to attain the desired shape. Example of a cross-section as seen in the fuselage editor. Careful shaping and placement of each fuselage section is key to make your aircraft look the way you want - and to fit all the stuff you need to put in it! Open fuselage sections are also available, ideal for canopies. Notice how fuselage panels can be made into glass, and how sections can be angled at will, allowing players great control over canopy shapes. The player can also select certain properties such as material and thickness - although the material properties seem to be purely cosmetic, thickness most certainly has an impact on the craft's performance, as it directly affects the fuselage's weight. For this reason, I strongly recommend players tone down the game's standard thickness of 12mm, which is way too thick for aluminum aircraft skin and will usually result in an overly heavy fuselage, even when accounting for the lack of other structural elements such as frames and stringers in-game. Parts such as landing gear are provided by the game and can have parameters such as length, thickness and angle of retraction set by the player - but if you're making fixed landing gear, the fuselage editor tools make it pretty easy to cook up some rather good-looking custom gear legs. Landing gear fairings are delightfully simple to make with the cross-section editor. For the wings, the player places the wing part on the aircraft and then edits its shape as needed - there is currently only one symmetrical airfoil available, but the player is free to shape the planform in any desired manner, including the chords of control surfaces. The player can also change the thickness of the root and wingtip independently - although it is unclear whether this affects the game's aerodynamic calculations, it most certainly makes getting the looks you want much easier than in other games in the genre. Yes, these wings are using only stock parts from the game. The wing editor gives the player great freedom to shape the wing planform as desired, making things such as the semi-rounded wingtips seen here easy. Something which most definitely does affect the game's aerodynamics, though, is the wing's angle of incidence , and this can also be set independently on the wing root and wingtip, allowing players to effortlessly incorporate washout into their wings. I was ecstatic when I realized the game allowed for this kind of possibility - it's one of those small things which really show the attention to detail in this game. The feeling of seeing a whole aircraft where there was once nothing is one of the things that keeps me coming back to games like this, and Flyout certainly delivers in that regard. It is far more complex than other games in its field, but in exchange that feeling of accomplishment when you finally complete an aircraft is made all the more special - compounded by how visually impressive creations can look with proper use of the cross-section editor. Almost everything in this game affects your aircraft's weight, so keep tabs on the specifications while building! ENGINE CUSTOMIZATION An aspect of this game which greatly surprised me is the complexity behind engine selection. Unlike similar titles, you do not have a selection of different engines with preset characteristics - rather, you must define values for each characteristic of the engine, such as the number of cylinders or fan blades - all of which have an impact on the engine's size, weight and performance. In other words - you must design your own engines , which increases the complexity and difficulty of the game exponentially, but also grants the player the freedom and flexibility to build powerplants to whatever specification they might desire. In this regard, it reminds me of Sprocket, a tank building simulator with a similar penchant for deeply customizable, procedurally-generated parts. If you like fiddling around with settings in that game, you will most likely appreciate this feature. Engine size being affected by its parameters means a key constraint in aircraft design is introduced to the players: Finding a home for the engine. Note the plethora of options on the right side tab! Piston engines in particular are simulated to excruciating detail. Apart from the number of cylinders and their disposition, one must set parameters such as bore, stroke, compression ratio, and even valve diameter. Even some adverse effects, such as knocking if you end up with too high a pressure in the cylinders, are simulated. A complete powerplant assembly. If you opt for a liquid-cooled engine, you must manually place a radiator and link it to the engine. Want a turbocharger? Better set up an intercooler. The engine doesn't magically provide power to the propeller - instead, you must link the two through a gearbox, whose ratio can also be adjusted as required. The result is that powerplant selection and setup becomes a far bigger deal than in most similar games. The game even provides the player with Torque x RPM and Power x RPM plots! While this is an impressive addition which adds a whole new layer of depth to the game, it could be overwhelming for inexperienced players. I'd like to see a selection of engine presets to make this process quicker for players who do not want to design their own engine, and to serve as templates for new players who do - the game does allow players to save their own engine presets, but does not currently offer any. As the game is still in Early Access, perhaps those will be included in a future update. INSTRUMENT PANELS Remember having to find novel and interesting ways of messing around with basic game elements to make functional instruments in the early days of SimplePlanes? Well, you're not going to need that kind of wizardry here. Flyout comes right out of the box with a whole set of working instruments and customizable dials, so it is possible to create functional instrument panels with minimal effort. There's even a programmable AoA indexer! Some of the instruments have certain quirks or work in unnatural ways (such as the altimeter lacking the usual two or three pointers), but for a game in Early Access, this is to be expected. These instruments are an incredibly useful and welcome addition I was pleasantly surprised with. FLIGHT AND ENVIRONMENT What would be the point of a game where you design airplanes if you couldn't take them for a test flight? Flyout lets you test your creations starting either at an airfield or at an initial altitude and airspeed of your choosing. Jet ready for its first test flight Testing the aerobatic airplane out - look at those sweet working instruments! While we do not know exactly which aerodynamic modelling is used, it is safe to assume it's a highly simplified model - I've seen some players with wild expectations of something like CFD being implemented, and well, if you've worked with fluid simulations you know how unlikely that is in an application which requires real-time rendering. Nevertheless, the flight model feels good and it's got everything you could ask for in a game like this. Showcasing the game's flight model with some aerobatics There's even an option for visualization of lift and drag forces acting on your aircraft. Notice how you can even see the lift distribution on the wings! While testing your creations, in-game menus provide a plethora of options, such as spawning practice targets, activating "cheats" for infinite fuel or looking at real-time data on your aircraft's performance. The Flight Data menu displays all sorts of parameters in real time. With regards to the environment, Flyout's world is an earth-sized planet with procedurally generated terrain, featuring an atmospheric model based on the earth's. It works excellently for the purposes of test-flying your airplanes, and looks pretty good from above. However, my greatest complaint about this game is that the environment feels a bit bland - Using your creations to explore the world and discover new places is one of the major driving factors in other games of this genre (such as reaching new planets in KSP), and Flyout currently lacks major incentives to do so, leaving players to fly their creations in a vast expanse without much interesting going on.
There are a handful of other airfields scattered across the map, but no clear directions on how to reach them. The large size of the map means one is unlikely to come across them by chance, just flying around. In my opinion, the addition of even more airfields, as well as navigation aids and landmarks linked to achievements, would greatly benefit this game. Here it is important to point out that one of the planned features listed by the developer for the full release is the addition of missions and combat, so consideration is being taken for giving player creations a "home" in which to perform, at least for combat aircraft. In the current Early Access build, testing out weapons is already possible in a limited fashion: Players can spawn enemies for practice, such as tanks and target drones. COMMUNITY Veterans of this particular subgenre of flight simulators will know that for such games, the community can be just as important as the developers in shaping player's experience, adding and expanding content, and overall keeping the game interesting and alive. Though Flyout's community is still relatively small, it is already starting out promisingly strong.
A quick search in Youtube reveals a plethora of tutorials made by fellow players, covering the gaps left by the game's present lack of tutorials. And, despite the lack of a Steam workshop or other built-in method of sharing one's creations, players have been eager to show and share their creations with the world through other means, such as the Flyout Discord server.
In the interest of contributing to this nascent community, and especially to new players just getting into Flyout, we'll be making the two aircraft I've made for this article available for download. Fly them around, reverse-engineer them to get a grasp of how to make basic creations in-game - it's up to you! CONCLUSIONS With its procedural fuselage tool and in-depth engine mechanics, Flyout is a promising title which brings a plethora of new features to the world of "builder" flight simulation games. Nevertheless, when looking at this game in its current state, it is important to remember it is in Early Access, and is missing many of its planned features. Flyout isn't an easy game, and the lack of in-game tutorials and presets for critical parts such as engines means the learning curve is very steep. If you wish to play this game as it currently stands , please bear in mind you need at least some understanding of basic aircraft design principles or experience with similar games. Even so, I have been pleased to see multiple updates being released in the timeframe of slightly over a month ever since this game entered Early Access, some of them bringing much needed quality of life improvements. It is clear the developer is putting a lot of care into this game - and the fact this is a one-man project makes its achievements all the more impressive. Games such as this are passion projects, driven by the time and effort put in not only by the developers, but also by the players themselves. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Flyout, and once more features are implemented and fleshed out, I fully expect this title will earn its place alongside the classics of this unique genre. About the Writer Caio D. "Hueman" Barreto An incurable aviation fanatic since childhood, fascinated by the design and history of practically anything that flies. A long-time fan of flight games, he currently studies aeronautical engineering and pursues his hobbies of drawing, writing and flight simulation on his spare time. See Staff Profile .