Create a Sim!

hello, I'm currently thinking how a flight simulator would be made and I have a lot of friends and myself capable to make one. What would be the process or making a simulator like "P3D" or even "X-Plane"? What steps would have to be taken to create a sim like one of the bigs?

Thank you!


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You know not what you ask: Microsoft's ACES team was up to a hundred or so full-time professional developers who took years of work to bring Flight Simulator up to the level of FSX. The X-Plane team (don't know how many) have also been at it for years and Lockheed Martin (very professional) "only" took a couple of years to migrate P3D from 32-bit to 64-bit. We could direct you to a failed project to build a new simulator but all that need be said is they didn't really know what they were doing either so it didn't get off the ground.

This forum is aimed at people who build stuff for existing flight simulators. You might learn more about developing a new simulator by getting involved with the FlightGear people - FlightGear is Open Source so you can (in theory) examine what and how they have done so far.

You're going to need some proper programming skills as well as modelling and painting: if you're really serious then use that spare time you have to learn to really use an industrial-strength programming language.
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I'm with Tom here, the amount of programming skill required to simulate just the physics of flight is something that takes a team of professionals many years. Most of us just take existing simulators and improve them.


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Hello Nicholas,
1 - Like Tom already mentioned, creating a brand-new flight-simulator from the hanger isn't an easy task, BUT! , if you have enough (very-long-term) motivation, people, skills and knowledge you can get started.
I had the same idea once (about 3 decades ago) and found a C++ coding book to get started, named "Flights of Fantasy"

2 - Besides that it is worth your (development-team's) time to:
- Investigate other "open source" simulator projects like Flightgear (
- Visit (gaming development) forums to get in touch with people who are already building one.
- Learn about 3D modeling, (in-flight)physics, aerodynamics.

3 - It is also fun (for research) and worthwhile taking a serious look how the flightsim-technology has been evolved over the years oevr here
3a - Microsoft Flightsimulator history:


3b - Old Microsoft Flightsimulator versions - download locations:
Here you can download older versions of MSFS for free, to it evaluate and play with.
Get a feeling of a(n older) flightsim and get and get an idea wether you (too) will be able to re-create something likewise (or even better).

3c - Learning to fly: IGN overview of flight-sim history:

Good luck with your project!



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In addition to all of the above, if you wish to make a retail flight simulator, then you will also require lots and lots of money. Either that or a very wealthy benefactor who's got money to burn... :rotfl:

Seriously, if you were to get a frank and honest answer from Austin (X-Plane) he'd very likely tell you that he's invested several million dollars over the past two decades. :eek:


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The first stage is , skills analysis. Who have you got, what languages , what's gaps have you, how are they filled.

Before you even start bare bones thinking you need to look across all the skills just to start looking for bare bones of programme building.

I love ambition in anyone but please remember what the guys above have said.

dave hoeffgen

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This forum is aimed at people who build stuff for existing flight simulators
I don't think it's wrong to discuss such a topic here. After all we are the crowd that has to deal with a platforms actual features and functionality.

For example:
When running a survey on potential customers' expectations you will get answers like "good looking scenery" or even more generic stuff like "great realism".
But if you ask addon developers like on this forum you will get stuff like "conditional visibility and animations should be possible for scenery objects by default" or "aircraft systems should be modelled through python scripting to make it much more flexible" just to name some random things.

So probably the big community of addon developers should know best what a newly developed flight simulator must be capable of don't you think?


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I wouldn't disagree with you Dave, I just think most of us have no real handle on how big a task actually developing a new flight sim would be, supposing you had a decent specification worked out.

I also think of the recent history of would-be new sims – professional and cloud-cuckoo alike – which is not a pretty picture.

dave hoeffgen

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I wouldn't disagree with you Dave, I just think most of us have no real handle on how big a task actually developing a new flight sim would be, supposing you had a decent specification worked out.

I also think of the recent history of would-be new sims – professional and cloud-cuckoo alike – which is not a pretty picture.
And yet you are right with that....
I frequent FaceBook and an add with a Lexus kept going through. Come to find out, its an add done by Lexus in the Unity SDK/Package. Unity has some very cool tutorials on YouTube. Looks to me, this is a place to begin. The realism is second to none... I couldnt believe it. But, Unity uses small scenes. So you would need to figure out how to do a world. Opening and closing cells? I dont know.

Hope that helps. Unity basic is freeware. Several package levels and most all you need is in package one, free base pack.

I had forgotten where this post was. Glad I found it. Ive been holding this information a few days now. Was so happy to learn about this. There is another 'system' besides Unity that is also quite popular for Indy game builders. I forget its name and I think I had downloaded it last year and never used it, deleted it. I downloaded this and will be checking it out. I need to get into a forum and see if it can do a simulator with a world base platform. At least entire countries or continents, rather.


dave hoeffgen

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The realism is second to none
So what do you mean with "realism"?

Also how easy is it to implement a flight physics engine like JSBSim or anything similar or did you plan on creating your very own one from scratch?

And finally: How does Unity build its terrain and is it easy to process geographical to define every aspect of the terrain? AFAIK for unity terrain has to be hand modeled in a provided editing tool.

What about 3rd party addons?

dave hoeffgen

Resource contributor
This is level one in creating a sim.
That's why I'd rather choose one of these renderers that you need to implement in your very own C++ project and that do nothing but set up a scene graph as your code commands them reading common 3D file formats.
The advantage is that you have full control of what theprogram does additionally to the rendering, like doing the physics, controlling the sound (of course there are also sound engines like that) etc.
You especially have control of how stuff is read (from e.g. placement files)

But then again there are some serious programming skills required for this and it won't be compatible with Scaleform by a single click.


Staff member
FSDevConf team
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I think a flightsim has some unique requirements that are not easily covered by some games engine. Most don't support the entire world or they don't support addons well. Actually the more you look at it, the people at ACES build a great and flexible engine :)


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You might misquote Churchill and say the flight simulators we have are the worst possible - apart from all the other possibilities. It’s not easy to come up with a new one. Which is where this thread started.
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Aerofly FS2 impresses me with how it runs so smooth and yet has tons of detail. They had designed it for mobile devices; phones and tablets, and expanded it to PC's and Apple OSX. That 'simple' game engine design allows them to run tons of detail with ease. That really impressed me.
Well - if you have the team and the skills as you apparently state you have...

First start, like any game, would be creating the graphics engine
Then you may want to start adding the basis for the Earth and sky model.. then perhaps work a bit on physiques after?
By now you should be able to import some model and explore your new virtual earth.. if all seems well, make it look and feel better...