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FSDS or Gmax ?

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Before I start on learning to design aircraft for fs2002 I would like to know which of these is a) easier to learn :( best resultsthanks John

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John, the first question is easy to answer. FSDS is easier to learn, but not by much. With Gmax you need to learn and understand several key features (e.g. the use of modifiers and the modifier stack). Gmax has some excellent tutorials to get you started. In my opinion the enormous power and the elegant user interface that Gmax has is well worth the slightly steeper learning curve. As for results, I think that if you are contemplating a complex model with a sophisticated and detailed virtual cockpit, then Gmax is by far the best choice. Just one example: in a VC it's important to be able to view the model effectively. Gmax has a superb view system. For example, in the perspective view just select an object, hit the H key and now your view is focused on that object, and you can rotate your view around it. FSDS has nothing like that. Again, you can do modelling in the perspective view (I tend to use it more than the tri-views), while this is impossible in FSDS. Gmax is 90% equivalent to 3ds Max, which is a top professional modelling system. If you give it a chance as you progress up the learning curve, then most likely you'll like Gmax a lot. And the power it puts at your fingertips is amazing. Best regards, Chris Wright

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the learning curve in gmax is STEEP. it's the reason i purchased fsds. after about a week and a half i've got my first model almost ready for distribution.i do plan to go back to trying to learn gmax simply because i've heard rumors that future versions of fs will be gmax only. in my opinion gmax aircraft do not look any better than fsds...just my opinion.

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Chris,Many thanks for your insight into these two programs.The learning curve of Gmax does not put me off, I just want to learn one and needed to know which.I have had some problems getting gmax to run on my system .. mainly problems with the view ports no refreshing and system hangs.I am sure I can overcome this. P4 1.5Mhhz 384MB Ram , Dell Demension 8100 system running XP.I think I will get started on the learning curve.John

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I downloaded Gmax a few weeks before FS2002 came out. I worked through the basic tutorials. Looking back, I don't recall any particular difficulties - and I'm no genius! I think some people run into difficulties if they try to do aircraft design the next day after starting with Gmax. I would recommend spending at least a week working through the basic tutorials. With Gmax you do need to learn some new concepts such as the transform gizmo and the modifiers. But once that becomes second nature then the rest is pretty easy. I really don't think it was significantly more difficult to learn than FSDS. It may be that the far greater complexity of Gmax gives the impression of a steeper learning curve, but I think it's misleading. Much of the power remains hidden - until you actually want to use it. And, as users become more expert, they will want to use it! On the other hand, many Gmax functions are similar to FSDS, such as moving, rotating and scaling objects (in fact I assigned the same key commands for those functions as with FSDS). FSDS is an excellent program. But - given that the user is sufficiently motivated to get to grips with the basics - the power, elegance and ease of use (yes, really!) of Gmax leaves FSDS far behind. Bearing in mind that its effective price is, say, twenty dollars, Gmax is also an amazing bargain! Best regards, Chris

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John, good luck! And, just as important, have fun.... Just one warning. I've found few problems with Gmax itself - but it's another story with the export process. Sadly Microsoft have done a pretty poor job with the exporter/makemdl. I think many people get error messages that are completely spurious, and are probably caused by bugs in the software (not Gmax). But the fact that many great Gmax aircraft are appearing now (I'm looking forward to the Gmax versions of the DC-3 and the Pilatus Porter) shows that these relatively minor problems can be overcome. Best regards, Chris

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Hi John, I find FSDS to be far easier than Gmax. While Chris has been most helful to me in my Gmax struggles, I think he is one of the lucky ones to grasp the program so readily. I respectfully disagree with his assessment that much of the power remains hidden until you need it. I find the extra features of Gmax (most are never used for flightsim) clutter up and confuse the work space and make it hard to navigate to just the features that you need. In addition there is no clear documentation from either Gmax of Microsoft to effectively and cleanly produce a working model in FS2002. I'm no genius but I'm no dummy either. Gmax baffles me with all of its hidden rollups and jargon. FSDS while less feature rich, is far more straight forward and designed BY a flightsimmer FOR flight simmers. Gmax is trying to be the one stop shopping for ALL 3D game modeling. Davewww.daviator.com

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Hi, Dave! This discussion will run and run, I guess.... I hope you don't give up on Gmax. I'm sure most of your questions can be answered - remember the one about the cylinder/tube? I still think that if you keep trying it will suddenly 'click' into place, and then it'll seem fairly easy - and enjoyable as well. Anyway, good luck! Best regards, Chris

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Hi Chris, It just wouldn't be any fun without me jumping in and slamming Gmax now would it? :)Seriously, I put some effort into one of my converted models. I even attempted to texture one of the parts (a wheel) by following Milan Lisner's tutorial. I was doing OK until part two then I was completely lost. I see now why so many Gmax modelers show of their projects in screenshot form with no textures. I could get the texture on the side of the part but for the life of me I could never figure out how to A) resize it and :( get it on the other side as well. and C) stop it from repeating itself around the wheel itself.Dave

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Dave, I understand your frustration with texturing. I had exactly the same problem at the start and I know others still do. Initially I couldn't do something as basic as having a different texture mapping on different sides of a cube. I know there are tutorials on the subject, but I found my own method. I think it illustrates a point I've made in the past: that there are several key Gmax concepts that do need to be understood. Perhaps the most important is the modifier stack. I assume that by this stage you have added some modifiers and seen the stack. The modifiers affect the object starting at the bottom of the stack and working up to the top. This means that a modifier cannot be affected by one above it - but a modifier can be affected by the one below it. I'm going to refer to two modifiers, the UVW Map and the Mesh Select. To achieve the effect we want we'll add a Mesh Select modifier and a UVW Map immediately above it. You use the Mesh Select modifier to select any polygons you want. Having done this, the UVW Map will apply only to the polygons selected by the modifier below it. Let's say we want to apply a different texture mapping to two sides of a cube.1. Create a cube with 3 segments on each side, then open the Material Navigator, choose a texture and drag it onto the cube. Now the cube shows the textures.2. Add a UVW Map modifier to the stack. By default the modifier applies to the whole cube. Open it and click on 'gizmo'. Now you use the gizmo to move and scale the texture on one face of the cube until you're satisfied. Of course you can also rotate.3. Now we want to adjust the mapping on another face of the cube. Add a Select Mesh modifier (right at the top of the list), open it and select polygon. Click on all the polygons of the face so they are selected. You can now close the modifier, it will remember indefinitely the selected polygons.4. Add a UVW Map modifier. Because it is directly above the Mesh Select modifier, the UVW Map applies only to those selected polygons - which is precisely what we want!5. Adjust the UVW mapping as required. Note that only the textures on the selected polygons change. Mission accomplished!6. Well, let's just try something else. Add another Select Mesh modifier. On the same face of the cube, select just a single polygon, and close the modifier.7. Add another UVW Map modifier. You will see that now it only affects a single polygon, while the surrounding polygons keep their mappings from the previous stage. This is something completely impossible in FSDS (as far as I know, anyway). I used this to correct mirror-imaged text on the fuselage, a common problem. I selected just the polygons that carry the text and created a new mapping. By rotating the texture (by means of the gizmo) through 180 degrees I de-mirrored the text so it appeared correctly. I know it sounds complicated, but the underlying principle is simple: that a modifier can be controlled by the one immediately below it. As I said, the modifier stack is a key (and probably unique) Gmax feature. I'm quite sure people have problems because they haven't got to grips with it. To wrap up, and to add a little humour, last night I thought of an analogy for the modifier stack. Imagine a tower that is built from a series of rooms built on top of each other. The rooms are connected by a lift. Each room is filled with a crew of monkeys who have been trained to perform a specific modification on the object. There is a camera on the roof of the tower. The object enters the tower at the bottom. When it is taken to the first room the monkeys perform their modification. It is then taken to the next room up for the next modifications. In this way the object visits each room in turn. Finally the object appears on the roof of the tower and the camera takes its picture. The picture is what you see. There's one remarkable feature. Of course, it was you who trained the monkeys (by manipulating the modifiers). If at any time you change the training of any set of monkeys (i.e. you manipulate an existing modifier), then the original object is immediately passed up the tower again and another picture taken. You immediately see the change. Does it make sense? When you're trying to understand the modifier stack remember the monkeys! In the case of the cube, at any time you can go in and change the mapping in a particular UVW Map. Even more remarkable, you could even change the polygons that a particular UVW Map modifier applies to. As I said, it sounds complicated as it needs lots of words. But once you understand the stack and the basic functions of modifiers then it becomes very easy (trust me!) And I think you will agree that when the bridge is crossed (and the learning curve climbed!) the texturing power it gives you is pretty amazing. Once again, good luck! Best regards, Chris

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Dave, I just re-read your post and noticed the problems A,B and C! I assumed you were able to manipulate the mappings.... A. Resizing. This is crucial. I assume you selected the object and opened the UVW Map modifier okay. In the modifier, click on the plus to open it and then click on 'gizmo'. On the object the texture is represented as a yellow square (or rectangle). Click on X, Y or Z in the modifier to get a basic positioning. The square has a standard transform gizmo (the three coloured arrows). I assume you have used the transform gizmo to move, scale and rotate objects. Well, you can do precisely the same to the rectangle - and as you do it the texture on the object changes. So if you increase the size of the rectangle the texture also expands. This gives you precise control of the mapping: position, size and rotation.B. By default the texture will appear on both sides of the wheel. Maybe the steps in the tutorial stopped this from working. Ironically, the usual problem is to stop this happening, as by default the texture covers the entire object!C. Hopefully the method I described in the first post fixes this. You use a Mesh Select modifier to define which part of an object the mapping applies to. I think many replies in forums assume a certain level of expertise. For example, in my first post I assumed you were familiar with the transform gizmo, which is one of those fundamental Gmax features. But of course that was just an assumption. If you weren't familiar with it then part of it wouldn't make much sense! By chance I was thinking about this yesterday. I have actually started to write a detailed tutorial (oh, no, not another one do I hear you cry?) But it is aimed at the first time user of Gmax - and FSDS users as well! Many tutorials are aimed at specific methods of aircraft bulding and already assume the user is an expert at Gmax! For example my tutorial gives a detailed description of the transform gizmo and how to use it. It also covers the modifier stack. Would you be interested? Best regards, Chris

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Hi Chris, There is no such thing as too many tutorials. I tried to gear my FSDS tutorials towards someone who had done the very basic tutorials that came with the program or had at least figured out the difference between point, polygon and part mode. I did not employ advanced techniques. I think this is one reason they were quite popular.BTW, FSDS 2.0 is getting closer. Thanks, Dave

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hiThanks to everyone for their thoughts .. There seems to be a good debate one who prefers what.Apart from the learning curves for each program.. in your opinions if someone was to learn FSDS would the end results be as good a gmax?after all we are striving to produce good results, so, I will go with the program that delivers the end result.Maybe you would link to an example of an aircraft designed with your prefered program to demonstrate the end product.ThanksJohn

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John, You can certainly get excellent results with FSDS, Dave's Stearman being an excellent example. Two of my other favourites are the Pilatus Porter PC-6 and the Visser/Rambo et al DC-3 series. They show what can be done in FSDS. But....new versions of both of these are eagerly awaited. And they are both done in Gmax. There must be a reason for this, as they had to invest time in learning the new system. Also, the DC-3 always suffered from a line along the top of the fuselage that looked quite bad in some lighting conditions. One of the design team stated this was due to a problem in FSDS - though I'm a little sceptical, as many other FSDS planes didn't have this problem. I designed two planes in FSDS and both suffered from disappearing polygons in FS when viewed from some angles. The same planes imported into Gmax had no such problems at all. Also, a texture line along the fuselage in FSDS always looked crooked, while in Gmax it is perfectly straight. So my experience is that, yes, Gmax does work better in terms of quality. Also I have heard that Gmax-designed planes/scenery have better frame rates, though I can't vouch for that. You can do texturing operations in Gmax that are impossible in FSDS, such as many different mappings onto the same object (you can place a texture onto a single polygon if you want!) Again, in Gmax animation is far, far easier and you can animate movement as well as rotation (in FSDS you need an add-on animation program, Aircraft Animator - I hated it as it was so limited and it kept forgetting the settings so that I had to repeatedly set up the animation axes). You also have to pay extra for AA. Gmax may have performance and other advantages over FSDS because Microsoft didn't provide the necessary information to Louis Sinclair, FSDS's creator. However, I don't see this as a major advantage of Gmax. As I said, the results with FSDS can be very good indeed. But the trend is toward more complex aircraft with virtual cockpits. I simply couldn't imagine doing a complex VC in FSDS for a variety of reasons. To take just two, Gmax allows you to model in the perspective view and provides powerful support for this mode, probably the best one being the ability to click on an object and make it the focus of your view. The perspective view in FSDS is very limited and you certainly can't do modelling in it. The other reason is this: in FSDS you have to choose an object from a list in order to select it. That would be a nightmare in a complex VC. In Gmax you simply click on an object to select - couldn't be simpler! Gmax is like all professional tools. The learning curve is steeper, but the results make it well worth it. Best regards, Chris

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Picking Nits:In FSDS, by setting View-->View PArt Axis, you can then click on the part axis to select the part.Granted, if several parts share the same axis point (as when you copy/paste and invert polygons so as to make an "interior") you'd have to click on the "same" axis point until you get the right part selected. Gmax' "click on anywhere in the part" to select it is more convenient.Chris - another very good statement on gWax (Now Lou has me saying it!)>John, [...]>> The other reason is this: in FSDS you have to choose an >object from a list in order to select it. That would be a >nightmare in a complex VC. In Gmax you simply click on an >object to select - couldn't be simpler! >> Gmax is like all professional tools. The learning curve is >steeper, but the results make it well worth it. >> Best regards, > Chris >>

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In answering the original topic:I know this is sorta contrary to most peoples view, but I find myself to lean towards FSDS more than Gmax.I can provide my reasons why (this is just my personal opinion obviously):First off, I really think adding TRUE shine to an aircraft is a great leap foward with FS design technology, but for some reason I really do not feel very convinced with the FS2002 shine effects. I think with a really nice paint job, an FSDS aircraft looks alot better. I suppose the next version of Flight Sim should be right on the money.Second, I find I can organize my thoughts better using FSDS, I mean, after so many years I got used to "searching foward" for a part rather than just click it directly. It actually forces me to really break down an aircraft and disign even minute parts seperately, then it's just a matter of putting it all together at the end.Third and main reason I'm against Gmax is that it seems to have something against my computer, it's always freezing. And I find that to be a real motivation killer.Don't get me wrong, I think there are a few features in Gmax that really are interesting, just not enough to convince me. For example, the "on site" animation is wonderful, but the fact that Gmax animations will appear sketchy in FS2002 is a real turn off to me; I'm all about crisp animation.So all in all, I guess I still consider myself to be a FSDS user...I suppose that puts me in the "ol schoo" category of designers.:)Thats just my two centsLee

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I would say that FSDS has one or two functions that are either better than or missing from gMax, due to it having been designed by a flight sim person with flight sims in mind. FSDS is also probably a bit easier to get to grips with initially. Finally there's much less to learn in total in FSDS, so after a point it's really down to how much effort you put it to what results you get rather than 'oh I never knew about that option!' moments. And judging by the end result of many designers a lot of people do put a lot of effort in! With SDLEdit you can produce a wider range of animations than you can with gMax.However gMax models are much more frame-rate friendly than models produced using the current version of FSDS and models with detailed enough textures so that you can see it is happening often exhibit wobbly distorted lines (I expect both of these will change with FSDS v2). Once you know how to use them, gMax will give you better access to modifying your geometry with better snapping, selection and cloning tools. Animation is infinitely easier in gMax than it is in FSDS+AA or FSDS+SDLEdit. Added to that there are a whole range of tools to do all sorts of things. gMax does have a steeper learning curve and also there's much more to learn, but go through the tutorials systematically and you'll find it isn't as hard as some make it out to be.Overall I'd say that at the moment gMax (if you know the software) can give you better quality results and can produce them in less time. FSDS is easier to learn initially, and if you want to do really complex animation then you can do more in FSDS+SDLEdit than you can in gMax. Of course that may change as new versions of gMax and FSDS come out.Have funFinn

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Felix, I meant to mention that but I didn't. I think it would help in relatively simple cases, but my VC is seriously complex, probably more complex than any one I've seen so far (it includes the passenger cabin and animated crew/passengers). In this case I don't think making the axes visible would help - possible the reverse, for two reasons. 1. It wouldn't be at all obvious which object a given axis belonged to. 2. The addition of all the visible axes would make the view even more cluttered and confusing. Of course, using Hide helps a lot - but first you have to select the objects! Click-to-select is a feature I'd certainly expect to see in any future version of FSDS. Best regards, Chris

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>Second, I find I can organize my thoughts better using FSDS, >I mean, after so many years I got used to "searching foward" >for a part rather than just click it directly. It actually >forces me to really break down an aircraft and disign even >minute parts seperately, then it's just a matter of putting >it all together at the end. It actually sounds as if you're saying that click-to-select is a disadvantage! Don't forget that in gWax (oh, God, now I'm doing it!) you can also select from a list, just like FSDS (hit the H key or click on the icon with text and an arrow). Gmax also supports heirarchies (groups, links etc) Although very useful for animations etc, it also allows you to organise the design in a logical manor. The list has an option to show heirarchies, which is great for 'seeing' the form of your design. In particular, if you organise your design into groups and sub-groups etc, that structure is shown clearly in the list.>>Third and main reason I'm against Gmax is that it seems to >have something against my computer, it's always freezing. >And I find that to be a real motivation killer. That's a real shame. I've found Gmax to be very reliable, apart from the Material Navigator. I think the weakest link in terms of reliability is the exporter/makemdl. Here's a genuine (and amazing!) tip about the Material Navigator which will reduce the number of crashes: never open the Material Navigator on a Sunday. Really, I'm not joking.... Best regards, Chris>

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I agree with your points 1 and 2 - and that's why I indicated "picking nits". I find the "click the part to select" feature in gWax better.All in all, I've found something to like about all the design programs - each, as it comes out - has shown something "better" than the one preceding. >Felix, > I meant to mention that but I didn't. >> I think it would help in relatively simple cases, but my >VC is seriously complex, probably more complex than any one >I've seen so far (it includes the passenger cabin and >animated crew/passengers). In this case I don't think making >the axes visible would help - possible the reverse, for two >reasons. >> 1. It wouldn't be at all obvious which object a given axis >belonged to. >> 2. The addition of all the visible axes would make the >view even more cluttered and confusing. >> Of course, using Hide helps a lot - but first you have to >select the objects! >> Click-to-select is a feature I'd certainly expect to see >in any future version of FSDS. >> Best regards, > Chris

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