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User Friendly Scenery Builder Are we CLOSE?

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I have seen many tools for FS2002, but most of us only have a limited knowledge of many of the tools. Some require several others to even attempt to construct a scenery. I for one would like to see a program that would gather USGS or other data for a defined area and allow editing adding mising roads Lakes or other features prior to compiling.I have found many but most are frustating, and some have no documentation.Wouldn't it help to develop a list of known programs and what they can or can not do, or say for example one wants to add up to date land coverage transportation or hydrography to each one degree tile, what programs are best to acomplish this. I downloaded E002VTP, which I thought would do what I was looking for but, nothing documentation wise of what to do. This only adds to the frustation. I think it is fantastic that many take the time to make the tools, and make most of them free for one to use, but with no documentation to most of us they are of little use.My $00.02! Richard;

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As someone who has quite a bit of experience in this area, here are a few comments of mine :)I think most people that design freeware scenery builders, do so for themselves at first. Eventually, they decide to share their work with the community.Developers usually enjoy their work, but hate writing documentation. Most freeware developers that I know, release minimal documentation, and hope that some enterprising user will take it upon himself to go a step further.Perhaps a commercial vendor will come along and fill the gap, but I doubt it for the following reasons:Firstly...These kinds of tools have very high development costs. Even more importantly, they appeal to a much smaller percentage of the Flight Sim community, as opposed to aircraft and scenery packages. As a result, there is a much smaller commercialware profit margin.Next....Supporting these types of tools is typically much higher (per user) than for packaged scenery or aircraft sets.High development costs + high support costs + lower sale volumes = Bad business decision.The creation of freeware development tools is usually done by those that enjoy doing it. When the enjoyment stops, so does the development and support. I would bet that there are several nice scenery building packages that have been created by Commercial vendors. However, they realize that it is not in their best interest to release them to the public (either as freeware or payware). For them, it is much better to sell the finished products (aircraft & scenery), then to have to sell and support the scenery builders themselves (not to mention that they would also be hurting their own business). IMHO, the best thing that could happen to the FS world, would be for more interested user(s) to help out the freeware developers with improved documentation and support issues.Just some thoughts on my part. Perhaps others have differing views. Cheers,Allen KriesmanTerramodels For Fly II

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Allen;I agree, some users are rather proficient inassisting with documentation. I think TerraScene for Fly is a fantastic program for example, too bad their is not a simular version for FS2002. Most programs I have found have good documentation, while a few have none at all leaving one at a loss as what to do with it.Richard;

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Hi Richard.Although this isn't what you've asked, it is related.. seeing as you've brought up TerraScene. :)Terrascene can produce an image from freely available "shapefile" data.The Targa image from TerraScene can easily be converted to a 24-bit Bitmap. Along with the Targa image, Terrascene produces a small text file with the reference latitudes and longitudes of the image.You've already been able to produce 'pseudo-photoreal' scenery by using this image with resample. I assume you want to reduce the scenery size by using LWM and VTP lines and polys.===============In another post, I described how I take TMFViewer screenshots, and use them in Christian Fumey's Ground2K program. This program can easily use a bitmap-converted TerraScene image ( and it's georeferencing ) as a background image ( template ) for drawing VTP and LWM lines and polys.The rendering of the Terrascene image doesn't really need to be at 4.8 meters/pixel... it could be anything that still gives a decent map image... say 15 or 30 meters/pixel. And you don't need to be worried about the ground textures, as they will be just a template or map for Ground2K. This should greatly reduce the size of the bitmap needed.==============Ground2K does have a bit of a learning curve... but the BGL production is fairly automatic... just draw roads, shores and polys, save your work often, and click the compile button when you want a BGL to test in FS.It isn't automatic SHP2BGL, but it is straight-forward to use. Once you get used to the interface, it is very natural ( for me , anyways ), and VTP and LWM creation becomes fun. It takes just a few hours to create a complex LWM-VTP scenery with great detail for an LOD8-sized area.. or larger.Your drawing skills don't need to be sharp, as you're just tracing shapes and lines... and you'll find most lines in FS are pretty blocky or angular, so a lot of detail isn't needed for any one LOD13 Area ( most lines are just 1-3 points per Area ).Dick

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Just to try to clarify - I can use Terrascene to produce its usual accurate roads and coastlines. I then hand trace them using Ground2K, That program in turn creates the efficient and necessary BGLs. Guess I am back to Richard's query; is it possible to do a Terrascene like process on the same USGS data to populate significant regions with accurate renditions of roads and coastlines? Sounds like that process is the "missing link". Dick

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>is it possible to do a Terrascene like process on the same USGS data to populate significant regions with accurate renditions of roads and coastlines?Yes, there is no different than Fly! II. Terrascene works just as well in FS2002 as it does in Fly! II. Check out the Terrabuilder Forum.Also check my site out below for an example.http://members.rogers.com/jkanold/jimlogo.gif

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Hi Jim, and all.Terrascene will build a composite image from georeferenced SHP files. This image can be easily converted from TARGA format to BMP format, and then used to create "psuedo-photoreal" slices by Microsoft's "resample". That process can result in the creation of hundreds... even thousands of groundtile textures for a modest area... and that figure is multiplied by 6 to include seasons and nights. This means scenery that requires hundreds of megabytes of storage space.But this bitmap can also be used as a template or map within Ground2K, AutoASM, Coastline-Maker, or LWMDraw. Then you can make LWM and VTP BGLs for water and landmasking, roads, streams, shorelines, VTP ground polys ( including placement of photoreal groundtiles ). This will result in default-looking roads, lakes, rivers, shorelines, and groundpolys, that will create a scenery that needs just a few megabytes for a substantial area. This is how MS has made our "world".No, this is not automatic ( at least not for us ).=====================We are still a bit away from turning a SHP file directly into an ASM file. There are still several problems to overcome before a SHP2BGL program is made possible:We still do not understand VTP lines correctly. Our lines taper at the ends, like worms... the default lines do not do this.We are still discovering the use of "reserved" bits in the default code. Just this week we had an example of this by Winfried Orthmann.Sometimes SHP files are just plain wrong, or incomplete... which is why FLY users still need to export SHP files to a CAD program for editing with the help of TerraShape]... a whole different program.So even for Terrascene, we have SHP files, TerraScene, TerraShape, DXF files, CAD programs... and if all goes well, we can finally get a TARGA image that needs to be sliced and resampled for us to get psuedo-photoreal. SHP files may still need reprojection to the correct size and shape in order to make them accurate for FS2002. And if the projection of the SHP data is wrong, we still need a program to reproject the data to 'Platte Carree', and possibly to change the Datum of the projection as well, or all our lines and polys will be "off". And that requires a commercial program like Arcview or ArcInfo, or MapInfo or Manifold ( probably the cheapest at $245 US ).There is no simple program that will grind out an accurate BGL of a roadline for FS2002. And there may never be one.==============What we do have are a variety of helpful programs that can give us assistance to improve the sim's scenery. 10 months ago we had ZERO... just Christian Stock and his struggling understanding of TMF file structures.Christian Fumey's Ground2K gives us a quite flexible CAD-like program with which to draw, and edit our lines and polys prior[/i to the ASM creation... in otherwords he has created his own drawing language, that is then translated to ASM at compilation time. Very good idea. Chris Wright's AutoASM, and Iain Murray's CoastLine Maker also use raster images ( bitmaps ) as drawing templates for sceneries. Ken Nelson's LWMDraw also needs a raster image.Dr. Falko Dienstbach has given us some DOS utilities to help translate SCASM lines and polys to VTP, so we can use familiar GUI's to create our lines. These programs, like Airport, ASD, FSSC, still need a raster image as a template for us to draw the SCASM lines and polys.==============Common thread here? Raster image.Given this as our current state of affairs. What we really could use right now is a simple way to process a SHP file to the correct Datum and ( more importantly ) Projection, and then create an accurately georeferenced bitmap, that we can use in the various raster-based LWM/VTP Drawing programs.Terrascene is half the battle, as it does produce such a georeferenced, equirectangular raster image. But Terrascene is only as good as the data we give it. It cannot reproject, or edit the data. Simply "stretching" a bitmap to 3 or 4 known geographical points simply does not work accurately, as users of TerraBuilder have found out.. For a small area, you can get close, but it will never do for data covering hundreds of square miles. But the data we get is sometimes skewed and twisted, and tilted in 3 dimensions like some kind of torturous puzzle that defies attempts to place it correctly as "WGS84 datum, Platte Carree projection" ( what FS needs ). To straighten this out, we need a freeware reprojection utility.Then, a program like TerraShape can be used to export the data to a CAD program for editing... or you could just use a program like Ground2K, or Coastline-Maker for the "editing".================This is why I say we may never see a program that will simply convert SHP2BGL, and why we may never even want one. We might just want to stick to drawing programs that use a raster image as a template... as long as we get the right image.I have used screenshots from TMFviewer ( which are the correct projection ) as a template for remasking the LWMs for Prince Edward Island. PEI has no land in FS2002.. just shorelines, roads... I use these georeferenced images in Ground2K.In 2 ( long ) days I was able to revive the landmass. I need about another 3-4 days to "trim" the masking, and I'll be able to upload the PEIFix.bgl. It will be the default land created as MS would have corrected it. It uses the default shorelines, roads, etc... It has seasons, nights... and will be about 185 kilobytes in size ( 0.185Mb )A week's time is not what I would consider too long for the project. It covers 15 LOD8 areas... a fairly large size.I could have used more accurate shapefile data, and with TerraScene, created a better PEI image for a template... but I wanted to use the default roads, shorelines, etc... If I had gone the SHP/TerraScene route, PEI might have taken me 2-3 weeks to create. I still don't consider that too long for a project this size.Granted, I have a basic understanding of Ground2K, but that could be learned in a few weeks, by creating simple projects. In Richard's case, he already understands the Terrascene process, and where to get his shapefiles. So Ground2K or Coastline Maker, or AutoASM ( soon to be revised, as I understand ), would be the way to go.I have asked a few mapping websites to include georeferencing data with their map images... no one has responded to me, other than the MSN Maps & Directions team, which will consider the request. Dick

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You are right about the learning curve of Ground2K, a lot I do not understand. I have a rather good understanding of TerraScene, as I used it in Fly! and Fly!2 from the GetGo. I however do not understand how, if I make a Terrascene image with all my selectected textures, how I go about telling FS what or how to replace them with FS textures. If I only make an image of only Transportation and Water/Rivers/Lakes Shape files, how can I get the correct textures in FS? I used TerreBuilder and FS2000 resample and got only a white background texture over the default. I could get by with Justin Tymes Land Class although it is way off in my area. While as you mentioned TerraScene works but it is not FS Texture and no REGEN texture. If one were to use a specicic solid color as is available in TeraScene, then tell a program to replace the solid color with a specific FS texture wouldn't this be great? It seems that Ground2K would do this if one could have a step by step tutorial for a given area. I was thinking of using ArcView to CAD then CAD to BGL but I have no option, as far as I know for setting Land Use areas, and I would have to do it County by County Layer by Layer. One could use 7.5 Topo Maps but trhat would be hundreds for my state alone, not to mention DL time on a 56K moden.Richard;

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Dick,I agree that eventually the tools and methods you mentioned will be the way to go and to significantly reduce filesizes. But ask yourself, why doesn

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Hi Jim.MS gave us examples of Niagara and Oshgosh, and also tools that couldn't even reproduce them! We've had to kludge along with the older FS2000 version of resample to get a working version. :)Also, those projects were actually quite small... just a few LOD13 Areas ( groundtiles ). Nowhere near the size of Terrascene/photoreal PEI or ThunderBay.( Oshgosh actually did use some VTP and LWM design ).You stated the Terrascene image needs to be rotated correctly... that's exactly why we need a freeware utility to reproject the SHP data... then there will be no rotational or placement problems. Much easier to fix the shapefiles mathematically, than to try to rotate or stretch the final bitmap. The odd rotation of the Terrascene image isn't Terrascene's fault. The data's projection is wrong.And the hours spent tinkering, to try to match FS2002 textures, could be spent tracing the lines and polys within Ground2K or Coastline-Maker... with no worries of matching anything, as the bgls will use default lines and landclass textures. I've used LOD8 sized Terrascene-derived images to make very accurate LWM water bgls with AutoASM.MS has covered 99.9% of the planet with LWM and VTP polys and lines. If these lines and polys are "off", it's only because MS didn't use the most accurate data. There's nothing more difficult about using better data... but the widely available public domain data is free.If MS had used the best available data, we'd have a flight sim that cost $1000's, but it would be stunningly accurate. And it wouldn't need much pseudo-photoreal groundtexturing.You've looked at PEI in Terrascene. You'll note that the ground of PEI is actually missing in the default data of Terrascene... just like it's missing in FS2002. :) Same data, same result.==========I agree scenery designers could benefit from using Terrascene. You like the photoreal/resample route. It can produce stunningly acccurate psuedo-photoreal. But the "cost" in scenery size is huge. It's difficult to share such huge sceneries over the internet. Even if you can get an internet host to agree to have the scenery in their library, the download times are terrible. I'm sure a few users have been scared away from PEI and ThunderBay by the size of the download, and the space on their harddrives.The same accuracy is now possible using default textures and LWM/VTP lines and polys... with relatively tiny scenery size. No worries about blending or texturing, as we use the defaults. Should we want custom or photoreal textures, we can do that as well.These are two different methods, each may have their advantages.I'm attaching 2 sceernshots.The first is the default Abbeville, in northern France. Cheap data.The second is a slightly reworked Abbeville. Just a couple of hours to grab a georeferenced Mappoint bitmap, and rework the area with Ground2K. Added ponds, shorelines, raillines, extended the city's boundries. All blends in like default, because the texures are default. Scenery size? 3 files. 5Kb ( 0.005Mb ). The scenery could be extensively reworked, by using accurate shapefiles and a Terrascene bitmap as the "map". If I liked, I could make the city's ground poly as "concrete" and "grass" default textures, and place trees and buildings on them for accuracy down to the 4.8 meter/pixel limitation we all have to live with. All done with VTP and LWM, with placed trees and buildings.This wasn't even possible only weeks ago, as we just didn't have the tools. Now we have them.I've made a rough resample of my home area. Single LOD8 size. The data was accurate, as it matches perfectly with other adjoining LOD8 sized areas. Terrascene image resample. 1024 43Mb textures for one season. To get 5 seasons and night, 264Mb of textures. I'll be working this area with LWM and VTP soon, using the same Terrascene-derived image as a map in Ground2K. Should be about 200Kb ( 0.200Mb )... and just as accurate.Either way, resample or TDF lines and polys, ( or a combination of the 2 ), Terrascene does a very good job for us.Why doesn't MS give us an example of this type? We're way ahead of them. You are also way beyond them with the beautiful Terrascene/resample sceneries you've worked on. I don't see MS giving us a great seasonal pseudo-photoreal Chicago area ( 250 Mb on a CD )! :)I do think there is a benefit to take this beyond the resample stage. I don't think it will take any longer to produce, as the 'drawing time' replaces the 'texturing time' needed for a good resampled scenery. Dick

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Hi Richard.I'll try to answer your post."I however do not understand how, if I make a Terrascene image with all my selectected textures, how I go about telling FS what or how to replace them with FS textures. If I only make an image of only Transportation and Water/Rivers/Lakes Shape files, how can I get the correct textures in FS? I used TerreBuilder and FS2000 resample and got only a white background texture over the default. I could get by with Justin Tymes Land Class although it is way off in my area. While as you mentioned TerraScene works but it is not FS Texture and no REGEN texture."Ground2K does have the ability to produce a landclass BGL. So does Landclass Assistant, by John Cillis. You'd need to read some posts on landclass and what the landclass number values mean. Landclass, and VTP polys, are basically the soil and landusage type. Ground2K will allow you to make VTP polys, as well.Ocean, lake, and large rivers are LWM watermask polys. Ground 2K can make these. You can force an area to be filled with LWM land, then draw the water polys on them. Streams, roads, raillines, and shorelines are VTP lines. Ground2K can make these.A TerraScene image is just a background image, to use as a drawing guide in Ground2K. A very good background image.============There are limitations of FS2002 that you'll need to understand. You'll need to grasp the concept of an LOD13 Area. This is the exact size of a custom groundtile in the sim. It is 0.01098632825 degrees NS x 0.0146484375 degrees WE.Landclass is assigned to the corners of those tiles... and will blend in from the corners to meet the other assignments at the center of an LOD 13 Area. You can't get landclass for an area smaller than 1 LOD13 Area. That's the limit of the sim and of 'resample'. If you are concerned about accurate landclass data placement, this is your limitation.You can use VTP polygons to force a landclass texture to an area as small as an effective LOD21... a single "pixel", or 1/65536th of an LOD13 groundtile. We do have a bug in the scenery engine that flips this VTP poly texture vertically, and that will affect the default autogen placement. We can control the texturing of every "pixel" in the sim. ( 26,388,279,066,624 pixels , at approx. 4.8m/pixel )Generally, this vertical flip isn't even noticed by most simmers. Autogen buildings can be replaced by Advanced Buildings, and object trees, if needed. You can even force the VTP poly to place CUSTOM textures, with their own CUSTOM autogen... the same CUSTOM textures made by resample.. or textures you make, or even transparent "sheets" with their own CUSTOM autogen. There has been a LOT written on this in these forums. The info needed to understand this is out there.====================But to control a substantial area, you need to stick to resample and a landclass BGL. If Justin Tyme has problems accurately placing landclass, you'll have problems as well. Justin is using fairly accurate data... but if the data is wrong, the scenery will be wrong.Resample assigns a texture to an area about 1200m x 1200m. That's a pretty big area. To make matters worse, landclass data isn't in the placement form of exactly one per LOD13 vertex.. and then the resample program decides what landclass to place, by it's own internal formula. So no wonder you don't like the placement of Justin's data! His website has a means of contacting him about innaccuracies that he will then attempt to fix.====================There is no simple solution to ground scenery. But there are solutions. You need to define exact needs, then create the ground scenery to meet those needs.What is the area? How big? All seasons? Is this a landclass issue? Do I need new roads? All roads in the area? All roads, streams, lakes, rivers, shorelines? The greater the needs, the greater the complexity.In an above post, Jim indicates that he would prefer to just use the Terrascene/resample approach. It does have drawbacks such as the need to pay attention to the textures used by Terrascene, and the huge amount of CUSTOM textures produced.I prefer to use LWM/VTP/Landclass solutions, but then I have spent a great deal of time understanding these filetypes, and so that is now easy for me, and fun as well. Other designers have been using Ground2K, AutoASM, LWMDraw, and Coastline-Maker, and have also found them usable and enjoyable... and they have far less experience with the newer TDF/TMF design ideas. But I'm sure they have spent time studying and reading the posts at AVSIM.If you are waiting for a program to automatically grab georeferenced data and create perfect landclass, CUSTOM, LWM and VTP BGLs, you'll be waiting forever. If you're satisfied with Terrascene, maybe you need to develop the skills at texturing that Jim has advised above, and then stick to pseudo-photoreal techniques, which can be amazingly good to use for VFR flying. Otherwise, I've outlined the last option, which is VTP/LWM design. It has many possibilities. But it requires getting used to new tools and methods, and is not as straight-forward as stamping a texture onto the ground.And that's the end of the road, as far as I can tell. I don't forsee anyone creating a program of the type you imagine.Dick

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Wow - thanks for the "grim news".... Just kidding...Excellent overview of where we are. I have created many Terrascene areas but I miss the autogen that adds that bit of reality to VFR. I have absolutely no desire to sit in front of a CRT for days to populate custom textures with autogen.I have also substituted FS2002 textures for several Terrascene textures since I found a few of them to be bland. The file size is and issue, no autogen is an issue, no dynamic shadows are an issue, and my personal view is that the Terrascene seems just a little less clear (may be a shadow issue).I have all of the USA DLG & LULC files from USGS because of FLY!. The roads and rivers of Terrascene follow the valleys quite well and fit within the 38 meter elevation points. Only where a hillside falsely appears due to elevation resolution, is a problem created. 10 meter mesh would fix most of these. Overall, in the USA, the USGS data is vastly more accurate than the MS effort.Now, since we can use specific solid colors for roads and rivers in Terrascene, could a "mask" be created that is color keyed to these elements? Then using a modification, or pre-process, with an existing FS2002 tool redraw the roads and coastlines? Of course, some secret bits need decoded so the worm effect is eliminated for roads. I have had no problems just "dropping in" a Terrascene image and coming close to the interfacing MS roads/rivers. Since they are not accurate anyhow, this is not an issue for me. This technique would retain the quite good textures in MS, the autogen, "tuned" landclass, and file size of the basic stuff we now have. Since all of the output from the process is native MS all tuning tools remain compatible.Otherwise, I guess I am doomed to a larger disk and Terrascene (yuk no autogen or dynamic shadows). I just do not have the patience to hand-draw/trace coastline, rivers and roads for 500 square mile area (my VFR area).Regards & thanks,Dick BoleyDick

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I hope that you do not mind my stepping in here, Dick.I whole-heartedly agree with you - VTP/LWM and Christian Fumey's Ground2K allow for easy efficient creation of highly-optimized scenery. Ground2k is extremely easy to use -really, the only problem is in understanding the concepts, but the program is simplicity itself and extremely thoughtful.It takes most of the hard work away from the user and automates it. Plus, it can easily handle concave shapes and does not limit drawing to segments that fit in a LOD13 area.Christian includes everything in the program, from Land and Water Class creation to layer excludes - even his texture viewer reads compressed dxt and extended textures with no problem.Probably the best thing to do is not read the manual (except the part on creating a background bitmap), but just jump in and start drawing. It is quite easy to get the hang of it.Here is a quick and easy project that I started yesterday - the default Monaco:http://ftp.avsim.com/dcforum/User_files/3e5a154a2fb08798.jpgAnd, after a very fast and easy session drawing a few lines, the modified Monaco:http://ftp.avsim.com/dcforum/User_files/3e5a157d30586f2c.jpgOf course, this is not high-detail photo-realistic scenery, but as you say, there are only 5kb of bgls and no effect on frame rates.As far as I am concerned, this beats polygon- and texture-heavy scenery that slows flight to single-digit frame rates.Best regards.Luis

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Dick;It seems you and I are on the same treadmill. I would be more than willing to pay for a program that would meet our needs and I am sure that someone knows what we are looking for and is thinking or or working on a program for us less skilled Flight Sim NUTS! While I sit and ponder on other programs like Ground2K, I guess we will either wait untill a tutorial that is being worked on as we speak, or we get someone who loves the challange, and willing to share with others or sell what we are looking for we will just dream of VFR near true scenery..Richard;

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Luis;That looks great! Do you think you might in the future develop a tutorial, step-by-step of how you created that fantastis looking scenery?Richard;

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