Some time ago I blogged about the confusion that exists about SCASM BGL files and this time I want to discuss a similar naming confusing. It is about AFCAD files. On forums it is very common that you hear people talking about the AFCAD files they have made for their scenery. And I have already seen posts of people who tested the FsX demo and reported that their Fs9 AFCAD files still seemed to work fine.
But wait, I think we are missing something here. AFCAD files are nothing else than BGL files made according to the Fs2004 XML format (BGLComp SDK). As they are made with AFCAD we tend to call them AFCAD files, but with SceneGenX or a bit of handwritten XML code you could create exactly the same BGL file. So please keep that in mind when you see the term AFCAD files next time.
Of course AFCAD is a great tool, as it allows you to edit your scenery very easily. So I can very well understand that this naming confusing has appeared. AFCAD has allowed a lot of people who are not really scenery designers, to still make changes to their local airport.
But there is also a risk in this. Let's assume that you have made a nice XML file for a certain airport and you have handwritten some special commands into it to place a few objects and add an approach. If somebody will now try to load this file in AFCAD it will work just fine, but once they save it some of the commands you have put in there might be lost. This is because AFCAD does not understand those parts of the BGL file and has thus discarded this information. Knowing that Lee Swordy made the tool without proper information about the BGL format, this is something that is very understandable. But it is something we should keep in mind, as users tend to want to edit airports themself in AFCAD, for example for their AI traffic.
Especially with FsX around the corner this is something we should be aware of. How much will the XML format change in FsX? And how does it mix with the Fs2004 style XML files we have made before? That is something we should be very careful about and in those cases we should not forget that AFCAD files are just Fs2004 XML BGL files.