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Guest Hans Palsson

Wanted: Scenery design software environment

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Hi all,I believe there is both a market and a requirement for scenery design software on a level that is a good deal more sophisticated than the amazingly excellent but necessarily limited freeware tools available at this time. The functionality I would want to see in such a program would include: - Support for everything in the FS2004 SDKs (present and future ones), plus for anything required to make the stuff in those SDK's work properly (i.e., filling in the blanks that MS left for us to sort out). - The ability to use one tool for object placement (library objects), building generation ("Generic Buildings", including texture browser etc), airport design (all that is included AFCAD atm, plus approach procedure design, non-terminal navaids etc), custom ground textures ("photorealistic textures"), LWM, roads, coastlines etc. Landclass and mesh may or may not be convenient to include; that one will require some thinking. - Allowing the designer to design scenery without bothering about the technical details (LOD boundaries or whatever) when making "standard", straightforward stuff, while providing the ability for going technical (including hand editing the generated XML code and making the edits stick when saving the project) for more specialized needs and solutions. - Remaining conservative, following the SDK's to the letter, for maximum compatibility and stability of the generated scenery, while also allowing "the latest Avsim Scenery design forum tricks" etc to be included if the designer so desires, using some kind of plugin system. - A well designed, simple to use and intuitive design enviromnent. - A choice between a 2D and a 3D scenery design environment for object placement etc. The 3D enviromnemt should be able to read and display .mdl and mesh file content. The 2D enviromnent would probably be necessary for performance reasons, while the 3D enviromnent would be called up when needed for object alignment etc. - Easy interface with gmax for smooth switching between these two applications. - The ability to view and import compiled .bgl's (using technology similar to what is provided in the LWMViewer and the BGLXML decompiler). - A "wrap up project" tool for uploading / shipping scenery, making sure all textures are included, various sorts of bgl's go to the right folders and so on.The list could go on, but I suppose this is enough to show what I have in mind. The main reason why I would want such a program, is to separate the design aspect from the technical side of scenery design. I have done my share of reading and re-reading SKD's forwards and backwards, decompiling .bgl's to figure out what's what, trying to feed new coding solutions through BGLC and BGLCOMP etc etc, and it is sure fun. But when designing scenery, that's not what I want to do! If I want to place a building or change a coastline somewhere, I want to do that , i don't want to have to invent the method to make it work first. Solving technical problems, learning new methods etc is something I want to do when not busy with the design aspect of scenery design. In addition, there is obviously a whole crowd of people out there who are amazingly talented with everything related to design and aesthetics, but not at all geared for the technical stuff. As it is now, good scenery design requires you to be both an engineer and a designer simultaneously while being equally good at both; such people do exist, luckily, but they are rare.I believe you can compare scenery design to web design in that respect. Sure, every web page in existence (Flash exluded) is basically just various forms of html; you could have written the entire world wide web using nothing but Notepad and a shitload of coffee. But it is when using tools like GoLive, Dreamweaver or whichever your preference is, that you can really start producing superior stuff. Obviously, the market for such a tool would be rather limited, and I don't believe there is any way it could be possible from a purely commercial perspective. Producing such a tool would require enthusiasts, working on their "free time", because they enjoy doing it. However, while the economical gains from such a project would not be enough for a design team to make their living from it, I do believe whoever decided to create a program like this, on his/her/their spare time, as a hobby project, could earn quite a lot of $'s from it. Personally, I would be willing to pay between $50 and $100 for a tool like that, or possibly even more, depending on how sophisticated it would be, and I am pretty sure there are many others, both payware designers and devoted scenery design enthusiasts (or both!) who would be willing to do the same.Thanks for your attention. Some food for thought I hope ... All the best,/Bj

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I would be willing to pay for a tool thats friendlier than Gmax. This freeware has so much security in it that it will not install on my machine, for some reason and the guys at the forum want me to wipe my harddrive to install this freeware. This is a bit drastic in my opinion. Because of my reluctance to do this, I have been bared from their forum.Yes ..... we do need another program...... with a good up to date help file.Joe w.

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>I would be willing to pay for a tool thats friendlier than>Gmax. This freeware has so much security in it that it will>not install on my machine, for some reason and the guys at the>forum want me to wipe my harddrive to install this freeware.>This is a bit drastic in my opinion. Because of my reluctance>to do this, I have been bared from their forum.>Yes ..... we do need another program...... with a good up to>date help file.What kind of "security" problems are you encountering? I've installed GMax on many different machines and OS combinations and have never encountered any sort of problem... ???If you are running XP, you do have to ensure that you are installing it with "Administrator Rights," but other than that I see no potential pitfalls.Further, if you are referring to http://gmaxsupport.com, please note that it is not an official "Discreet" website. It is owned and operated by fellow GMax enthusiasts.

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I agree with you, it would be very nice if we had a tool that combines the mesh scenery elements and the XML elements introducted in Fs2004. This would allow user to design scenery more easy. You would only need one tool besides GMax (which would still be best to design your 3D object I think).The question is will somebody make this :). The authors of Airport are working on a new tool for the XML format (SceneGenX), but I have no idea if they also want to add the mesh elements later on. Let's hope :).It would certainly be a major shift in thinking for most people. Because we are so used to programs like FSSC and Airport, but for Fs2004 it must be said that they can no longer be used (lf you want to make scenery that only uses the Fs2004 code). I think it will take some time before this change takes effect.

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Douglas Pouk is always pushing forward to improve his FS Architect ... I think (and hope!) Architect 2004 will include some of the features I mentioned! :) He already has a working 3D design enviromnent; once you can view mesh and .mdl's in it, we should be in business ...Best,/Bj

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When I try to install it, it says that an earler version is installed and then it exits. I have searched the registry for Discreet entrys and all other entrys invoilving GMax and it still doesn't install. There is nothing installed on my machine that has anything to do with Discreet or Gmax.Maybe Barred is a little strong.... I just can't get in to the forum any more, my username and Password works no more.Joe w.

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Hello Arno, Christian Fumey has told me that he is considering adding the capacity to place library objects via XML within Ground2K4. This is an idea that was suggested to him by Dick Ludowise (one more good idea from Dick.)Let's hope that Christian finds this to be a good idea. As to Gmax, contrary to what many people seem to think, I have found it very easy to learn and use, highly flexible, and extremely powerful. Apart from some quirks (that are often quite amusing and make one wonder what the programmer was thinking!), it works surprisingly well.Just a note to congratulate the FS Development Team on having obtained the rights to distribute such an excellent program with Flight Simulator. This demonstrates that they do, occasionally, think of our needs.Best regards.Luis

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Hi Luis,That is good news. Ground4k is indeed the best program to make the mesh scenery with and it would be very usefull if it would also allow the placement of objects with the XML code.I agree about GMax. The first few weeks it might be a bit hard to learn, but once you know your way around it is a very good tool. It gives you as designer a lot of power.

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I don't really care about a good 3D view, we already have FS to view the result in 3D, don't we?If I have read it correct the current 3D view only works for macros made with certain programs (because these programs make an additional file for the 3D view). So if you would handcode an API (like I have done a lot) it would not even show. This does not sound really practical to me, but other designers might very well have different requirements on their tools :).

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>When I try to install it, it says that an earler version is>installed and then it exits. I have searched the registry for>Discreet entrys and all other entrys invoilving GMax and it>still doesn't install. There is nothing installed on my>machine that has anything to do with Discreet or Gmax.>Maybe Barred is a little strong.... I just can't get in to>the forum any more, my username and Password works no more.Joe, that is the first time I've even heard of such a problem. It might be fruitful to post the question to the guru's in the hardware forum, to see if they might be of some help. For once, I don't have a clue... :(

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Well ... :) I know what you mean, but it is sure convenient to be able to see what you're designing while designing it, in real time... Rather than having to do the continous edit-compile-view-ideas-edit routine. Ever tried to do web design in LaTeX? Sure, it "works", but it is sensationally less convenient than to use e.g. GoLive ... And in the LaTeX case, the compilation / viewing part is about 20 times faster than in 2k2 (let alone 2k4) ... Yeah, you're right, and "certain programs" only include FSDS at the moment. FS Architect needs an .ogl file (Open GL) to display the object in 3D with textures (unless the object is an Advanced Building; it is very convenient to generate and place those in Archie's 3D view IMHO). So what would be needed to make it real useful would be either for Archie to display .mdl data, or an .mdl-to-.ogl converter (gmax plugin?). But I'm 'just' a user when it comes to scenery design tools, so I'll leave that stuff to the software developers. :) I think this link is pretty interesting; this is how I'd like to do my scenery design!http://www.3dnature.com/vnsinfo.htmlIn particular, have a look at the user interface! (How the heck do I link to a .jpg as a link rather than showing the image in the forum? :-hmmm )Obviously, this is massive overkill for FlightSim scenery design, the output would have to be 'dumbed down' a good deal for FS to swallow it, and it's far more expensive than what I'd want to pay for. But it shows, IMHO, that there is a good deal more that could be done in scenery design software for FS than 'just' being able to generate the proper .xml code ... That is, if someone would be willing to spend the time required to do it, despite the minor financial gain (but I am not sure it would be that minor; if you can produce something that would sell for $100 to payware developers and enthusiasts, and only manage to sell 25 licenses, then your hobby project will at least have paid for your next PC upgrade ... :) ).I have often been thinking that the discussions in this forum (in particular) would apply more to how to design scenery design software rather than to scenery design per se . Many of the people regularly posting in this forum would probably have little use for or interest in the kind of tool I have in mind. But, you would be the people having the knowledge required to pull off such a project ... Which is why I posted this note here in the first place! :)Well, in case it hasn't shown already, I could go on about this for a long time ... Guess I'd better call it a day!All the best,/Bj

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This thread makes for some interesting reading! It would certainly be great to have something which can do it all -- mesh, roads, coastlines, airports, custom textures etc -- but I'm not holding my breath. I can understand why GMAX is like it is -- I don't think we'd have such a great tool if Discreet couldn't:a) spread the development over a number of different game packs; and :( base it on an already-in-production tool.The tool I'd like to see would be able to display the default (or other added) scenery in layers, which could be easily manipulated. I generally have one aerial image for a particular area -- it would be nice to be able to load it up, create photoreal textures or custom landclass depending on my requirements, tweak coastlines, add roads, build an airport ala AFCAD2, and add 3D library objects and GMAX creations.We are already seeing tools like SceneGenX and AFCAD2, a plugin-type system like FS Architect would be a useful direction to go, as functionality could be added over time, giving us a great tool to start with. Whoever comes up with something which can combine at least two of my scenery design requirements will get my money :)How much would I be prepared to pay? If I was producing payware (which I do sometimes) then I'd consider NZ$500 -- $1000 a reasonable price. (US$300 -- $600)I'd certainly need a lot more functionality from this tool than from anything available at the moment.I'd even consider producing such a tool myself, if not for the fact that MS could change the rules in another two years. (Did someone say XNA?)

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yep, I think that's the key constraint. Indeed, this thread's been entertaining, but the key is that we do something that changes drastically every two years. The assumption that the originator made was that the dream tool would be capable of whatever sdk changes that WOULD OCCUR (future tense). :-))Since no one can accurately predict the future, whatever tools we use must be flexible in the extreme. I think that's the reason they've evolved naturally into small modules. That's the business concept that best responds to a need for maximum flexibility.Bob Bernstein

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Hi Bjorn,The link to the program you showed is really interesting. That indeed looks like a nice way to do scenery design. But there is always a downside to things I think. Take GMax for example. It is a really nice tool to make 3D object, but still it is not complete. If you want to do some little bit more complex things like seasonal texture or rotation with the wind you already have to dive into source code tweaking again. So with this I want to indicate that such a program would need to be very complete before it would be a real good choice, otherwise it would still need the option of source tweaking, etc.And as some other posters already wrote, with FS we always have the problem that there are changes every 2 years. In the last two years the first mesh tools, like Ground4k, have appeared and only now after 2 years they are ready and stable so you can make a good mesh scenery with them. I don't want to think what would have happened if MS had changed more in the mesh format, then we would have to start that entire track again.This makes it very hard to design a good tool, as it needs to be kept up to date. Look at GroundMaker for example. I think this is the best scenery design tool for airport we have. I like the user interface of it a lot, but unfortunately it is not being updated, so it still uses Fs2000 code only. This makes it less and less an option for Fs2002 and Fs2004 scenery. So making a good tool is only step one, keeping it up to date is a lot more work.I can also say that some time ago I had the idea to try to make such a tool myself (that combines mesh and airport design). But soon I came to the conclusion that it would take a lot of time and I put the plan on hold :). I would surely be willing to contribute to new tools (apart from all the smaller tools I design myself), but it looks like a project like this would be too big for one person to carry. Also if you look at the task of keeping it up to date later on.Last word, although I might sound a bit sceptical about the idea sometimes, I appreciate it that you started this thread. I think it is a good subject to discuss about here. Maybe it will give us some better tools in the future :).

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Hi!Sorry to bring this thread up again, but I just wanted to tip on what a tool like this could look like. I was given a demonstration a couple of weeks ago on the design tool that comes with Auran Trainz;http://www.auran.com/TRS2004/default.htmThis was precisely what I would love to see MS include with the next version of FS - easy editing of mesh, terrain/texture, runways etc. In 3D, "real time", with no need of hand editing of code. The objects for Trainz are built with Gmax, so there are some similarities! :-)But I guess that we can only dream about that happening. Anyway, a big THANKS to all talented people who brighten our work with exellent design tools!/hans

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