Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Autogen Annotation

I've been playing around with the possibility of creating a range of stock autogen buildings and using them through the autogen annotator to create a representation of areas faster than doing every building with a custom model.

It's taken me a lot of heartache to get the annotator in the SDK working tonight but it's done.  The hardest part was just figuring out where the final .agn files should go! 

Anyway, autogen is now possible without having to place very single tree and bush individually, as long as I use the annotator in the SDK.

[UPDATE - Having played around some more I've now been able to open the Treescapes .agn files and edit/add things to them, including buildings]

Sunday, 10 July 2011

GenX v3 update vol 3

I had the dubious pleasure of installing PlayHorizons VFR Photographic Scenery v3 Vol3 when it arrived this week.  I bought this because Liverpool is explicitly covered with the new 60cm imagery and I wanted to see how far it extended and whether it would make my custom ground texture for the Estuary Business Park obsolete.

The 60cm imagery does not cover the whole of the city I'm afraid and just about goes as far as Garston Docks, missing out the whole scenery area I am intending to cover.  If you're interested, I was a little disappointed, not just because the imagery is years old (I had harboured a hope that it might have been updated as there's been loads of new development in Liverpool over the past few years, but also because there were some quite serious and awful to look at mistakes included.  The ground textures don't fully cover the land, leaving some largish white triangles straddling the coastline.  The water masks aren't properly aligned leaving some nasty effects right through the middle of Garston Docks.  And the colours are as reported across the whole range, in that they are somewhat greener than the rest of the v2 Gen X range.  The colours are a subjective thing, either you can put up with them or you can't, but the white triangles and water masks are plain disappointing - they just shouldn't have released a product with those kind of errors.  Now, I uninstalled the update straight away, and it removed all water from my world - the Mersey estuary and Irish sea suddenly became fields :p  It's also affected some of my other scenery areas to the extent I've had to go back and reinstall them fully again.  Not quite a bitter taste in the mouth but not far off either. 

Does this mean I won't be buying from PlayHorizons again?  No, I will, as they've got more stuff in the pipeline (60cm imagery for the whole of Scotland) that I'd like to see.  Just like Earth Simulations, if we don't support these guys we won't get lovely new eye candy from them because in this tough old world they'll go out of business.  That doesn't mean that we shouldn't point out the problems and errors and insist they are fixed though!!!

What does all this mean for my scenery around Liverpool? Mainly, that I didn't waste my time making the custom ground textures!  wooo!   Second, that you should bear with me if my stuff contains errors because I'm doing this for fun :)  Third, that I should probably invest some time in making the proper night textures for my custom ground area as it definitely won't be covered by any other product in the near future.....

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Speke Texture Progress

I've started preparing the textures for some of the residential housing in Speke and the fire and ambulance stations.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Off topic: Shawbury Fields and Earth Simulations

I know this isn't about Liverpool at all, but I thought it neccessary to say something about this particular product and Earth Simulations as a developer, especially as there appears to be some misunderstandings about what this product actually is.

When I first heard of Shawbury Fields as in development I was quite excited, as it's only just to the south of where I usually fly. I looked at the screenshots and impressive though they were, I held off buying. Why? Because I wasn't sure that with so much detail I'd get enough performance to make it flyable.

As with most things I like the look of though, the magpie effect won out in the end and I bought it! I wish I'd done that sooner, because it really is a beautiful scenery. I had to overcome a few memory problems and re-install the OS and FSX (not because of Shawbury Fields I hasten to add, just that my installation of WinXP was so old and cluttered it might as well have been dead :p)

This not a single airfield product - coverage of such a large geographical area is this way is unheard of for UK products as far as I know and the realism factor of so many buildings and trees cannot be underestimated at all at low levels.

Shawbury Airfield itself (with Shawbury Fields)
Shawbury Airfield itself (without Shawbury Fields)

Telford (with Shawbury Fields)

Telford (without Shawbury Fields)

Lots of autogen and bespoke 3D models

Lines of smaller trees added in minute detail!

Gliders and Parasailers as well!
So, am I satisfied with this product?  hell yes! 

  • So much area covered
  • Great detail
  • Lots of landmarks included
  • Excellent performance given the level of detail
  • Good forum support on the Earth Simulations website
Are there any negatives for me?  Well, yes, I'm a bit of a perfectionist with my own work and never really consider it good enough because I am intimately familiar with all the compromises that have to be made...  In that sense every product is the same and there are some minor details with Shawbury Fields that niggle with me in the same way.

A good example is  in the eastern area near Chirk there's a bridge missing and the terrain at one end of the aquaduct at Pontcysyllte is too high.    ES know about the issue though ( http://www.earthsimulations.com/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=1026&start=20 ) and are willing to do an update.  I may well take a short trip there to get them some photos so they can make accurate models.

These issues can be rectified easily enough with some minor 3D scenery additions and tweaks though, so overall I don't think they detract from the product that much.  Either Earth Simulations will give an update or someone will do it 3rd party as freeware :) 

The bottom line is Shawbury Fields is a great product and I'd be very surprised if you were disappointed by it. 

A word on Earth Simulations as well.  Darren and Vicky have always been very responsive and I genuinely get the feeling they do care about their customers.  They have a number of products in development not least of which is an autogen tool which could cover the whole of the country with accurate buildings and vegetation.

The prospect of some killer scenery product like that means that as well as the scenery items I really want and like, I'm buying some of their other sceneries as well, even though I'm not likely to fly them too often.

I'm not connected to Earth Simulations in any way whatsoever, other than as a customer of several of their products - but I really do feel that we as simmers need to support developers with potential.  Great small companies like this deserve our support otherwise outstanding ideas like Autogenesis may not ever get to market.