Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bristol Fighter release date

I have decided on January 21, 2006 as the release date for the Bristol F2B 'Biff' for CFS3 [barring unforeseen events].

The Sopwith Baby will most likely be released by February 11, 2006.

ED: these dates have now been revised - see posts above.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Baby on the way.

Sopwith Baby that is ;-) A little bit of respite from the Bristol Fighter which will resume next week. I'm now off to enjoy Chistmas.

Wishing all my readers a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What else am I working on?

I have just updated my 'who's who' entry at Sim-Outhouse.

I had to suspend or shelve many of these projects to re-focus my priorities and endeavours in late August and early September 2005. On the 3D modelling side of things I decided to focus on the Bristol Fighter until it was complete. The Bristol Fighter is a highly detailed model and has taken much longer than anticipated to complete but I am sure will have been worth the wait. The whole experience is very much one of learning in many ways - especially on the technical side of things with 3DS Max 7.0/8.0. I hope to take time out from aircraft modelling to learn more about rendering, lighting and animation. Despite having a long history with digital painting I am very much a 'newbie' when it comes to texture mapping and developing textures. The experience with the Bristol Fighter should stand me in good stead with future projects.

What will come next?

I'm not really sure. Firstly I probably will not have as much time for freeware modelling projects in 2006 as I have had in 2005. I have to earn a living and that has to take priority over pursuits such as 3D modelling. Thus modelling will be very much a weekend and occasional evening activity, at least for the first few months of 2006. The year 2005 has been a sabatical form my regular vocation which I will return to in 2006. I have used my time in 2005 to learn much, not only 3d graphics and other simualtion related activities, but much in the area of research , especially military and aviation history.

Returning to my meshes -
  • Albatros DV/DVa - needs an engine and cockpit and of course textures
  • Fokker DR-I - needs an engine, cockpit and textures.
  • SPAD S.VII - needs wing struts, cockpit, textures
  • Sopwith Snipe - needs engine and remainder as per SPAD
  • Sopwith Baby - partial mesh - only fuselage and floats as yet.
  • Sopwith Triplane - partial fuselage mesh and cowling. [OFF has a nice one by Polovski.]
  • Junkers DI - fuselage - maybe wait until FS10?
  • Hansa Brandenberg W.29 - partially complete fuselage. Along with the DVII will be another high detailed personal favourite.
There are probably other partial meshes reposing on my HD. I would also like to do some WW2 if I have the time.

Not all will be completed to the same level of detail as the Bristol Fighter. I am considering 3 ranges :-
  • QAD - quick and dirty ... a bit better than AI.
  • Midi - comparable to most freeware aircraft out there.
  • HD - High detail - almost payware level - [I may consider payware in the future - a big If at the moment].
The Sopwith Baby may be completed and released late January in my QAD range as a 'fun' model.

Anyway available time is the big question for 2006.

As a footnote I am no longer part of the OFF team. I originally left in early September for time management reasons as outlined above. There were other reasons too. I was asked to return to the team in mid October which I did. The deal was to provide the Bristol Fighter only, [as the others had been suspended] which I emphasised was very much WIP, with a lot of work still to be done as at late October. We agreed to touch base at the end of November. Anyway the guy in charge could not wait and I became ex OFF once more. The on and off of my association with OFF which is sort of off at the moment. ;-)

Don't worry the Bristol F2B should work ok in OFF, in CFS3 QC mode and CFS3 Mission Builder missions, as should any aircraft built in accordance with CFS3 SDK guidelines.

Edit : 14-1-06 - I have deleted some of the aircraft in the WIP list above as some of the aircraft will now be payware projects. Any aircraft project listed as freeware will remain remain freeware.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Weekend.....

....... was spent wrestling with a virus, resting, and of course downloading and trying out OFF [Over Flanders Fields]. I had to try out the 'Biff' of course...... some dawn shots in OFF.... back to the grindstone today.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Over Flanders Fields Released

Phase 1 of Over Flanders Fields more commonly known as OFF has now been released and is available for download.


The OFF team have kindly provided alternative download mirrors at




Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Today's pic

A WIP pic I quite like. I now have to take a break for a couple of days or I will crash in a big way.

The Bristol F2B Mk1 is being built for Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 3 and also for MS Flight Simulator 2004. The FS2004 version will follow the CFS3 by a number of weeks as the FS will require modifications to the virtual cockpit and also the development of gauges.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I hate facets.......

.......as this picture shows. [A 3DS Max quickrender of the same mesh as below]

Part of the underlying philosophy was to create a model which was very detailed and smooth, yet at the same time remain functional within the game/sim. There is a slight FPS drop but not as much as one would expect. I remain amazed at how much performance and detail latitude the CFS3 virtual cockpit environment allows.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sunday WIP

A few more pics. Re-rendered all the ambient occlusion maps [shadows] and am gradually texturing all the bits.

I usually have a flight at the end of the day and identify any parts that need adjusting reworking. I can see I have to create a dummy full tank to create more realistic shading/shadows in the front cockpit. I hope to find a way to alpha map a shadow of the rudder pedals to a plane so that the shadow can be animated.

In the next few days I hope to block in and shade the rest of the virtual cockpit. Bare metal surfaces are difficult and need a but of work. Then comes the detail and dirt.

More pics in a few days.

An Update and a few WIP pics of the Biff VC

I haven't been able to keep this blog as fresh as I originally intented due to being very busy working on the Bristol Fighter itself. I intend to post further articles on the evolution of this project.

The Bristol Fighter or 'Biff' as it was known by its crew in WW1 is currently at the texture development stage. I am never happy with it and have remapped the aircraft twice and the virtual cockpit 3 times. I have just added a switch box in the observer's cockpit and am making up my mind as to whether to fit spare Lewis Gun magazines in the cockpit. The magazine on the VC Lewis gun is 1000 triangles in size. While that's ok for the main lewis gun adding 5 spares would add 5000 triangles - a bit much. I am experimenting with lower resolution versions of the magazine at the moment.

I have been experimenting with ambient occlusion maps rendered in 3DS Max 8 and composited in Photoshop 6. So far the results have been pleasing.

Here are some some in game [CFS3] WIP screen shots of the recently remapped virtual cockpit as at Sunday 11 December 2005 AM.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Biff Diaries


Let’s start shall we?

Firstly the name of the blog? I am currently, at the time of writing, building a 3D model of a Bristol F2B aircraft. The Bristol F2B was a WW1 and post WW1, 2 seat fighter aircraft. It was known as The Bristol Fighter or ‘Biff’, by its crews in WW1 and post WW1 it acquired the name ‘Brisfit’. I will provide more information and explain why I chose to model this aircraft later in a future post.

Anyway Biff it is then.

What’s this about? Well firstly the term ‘3D vet’ is possibly a bit of a misnomer. I certainly have been dabbling with 3D graphic modeling and rendering applications since 1988 and did have a few renderings and digital paintings published in Amiga magazines in the early 1990’s. However I am hardly a pro and do not represent myself as such. I possibly have a bit more of a background in CG and 3D modeling than some of the guys currently modeling aircraft, who have come into this field through their enthusiasm for flight simulation and who have progressed through a variety of applications, from software dedicated to constructing aircraft only, to the likes of gmax and even 3DS Max. I am in no way belittling these modellers. Indeed there are many fine modellers out there whom I greatly admire and who can and do teach me a great deal. I guess what I am trying to say is that coming from a different background I have an approach, methods and philosophies that differs from those who have a more conventional, traditional approach and who have been modeling low-poly aircraft for a number of years. I would possibly have a different approach from those who have studied low-poly modeling in art schools in recent years. I am definitely not bound by tradition. Vive La Difference!

What’s in a poly then?

One question that people invariably ask modellers is ‘how many polys’ does the aircraft have? Usually they mean triangles – there is a difference – more on that in a future episode.

In modeling for the rendering applications of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s one had to be cognisant of polycounts back then too. The reason being, the more vertices and triangles, the longer a scene took to render and some could take days. Computers also did not have much memory in these days either – 512k was big RAM indeed. Modellers trimmed the polycounts by only modeling what was necessary and even deleting any polys that could not be seen. Any models that were likely to be close to the camera in the scene were usually modelled in great detail. Fast forward a few years to the present day, not only do we have high speed CPU’s we now also have GPU’s [graphics processing units]. I’m not technically qualified and am not going to embarrass myself by trying to explain how a GPU works. For an overview check out Wikipedia. Just know that GPU’s process a lot of graphical data, including 3D data, very quickly. Thus today we can do in real time what would have taken several minutes or longer to render in the early 1990’s. I can recall creating animated fly throughs of the Grand Canyon, back in 1991, using VistaPro on one of my Amiga computers, that would have taken probably half an hour to render. These days I can fly through a similar, if not higher resolution landscape in real-time in Flight Simulator 2004 [also FS2002]. Computer power has come a long way in a comparatively short period of time.

However we cannot just create any old model and expect it to be moved around in our game, in real time, by the GPU. [It’s fun experimenting though ;) ] Not only do we have to be cognisant of polygon or vertex counts we have to design our models efficiently to be effectively processed by the GPU. [I have only just learned this myself in the last 10 months myself and am still learning.] In any game there is much happening and many 3D objects moving around in what could be considered to be quite rich 3D environments. Thus 3d objects require polygon budgets. In a professional environment such as a game in development, the polygon budgets for each object would be determined by the development team, I guess most likely an art director working in conjunction with software engineers. In a professional setting then, especially in game development, 3D modelers have to be very creative to make the most of the polygon and texture budgets they are allowed. These modelers have to be very creative indeed. The term ‘creative modeling’ is starting to replace the term ‘low polygon’ modeling. Low polygon modeling is a relative definition anyway. As technology advances the high polygon resolution polygon models of today, become the low resolution models of the future.

As stated in the intro I do not work professionally in this field at this time. Whether I will work in the commercial [payware] side of flight simulation add-ons remains to be seen.

The freeware side of things is quite different. In one sense we have more freedom than our professional counterparts. Indeed sometimes I think freeware='free for all' when it comes to design considerations. Many payware modelers out there also appear to adopt a liberal definition of low poly modeling.

At the end of the day it is a question of balance. There is no right or wrong way. There are a few ‘do’s and don’ts’, but there is no absolute approach to modeling a 3D aircraft for a real time rendering system.

We’ll leave it there for the time being…. To be continued.


[Note: Edited for grammer corrections 10 November 2005]