Before I can describe the way we are planning on handling Jetways in X-Plane 10, I’ll have to describe some of the rendering technology that goes into the lego bricks; the airports are built on a bunch of new version 10 features.
- Global lighting. The airport objects come with lights that cast halos in all of the expected places. Sometimes the light is attached to a building, but there are also tand-alone “light pole” lights. This simplifies placement and arrangement because you don’t need to worry about matching LIT textures on the ground to your objects. You simply place lights and the resulting lights do what they should. If things are too dark, just place more lights.
- Draped geometry in OBJs. In version 10, an OBJ can have draped geometry that sits on sloped ground perfectly. Tom uses this for parking spot markings, etc. To place a parking spot, it’s one click in WED to place the object and you’re done.
- Improved OBJ performance. On machines with new video cards, we use instancing to draw OBJs if they are simple enough (e.g. no animation, no material attributes). This means that the cost of very small, simple objects is much lower than in version 9. Thus you can place a lot of clutter on the apron and it shouldn’t hurt performance too much.
- Attached objects on facades. A .fac facade definition in version 10 can have attached objects, the same way the roads do in version 9. In version 9 we used attached objects to add pillars to road bridges; in version 10 Tom can attach a light pole object to a facade and it will automatically be placed in alignment with the facade section that it matches.
- Custom facade wall selection. in X-Plane 10, you can pick which art asset wall definitions are associated with a given facade. For example, when you place the fence facade in WED, you can pick which section has the gate. When you place a terminal, you can pick which sections have windows and which do not. (The wall selection is made via a popup in WED – WED reads the wall names out of the .fac file.)
- Autogen Point scenes (.agp files). An autogen point scene is a draped footprint texture which is annotated with a mix of vegetation (defined by a .for file), objects, and even facades. Tom builds the .agp in Blender, forming a “mini-scene”. You place an .agp just like an OBJ in WED – you specify its location and heading – point and click. (The file is called autogen point because it is located at a single point in the DSF.)
- The ground tile from an AGP can use a special shader that adds various amounts of grit and other high-res textures; a control texture with primary colors painted into it specifies where the various high-res texture effects take effect.
Autogen point scenes allow Tom to build a building that comes with extra objects (parked cars in the parking lot, a mailbox), facades (a fence around the object) and a draped polygon all in one click. Putting it all together, you can place an autogen scene in one click and get a facade with exact wall types, lots of objects (that run quickly) with instancing, and global lighting shining on the entire situation.
All of this rendering tech is also completely available to third parties – you can make your own .agp art assets or your own facade types with custom walls, etc. Everything that the airport lego brick library uses will be available via text files in your custom scenery pack.