ModelConverterX, now with textures

Remember that ugly picture I posted a few days ago of the API macro I had read into ModelConverterX? Today I did some work to let it also read in the colors and textures used and after that I must say that it already looks a lot more like the museum building it is supposed to be.

But although it looks like a real buildings now, that does not mean that the first alpha version of the tool is almost there. There are still a few things I need to do:

  1. Test with some more API macros and SCASM files, so that I am sure the tool can read the most often used commands.
  2. Make the tool a little more robust, at the moment it still throws too much errors if something unexpected happens. That is fine for development/debugging purposes, but not when other designers will try to use it.
  3. And finally (and most important) I need to write an exporter that allows me to save the read in SCASM object as a MDL object again. Or maybe as a X file to be processed with XtoMDL, I have not decided on that yet.

So for now enjoy the screenshot and I will post again when I have some more progress to report.

 

 

The curved earth

 Ever since FsX has been released, there have been a lot of discussion about the display problems with the old style ground polygons that are used a lot in addon sceneries. In FsX they have added an additional curvation of the earth, but these older polygons remained as flat as they ever where, so that meant they did no longer follow the terrain correctly over greater distances. With SP1 some changes has be made, to quote Pill Taylor:

Made significant progress to try to better map large, legacy add-on scenery to correct for the new round Earth modeling in FSX. NOTE:  There will still be some problems seen with this, but we’ve done our best to minimize the visual artifacts.

So what does that mean for the addon developer? Yesterday I have been testing the ground polygons I had used on a general aviation I made a few months ago. For this airfield I had used GMax (with the Fs2002 gamepack) to make different layers of ground polygons. First there is a layer that contains an aerial image, this layer consists of two polygons of 1×1 km with each a 1024×1024 texture mapped on that. On top of this layer I put a noise texture to make the grass of the airport look less blurry when you taxi on it (a bit like the noise you see in the mesh scenery as well) and finally a layer that contains all the aprons and taxiways as polygons.

When I first loaded this airport in FsX it did not really show up like it should. There was a flatten problem, so I first made a new flatten with SBuilderX to be sure that the ground was flat underneath my airport (flat, but still curved of course). After that I noticed that all the aprons show up fine, but the layer with the aerial images did not.

Remembering that there was some discussion about the fixes that MS has added in SP1 only working on small polygons (about 100 meter in size), I decided to see what happened when I would split my polygon that contains the aerial images into more slices. So I used to slice tool of GMax to turn my 1×1 km polygon into a nice grid of 100×100 meter tiles. And guess what, when using this grid everything shows up perfectly in FsX. These smaller size polygons are nicely bended by the scenery engine to follow the earth curvation.

So what does that mean for when you are making ground polygons for FsX? The first conclusion is that not so many has actually changed. You can still export your polygons with a single reference, there is no need to give each 100×100 meter tile its own reference point. But you need to remember to add some extra vertices to your polygon if it is big. I have not checked until which tile size it still displays fine, so maybe 200×200 meter tiles also work. But I can tell you that 100×100 meter works for sure.

I think you can compare how the scenery engine does this with the bend tool we have in GMax itself. When you try to use it on simple 4 vertex polygon it does not work. But if you then slice your polygon into more segments, you will see that you can give it a bend with the modifier. This much be exactly the same the scenery engine now does to our ground polygon, all we need to do is give it a few more vertices to do its calculations with.

Does this now mean that we can continue developing addon scenery like we “always” did? Well maybe, but I would still encourage everybody to take a good look at the new features FsX offers us. In quite a few cases I think that the new increased mesh resolution can be a good replacement for the ground polygons we have used in the past. But of course there are also cases where these polygons are still the best option, markings on an airfield is one of these cases that comes to my mind right away.

ModelConverterX

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a few blog posts about the ModelConverterX tool I had started working on. Then I was working on the reader to read FsX MDL files. Last week I also started on a reader that can read SCASM source files, for example API or SCM macros. I certainly can’t read any object yet, actually at the moment the reader can only read basic vertex and polygon information. But still I wanted to show you all this first progress, to let you know that there is some progress. Below you see a picture of an object read into the tool.


Obviously, the next thing I need to work on, is the correct reading of colors and textures, as this object does not really look like the museum it is supposed to be at the moment. Once that is done I will be able to show you a slightly nicer picture.

For those of you that haven’t heard of my ModelConverterX tool idea, this will become a tool that can read and write different object formats. For the first version I am thinking of reading API macros and then saving them as FsX MDL files. This will allow you to use your older objects with the “new” XML techniques. 

SP1 and SDK SP1A?

The last days I have seen a few posts on forums about people having difficulty running FsX after installing SP1 or SP1A for the SDK. It seems that it is not clear to everybody that you need to install both service packs, as FsX SP1 does not work with the old SDK DLL files and the old FsX does not work with the SDK SP1A DLL files. So please make sure that you patch both FsX and the SDK to the latest version.

FsX SP1 released

I am sure most of you have already read this at a million of places, but for the few that don’t know it yet: service pack 1 (SP1) for FsX has been released. Go get it as fast as you can as it does a lot of good to the performance of FsX. The ACES team has done very good work on SP1. And for all the developers watching my blog, make sure you also get the SDK update that matches SP1, you need it.

Also check out this post by Nick, he has collected some very interesting links to blog posts by Phil about SP1. Have a go and read them. 

COLLADA

For the new model conversion tool I am working on at the moment, I took a closer look at the COLLADA format this weekend. COLLADA is an open standard Digital Asset schema for interactive 3D applications. It can for example be used as an exchange format to share models between different tools. That is also the role in which I want to use it in my tool. There are for example COLLADA plugins for tools like 3DSMax and Maya, but also Blender can work with it.

I think that it would be useful to have the ability to convert COLLADA files to FsX MDL files, so that more models can be used with FsX. And also the reverse conversion might be useful if that allows you to edit your models easier (but I have not looked deep into that yet).

So a COLLADA importer/exporter is certainly on the todo list for my new tool. But it does not have the highest priority at the moment. The first features I want to have working is importing old API macros and being able to save them again as MDL obect. As that is the main purpose of this tool. After that I’ll see what other cool features can be added to it.

5555

Ever since starting the FsDeveloper.com website (or SceneryDesign.org as it was called before), I seem to have been the top poster on the site. And each time I think that I have now reached a huge amount of posts, that sound really like quite a lot. This for example happened when I got my 500th post, then with the 1000th, 2000th, etc.

And just after my last post of today I noticed that I had reached the amount of 5555 posts today. I found this a nice looking number, worth of a little blog post. So let the post count grow as more knowledge is collected on the forums, my next “goal” would probably be 10000 or so.