Hey developers: helicopter simmers are a really demanding bunch

I have the impression that helicopter pilots are seen as those guys that have no passion for aviation and just fly these weird machines that are no fun. I believe that’s what a lot of folks out there think about us. But, the truth is: we’re not a simple community. Our passion is one of the strongest out there and we’re quite a demanding bunch.

Screenshot by Karl Høybye

Don’t see this article as something down the lines of “we are better than everyone else”. It’s not. Please bear with me and read the whole article. You’ll understand my point of view, which I believe to be benefic for all the flight simulation community.

Everyone in the flight simulation community craves for quality. Everyone wants their sim to be the best so that they can enjoy their hobby to the fullest.

Folks out there are always looking for the best graphics, the highest of FPS and the most amazing VR experience. But they don’t need all this everywhere in their sim. Most of the community love airliners so they enjoy high-quality, realistic airports and the few miles around them as they climb to their 30,000+ feet cruise altitude.

To others, their GA are dearest to them and they enjoy their slow and low flights.

But the truth is, ladies and gentlemen: helicopter pilots are the most demanding pilots.

We don’t just need good scenery at or around airports. Just like the GA folks, we fly low and slow. But we usually fly lower and slower than they do. We fly closer to the ground. We see more, appreciate more, find more details – and expect them to be present. Not just for a few miles around the airport but rather along our entire route. For miles and miles until we reach our destination.

Which may not be an airport at all.

Helicopter simmers are a demanding bunch

It can be a rooftop. A clearing in a forest, next to a campsite. Or a plateau where we need to pick up some stray mountaineers or deliver some goods to them. A yacht anchored at a harbor, or an oil rig.

You see, we can land and takeoff from anywhere. So, it’s not just airports that are important to us because we explore. Every. Single. Inch.

That’s right. We can be anywhere, and you can bet we will try to. We will try to land on the weirdest locations. We will try to fly through the most treacherous valleys. We will peek at that side of the mountain you probably thought no one would look at.

We will, because we can. That’s how we roll!

If you throw some small details into your scenery, we will value and appreciate it. Folks will purchase your scenery because there’s more for us to do there. We will spread the word among our peers and folks will want to enjoy it.

You can still do an amazing huge airport but place some nice areas for the helicopter pilots out there to fly around as well. You can still cater for the airliner pilots but add value to the rotorheads out there. Add some campsites. Add some helipads. Add some landable rooftops. Go wild. We will definitely appreciate it.

It usually costs near to nothing to add a few small surprises for us and it may possibly land you some more sales.

I’ve had scenery developers add more helipads as they realized our community got interested in their scenery because of it. And they have promised to add more for us to do on other scenery as well.

That’s a very good call, if you ask me.

Framerates are much more than that

Helicopter simmers are a demanding bunch Screenshot by Karl Høybye

Folks want to have 100+ frames per second on their sim.

Well, some only want to have 90 because of VR – which you need to if you don’t want to get sick.

Frames are extremely important for us, heli pilots, and not just because it looks good. You see, if we fly with low frame rates (usually less than 30 FPS), helicopters become uncontrollable.

We will have a harder time flying around and that’s not fun. We need good graphics cards and we need good scenery that’s easy on the frames.

We tweak our sims as much as we can and not just to say we can get 80FPS because our rig rocks. We do so because we need to do so. It’s vital for us.

We pay attention to detail

Helicopter simmers are a demanding bunch Screenshot by Karl Høybye

Helicopters are not easy to fly. They require a lot of attention both inside and outside the cockpit. Those who are learning to fly helicopters are overwhelmed and it takes them a long time to learn how to do so.

During this process, we learn how to quickly absorb information. How to get the most out of where we look at.

If we are flying a good model, with a good panel, that makes it all easier for us and your helicopter will quickly become one of our favorites.

Do a good job on the “outside” part, present us with some great scenery work and you will have a loyal fan that will probably let other simmers know how good your work is.

When we look outside, we really look outside. You know why? Because we are always on the lookout for a place to land if the engine fails. When that happens, we need to start our autorotation and land our helicopter.

You bet we’re going to notice details. We depend on them for our virtual self to survive.

What’s the point?

What I am trying to demonstrate here – especially for developers – is that the helicopter flight simulation community is an active, demanding one with folks that are eager – and willing to pay – for high quality, high performance products. Be it aircraft, scenery or even hardware.

Helicopters are demanding aircraft and we have learned to look at everything in a different way. We do so because we fly low, slow, land everywhere and explore everywhere.

We are probably the guys that know the scenery you have developed the best. We are the guys that value the little details. The cows on the field or the folks on the rooftop. The dolphins on the other side of the island or the clearing with the tent and fire in the middle of it.

Nimbus' St. Barth for X-Plane Screenshot by Bel Geode

And we are the guys that will probably look for all this and let everyone else in the community know it's there.

If developers cater this niche of the market (the helicopter simmers) they will also be doing so for all the other simmers. And this is a good thing – a great thing – as it increases the quality overall.

No one will appreciate your scenery more than helicopter pilots. We will try to explore every corner, find every landable spot, hide every bush and every mountain.

Because, folks: we are a demanding bunch. Oh yes, we are.

Sérgio Costa

About Sérgio Costa

Sérgio has been a flight simulation enthusiast for nearly 25 years. His passion with helicopters developed during MSFS 2000 when he discovered the complexity of these aircraft and the challenge it was to control them. Since then he has been primarily a helicopter flight simmer, trying his best not to crash and kill all his virtual passengers. Sérgio is HeliSimmer's editor and writer and one of the Three Grumpy Simmers, a YouTube series and Podcast produced together with YouTubers Bel Geode and NovaWing24, obviously dedicated to flight simulation.

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