Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Custom ground vehicles

I've marvelled at Gary Summons' Xtreme products where he has custom vehicles operating independently of normal FSX road traffic.  I'd love to be able to recreate this but have no idea how!
Until I came across an old utility and I wondered whether it would be able to do the trick?

It's called AI boat traffic compiler - it allows you to create custom AI boat traffic and schedules, which at it's core is just a custom model, following a predefined path, at pre-determined times.  Could this utility be used to create what would be AI boat traffic on land, if you just use a vehicle model?  I am going to investigate......

UPDATE: Gary has got back to me to say his custom vehicles are done through SCASM coding, which looks quite complicated but I'm looking into it to see if I could get my head around it at all.....

Transparencies in Sketchup Part 2

I've managed to get my Sketchup model into ModelConverterX now, after going back to a previous version no, not the latest development release.  I've no idea why that helped but it did (see screeny below)

Unfortunately I can't get MCX to successfully export this to an FSX model file so that I can include it in my scenery!  Help hopefully may be on the way from where I've posted about the problem....

UPDATE: It was simple - I didn't copy the dds texture file to the active texture folder!  Once done the model imports into FSX perfectly - what a schoolboy error! :p

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Scenery Transparencies

I've had it in mind now to learn how to do transparencies in scenery to make them more realistic.  One application for this is more complex scenery with things like handrails etc.  To do this with vertices is possible but very inefficient when a flat plane with transparent areas can be used.

I've sorted out being able to use alpha channels with textures, and as you can see have managed to get transparent textures into Sketchup now.  The red area to the left is a large red box inside the model :)

I'm having some problems importing them into ModelconverterX though so actually using them in FSX isn't possible at the moment :(  Little by little though I'm getting there....

Borrowing Scenery from Earth Simulations

I have been in contact with Earth-Simulations, the developers who have done the Channel Islands, Isles of Scilly, and Shawbury Fields.  Since I bought some of their sceneries I have realised that all of the scenery bgl's are openable in Instant Scenery 2!
Darren has very very kindly agreed to let me use their existing scenery libraries in creating my own freeware scenery.  The up-side to this is that I can use their models to more quickly create an alternative to the flat photo-scenery FSX world.  The down-side is that my scenery will only be usable by people who have bought at least one product from Earth Simulations.

I've thought about this offer for a day or so and have come to a conclusion: that I will take up Darren's offer and use his libraries for the following reasons:
a) If I am to create scenery I need to do it as quickly as possible - my wife understandably wants some of my attention too!
b) I already have the libraries having bought some ES products so whatever I create I can use myself quite happily (and from my perspective I'm the most important simmer of all :p)
c) Darren has already invested a degree of time in creating his libraries - for people to expect to get all that work for nothing is downright cheeky.
d) If they really want my creations (and I'm not sure that will be the case!) they can buy something from ES, and the ES sceneries are really lovely :)

Where it's appropriate because the scenery demands it, I'll do my own custom models as well as using ES libraries, so it will be a mixture of stuff - doing it this way will save me lots of time and effort in not having to create every building.

Thanks Darren, and also for your kind offer to host anything I create and have it delivered to people via your ES-Installer software....

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Fantastic FSX add-ons

I have to confess to doing rather little on my scenery recently.  I took a large number of photos for the textures and in a schoolboy error realised when I uploaded them from the camera to my PC that there was a greasy smudge on the lens and that every image was unusable.  Combined with some issues at work I've not managed to retake them yet.  So I did the next best thing and invested in a couple of great add-ons instead :p

I was always a little disappointed with my VR-Insight Hat-Track product.  Although it did the job, it was always a little unresponsive no matter how I set it up and it had a killer problem in that it jumped forward and to the left for a few seconds every now and then, resulting in disorientation especially at critical times such as landing.  Despite a visit to their customer support forum where the problem was already documented, (and where I found that they had discontinued the product and almost all support for it!), no suggested fixes or workarounds helped.  So I decided to splash out on a TrackIR 5.  (I initially decided on the Hat-Track because of a review detailing that it was a little weak physically in one place and had broken easily.)  Now I wish that I'd bought the TrackIR in the first place!  It's much more responsive, lags much less and adds so much to the immersivity (is that a real word?) of the sim :) Highly recommended....

Also, I'd seen the EZCA camera add-on after coming across the 737NGX promo videos.  After a quick download and upgrading to the latest version with a patch, I soon had EZCA and the TrackIR working perfectly in tandem.  It's much easier on the eye being able to seamlessly drift from one view to another and chose which ones you can track around with head movements with.  Again, highly recommended....

The next one was a bit of a punt...I'd found FSFlyingSchool2011 on a random google search for FSX add-ons a while ago and thought I'd try it out as there was a free demo.  It doesn't contain any flyable missions but it does provide helpful advice on flight techniques and amusing commentary from your in cockpit flying instructor Smitty.  FSFS2011 offered a weekend special offer so I got the voice command pack and Cessna 173 detail pack for free as well as a 15% discount :p   It tracks flight plans and offers advice for waypoints and you can configure many different options regarding what help and advice is offered during a flight, including coping with failures.  I don't think I've plumbed the depths of this product yet but even after only a few days I now can't help but marvel at how flat and empty my cockpit experience was without Mr Smith there to keep me company.

My penultimate choice was an ATC upgrade courtesy of VoxATC6, from RCSimulations.  This aims to almost replicate correctly the ATC in real life.  It's voice recognition led so comms is much more realistic at a stroke being through a yoke button set to ATC together with a proper headset.  There are prompts on-screen so even newbies can get to grips with proper CAP413 radio usage rather easily.  This is a fantastic add-on, not cheap but it makes FSX really feel realistic and I would rather lose a leg than be without it....! :O

If you haven't found Plan-G yet download it now!  It's a freeware add-on flight planner head and shoulders above anything else I've seen.  The only downside is that when you run FSX fullscreen you can't follow Plan-G.  Apparently though it's possible to run a second PC as a client using SimConnect meaning that you can have FSX fullscreen on the server (main PC) and have Plan-G running on the second PC displayed at the same time (and it won't be consuming any cpu resources either) so this might be something I want to delve into at some unspecified point in the future.

I really do feel that the quality of experience in FSX has taken a great leap forwards with these additions, so I'm feeling the motivation to take my scenery to the next level to match it.  To make it easier to do larger residential and unspecific industrial locations I have another potential trick up my sleeve, more on that maybe later....!