Thursday, April 22, 2010

In search for the Ultimate Tomcat...

As I design FSX add-ons for fun, when the projects come to the final polishing stage (which is very boring) I tend to lose the focus on their completion, and usally start working on other things.
Which in this case, as some of you are aware of, would be the T-45C update.

I've been playing with the new Goshawk for some time... but I have to confess that I could not get it right. That is, there are so many things I'd like to change that I grossly underestimated the amount of work. I've also considered buying professional 3D data to speed up thing... but apparently there is no data available. So I am not so sure it is the right thing to do, right now.
On the other hand, while looking for a T-45 3d mesh I found some nice meshes for the Tomcat at a reasonable price... Played with the 3D yesterday night and the results were really good. Long story short I am putting the T-45 on hold and make a new version of the Tomcat first.

So, the status of my projects is as follows:

F-35A Lighting II
I've almost finished remaking the MFDs. Then I have to finish a couple of repaints and the external weapons model. These are the last outstanding items in my to-do list, apart from a final round of tests - just to be sure everything works.
As for the will be release as soon as I've finished moving into my new home - and the new home is connected to the internet.

T-45C Goshawk 2.0
Delayed. Simply put, it is not coming as nicely as I hoped - and requires much more work than I thought. I have to think about that (...and find the time to read the Natops - thanks Phil)

F-14(D?) Tomcat 2.0
Warming up the engines. Initial work with professional 3D mesh is VERY promising. Undecided between B and D versions. It will be freeware, but may be will have payware additions (to cover the cost of the mesh license) - meaning that the base package will be freeware, and "optional" features (like different weapon loads) could be payware. Or a freeware "D" and a payware "B"... I don't know. Still, trust me, the preliminary build is looking very good.

TA-4J Scooter
Project evaluation. Well, the fact is I want to do a top-notch naval jet trainer - and I'm considering the TA-4J as replacement of T-45 - you know, in virtual reality you have the time to run backward :-)
It is just an idea, for now, but I'll probably make some preliminary work on it - if it will look good, I may decide to do this instead of the Goshawk...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Unhappy with the F-14...

I think that product quality and developer satisfaction do not come together... I know the T-45C and the F-14D are not bad for being freeware... But I am not happy about them. That is, the more you work and the more your skills improve, and the more you learn about your modeling subject.
And then... I am also never happy with what I do, and that is the main reason for the F-35 delay - for example I just started the third version of the MFD.... which is kind of stupid, given that the previous one was working almost perfectly...
Yesterday, during some F-35 flight tests, I took the old Turkey for a spin... and was unhappy. There are several small things that could be improved, let alone the fact that rebooting the F-14 with my current skills, and possibly starting from professional 3D data like I did for the F-35, could bring a much better model.
So, long story short I am considering an update/reboot of the F-14, too. I am undecided between a quick update to the existing model, or a major rework.
Some things I do not like ad that could be fixed in a quick update (say maximum 10 hours or work) are:
- Decent afterburner effects. I think the F-35 ones are much better, and I could do similar effects for the Tomcat.
- Collimated and perfectly translucent HUD.
- Minor glitches to the external model
On the other hand, investing like 200 Euros in professional 3d data and at least 200 hours in modeling / integration with the existing Tomcat model (i.e. reusing the good stuff) could bring a much better model...
What are your opinions? What should change and what should stay the same?

Monday, April 19, 2010

F-35 project update...and other things.

It is quite a busy period for me ( always!) but I'm doing my best to complete the F-35 soon. The most time-consuming thing, for me, is that I'll be moving into a new house in the next few weeks... which, for you, means another potential delay in the F-35 release (due to the fact that it may take few weeks to activate the internet connection in my new home)... Still, rest assured that the F-35 will be released as soon as possible.

This blog

As you may have noticed, the AdSense banners are gone (their decision, not mine). While the reason for the suspension for the ads was unclear, I think it was due to the fact that I was suggesting to click the banners - which is against the AdSense rules. My fault - I had not read the AdSense policy carefully. It was not my intention to cheat or anything. Also, as I had not read my home e-mail for a while, I've missed the 72 hours time limit that AdSense gives you to fix your site. I've filed an appeal but as it was my fault it is likely that the ads are not coming back.

Not a big deal for me, although I appreciated the fact that the advertising paid for full access to, for example... Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that those empty boxes you see are, in fact, empty. Will rearrange the layout of the blog asap.

F-35 Lightning II

It is almost done, meaning that it is already at least as good as my previous project... but as I was not satisfied with the MFD "interface", I am extensively reworking it. It will be closer to the actual F-35 in both graphics and functionality, although still not as customizable to the real one and given some artistic licence for FSX limitations and playability.

I've made some minor changes to the flight model (with thanks to Roberto Leonardo for providing major improvements to the Alpha and Beta1 versions) and the external models are done - with exception of the launchers and the external loads (with should not take more than a couple of hours to make).

So, the big unanswered question is the release date.... and I have no clear answer, yet. The Beta 2 / (potential) RC1 is just few work-hours away, but the actual release date will also depend on when I will have the internet connection in my new home.

T-45C Goshawk 2.0

I had very good feedback on the "T-45 Goshawk 2.0" project. I've received the .pdf files for both the T-45A and T-45C Natops (thanks Phil) and placed them in my documentation folder - together with almost every Goshawk file available on the internet.

The only thing I'm missing right now are good, hi-res pictures of the cockpit - I have some (the ones I've used in the current release), but are not as good or as complete as I'd like.

Also, I've received some appreciation e-mails from former and current T-45C pilots, so the new version will include "first hand" feedback. By the way I was happy to hear that they found my FSX rendition to be realistic - although I've learned that in most cases, real pilots are more forgiving than other users, in terms of simulation realism... I think it is due to the fact that they realize that FSX is, afterall, just a game :-)

F-14D Tomcat

There is some chance I will make a small update to the Tomcat before reworking the T-45C. While I am not satisfied with the F-14, and while I know it can be vastly improved, there are a couple of issues with the latest release that can be easily fixed. Also, I'd like to apply some of the "tricks" I've learned making the F-35... We'll see...

By the way, seems that the download links from rapidshare are broken. Will fix that too, although you can find the Tomcat at


Unfortunately I had no time to reply to many of the emails I've received in the past few weeks -my apologies. I tried to reply to the most urgent ones - and I will reply to the others asap

That is all for now. In the next post I will provide some hi-res pictures of the latest F-35 build.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Real AF-1 ready to fly at Edwards (and F-35 drop tests)

F-35 AF-1 with final painting/finishing. Will fly to Edwards soon.

In the past few weeks, the real F-35 project achieved several major milestones, including first vertical landing for the F-35B, first flight of a fully mission-equipped plane and drop tests of the F-35C. Now the AF-1 is back from the calibration lab and received its final livery (which looks close to the one I did based on drawings - the major difference is that the real characters are smaller).

By the way seeing the F-35C drop test videos (link below, also on youtube - and good source to estimate F-35 carrier landing parameters) reminded me of drop tests we did when I was working for major mobile phones company... but on a much bigger scale!


AF-1 Completes Final Finishes, Scheduled to Return to Flight

First Lockheed Martin Mission Systems F-35 Enters Flight Test

Lockheed Martin's F-35C Lightning II Carrier Variant Undergoes Drop Testing

Monday, April 12, 2010

F-35 Lightning II - project update (finally) and some screenshots

My apologies for not having posted any update on the F-35 recently... I had not much time to work on it, and I am also at that point in which you keep on making small, almost unnoticeable refinements... and you are never happy with the results.

Anyway, at present the external models for the AA-1 and AF-1 are done. The operational F-35 still needs some modeling/texturing, while the "clean" texture set is done. I'm also tinkering with a couple of other repaints.
The Virtual cockpit is, finally, almost bug free - some MFD freezing still happens, but it is very rare on my machine. Also, I've been working with Jitko Rusev to improve the Virtual-HUD resolution and appearance - with very good results IMHO.
Flight model is also almost ready - with thanks to Roberto Leonardo who provided several improvements and corrections. I'm making some very minor changes here and there...but I am pretty happy of the flight behaviour.

As for the release date - well, its done when its done. I think this project needs roughly 20-25 work hours to be considered "complete", but I really can't tell when I will find that time.... hopefully the release is just few weeks away - I really don't know.

In the meantime... here are some screenshots:

AA-1 model is complete...
...and so is the AF-01 model (this livery is based on a CAD image from LM, AF-01 actually took flight mostly unpainted - I have the "unpainted" livery in the works... but its quality is not on par with the rest of the package, so I'll leave it out - unless I find the time to improve it)

This is the "clean" livery for repaint. No paintkit is available (as I use the photoreal approach) nor it will be - my apologies to repainters... Still, I hope this "clean" texture set will help in making new liveries.

At least three visual models will be included: the AA-1 (initial prototype), AF-01 (weight optimized prototype) and an "operational" F-35 (with proper EOTS and weapon lauchers, and without nose probe). I am also considering adding models with external loads.

Above are a couple of pictures of the new afterburner effects - much better than the Beta 1, IMHO - and hopefully less prone to fx"bleeding" (i.e. special effect misplacement that happens, in FSX, on some machines - usually it disappears by setting the graphic card to "maxiumum quality")
Here is the current cockpit - Most of the bugs of the Beta1 are gone. I'm relatively happy with it - but I'd like to add a couple of functions before the final release.