Monday, April 10, 2006

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.