Monday, April 10, 2006

Interview - Shawn Firminger on FS X at

A very interesting interview with ACES Studio Manager Shawn Firminger on Flight Simulator-X. Enlightening and well worth reading.

Journey short lived.......

For the FS 2004 version of the Bristol Fighter at least. I have decided to shelve that project for the time being The reasons are given in the 'Biff Diaries'.

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 I will also continue to luxuriate in the modelling capabilities provided by CFS3 until that product is superceded.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

And so the journey begins....

.......The conversion of the Bristol Fighter CFS3 to FS2004 that is.

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

CFS3 Biff now uploaded to multiple sites

The CFS3 Bristol Fighter has now also been uploaded to AVSIM, Flightsim, and Simviation. I see it is available now at It should appear at other sites in the next few hours.

Filename: at AVSIM, Simviation and Sim-Outhouse. at