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Geofa

Autogen-thoughts and another 180-thoughts

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When fsx first came out-on my at the time 3 year old computer I found I got better results running without autogen. This allowed the new high res textures to show their full glory and except for a little atmosphere lost while on the ground seemed like a good compromise.When I upgraded my system a year ago which now allowed me to run autogen full-I experimented and found while I liked the trees that the buildings just looked a little too sim city/legoland like for my taste. I came up with a compromise of turning the buildings down and the trees up-and thought I was somewhat satisfied-though I still really deep down felt the autogen looked "cartoony" compared to rw looks which is all I am interested in.The last couple of weeks I have been working on my first fsx mission (thanks to flight one's easy to use instant mission maker) which I am very excited about-a tour of a beautiful area of the country I have flown in along with some rw lessons on how to fly the Baron. One of the objects of the mission is to fly to a place called "cinder cone".This is what it looks like in real life:Pretty hard to miss from the ground or from the air. With Tileproxy it is there in all its glory.Therefore I found it frustrating when designing my mission and wanting other simmers to see this that I got this:Now I know the "generic" textures of fs can't ever convey reality-but this was quite serious... it threatened to ruin my mission.After days of not being able to "find" an easily found rw landmark I turned off autogen completely and got:Interesting.... even though it doesn't resemble the coloration or variety real nature provides-at least I can make out the crater and shape and even the beginning of the hiking trail that goes to the top of it..Then I started thinking about the new Megasceneryearth ... how the Utah scenery look magnificent but my area of Michigan seemed not up to par.Then I started looking at the autogen...Take a look at Megasceneryearth Utah with and without autogen:Without autogen-every building , rw structure, and rw bush/tree is there and the reality is good:and now with autgen enabled-looks a little bizare if not phony:Now I went to my area of Michigan-here is a rw shot:and now the Megascenery earth:Now what looks out of place? Could it be the autogen!: Notice the megascnery has every real tree in its real spot-what looks weird is the arbitrary autogen buildings and trees....and perhaps even the neon color that doesn't match the graduations of real trees/color?!You might say-well this is an issue only with photoreal scenery. I would submit that the generics also suffer from this-as my first two shots show. Add the way autogen only fills out a few miles past your cockpit view with a dismal flat beyond-and I am once again now becoming an autogenless simmer-not because of performance but for looks-but 3x performance is also pretty nice..I am after reality of what the view looks like in the air. I will be the first to admit that while on the ground the trees, and even buildings give an airport an atmosphere in the sim.But once in the air-the only thing that comes to my mind is "cartoony", not real, 3x loss of frame rates, an non reality.With the photoscenery having higher and higher resolution, a greater availability, and the 3x performance increase even on a machine that can handle full autogen now,I think I have come 180 degrees back to not using it at all. Yes, I will miss the looks on the ground-and yes in the sim there is always a compromise when trying to recreate reality, but after all-we want to leave the ground as soon as possible and fly-and for me there is a much less compromise having the looks for the majority of the time (flying) in the sim looking real vs. the minority of the time on the ground looking real.I'd like to have both-and hopefully fs11 with come up with a solution-but I am back to autogenless and enjoying it hugely!!

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Welcome back to natural. Recently, I like to fly in mountains and I zoom out to 0.3x. The result is quiet amazing. Here are two pictures:canada1zp9.jpgcanada2wp5.jpg

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I'd like some autogen trees and distant buildings to materialise just when I'm on the ground, so it doesn't feel like an airfield in endless grassy plains. But once in the air, photoreal textures without autogen win every time.However, have you tried the Orbx scenery with autogen? It does, to my eye at least, look more realistic.

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I'm a big fan of photoscenery. England, where I mainly fly has a very rich, dense landscape, with almost no truly wild areas. It's something you cannot easily replicate with generic scenery tiles, and the default FSX "harvesttime" patchwork of fields looks completely unrecognisable. (I call it 'harvesttime' because it almost is that colour for about two weeks over Harvest, although still to a much lesser extent than FS would have you believe). We're also very lucky in that a very nice colour-corrected photoscenery has been available for the whole country pretty much from day one.It's hard to go more than a few miles here without there being some feature in the scenery that's commonly used as a VFR reference point, whether it's an Iron Age hill fort, or an ancient chalk hill carving, to more modern artefacts such as townscapes or disused WWII aerodromes etc (draw a 10 mile by 10 mile box almost anywhere in England and the chances are you'll find the bones of at least one, and frequently more disused aerodrome. They are all common visual references for flying) Default scenery of course shows none of this, nor does UTXE, although it does a good job of 'representing' towns, roads, coastlines etc in more detail. Even so, natural features are still harder to spot when covered in generic textures - much like your cinder cone.Autogen, in the generic scenery, has one purpose IMHO, and that's to hide as much of the underlying texture as possible. However in the context of the real landscape, it's often inappropriate to what's actually there, both in style and substance (e.g. British farm buildings/houses/factories don't look like that, we don't have 300ft tall oak forests, and so on). The England/Wales photo scenery doesn't come with autogen, although there is user-designed autogen available for download. And this is very good, mainly because it is hand placed and uses a lot of custom objects. A little goes a long way, and having 3d representations for things like TV masts (which can be 1500+ft high), power stations, refineries, wind farms etc gives much more of a feel for the landscape than 5000 pseudo-random trees.Good colour corrected Photo scenery wins out over the default every time. But add some sparse but well thought out 3d objects into the landscape (whether they are autogen or specimen scenery objects) can add immensely to the experience. I'm less convinced when it comes to uncorrected images, as with TileProxy and MSE, but even so, I believe they are a step in the right direction.

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There are a lot of problems with all the screenshots, Geof, and the comparison with your pictures of the real thing just highlights them.The so-called "Cinder Cone" reflects the insufficiency of generic textures and default land class file that are incapable of reproducing specific landmarks. But, that is an easy fix, and all it takes is a little bit of design work to obtain a much better depiction. If you indicate the exact coordinates, I might give it a try.The photo-real ground textures show various problems. First of all, the authors really need to spend a lot more time on color work, correcting and improving the overall cast, contrast, and brightness of their source images. That ground is washed out and has incorrect colors. They could also try sharpening the image for better definition.As for the autogen placement, which is your principal issue, this really depends on how much time and effort the developers are willing to spend on the design process. It is possible to place every single tree and building on its exact location on the ground so as to avoid that dispersed appearance, but this takes a lot of work and is very tedious. So, perhaps the autogen placement is at fault.On the whole, though, I don't share your concern about autogen, and find the trees at least to be very realistic, much more so than in FS 9. And unlike so many others, who think the trees are too tall, I find the sizes to be completely realistic - perhaps most users of FS don't get many opportunities to really fly and observe these details from the air, but trees do often tower above buildings so the size of autogen is not wrong.Best regards.Luis

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As for the autogen placement, which is your principal issue, this really depends on how much time and effort the developers are willing to spend on the design process. It is possible to place every single tree and building on its exact location on the ground so as to avoid that dispersed appearance, but this takes a lot of work and is very tedious. So, perhaps the autogen placement is at fault.
Luis:Is there a way for the non-developer to create his own custom autogen layer to go with a photo scenery product? I have looked through the SDK and not found my answer yet...also looked at the description of Instant Scenery and didn't see anything that could accomplish this task.Regards,Tim

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Look in Microsoft Flight Simulator X SDK\SDK\Environment Kit\Autogen SDK. Annotator is your chap. :(

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There are a lot of problems with all the screenshots, Geof, and the comparison with your pictures of the real thing just highlights them.The so-called "Cinder Cone" reflects the insufficiency of generic textures and default land class file that are incapable of reproducing specific landmarks. But, that is an easy fix, and all it takes is a little bit of design work to obtain a much better depiction. If you indicate the exact coordinates, I might give it a try.The photo-real ground textures show various problems. First of all, the authors really need to spend a lot more time on color work, correcting and improving the overall cast, contrast, and brightness of their source images. That ground is washed out and has incorrect colors. They could also try sharpening the image for better definition.As for the autogen placement, which is your principal issue, this really depends on how much time and effort the developers are willing to spend on the design process. It is possible to place every single tree and building on its exact location on the ground so as to avoid that dispersed appearance, but this takes a lot of work and is very tedious. So, perhaps the autogen placement is at fault.On the whole, though, I don't share your concern about autogen, and find the trees at least to be very realistic, much more so than in FS 9. And unlike so many others, who think the trees are too tall, I find the sizes to be completely realistic - perhaps most users of FS don't get many opportunities to really fly and observe these details from the air, but trees do often tower above buildings so the size of autogen is not wrong.Best regards.Luis
Luis-that is exactly the point I am trying to make. The entire world is way too varied, multi colored (even the trees and vegetation), and full of subtle graduations that a "generic" set of textures just is never going to make it. True-someone can spend a great deal of time on a small area and perhaps get a "credible" though never exact rendition. I am interested in the outside world of the sim resembling exactly what I see from the air-not giving me a general generic feel good feeling.In my 3rd shot-every tree and building is in the exact place it should be. If you look at the photoscenery (which by the way this is not their best representation and is more washed out than their other areas ) there is still more graduation in the colors of the trees than there is in the autogen trees which look strange sticking on top of it in random areas. The shot is of a school my son attended-and after dropping him off I navigated to it by sight and did a fly over of his dorm. I can do that in the rw-but was unable in the sim till photoscenery like this came out.However, my post was not meant to debate the photoscenery to generics (which I also have an opinion on), but that I just find autogen reduces reality in the sim in all areas but on the ground.Mentioned above-I agree that autogen was invented to partially cover the blurry ugly ground textures-that is until fsx when these textures were finally sharpened. I also agree-this is needed while tied down on the ground or low to the ground. By turning up the scenery complexity slider I still have buildings at airports and major metropolitan areas-I wish I could turn the trees on only while on the ground and below 1000 ft. which add nice atmosphere while on the ground and approach to an airport-or buzzing an area.Once in the air though-none of this looks real anymore to me. Buildings and trees just don't "stick" out like that. With the addition of Gex, or photoscenery I find the look is much more realistic from a few thousand feet up without it on. Besides-the autogen starts getting smaller and at that point just covers the textures. Seems kinda wrong to me to reduce the resolution of the high quality textures by covering them with low quality autogen.In my example of the cinder cone-I found it remarkable that in an area I am very familiar with I could not find a basic landmark which is depicted on a vfr chart-until I turned the autogen off-and that is with generics-not photo scenery. The autogen was covering the reality-shown in shot one. This isn't the first place this has happened. Yes-the generic textures still don't match the real world colors-but at least one can find the geographic feature with the autogen turned off.Seems to me as a flight sim-we should be able to find basic landmarks. If this problem was just confined to one area I'd agree with you-but it isn't-and it is a big world to go around trying to "fix" all these problems.I've gone from not using autogen, to using it for a year, and now it going to be turned back off.I also sure like the performance increase...Luis-Thanks for the offer on doing cinder cone-someone is already doing it so I will be able to remove that stumbling block from my mission. They are also helping me with the airport which had autogen trees placed so one could not takeoff without hitting them ( a whole other problem with autogen).Petraeus-yes I have one of the orbx titles. It is excellent and I think pushes the generic technology to its limits.Best,Geof

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It also depends on how you fly. The last few years I've only flown small GA aircraft, never flying higher than some 4500 feet and mostly looking outside. Of course what I saw wasn't pretty. The default textures are quite horrible. Luckily autogen made things look a bit alive and/or more real.At first I was happy with UTX. I could follow the roads with a map on my lap! Nice! But the textures and autogen were still horrible of course. The proportion just wasn't right. After that I was very happy with OrbX Blue: it looked great. The autogen was looking pretty and in the right places. But the repetitive textures started to annoy me. Wherever I flew, I saw the same things...!Then I discovered GenX VFR England and Wales. I had to turn of my beloved autogen. Wow... Once you were up in the air it looked... REAL! The forests, flat as the were, looked like REAL forests! And there wasn't a repetitive texture to be found in the whole country! Everywhere you looked it looked great! I didn't miss the autogen at all. You can download home made adjusted autogen but it really spoils the realism! Ever since I bought this addon I didn't fly anywhere else but in England and Wales: generic textures and autogen were finished for me. Something from the past. Pity it looked like crap when on the ground...!Now, after those GA years, I started to fly the MD-11, up high in the sky. While England and Wales are more than big enough for GA VFR flights, it's not much when you are flying the MD-11. So I started to fly above generic textures again, with autogen on! Most certainly! Because on the ground autogen looks GREAT! And when I take off I am too busy with all the systems to be looking outside. I'm at about 6000 ft or something before I do take a look and by that time (and of course when I get higher and higher) textures and autogen are of no concern anymore.So:1. autogen is great when on the ground.2. autogen can be nice for GA VFR on generic texures.3. autogen doesn't really matter when you fly the heavies.4. autogen sucks big time on photorealistic textures, even when alligned manually.

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There is no doubt that the autogen is very noticeable as compared to the ground, but the cause is not necessarily as clear as believed. What is evident is that the ground is washed-out and has the wrong colors, and many people are willing to accept that since it is a photographic representation and therefore much more realistic. But, see what happens when the colors of the ground texture are corrected. I have cleaned up the color cast and modified brightness and contrast in order to more closely resemble the picture of the real thing.The color correction took about 30 seconds. The autogen trees have the same color as on the uncorrected ground, but now almost completely blend in and are much less noticeable. So, perhaps the cause of the problem is not the autogen trees, but the uncorrected ground colors.Here is another correction for the Utah shot that reduces the blue cast and brightens the image:All of this leads me to the following:1. The autogen trees are based on pictures of the real thing. Their size is varied and always absolutely realistic, as can be verified in any vegetation database. So, it is difficult to fault the trees or find them unrealistic.2. There is a certain carelessness and lack of attention to detail in many add-ons, including scenery. It is surprising that so many users are willing to pay money for them.3. Perhaps this shows that most people simply do not have sufficient knowledge and so cannot see the very basic problems with these add-ons.4. But, it also demonstrates a very real desire among users for a much more realistic world in FS, one that, unfortunately, cannot yet be represented because of the lack of adequate source material. We had this discussion before, Geof, during the beta testing phase, and things have not changed - it is still impossible to find good aerial images for most of the world, or even large parts of the the U.S. (Florida swathed in clouds.)In the end, if you prefer to fly without autogen, then that is all that counts, since Flight Simulator is meant to be enjoyable for each of us.Hello Tim (Hughes),As Tim (Arnot) mentioned, if all you want is to change the type and/or location of autogen on any photo-real scenery, then please see the Autogen Annotation Tool (Annotator) in the Autogen S.D.K. I don't know what you mean by "non-developer" since much of what add-on developers do can be done by just about anybody quite easily. Certainly, you can annotate ground textures without problems.Unfortunately, there is no user manual for the Annotator, but a dedicated member of this forum has put one together. Search for Using the Autogen Annotator in either the Avsim library or the FSInsider site. The best part of the tutorial, I believe, is that is contains (very small) screenshots of just about all autogen trees and buildings, making their selection much easier.It is very important to choose the correct vegetation and buildings when annotating. For example, another user mentions that he finds the oaks too tall - in fact, there are many choices among the oak trees and smaller trees can, and probably should, be placed in those instances.If you want to make your own custom (photo-real) ground textures without waiting for some commercial product, then try another tutorial by this same person in the Avsim library: Make Photo-Real Ground Textures in FS X . It is very easy to do and you might even make better textures than those for sale.Best regards.Luis

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Those colors do look much better Luis-nice job!The autogen trees still remind me of those plastic ones that used to come with lego years ago sitting on top-buildings much, much worse but that is my opinion. You are correct the coverage for photoscenery is uneven right now-no question about that.But again, my initial post was not about the merits of photoscenery so much ,and more that I feel we are at a transition time where autogen is actually doing more damage than enhancing reality at flying altitudes-and that is with the generics!I would have posted more generic shots where this is an issue but it was late when I posted. I may do some compares when I get done with this mission of the 3 types of scenery-real/photo/generic with and without autogen.If I can't find a major volcano because of autogen, and I can't see the new high res textures fsx is capable of because a bunch of low res autogen objects sit on top of it, I see interference with an increased reality that fsx is able to provide from the air.My question would be-why have the new high res textures fsx is capable of if we are just going to cover them with lo res autogen objects? We might as well go back to the lower res textures of fs9 in that case.As mentioned, I like the autogen on ground level. Get above 1000 ft. and it looks pretty nasty to me. I've tried using it for a year and I just don't like it. I am miffed that I spent 3 days trying to locate something that should have been easy :( If I get permission I'll post a pict of my the new volcano by the way-it looks incredible! :-)When I saw it today-it suddenly looked...real! :(

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....All of this leads me to the following:1. The autogen trees are based on pictures of the real thing. Their size is varied and always absolutely realistic, as can be verified in any vegetation database. So, it is difficult to fault the trees or find them unrealistic.....Luis
I disagree with your statement about the autogen tree size. I haven't messed around with the autogen SDK, so am not sure how the tree sizes appear in those editors, but inside the sim the trees definitely are rendered too tall -- quite often 100, even 200 feet.

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I disagree with your statement about the autogen tree size. I haven't messed around with the autogen SDK, so am not sure how the tree sizes appear in those editors, but inside the sim the trees definitely are rendered too tall -- quite often 100, even 200 feet.
Please do take a look at the Autogen S.D.K. and you will find that there are much smaller tree sizes available, all the way down to a dozen feet or so. Therefore, the problem is not that autogen trees are too tall, but that the wrong size trees are placed in certain locations. This is very easy to fix, simply load up the Annotator and change from very tall to medium or short trees, as desired.Best regards.Luis

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Hi,Well, I too have done away with autogen. I did purchase the $7.50 tiles from Megascenery (shame on me), primarily WA state. Just cruising around looking at the ground I was not that impressed at first, but after turning AG on and off a few times, I have finally settled in on NO Autogen. I do agree with Geoff about the cartoonish nature. Now, I don't know why I was so hung up on having it on. I truly am enjoying life with out it. No withdrawels either LOL. The big plus for me is that it saves FPS and allows me to turn up the AI traffic and clouds. So I am a happy camper. I fly primarily the FSX Carenado Mooney with the HRez cockpit and must say I have found a GA that I really do enjoy. I can even fly the SR22 now even though the frames are not up as much as I would like, it is liveable. I use MYTraffic and am very pleased with the product as I can have 400% more traffic for the same FPS discount that the default gave me. I told my wife, well honey, I am now perfectly happy with what I have now in the Flight Sim. She responded with a rolling eyes event follow by a Uh Huh. No I really am, honest. Oh look a new plane................ to be continued........RegardsBob G

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Hello Luis,As developers we'd like to point out a few problems with your assumptions and clear up any misconceptions of how we care about a product.

The color correction took about 30 seconds. The autogen trees have the same color as on the uncorrected ground, but now almost completely blend in and are much less noticeable. So, perhaps the cause of the problem is not the autogen trees, but the uncorrected ground colors.
First of all colour correcting a single image might take 30 seconds but we'd probably spend more like 5 minutes on that single image. We've noted that in your first shot the scenery is too dark and the whites are now grey. In the second attempt the land is now green and the whites are now green. Both of these look worse than the original product.We deal with hundreds of thousands of images covering a huge area of land. To practically grade every area is prohibitive so we go for the best we possibly can. A lot depends on the source images. Time of day, time of year, cloud cover, reflection, quality of the image where joins occur. All of these variables are out of our control. We can say that our final product is significantly better than the original images.
All of this leads me to the following:1. The autogen trees are based on pictures of the real thing. Their size is varied and always absolutely realistic, as can be verified in any vegetation database. So, it is difficult to fault the trees or find them unrealistic.2. There is a certain carelessness and lack of attention to detail in many add-ons, including scenery. It is surprising that so many users are willing to pay money for them.3. Perhaps this shows that most people simply do not have sufficient knowledge and so cannot see the very basic problems with these add-ons.
We'd like to address each of these points to inform and educate.1. The photo scenery is also based on the real thing. I'm sure you'll find the trees and ground textures have all been corrected for FSX so that they blend. Also, when the altitude is increased FSX introduces a blue cast over the images to simulate haze/depth at altitude. The higher you go, the more the ground will appear to have less contrast. Try it. View the same image at 100 feet and 10000 feet. So it's important to take this in to account.2. What we observe a lot of the time are comments on a wide range of issues that are not based on any fact. There are always compromises when developing for a game of this magnitude. There are hundreds of different technical issues to deal with that are "behind the scenes" that an end user doesn't know about, nor should they. So when comments are made they are not made from the perspective of fully understanding the process and its limitations. I'm sure you'll find that every developer puts an enormous amount of time and energy into a product. It's also encouraging to find that developers do this given how small the market is. Not many, if any, are going to make a lot of money out of this. A lot of this is driven by passion rather than financial gain. If people do make money then there should be no shame in that. You'd be surprised just how much it costs to get a product to market as well as the ongoing costs.3. We think that a lot of people appreciate what developers do for their hobby. Some products may have problems, others not, but that's not to say a user doesn't get enjoyment from it. Payware or freeware the drive is still there to produce a great end user experience.So I hope this clears up any concerns on the part of people thinking that any developer doesn't care enough for their product. We all do. We all work with the many limitations in FSX. We all try to produce the best possible product based on what we can afford and what we can source.

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