Thursday, 24 March 2011

Motorway Bridges

Even with GenX, don't you just hate the awfulness of flattened bridges and jagged uneven terrain when overflying motorway junctions?

Now you don't have to, as this before and after example just northeast of Liverpool at the bottom of the M57 shows.

Edits include terrain corrections along all aspects of the roundabout, motorway and sliproads, corrected texture for Speke Expressway so bridges don't appear at lower road level, extrusion bridges at correct locations mapped with accurate road textures on top and various vegetation around and about.  I probably made the terrain corrections far to complicated so any others I do should be simpler and easier.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

New scenery..please help someone less fortunate

I've now provided download links for everything I've done so far - feel free to use it as you wish free of charge.  If there are any problems with my scenery please comment on this post and I'll do my best to address it if I can.  Please note you will need all of these files for the whole scenery - I've posted them separately as that's how I've developed them.

Download Links:

Or for users who wish only to install certain parts here is it in sections:

All I'd ask is that if you continue to use it would you please consider making a small donation to the Japan Tsunami appeal...go on, there are always people who are more in need than yourself, and if you've got the freedom and time to mess with Flight Simulator, you can spare a few pennies to help someone less fortunate.

(The links above are not related to me in any way whatsoever and are taken from a Google search 23.03.11, if you are unhappy using just look it up yourself!)


Spindus Road 2nd part published

This is the 2nd part of Spindus Road.  Covers HP building, gatehouse, office block, substations, tank, trees and fences.

Download Link:

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Spindus Road published

Spindus Road industrial estate is mostly finished now, this version includes all major buildings, properly aligned fences, trees, the gatehouse and industrial estate sign (look carefully!).

This scenery may have an update shortly due to the complexity of two of the models which I am going to try to simplify in order to maximise framerates.

Download link: (4Mb)

Premier Inn Update

This scenery is now based on an overlayed ground texture and building model, rather than the previous download which was the building sitting on a flat plane elevated 20cm above real ground level....

Fences are again properly aligned and all scenery is adjusted to Horizon GenX.

Download link:

Owen Drive and Bleinhem Way updates

I've updated Owen Drive and Bleinhem Way to sit properly on the high res photoscenery.  Fencelines now are positioned correctly and the fence sections align just about perfectly rather than being about 1 degree out of alignment with each other.  Due to a mistake when editing all the vehicles in Owen Drive were actually sitting in the Bleinhem bgl - this has now been corrected.

Owen Drive

Bleinhem Way

Download links:

High res base v1 published

I've been working nominally only in the day when designing stuff so far, so when one bit of feedback was my higher res photoscenery looked a bit wierd in the dark I investigated....

Yes, I think we can say this is not quite right!

So, I've updated the photoscenery that everything I've worked on so far is placed within.  It is now fully aligned to the Horizon GenX photoscenery and includes a basic night texture so it doesn't look so wrong.  The night texture will be updated at some later point to get the colour-mapping fully matching GenX at night and to include streetlighting effects where appropriate, as obviously this scenery overwrites the default or GenX night textures - consider it a local brownout for now ;)

Screenshots of the photoscenery during the day and night are below....

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Latest update...

As you can see below I've been pushing on - developing the PF chemicals facility between Spindus Road and the airfield.  Fps seems to have taken a hit here so I'm going to suspend development now until I've tested each individual model separately to find out what's hitting the performance.

Check back this week though because I'll be posting a download link in the next few days for everything I've done up to now while I test the scenery.

In the meantime, I've put a poll up regarding which scenery area people who fly from EGGP would most like to see next - let me know.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Spindus Road...more...

I'm learning more and more how to use Sketchup in designing buildings.  Most of the ones I've done so far have been boxy industrial units and I'm a dab hand at applying textures to faces now.  Some of the buildings in Spindus Road though are needing additional detail.  Take this unit for example below - it has curved roof elements, an extruded cylindrical curved pipe on the roof and a silo.

This gradual increase in complexity is allowing me to learn how to use Sketchup in depth - the only downside is having to make decisions about which detail to keep and which is best avoided in the interests of better frame rates.  My perfectionist side says model it in as much detail as possible, my better nature says FSX is a flight sim not a building sim!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

More New Buildings Added

I've added another three buildings on Spindus Road Industrial Estate.  That's about half of that area done, then I'll need to go back and add some detail into the area in terms of cars, vans, trucks, materials, trees and some bespoke blue fencing I'll need to create as well.

..and the Premier Inn hotel car park was bothering me.  I've removed the flatten I applied and mapped my car park image I created to the terrain.  It looked a bit fake though so I photoshopped it to blend in more with my higher res photo-scenery.  A big improvement, especially as the hotel and cars etc are now no longer 20cm off the ground!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Progress with Spindus Road

Here's another addition to the Spindus Road buildings - Palace Chemicals right in the centre.  Still getting 40+fps on the screenshots....

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Next Texture Explanation?

See for an external opinion on the night texture issue.  Indications are it is FSX and the amount of data it is having to deal with that is causing the issue.

Good in that it's not caused by me (directly!), bad because there's little chance of being able to stop it.

Spindus Road in development

After making the new photo-scenery I've cracked on with creating some of the units in the Spindus Road area.  Obviously these aren't 100% done yet I'm noticing some tweaks that need sorting, but this gives some indication of progress at least :)  With the large photo-scenery and all buildings modelled so far, I'm still comfortably getting 40+ fps.  That dips only when water or weather comes into the equation....

An overhead shot showing everything so far...
Overhead from a different angle...
Closeup of one of the units...
and another....
and another...

New approach to higher res base images

I've decided to change tack and try working in a different direction.  I knew all along that the base images I had available for the area I want to cover are pretty old and don't show half of the new developments on the Boulevard Business Park.  So I've stitched them all together in Photoshop and managed to find a friend to help me get some newer aerial pics.   The new aerial pics were impossible to capture from an overhead perspective so when I got back with them I had to perspective crop various sections out of different images and then map it onto my existing old imagery to get it in the right place.  Easier said than done!

Not only was mapping the perspectives across awkward, but even when in the right place the colour matching made me want to vomit!  I haven't quite got the colour matching right with the GenX scenery but that can easily be tweaked with Photoshop later.   I used SBuilderX to make the bgl and the results are below.  All the higher res imagery is now in one file, albeit an 8Mb one.

Also, in doing this I've lowered the resolution somewhat from my first attempts, to see whether it made a difference or not with the night texture problem.  I've flown over this texture now for a while and it's happened once before correcting itself.  I'm looking into whether there's anything I'm doing that's causing it but in the end I'm goig to use it and if people don't like it they can turn it off - after all it's not like they're paying for it.  At some point I'll return to the high res texture and darken it to have a night version, but that's not top of my priority list right now.

You can see from the image below the difference between my photo-textures and GenX is pretty substantial, even at the new lowered resolution, especially from a lower altitude.

Friday, 11 March 2011

To carry on, or not to carry on....

Feeling a little depressed and frustrated about the night texture problem.  I can't find anything on the internet about the issue and without the higher res base images my scenery looks a bit poor.  I've invested a lot of time so far in the accuracy of the building textures, and without a similar level of ground detail they just look out of place on a low res low detail background.

I've posted a message on the SBuilderX forum - - to see if anyone can help solve the problem.  (That's assuming it's an SBuilderX issue and not just another Microsoft f*ckup that can't be solved at all.)

Don't want to give up, but don't want to do a half-baked job either!

See below an example of the night texture issue, including a zoomed in shot.  You can clearly see the tiule thats showing the night textures doesn't even touch the area covered by my test bgl in this example.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Texture issues

I've retested the higher resolution clipped textures several times in flight and several things are becoming clear.

1. The frame rates I've been getting after a reboot are very good and still between 30 and 40fps consistently.  When FSX is run after I've done some modelling or image work the performance is much lower.

2. The water texture problem has only cropped up again once and I suspect that that is a memory issue, as it happens when the blue squares of death appear as well.

3. The strange problem of the night textures popping up in the middle of the day has occurred several times, but not consistently im the same place, or to the same extent.  Also, it self-corrects after a while, showing black night textures then updating them to the proper day textures.  I can only assume this is some kind of memory/video issue with the textures, unless someone can point me in the direction of a better answer??

I'm testing some smaller scale base images to see whether they have the same effects, but in the meantime I'd be grateful to hear about anyone elses experiences with those published before.

Monday, 7 March 2011

High Res base images for download and test

High Resolution base images mastered!

After some cogitation I realised that my previous blunders with SBuilderX trying to make high res base images were somewhat off the mark!  Oh how clumsy those flat sketchup planes with textures reverse mapped onto them were...and look now unto the lovely base images for Spindus Road Industrial Estate, the fire station and factory beyond.  You can clearly see the previous scenery to the right, and the sharp eyed will have noticed that Owen Drive is now sporting a high res base image as well.....

I've played around with SBuilderX some more and worked out how to import non geo-referenced photos and reference them over the ground.  This is cutting some corners but I had to overcome understanding that images had to be a 32bit bmp, there needed to be an alpha channel, which was completely white, the filenames had to have no spaces, that the project name in SBX had to start with 'Photo', and that you had to create a data file, an info file and have both of them with a copy of the original texture in a specific SBX folder.  Sounds easy but it was a lot of trial and error.  Even then I only had a square image that didn't blend in with the surrounding GenX at all.

Just for amusement I've included below a screenshot taken during the development process, showing my first successfully imported phototexture, but unfortunately showing as a big blue reflective water texture.  The alpha channel was completely black fooling FSX into rendering it as water.  A quick change to a completely white alpha channel fixed the problem!

To fix the square issue was relatively simple, but only because of a background in Photoshop.  I can explain in detail if anyone would like make their own scenery as well, but it involves laying a path around the exterior margin of where you want the base image to show, turning it into a selection, inverting it, selcting the image layer and deleting the excess image to leave a white space which FSX renders as GenX scenery.  I just saved the resulting file to a different name, copied into the SBX folder, renamed it back to the original filename used to reference the image square in SBX and ran the compiler from within SBX again.

Hey Presto, the bgl file that SBX subsequently output only showed the cropped high res image over the area I want :)

This sounds difficult but is completely do-able with freeware tools and a little time.  Anyone could do this having built up a little bit of knowledge about how to process images.  It's GCSE stuff.  I'm more than happy to explain how I did it in detail if anyone is interested in doing their own, and I might write a tutorial on it at some unspecified point in the future, as I couldn't find anything that told me everything I needed to know in one place.  The only surprise with this is that there isn't more scenery out there like mine seeing as it's this easy????

End result, loads of high res base images mapped directly to the terrain, including Owen Way and Bleinheim Drive.  Now just to get on in time with making the scenery to sit on top of it.......

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Available for testing

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Spindus Road Industrial Estate

You can see from the image below I've now got the higher res basemaps for Spindus Road industrial estate in place.  It will take me some time to get Spindus Road done because not only are there lots more buildings to photograph and design and texturise, I also have to spend some serious time wedding planning now, and I'm off to China for 2 weeks for an old mates impromptu wedding as well!

Premier Inn Hotel

Here's 2 screenshots of the Premier Inn on Speke Hall Avenue.

This scenery gave me a few problems, in that the hotel has been built on a greenfield site, and the GenX scenery still shows that.  So whilst Owen Way scenery just sits on 1.2m GenX photoscenery, and I used a higher res google maps image for the base of Bleinhem Way, I needed a different solution here.

First of all I tried applying a flatten to the area but the previously encountered problem with the inter-relationship between flatten polygons made that impossible as I could only flatten half the area!  After emailing Gary and getting a pointer or two I tried again to overlay an image over the default terrain using SBuilderX.  When I first tried I kept getting error messages relating to the texture I was trying to use.  After a not inconsiderable time head scratching I figured out it was that SBuilderX doesn't support spaces in texture image filenames and once I'd renamed my file and removed the space, SBuilderX compiled it happily with no errors.

As can be seen in the picture above though, the overlay over default terrain caused the base image to distort and look very different to the nice flat car park that exists in real life.  So I went back to placing the base image on a flat plane sitting underneath the building model with no flatten polygon applied and the altitude reference set to the car park entrance off Speke Hall Avenue.  That still posed a problem in that one end of the car park disappeared under some low-res terrain and the hotel itself looked like it had been buried at one end.

The best workaround I have been able to come up with is to raise the altitude of the whole model by approx 16cm, which brings it above the terrain across its whole surface and displays it properly.  The drawback is that one end of the area near Speke Hall Avenue is 16-25cm above where it should be!  Fully zoomed in and paused it is possible to see this defect, but I'm guessing that overflying this scenery from an altitude of at least 1000ft and a significant horizontal distance away will mean that the 16-25cm error may not be noticeable!

Another bothering aspect is the car park still looks a little artificial.  I had to build it from scratch because all aerial imagery available still shows it as a field, so I took various photos of the car park surface and counted the number of parking spaces from each aspect.  I extracted images of the surface from the photos and used that as the base building block for the tarmac surface.  Other details like the disabled parking bay marking are again extracted directly from photos.   Even though the tarmac texture is built from an actual photo it doesn't look convincing so I may play around with that at some point to try to improve it.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Screenshots of Blenheim Way Scenery completed

 With Owen Way in the background

From a different perspective

Bleinhem Way Texture Maps completed

I've now been able to sort the texture maps for the whole of Bleinhem Way, including the electricity sub-station in the centre.

Problem fixes

Earlier I posted I had had some problems with the vehicle scenery I used not showing up until opened in IS2, and also not being able to get flattening polygons to work correctly. 

The vehicles were from the FSXP_Vehicles.bgl from the global scenery folder, so should have worked.  However, even after deleted and re-adding them they wouldn't show up in FSX alone, so I went with removing them and adding every car individually from another library.  This is more time consuming but more authentic as I can place every single vehicle exactly where I want it.  However, if anyone can explain why a global scenery object doesn't display I'd be happy to get to the bottom of the mystery!

As for the flattening polygons, I played around with SBuilderX a bit more.  Having found a useful tool at which allows you to find the altitude level at any point on a standard Google map, I could make sure that I was trying to make the flatten at the correct level.  Once I'd compiled the bgl file though and tried to do a flatten for my second scenery area at Bleinhem Way I couldn't get it to work no matter what I did.  To try and work it out I made the flatten at 10m above where I wanted it, which I know is far higher than the surrounding area.  Thus I could clearly see whether my flatten polygon was having any effect on the landscape mesh. 

The images above highlighted the problem and the root cause.  The top picture shows the area I wanted to flatten and you can see it sitting on a plateau with the cliff edge visible on the bottom sides.  This image was taken with all add-on scenery disabled in FSX.  Then I turned on the only other scenery I had activated before, which was Gary Summons' VFR Airfields 3.  Lo and behold, my problem showed itself, demonstrated in the bottom pic by the area shaded yellow, where a section of my flatten has just disappeared.  There appears to be some element of Gary's EGGP model which is affecting my flatten and cutting a chunk out of it, even though it's higher in the scenery order than his.

There's nothing I can do other than to wait for Gary to come back to me and see if he can fix that.