I’ve spent perhaps the last two weeks almost entirely looking at driver-related graphics bugs. I should note that these are often not driver bugs, and the issue of whether a bug is in the sim or a driver is a lot stickier than you’d imagine, but I’ll blog about that later.
In the meantime, where do we stand on scenery development tools? Here’s a rough summary.
The scenery tools are not targeted to X-Plane 8 or 9 – they’ll export content for both (but if you use new V9-only features, your content will be v9 dependent).
There’s been one structural change in v9 that’s worth mentioning: version 9 allows road networks in DSF overlays. This cleans up the scenery model a lot…roads are more like objects and forests than like the base mesh, so now all of the 3-d elements can be in an overlay. This is particularly useful because you might want to adjust the road and objects nearby all at once.
Given that we have no road editing tools right now, I think there is one case where the tools will be v9-centric: I do not think I will ever provide a road-editing tools for DSF base meshes with roads. I do think I will add road editing to the list of overlay features that will eventually end up in WED.
This means that if you want to customize roads, you’ll have to do it in version 9. This is an inevitable outcome of the scenery system structure…replacing the entire base mesh to edit the roads is not a great idea.
WED is in beta 4, and I think it will go final as soon as I have time to make it official. At this point most of the open bugs I get are usability issues and enhancement requests, not real bugs. We’ll get more usability features into WED in the future.
Please don’t send me WED bugs now (or attach them as blog comments). I’ll put out a formal last-call for WED bugs when I have time to dig in.
The future plan for WED is to add DSF overlay editing with all legal overlay types (which is now everything except beaches and base mesh).
The AC3D export plugin already supports new v9 OBJ features – key frames and panel regions. These tools are available now!
The “tools” are the set of other scenery apps: DSF2Text, ObjConverter and ObjView. We’ll be adding two new tools soon:
- DDSTool is a PNG->DDS converter. There are already other programs (many free) for both platforms that can do this conversion, but we wanted something easy and drag & drop when we were doing the in-house conversion, so I coded DDSTool (based on the Squish library). We’ll make it available to authors.
- MeshTool is a base-mesh generation program. We’re still working out the details on this, but basically it will generate DSF base meshes from raw DEM data and polygonal coastlines.
I am restructuring the tools to be entirely command-line-based (except for ObjView) with a single “drag & drop” UI that wraps all of the tools. So if you use the mouse, you’ll use the one drag & drop application to do all your DSF2Text converions, 3DS->OBJ conversions, PNG->DDS conversion, etc. This is mainly to cut down the number of apps I have to build, but it should also declutter workflow a bit.
I’ll post more on MeshTool once we have more details, but here are the main points:
- MeshTool will not have a UI. It will take text files and process them. It is designed to provide a building block on which people can write more advanced tools. In other words, MeshTool gives other programmers our mesh algorithms just like DSF2Text gives other programmers our DSF-packing algorithms.
- MeshTool will not be an editor. It will create NEW meshes from RAW DATA, not from previous meshes. There are a lot of reasons why I do not want the mesh-creation workflow to be “take the global scenery and hack it”. So MeshTool lets you build your own.
- This means you will need your own elevation and coastline data for MeshTool! You can’t use what shipped in the global scenery! However, since the data that ships the global scenery is freely downloadable and widely available, I don’t think this is a problem.
- MeshTool will be able to “burn in” orthophotos into a mesh. This is probably its most important feature. Right now the only way to make orthophoto-based scenery is to use overlay polygons, but the performance of .pol files with a lot of scenery is really poor under version 9. MeshTool will let people build photo-sceneries that take full advantage of the framerate that X-Plane can deliver!
MeshTool should address some of the common issues I’m hearing with orthophoto sceneries (slow performance with a ton of .pol files, no ability to fix the coastlines or remove underlying base terrain, no ability to fix elevation).
MeshTool will create new default landuse terrain where there are no orthophotos or water. This is important because the elevation data can be customized. If you take an existing DSF and somehow edit the elevation points (for example, use DSF2Text and just start editing) and raise a grassy field, you’ll have grass going up a cliff. But if you pass the raw elevation data to MeshTool, it will build a rocky cliff over steep elevation, creating more plausible scenery.
MeshTool should be in the post 9.0 final time-frame, as will all the other tool reposts.