Have you ever sat down at your simulator, loaded everything up, only then to consider where you wish to fly from and to? Unless you are a member of a virtual airline where scheduled flights are the norm, you may have encountered this issue of not knowing where to fly next. Then again, sometimes you may fancy a change but still can’t decide where.
This is where Parallel 42’s The Skypark, and their interface, Skypad, comes in. Their concept works on the principle of less planning and more flying, The Skypark gives purpose to your flying activity and adventures.
Having purchased a copy, and having used it a fair while, I am now in a position to review the product. Please note, however, despite being on sale, this product is still in Early Access, and the developer’s are promising future updates.
As this is available through Orbx Central, installation is a breeze, and virtually installs itself. Updates are likely to come through here too, however, The Skypark has its own Transponder which searches for available updates on startup.
On starting The Skypark, by either opening The Transponder (which searches updates and opens up preferences), or by directly clicking on The Skypark’s Skypad, I was introduced to the main interface between the contracts and myself. The interface takes the form of a tablet, with apps such as Contrax, Conduit, and yoFlight being the main way into planning flights. However, at first start up I was greeted by Bridget, the voice of The Skypark, who took me through a very short tutorial. I then was encouraged to do a training mission to get used to the process. The interface is pleasant, and the tutorial simple and unobtrusive. It took me about 30 minutes to complete the training mission which earned me $25.
At this point it is worth mentioning that the contracts available to me are through the fictional company Clearsky. There is another option called Coyote, and from what I understand, these contracts would be classed as shady as they involve transporting counterfeit goods. I’m a good, honest pilot, so I chose Clearsky but the option is there, and I suppose, the rewards.
Getting into it
Since finishing the training, I have fulfilled a number of contracts. My latest had me delivering motor oil from a small airfield in France to another in northern Spain, crossing the Pyrenees. First I searched a particular area, namely Europe, and Contrax searched for available contracts. Once the contact is accepted, it is then managed via the Conduit app, where I had to click to load the goods (on this note I did do one flight where I failed to click the load goods button, completed the flight but failed the contract). I was also guided on what type of aircraft I should use. This part can be done without any simulator running, but, obviously, to get started, I had to load up Microsoft Flight Simulator.
From here, I then had to click on the yoFlight app, which gave me access to a map that follows my flight. This can be used as a moving map and can be viewed either in 2D or 3D. It is quite a detailed interface, and gives all the information I need, including obstacles. On completing my flight, I was prompted to click ‘deliver’ and the contract was then fulfilled, and payment was given. The Progress and Holdings apps allowed me to see how much I’ve earned, and, more importantly, my XP and Karma levels. Karma is like a happiness scale for the customer, the happier they are with the service, the better the karma score. It is a sliding scale, and can go down as well as up.
First of all, it is worth noting again, this is not a finished product, but it is highly usable, and stable. It has no affect of FPS within the sim, and when used with monitors, the Skypad can be moved to whatever screen you desire, including within the sim itself. It is all very clean and easy to use. It is also a lot of fun. There’s something about fulfilling a contract, but at the same time, The Skypark encourages pilots to fly outside of the areas they would normally fly. The flight completed above took me across an area I’d never flown before, and this added to my enjoyment.
Another thing worth noting is that I’m not forced into accessing and completing contracts on a regular basis, and there are no penalties for inactivity. Failing contracts may reduce karma, but that is really the only penalty. On that note, contracts do have a time limit, so if you book one, and then forget about it, it’s counted as a failed flight.
My only complaint, and one that has been brought up in forums, is the accumulation of money, without an outlet for those funds. It would be nice to be able to buy addons, or at the very least upgrades, which would truly provide a reason for flying. Currently, the Skypad cannot be moved into VR, and this is something I would like to see. It is annoying having to come out of VR to interact with the Skypad. That being said, once the contract is set up, and the flight planned, I didn’t really have to use the pad, until I landed and completed delivery, which was done outside of VR. I do hope the developers are listening and implement some of these things. It is good to note, there is an active The Skypark community on Discord, and the developers are continually updating progress, and hopefully, listening to users.
I would highly recommend The Skypark has a way of accessing flights and giving some purpose to flying activity. At just over 26 Euros, it’s not that expensive, and the more I’ve used it, the more I believe it is value for money. Also, there is a lot of potential in the Skypad, not only for providing purpose, but for flight planning, and multiplayer. It would be nice to have an actual Android or iOS application that could be accessed on tablets, as this would mean you could search contracts, and keep track, away from the PC.
So, in conclusion, if you find yourself wondering where to fly next, buy The Skypark, and let this guide your routes through the skies.
The Skypark is available through Orbx Central, priced at EUR 26.62.