Monday, December 31, 2007

Snipe Cockpit

Now that I have resumed working on my projects, here's a WIP of the Snipe virtual cockpit. I've fixed a few things and am now working on the textures. As you can see it includes much of the external aircraft. Much of what is shown here are texture templates, some parts being colour coded on my texture sheet. Some of the textures will take some puzzling out, as it is many months since the parts were uv mapped.

The arduous task of animating the cockpit begins now too. It's almost a year since I last dabbled in coding parts xml. I have also to make decisions on cockpit lighting for the Snipe. All Snipes appear to be equipped with instruments lights. However they were usually only fitted with an accumulator, which in turn had to be hooked to a generator, usually mounted on the undercarriage struts. The generator was usually only fitted for night missions. Do I cheat and enable the lights anyway? And if I do the question of implementation in FSX. I'd like to use effects instead of lightmaps. However I don't know if that's possible. Light maps complicate matters somewhat as switches light individual instruments, making maps difficult as I would have to split them up.

I'll be waiting until I have a DX10 capable computer before I enable volume shadows on the interior materials, if that is possible in an open cokpit aircraft. Hopefully it will be possible.

I'll also be exploring dropable bombs for the Snipe too.... more modeling ahead. :)

Again have a happy new year.


2007 ends and a gradual return to virtual aircraft hobbies.

I seem to be on the mend from surgery (though there's still a bit of a caveat hanging around with infection), and gradually resuming interests in hobbies etc. I've been picking away at the Sopwith Snipe trying to pick the threads of where I was at before surgery, and develop renewed interest in the project. I'm also picking away at modeling bits & pieces for various projects such a Clerget engine (also soon a Mercedes DIII) and Spandau MG08. Completion of these bits & pieces will see me move ahead with a number of projects.

I still hope to start working on detailed aircraft for rendering sometime in 2008 to allow a little bit of freedom from low/medium poly modeling. Some of the images at Military Meshes are very inspirational.... some great draftsmen & artists. I will probably dabble in conventional art too in 2008 as a counterpoint to all the precision involved in aircraft modeling. Of course music also gives me great pleasure... the Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 DVD provided a great finish to 2007 - especially Jeff Beck , Derek Trucks and of course EC himself (now to restring my guitars LOL).

All the best for 2008 & take care.



Saturday, December 01, 2007

Biff in PC Pilot Winter Special

I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email informing me that the FSX Biff is featured in the PC Pilot Winter Special. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up a copy in a few weeks myself, when it appears on newstands here. The Biff was download of the month in PC Pilot earlier this year.

The other good news is that I am home after 3 weeks in hospital, having major surgery on my leg. The road to recovery will be long though, and restrictions on sitting for any length of time will prevent me from resuming modeling for a while.



Thursday, November 01, 2007

Before I go.....

I'd like to post some exterior shots of the Sopwith Snipe (FSX). The exterior model is nearly complete... a bit of dirt to be added and unit markings.... probably a No.4 AFC aircraft to begin with. The cockpit will have to be completed after surgery... which means way in the future :(



Sunday, October 28, 2007

Draw Calls revisited.

In an earlier post on optimising & painting the Sopwith Snipe I mentioned that I initially could not see the benefits of my attempts to optimise for draw calls on the Snipe. This was in FSX SP1. I also posted on 2 Oct that I could see benefits but I could not discuss at that time. The reason for this was I was testing both FSX:Acceleration & its SDK which was covered by NDA which is now lifted. When I exported the Snipe via the latest SDK and flew in Acceleration, an aircraft which averaged 22fps in spot view then easily achieved 28-33fps on the same settings in FSX acceleration and believe it or not, 17fps over London. Other native FSX aircraft, both stock & 3rd party, averaged 11fps over London on the same settings. The Biff's perf is the same in FSX SP1 & Acceleration. The Biff would be difficult to update & optimise due to being an old model & time constraints. I intend to revisted the Biff/Brisfit in 2008/2009 with an all new package.

I can safely say to other modelers creating for FSX, it is worthwhile taking the time to read Adrian Wood's posts on 'Performance Art', and implementing these suggestions in your own designs.



Sunday, October 21, 2007

Time to down tools

Well it's now time for resection surgery. I've been told this will happen either this Thursday or the following Tuesday. Thus I have to down tools (3DS, Max Photoshop) the time being. How long I will be out of the loop I do not know. It will possibly be a couple of months before I can sit down for any length of time at a desk.

I had hoped at one stage to finish the Sopwith Snipe before surgery. However there is still much to do to that aircraft. I still have the blurred texture of the spinning rotary engine to perfect on the external model and much to complete & possibly have to rework on the interior model. I may futher post a WIP later today.

Much of the modeling learning curve for FSX is over. I intend use a modeling pipeline of first to CFS3 then the X version. The main stumbling block is the texture mapping. FSX uses a multiple 1024 texture approach, whereas CFS3 generally uses a single texture on the exterior model. Contemporary CFS3 modelers are starting to use 2048 textures. One can use the multi texture approach in CFS3 also. However bullet holes will only appear on one of them. I'll experiment.

Current aircraft being created which I hope to complete in 2008 include:-
  • Sopwith Snipe - freeware FSX/CFS3
  • Sopwith Baby - freeware FSX/CFS3
  • Seimens Schukert DIII/DIV - freeware (FSX/CFS3)
  • Junkers D.I - freeware (FSX/CFS3)
  • Albatros D.Va - freeware FSX
  • Sopwith Triplane - freeware FSX
  • Sopwith Dolphin - TBA
  • Airco D.H.9 - TBA
  • Boulton Paul Defiant Mk.1 - freeware CFS3
  • Grumman F6F-3 - freeware FSX/CFS3
  • Curtiss SB2C - freeware CFS3
  • Me P.1112 - freeware CFS3
  • Blohm und Voss BV P212.03 - freeware CFS3
This list does not reflect priority. I jump around a fair bit. There are others that I hope to start and I've omitted a couple of possible payware projects from the above list. While I face an uncertain future it's best to concentrate on freeware. It's relaxing ;)



Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mike's Space (Aces Blogger)

A great blog and certainly worthwhile checking out, (especially if one is a 3D content creator for games/sims) - Mike Porter, lead vehicle artist with Microsoft Aces studio.

Mike's blog features excellent tutorials and tips. Great stuff!!!!



Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Update: Early October

Due the uncertainty of my personal situation , I am mainly just 3D modeling for relaxation at the moment. This means working a 1 or 2 days for a couple of hours a day, on any given aircraft and then jumping to something else when I tire. I've shelved my scenery explorations for a few weeks.

I did spend a couple of days working on textures & materials for the FSX version of the Sopwith Snipe, adding detail and also starting work on the specular maps. So far I am very pleased with Snipe's performance in FSX, about 3-5 fps faster than the Biff and people have reported good fps with the Biff in FSX.

On the subject of the Biff I have now retired the Biff's meshes from further work. The original CFS3 F2B, upon which the FSX was based (much modified & new) was my first serious model. I now do things quite differently and have learned a great deal in the last 2+ years. I had hoped to incorporate some of the improvements to the FSX model in a CFS3 revision. However as the FSX version was remaped this would mean that I create new CFS3 LODS & damage model, very time consuming. I do have a new series of F2B models planned (and started) for either 2008/2009 release (all being well), a cleaner & simpler 3D model & materials.

Anyway I have started a few new models, both WW1 & WW2 (and may soon start some 1930s & 1950/60s aircraft too). Some may see the light of day & many may not. 3D modeling is a very relaxing & rewarding pursuit, which is just what I need right now. If anything worthwhile come's out of this I'll post some pics.



Sunday, September 23, 2007

A couple of new models

I've started working on a couple of new aircraft for CFS3/FSX - a F6F-3 and Curtiss SB2C-4. I'll be starting a TBF or TBM soon too. Not sure which version yet. I've heaps of ref material for these aircraft, one of the reasons I'm making them.

PS - I'm also trying to decide on a P-39 version.

Don't expect these soon....2008 sometime.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Optimising & Painting the Snipe.

I am still undergoing cancer treatment & don't have much time for hobbies, but enjoy them when I can.

I've worked a little bit on the Sopwith Snipe for FSX. I reduced the number of materials on the model to reduce the number of gpu draw calls as per Adrian Wood's blog. I did not notice any increase in performance by doing so, even though I would have reduced the draw call count by about 30+ draw calls. The way I see things, draw call reduction mainly benefits AI objects, lower LODS of aircraft and autogen scenery objects. There is probably little or slight benefit say in a LOD400 model or virtual cockpit model a couple of draw calls here and there will not make much difference to perf. At least that has been my experience so far.

I notice some modelers/designers again agonising over vertix counts if they exceed 64k vertices. The FSX SDK SP1A x2mdl compiler issues a warning if that number is exceeded. However it is a warning only. The model will still compile correctly if the model is otherewise ok. What the warning does mean is that the vertices in excess of 64k will go into a second buffer & that will entail an extra draw call. On a virtual cockpit model that extra drawcall is not going to observably affect performance. Unless a modeler models everything bar the kitchen sink then it's unlikely that anyone will exceed 128k vertices on an interior model. Whether the forthcoming SP2 SDK changes things remains to be seen.

The resulting model is very shiny at the moment. Hopefully the specular maps will tone that down somewhat. I am now painting detail on to the textures of the external model.

Post script Oct 2, 2007 - I can't say too much at the moment, but the real benefits of using this approach will probably be more apparent in FSX:SP2 & FSX:Acceleration.


Monday, August 20, 2007

A brief break from aircraft modeling

I haven't really carried out much work in virtual aircraft creation in the last couple of weeks save for reviewing where I am at with the FSX Sopwith Snipe. I have mainly been concentrating in getting to grips with the CFS3 scenery SDK & terrain creation, with partial success so far.

I also have started radiotherapy which has been pretty painless so far, though I have been told things will get worse. Commuting to and from hospital, having lunch etc can take up to 4-5 hours each day all up, so I have less time for hobbies at the moment. I do however prefer living at home during all this. I'd be absolutely bored living in temporary accommodation near the hospital.



Saturday, July 28, 2007

This week: a miscellany

Now that I am branching out into terrain & scenery creation, much of the past week has been involved in that pursuit. As I mention in my other blog that project will involve at least one PTO aircraft, at this stage, tentatively a Nakajima A6M2-N Rufe. I'd love to attempt a Betty or Emily but I don't have much interior reference material on these as yet.

This week's aircraft creation activities have focused on the Boulton & Paul Defiant. The most difficult part, the wing roots is over and the airframe now has wings. I'll wait until I have a rudimentary canopy and turret in place before I post any pics. I was also hoping to spend some time on the Snipe's textures last week. However I had a bit of running around on health matters, scans etc., and, as I mentioned, research on scenery matters has taken up much time (the Solomon Islands). I also spent a couple of hours getting the Me. P1112 into CFS3. It's now ready to have the cockpit constructed and the exterior painted. It looks nice, however I'm not sure what to do about an airfile as I won't have much time in the near future.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Another New Blog : - Scenery Explorations.

I have decided to start another new blog devoted to scenery/terrain creation for CFS3 & FSX. It will also cover my explorations in the world of GIS.

This blog will primarily focus on aircraft creation & modeling.


Friday, July 20, 2007

This week... exploring the world of GIS

Continuously working on the Snipe was turning into a bit of a grind and created a need to refresh oneself. I spent a day working on a Clerget 9B engine for inclusion in a number of WW1 projects, however the continual focus on WW1 also requires a bit of a break. Add these factors to MS/Aces lack of interest in a new combat flight sim and the impressive recent release of Mediterranean Air War, MAW, I have decided to enter the world of scenery creation for CFS3. Given that I'll be in and out of hospital for cancer treatment/surgery in coming months, these project will be more dabbling than anything else. It will be the end of the year before I should be back on track. I'll possibly invest in a notebook computer to use later on while in recover/rehab.

Anyway it is refreshing to re-aquaint myself with the world of GIS. I had a strong interest in this a decade+ ago using software such as VistaPro on both the Amiga & Windows platforms.

Ed Wilson (gzr_groundhog) is probably the only person, to date, to really come to grips with scenery/terrain creation for CFS3. Ed's achievements include new maps/terrain for MAW and also a Korea War add-on for CFS3.

I initially hope to experiment with a small area...not sure where.

I'll post further updates & news of my experiments, including any software which may be of use.

The Sopwith Snipe will continue in small doses as will a Me P1112 for CFS3. Even working on it full time I would not be able to complete before radiotherapy so there is little point in rushing & focusing on the one project at the moment.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sun Night WIP

It doesn't look like I've done a great deal to the Sopwith Snipe since Tuesday, but I have. I have remapped the external fuselage, decking & cowl at least twice and each time re-rendered the ambient occlusion maps. That of course meant redoing the external airframe for the interior model too.

I think I can say I can move forward now and concentrate on painting/rendering the textures, though I think I'm suffering from too much Snipe and might have a break for a couple of days.

I might start another aircraft or continue with one of the other WIPS? Trouble is some of these models were commenced some while back and I've changed techniques a bit. Also there is new info available on modeling for FSX.

I haven't forgotten CFS3 either. MS made a mistake in not continuing that franchise and there still a lot that can be achieved with that game engine as witnessed by MAW.

This is all very relaxing & therapeutic if approached at the right pace.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tues Night Snipe WIP

Making the most of my time at the moment & thought I'd show a couple more WIP pics, one in games & one in 3DS Max. The textures are slowly taking shape. Much more to do.


Another New Blog : - Musical Explorations.

The name says it all - Music from around the web.

Enjoy! :)


Monday, July 09, 2007

Again & again

UV mapping that is :) .... however we'll get there. Still working on the Snipe. Time's a bit limited & will become more limited given my situation, however the Snipe is taking shape. I re-mapped the external model...mainly the fuselage and of course this meant re-doing parts of the VC also. Ambient occlusion rendering is a slow business but as one can see the results in the cockpit are effective.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Weekend WIP Pics

Working on the 3D stuff is excellent therapy. This weekend's WIP - Ambient occlusion mapping on the Snipe & the external model of the Me P.1112 ready for cockpit work.... CFS3 will be first for the Me P.1112. The P.1112 must be my quickest model yet... 4 days work so far. Compare to hundreds of hours in the Snipe... though the Snipe has required much research.

This week back to all the medical stuff :(


Thursday, June 28, 2007

One Last Pic.........

....of the FSX Sopwith Snipe before I paint & apply full FSX materials. The glossy specular will be all gone. I'm not sure whether I can finish before radiotherapy starts.... we'll see.

The VC is also all UVW mapped & ready for painting too. I'm doing the animations just now.

Hopefully I will have the opportunity to finish the CFS3 version later this year also.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Snipe Cockpit: WIP

Just to show that the Sopwith Snipe has not been forgotten, .... a WIP image. Most of the cockpit area has now been UV mapped save for the instruments and a couple of other parts. Now comes the tedious bit of painting all the parts. It will still be a while before it's complete.


Some mesh WIPs in FSX.

Here are a few WIP pics of meshes under construction including the frequently disappearing Albatros. Hopefully these won't disappear this time.

The Dr-I will possibly be payware. Anyway they are a long way away and much still to be done, rigging, engines etc. I have to create Clerget & Mercedes engines before I can progress with some of these. I have resumed work on the Snipe again. I can't say when...that depends on health matters. I'll continue with aircraft creation for the time being and again during recovery later this year. Good therapy :)


New Blog - Rob's Cancer Journey

I have created a new blog relating to a recently diagnosed liposarcoma in my thigh. I will still post here from time to time on virtual aircraft creation.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Disappearing Images

I just noticed that a few of my images hosted on Imageshack linking through to my blogs have disappeared. I've sent an email to ImageShack seeking the reason.

The images are all WIP images of various meshes... various of the Sopwith Snipe, all my Albatros mesh previews and Spad S.7. There are possibly some others.

A mysterious form of censorship or malfunctioning ImageShack?

Life is full of mysteries.


The Battle ahead

I received the results of the tumour biopsy & it's cancer after all. Not good news :( It's a liposarcoma.

I have quite a schedule of treatment to undergo starting soon. 5 Weeks of radio therapy followed by resection surgery & a long period of rehab & recovery. Once treatment starts I'll be out of action for a number of months.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Leg Biopsy

I had minor surgery on my leg this week to take a tissue sample for biopsy. At this stage all that is known is that it is a low grade tumour. I'll find out more next Friday. I'm a bit sore & resting this weekend. The aftermath of surgery was a lot more painful than I thought it would be.


Thursday, May 31, 2007


Virtual aircraft creation is again taking a back seat, this time, due to health issues.

A large mass (tumour) last week was discovered in my right thigh. It is causing complications by compressing blood vessels and causing and a bit of thrombosis, thankfully in veins near the surface and not DVT, otherwise I would have been in hospital a while. I ended up unexpectedly in hospital to control the clotting. I have return to outpatients tomorrow to find out the next step. In the meantime I have to inject myself with Clexine blood thinning medication as I will probably have to have surgery. Hopefully only a biopsy as the mass itself is about 10cm in diameter.

I have had trouble with this leg since 2001 following a septic pyelonephritis which my doctor suggested turned into septicaemia and possibly caused joint infection in the hips & knees, later that year. Recurring UTI symptoms returned in 2004 and appeared to affect my leg. Hopefully the mass is benign all will end up well this time around, and I'm not sidelined too long.

If I disappear from forums & blogging a while, this will be the reason why.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Freeware WIP

As I posted in Wing Fell Off, I started my new job this week so I now mainly a weekend warrior as to working on 3D.

Here are a few pics of 4 current WIP meshes of aircraft destined for FSX.... freeware of course.

Albatros DV/DVa

Sopwith Triplane.

Sopwith Snipe

Sopwith Baby

I'm not working to any definite timetable with these. They'll be ready in due course.


Friday, May 11, 2007

I'm back :)

That's right! The Biff Diaries is now returning after a brief period of hibernation.

The FSX SP1 beta is almost there and I have freed up enough time to move forward with my pursuit of virtual aircraft creation to the extent I can start posting WIP updates here. I have also started a new job and this has provided some stability to make plans.

The Sopwith Snipe is now back in WIP. The Snipe has been on and off for a long time, straddling many other projects. It'll be nice to see it finished. I'm also still picking away at my new Sopwith Triplane model & giving consideration to reviving the Sopwith Baby too for FSX. If not the Baby then some other WW1 seaplane for FSX.

Flight dynamics is now a project for bed time reading and commuting to work.

Nice to be back!! :)


Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Temporary Ending.....................

................more like hibernation.

I'll be putting this blog to sleep for the time being. Any aircraft creation/modeling posts, if there are any, will now appear my other blog "The Wing Fell Off". This blog only receives 10 visits a day so it's no big deal..LOL. I'll sort of be going into hibernation too, from the aircraft creation perspective but not for too long. :)

The reasons being frustrations and delays on a number matters, largely beyond my control, which make it difficult to move ahead at the pace I desire, and issues preventing planning of ongoing & future projects. I am also spending too much time on virtual projects and the digital world.... time to do other things.

I still hope to release at least a couple aircraft this year, possibly WW1 aircraft. However I tend to question the wisdom of creating such for FSX.... especially payware. I imagine there wouldn't be enough interest in such. We'll see how the first two go.

With Microsoft's cancellation of CFS4 a couple of years ago, no new CFS in sight and Aces studio, the creator of the FS/CFS/TS series, tied up with FSX and Train Simulator projects for the next couple of years it's going to be difficult to maintain a high level of interest in virtual aviation. I am primarily interested in the historical aspects of aviation and air combat. FSX does not really cater for those of us into vintage or military aviation.

Hopefully one day Aces will be able to add features to enable period scenery & autogen, perhaps controlled by date, and also preferably combat capabilities. They have waited for too long to do something about the CFS series.

Even though I have enjoyed CFS3, it is now a little bit dated. However CFS3 mainly disappoints me by being too simplistic as to aircraft systems, and lacks the ability to create and add new animations and instruments, as one can with Flight Simulator. That aside I do plan a couple of CFS3 releases in the future.

At the end of the day all this means is that virtual aircraft creation will be pursued at a more leisurely pace. I will be focusing my time on the theoretical side of virtual aircraft creation i.e. learning in the area of aerodynamics and flight modeling. I will of course be trying conceive a project worth pursuing where I can maintain an appropriate level of interest during development and which will also be commercially viable as a FSX add-on. More time will be spent on other creative pursuits & hobbies and getting more physical exercise. Of course if CFS were to return I'll have no problems finding suitable digital projects.

BTW the Biff will be in the next issue of PC-Pilot.

cheers for now


Monday, March 19, 2007

Flight models, theory & decisions.

Now that I have again temporarily put the Sopwith Snipe to one side for a few days I am shifting focus. With my ambition to create payware/commercial aircraft one cannot use the Flight Model Data Workbook or Airwrench for any commercial projects as their user agreements preclude such. (One can still use these for freeware releases and I still intend to produce a few along the way.)

I will use other tools such as Aircraft Airfile Manager and MS Excel using my own formulae. Of course something as comprehensive as the FMDWB is beyond my capabilities at this time. However I am collating information and equations from a variety of sources, many on-line, and over time this should evolve into my own workbook. I will of course, be concentrating on aircraft of the 1916-1938 period though I have two 40's/50's jets earmarked for possible commercial release much later on.

I am tempted to take time out to focus on the theory side of things but I still hope to create many new meshes. Return to my usual vocation looks likely too and this may help with the theory side of things. I'll have plenty of time to read, commuting to and from work, between the island & Brisbane.

Aircraft will be ready when they are ready. ;)



Information sought Sopwith Snipe

You know the saying 'so near... yet so far....'. That's the way the Snipe is shaping out.

I have encountered difficulty obtaining information related to cockpit details and the fuel system.

I have good detail from a variety of sources of the left side of the cockpit and main instrument panel however little of the right hand side of the cockpit. I have managed to fill in many gaps but some details remain elusive. If anyone has any decent photographs of the right hand internal details of the cockpit I'd be very pleased to hear from them.

The other area I seek assistance is clarification of the fuel system. I have posted a question on this at the Aerodrome but have yet to receive a response. I'll leave things be for a few days and see how I go.

I discovered some possible sources of information on the weekend. Expensive (on my budget anyway LOL) and possibly not obtainable from Australia given the vendors' purchase options. Also possible overkill for 3D model reference material.

I am considering a number of options. We're not beaten yet. Though the Snipe may be shelved and be completed as payware at a later date. We'll see...... :)


Friday, March 16, 2007

Brief Update

From the virtual aircraft creation perspective, most of this week has been spent working on Sopwith Snipe related issues. I have been working on uv mapping the virtual cockpit.

Now I have paused to research a few cockpit issues and figure out how I'm going to handle cockpit instrument lighting. This is a little bit different from normal FS aircraft and I also use 3D parts rather than the FS gauge system. I also have to figure out how the fuel system works. I am also still researching and experimenting with the flight model.

Little work has been carried out on the Sopwith Triplane this week. I still intend to pursue that as a freeware project and freeware projects have low priority compared to projects ear marked as future commercial/payware projects (apart from the Snipe). I have also worked a little bit this week on the Me P.1112 for CFS3, but again this has low priority.

This weekend some more work on the Snipe and I'll start refreshing the Dr.I's mesh.


Biff Download Stats as at 9 March 2007

I was very surprised when I checked and talied the Biff's download stats the other day.

As at March 9 2007 - 30,040 downloads of all versions over 3 platforms, FSX, FS2004 & CFS3. These are from Avsim, Simviation, Sim-Outhouse &

Total FSX (all packages) - 17,103 (From 2 Feb 2007)
Total FS9 (all packages) - 6,329 (From 18 Feb 2007)
Total CFS3 - 6,608 (From 30 March 2006)

It'll be very interesting to see how the FSX version ends up a few months from now.

All in all quite pleasing.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Slight Change of Plans

Now that I am back to aircraft creation after an enforced week's absence due to a Windows crash and other software related problems, I have again had to change priorities and focus on the Sopwith Snipe. It's fortunate that I managed to get the situation with Max 8.0 sorted out because if I had not, the Snipe and all my current WIP would have to have been shelved until MS update their SDK to make use of Max 9.0. The Snipe would have been an eventual payware release if it did have to be shelved.

Anyway Max 8.0 appears to be running OK. I'll just have to continue work on the Triplane as and when I can. I had originally intended resume work on the Snipe this coming Sunday anyway, so I might as well start now.

I enjoyed the change in activities during the week and revisited some of my earlier artistic pursuits from years gone by. When I'll find the time to pursue them properly I don't know?



Thursday, March 08, 2007

Back in the design game

Now back up and the running with Max 8.0, many thanks to my Autodesk Reseller. :)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Future Projects .... Decisions....decisions LOL.

I've made some tentative plans as the best way to move forward in the coming months.

Firstly I'll stick to WW1 aircraft for now. I have some interwar aircraft planned but will leave then for the time being as with the Defiant & Luft '46 aircraft. I'm still after decent reference material on the Defiant BTW.

I will also do one other freeware aircraft in addition to the Snipe, mainly for the experience and feedback. It has been an agonising (lol) two days trying to make up my mind and reviewing dozens of possibilities. I have decided to move forward with a Sopwith Triplane which will be freeware. The reasons being that I have heaps of reference material for the Tripe; I have already started one, way back in my OFF days LOL (just the cowl and front fuselage); and I can re-use many parts from the Snipe in the Tripe too (instruments & guns). The triplane has replaced the Sopwith Baby as my final freeware project before moving on to other things. I've had difficulty obtaining good reference material of the Baby interior to date and it will probably cost a few dollars to obtain such. The Sopwith Triplane is planned for FS X only, at this date.

I have tentatively planned my initial payware releases...... some time this year.... can't say when. I can say they will be 2 well known WW1 fighter aircraft, one British and one German. I'm not sure if should name them at this stage....... or should I? ;) I think it will be safe to name these even if I have competition. However I'll wait and see if news of this percolates around the web. These will be followed by a couple of late WW1 German fighter fighter aircraft that were just being introduced when the war ended... not Fokkers (though a late war Fokker will also follow - hint rotary powered. Also another famous Fokker too.). A French aircraft has also been well researched and I am more than happy with the mesh, and will follow these late war Germans. A second French aircraft, a two seater, is also in the works and I will be laying down the mesh shortly. Going into 2008, the Bristol Fighter will be revisited with a Bristol Fighter pro pack. These are all tentative plans subject to change. Much depends on the demands of real life.

I hope to tackle some of the less well known aircraft of WW1 also but much depends on how all of the above goes.

FS X is the planned platform for these at this stage. I still hope to finish the Snipe for CFS3, that will most likely final CFS3 release if I do.

At this stage I do not plan to build 2D instrument panels for FSX aircraft. They will be virtual cockpit only featuring 3D gauges (i.e.) smooth, as in the FSX Biff.

I am starting the Sopwith Triplane immediately and bring that up to the stage I am at with the Snipe i.e. mapping the VC then switch back to the Snipe, alternating between the two.

This should keep me quiet for a while ;)



Friday, February 23, 2007

FS9 Biff - 2 to 4 Blade Prop

A recent post at Sim-outhouse asks the question can one change the texture of a 2 blade prop version of the FS2004 Bristol fighter to a 4 blade prop version. Yes one can, but it's a little bit more complicated than just swapping the texture around. The 4 blade version has its own mdl and as the flight dynamics differ slightly from the 2 blade version, exists in a seperate folder.

To add a 4 blade prop version of any variant of the Bristol Fighter, requires that part 4 of the FS2004 Bristol Fighter package be installed. (

In this instance the user wants to see a 4 blade version of the Dutch BR401.
  1. Copy the texture folder texture.BR401 from ......\Flight Simulator 9\Aircraft\AeroplaneArt_Bristol_F2B_FS9 to .......\Flight Simulator 9\Aircraft\AeroplaneArt_Bristol_F2B_FS9_4BP
  2. Copy the texture Prop_brisfit.bmp from one of the other 4 blade aircraft to the ...\AeroplaneArt_Bristol_F2B_FS9_4BP\texture.BR401 and overwrite the existing texture in that folder.
  3. Edit the file Aircraft.cfg in ..\AeroplaneArt_Bristol_F2B_FS9_4BP\ and add the following entry after the [fltsim.1] section.
title =Bristol F2B BR401 4P
sim = bristol_f2b_4p_fs9
model =
panel =
sound =
texture =BR401
panel_alias =
sound_alias =
kb_checklists =Bristol_F2B_check
kb_reference =Bristol_F2B_ref
atc_id =
atc_id_color =
atc_parking_types =
atc_parking_code =
ui_manufacturer = Bristol Aeroplane Company Ltd
ui_type = F2B Mk.1 'Biff'
ui_variation = "BR401 - Luchtvaart Adfeling 4 blade Prop"
description = "Your own text goes here."
visual_damage = 0

The above entry will point to the correct visual model and textures.

On successful completion of the above you should then see the 4 blade version in the aircraft selection menu and in sim.

PS: It's also possible to change other aircraft using similar methods. e.g. D8084 was later repainted and I think had a 2 blade prop. So that can be easily changed using these methods (A restored Bristol F2B, now with Peter Jackson in New Zealand, was completed in the later markings of D8084)

A quick note on Bristol F2B props (some of this mentioned in my SOH reply). Initially Bristol F2B's could have left the factory with either a 2 or 4 blade prop. They could additionally be changed in the field. Tests were carried out by Bristol to see if there was much difference between the two. It was revealed that the 2 blade version performed better and was more manouverable. However the 2 blade version was prone to overheating. The RFC couldn't make up their minds either and instructions were issued at one stage to standardise to 2 blade in the field, however many 4 blade props remained in service during WW1. After WW1, 2 blade props appeared to be standard on the Bristol.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Polycounts Revisited

I notice a new forum at Military Meshes devoted to low poly modeling. The topic of polycount limits comes up frequently at design sites such as and forums. So what are the polycount limits when it comes to creating virtual aircraft for the MSFS & CFS series?

Firstly I would urge the reader to purchase a good book on creating content for computer games. My bible of the last 2 years has been 'Game Art: Creation, Direction and Careers' by Riccard Linde. This book put me right in a number of areas and dispelled a few myths about model creation that I had encountered across a few web forums. Additionaly I would also recommend 'Creating Art of the Game' by Matthew Omernick. Perhaps not as comprehensive as Linde's book but useful and enjoyable none the less.

What are the technical limitations of creating aircraft for MS simulators?

For CFS3 I think there is a limit of 64k indices per object in gmax. An aircraft model scene can contain many objects. It's unlikely that a well designed model would ever reach such limits. Models of 200,000k triangles are technically possible but not practical as one would encounter graphic card memory and bandwidth limitations. Counts of 70,000+ triangles are feasable and possible in the top level LOD and the aircraft will remain functional in the context of a combat sim such as CFS3, provided, and this is important...., provided the remaining LOD's are modeled in accordance with CFS3 SDK guidelines and examples. More sensible counts are in the 30,000-50,000 region and ideally in the 20,000-30,000 region. It's useful to be aware of these limits. A reasonable external model could be modelled using less than 30,000 triangles, but details such as engines, wires, rigging, struts, guns, crew, fixed undercarriage, floats, and exterior cockpit details can quickly exceed the triangle count of the main airframe if not careful.

Additionaly in CFS3 there is only a slight difference performance wise between an aircraft with a polycount of 5,000 and that with a count exceeding 60,000. The lighter model peaks at higher fps in CFS3 however there is only an approximate difference of about 3-4fps when it comes to average fps in the external view. When it comes to virtual cockpits I have found that triangle counts of about 80,000 are feasable, though counts much lower than that are preferable. Part count, animations and textures are important in determining performance in the virtual cockpit. The triangle count in the CFS3 Bristol Fighter was higher than I would have liked but that was due to it being a two man cockpit. Feedback on the perf of the CFS3 Bristol Fighter has been positive, with comments that it is light on the frames.

FS 2004 is the most limiting flight sim to model for. The makemdl compiler from the FS9 SDK has a limit of 64k vertices per module. i.e. 64k in the interior model and I would guess the same in the exterior LOD 400 module. The FS9 compiler also optimises and welds vertices closer than 4mm, though there are possible solutions, involving more work. I find that FS9 does a poor job on small round parts regardless of the resolution.

FSX on the other hand is absolutely beautiful to model for. At this time I know of no technical limitations of the export tools with vertex counts. I would say that modeling practices used for CFS3 could easily be applied to FSX with the added benefit of FSX materials system. With the overall perf issues in FSX one should always be cautious about going too far.

Feedback on perf of the FSX Biff has been positive... so I appear to be on the right track. After all it's all about pleasing the users.

These days with modern graphics cards polycount is not as critical as it used to be. Factors such as design of the mesh, textures, uv maps, part counts and materials all come in consideration. Indeed I would view part count and texture bandwidth as being more critical than polycount.

In a future article I hope to touch on some mesh creation techniques useful in the creation of virtual aircraft.

In the meantime I'm off to have a break for a couple of weeks.



Footnote: While there is considerable lattitude as to polycount in the current FS Sims.... always design for the smoothest and most detailed mesh, however aim for the lowest poly count possible to acheive that result. - Rob

Download Stats

This morning I decided to check the download stats on the various versions of the Bristol F2B and received a few surprises.

FS X version - first released on 2 Feb 2007 - Total downloads of Part 1 - 5,108
FS 2004 version - 1st released on 18 Feb 2007- Total downloads of Part 1 - 1,835
CFS3 Version - First released 30 March 2006 - Total downloads (11 mths)- 6,103

I was really surprised at the CFS3 version numbers. However the CFS3 version stats are for 11 months. It will be interesting to see how the FS versions fare after a similar period of time. Almost half the downloads of the CFS3 version are from Simviation with Sim-outhouse a distant second. Also the best month for downloads of the CFS3 version at Simviation is the current month. Thus the FS versions have brought renewed interest in the CFS3 version.

I am really pleased that the FSX version has exceeded 5,000 in less than 3 weeks though downloads are definitely slowing down, and in the case of Avsim to a trickle.

These figures are very useful to me as an indicator of interest in WW1 Aviation and also show that interest in CFS3 is certainly not dead and will help plan future projects. It would be difficult to translate the above to payware success, as many variables would be involved and probably less than 10% of those who download a freeware aircraft would pay for it. In the case of CFS3 probably very few indeed. Of course a modern 'tubeliner' would attract 10 times the downloads but would require a significant team to produce.

Food for thought :)


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Virtual aircraft creation...... some ruminations.

Continuing from my previous post - a major factor in deciding new projects is the availabilty of appropriate reference material, both visual and technical.

When it comes to WW1 aviation we are fortunate enough to have Windsock magazine and Windsock Datafiles & specials published by Albatros publications. Most datafiles have an 'in detail' section many of which are invaluable when it comes to fuselage internals, cockpits and small fittings. There are other resources around too which I'll touch on in a future post.

However there are many vintage early vintage aircraft that do not have any known internal details at all. There is no known reference anywhere. Thus comes the vexing question do we model these using similar aircraft as a reference and create an artist's impression of what the aircraft interior may have been like, or do we not model them at all. Artist's impressions are commonly used in other areas of historical illustration so why not aircraft? Some of the attitudes in FSland are paradoxical. Many 2D panels out there are pure fiction yet are highly regarded so why not virtual cockpits? Indeed some aircraft creators have left the hobby because they feel they can't create suitable virtual cockpits. Cockpit creation is somewhat demanding and time consuming so this is perhaps understandable.

My own philosophy and attitude is that if there are no known references and one has enough information from similar aircraft then an artist's impression is permissable, provided it is made known that the cockpit is an artist's impression. There are a few ancient German aircraft that I am considering which fall in this category and probably a few British. However I am always amazed once I start a project on the information that becomes available. This situation also applies to aircraft that existed as designs only such 'Luft '46'. Plausible researched artist impressions are valid endeavours IMHO. How else would one represent them?

Additionaly creating virtual aircraft doesn't yet have the 'cred' that creating a hires 3D model for rendering, gathering material for a painting or creating a superdetailed scale model, would have. At least outside the FS communities. You should see the look on people's faces when I tell them I've been spending much of my time creating virtual aircraft..... absolute lunacy.... why would you want to do that?... Tell people about 'payware' aircraft and then observe the look of incredulty on their faces..... who'd want to buy an aircraft for flight simulator?.... what's a flight simulator? .... what's payware? What's this dude been doing? etc. Thus I observe that other researchers and artists are less forthcoming when it comes to assisting virtual aircraft designers than if they were seeking research information for a detailed scale model or a painting. Attitudes will change hopefully as MSFS slowly gains recognition as a development platform.

Anyway available reference material is a significant determining factor in deciding what to model. While I am covered for most WW1 types that I am considering, material for the period 1919-1938 is incredibly difficult, at least when it comes to cockpits. Then the question arises how much time and money does one spend trying to track references down?

On top of visual reference material comes technical reference material, usually in the form of aircraft manuals and pilots notes. Again many are difficult to track down especially prior to WW2.

At times it's almost a 'Catch 22' situation. One can spend hours and days sourcing reference material only to find that it is unlikely that there will be sufficient to simulate the aircraft in question. So deciding which aircraft to research is important also, if time (and money) is a consideration. One has to decide early in the endeavour whether a project would be worthwhile pursuing.

So I do find it a little bit frustrating that there are some wonderful historical aircraft that I am unlikely to be able to create to my satisfaction. The material probably exists somewhere in a collection, company archive, museum or government records somewhere in the world but would be costly or incredibly time consuming to research. Those who grumble about the cost of payware aircraft...... they're really getting a gift given what they cost to produce both in terms of research, books and the time taken to create the aircraft. Add-on aircraft for Flight Simulator are the ultimate 'loss leader'. If it were not for the passion of their creators they would not exist at all.

Having said the above I do enjoy the research side of this activity and have gradually aquired a small library in the process. At the same time do I take the easy path and move to more modern aircraft for which data is readily obtainable? Decisions, decisions.... ruminations right enough.... ;)

Hopefully Microsoft will be successful in getting the MSFS series accepted as a platform and not just a simulation game. I also hope that MS will expand their simulation series with the return of CFS. Hopefully next time around CFS will model aircraft systems and allow the creation of new animations and also employ the same set of SDK tools used as used for Flight Simulator.

Perhaps, in the future, virtual aircraft and scenery creation will come to be viewed as a valid endeavour rather than the passion of eccentric enthusiasts. Though I would add that a touch of eccentricity possibly helps ;) .



Looking ahead......

After the intensity of finishing off both the FSX & FS9 versions of the Biff I am having a bit of a break from serious aircraft creation. I'm still doing a bit of research & reading, visiting my meshes already started and maybe a bit of skinning, in otherwords dabbling, but only when I feel like it.

I'll resume working on the Snipe sometime in the next two weeks. I face the challenge of instrument lighting in the FSX Snipe and have a number of strategies that I want to experiment with. I also hope to simulate fuel management in the Snipe once I have a clear idea of how this worked in aircraft such as the Snipe. Additionally I would like to program and animate a blip switch in the FSX Snipe and also chocks, so that it doesn't race forward when started. Ideally it would be nice to have an animated groundcrew swing the prop but that might just be a bit too ambitious at this stage and would add to the poly count. In the interim I might skin the external model which was mapped back in October. If I decide to continue with a CFS3 version, I'll also have to make the lods at some stage, very necessary in a CFS3 aircraft, and of course damage modeling for that version too. Needless to say the FSX version will be first. I have not planned a FS9 version at this stage as that will involve a lot of work.

After the Snipe?? Well that's a $60,000 question. The great unkown to me is the time I will have available for these activities this year, combined with my desire to go 'payware' at some point. Unfortunately payware aircraft, even if successful, are not enough to both pay the bills and put food on one's table.... at least not WW1 aircraft or warbirds. There are many many aircraft that I would like to do so I will have to choose wisely. Of course if I won lotto or was otherwise richified I'd devote my time to making virtual WW1 aircraft with the occasional foray into aircraft of the 1920's & 30's and jet aircraft of the 1950's and '60's..... the occasional chopper maybe too. I've also received some feelers about doing 3D work on commission. In the meantime I am searching for work in my normal vocation (finance/admin) and things at long last are looking promising there, so I'll have a lot less time for all, this if successful in my normal vocation.

In closing this post I must say that it has given me enormous pleasure to see people really enjoying the FS version of the Biff. It is certainly more rewarding to model for Flight Simulator than CFS3 for a number of reasons. There is no systems modeling in CFS3, as in FS, nor the ability to create new animations. CFS3's convoluted aircraft container file system makes extra demands on modelers (the reason some of the FS Biff improvements are not immediately flowing back to CFS3.... maybe after I've had a break.) However it is the customer satisfaction combined with the people who have taken the time to say thanks that make aircraft creation for FS far more rewarding.

Thanks to all the people who've taken time to thank me.



Biff to appear on 'Igromania' DVD

The Russian PC Games magazine 'Igromania' contacted me for permission to inlude the FSX Bristol Fighter on their cover DVD and, of course, I was happy to give them such.

It will appear on the March 2007 edition cover DVD.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

FS9 Biff on Sunday

I'll upload the FS9 Biff's either to Sim-Outhouse or Avsim on Sunday AEST (GMT+10). I was going to wait until I had set up my new website, but that looks like it will be a big job.

I'll post the links in the morning.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

FSX Biff uploaded to Simv & a mystery at

I've just uploaded the FSX version of the Bristol Fighter to Simviation. Hopefully it should appear there within the next 24 hours.

I was going to do likewise at and lo and behold it was already there. The phantom uploader strikes again! This has happened to other people also. There's no point in requesting its removal as I would have to upload again. However I will drop the webmaster at an email and let him know.

Part 1 of the FS9 version of the F2B will be uploaded to this morning. (Not taking any chances on someone else uploading). The other parts will be uploaded as I complete them. Actually it is with reluctance that I release an FS9 version. Definitely not as nice as the FSX version. I'm not the only designer who has encountered this problem with FS9.

It will be interesting to see how download numbers of the FS9 version compare with FSX... just over 3,000 of the base package to date between Avsim & Flightsim (just over a week). Downloads at Avsim of the FSX Biff have all but stopped. Interestingly the guys at Avsim forums who whinge at the lack of freeware 'native' FSX versions of addon aircraft have yet to notice the 'Biff'. I would say there appears to be a very low awareness and interest of WW1 aviation all round compared to Airliners and WW2 aviation. We'll see how things are after the FSX and CFS3 Snipe is released. I am not making any definite plans for anything else at this moment.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

FS 9 Biffs......

........ will soon start rolling off the production line. I have been doing some work on the FS9 (FS2004) version this weekend.

I have to say after doing the FSX version the FS9 version is something of a comedown, primarily in the cockpit area. The Biff was designed with CFS3 in mind and the limitations of the FS9 export tools were not known to me. This is very noticable in any cockpit round parts..... instrument bezels etc.

If I were designing for FS9 from the outset I would have adopted a different approach and made more use of textures. Anyway we have to move on and FSX is the way forward so that's where most of my focus will lie in the future.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Download links for the FSX Biff

The Bristol F2B for FSX is now available from Avsim.

A few people have downloaded it already and the initial response has been enthusiastic.

Thanks again to everyone for their comments. I must say it gives me a great buzz to see people enjoying something that one has created.

A Sopwith Snipe will still be produced for FSX and hopefully CFS3 and will still be freeware.

Well as they say..... on with the show. We'll see what the coming months bring.



Biff for FSX uploaded to Avsim.

Yep at long last... the first 2 of 4 parts uploaded to Avsim. They should appear in the next few hours. Off to bed..... it's late.



Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Hopefully the FSX version of the Bristol Fighter will be uploaded to Avsim tomorrow. Other sites will follow in due course. In the meantime a couple of preview pics.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

And another couple of days........

Yep.... still not released :D

I've created another 9 skins for starters, giving me 10 all up for the initial releases. Initial releases? Yep I've created some variations on the visual model so there will be more than one download when it is released.

I've finished all the skins and can see a few bits and peices to fix up and also make some minor changes to virtual cockpit textures. Next up is a new config file and putting all this together.... after that check everything out in sim and then if ok.... release. Whew!!! (After that a break.... various things will flow through to FS9 and CFS3 all in due course.... there's a lot to this aircraft creation business.)

until then



Wednesday, January 24, 2007

FSX Biff update... almost there

What I had initially intended to complete for the FSX Biff is now complete. There was a delay of a couple of days due to code for the fuel selector switch not doing as I wanted. This morning I dropped the approach used by MS for their fuel selectors in FS2004/FSX and coded my own from scratch. It does what I want when I want.

Presently I am doing a few skins and minor visual variations. So hang on it may take a couple of days more :)



Monday, January 15, 2007

'Biff' Almost X-ified

The FSX version of the Bristol Fighter is almost complete and should be released sometime this week. I have just a couple of cockpit animations to figure out and we're there. The tedious job of converting all the LOD models is complete. I may create a couple of new skins I have in mind time permitting.

The mdl files are some size. The mesh of the external model for all 3 sims, FS9/CFS3/FSX is almost the same yet the CFS3 m3d weighs in at 3+ MB while the FSX mdl is 14+mb. The fsx vc is 13+ mb. Needless to say the download files will be large. I'll probaly release other variants seperately.

Anyway here are a few more pics. (PS.... check out the bump mapped leather combing..)