Interview with UK2000: Entry to the US Airport Market

UK2000 is a long-time scenery development group in the flight sim community. They have been around for over two decades now, initially developing for the flight sim by SubLogic. Gary, the owner of UK2000 and a flight sim enthusiast, agreed to an interview with us.

We carefully thought about the questions we ask, and Gary was so congenial that he answered them all. We discussed his history as well as the background of UK2000.

We have furthermore talked about UK2000’s entry to the US airport market with their most recent John Wayne Airport scenery for Microsoft Flight Simulator, and even possible rebranding from UK2000 to something that would connect with the new US release.

In other words, there are a lot of interesting topics discussed below.

UK2000 Introduction

Q: May I ask, when and why did you begin creating flight sim addons?

I started to make payware flight sim scenery back in 1998. I had always been a fan of the original early flight sim software by SubLogic/Microsoft, originally my very first FS was on the Atari ST in which I attempted to hack the data to add runway numbers on an airport. So I suppose that was my first scenery!

Then came FS98 and I was disappointed in the available add-ons that you could buy in the stores back then. I’d thought to myself I could certainly do better than this, so I did, first with freeware scenery Exeter and Bournemouth airport, then my first Payware ‘UK2000 part1 – Channel Islands’

Q: What has been your favourite part of working in the field of flight simulation?

I’m an aviation enthusiast, so whatever activity you can find that gets you closer to a passion is a good thing. In the early days it was plane spotting, then photography, but neither of which I can make a living from. During my travels, I became interested in the airports and not just the aircraft, which led me down this path. So making a career out of creating airport scenery, enabled me to keep in touch with my lifetime passion for aviation. The pleasure comes at the end when you finalize the small details. Making an airport is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, it can be quite frustrating, but ultimately when you get to the end you admire the creation.

Q: If you had to describe UK2000 in three words, what would they be and why?

“Passion for airports” because I hope the work I do reflects my passion for the airports.

John Wayne Airport Release

Q: The release of John Wayne Airport for MSFS was pleasantly surprising to all of us. Is there a specific reason why you chose to design airports in the United States?

There are a few reasons why I decided on the US. Number one is that I was getting bored with making the same UK airports over and over again. Also, there are more designers making UK airports than ever before.  I don’t see much future in  “chasing” them.

For example, someone makes Airport X with internal Tower details. To compete with that airport.  I have to make the same internal details and add a cup of coffee on the desk,  I’m not a fan of this increasing drive to add details that you CAN’T see from an aircraft cockpit. Yes, I’m guilty of doing that,  as that is what is expected today, but users need to start asking themselves, why?

Ultimately you are paying more for details you can’t see. Doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s what’s happening. Don’t get me wrong, adding internal details that you CAN see from your cockpit in normal flight operations is fine.

This is a flight sim, not an airport sim. Surely having cheaper addons that don’t do this is better? Personally, I’d rather pay $10 for the airport than $20, if the difference is high detail, high poly, 8K details you cant see from the cockpit!

Q: As a part of the post announcing John Wayne’s release, you explained that this rendition was a leap forward in terms of scenery quality. How so?

The MSFS engine enables designers to swap from the traditional photographic and pre-shaded images of buildings, which are placed on a texture atlas to a different PBR substance-based flood filled workflow.

The transition to this new workflow has taken me well over a year and is why I don’t really want to go back to the older sims, as it requires me to reinstate the older workflow. MSFS has inbuilt ambient occlusion, vertex and colour bleed rendering built-in.

You can make a white box in MSFS and it looks realistic, do the same in P3D and it looks fake, it’s all down to the shaders. In the older sims, you have to pre-bake these effects into the textures which both increases the time and the number of unique textures.

John Wayne Airport represents the final transition, the airports before that (Jersey and Isle of Man) were a hybrid of old and new methods.

Not only that, but I also use my own purpose-made workflow between the primary design tool ‘Anim8or’ which is free, and a unity scripts/project manager to convert the Anim8or models into MSFS GLTF files. I believe most other designers would use 3DMax or Blender, I don’t touch either of those tools.

Q: UK2000 is known to have covered a wide range of airports in the UK. Have you thought about rebranding UK2000 to something that will also represent the sceneries of airports in the United States?

Yes, I did think about it, but it’s’ not as simple as that, there are a lot of other business/admin problems having two different names run by the same person, not even sure the MS marketplace would allow that.

Scenery Development, Rebranding, X-Plane 12

Q: Scenery development is a domain that is often overlooked by flight-simmers. What challenges do you come across when developing sceneries?

I would say the biggest problem is the simulator itself. They all have their issues and bugs, believe me, MSFS is full of bugs in the development tools, and it changes every update, but you can get used to the problems and work around them.

The development mode tools are priceless with some superb visual results. The older sims have different issues and are more difficult to work with compared to MSFS. The other main obvious problem in designing scenery is finding appropriate up to date images of the buildings you’re trying to model.

Thankfully this is becoming easier year after year,(Google is my best buddy!) but in the early days, it was very hard to find anything and often required a visit to the airport you’re trying to make.

Q: Beyond UK2000 and your current projects, where do you see flight simulation in the future after the emergence of Microsoft Flight Simulator?

I sincerely hope that Asobo and Microsoft continue to update and improve the simulator at least until I retire in 10 years’ time.

I am hopeful that they will also persuade users of other sims to consider using MSFS. There is this strange view that MSFS is a ‘game’ by many P3D and X-Plane users. I really don’t know where this view comes from. If Asobo can improve the flight dynamics and then hopefully more users will move to that platform.

UK2000 has officially announced to suspend development for X-Plane 11 back in January 2021. Do you see UK2000 possibly joining back the X-Plane market once X-Plane 12 is released?

No not at this time. I’m a one-man operation. I simply do not have the time to spread to other sims, best to be a good designer on one platform, than an average one on many platforms.

I am a fan of Austin Meyer for doing X-Plane, he also made some great charitable donations. It’s nice to have competition in the industry, but the screenshots of X-Plane 12 just don’t excite me personally. I’m a visual guy and MSFS wins there.

But never say never. Things change, and I shall leave it at that.

Note from FSNews team:

Thanks for reading the article. If you wish to support Gary and UK2000, we would suggest you to browse through their offerings at their website by clicking here. We are all delighted Gary made the moment to answer all of our questions and look forward to any future cooperations.

George Read more

Partners

Comment Policy

In order to ensure friendly environment for everyone, we outlined a few simple rules that need to be followed when participating in discussions in the comment section under each post. It's nothing complicated: avoid vulgarisms, offensive language, abusive behaviour, creating or participating in arguments, trolling, or self-promotion.