Friday, June 26, 2009

Currently on the drawing board....

As many of you are asking, here is a quick resume of what I have on the drawing board right now (will add some pictures later on):

F-14 Tomcat
There are a lot of things that could be improved on the Tomcat, but I have to confess that I'm quite happy with it as is.
I've already made some more changes to the geometry (for example the missiles have been redone completely) but, as we are talking about minor enhancements, I will pack several changes before making an update.

I have two major enhancements in mind right now:
  • RIO cockpit - It would be difficult, and definitely too time consuming, to make a RIO virtual cockpit as detailed as the pilot one... still, it would be great. I've started working on it a couple of times, but dropped it for the excessive complexity (and limited functionality)... Still, I have not completely ruled it out for now.
  • F-14B UPGRADE - This is much more doable. The external model would not need much work (cockpit, seats and ECM fairings, a new texture set -Jolly Rogers for sure- and may be a new weapon set). The virtual cockpit would not be that easy, but many parts can be carried over...

I will never have the time to do both (also because the F-14B UPGRADE RIO cockpit is different from the F-14D) so I think I will do the F-14B. But improving the F-14D is the first thing.

By the way, I know that Paolo Oriani - who provided an oustanding contribution so far - is working to improve the realism and accuracy of the animations.

F-35 Lighting II
This will probably be my first payware project. I know that the FSX community is generally inclined towards older birds... still, there are a lot of things I like about the F-35 and I think it is a very interesting plane. The reasons why it is likely to be payware are several... maybe I'll do a post about them (and about the whole payware versus freeware debate) one day or another.

The AA1 (CTOL development) bird is the one I am modeling. Production F-35A will differ, and some of the differences are known, so I'll probably do a production model too. I'd like to do the STOVL version, too...but we all know the limitations of FSX in this field. Carrier version is very doable, but, at present, the public information about this version is not enough for proper modeling (please do not send info about the X-35C...X-35 and F-35 are very different).

T-45C Goshawk makeover
This is one project I've been toying with for a while. I'm not happy with the T-45C as is now (while I know most of you are). I'd like to optimize it,make it more accurate and add the instructor cockpit.

Aermacchi MB339
Last, long ago Massimo Taccoli kindly sent me the source geometry of his excellent freeware rendition of this plane. The MB-339 is probably the Italians' favourite and most loved bird, as it it the one flown by the Frecce Tricolori. Massimo's model is really good and I've started working on it several months ago. While the results are encouraging it is highly unlikely I will be ever find the time to do this, too.

As you can see, there is a lot of things I am working on. Well, actually there are too many things... I will have to drop at least half of these projects.Believe it or not, apart from my FSX activities, I do have a full-time job and a social life...

Monday, June 22, 2009

F-14D clear to launch

I've just finished compiling a build that I consider "good for release". I think the visual model is Ok, the flight model does its job and the cockpit is working. I am not completely satisfied with the cockpit quality level as it is full of bugs: some buttons are still inoperative, or mapped incorrectly and some gauges do not work as they should. BUT, as it is unlikely I will have enough time to fix those bugs in the next couple of weeks I have decided to release it as is.

As it very late in the night here in Italy, and the files are not properly packed yet, I am not releasing it now...and will catch some sleep instead.
I will release it asap, probably tomorrow ater work - and after one last test flight that I am sure will reveal some last minute it always does..

Thursday, June 18, 2009

F-14D update...she is almost ready!

With Javier Fernandez's outstanding carriers on the loose, I am receiving many emails asking about the release of the F-14D Tomcat... At the moment I am writing, IT HAS NOT BEEN RELEASED YET. FSX portover of my FS2004 Tomcat was not done by me (and by the way has never been authorized) and has nothing to to with the new Tomcat, which is a completely new model - started from scratch.

I think I've just finished the external model: thanks to Paolo Oriani now there is a flap intelock that prevents flaps from being extended over Mach 0.3....this means a much more realistic behaviour of the wing sweep and flap mechanism. This was the major outstanding issue - so I think the external model is ready. Also, I am quite happy with the flight model, too. I've tried my best to have a realistic behaviour - and I've paid special attention to Guns210's feedback on the Beta version as he was a real life Tomcat driver.
Now, the cockpit issues need some work...but it is already functional and working. Some gauges don't show exact values and it is not yet possible to start from a "cold and dark" situation... But I am confident I can complete it before the next weekend. So...we're almost there.
Here are a couple of pictures from the latest build.

F-14D trap onto Javier's Nimitz carrier. Finally the approach is "power on" and approach speeds are almost correct!

Surrounded by Superbugs... Hornets by mandate, Tomcats by choice!

Thanks to Paolo Oriani, now the wing sweep behaviour is much closer to the real one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A short round-up of Xbox360 air combat games

Apart from being a FSX simmer and designer, I am also a (relatively avid) gamer. My gaming-addiction severity largely depends on weather and mood, but I think I've played many of the most significant games of the current-generation on PC and Xbox 360.
Now, with the growing rumor of a Microsoft Flight Simulator Live-based game, I just wanted to share my thoughts about the modern air combat games currently available on the Microsoft console. As far as I know, there are only three such games: Over-G Fighters from Namco; Ace Combat 6 from Taito and Tom Clancy H.A.W.X. from Ubisoft. Other WWII air combat games exist, like Blazing Angels 1 and 2 - but I've never played them (and, for some reason, I've never actually liked WWII warbirds).

Let's start saying that none of them can be considered a simulation, even in a loose sense of the word. They are arcade games, and should not be treated as Falcon 4 competitors.


Over-G Fighters has been the first jet combat game available on the XBox360. It could have been a good game, but it isn't mainly because of the poor graphics and presentation. In terms of game mechanics it is the only one that could be considered vaguely a flight simulation, as it is somewhat similar to F/A-18 Interceptor or JetFighter series. Still, the graphics are really bland and the manga-like briefings are extremely cheesy, apart from being completely out-of-context. Even if dogfights are vaguely realistic, multiplayer tends to be boring as you have to fly a lot over the mediocre scenery before facing an opponent.

Over G Fighter graphics are generally poor - while the aircraft models show some love, the overall look is the one of an average PS2 game upscaled to HD.

In terms of cockpit fidelity, Over G is the best of the bunch. Also, this is the only game on the Xbox360 in which dogfight mechanics could be called realistic.


Ace Combat games never tried to be realistic. Fictional countries. Spacecraft-like boss-vehicles. Unlockable sci-fi aiplanes. Unlimited weapons. This is a shoot'em-up dressed like a flight simulation. But it is a good shoot'em-up. Graphics are beautiful, partially due to extremely good filters, frame rate is superb and some of the sceneries are jaw-dropping. The game is fast and fun, provided you can stand the fictional environment and the extreme cheesiness of the useless cutscenes. Multiplayer is chaotic but relatively fun.
For my tastes, this game could have been a lot better with a non-fictional environment and a mission editor. It is a good 3d shooter with some brilliant in-game graphics and a Gundam-like flavour.

Ace Combat has intenal views...but they are not functional and serve no purpose in this game.

Ace Combat 6 visuals are good, and the graphics engine is extemely fast even if the sky is crowded by missiles, planes and explosions...and huge sci-fi boss vehicles.


Tom Clancy games on the X360 have been generally good and realistic, like Ghost Recon or Rainbox Six. This is not. This is an Ace Combat clone with real-life photoreal scenery and a fictional (and not really believable) story set in a near future. The only addition to Ace Combat mechanics is the possibility to switch to a "close combat" mode which is disorienting and adds no value to the gameplay. Graphically the game is good, but Ace Combat is better.

What was really disappointing for me was the fact that the Tom Clancy brand was a trademark for quality and realism, so I had (limited) hopes that HAWX could have been a good compromise between realism and fun. It is not. It is just an AC6 clone with the Tom Clancy name attached.

H.A.W.X. cockpit look flat...and they are not much functional to the game mechanics.

H.A.W.X. graphics don't look bad on still pictures... But, in motion, Ace Combat 6 looks definitely better.


...for my tastes and at the moment I am writing,there is no air combat game worth buying on the Xbox 360. Ace Combat 6 is a competent shooter, spoiled by an extremely cheesy setting. HAWX is an AC6 clone that has nothing to do with the usual realism of the Tom Clancy brand. Over G could have been a good next-gen JetFighter but the execution is poor.

If you like (semi)realistic air combat games, there is nothing worth buying on the Xbox 360 at present. And I have some doubts there will be in future. Save your money for other things.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Javier Fernandez releases his Nimitz carriers for FSXA

Javier's excellent Nimtiz in recovery configuration
Just a quick "heads-up" for the release of Javier Fernandez's oustanding Nimitz class package for FSX. This excellent freeware add-on provides AI models for both Nimitz and Eisenhower nuclear carriers. Both carriers are available in different configurations, including launch, recovery and "man at rails". This package is pratically perfect in every respect: textures and modeling are great, with little impact to the frame rate; accuracy and details are oustanding, and just walking around the ship reveals marvelous details (such as the air-boss station, the fantastic hangar or the 3d deck crew) and needless to say everything is 100% Acceleration compatible. It even features a "carrier qualification" configuration with T-45Cs.
This is pratically the "perfect" carrier I've always envisioned and it is a much needed addition to FSX:A as the default carriers are far from this level of accuracy and beauty. The fact it is freeware is simply fantastic.
This is a MUST download for all virtual naval aviators, but I'd say for every FSX user as this is truly a masterpiece. File name is USS_Nimitz_Ike.rar and should be available at both Flightsim and Avsim, or through the link shown in the first page of this thread:
The only word of warning is that these carriers are pure AI vehicles, with no missions or courses attached, hence you will need AI Carriers to make them appear (but I'm sure that missions and bgls will appear soon).
Thanks a lot Javier - a truly oustanding job!
P.S. - I understand that, with the release of these carriers, the Tomcat will be much needed - you definitely have to show the Rhinos how a real fighter looks like! Well, the situation is as follows:
- External model is complete and working. There is just one bump texture that needs some tweak.
- Fight model is OK - you can make power-on approach at close-to-real speeds, exceed the Mach 1.88 and have a realistic maneuverability.
-Virtual cockpit is visually complete and functional. A couple of gauges and buttons are not working properly.
I foresee a release before the next weekend.
In the meantime, I've also update the Goshawk - by applying some of the tricks I've learned during the Tomcat development. The new Goshawk is pratically ready and will be released later on today or tomorrow.