Here’s a quick round-up on the state of scenery tools, as of 10.21 release candidates…

WED: WorldEditor 1.2 beta 2 is “in the can” and should be posted tonight.  I’ll post more about the changes for beta 2 in another post, but beta 2 should fix any major beta bugs that were stopping people from getting work done, and opens up the path to submit airport buildings to Robin for collection in the global database.

MeshTool: I have a few bug fixes for MeshTool 2.0 and will cut a MeshTool 2.1 patch probably in the next week.  If you use MeshTool 2.0 and woud like to test the patches now, let me know.  The MeshTool 2.x builds will build v9-style DSFs, compatible with X-Plane 9 or 10.

I now have a prototype of MeshTool 3.0, which will produce X-Plane 10-style DSFs (E.g. with X-Plane 10 landclasses/terrain, and the X-Plane 10 DEM-in-DSF style storage). I am working on the XES files authors will need.

Note that having a prototype is a long way from having a stable beta; in particular, X-Plane 10’s new DEM system has never been tested with really huge DEMs – there could be significant bugs before MeshTool 3.x is ready to go.

The script format for MeshTool 2.1 and 3.x are the same, so you can easily create a MeshTool project and cut your scenery twice, once targeting X-Plane 9 and once targeting X-Plane 10.

Blender 2.49: I uploaded my patches to Jonathan’s scripts to GitHub – that “v10scenery” branch actually works for airplanes too and contains:

  • Jonathan’s original work and
  • Ben Russell’s manipulator exporter and
  • Ondrej’s manipulator exporter for 2.49 and
  • All of my modifications to support new v10 attributes and other stuff.

The idea is to have a unified Blender 2.49 script that is totally v10 ready and can directly export older projects.

Blender 2.6x: I also submitted a patch or two to Ondrej’s Blender 2.6x scripts, found here.  I think that with their current status and those bug fixes, they should be totally usable for aircraft development.

A comment about Blender: I know that some of you have tried to use Blender 2.49 and were absolutely horrified.  I have heard plenty of authors absolutely refuse to touch Blender 2.49, and I do not blame you at all.*

Blender 2.6 is different. The UI is completely redone and it is significantly less astonishingly weird.  I was able to install Ondrej’s scripts, build an object, animate it, add lights, and export it using the user manual only to install the scripts; everything else I was able to do with a few good guesses about how the program might work.  That’s a huge step forward from Blender 2.49 in terms of usability.

So I think Blender 2.6 with X-Plane export has the potential to be a really good intermediate modeling program for authors.  It has all of the power tools you need in a 3-d editor (solid UV unwrapping, visual key-frame animation, non-destructive editing), and if you really become an expert, the hard core features are there (e.g. render baking), so you won’t have to change editors later.

The X-Plane integration is really clean too.  Unlike Blender 2.49, Blender 2.6 allows plugin scripts to augment the core user interface, which is exactly what Ondrej has done.  The result is that custom X-Plane properties are visible directly in the main UI with your editing properties.  This makes full editing of X-Plane features straightforward.

So I believe that my next scenery-tools step (besides running out the betas for WED and MeshTool) will be to submit a few more patches for the Blender 2.6 scripts, to bring in direct support for some of the v10 scenery features.  I think these changes should be straightforward, as it’s basically “more attributes, more check boxes”.

(I think the 2.6 scripts are not yet ready for major intensive X-Plane 10 scenery development – we need to get a few key v10 attributes in to allow authors to get maximum performance from their scenery packs.  These attributes are not important for airplanes.)

* When I first started using Blender 2.49 to support our internal team, I basically had to have Propsman on the phone for a few hours going “click this box, now hit the space bar” and me going “what?!! seriously?!  what the @#$@# did that button do!??!”  In other words, Blender 2.49 is totally usable…as long as you have an experienced modeler to use it for you!

(I will say this though: once you overcome the Blender 2.49 learning curve, which takes about six months (!) the actual key strokes to use it are super-fast and efficient, which is why I think very experienced 2.49 modelers tend to look at 2.6 and go “who cares”?)

About Ben Supnik

Ben is a software engineer who works on X-Plane; he spends most of his days drinking coffee and swearing at the computer -- sometimes at the same time.

14 comments on “Scenery Tools – a Roundup

  1. Finally Blender 2.6 gets some recognition! I’ve been using it to create the last dozen or so Carenado and Alabeo planes. Not only is Blender 2.6 more user-friendly than 2.49, but it also makes everything a whole lot faster, and it makes expanding its functionality, based on new .obj format expansions, way simpler.
    I find the coolest feature is the fact that every layer in Blender gets exported as one .obj file. So you can have the entire plane in the 20 layers that Blender provides, and in ONE sweeping export command, write all 20 .obj files that your plane will end up having appended. Very cool! Keeps the project much more together.

    1. For Blender 2.49 users: the “V10” scripts have a “multi-object” exporter that also lets you do multi-object export in one file command. Once you get used to this, you can’t live without it.

      The 2.49 technique uses the hierarchy…this is useful for our scenery sessions where we might have literally hundreds of OBJs. I may be able to bring this feature to 2.6 so that an author can use layers (for airplanes and smaller/custom projects) and the hierarchy for library work.

  2. “The MeshTool 2.x builds will build v9-style DSFs, compatible with X-Plane 9 or 10.”

    Will this then have support for DEM data for X-Plane 10 or do I understand it correctly when DEM is v10 and DSF is v9 only! My reason for asking is that you wrote “and the X-Plane 10 DEM-in-DSF style storage” which I did not grasp the meaning of, could you please explain the difference? 🙂

  3. Please consider letting us create the base plan maker geometry from a simple model in blender for the aerodynamic calculations.

    It would be so much easier than using plan maker’s interface for fuselages.

  4. Looking forward to your words on WED 1.2b2 and the new submission process. I’ve got a gaggle of airports to get into Robin’s hands with some structures. In the meantime, I’ve had my divining rod all over the place in OpenStreetMap so you and Andras have even more water to look forward to in the United States.

  5. About the Blender 2.6x Scripts: Am I right, as of now there is no IMPORT Function to read Planemakers .obj-output? (well, as a workaround we could import those .obj in Blender 2.49 and save it as a .blend file wich 2.6x might be able to read)
    Greets Ron

    1. I believe there is no OBJ importer, although I am not sure.

      I was just thinking the other day that a _basic_ OBJ importer might be useful for getting Plane-Maker data in as a reference, even if the importer doesn’t support the full set of OBJ features the way the 2.49 importer does. (The 2.49 importer is _not_ extended to _import_ v10 properties, I think.)

  6. Ben, an object export would be nice, but I think even more helpful would be an object importer. As I mentioned above, given the choice between making a low poly aerodynamic part in plan maker vs blender… I’d much much rather use blender.

    Can’t something be done to import the vertex information so that plan maker can “build” it’s fuselage models and things from a very low poly blender model?

    The cross section tools in plan maker, while ok… are no where near the usability level of blender.

    Let us use the best tools for the job.


    1. * I think my “e” key must be broken… plan(e) maker… pardon me. 🙂

      1. Just to close, please do not take my comment as a “rant” or even a complaint… You guys do awesome work over there, and I very much appreciate it.

        It’s just a feature request, and one I feel strongly about.

        Thank again!

      1. Hey, thanks Ben!

        I always appreciate your posts, and the opportunity to gain more insight on software design. Keep-em coming, always a pleasurable read.

  7. Set the option in EditMode, in 2nd “Mesh Tools” panel. It only works on transform options now (grab/rot/scale), and of course assumes a near-perfect symmetrical mesh. Mesh Object itself can be on any location though (and rotated etc).

  8. After using Blender 2.49 (and previous versions with similar interfaces) for years, I just couldn’t get my head around 2.5+ . Finally after a year or two I decided to sit down and use 2.6, and now I can’t live without it. The way half the hotkeys changed (that and the new vertical UI) were the hardest parts of the transition, but now they’re great and the workflow is just as fast as it used to be. Blender 2.49 is still a very capable tool, but anyone still using it should really consider upgrading.

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