Saturday, September 20, 2014

T-45C Goshawk version 2.70 (final?) release


As previously announced, here is a further update to the T-45C Goshawk project. Specifically, and tentatively, this is meant to be the last and final update to the project. Of course it is possible that I have made some mistakes and introduced new bugs... so there may be a fix if there are major mistakes.
Anyway, the intent is to cease the support and updates for this project, given that I do not have enough time to keep on updating my older planes while making new ones. I am really sorry for this, but I cannot support this anymore. So, support and updates for older projects will cease to allow the full scale development of new ones (announcement soon!)...

This version introduces working mirrors for P3Dv2 users (which are OFF by default... you need to manually install the feature...see the information below) and a new canopy glass rendering which includes scratches - I am sure that some of you will not like it, so there is an option to remove them (again, see information below). I also though it was worth making an extra effort and remaster all the external features, which now have more details and should hopefully look better. Here is the full list of changes:

VERSION 2.70
- Improved canopy reflection, which hopefully will fit better to P3Dv2 rendering engine
- Addition of canopy "scratch" texture as implemented in the S-3, with option to remove it.
  NOTE: To remove the scratches from the canopy look into the OPTIONAL FEATURES/NO SCRATCHES subfolder and:
  grab the scratch_reflection.dds and replace the default one in the TEXTURE folder.
  You may want to backup the original files.  
- Optional VC model with working mirrors for P3Dv2 users (comes at a frame rate hit)
  NOTE: To install this feature, please look into the OPTIONAL FEATURES/WORKING MIRRORS subfolder and:
  1 - Replace the aicraft.cfg with the one in this folder.
  2 - Replace the T45C2.mdl in the MODEL folder with the one in this folder. 
  You may want to backup the original files. 
- Fix to ADF digital display
- Improved graphics of some gauges, and new ASI/Machmeter and Altimeter models
- Remove the environmental reflection from the external model (users reported rendering problems)
- Fix to a minor backlighting issue in cockpit view
- Fix to a minor glitch in the weapon configurator
- Remastered external textures with additional details
- Helmet visors are now down by default: Exit-3 command will raise them (SHIFT+E and then 3)
- Swapped ADI/HSI default configuration
- Setting pilot or instructor weight to 0 will make the relevant crew figure disappear.

Download from the side bar as usual.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ceasing support and updates on older projects...


As of today, I have always followed the "continuous improvement" approach - all my FSX projects have been continuously updated whenever possible.
Unfortunately, since the fleet is growing, it is impossible for me to continue supporting / updating older projects and making new ones.
Therefore, I am collecting all the feedback and suggestions I have gathered recently on my older projects in order to prepare "final" builds - after those, no further improvement or support is guaranteed.
I am sorry for that, but I definitely have no time to support my older projects as I did in the past. So, the first project that will be closed is the T-45C Goshawk.

This is the list of changes that I will be implementing - most of them are already in place in the internal build.

- Improved canopy reflection, which hopefully will fit better to P3Dv2 rendering engine
- Addition of canopy "scratch" texture as implemented in the S-3, with option to remove it
- Optional VC model with working mirrors for P3Dv2 users (comes at a frame rate hit)
- Fix to ADF digital display
- Improved graphics of some gauges, and new ASI/Machmeter and Altimeter models
- Option to remove the environmental reflection from the external model (for users who do not like it or have problems)
- Fix to a minor backlighting issue
- Fix to a minor glitch in the weapon configurator

If you have further suggestions or requests please let me know asap. I cannot promise I will implement anthing that is not in the list above, but I will surely have a look.

Monday, September 15, 2014

S-3B Viking v1.00 release


Well, I have to confess that the S-3B is still nowhere I'd like it to be in terms of quality. To me, it was not as satisfactory as the previous project, and the resulting quality and accuracy still leaves a lot to be desired. Anyway, I believe it can still be considered a decent piece of freeware and it is probably the best rendition of the Viking around. So I guess I should be happy...
Anyway, I have fixed some of the small issues that emerged after the 0.99 release - and given that I will not have much time in the next few weeks, I have decided to release version 1.00 "as it is" tonight. It is not significantly better than 0.99, but considering that no major bugs were detected I think it should be OK for most users.

With respect to the 0.99 Beta, changes are as follows:

CHANGE LOG
*************
Version 1.00
September 15th 2014

- Improved glass reflection
- Fixed aicraft.cfg entry os that NASA livery was not listed
- Fixed aicraft.cfg manufacturer entry
- Fixed texture on copilot seat (did not match placard)
- Fixed strobe, navigation and formation light switches not working in VC
- Improved flight model, should provide more accurate speeds
- Replaced ASI/Mach and altimeter models with more accurate ones
- Fixed elevator and trim indicators not working
- Fixed landing gear doors reflections
- Fixed APU door is now animated (open and closes with APU switch)
- Files are now signed for Tacpack Multiplayer

NOWN ISSUES IN THIS RELEASE
****************************
- Landing light does not illuminate the ground (compiling the light in the mdl does not work for some reason I do not understand...so the light effect is in the aicraft.cfg - this is why it does not illuminate the ground)
- Authrottle not working as intended (root cause not identified)
- Some users reported issues with the launch bar, but could not be replicated (launch bar does not have issues on my system and seems to work fine - if you have "bumping" issues you may consider not to apply full throttle before launching)

File can be downloaded from the side bar as usual.

So, once again, I am not really proud of this one - it seems a little below my other projects. Still the Viking is such an awesome machine that, hopefully, some of its awesomeness will show in this rendition.
 
One last thing - the AI-tanker model is ready but there is a strange (and not yet solved) bug in the hose animation. I am considering to change it to an on/off condition - anyway I'll try to fin the time to release in the next few days, but do not count on that...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Current project updates - and a thoughts for the next one...

 
Above is a picture of the current build of the MB.326 virtual cockpit - it is almost complete. Actually it just misses the gunsight and some warning signs... In the meantime, Alessandro of Sim Skunk Works has been refurbishing the external textures so they look even better than in my previous screenshots (we will be able to show the looks of the updated model very soon). Also Sim Skunk Works is providing a very realistic flight model: Roy is leading the dynamics design while Mario is providing flight testing - both are seasoned real-world military pilot, and given than Mario has hundreds of flying hours on the real 326 I am really confident that in the end we will have a great result. Last, but not least, Serge is at work on a sound package - based on the sounds from the GoPro recording of my unforgettable flight... (by the way, here is a short version of the video -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNT61wl-PUc&feature=youtu.be ) - so the project is in a very good shape, and it is done when it is done... but it is looking really good.

Also, as of today, we plan to support both Tacpack and VAcmi - which is a weapon functionality / management package from Sim Skunk Works - you should check it out (and works in P3Dv2, too!)...  http://www.vaafse.org/simskunkworks/web/index.php

So, what about the rest of my stuff?
Well, there are plans to update all the fleet - but I am experimenting some new techniques and I am building a small set of new and more accurate 3D gauges for the 326 - the plan is to progressively retrofit them on the T-45C, F-14D and S-3B. All will be available as soon as possible, but this is a lot of work - so I cannot say for sure when it will be ready.
Also, minor updates await the F-35 too... 

...and after the 326? Back on the deck with and E-2 or an EA-6B? Well, I am sorry to disappoint all the naval aviation enthusiasts out there, but I think I am done with naval aicrafts for a while - the planes I made where the most interesting ones for me, and I will keep them updated.

At the moment I am evaluation two projects:

1) Aermacchi MB.339A - This is the evolution of the MB.326 and the current ride of the Frecce Tricolori (but will be replaced in 2017 by the M345 - a Siai 211 derivative that does not look as slick IMHO). It is a very important aicraft for aviation enthusiasts in Italy, so either it will be good or it will be a disaster. On the good side, lots of documentation available, and I could reuse a lot of the work done on the MB.326 (the most of the airframe is similar)... Here is how a preliminary test looks so far:
 

Also, it has to be (or have as an option) a low-poly version mode for large formation flying.

2) Eurofighter Typhoon - This is a much more complex and difficult project. Most of the documentation is still classified (actually the Avionc System manuals can be found with Google - but that is not enough to model it). A good, weapon capable Typhoon would be great - problem is development costs and time would be huge (and probably would be in the payware area). Let's see.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My two cents on the freeware thing and other topics

I have been recently involved in a couple of interesting discussion on freeware and other topic, and I think it is worth spending five minutes sharing my point of view and clarifying my position on a couple of things.
First thing let me clarify what I mean with freeware (given the definition of this word has changed somewhat over time): I use this word in the meaning commonly accepted within the FSX community, that is you can download it and use it for free - but I still retain the copyright and you are not allowed to make changes to it. This is different from the "Free Software" concept and from the Open Source approach.

- Converting my models in other simulators or for other purposes: this is NOT allowed, and, in general, I am NOT releasing my source models. Reason for this is not, as several people suggested, that I am not willing to share my work. The fact is that some parts of my models are derivative of third party work of which I do not have the rights or permission to share.
This does not mean that I am not willing to cooperate with other designers - on the contrary none of my work could have reached the current quality level without external contibutions! - but I am not in the legal position to authorize other people to use my models.

- Why I do what I do if I am not getting any money? Because it is great fun. I design my planes first and foremost for my own usage and enjoyment - hence they are good enough when they fit to my taste. They are not designed to appeal to customers, or be fit to any other purpose.

- Payware vs. Freeware: I have absolutely nothing against payware, and it would be a great mean to get more "budget" for my projects. Fact is I do not have time to support this activity in a more professional matter - let alone the financial and taxes  and paperwork thing. It is not ruled out in future.

- You made it free so "you get what you get and users cannot complain". I can tell you that users will complain (mostly in a very polite and constructive way, but there are exceptions) regardless if they get them for free or not. I think I always made my best to listen to all the feedback - and implement it. I am sorry but I cannot always grant a timely reply (or a reply at all)...but rest assured I read everything and keep track of what you say.

- Realism: in general I try to make my planes "reasonably" realistic. The rationale is "good enough for me"... there is no guarantee of any kind on realism, nor my planes cannot be considered on par with ones from other designers in that respect. At least I am trying to represent all the peculiar features of the subject.
That being said.... expect further updates for the T-45C and the S-3B soon!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Aermacchi MB.326: announcement and project scope

One thing I am really happy about my new Aermacchi MB.326 project is that it will benefit from the help of members the Sim Skunk Works Group. I think they need no introduction, but in the remote case that you do not know them, you should definitely check out their website and their aircrafts (to name one their F-104 rendition is legendary - and the work they are doing on their new Tornado model is really promising):
  
 
They have offered their help in several areas and their help is more than welcome - especially since the quality of their work is guaranteed. As additional "bonus" their team includes a pilot which has hundreds of flight hours in the real MB.326. Here are primary targets of the project:
  • The main scope of the project is to create a realistic rendition of the Aermacchi MB.326
  • The level of realism shall be enough to provide a good training device for people looking to advance to "serious" military simulation 
  • The model will be optimized for minimal frame rate impact
  • Given the dozens of different configurations (I have counted more than 25 variants) the main visual model will be the MB.326E I-RVEG - the reason why I picked this particular variant is that I had the chance to fly on it, and it is the only MB.326 in flying conditions.
  • The backseat cockpit will not be modeled to help with frame rate
  • For flexibility, the cockpit model will be a sort of "average" between the cockpits of the MB.326E, -G and -K - i.e. a generic "mid-70's" configuration.
  • The package should have at least one livery for each major operator (by "major" I mean by number of aicrafts: Italy, South Africa, Brazil and Australia were the largest users).
...and here is a list of "secondary targets" that I would like to achieve (in order of difficulty - easiest to hardest) but it will depend on time and resources:
 
  • Include basic Tacpack compatibiliy (note: given that different variants had different weapons capabilities, I will stick to a generic configuration)
  • Include at least a livery for EVERY operator (there are dozens!)
  • Include external model variants
  • Extend the project to include the MB.326K (single seater, light attack version)
  • Extend the project to include the MB.339A (there are a lot of commonalities between the 326 and the 339, and I have some draft material on the 339... but that is a lot of work)
That being said, I believe there is no way to complete anything before end of 2014 - beginning of 2015.

...and in reply to your questions: YES I'd like to to an Eurofighter too. Problem is that, as you know, this is just a hobby for me and my "bandwidth" is full. When the MB.326 project will be in a better shape, we will see...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

S-3B Viking, bug report, suggestions, etc.



I am quite happy to see that, apparently, there are not catastrophic issues with the 0.99 release of the Viking. This is indeed good news - but still there are a couple of things that I'd like to fix.
Here is a list of known bugs / suggestions / requests / FAQs with my comments ("Fixed" means that it is fixed in my own build):

1) [BUG] Wrong entry in the aicraft.cfg makes it impossible to see the NASA livery - Fixed

2) [BUG] Incorrect cruise speed, especially at high altitudes (aicraft is slightly too slow) - I will check the NATOPs and will work on this to find a proper fix.

3) [Request] Torpedoes not working: torpedoes are not currently supported by Tacpack and therefore are not implemented.

4) [Request] Missing SENSO and TACCO stations: unfortunately I have no time and resources to do them, besides they would have little or no function in FSX

5) [Request] Where is the S-3 AI Tanker? It is almost ready. It will be initially released as a separate file, but may be integrated in the base package in the initial release.

6) [BUG] External Light switches are not working - I will fix that.

7) [BUG] Launch bar still having issues on some system - I will investigate that, but cannot guarantee a solution as it is perfectly working on my system...

8) [BUG] Allowed airspeed error on carrier approach is too small - I will investigate that, but I am reclutant to make big changes to the flight model in that department, as the carrier behaviour seems quite good...

9) [BUG] Autothrottle apparently not working as intended on my system (but I have checked the code several times and it seems OK)...

10) [BUG] Reflection of bomb bay doors is slightly different from the rest of the fuselage.

....if you have other things to report, you are welcome to do it here. I will keep the list updated, at least for a while, to track what your feedback.
Also, as usual, I am looking to improve all my aicrafts and any suggestion on the F-35, F-14 and T-45 is welcome.