Monday, December 11, 2006
Friday, December 01, 2006
Phil Taylor is senior PM for graphics & terrain at Aces Studio, producers of Flight Simulator and other products. Previously Phil worked on Visual Studio.
Phil has reposted his original AVSIM post on his blog which has disappeared from AVSIM forums (as mentioned in my previous post).
Phil also announced that Aces are in the process of creating a solution to address issues with the product. Exactly what that will entail is not yet known with further possible news after New Year. Note that this is in addition to the planned DirectX10 update later next year.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Anyway FSX now has been well and truly reviewed so there is little that I can add. I think the series of reviews at SimHQ by Chris “BeachAV8R” Frishmuth are among the more accurate reviews out there. I tend to share most of Chris's observations and recommend that anyone still sitting on the fence on FS X read these.
SimHQ also have a video of TrackIR4 in FSX for download. Impressive and well worth viewing.
I must say that I find flying in FSX an incredibly satisfying experience. The first thing that I always notice is the smoothness of FSX. Even at 19fps FSX provides a smoother stutter free experience than FS09 does at 100fps. In testing my aircraft under development I fly in FSX and FS9 several times a day jumping from one to the other. I also test many other aircraft for comparison. FSX always impresses me in comparison to FS9 and also CFS3 and OFF both in terms of sharpness, detail and smoothness. When it comes to smoothness I find that OFF is the worst performer of the four unless one really turns down scenery and terrain settings in OFF. These days CFS3 performs well on most computers though it too met a similar reception to FSX when released.
It's a pity that people are having issues with FSX. I can understand people who have invested a fortune in FS9 addons not wanting to move to FSX at the present time, though they eventually will want to. When FS9 was released I waited 5 months before buying it. I was quite happy with FS2002 and CFS3 was occupying much of my time at that point. From what I have read demand for the deluxe version of FSX has exceeded supply. So in that sense FSX appears to be a success.
As to the future, MS ACES have a Vista/DirectX10 update planned for next year. Phil Taylor of Microsoft ACES posted a statement at AVSIM a few weeks ago concerning performance issues in FSX and the DirectX10 update. This post was accidently deleted by AVSIM however it was copied and re-posted at simFlight. I'll quote a small part of this post as to what Phil Taylor said ACES are looking at :-
"We are following two paths:
An investigation is under way to understand if we can do something that is:
1) targeted and isn’t a complete rewrite, and
2) gives real customer benefit.
That investigation includes areas of performance. I cannot comment on the full roster of issues under investigation, I can only say that if there are results worth reporting I will be back.
Aces is making a commitment to a freely available Web download DX10 update that will enable all FSX RTM purchasers to upgrade to DX10 support on Windows Vista with DX10 hardware.
We are making progress on understanding what DX10 does and doesn’t do, and what we can and cannot count on. When we are done with those investigations we will have a fully booked DX10 plan. And then we can turn those screenies into real rendering and not "artistic impressions". "'
The post mentions that Phil will further report around about Thanksgiving time. So I assume there will be a further post soon. In other words ACES have a DirectX 10 upgrade planned and are looking to see what can be done to improve performance but cannot say anything further until they know what the can or cannot achieved with respect to path 1. So there is reason to be optimistic.
In other news the FSX SDK Service Pack update is undergoing beta test at the moment and hopefully will be released soon.
I have been busy beta testing the FSX SDK update these last few weeks hence the lack of posts here. I have been using one of my current projects, the Bristol F2B to test the SDK and have posted a couple of tips at the Freeflight Design site, which may help a few people while they are waiting on updated documentation for the 3DS Max tools in the SDK. Anyone can experiment for themselves using the released SDK as it currently stands. These tips may save a few people a little bit of frustration while learning the new animation system.
For those who like to create their own 3D instruments for their virtual cockpits I have posted xml code which I have created for the following 3D instruments (Unfortunately the blogspot software screws up this code so I can't post here) :-
Simple airspeed indicator - world war one style as found in a Bristol F2B
World War one Mk5 compass as also used in the Biff. This code can also be used to animate any similar compass.
These are simple keyframe animations, just max and min values and a scale. They don't involve any maths or conditional coding.
I hope this helps a few people.
Friday, October 27, 2006
An interesting test on the BBC science and nature site. I only got half of them correct.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I mention this as I notice people in various FS forums talking about moving from Gmax to the full product. They won't be able to use 3DS Max 9.0 for FS X development until when and if ACES update the SDK 3DS Max plugins. When and if ACES do so, hopefully they will remember to create plugins that work with both 32 & 64 bit versions of 3DS Max.
Friday, October 13, 2006
In addition to downloadable wallpaper the site features tutorials, photoshop swatches. roundels and downloadable 3DS Max meshes.
Well worth a look.
Here's an extract of the announcement from the Pacific Fighters web site.
STURMOVIK™: 1946 offers new campaigns, missions and aircraft as well as many exclusive features. Pilots can fly the skies and fight enemies over the Russian front, German occupied Europe, the Far East and the Pacific. STURMOVIK™: 1946 also includes all of previous Il-2 series content, thus bringing the most respected anthology flight simulator to an astonishing 229 flyable aircraft and over 300 total aircraft.
This will be interesting. I guess this is to fill the gap until Storm of War: Battle of Britain is released. Of course these guys are not the only people producing 1946 'what if' aircraft.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
In the Wing Fell Off I will still post general news on flight simulation, my experiences of and perhaps the occasional tip on FS X, my own news, computer graphics & associated technology. Maybe the occasional general interst article too.
I am currently working on a website too.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Formerly SceneryDesign.org, FsDeveloper.com has been re-launched by Arno Gerretsen and Nick Whittome to provide a common portal for all areas of FS development.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
As mentioned in a previous post the NDA on FS X beta testers has now been lifted. This means that beta testers are allowed to talk about FS X within reason provided we do not discuss the beta process itself or anything that may have been discussed in the MS Connect FS X beta forums. We can talk about our own experiences with FS X Beta 3 and also our experience with the Beta SDK tools.
I would like to mention a few things about the model export process using the tools provided with Beta 3. Before proceeding please keep in mind these are observations made in the beta and the final will probably differ and that much of the SDK was incomplete at the beta 3 cutoff.
The modeling tools provided with FS X beta 3 are Micrososft ACES own in house tools designed to work with Autodesk 3DS Max 7 which they currently use for production. These tools work well with 3DS Max 8 which I use. ACES are currently working on a gMax SDK to make these tools functional with gMax, which I believe will be available from FSInsider after FS X is released.
The 3DS Max modeling export tools included with beta 3 include :-
- Plugins - FSModelExp.dle and two .gup files. These allow a mesh created in 3DS Max to be exported as a FS x-file. This is a custom version of the DirectX x-file format, which includes meta data relevant to FS X models.
- XToMDl.exe - this is a command line utility which converts FS x-files to the mdl format for use within FS X.
- FSXAnimation.ms - this is a max script tool to aid the creation of FS X animations within 3DS Max - presently there is no documentation for this in the SDK.
- FSXMaterial.ms - this is a max script tool that adds FS X material functionality to the 3DS Max material editor. Again as at beta 3 there is no documentation on how to use this.
- Attachtool.ms - as the SDK says is a MAXScript plugin that allows you to attach special effects, library objects, visibility conditions, and set active mouse rectangles for use with virtual cockpits, to your 3D models. It also allows you to create landable platforms, remove crash boxes from parts of your model and attach beacons or other simulation driven objects to your models.
- CloudTool.ms - a maxscript for creation of clouds - similar to that in FS9.
- modeldef.xml - this replaces makemdl.parts.xml used in FS9 and fills a similar role in FS X. New animations can be added to this file by the modeler.
- Other tools include a BGL compiler and mdl and bgl scanners. A testX.max example was included in Beta 3.
The Good News
Modelers will have the following reasons to be pleased with the new export process:-
- Export within in seconds rather than several minutes. As can be surmised from the description of the above tools the export process as at beta 3 involves two steps - export to an x-file and compilation of a mdl file. These processes take a few seconds each even with large meshes designed for CFS3.
- Vertex resolution. Modelers are no longer required to weld vertices at a resolution of .004 (4mm). This allows higher resolution meshes - particularly useful in virtual cockpits for small details.
- Restrictions on model size have been removed. Makemdl in FS9 imposed a 64k vertex limit per model. Causing much in the way of grumbles with my Bristol Fighter when I initially attempted to export to FS9. XToMdl uses multiple vertex buffers and appears to have no practical limits as to model size. This means large detailed interior models are possible for those who desire to make such. Combined with the new camera system in FS X this will enhance the immersive aspects of flying in FS X.
What we don't know
At the time of writing we are still awaiting SDK documentation on -
- FS X materials.
- The new animation system.
- Modeling information pertinent to aircraft modeling.
Hopefully this information will be in the final SDK or the GMax SDK when it becomes available. I anticipate that the new material and animation systems will take sim modeling to a new level.
It's early days yet and FS X has not yet gone gold at the time of writing. However for modelers these beta tools are promising and reveal much potential, and, as mentioned above, when the SDK is complete, modelers will be able to take modeling for simulation to new levels in the next couple of years.
It's absolutely awesome that MS ACES have adopted a new open policy and have declared a policy of working with the flight simulator community on a number of levels. At the time of writing this has yet to be outlined, though we will soon find out, with the AVSIM conference happening this weekend - including a Microsoft ACES presentation. Roll on the future!! :)
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Anyway here are a few pictures from beta 3 of FS X. Please bare in mind that the final RTM version may differ.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Note the difference in the fine detail. The detail in the CFS3 model is much finer. Just look at details such as the sights and windscreen frame. The FS2004 version took another two weeks work and much trimming down of mesh. Most of the observer's cockpit was removed or reworked for the FS2004 version. Hopefully the export tools and capabilities of the new FS X will at least equal what can be acheived in CFS3 as far as vertex count and vertex resolution. FS 2004 was quite restrictive in that respect in comparison to CFS3.
FS X, as witness the demo, sports nice shiny new shader technology. Let's hope the differences in 3D engine go further than that. From the player perpective FS X looks very nice.
Edit: Sept 3 - Modelers will be pleasantly surprised by the possibilities offered by FS X.... more later.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
also a Flash website http://www.microsoft.com/games/flightsimulatorx/flash/default.htm
As I type this the first user screenshots of the demo have appeared at Avsim. It will be interesting to see the various responses to the demo in the flight sim communities.
It is certainly a bold decision to release a demo at this stage as FS X is still in beta. Microsoft ACES bloggers Paul P-12C Lange and Mike Taildragger Gilbert have both commented on the demo and the challenges it has posed in their blogs.
The demo is not to be confused with the beta which was available to subscribers of FilePlanet. Actually there are two beta groups for Flight Simulator X, one run by FilePlanet and one by Microsoft.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Thursday, June 29, 2006
I came across this very interesting website this morning after reading about it in a thread at Sim-Outhouse this morning.
The website and documentation are very impressive. The designs are somewhat out of this world. Regardless of whether any of these aircraft ever take to the air this site is well worth a look. You can read a little more about Stavatti on the Defense Tech website http://defensetech.military.com/archives/000009.html
It would be cool to see some of these designs in flight simulator.
Monday, June 12, 2006
I have quite a large favourite list already and hopefully it will grow.
In the meantime you can checkout a couple of my playlists The Blues and Roomfull of Fun.
Below is a clip featuring some blues greats of the 1950 & 60's.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
With WW1 and vintage aircraft such material may be difficult to come by. Sites such as eBay and on-line sellers of new and used books such as Biblio and Abebooks are quite useful. In the instance of eBay if one waits long enough one or two publications referring to the specific aircraft one is researching will eventually turn up. For WW1 aircraft, Windsock datafiles, published by Albatros publications are invaluable references. Also useful, not only for WW1 aircraft but right through until the 1960's are Profile Publications, little profile booklets. Searches of eBay frequently reveal other out of print or otherwise difficult to obtain books. Frequently one can pick up a bargain at eBay.
However bargains are not always the case. It depends how many people are after the same book. I discovered the phenomenon of sniping with my first bid. I was winning on a Junkers D.I until about 10 seconds before the auction closed. Needless to say I have not let that happen again on any important item. Many people use sniping software or subscribe to an online sniping service which automatically places your nominated bid seconds before the auction closes. I am reticent to use such software and services, as that usually requires that one imparts one's eBay user name and password to the sniping service and with that security concerns as one does not know to whom they are being imparted to. When sniping I choose to snipe live and of course that has led to a little bit of sleep deprivation, as many items close in the early hours of the morning local time. Now if an item closes in the wee small hours of the morning I generally place my highest bid before going to bed, unless it is an ultra important item.
It generally pays to wait as long as possible before placing a bid, though I did win a few Windsocks at bargain prices by placing a low bid early on items I did not expect to win as it transpired that there was no-one else around who bid on them. That was certainly not the case yesterday or today. Indeed I see people paying way over the new price of in print books. For example Windsock datafile No.74 RAF FE8 in used condition, currently has top bid of 16.00 GBP (US $29.89) and is currently available brand new from the publisher for 8.75 GBP(US $16.35), quite a difference.
One sees this frequently. I guess it's the case of more money than sense for some buyers. Other's just like winning or dislike losing. The thrill of winning over powers them. The other type of bidder that annoys me are those who enter a bidding duel days before the auction closes. Again it is usually the case of one not wanting to be lose. All these guys do is drive up the final price. They seldom win unless of course they go to ridiculous extremes, like the item mentioned above, and bid much more than the item is worth. Then they are left well alone.
At least one can have the consolation when one is suddenly deprived of the bargain that one has been monitoring for days, that the buyer paid top dollar for a second hand item that is readily available new, at a lower price, from other sources.
When shopping for aviation related books and datafiles on eBay I suggest the following:-
- Check and see if the item is currently available from other online sources and its price new.
- Carry out an eBay search for the item using slightly varying search criteria. Quite often one will see the same item from a number of different sellers.
- When doing 2. Above check for Buy Now fixed prices. This is very applicable for Profile Publications as many online second hand book stores carry these publications at fixed prices. I have witnessed some buyers pay top dollars in auctions for profiles when the item is available elsewhere on eBay for a much lower fixed price.
- Try and avoid bidding too early or if you do and someone else bids avoid a bidding dual as that will only force the price up. You probably will not win it anyway, if you do, as someone will most likely snipe higher than either of you at the end of the auction.
- Only bid what you think the item is worth after carefully researching the price using steps 1-3 above.
- Make sure you know what currency you are bidding in. Many buyers do not appear to be aware the GBP are worth more than USD and of course will receive an unpleasant surprise when they receive their bank or credit card statement. At the time of writing 1.00 GBP = US$1.87
- If the item being auctioned closes in the early hours of the morning, rather than staying up late or rising in the middle of the night, decide your maximum bid and place that bid before going to bed. If you have carried out your research carefully using steps 1-3 above, anyone who outbids you will be paying more than it's worth. Let that console you. Wait for another time or buy it from other sources.
Alternative sources of datafiles and books:-
Windsock Datafiles - Albatros publications http://www.windsockdatafilespecials.com/stock.html
Biblio.com http://www.biblio.com/- I find it adavantagous to contact the book sellers directly and work out a cheaper deal on shipping rather than the stated quote by Biblio.
Note: The auction items above were mentioned for example purposes only.
This one slipped under the radar for many people. Normally new versions are announced and publicised on all the main sim Sites. I happened to stumble across a post announcing this at Sim-Outhouse.
Oribiter is available for download at http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/download.html
Further information can be found on the Orbiter Wiki. Orbiter forums can be found at http://orbit.m6.net/Forum/default.aspx
I have enjoyed earlier versions and recommend checking this out. Now if only had a bit more time :)
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
The other video was mentioned in an AVSIM thread. As the thread title at AVSIM says it is indeed stunning.
I cannot say when but at least I can now say a FS2004 'Biff' will happen.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
You can read it on Xbox.com and Gamespot. Both sites show some screenshots some of which I have not seen before.
FS X also featured in the MS press conference video - about 2 seconds worth. Hopefully we'll see and know more in the coming days.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Monday, April 10, 2006
I have to say how incredibly disappointed that FS2004 cannot support high resolution meshes that CFS3, from the same design studio, can easily support and play at upwards of 38fps depending on configuration.
The slow and somewhat restrictive 3D model export capability of the FS2004 mdl/bgl exporter is extremely disappointing to say the least.
The other area of disappointment is the quality of DXT .bmp image conversions afforded by the SDK imagetool, compared to the quality of DXT .dds images output by photoshop with the Nvidia plugin as used by CFS3.
I will be modelling an all new aircraft for FS2004, yet to be decided, to provide some experience with the FS2004 way of doing things. I will also continue to luxuriate in the modelling capabilities provided by CFS3 until that product is superceded.
I am greatly looking forward to Flight Simulator X. Let's hope these modeling restrictions have been removed from that sim. I am looking forward to the FS X SDK almost as much as I am to the main sim.
Let's hope that models of this resolution are supported by Flight Simulator X.
Check out the CFS3 Biff for yourselves AVSIM, SOH
Monday, April 03, 2006
Back in the 'old days' many CFS3 users and designers would have referred to such a move as a move to the 'Dark Side'. I don't know about 'Dark Side' but after a few frustrations with the FS2004 SDK's makemdl.exe exporter on the weekend I felt 'journey to the dark ages' might have been appropriate. Especially compared to the comparative ease with which one can export from CFS3, which generally exports in seconds rather than minutes, usually without hiccup. In CFS3 one can model the entire aircraft to a 1mm resolution, which is useful for producing sharper virtual cockpits. Makemdl.exe for FS2004, supposedly supports 1mm vertex resolution on the external model and only 4mm on the VC. It should have been perhaps the other way around. I tend to think specular in CFS3 looks nicer and more natural too.
Virtual cockpits in the two sims also differ in their implementation and I tend to think the CFS3 solution is more elegant with its seperate VC model and neat solution of using nodes in the 3D model to switch off the cockpit in the external model while seated in the VC. The virtual cockpit is drawn over the top of the external model and the environment in CFS3. and if everything is modelled correctly looks very convincing.
FS2004 handles things quite differently. FS2004 requires that any parts of the external model visible from the cockpit be copied also to the virtual cockpit. In the case of a biplane as in the Curtiss Jenny or the Bristol Fighter that means much of the external aircraft - indeed more so especially now that many people use trackIR and lean out and look along the side of taildraggers. This means that interior models can have very high polycounts.
CFS3 is however restricted to using stock animations and instruments. These cannot be added to or expanded on as can be acheived in FS2004.
This is where the real power in FS2004 lies. One can create almost any instrument capable of being supported by the sim in FS2004. One can also animate just about anything in FS2004 using XML coding and the appropriate variables from the sim. I hope to use parts.xml to animate the Bristol Fighter's instruments in the 3D model, similar to the instruments I have used in CFS3.
Additionally the Bristol Fighter was modelled with the CFS3 game engine in mind. Much experimentation and research was carried out to test the limits of that game engine along the way. It was never intended for FS2004. I did experimentally export it to FS2004 last year before it was textured, and it worked without hitch. With the non advent of CFS4 and the coming of FS X I thought it best to learn the FS way of doing things by converting the Bristol Fighter to FS2004. I look foward to the experience and we'll see how things turn out in the hopefully not too distant future.
Before closing this post I would point out that comparisons between CFS3 and FS2004 are somewhat obsolete, if not lacking in relevance, given the coming of FS X. There's certainly scope for improvement in makemdl.exe and one hopes that is the case. Hopefully the implementaion of virtual cockpits in FS X adopts some of the elegance of the CFS3 implementation, combined with FS's power.
One can always hope for a further installment in the Combat Flight Simulator franchise in the not too distant future. Let's hope CFSx will continue the open architecture trend of FS2002/FS2004/CFS3 and soon to be FS X. [Let's hope that the next CFS will be a PC or multi platform game too.]
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Filename: rbf2b_v1.zip at AVSIM, Simviation and Sim-Outhouse. rbf2bv1.zip at Flightsim.com
Friday, March 31, 2006
I have now started the conversion to FS2004. I cannot provide a timeline as yet as virtual cockpits for FS2004 differ in their implementation. I also have to get my head around xml parts coding for the virtual cockpit gauges. It may or may not be easy. We'll soon find out.
A few screen shots of the CFS3 version.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Hopefully normal blog posts will resume from now on.
Monday, January 30, 2006
If anyone has information that may assist I would be very pleased.
Thanks in advance
Sunday, January 22, 2006
This is not exactly recent news as Gennadich Team initially announced the WW1 PC simulation product with the working title 'WW1: Knights of the Sky', in November 2005.
The simulation will focus on Western Front activity in the 1916-18 period. The simulation will feature 13 player flyable aircraft, 30 non flyable AI aircraft and some 60 types of ground units. The game will be based on a modified version of the popular Il2-Sturmovik engine. The game is scheduled to be released in fall 2006, Russian publisher 1C.
As the screenshots show the simulation will feature some very nice aircraft indeed. I am most impressed with the texture work, especially that of the SPAD S.VII. More screenshots and regular updates will appear on their developer update forum thread.
2006 Looks like being a bumper year for flight simulation and combat flight simulation fans, with this WW1 project, Micosoft's Flight Simulator X and other projects in the works such as Third Wire Productions forth coming WW1 simulation, and Maddox/1C's Battle Of Britain' [no release dates announced on the last two.]
Developer's update - http://www.gennadich.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1500