Monday, February 16, 2015

Plans for the future and answers to some FAQs


The release of the Aermacchi MB.326 has been a great success so far. We have exceeded 2000 downloads in just few days, and I believe it is a great result (especially if you consider that this plane is surely not as popular as a Tomcat!). The perceived quality level seems very good, too.
So, people are starting to ask me what are my plans for the future... and here is what it is on my mind at the moment.

F-14D Update - First thing being worked on in an update to the F-14D. Several minor fixes / improvements, nothing too big. This could be out in a couple of weeks.

S-3B Update - Same thing for the S-3... I have plans to fix some minor defects in the current release. And hopefully I will find the time to release the AI Tanker model.

F-35ABC Update - Now, this would be, in my intentions, a bigger update which would bring the simulated version closer to the real deal thanks to the information released to the public in the meantime. This may well be a two-step update.

New projects being worked on:

Aermacchi MB.339: This would be a logical extension of the MB.326... but I've been working so much on the 326 that I'd need a break.

Eurofighter Typhoon: On hold... I do not have time to work on this at the moment. I'll keep you posted.

And now some FAQs:

Q - Are you interested in making an Hawkeye? And a F-16 Fighting Falcon? Or why not a Sepecat Jaguar/AMX/enter your favourite aircraft here)?

A - I have carefully evaluated several proposals, and my current projects will keep me busy for at least a full year. Sorry. Then... my two cents: the Viper is the elephant in the flight simulation room. We badly need a good one for FSX/P3D, but I do not have time for this.

Q - Why aren't you working on models for DCS / XPlane / FlightGear or other simulators?

A - Because I do not have the time.

Q - ...So could I export your models and use into another simulator?

A - NO. While the models are my creations, they are sometimes based on professional meshes (under paid-for licence...this is one of the ways in which I spend the money you donate) or contributions from other authors. Exporting/reverse engineering the models by a third party would be a licence and copyright infringement.

Q - Then... why do not you do this for a living?

A - Because it is just a hobby... and I am a relatively well paid professional engineer. If I had to quit my job for flight simulations that would mean a significant cut for my incomes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Aermacchi MB.326 version 1.00

After more than one year of work, here is the Aermacchi MB.326 version 1.00 release. This is a very special model for me, as I had the unique chance to fly on the only MB.326 in flight conditions in Europe - that was my first (and hopefully not last) ride in a military jet... and needless to say it was awesome, and I completely fell in love with this aicraft.
First thing I'd like to thank Alessandro Barbarini who created the fantastic external textures I am sure you will enjoy. They look awesome, and raised the quality bar significantly.
Also, I'd like to thank Roy Holmes, for a very realistic flight model, and Mario Motta for his modules, which bring payload configuration capabilities and VACMI support, and flight testing (Mario has hundreds of flying hours in the real Macchino). Also, a big thank you to Serge Luzin who provided a great sound package, based on real world recordings (in cockpit sounds come straight from the recordings of my own flight).

The model supports BOTH Sim Skunk Works vACMI and Vertical Reality Simulation Tacpack weapon packages. By default, it is set to support vACMI - please see the documentation on how to enable Tacpack of you use the latter.

I had no time to squash all the bugs, and I am sure more will pop-up after a the release... still it should be OK as is for the vast majority of the users.
It is a "control+e" model, meaning it is not meant to provide a 100% exact simulation of the real aicraft... but you should be able to start it "cold and dark" and use it as a basic military trainer. Actually our target was to create a realistic and complete freeware rendition of this fantastic light jet... we are happy with the result, and we hope you will be too.

Have fun!
...and yes, the download link is in the side bar, as usual!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Boeing T-45C Goshawk version 2.75

I know that I have announced that version 2.70 would have been the final T-45C release, but during the development of the MB.326 I spotted some very minor defects, which were easy to fix so here we are with version 2.75. Given that the changes are very small, this release will only be available from this blog at the moment. Changes are as follows:

- Fixed onboard clock animation (hours needle did not work)
- Improved graphics and animation of altimeter (sharper digit graphics and more accurate animation)
- Extended support for non-Tacpack carriers (from VLSO website):
When in cockpit tune to the relevant ILS frequency or TACAN channels as follows:
111.00 (47X) - CVN68 Nimitz (Acceleration)
112.00 (57X) - CVN68 Nimitz (Javier's)
114.00 (87X) - CVN65 Enterprise
112.10 (58X) - CV63 Kitty Hawk
113.10 (78X) - R09 Ark Royal

In addition, backup files for the "standard cockpit" (i.e. without reflective mirrors in P3D) are now included in the Optional Features folder. Download from the side bar as usual.

Note that I still have plans to upgrade my whole fleet, but the MB.326 has the highest priority - and by the way, the MB.326Beta will be withdrawn from download in 24 hours.

Monday, January 12, 2015

End of Beta stage and paintkit release

Thanks for the oustanding feedback on the MB.326 Beta - I am going through the bugs list and I have already solved many of them. As consequence, the Beta1 build is now outdated, and I will withdraw it from download in the next few days.If you want to download the Beta, I urge you to do so in asap. I will keep on collecting feedback and fixing bugs. I am looking to release version 1.00 within a couple of weeks in the worst case.

Aside, on top of the excellent work he did for the liveries, Alessandro was so kind to provide me (and you) with a paintkit for the MB.326, in layered PSD format.
This file is provided "as is" - no guarantee of any kind and no support whatsoever will be provided.
- Note that the intended usage of these files is to create freeware liveries for the MB.326. Please refrain from redistributing these files or content derivative of these files for profit.
- Please DO NOT share or distribute repaint until version 1.00 of this package is officially released from this blog. We may need to make changes to the package and to the folder structure...most probably including a specific folder to support twin seater versions with MK.540 engine.
If you promise you will stick to these (simple) rules, you are welcome to download the paintkit by clicking HERE.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Aermacchi MB.326 Package - Public Beta Release

Here we are with the public Beta version of the Aermacchi MB.326 - this is a very special project for me, as this is the only military jet I had the pleasure to fly in reality (yes - I was in control for few minutes, but still it was an amazing and unforgettable experience).
First thing, I'd like to thank all the people involved in this project:
Alessandro Barbarini, who volunteered to redo the external textures and did an Amazing job and was a continous driver for improvements; Roy Holmes who created a very realistic flight model (I invite you to check it against actual flight manuals and be amazed by the accuracy), Mario Motta who provided additional coding and flight testing (Mario has hundreds of real-life flight hours on the 326) and Serge Luzin who, as usual, created an exceptional sound package (some of it is based on recordings taken on my joy-ride).
That being said, here are some things you need to know about this Beta version:
  • This package depicts several versions of the Aermacchi MB.326, which can be divided in two-seater unarmed versions, two-seater armed versions and single-seater armed versions.
  • There is only one virtual cockpit model. This is sort of an average between the different layouts of the mid-late 70's... hence it is similar, but not exactly the same, as any real-life version. This is a compromise I had to make to keep the project to a manageable size.
  • The project has been tested in FSX:Acceleration and in P3DV2. It has not been tested in FSX-Steam Edition, nor in FSX:SP1/SP2 and may not work.
  • The package supports both VACMI from Sim Skunk Works and Tacpack from Vertical Reality Simulations. Those are two add-on packages that allow FSX/P3Dv2 to have working weapons functionality. At the time I am writing, VACMI is the only one that supports P3Dv2.
To make weapons work with VACMI
The package should work without any modification under VACMI. You should, however, disable collisions with other aircrafts - otherwise, releasing a bomb may cause a collision with the aircraft. NOTE - with VACMI the following weapons will not work: MK.76, Magic 550, all guns and gunpods (cosmetic only)

To make weapons work with TACPACKIn order to make weapons work with Tacpack you MUST replace the panel.cfg in the PANEL subfolder of the MB326E folder, with the one contained in the panel_TACPACK_backup. This MUST BE DONE ONLY ON THE MB.326E folder.
NOTE 1 - with Tacpack the following weapons will not work: Matra F2 and 155 rocket pods. 2 - Beta files are not signed for multiplayer in Tacpack. If the server has anti-cheat turned on, you will be kicked out.

To fire weaponsIn order to fire a weapon, apart obviously from loading it in the configurator, you must:
- Switch the Trigger selector switch to ARMT & CAM
- Switch the MASTER ARM to READY
- Select the weapon station you wish to employ (upon pressing the key it turns green if the station ammo is not zero)
- If the weapon you wish to fire is a cannon, you must also turn on the gun power switch
- Within Tacpack: trigger fires all the forward firing weapons, pickle drops the droppable ones.
- Within VACMI: brake key (usually mapped to trigger) fires any weapon
NOTE - Guns visual effects should work even if you have no weapon package installed.

Bug reports
I will keep track of the bugs/change requests in my usual way, that is filling and updating the following list:

Bugs and change request lists
LAST UPDATE 5/2/2015

Visual Model:
MB326MDL1 - Inner frame of canopy on single-seater model has defective geometry (visible when canopy is open, single seater model only). Fixed, 3D part redone.
MB326MDL2 - Position light reflection too big. Fixed, created bespoke effect.
MB326MDL3 - Aileron trim animation not working. Actually this was not coded in the .mdl. - no time to redo all the models, considered a minor issue -> moving forward with this. 
MB326MDL4 - Upper beacon light way too strong. Fixed, created bespoke effect.

Virtual Cockpit:
MB326VC1 - HSI pointer no.2 points to wrong direction. Should point towards selected NDB. station.
MB326VC2 - NDB frequency cannot be selected in the Virtual Cockpit. Fixed. User can now click in the ADF window to select the frequency.
MB326VC3 - Gear warning light does not work. FIXED. Gear warning light now works.
MB326VC4 - Would be cool to have model-specific VC (specific VC for K model, and/or one for unarmed models)- CLOSED - created additional folder with two seater model with MK.540 engine
MB326VC5 - Throttle animation does not work in the released model. FIXED - Wrong system simulation files went into Beta build. Please download BETA1A.
MB326VC6 - Miscellaneous avionic malfuctions. FIXED - Wrong system simulation files went into Beta build. Please download BETA1A.

MB326VC7 - HSI/RMI button do not work in FSX. They work fine in P3Dv2. Difficult bug to appears to be related to detection of Mouse click areas. FIXED - Reset scale in 3D model fixed it
MB326VC8 - Oxy button linked to Master Arm. FIXED animation in 3D model
MB326VC9 - Cabin pressure altimeter not working. FIXED animation in 3D model
MB326VC10 - Radio and advisory panels remain lit even in power is absent from the main bus.
MB326VC11 - Canopy lock lever not working in FSX (but works in P3Dv2, likely to be a reset-scale bug). FIXED reset scale solved the issue.
MB326VC12 - Clock "hours" needle not working. FIXED animation sequence in 3D model. NOTE: it may also apply to other projects.
MB326VC13 - Turn coordinator seems to have inverted motion.
MB326VC14 - Upper beacon light too strong.
MB326VC15 - Pitot heat indicator not working. FIXED - Pitot heat now working.
MB326VC16 - Check rudder trim switch animation. FIXED - implemented standard trim rocker animation.
MB326VC17 - One nav button inop, also in general, only standby frequencies can be changed. Closed. Fixed nav button, still user can only change standby frequencies.
MB326VC18 - Radio power button not working, also, avionics switch button missing. Fixed.
MB326VC19 - Emergency landing gear not working
MB326VC20 - Canopy frame texture improvement. Fixed - Redone all canopy texture and improved geometry.
MB326VC21 - Gunsight support graphical improvement. Open.
MB326VC22 - Control stick graphical improvement. Closed. Redone model and textures.

MB326VC23 - Ejection seat graphical improvement. Open
MB326VC24 - Further reduction of instrument glass reflection. Closed. Increased effect transparency by 50%.
MB326VC25 - Provide option to remove canopy scratches etc. Closed. Provided alternate texture in "optional_features" folder.
MB326VC26 - Trim NEUT flag indications not working. Closed. Fixed formulas in Modeldef.xml
MB326VC27 - EXT FUEL TRANSF gauge does not work. Closed. Albeit fuel transfer functions are not implemented, EXT FUEL TRANSF flag will now show ON if there is more than 5% fuel in any of the external fuel tanks.

Flight Model:
MB326FM1 - Currently "G" models (which have Viper 540 engine) do not have a specific flight model assigned. Added custom folder. Fixed.
MB326FM2 - Real Aircraft had no autopilot... change autopilot setting accordingly on all aicrafts. Fixed. Autopilot removed. 

Sound package:
MB326SND1 - Gear warning horn sound does not work. FIXED
MB326SND2 - Gun sound effects do not work. FIXEDMB326SND3 - Add high-G breathing sound. FIXED 

Weapons functionality:
MB326WP1 - Tacpack incompatibility (loads still suspended after release). FIXED - Wrong system simulation files went into Beta build. Please download BETA1A.
MB326WP2 - Minigun visual effect on STA2 does not work. Could not replicate the bug. ON HOLD - CLOSED. This is dependant on visual effect settings / rendering engine. Code is correct, just does not show in some cases.
MB326WP3 - Under VACMI, when selecting STA6 release, STA5 is fired. FIXED - Bug in Tactical module, found and fixed.
MB326WP4 - Under Tacpack, gun trigger does not seen to work. FIXED - Identified bug in Tactical module
MB326WP5 - Under Tacpack, files NOT signed for multiplayer. Intentional in the Beta.

MB326WP6 - Under Tacpack, cannot load SUU-11 on STA2. FIXED - Bug in Tacpack.ini file, wrong assignment for that station.

General and Others:
MB326GEN1 - Checklist and product documentation are missing.
MB326GEN2 - Removed repaint of the aicraft involved in the Casalecchio di Reno accident.
MB326GEN3 - Write a flight manual. Note: T-45 flight manual included by mistake.
MB326GEN4 - Minor mistake in scrape points, light assignment, fuel system in aicraft.cfg Fixed
MB326GEN5 - Tacpack debug screen instead of GPS - Fixed.
MB326GEN6 - Nav radio 2 not configured but present - Removed NAV2 radio from radio panel.
MB326GEN7 - Old texture set left in by mistake and unreferenced - Fixed, texture set removed.
MB326GEN8 - Abnormally high data packet consumption in multiplayer - Fixed. - Bug in gun effect code. 

Color key as follows:

RED - Severe problem. Product should not be released until the issue is solved, or, should the problem become too difficult or time consuming to solve, users must be clearly notified of the defect. Solving such issues is a very high priority.

ORANGE - Moderately severe will be perceived as a defect by most users. High priority.

YELLOW - Minor issue. Better fix it, but low priority...and will not be noted by most users.

GREEN - Issue solved, still on the list for the record or verification.

BLUE - Possible improvement / nice to have: product is not defective as is, but could be better. May be introduced with an update later on.

How to download the BETA:
Beta version is now outdated and is no more available for download.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Plans for closure of the F-14D project...

Much like I did for the T-45C, I would like to "close" the F-14D project, at least for FSX. So, whenever I will find the time, I will make a further, and hopefully last, update to this mighty feline.

Changes I have on my book at the moment are:
- Replace the ASI gauge with a proper ASI/Machmeter
- Replace the ADI with a better model
- Replace the Altimeter with a better model
- Add the scratches effects to the VC
- Try to improve autopilot logic
- Try to improve reflections
- Lower the visors on the crew helmet

...not much. If you have suggestions or requests, they are welcome. I cannot promise anything - but the fact that I am willing to listen.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to create working mirrors for P3Dv2 aicrafts

Just a quick heads-up for aicraft developers (and a quick memo for me) - here is how the working mirrors in my T-45C for Prepar3d V2.0 are done.
This is not meant to be a "tutorial", but just a quick note to show one of the possibilities provided by the new features of Prepar3d V2.
Specifically, Prepar3d V2 has an extended camera system, that allows you to easily render-to-texture any view, including IR sensors etc.
To make a working mirror for you Virtual cockpit you simply create a camera view with specific settings, assign a texture name and then use the texture in your 3D model.
In the T-45 there is a camera set as follows:

Description = Real time mirror
Origin = Virtual Cockpit
MomentumEffect = No
SnapPbhAdjust = Swivel
SnapPbhReturn = FALSE
PanPbhAdjust = Swivel
PanPbhReturn = FALSE
Track = None
ShowAxis = FALSE
AllowZoom = TRUE
InitialZoom = 0.60
SmoothZoomTime = 2.0
ZoomPanScalar = 1.0
ShowWeather = Yes
XyzAdjust = TRUE
InitialXyz = 0, 0.5, 0
InitialPbh = 0, 0, 180

This should be enough to generate a $mirror texture you can use in the VC. You will need, of course, to orient/flip it properly. Also, I have made the base material "self illuminating" otherwise the mirror would receive shadows from the rest of the cockpit.
In green are the specific lines that do the trick. You can of course customize the camera angles and the rendering setting to your preferences (but remember that more detail means bigger fps hit).

All the parameters are described in detail in the SDK - the trick works in a similar fashion for IR sensors or with other post processing effects.

I will probably add this to all my other planes (starting from the -D version)... when I'll get the time. Problem then is that you end up having two models (one for FSX and one for P3Dv2)... which takes longer to maintain.

Hope this helps. Ah, needless to say this ONLY works in Prepar3D v2.