Monday, December 31, 2007

Business Week article on Microsoft ESP

Business Week have published an interesting article on Microsoft ESP - "Microsoft's Games Get Serious", highlighting the fact that it is the first time a major software company has entered the serious games arena. Serious games are games that are published for non entertainment purposes such as training and presentation.

It is an interesting and informative article and certainly serves to open one's eyes to the potential of the serious games. I must confess that prior to reading this article I was largely unaware of the serious games industry. The article points out that the serious games market has tripled since 2005 and is currently valued at $150M. The article also mentions the potential of the larger simulation and 3D modeling market which overlaps with serious games. Microsoft estimates this market to be worth $9 billion.

Northrop Grumman's involvement in the beta testing of ESP is also discussed in the article. One team used ESP to create a prototype of an aviation training simulation game in 3 days, that would otherwise have taken 18 months from scratch.

Anyway the article is certainly worth reading

I would venture the opinion that all this bodes well for the future of Microsoft Simulation products, including FS entertainment products. It will (hopefully) also benefit the 3rd party flight sim developer community over time, and open many possibilities.

The article states that ESP will be launched on January 1 2008. Microsoft will present the final version of ESP at the Serious Games Summit at GDC, February 2008.

Relevant links:

Also ESP team member 'Beatle'

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Back on Deck.... well.... sort of ;)

It's been quite a while since I posted here, this being my first post since leaving hospital following surgery. I can now sit at a computer a little bit more now. I still have to get up and walk around every half hour or so and have to make sure I don't spend too much time sitting during the day. Walking is good for me.

I hope to commence more frequent posts both to this blog and also my other blogs. I am also slowly getting onto 3D modeling again. It is hard to get into after such a long lay-off. Six weeks is a long time ;)

A few interesting developments occurred when I was out of the loop - the release of Microsoft ESP , and more recently FSX SP2, along with more controversy in various flight sim forums.

I hope to blog my own thoughts on the future of MS simulations in future blog articles.

Enough for now.



Monday, November 05, 2007

D Day tomorrow

Surgery tomorrow and a big op it is too. As Robin would say .... 'holy trepidation Batman'.... ;)

Hopefully I'll be back up & running in a few months.



Friday, November 02, 2007

Some Sopwith Snipe WIP pics

I am scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday afternoon and will be out of the loop for a while. Before going here are some WIP shots of the exterior model of my Sopwith Snipe for FSX (and later for CFS3).

Hopefully I will have time to complete the cockpit by the end of the year if I have a speedy recovery.



American Top Gun

Do you think you have what it takes to be a 'top gun'? If you do you might like to check out this article on the FSinsider site.

Here's the lead text from the article

"Seeking to build the first multi-entertainment platform experience of its kind, Microsoft and ATG have created a unique collaboration. Virtual pilots from around the world will have the opportunity to compete (using Flight Simulator X) to win a spot on a TV reality show code-named “American Topgun Challenge.”"

It's certainly an interesting concept to say the least, and if successful will hopefully attract a new audience to the genre of flight simulation.

If you think it concept worth pursuing, you can let Microsoft know via their tell_fs email addy.



Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Draw Calls & optimisation.

I am 20 days into cancer treatment presently, and have not had as much time for hobbies & sim pursuits. However I do pursue these activities when I can. I am still modeling aircraft, albeit slowly and also working on terrain/scenery for CSF3. (Due to the lack of a CFS4).

I have just posted a brief article on my experiences with FSX SDK1A and draw call optimisation in my modeling blog.


Postscript - since I wrote that item I have found the benefits of applying these optimisations very beneficial. More on that soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007 Site relaunched

The AvHistory team have relaunched their web site with a fresh new look.

Just in case you don't know, the AvHistory team are developers of the 1% flight model system for Microsoft Flight Simulators.


FSX: Acceleration

Well the first few pics and trailers of the new expansion pack for Microsoft Flight Simulator X have been posted at Gamespot.;all

There's also a neat trailer on Games For Windows.

Well E3 is here, albiet downsized on previous years. I'm looking forward to more news from Microsoft on the new expansion pack.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Due Up

I came across this marvellous photoblog, Due Up, by Shaun Lunt, while surfing yesterday. If you like bush flying, beautiful scenery & Piper Cubs then this is well worth a look. The photography is breath taking.


Friday, June 22, 2007

New Blog - Rob's Cancer Journey

I have created a new blog relating to a recently diagnosed liposarcoma in my thigh. I will still post here from time to time on simming, gaming et al.


Thursday, May 31, 2007


Unfortunately in the last week health issues have arisen & may sideline me for a bit.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Freeware Wip pics

I started my new job this week so I now mainly a weekend warrior.

Here are a few pics of 4 current WIP meshes of aircraft destined for FSX.... freeware of course.

Albatros DV/DVa

Sopwith Triplane.

Sopwith Snipe

Sopwith Baby

I'm not working to any definite timetable with these.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Biff Diaries now revived

Now that I am moving forward again with virtual aircraft creation I have revived my other blog - the Biff Diaries which is devoted to that subject.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Return to virtual aircraft creation.

With FSX beta testing for SP1 nearly there, I am now able to free a little more time for aircraft creation. I've resumed work on the Sopwith Snipe after a lengthy break. I don't know how long it will take as I have much to do. I'm NOT going to say soon anyway ;)

Here's a pic of the Snipe in FSX complete with placeholder textures.

This is a new image. Somehow the original was deleted by ImageShack.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Biff-X in PC Pilot

I'm quite chuffed (pleased) that the FSX version of the Bristol Fighter is the featured download in the May/June edition of PC-Pilot. There's a one page feature & mini review on page 12 of the magazine. The Biff is included on the cover disk.

Soon I'll be resuming work on the Sopwith Snipe for FSX.... just as soon as FSX SP1 is finalised. I've been busy beta testing.

Other good news, at least for me anyway, I've now scored full time work in my day gig... so I'll be busy for a while (not as much time for aircraft creation though).


Sunday, April 29, 2007

7 Fokker Dr-I's

7 Replica Fokker Dr-I's in action in NZ.


Monday, April 23, 2007

England to Australia in a Microlight

Flying from England to Australia in a microlight aircraft would be remarkable in itself. However when the pilot is blind it is all the more remarkable.

Miles Hilton-Barber, blind for 25 years is flying from England to Australia in a microlight aircraft to raise US$1 million, to combat preventable blindness in developing countries. Miles is accompanied by highly experienced co-pilot Storm Smith.

As of yesterday Miles & Storm were in Kupang, Indonesia waiting for weather conditions to change before embarking on the lengthy (8 hour) flight from Kupang, Indonesia to Darwin, Australia.

Miles & Storm are flying in a Quik GT450.

You can follow their progress on Miles' blog or

A few related links of interest -

Update: Miles has now landed in Darwin.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

IWM DH9 restoration rollout

The Imperial War Museum has unveiled it's newly restored WW1 DH-9 bomber. It's one of two discovered rotting in a Maharajah's palace in India; originally given to India as part of the Imperial Gift after WW1. This aircraft D 5649, featuring a large number of original parts, has been restored as a non flying exhibit. It was restored by the Historic Aircraft Collection.

It is not planned to fly this particular aircraft, however the other DH-9 E 8894 is being restored to flying condition by HAC. Something I'm greatly looking forward to. I wonder what happened to the remains of the other 3 DH9's that Guy Black found?

Will I be making a DH9 for FSX? Yep... I plan to along with it's younger sibling the DH9A or '9 Ack' as it was called. I also plan to cover the DH4 series, both British and US versions. The '9 Ack' will make a great companion for a future Biff/Brisfit project.... the North West Frontier FSX style.

A few links on the restored DH9 -

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Flight Modeling & all that....

I am currently up to my armpits in aerodynamics, stability derivatives, lift co-efficients, pitching moments and a whole lot more. I am also attempting to obtain a sound understanding of the workings of .air files as in MS sims. At this stage I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying the experience.

I am interested in all eras of aviation, from 1914 through to the present. My initial focus will be on aircraft of the 1914-1938 period, and am developing my own spreadsheet which will largely cater for biplanes and perhaps early monoplanes. If a name is worth anything, I have called my system 'Vintav'... LoL. It is MS Excel based. Vintav may be able to write aircraft .cfg files. I have yet to decide. However table data will have to be entered in .air files via programs such as AAM (Aircraft Air File manager).

I am primarily still at the research and data collation stage with much more in front of me. At this stage I have only purchased two books. The first was somewhat advanced and related to aerodynamics rather than aeronautics, not much about aircraft. I still find it useful in providing an understanding of the concepts. I have just purchased Airplane Flight Dynamics and Automatic Flight Controls by Jan Roskam through ebay which will probably take a few weeks to reach Australia. In the meantime I have found Hervé Sors' Flight Simulator Aircraft Dynamics and Navdata website to be a useful portal to the world of flight dynamics creation and reference material for MS Sims.

At this stage I plan to devote at least two months, in my spare time, to this activity, perhaps more if need be.

I am not out of the loop completely as far as 3D modeling is concerned. However that activity is taking very much a back seat at the moment.... just enough to keep a few projects ticking over.

I am also most likely returning to my normal vocation for a while (FS creation doesn't pay the bills), but am still hoping to complete projects such as the freeware Sopwith Snipe, maybe a Sopwith Triplane and two payware projects. Perhaps a big ask, but many of the steep learning curves are behind me apart from flight modeling and issues such cockpit lighting. However WW1 aircraft are a bit light in the systems area. The FSX Snipe is perhaps the most complicated of the planned aircraft. I hope to include cockpit lighting and flares in that aircraft.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Biff Diaries

I am scaling down my current virtual aviation blogging activities a little bit and for the time being suspended my other blog, The Biff Diaries, which mainly focused on 3D modeling and virtual aircraft creation.

Anything worth posting on that topic will be posted here for the time being, until I can move ahead at the speed I desire on projects for FSX, and also conceive a project that I feel will be worthwhile pursuing for that sim.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Round the World - Miami to Miami

Barrington Irving has set out on his round the world flight from Miami to Miami. In doing so Barrington will become the youngest person to fly around the world solo and the first African American to do so also.

Barrington is making the trip in a Columbia 400, built for him by Columbia using donated components. Microsoft have provided support in the form of free flight simulator software for students taking part in the Experience Aviation programs and are hosting a tracking map and route page where one can follow Barrington's progress.

It's marvelous to see such a spirit of adventure and achievement alive and well in the 21C. Let's wish Barrington all the best on his trip.

You can follow Barrington's progress at or

For further information check out Barrington's Experience Aviation site and the FSInsider site


Monday, March 19, 2007

Information request Sopwith Snipe

I also posted this on my other blog but may as well post here also. I have hit a stumbling block as to cockpit detail of the Sopwith Snipe, particularly internal details of the right hand side and also the workings of the fuel system. I have also posted this question at the Aerodrome.

Any info on this will be greatly appreciated.

Friday, March 09, 2007

3DS Max Dillema Fixed.

I decided to delete the two previous posts on the dillemas encountered on re-installing 3DS Max, brought about by having to re-install windows and all my applications last weekend.

It was a worry for a while.

I am now up and running with 3DS Max 8.0. Many thanks to my Autodesk Reseller who managed to sort out the situation with Autodesk.

Now on to with some serious design work.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Which sim(s) to develop for?

Back in October not long after FSX was released, with some grumbles around the forums in respect to performance issues in FSX and many users saying they would remain with FS9, I posted a poll at asking developers whether they intend still support FS9.

Four months down the track and people are still voting, with 156 developers voting to date. The results are interesting and percentages have largely settled down during that last 2 months.

44.23% of developers intend to develop for FSX only.
23.72% intend to develop for both FSX and FS9.
21.79% FSX and Fs9 with FS9 being for a limited time.
10.26% FS9 only.

As developers complete their existing FS9 projects I expect the majority will soon be developing for FSX only, especially if FSX SP1 delivers the goods with performance. It will be interesting to see if intentions change in the 23.72% who intend to develop for both sims and the 10.26% FS9 only. Maybe another poll in a couple of months?

Developing for FSX is the way forward. To date, I have no real grumbles with the SDK as far as aircraft creation goes. Rotational animations such as wheels and props could certainly be improved in the sim. Some developers appear to be unhappy with the implementation of virtual cockpit lighting in FSX though appear to find solutions. I will encounter the challenge of cockpit lighting in my next project, the Sopwith Snipe. Given that I use 3D gauges and lighting in WW1 aircraft is somewhat primitive compared to more modern aircraft, lighting in the Snipe was always going to be a challenge. My experience of the FSX export tools for 3DS Max is that they are robust and produce excellent results.... in seconds. Compare that to the limitations in the FS9 makemdl utility, vertex count limitations, model resolution, and the time it takes to compile an aircraft using makemdl.

Having completed the FS9 version of the Bristol F2B, in addition to the FSX version, I'm not exactly enthusiastic about creating further FS9 aircraft. Though I have not discounted the possibilty completely. I guess, in some respects I have benefited by being a relative 'noob' to FS design, coming from CFS3. Many FS developers appear to be set in their ways and have experienced difficulties moving forward. Maybe I'll be the same when it comes to FS 11? ..... LOL.

I always believe that it's best to design an aircraft for a specific sim. FSX & CFS3 share the ability to create cockpit models of a higher resolution thus one can use the same base mesh. FSX offers a superior range of material properties to both CFS3 and FS9. Thus one could possibly use the same base mesh for both sims. However to make effective use of textures and uv maps a somewhat different approach would be required for FSX to CFS3. Likewise a mesh for a FS9 would have to be reworked significantly from one which took full advantage of FSX (and CFS3).
As one of the posters to the poll thread points out, users will blame designers when the FS9 version does not look as good as the FSX version.

The Sopwith Snipe was orginally designed with CFS3 in mind, and also FSX, even though FSX was an unknown quantity at the time. The exterior model of the Snipe was UV mapped with CFS3 in mind. I use 2x1024 texture maps in my CFS3 WW1 models. The interior is only partially mapped at this time and will be completed with FSX as the primary design goal. It will be interesting to see what additional work is involved in the CFS3 version e.g. damage modeling and maybe re-jigging uvs. Unfortunately it's unlikely that I will produce a FS9 version of the Snipe. The Snipe may also be my final project for CFS3..... we'll see.

I am looking at the download stats of the different versions of the Bristol F2B (part1). In just over 3 weeks the FSX version has been downloaded 5,181 times (probably a higher number due to Simviation stats being updated about once a week) . The FS9 version which has been available for download only 6 days has acheived 1,935 downloads but has now slowed to just to 2-3 per day. So far it's a 3:1 ratio in favour of FSX. I expect that to change to further favour FSX, as time passes. Whether these ratios would apply to a payware release I do not know. The real surprise for me were the figures for the CFS3 version - 6,105 over 10+ month period.... not bad for a CFS3 WW1 aircraft hidden away in the web.

I resume work on the Snipe in a couple of weeks (it will be freeware). After that I will be reviewing my options as to projects though I tend to think I will focus on FSX, though with Train Simulator on the horizon and possibly other future products from Microsoft Aces who knows? Life will be interesting anyway. :)



Wednesday, February 21, 2007

FSX Biff on March 'Igromania' DVD

For the few Russian visitors who visit this blog and any other interested parties - the FSX version of the Bristol Fighter will be featured on the cover DVD of the March edition of Russian PC game magazine 'Igromania'.

FS9 Bristol Fighter released.

Whoops nearly forgot to announce this in this blog. I released the FS9 version of the Bristol F2B on the weekend. Here's the Avsim download link......

As previously posted the FSX version was released early in February

I'm having a brief break from aircraft creation for a few weeks.... then on with the Sopwith Snipe. Following the release of the Snipe I will decide whether to stick with the WW1 theme.

2 CFS3 Add-ons on Final

Looks as if the long awaited CFS3 Add-ons Mediterranean Air War (MAW) and Over Flanders Fields (OFF) phase 2 are soon to be released.

Both are massive efforts involving many people in their spare time, and of course neither of these could have happened were it not for Microsoft and their 'open architecture policy' and SDK's.

At this time it is not known how these are going to be distributed, possibly a DVD swap scheme.

I must say it is ages since I have played CFS3, almost a year. I look forward to checking these add-ons out.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Download link for Bristol F2B 'Biff' (FSX)

Almost forgot..... here's the link for the Biff at AVSIM. It's in 4 parts. Part 1 has had 2000+ downloads in about 2 days. .... not bad. I'll eventually upload to Sim-Outhouse when they open a FSX download section.

I'm having a break from Bristol Fighter activity this week but will start working on the FS 2004 version next weekend. It requires a bit more work.

It's great to see so many people enjoying the Bristol Fighter. If you haven't read my other blog many thanks for all the compliments.

A more professional version of the Bristol Fighter and its derivatives may (hopefully) follow in 2008.

In the meantime I'm refreshing my memory as to where I was with the Sopwith Snipe. I've had a 4 month break from the Snipe and much has happened since then, especially the FSX SDK which was an unknown quantity when I last worked on the Snipe. Many thanks to Microsoft for including the SDK with FSX Deluxe. The Sopwith Snipe will also be freeware.

Let's finish with a few pics of the Biff.....

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bristol F2B for FSX uploaded to Avsim

At long last I've released the Bristol F2B for FSX. It's in 4 parts, the second of which is being uploaded as I type this. These files should hopefully be processed by the Avsim staff in the next few hours. The other 2 parts will follow in the next 24 hours. More later..... it's way past bed-time.