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DTG Martin

What do you want from an SDK in DTG Flight Simulator (Official Discussion)

Dovetail Games SDK Player Poll (Official)  

46 members have voted

  1. 1. Have you ever personally used the SDK that is included with FSX?

    • Yes, I have used the SDK
    • No, I have not used the SDK
  2. 2. If you have used the SDK, what did you use it for?

    • I have not used the SDK
    • I used it for my home cockpit setup
    • I used it for livery creation
    • I used it to create my own aircraft
    • I used it to create my own airport
    • I used it to create a mission(s)
    • I used it to modify the data in FSX
    • I used it to modify the content in FSX
    • I used it for something else
  3. 3. Have you ever created any freeware content for FSX to share with the community?

    • Yes, I once created some freeware content for FSX
    • Yes, I regularly create freeware content for FSX
    • No, I have not created freeware content for FSX


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Greetings virtual pilots,

 

Welcome to the content creation/modding thread! When we announced DTG Flight School and DTG Flight Simulator one of the very first questions that we were asked was “Will there be an open, publicly released SDK?” Since that day you have not stopped asking us this question, so we completely understand that being able to create your own content is extremely important to the flight simulation community.

 

From professional developers producing the well-known add-ons that we all love, to the bedroom developers, there are loads of you who spend your free time creating liveries, missions, aircraft, airports/airfields and other freeware and payware. We recognise that flight simulation would not be what it is today without the hard work and dedication of content creators, and we fully intend to continue this tradition with Dovetail Games Flight Simulator.

 

We also recognise that technology has advanced substantially since the FSX SDK was released with FSX Deluxe back in 2006. Ten years ago the modding and user generated content (UGC) scene was a lot different from how things are today. Over recent years we have seen modding and UGC move into the mainstream across both PC and consoles. More and more titles are now arriving with comprehensive editors and tools, while services like Steam Workshop make it easier than ever for players to share their content.

 

We know the needs of livery creators are very different from the needs of sound pack creators; that the requirements of mission designers are not the same as airport creators. Over time, we fully intend to provide content creators with the tools that they need in DFS, however in order to do this to best of our ability, we have a few questions we need you to answer:

  • Why do you want an SDK?

  • What exactly do you currently use the FSX SDK for?

  • What sort of content do you create with it?

  • What does your workflow look like?

  • Are there certain things about the current SDK that annoy you or that you wish were different?

  • Would some sort of scripting tool or editor be more useful to you?

  • What third party tools or software do you use with the SDK? Photoshop, Blender 

The more you can tell us, the more we can understand how to make the content creation process more enjoyable for you! 

 

- Martin 

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AI and ATC access.  To me, the most frustrating thing about the FSX (and P3D) SDK is how closed this part of the product is.

 

i think the single most important thing in this respect would be the capacity to 'be asked' which runway should be used for an AI to depart or arrive on.  Even if nothing else changed, this would allow a huge improvement in managing AI traffic at busy airports.

 

I write my add-ons in C++.

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Up to date modelling plugins for not only 3DS Max, but support for blender as well. That'll make sure bedroom modellers will have access to a powerful, but free 3D modelling package. No expensive subscriptions to 3DS Max required.

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AI and ATC access.  To me, the most frustrating thing about the FSX (and P3D) SDK is how closed this part of the product is.

 

i think the single most important thing in this respect would be the capacity to 'be asked' which runway should be used for an AI to depart or arrive on.  Even if nothing else changed, this would allow a huge improvement in managing AI traffic at busy airports.

 

I write my add-ons in C++.

 

Hi Bryn, 

 

Thank you for getting back to us. What sort of add-ons do you make? 

 

When you talk about AI and ATC access is that for you own person use in the sim or is that part of your add-on creation process? Could you please give a practical example of when this has been an issue for you? Being able to understand what it was you were trying to achieve and the problems you faced would be really helpful. How in an ideal world would you like to see these barriers addressed? 

 

- Martin 

Up to date modelling plugins for not only 3DS Max, but support for blender as well. That'll make sure bedroom modellers will have access to a powerful, but free 3D modelling package. No expensive subscriptions to 3DS Max required.

 

Hi Jess, how goes things? 

 

When you say pluggins do you mean simply a import/export function or something deeper than that? Is it just Blender or are there other programs out there that you think there should be support for? 

 

- Martin 

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Hey Martin,

 

Hopefully more than just importing and exporting. The current P3D sdk for example has support for 3DS Max from version 7 up to 2015. There are tools for amination in fs, along with cloud tools, attachment points, shader tools and Export LOD stuff. If that could feature for blender it would be fantastic.

 

As for other modelling programs. Support for Sketchup would bring an army of new modellers in as its so easy to use, and it's easy to expand with thousands of plugins to enhance the basic package.

 

AC3D would be great as well. Easy to use, cheap at just $90 iirc and X plane developers love it.

 

Then there's unity which is free to non enterprise users, and could like Sketchup encourage new creators into the system.

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Hi Martin,

 

I'm hoping to get fully behind this new DTG release.

 

I would like to know the file structures, if not fully explained at least the data structures would be a great help.

 

Surfacing all SimConnect functions, not just to .NET would be handy.

 

Best regards

Steve

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Surfacing all SimConnect functions, not just to .NET would be handy.

 

 

Hi Steve, thank you for getting in touch. Could you give a practical situation or an example to demonstrate how this could be helpful? 

 

It always helps to have some context. 

 

- Martin 

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Some FSX A functions are only exposed to .NET languages, so I'm hoping that trend doesn't continue with the new sim.

 

If it's all via managed in future then so be it. But FSX originally made things simple in SimConnect with the C++ header, then Acceleration upgrade exposed a few items to managed only and hence made things a little more awkward.

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+1 on all Jessica's comments about modeling tools. Basically look at what's in the FSX/P3D 3dsMax gamepack and that's the functionality needed.

 

I'd like to suggest taking a look at Fusion360 as well. It seems much easier to use than Blender and has a freeware license for hobbyists.

 

Besides ATC and AI, the Weather API's need to be massively improved to allow for a third party weather engines to do their jobs, instead of the uber-hackery that Active Sky has to perform in order to inject weather properly.

 

A good replacement for FS2002 ground polygons please, which allows for proper materials settings.

 

It would be great if tools like resample, shp2vec, bglcomp etc work as they do in the FSX/P3D sdk's so they can work with existing tools such as ADE and SbuilderX. Please also talk to the folks at fsdeveloper.com, people like Arno Gerretsen and Jon Masterson and see if they can get the tools they make to work with your SDK. That would be a tremendous jump-start. The same thing with payware tools like Instant Scenery.

 

Are you thinking about doing anything new in the area of gauges programming, or will we continue with XML code? What about flight dynamics, can I continue to use AirWrench or will you be changing the airfiles and aircraft.cfg formats?

 

To answer some of the OP questions:

 

- I use Photoshop, Gmax, would like to use Blender

- Other tools I use: For scenery Gmax, SbuilderX, ADE, ModelConverterX, Instant Scenery. I've dabbled in aircraft development and used Gmax, Airwrench, ModelConverterX

 

Since SbuilderX is no longer maintained, it would be interesting to see if terrain tools could be integrated with a free GIS tool such as QGIS.

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One other thing: Lighting!! For example doing nice lighting at an airport is absolute misery. I'd like to see light objects where you can configure the color, brightness, cone and other properties and they actually cast light on the ground and on other 3d objects, and that fade out properly at a distance, and otherwise have correct physical properties.

 

For 3D modelers, using the attach tool to add and configure lights attached to an object would be fine I think.

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Thank you for getting back to us. What sort of add-ons do you make? 
 
When you talk about AI and ATC access is that for you own person use in the sim or is that part of your add-on creation process? Could you please give a practical example of when this has been an issue for you? Being able to understand what it was you were trying to achieve and the problems you faced would be really helpful. How in an ideal world would you like to see these barriers addressed? 

 

I write my own add-ons (and some simple freeware as well, like approach code bgls, and a weather radar using the ASN API).

 

Here's an example of a problem I think could be overcome easily with some small additions to the SDK.  KSEA has 3 runways, but because most of the traffic areas from the eastern sector, and the terminals are on the east side of the airport, 34R/16L is used for almost all of the AI traffic.  To get around this, some AFD designers have used various complicated tricks, but it's still very sub-standard, and you end up with outrageous congestion on the single runway.  Centre runways are also never used.

 

If simConnect polled for whether I wanted to set the runway for each aircraft when it came time for DTG-FS to choosing their departure or arrival runway, I could assign a runway using my own algorithm.  Everything else could remain exactly the same (ATC, taxi algorithms, etc), and you'd get a pretty good improvement in traffic realism.  If you extended that to choosing the approach type, or runway intersection for departure, it would be even better.  To me, this does not seem like a complicated proposition.  The program is already doing it automatically (I've spent some time trying to nail down exactly where this happens, without much luck) - all I'd want is a check to see if I want make the choice for this aircraft, if null response continue with the stock choosing algorithm.

 

Opening up the ATIS for writing the runways in use would be also handy in this context.

 

Finally, allowing access to ATC commands might also be really handy.  Rather than taking over an AI and writing a waypoint for the AI to fly to (as the current simConnect allows), it would be great if we could just issue an ATC command to the aircraft.  If you expanded the number of ATC commands available, even better.

 

AI and ATC addons have been few and far between, mainly because the SDK tools have not really been there to do anything particularly impressive.  But I think there is considerable interest in these types of addons - many users love just setting up an airport with traffic and watching it.  So small modifications in the SDK in this area could make the program considerably more interesting and realistic for them.

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AI access, especially in the context of ATC. Currently trying to build (yet again) a better ATC experience. And I understand why not much has "stuck" - you essentially have to scratch everything that's built in and do it all from the bottom up, using crude methods to do so.

 

* EDIT: Allow easier access to terrain elevation data: ATC (all of them, from approach control to enroute centers) have [this is simplified somewhat] a "minimum vector altitude" chart/display. FS seems to try to do something here but it's crude. Even adding the MSA values from the approach charts would be something. Still crude but saves me from having to do it. Having this data would save a ton of time. And it does't have to be exactly the same as they use in the real world. Again, MSA values from the charts would help - storing them so I can just read the values from the data files...

 

A scripting engine would be nice but not necessary. Nice, for simple stuff and perhaps testing during development, but too limiting performance-wise.

 

Ask your programmers what they would want.

 

I wouldn't bother making tools: if you expand, and document!, the SDK then those tools will be made by third parties. Which, I guess, is the point of it all.

 

Jeff

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Hi Martin.

 

If you really want to see the scope of developers for FS9 and FSX (all of whom would be interested in Flight Simulator development) You need to visit fsdeveloper.com. Hundreds of developers of both freeware and commercial FS projects. It is the primary resource and community for FS9 and FSX developers. You should probably post there for insight into the community needs for Addon development.

 

Dick

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At a minimum, we need all the tools and functionality of FSX SDK. If the familiar tools of resample, shp2vec and bglcomp are used, then scenery can easily be created (perhaps SBuilderX could be altered to accept any new variables used by those apps). More transparency to file structures would be appreciated. Then we could develop better tools. 

 

Blender has been mentioned as an alternative to 3dsMax as a means to create models, and that would be an excellent idea. Again, more info on file structures would allow toolmakers to develop Blender plugins if Dovetail cannot.

 

Concerning models, it would be great if we have conditional display used. This is absent from FSX scenery objects, but it's inclusion for all objects would be great for Flight Simulator. I understand this is not an SDK concern specifically, but a core principle of the display engine.

 

Dick

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One other thing: Lighting!! For example doing nice lighting at an airport is absolute misery. I'd like to see light objects where you can configure the color, brightness, cone and other properties and they actually cast light on the ground and on other 3d objects, and that fade out properly at a distance, and otherwise have correct physical properties.

 

 

Absolutely!

Nothing ruins the look of any carefully designed airport more than aircraft and GSE sitting darkened in what is supposed to be a pool of light beneath a ramp light. The effects for lighting an aircraft were in FS9 and FSX, and were quite apparent when illuminated by lightning, but unsupported in Gmax.

 

As Rhumbaflappy mentioned, whether for freeware or commercial usage, any meaningful discussion of a well thought out SDK should be addressed at FSDeveloper.com which is where the majority of Flight Sim developers have cut their teeth for over a decade.

 

Regardless of the features and capabilities of any DFS SDK, the chances are high that most people who are using the SDK are going to learn how to install, configure, and use it at FSDeveloper.com.

 

Just sayin'.

Gman

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  • Why do you want an SDK?
  • What exactly do you currently use the FSX SDK for?
  • What sort of content do you create with it?
  • What does your workflow look like?
  • Are there certain things about the current SDK that annoy you or that you wish were different?
  • Would some sort of scripting tool or editor be more useful to you?
  • What third party tools or software do you use with the SDK? Photoshop, Blender

 

 

I want an SDK because I want to create content for the new DTG Flight Sim...

 

I use the FSX SDK to create content for FSX, specifically aircraft models. If they're good enough I'd like to release these models to the FS community freeware libraries.

 

My workflow looks like a lot of jumping around from plans, photos, books and magazine articles until I've got a proper idea of what I'm trying to build, then a lot of work modelling, mapping, animating a particular model with a great deal of trial exports to see what the thing looks like in FS in collaboration with a painter. Coding will come later.

 

Things that annoy me about the FSX SDK are although it's the best SDK produced for any version of FS, it's targeted squarely at people who already know what they're doing; although quite comprehensive, it's rather haphazardly organised and there are whole areas like flight modelling which are simply not documented. Someone reading the FSX SDK is met with a raft of what really cool things Simconnect now includes and talk of EventIDs and Simulation variables. The beginning modeller could do with a plain guide to starting out instead of burying New Aircraft Procedures away in Environment Kit/Modelling SDK or making airport placement as clear as mud. Nobody's pretending this can be made primary-school simple, but some thought to direct the new developer towards a useful workflow would be a plus.

 

The FSX flight modelling is still not documented except by third parties: that cannot be acceptable for any future flight sim. This isn't rocket science, but it runs pretty close and to leave us to guesswork, random trials or resorting to voodoo is in nobody's interests. BTW, a properly developed turboprop section of the flight modelling would be a big plus.

 

A scripting tool or editor which checked coding syntax and typecasting in animations or systems would be a real help compared to FSX and avoid long frustrations from a missing or surplus space/parenthesis or catch us trying to divide a boolean by 7 and couldn't get it to work?

 

I used to use Gmax for modelling and now use 3ds Max: it's an old version but as a hobbyist it doesn't cost me anything more to keep on using it. If a DTG SDK toolset only supports the latest version of 3ds Max (now 2017) you will kill off the hobbyist potential immediately: it costs £186 per user per month. Gmax is no longer an option, so you have to support a lower-cost or freeware modelling tool to bring in the learners and small-time freeware developers who will produce the future PMDGs and Aerosofts of the FS world. For graphics I use Photoshop CS4 – 'nuff said. None of these are easy to learn, but we're trying to simulate aviation, not join-the-dots drawing. Simple tools just can't produce the standard of work the simmers are looking for.

 

You'll get many pleas to make your SDK as simple and easy as possible – please instead try to make it as comprehensive as possible, updated as thoroughly as possible when new features are introduced and consider date-stamping the entries so we know what's been changed and when.

 

A really good SDK makes third-party add-ons much easier. Better third-party add-ons attract more customers. More customers buy more copies of the sim. That's business.

 

 

And thank you for asking!  (plus there are lots of actual developers at FSDeveloper.com – these are the people you should be asking)

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Yes.

 

We need as complete and comprehensive SDK as possible. We need 'transparency' from DTG in that you should deliver file format information and as many tools as possible for content creation. Don't worry that some topic may be too complicated. We seriously have hundreds of geniuses developing scenery, and one or two will figure it out and deliver the info to the rest of the crowd. This is exactly how we have been discovering and disseminating development techniques since the earliest of Microsoft's FS series

 

Also. To really invest in this topic on an SDK, we right now need to know how much of Flight Simulator will be based on FSX file formats, and exactly how much latitude and protection will developers have concerning ownership of their content creations. We also need to know how those content creations are to be included in the sim. For example are they to be submitted to Steam or Dovetail, or can we upload to libraries such as AVSIM? Can we sell our creations without the need for Dovetail approval or compensation to Dovetail?

 

Without these answers, few serious developers will venture into the process. We want to know in what we are going to invest our time and money. Given enough 'transparency' from Dovetail, and assurances that it will be worth our while, an EARLY and comprehensive SDK will allow developers to quickly bring content to Flight Simulator. Addon content = user enthusiasim. This was the reason Microsoft's Flight failed. No addons = no enthusiasim.

 

Dick

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I want all the third party developers to talk to each other and hire a conference room for a week.

 

Simple things really like agree where you will dump exe and dll xml entries instead of dumping them in both program data and app data.

 

If your going to use .Net or visual stop blaming each other like we have now.

 

And finally agree to stop releasing thing with out testing them Together like aerosoft and gsx scenery issues..

 

Activesky work with dovetail to get rid of wake issues on finals and windshield, so that means inviting Pete dowson fsuipc to the conference room too.

 

I know youre all Hungry to take our money, but Ohh I can but dream sowe dont have another 10 years of tweaking and headaches

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Hi tooting,

3rd party development does not necessarily mean payware. Nor does it simply mean aircraft and scenery object modelling, mesh development, sounds, skies and clouds, and water. A great deal of 3rd party development is in the tools and utilities such as Airport Design Editor, Model Converter X, and Static Aircraft Model Maker to name just a few.

 

While it is a fact of life that innovation usually happens outside of the box, developing for flight sims has no hard fast rules, different people try different techniques to get their creations to perform as designed. Sometimes groundbreaking improvements are discovered, sometimes not, because everyone's system, hardware, and other addons installed are all different and it is virtually impossible to optimize for every possible combination. Working smoothly on 7 out of 10 computers is great for 7 out of 10 simmers, but there have always been those who had to find workarounds to get this or that running.

 

Just as many developers now include wide aspect ratio cockpits, perhaps if more addons were configurable, users could tone-down or spool-up according to their own capabilities, especially scenery addons.

 

It is important to remember that many potential 3PD's of DTG's new flight sims may have never used a flight simulator. Guys who are now 18 and active in aircraft modeling for FSX (and producing some spectacular work) were 8 years old when FSX came out. It is important that they will have expert advice and the development tools which were designed by the 3PD's who have blazed the trails ahead, passed along the hard won information they have gathered, and programmed user friendly utilities for accomplishing many tasks which were formerly difficult for the beginner to medium level developer to perform. 

 

I am afraid that asking for all 3PD's to gather in a conference room is like asking all simmers to have the same computer, OS, and addons. On the other hand, that conference room exists virtually at FSDeveloper.com where meetings on all aspects of flight sim development are in progress 24-7...the Sun never sets on the FSDeveloper.com empire!

 

Cheers

Gman

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Hey Martin,

 

Hopefully more than just importing and exporting. The current P3D sdk for example has support for 3DS Max from version 7 up to 2015. There are tools for amination in fs, along with cloud tools, attachment points, shader tools and Export LOD stuff. If that could feature for blender it would be fantastic.

 

As for other modelling programs. Support for Sketchup would bring an army of new modellers in as its so easy to use, and it's easy to expand with thousands of plugins to enhance the basic package.

 

AC3D would be great as well. Easy to use, cheap at just $90 iirc and X plane developers love it.

 

Then there's unity which is free to non enterprise users, and could like Sketchup encourage new creators into the system.

 

Thank you Jess. There are so many modeling programs out there. 

 

Does anyone else use one that we might have missed? 

 

- Martin 

Hi Martin.

 

If you really want to see the scope of developers for FS9 and FSX (all of whom would be interested in Flight Simulator development) You need to visit fsdeveloper.com. Hundreds of developers of both freeware and commercial FS projects. It is the primary resource and community for FS9 and FSX developers. You should probably post there for insight into the community needs for Addon development.

 

Dick

 

You Sir are a genius. Thank you. 

 

- Martin 

One idea that we are currently considering is taking certain key aspects of the SDK and separating them out into dedicated tools within the sim. The two areas we are thinking about to start with would be a mission creator and livery editor. This would allow anyone who has the sim to use the tools through a graphical user interface to easily create missions and liveries. These could then be shared via Steam Workshop. Over time we would look to introduce new tools and expand the content that could be shared via Workshop. 

 

What do you think of this idea? We feel that this could be a great way to get more people started with modding and creating their own content. Over the years that follow we could add to these tools, slowly building towards a comprehensive in game editor similar to the one found in Train Simulator. The editor could replace many of the third party tools needed to create UGC at the moment and vastly streamline the process. The flip side of this is it would take time to implement all of the functions in an editor system. This means that not everything is going to be in place day one. 

 

What do you all think of this idea? In the short term it would limit what content could be created in DTG Flight Simulator, in the long run it would greatly increase the scope of what could be created, and open up the process to anyone who wanted to give it a try. 

 

- Martin 

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The two areas we are thinking about to start with would be a mission creator and livery editor. This would allow anyone who has the sim to use the tools through a graphical user interface to easily create missions and liveries.

 

This is great. :smile:
A powerful tool with a graphical intuitive user interface will be able to include many more users (with less computer skills). The goal must be that such a tool does not limit your creativity.

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Having in sim editors for livery and mission creation is a perfectly acceptable means of introducing the casual simmer to making their own content , the professional developer would be using Photoshop CS and working on sets of liveries and likely would make little use of these particular tools.

 

FWIW , the method LM used for SDK  access and distribution has been a model of utility and comprehensiveness. If that paradigm is followed you will have no complaints from myself or the people I work with.

 

The area where there are likely to be disconsolations is distribution, as it is the remuneration is such we only " sell " to steam that which has been thoroughly marketed before in all the other platforms, as long as the current margin exists the product selection available to Steam users will be somewhat dated,   

 

C Jodry   

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For my $.02 on the "in-sim livery editor," I don't think that's a good idea, for several reasons:

 

1) For it to be anything more than "Choose overall color" and "Enter text for Aircraft Registration ID," you will have to duplicate Photoshop functions like Layers (to preserve rivets and other surface details), vector graphics tools (for curved shapes), and so on. Anyone who understands enough about graphics editing to make a halfway decent-looking livery already has Photoshop or an alternative like GIMP.

 

2) If you leave the livery creation to people who already have the tools, and provide an easy distribution method like Steam Workshop, you will have higher quality liveries for the initial plane releases. First impressions matter. I don't think it would help to flood the Workshop with a ton of badly done or just too basic-looking liveries from a limited in-sim editor.

 

3) The most important reason not to do this (IMO) is the opportunity cost in not working on other areas of the sim like sky and weather effects, clouds, the ground textures, etc. Every programmer hour spent on an in-sim livery editor is work that isn't going into something else.

 

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Hi Martin.

 

I would also not recommend in-simulator tools. Far better to just provide tools and info as the Lockheed-Martin P3D, and provide a bit more info as to file structures. We have plenty of tool makers. We just need the basics to build on. I'm guessing you're still using resample, shp2vec, bglcomp, the 3dsMax toolkit. Just pass those along as they were in FSX or P3D. As a group, we'd rather not spend time back-engineering. If you release tools and info over time, that's exactly what would happen. I think Raimondo Taburet has already done this with Flight School scenery, and is selling some addons... Share what tools and info you have and the developer community will quickly develop products (both commercial and freeware). And addons will drive more sales for the simulator.

 

As far as mission-building goes, I believe you had Jim Keir on staff for Flight School, if so, you do have the expert. If he can get a comprehensive in-game mission builder going, it certainly would work.

 

Dick

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I have used SDK together with Airport design editor to create new airports or modify default airports. (for my personal use).

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