Very brief update. I am very busy as usual. I have been busy beta testing the FS X SDK beta update these last 10 days or so. I must say I am very pleased. In the field in which I am most interested, aircraft creation, we have much that is new, especially new animation procedures and a new materials system.
There are no hard coded animations and every part that is animated has to be key framed. The plus side of this is that animated parts can have any name. The animations are attached to coded animations, in a modeldef.xml file, via a maxscript animation tool in 3dsMax/gmax. This is very useful for logical ordering of animations. The SDK also contains instructions on how to create and add new animated parts to the modeldef.xml file.
Material properties are now quite complex and require more than a little bit of work to achieve the correct effect. However the results are worth the effort.
To test the SDK I have exported and converted the CFS3 Biff to FS X mdl. The mesh initially exported without any problems. The animations took a few hours to figure out but worked without any problem. I am in the process of creating materials for the Biff. Self shadowing does not require any special modeling techniques that I can see. By using manifold meshes the modeler can improve the quality of shadows however manifold meshes involve large poly counts and would be difficult to achieve in a detailed biplane.
I have also been busy creating xml animated 3D gauges for FS9 and also soon for FSX.
All this has delayed the Sopwith Snipe somewhat, though I have had fun flying the incomplete Snipe in FSX. Don't worry I will resume work on the Snipe as soon as the Biffs are out for FS9/FSX.
Here's a pic of the Biff over Brisbane.