Sunday, April 30, 2006

A few WIP pics

Here a three WIP pics of the Sopwith Snipe. I am still making parts for the virtual cockpit and don't really want to show too much until it is complete and textured.

Crew Figures in Virtual Cockpits?

There is currently an interesting thread and poll at Sim-Outhouse on the subject of limbs in virtual cockpits in OFF aircraft. Initially the no's were out in front and now after Winding Man showed some examples in his nice little Nieuport Bebe the yes's have had a bit of a catch up. Though the poll is neck and neck at the time of writing.

As a designer the verdict is very much out for me on this issue on whether to include this feature. As a user I am ambivalent. Many sim users object to crew figures in virtual cockpits and indeed will shy away from downloading or purchasing aircraft with this feature, especially FS2004 users. The question I ask myself as a designer - will inclusion of figures in the virtual cockpit stop people downloading ar flying this aircraft - will anyone not download this becuase I do not include a crew figure? As not having crew figures is the present norm most people would download an aircraft without crew figures whereas the converse may deter.

I did give consideration to this issue while developing the 'Biff'. I converted a gunner character from the CFS3 gmax SDK into a WW1 Sidcot suited character. As I work primarily with 3DS Max 8.0 I ran into problems UV mapping the posed character exported from Gmax, as the cumbersome export process via the FS2002 SDK does not preserve UV co-ordinates. I resolved to create an all new completely unposed character from the ground up. This is scheduled for this Aussie winter i.e. June-August.

I also gave consideration to using the articulated character as supplied with the FS2004 SDK Curtiss Jenny. This character is animated and the pilot's arms and legs move with the controls. Microsoft only implemented this animation in the exterior of the Curtiss Jenny and chose not to implement in the Jenny's virtual cockpit. Anyone who has the FS2004 SDK can easily import this character into other aircraft including CFS3 Gmax models.

The reason I chose not to use the FS2004 Jenny pilot in the Biff was that it would have looked ugly in the virtual cockpit and I had already decided to create a new character. If I release a version of the Biff for FS2004 I will probably use the Jenny character in the external model.

One of my CFS3 aircraft this Aussie winter will probably feature animated crew figure(s). I'll probably ommit them from FS virtual cockpits. unless I receive requests for their inclusion,

Anyway Microsoft were first on the block with animated cockpit characters in their sims. I look forward to Flight Simulator X and its animation system.

FS2004 animated pilot.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Up close & personal

A WIP pic of the Sopwith Snipe. Tomorrow I do the rigging and then I can start to texture map and also continue on with the cockpit detail.

Monday, April 17, 2006

What's new.....

The FS2004 project is a Golden Age biplane fighter. I don't whether it is advisable to commence now or await the FS X SDK.

In the meantime work resumed on the Sopwith Snipe over the Easter Weekend. This is for CFS3. Whether it will be up to Biff standards remains to be seen. To date there has only been a couple of weeks all up on the Snipe compared to the Biff, which was a multi facited learning exercise and involved 7 out of the past 12 months.

Monday, April 10, 2006

New Project Started

Now that the FS2004 'Biff' is out the way I have commenced a new project for FS2004. It is not WW1 or WW2 and it is not for CFS3 at this stage. I am just doing a bit of research today. I won't say anything further until I have something to show. It is my first all new mesh project since September 2005. At this stage I am not working to any time frame. Needless to say I am quite enthusiastic.

I will still be doing a Sopwith Baby [CFS3/OFF] in between times and hope to do a Snipe [CFS3/OFF] too - but no timeline - also the previously mentioned CFS3/OFF Biff upgrades tentatively June/July.

I am also going back into quiet mode as far as this blog is concerned. I hope to do an article on combat simming in my other blog.



Bristol Fighter for FS2004 Shelved (Temporarily)

I have decided to shelve the Bristol Fighter for Flight Simulator 2004 for the time being.

There are two reasons for this. As mentioned previously, the vertex resolution supported by the FS2004 and 3D game engine is lower than that supported by the CFS3 game engine and exporter. Thus many small cockpit parts would require remodelling. I was willing to do this provided I could check out what was required in game. Though some remodelled parts are disappointing in comparison to the CFS3 version.

The second reason and the crunch .... which possibly cannot be overcome ..... the FS2004 implementation of virtual cockpits requires that any visible parts of the external airframe be duplicated and attached to the cockpit model. In a two seat biplane such as the Brsitol Fighter that means many parts and a duplication of many polys. Unfortunately given the highly detailed two man cockpit and the visible external model parts we end up with a poly and vertex count that the dated makemdl/bgl compiler just cannot handle. CFS3 handles the Biff with ease and it exports in seconds. This is very disappointing.

FS2004 models do not support the DirectX .dds texture file format, which is surprising given that both are Microsoft products. FS2004 supports propriety .BMP file formats converted by the SDK imagetool.exe application. The imagetool DXT1 .bmps look horrific compared to DXT1 .dds files output using the nvidia plugin for Photoshop. To overcome this obstacle one can use 32bit texture maps, but these are resource hungry.

Lets hope for an improved and more elegant implementation of virtual cockpits in Flight Simulator X - at least to the level of capability currently supported by CFS3. Lets hope that we can move forward from the somewhat archiac and restrictive export method provided by the makemdl/bgl combination to a modern exporter such as that provided by the CFS3.

The bottom line for a FS2004 Biff is that re-modelling to a lower resolution is a somewhat retrograde step which would take a lot of time, possibly more than a month. I think it is best that I wait and see what FS X and the FS X SDK have to offer and model the Bristol Fighter for that sim. I could possibly make another aircraft from the ground up in the same period of time that a remodelled Biff interior would take. I will not release the Biff mesh to other modellers either, as parts of this mesh will be used in future versions.

I will still play around with the FS2004 Biff but a release for FS2004 appears unlikely.

Again I emphasise that the 'Biff' was designed with CFS3 in mind with a FS2004 version being an added bonus. Additionally the original virtual cockpit was designed and modelled almost a year ago. I would adopt a different approach now.

Further CFS3 revisions and updates as mentioned in earlier posts are tentatively plannesd for June/July.

In the meantime I will look at modelling some other aircraft for FS2004 as I need experience with the FS way of doing things.

Friday, April 07, 2006

FS2004 F2B Under review..... may not happen...

I'm still struggling with the 'dark side'..... the FS2004 SDK and model resolutions supported by that sim.

I am currently working on trying to get the model into FS2004. Until that happens I cannot really see how the Bristol will look in that sim. I did export the untextured original version of the Bristol Fighter into FS2004 in May 2005, and it did not look too bad. That was before I added the visible parts of the airframe to the internal model. One of my concerns is that the resulting triangle count of the interior model is too much for makemdl or the BGL compiler.

I think most of my current problems are probably caused by a material name or small untextured part that was ok in CFS3 but causes things to croak exporting to FS.

This is all very disappointing given that everything went well for CFS3 and exported in seconds. The Biff's fps in that game are reasonable too.

I'll have more to say on modelling for CFS3 v FS2004 in my other blog, The Wing Fell Off.

I have re-modelled a few parts to FS2004 standards and I must say it is upsetting to move to such a lower resolution. Many small parts may have to be deleted completely. It's frustrating given that both products come from the same games studio. They should support a similar standard of modelling.

The bottom line for those awaiting a FS2004 version of the 'Biff'..... If I find I have to re-model too many parts to the lower resolution accommodated by FS2004 it may be best to leave a FS2004 Bristol Fighter for the time being and build a completely new one for Flight Simulator X.

Monday, April 03, 2006


If anyone wishes to provide feedback or comments on the CFS3 version of the Biff please use the email address provided in the Bristol Fighter documentation and also the contact link in this blog.

99% of the feedback to date has been complimentary, indeed quite flattering so I am very pleased. However I do rely on feedback to improve the way I do things and fix any problems.

I must say the camradarie and co-operation among designers [even rival payware designers] in various forums at Sim-Outhouse impresses me. [especially the FS2004 forums]. I find this refreshing. [don't prove me wrong guys :)]. The same can also be said at Netwings and

I'll have more to say on the subject of flight modelling in a future post. With my new aircraft, I intend to start working on the FM's even when the aircraft are at airframe shell stage. It's the only way one keep one's skills current and move forward.



Journey to the Dark Side?

I refer to my post in my Wing Fell Off blog. I am now in the process of converting the Biff to FS2004. Unfortunately it is not all that straightforward as the implementation of virtual cockpits differ between the sims. CFS3 models to a higher vertex resolution. The FS2004 makemdl.exe exporter takes many many many minutes to export large models to FS and frequently decides to error half way through leaving one to guess as to the cause. On the other hand models export to CFS3 in seconds usually without hiccup. Thus one can check out mesh adjustments in game, relatively frequently

The bottom line for those waiting on the FS2004 Biff - don't expect it for a few weeks or longer - the model needs modifying as it was modelled with CFS3 in mind.

It may be more advisable to model the Sopwith Baby to FS2004 standards and convert to CFS3 than the other way around. I will experiment with that in the coming days. I have another WW1 model coming out of my mesh collection also for completion for FS2004. I will reveal that soon.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Biff now uploaded to other sites.

The CFS3 Bristol Fighter has now also been uploaded to AVSIM, Flightsim, and Simviation. I see it is available now at It should appear at other sites in the next few hours.

Filename: at AVSIM, Simviation and Sim-Outhouse. at

A change of pace

Now that the CFS3 version of the Bristol Fighter has been released I can now ease up on the design side of things. I must say the change of pace is quite pleasant after working solidly and exclusively on the Biff from mid November through to last week, save for a couple of days on the Sopwith Snipe and Sopwith Baby.

I must say it was all worth it. It is great to see other people enjoying one's creations, a source of immense pleasure.

The whole exercise was an invaluable learning experience. The Bristol Fighter is my first released project and only my third serious 3D scale modeling attempt. It was my second aircraft texturing effort and my first serious one. It was also my first attempt at flight dynamics. All this involved a tremendous amount of research in a variety of areas ranging from aviation history through to aerodynamics. Indeed research, learning and experimentation would have comprised 75% of the project. I have lost track of the number of books and articles I have read on related subjects in the past year.

My bed time reading for the last 6 weeks primarily comprised of various NACA reports. Hot Stuff!!!

Time to relax and unwind methinks.

I'm back to dabbling for the time being - jumping between various mini projects - a little bit here and there. Priority will go to the FS2004 version of the F.2B - no timeline as yet - I do want to relax a bit. I have also resurrected the Sopwith Baby and have commenced researching the Fokker DR-1. That one might head for FS2004. We'll see.