Infinite Flight is a mobile flight simulator. Originally released in April of 2011, it was the very first flight simulator for Windows Phone 7. It is used by thousands of Windows Phone 7 users around the world and is currently ranked in the top 50 paid game apps for the platform.
Support for iOS devices such as iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch was added in November 2011. To port the application from the Windows Phone platform to iOS, the developers used MonoTouch, and a branch of MonoGame, an open source project--OpenGL ES 3-D support was added to MonoGame to aid the transition.
There are no plans at this time for Android. In April of 2012, the developer responded to a question about Android on Twitter:
Flying Dev. Studio @flyingdevstudio: @cyannick Android port, maybe later this year, we're still looking into it...
On the company’s Knowledgebase, they address the question as well:
Q: Are you going to release Infinite Flight for Android? A: We plan on bringing Infinite Flight to as many platforms as we can. Android is definitely next on the list but we have no clear schedule for that just yet. Keep an eye on our Facebook page, blog or twitter feed for updates.
Infinite Touch is produced by Flying Development Studio, a two-person, San Jose-based independent game developer. Their expertise is in high-quality flight simulation products for mobile platforms.
Flight simulation on mobile devices is tricky business. Many flight simulation enthusiasts are used to joysticks, dual monitors, and rudder pedals that add significantly to the realism of the experience. Trying to duplicate that on a small smart phone screen, or the flat physicality of an iPad, is a daunting challenge.
The developer must duplicate the flying experience including pitch and roll, heads-up displays, banks, turns, ascents and descents, and the challenges of taking off and landing in various weather conditions at different times of day and night. These challenges are difficult enough in the desktop computer realm. In the mobile space, they are even more significant.
The main challenge is translating the flight dynamic model into the restrictions of the mobile platforms operating system. Can you translate the flight models to the control inputs allowed on the mobile platforms of Windows Phone and IOS?
Some of the Infinite Flight competitors have done a good job of meeting this challenge. X-Plane is a good example. Gaming review website TheGameReviews.com said that X-Plane 9 mobile on the iPhone was "a fantastic portable experience. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more realistic and enjoyable simulator you can fit in the palm of your hands."
Has Flying Development Studios met the challenge with Infinite Flight? The interface itself is very well done. The controls, menus and selectors are clear and easy to activate. The main menu lets pilots choose their aircraft, weather conditions, time of day, and location.
Let’s take a closer look.
Growing Aircraft Selection
While there is still a limited number of aircraft compared to a full-blown desktop-based flight simulator, the developers are adding new planes with almost every new version. The aircraft selection includes the following, depending on the operating system platform:
- Supermarine Spitfire
- Cessna 172SP
- Airbus 330-200 F
- Airbus 340-600
- Airbus A380-800
- Boeing 747-400
- Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner
- C-17 Globemaster III
- Bombardier CRJ-200
- A-10 Warthog
- Boeing 737-800
- Cirrus SR22
- Super Decathlon
- Embraer ERJ-170
- Embraer ERJ-175
- Embraer ERJ-190
- Embraer ERJ-195
- F-16 Falcon
- F/A-18 Hornet
- Space Shuttle
The CRJ-200 was added because it was the top aircraft requested at the developer’s feedback site. Users also had long requested “missions”. The developers responded by adding the Space Shuttle with four missions, precision landing missions for the 747 and three different missions for the Spitfire. This shows that the developers respond to user requests and encourage them to make suggestions.
Note that you can only land the Space Shuttle. Some users get confused because they can't figure out how to get it to take off from a runway. The Shuttle is accessed by selecting the Aircraft page, and then clicking "Missions" when the Shuttle is highlighted.
Some aircraft are available as in-app purchases. The developers say in-app purchases will be limited, but they help their small development team continue to enhance and improve the program.
Liveries include JetBlue, British Airways, FlyBe, US Airways, LOT, KLM, Azul, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Virgin Atlantic, South African, UPS, and many more.
Regions and Airports
The Location option directs the user to choose a Region, and then select an Airport.
There are over 140 airports available in three flying regions. They include the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California and Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Most airports feature taxiways and parking.
If desired, users can start the program by landing at an airport, rather than taking off from one. Both the Region and Aircraft pages provide opportunities for the user to send a request to the program developers for new regions or aircraft. This is a good example of the developers continuing commitment to respond to user requests and incorporate them into the program.
When Infinite Flights starts up, users can take a flying lesson, or choose to go to the main menu. The tutorials are beneficial for people new to the program, or new to flight simulation in general.
The tutorials pop the user into a Cessna 172 SP that is already flying, and provides general instruction about altitude, vertical speed, heading, airspeed and provides practice in basic flight maneuvers like climbing, descending, turning and different combinations.
This practice is useful for any pilot getting used to the accelerometer of mobile devices, and how it affects flight simulation. One easy way to get used to the Infinite Flight program is to put it on autopilot. This allows the pilot to experiment different instruments and program controls, without worrying if the aircraft is veering too far off course.
The weather selection provides a pilot with several choices. They can select the wind direction, gusts, velocity and visibility. At this point there are not any advanced weather conditions pilots may be used to from desktop programs like thunderstorms and turbulence.
Pilots can select from four different time presets throughout the day. They include Sunrise, Day, Sunset and Night. The aircraft runway lights are lit in all time of day selections except for noon.
Logbooks and Achievements
Infinite Flight maintains a logbook of all flights for each pilot. The program will keep track of Leader Boards and Achievements. Within the logbook, pilots can see their achievements. These are awarded when certain conditions are met. More than likely, this feature will be expanded into a more competitive environment.
The settings menu lets pilots turn off landing aids and the display of airport names, as well as several other options. During game play, the in-game menu lets users change the weather and time of day. They can also choose to reset the entire flight, going back 20 seconds, returning to the take-out point, or be situated on final approach.
The in-game graphics for Infinite Flight aircraft is excellent, but terrain modeling is not as good. The terrain is relatively flat in most cases and seems out of focus. The sky does not exhibit the variety of colors found in a desktop simulation. The overall look is washed out.
This should improve as the game develops over time.
There is a wide variety of camera shots, which will seem familiar to veterans of desktop flight simulators. Camera views include cockpit, follow, flyby, locked follow and tower. The flight planner and HUD can be turned off in the cockpit mode.
New aircraft lighting has been added that includes ground reflections (this feature is unavailable on lower and devices). Runway lights increase the realism and help with landing the aircraft.
There is a realistic animation support on a limited number of aircraft. Plans call to rollout the feature on all aircraft in the future. Infinite Flight has realistic sounds including air traffic control chatter (not available on lower and devices). Ambient sound was recently added for external views.
Flight modeling is very good. The planes respond well to pilot actions. Any movement on the accelerometer is reflected on the yoke and there is a slider control for the throttle. Spoilers, flaps and gears are controlled with buttons. There is a yoke helper to make the aircraft easier to handle.
Autopilot and Flight Planning
Once in the air, pilots can choose to put the aircraft on autopilot. Autopilot can be selected for Throttle, Altitude and Heading. Users can choose the VS (Vertical Speed) mode which is used to descend or ascend between any two specific altitudes at a specific climb rate. The VS option is especially helpful when flying airliners and other large aircraft. However, there needs to be more user control available over the change in vertical speed, as the rate is currently preset.
There is also a new autopilot on/off selector that will maintain vertical speed/heading mode when it is turned on. This creates a smoother transition for pilots going from manual flight to full autopilot. A new messaging system creates warnings, achievements and navigation events.
The flight planner provides a cool map of waypoints, with the distance, flight time and next waypoint displayed clearly. After passing each waypoint, pilots can select a runway and make an instrument landing. To help improve landings, pilots can choose to show the Final Approach Path Display. There are also GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System) callouts available for landing.
Performance is adequate, although it does not currently match the dynamics of the desktop experience. That said, it is smooth and realistic, with occasional stuttering and other minor problems. It does take a while to load compared to other mobile apps.
This is due to its large size, although the developers have worked on this, and the app is actually smaller than previous versions. This is due to a new content delivery method, which reduces the size of the entire application. It allows the developers to update the program without waiting for approval from the app stores.
One complaint from users was about the lack of a stall warning. The developers added feedback so that pilots know the plane is about to stall. This makes it easier for beginning and advanced pilots alike to determine when the plane is losing control.
At the Infinite Flight forum on AVSim, "Newbie" says, "First of all I want to say I love this game. The fact that I can sit on the subway and fly a 747 with great graphics and controls is well worth the price."
Over at the iTunes app store, "Fridgeboy" stated, "I bought X-Plane after having this for a while to compare and contrast, and this comes out on top untouched."
Also at the iTunes store, “Suril” said, "It keeps getting better and better. The level of detail is absolutely amazing. I would recommend this app to anyone who is a fan of aviation and flight sims. Many thanks for the update."
Planned enhancements include:
- Support for the iPhone 3G S as well as the iPod Touch 3rd Gen.
- A brand-new management system with additional cameras.
Infinite Flight sells for $4.99 at the time of this writing. Users can keep up to date with new features and releases at the Infinite Flight Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/infiniteflightapp.
They can also check the Flying Development Studios Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/flyingdevstudio for regular updates.
A Growing App
Infinite Flight is a program to watch. Currently the number of regions and airports is fairly limited. While its current state does not meet the needs of every pilot, the developers have shown that they are open to, and actively seek out, opinions of the user community. They have repeatedly released new versions incorporating these suggestions.
In a mobile world where users can choose between hundreds of thousands of different applications, developer interaction will help set them apart. By responding to feature requests, they'll give users a sense of ownership, encouraging more use, and more purchases. This will ultimately result in a better game with regions, airports, scenery, and features.
At this point, Infinite Flight feels a little sparse. Much of the fun of flight simulation comes from the activity of air-traffic control, multiple flights entering and using busy airports, bustling cities, packed highways, fast-moving traffic on the ground, and ships in the ocean.
Some large buildings reaching to the sky would break up the monotony of the landscape, and add some much-needed visual variety.
The developers can also work on some minor annoyances. For example, it is very easy to bump the throttle by mistake. It's nice to have a throttle that is easy to access, but that charm is soon gone once you've bumped it a few times, and realize your airspeed is dropping rapidly.
Speaking of throttle dropping, another problem is the way that Infinite Flight handles allotted airspace. When you get to the edge of the virtual world, Infinite Flight idles the throttle on the aircraft. This is annoying because it's not always clear where the edges of the airspace actually end. A little warning sign would help remove the feeling of frustration when it happens.
These frustrations aside, Infinite Flight does what it says on the tin. It delivers a fast, fun flight simulation experience on mobile devices without a lot of muss and fuss. While Infinite Flight will be constantly compared to its desktop cousins, users should recall all of the effort that went into setting up those programs. For example, X-Plane ships its worldwide mapping graphics on a stack of CDs that are mailed to the user.
Infinite Flight on mobile devices requires no such bother. Turn on your iPhone, load up the program, and you're off and running. So, when you're ready to take a quick flight out of San Francisco International Airport, and head down the coast to Los Angeles, all while waiting in line at your bank, Infinite Flight is just what the doctor ordered.
You can grab your copy of Infinite Flight on the iTunes store here for iOS.