Category: Cockpits

ATTR_light_level vs. Generic Instruments

Propsman caught something:

…is modifying the value of a batch of ATTR_light_level tris comparable [performance-wise] with toggling the state of a backlit generic instrument? Instinct tells me that you must have the latter more streamlined than the former, but maybe not?

He is right: in the current implementation, ATTR_light_level is probably a bit more expensive than using generic instruments. This may not be true in the future though.
  • The generic instrument code is pretty tight.
  • Right now ATTR_light_level sometimes has to adjust shaders, which can be expensive.
  • In the future, ATTR_light_level has the potential to be very heavily optimized, while the generic instrument code will always be CPU based.

But to put it in perspective, all instrument drawing is slow compared to scenery drawing – in the scenery world we draw 50,000 triangles of identical OpenGL state in a row, and modern cards do that very, very well.  In the panel, we have to put in a lot of CPU time to figure out how to draw each quad or tri-strip.  Fortunately you probably don’t have 50,000 individually programmed flashing lights in your panel.  Heck – there’s “only” 3608 datarefs published by the sim.

Perhaps other questions are important when picking ATTR_light_level vs. panel texture:
  • Which is more useful: to be able to have several variant images and variant images that are not “lights” (this is only possible by generics) or the ability to vary the light level gradually and not just have on or off (this is only possible with ATTR_light_level)?
  • Which is simpler to author given the rest of the panel?

In other words, it’s all pretty “slow”, but fortunately “slow” isn’t that slow.  If your light has to blink, you may want to pick what looks best and is straightforward to author.

Posted in Aircraft, Aircraft & Modeling, Cockpits, Development, Modeling by | 3 Comments

The Dangers of Wandering in the Desert

I have been trying to put documentation on the X-Plane Wiki, and use this blog for announcements and “the inside story”, rather than letting the blog turn into a poor-man’s users manual. An aircraft developer asked me via email whether there was a blog entry on some of the pitfalls of the v9 panel lighting system. There is not, and the lighting system is under-documented. I will be working on improving the documents over the next few weeks, but the point of this blog entry is: “how did we get here?”

I am a huge fan of incremental software improvement. That’s the subject of another blog post (perhaps on another blog), but for now I’ll say this: all changes to the rendering engine since version 8.0 have been incremental ones, and yet if you were to look at the code, you wouldn’t see a series of band-aids taped on top of each other. Each incremental change leaves the rendering code “fully updated”, as if it had been written yesterday. I start each new scenery feature by first reshaping the existing code into the most useful form for what we want to have in the future, and then coding the new feature is relatively simple.

But this strategy has an Achilles heal; if the code being refactored has a public interface (whether it is a file format or programming API), then all of the intermediate steps in the journey become requirements for future products in order to maintain backward compatibility.

This is not a problem as long as the programmer knows where he is going. The danger comes when one of the intermediate steps is actually a step in the wrong direction, and becomes dead weight around a future design.

A Reasonable Progression: OBJ

The OBJ 800 file format has had a reasonable progression* since its birth in version 8. It has gained a number of new features, but each one has generalized and made more powerful previous ideas, such that “legacy behaviors” are not so painful. Some examples:

  • Hard surfaces may now be decks (e.g. you can fly under them) or not, and you can specify what kind of hard surface you have. The original hard surface command was simply “it’s hard” or “it’s not”. But viewed under the lense of the new scenery system, that old hard surface command implicitly implied “the surface is smooth” and “the hard surface is not a deck”. So the new hard surface command is a more general version of the old one, which continues to work under the new system.
  • Animations in version 9 can be key framed; in version 8 you simply specify start and end values. But start and end values are just like having two key frames. So viewed under the lense of the new scenery system, all animations are key framed; older objects always just have two key frames. The new key framed commands are a more powerful, more general version of the old ones.

I can’t say that the relatively pain-free evolution of OBJ files over the last 4 years comes from good design or genius on my part – in truth it’s probably just good luck. But I think one thing has helped me keep the new OBJ extensions relatively sane: most of them are conceived several months before they make it into X-Plane.

I have a scenery system to-do list that will last me at least another four years; most of it is filled with things that Sergio has asked for. This to-do list acts as sort of a road map for future scenery system extensions; for any possible OBJ change, I can look at it relative to the other todo items and ask: “is this extension going to play nicely with things to come?”

(As a side note, this is one of the reasons why there are not light maps in any of the X-Plane modeling formats. Light maps don’t play well with a number of other scenery system extensions. I want to resolve the conflict between these future additions before they go into the sim.)

Wandering In the Desert

By comparison, the evolution of the panel system in version 9 has been more like wandering in the desert than a straight line toward a goal. Repeatedly, I put features into the panel system without a clear roadmap of where we would end up or how they would work together. The result is what you see now when looking over the panel documents: complexity and chaos.

Basically there are several major changes to the panel system that affect each other in strange ways:

  1. A more complex lighting model on the 2-d panel in version 920. (That is, the 3 2-d spot lights, and generic instruments with back-lit, mechanical, or glass lighting.)
  2. A more complex lighting model in the 3-d cockpit in version 930. (That is, 3-d spot lights, ATTR_cocpkit_region and generic instruments with back-lit, mechanical, or glass lighting.)
  3. A separate panel used only to provide texture to the 3-d cockpit. (That is, the 3-d panel.)

The problem is the order that they were invented: first ATTR_cockpit_region, then the 3-d cockpit, then back-lit generic instruments, then 2-d spot lights, and then 3-d spot lights.

The result is two sources of confusion:

  • Some combinations of features simply don’t work together. Since all of the features appear to be independent, I sometimes get bug reports on these. For example, you can’t use the 2-d spot lights on the 3-d panel. This is not a bug, it is by design! I will explain why some of these limits exist in future blog posts.
  • Among the remaining combinations that do work together, there are a lot of choices about how to structure a plane – too many choices!

This second point is a tricky one: X-Plane has to continue to support whatever set of features was available for any given release (864, 900, 920, 930) so that older planes continue to work. But some of those combinations (e.g. the ones that exist in version 900) don’t make a lot of sense for new planes made in 930.

I am open to ideas on how to solve this. I intend to document a “correct formula” for a modern plane, perhaps with tutorials, on the Wiki. I am also considering programming Plane-Maker to flag unusual combinations of features as a warning when saving 930 planes.

Either way, I fear I’ve learned my lesson from the panel system: incremental improvement of code is only a good idea if the programmer knows where he is going! Next time I will use Google Maps. 🙂

* I suppose that whether you think the OBJ 800’s evolution has been reasonable depends on your standards for file formats. OBJ 800 absolutely does show growing pains. I would only say: consider the number of revisions and the change in the hardware platform OBJ 800 feeds when you consider its stretch marks.

Posted in Cockpits, Development, Modeling, Panels by | 7 Comments

Scripting: A Line In the Sand

I thought I had already blogged about this, but I can’t find the old posts, so here goes. The big question: why can’t we have “X” in the OBJ file format or as part of generic instruments?

I get a lot of requests for “more power” in the OBJ or generic instrument system – the ability to play sounds, to do simple math operations on datarefs, more show-hide filters, the ability for a generic instrument to change a dataref in response to another dataref instead of a mouse click.

And invariably I say “No! Go write a plugin!”, which I realize is a fairly rude thing to say to a non-programmer. First, let me explain why I say no, and then what we can do about this.

Keeping Systems Separate

These feature requests fall into two broad categories: “systems programming”, which is really anything that has a side effect (play a sound, change a dataref, apply some logic), and “visualization” (e.g. a user needs more flexibility to better visualize the sim’s state.

I definitely do not want any kind of “systems modeling” code inside OBJs or generic instruments. To give a trivial example: imagine that you could make a generic instrument that would set the generators to on when the landing gear is raised.

What then happens if this generic instrument is off the bottom of the screen when the landing gear is raised? Does the generic instrument get to perform its logic? Both OBJs and generic instruments are fundamentally “visualization” systems – both will short-circuit for performance when they are not visible. If we put systems modeling code into them, then the sim has to evaluate a potentially large number of otherwise unimportant (non-visible) objects and instruments to do system behaviors.

In computer programming, there is the notion of a “model-view-controller” design. The basic idea is to keep the code that changes the model, the model itself, and the code that lets the user see the data model, all separate. Keeping them separate keeps operation consistent – the model does not change its behavior depending on how you look at it, which is very important for consistent simulation.

So for all systems modeling, my answer is always the same: not in viewing code!

Expressions and Visualization

Some requests are simply requests for more visualization complexity – there is only so much you can do with key frames, animation, and a few filters.

I do have to admit that on some level, it is perfectly reasonable to ask for infinite power to visualize data in OBJs and generic instruments.

On the other hand, there would be a real cost to having programming-language complexity in what are otherwise relatively simple-to-use parts of X-Plane (e.g. the simplest model is just an export from ac3d…). My solution for both problems (systems and visualization) is a scripting system, but in the case of visualization, it is about not reinventing the wheel and keeping complexity limited to one place (the scripting system).

Scripting

Plugins have the power to solve all of these problems – they can change almost any aspect of the sim. But they are also very difficult to create; you need to be a programmer who knows a language like C or Pascal, and you need to know how to use the development tool for each platform you want to support. That’s a huge amount of specialized knowledge just to customize a few systems.

Basically we need to have a line in the sand. At some point, when the systems to visualize information (OBJ, generic instruments) are not powerful enough, we need to make programming easier, rather than make modeling and authoring more complex.

What we need is a scripting system. The scripting system would provide a relatively simple text-file syntax to do simple scripting of systems and instruments for airplanes.

Such a scripting system should be implemented as an open source plugin; it should not be built into X-Plane. The advantage of this would be:

  • Anyone could improve or add features to such a scripting system, not just Austin and myself.
  • People could freely customize the scripting system as needed for specific projects.
  • By having the code be part of a plugin and not the sim, backward compatibility would be improved – even if the “official” version of the scripting plugin changed, you could always include an older version with your plane that worked exactly the way you want.

Who should work on this scripting system? I don’t know. Probably not me — I am not very good at making simple systems; see also what a complex disaster the panel and instrument system has become!

When a user requests that I add a feature to the generic instrument system, there is an implicit request – that Austin or I take programming time to do the feature. So for now I can only say that if/when I take time to do some of these feature requests, it will be in the form of a scripting system, not as extensions to the generic instrument and OBJ systems. This will give us better long-term compatibility and extensibility (via an open source plugin) and will keep systems modeling code separate from the visualization system.

Posted in Cockpits, Development, Modeling by | 4 Comments

Glass Objects

930 will have some new options for attached objects.  One is to declare a “glass” object.  When an object is declared to be glass, it is moved to the very end of the drawing order – even after the cockpit object.

The idea of glass objects is to let you make translucency that works from any view angle.  To make multiple layers of glass, the trick is to use pairs of one-sided triangles.  The glass (visible from the inside only) goes first, then the glass (visible only from the outside) goes second.  All of this goes into the object with the “glass” property in Plane-Maker.
One side benefit of the two-triangle approach is that the inside and outside of the windows can be tinted differently.
Having glass objects does three things for us architecturally:
  1. It takes pressure off the interior cockpit object.  The interior cockpit is the only object that can have manipulators, so texture space in the interior cockpit object is quite valuable.  By allowing translucency in an attached object, you can put your window textures somewhere else and save texture space for the cockpit object.
  2. It gets around the current weirdness where the interior cockpit object is drawn last but the exterior cockpit object is drawn first.  The glass object is always drawn last.  Period.
  3. It sets us up someday for some kind of shadowing scheme in the cockpit.  This is a bit pie in the sky, but most pixel-based shadowing algorithms go a bit bonkers on translucent geometry; by flagging the whole object as “glass” we can simply omit it from shadow calculations.

The 921 draw order has the exterior cockpit object drawn first (if drawn) and the interior cockpit object drawn last (if drawn).  This made sense at the time – the exterior cockpit object was being used primarily for a pilot figure, with windows in the ACF paint – so it had to be drawn before the ACF fuselage.  The interior cockpit object has to be drawn last because the coordinate system is changed to a super-close-to-the-user coordinate system that has to be drawn last.

Now that there are attached objects, people are modeling a lot more of the airplane, the usual approach is to have all 3-d present all the time, so that a roaming camera won’t reveal missing parts of the airplane.
Posted in Aircraft, Cockpits by | 5 Comments

Broken Panels

I have found the cause of a rather serious bug in Plane-Maker: sometimes instruments disappear from the hierarchy (but are still visible in the main window).

The problem is that the cut-paste facility, when used with multiple-instrument selections, was corrupting the hierarchy information.  Because of the way instrument hierarchies are managed, this corruption persists – even if it isn’t visible.  So if you manage to ungroup everything, it looks okay until you work more, then the instruments disappear again!
This is a really bad bug of mine, particularly since a panel is such a time investment.  Here is what we’ll be able to do in 930 to get around this:
  1. A new “flatten panel” command simply ungroups everything and completely cleans the hierarchy.  All corruption of hierarchy is fixed with this command, finally exposing every instrument.  From that point on, you can then re-group and things should be okay.
  2. I am fixing the cut-paste commands to not trash the hierarchy, and I am looking for any more hierarchy-corruption problems.
  3. 930 has export/import of instrument groups to text files.  So another way around instrument corruption problems would be to export the panel to a text file, fix the grouping problems (which is a matter of moving the GROUP/END_GROUP lines) and then re-importing.  If you do not have a selection, the entire panel is exported, including any hidden items in the hierarchy.

I believe that text-based panel import/export will also be useful for sharing individual instruments (or clusters of grouped generic instruments), archiving work, and making large-scale changes using search-and-replace.

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Two Squashed Bugs for 930

These two issues have been discussed a lot in the forums, so I thought I’d mention them:

First, I finally found and nuked that star-burst pattern in the rain.  It turns out that for some textures, compression was destroying the lower res mip-maps, causing the geometry that the rain drops are drawn on to show up as that starburst pattern.  It should be fixed for 930 beta 1.
Second, it turns out that the code that converts the 900-format generic instruments to 920-format generic instruments* was being run on the user’s airplane whenever a multiplayer airplane older than version 920 was being run.  That could cause generic instruments to disappear, appear incorrectly, or just crash the sim, because the aircraft data in the user’s plane (once the user is flying) is already in 920 format…if you interpret it as 900 format again, you get non-sense.  
I am fixing this for 930 beta 1; there may be other bugs relating to multiplayer and generics, so we’ll see if this fixes most of the problems, or others crop up.  The panel system is essentially “global” (that is, there is one panel for the user in all of x-plane) but the instrument data is per-plane…so there is always a risk of code mistakes where the multiplayer planes affect the user’s panel.
When will 930 beta 1 be out?  I don’t know.  Hopefully pretty soon – when bug fixes make it into the blog, we’re usually in the push to get to beta.  But I’m working on features on a few fronts, so it’s hard to say which ones will be done first.
* X-Plane 920 revised the ACF format from version 900.  The file format for generic instruments was pretty much completely changed to accommodate new features like key frames.  920 has code that converts the 900 generic instruments into 920.  For example, simple key frame tables are built out of the older offset-scale parameters per instrument.
Posted in Cockpits, Panels by | 2 Comments

Panel Texture and Panel Clicking

As of X-Plane 9, life was simple: ATTR_cockpit and ATTR_cockpit_region caused your triangles to be textured by the panel, and they could be clicked. ATTR_no_cockpit went back to regular texture and no clicking.

Well, it turns out that secretly ATTR_cockpit was two attributes jammed into one:
  • Panel texture – that is, changing the texture from the object texture to the panel texture.
  • Panel clickability – that is, mouse clicks are sent to the 2-d panel and act on those instruments.

With X-Plane 920 and the manipulator commands, this “clickability” aspect is revealed as a separate attribute, e.g. ATTR_manip_none sets no clickability, and ATTR_manip_command makes a command be run when the triangle is clicked. These attributes can be applied to any kind of texture – panel texture or object texture.

So how does ATTR_cockpit work in this context? Basically you can think of ATTR_cockpit as two “hidden” attributes:

ATTR_texture_panel
ATTR_manip_panel

and similarly, ATTR_no_cockpit is likeATTR_texture_object
ATTR_manip_none

With this you can actually get any number of combinations of attributes, but the code is sometimes unexpected. In particular: if you want a manipulator other than the panel or none, you have to specify it again. Example:# set command manip
ATTR_manip_command hand sim/operation/pause Pause
TRIS 0 3
ATTR_cockpit
# we now have to reset the cmd manipulator!
ATTR_manip_command hand sim/operation/pause Pause
TRIS 3 3
ATTR_no_cockpit
# we have to reset the cmd manipulator again!
ATTR_manip_command hand sim/operation/pause Pause
TRIS 6 3

Similarly, if you want the panel manipulator, you may have to reset the cockpit!ATTR_cockpit
TRIS 0 3
# now make the mesh not clickable
ATTR_manip_none
TRIS 3 3
# Mesh clickable again
ATTR_cockpit
TRIS 6 3

The good news is: this isn’t nearly as wasteful as it seems. X-Plane’s object attribute optimizer is smart enough that it will remove the unnecessary attributes in both cases. In the first one, what you end up with is one manipulator change (to the command manipulator), and the panel texture change is done without changing manipulator state at all. In the second case, you end up with the manipulator change, but the panel texture is kept loaded the whole time.

In other words, even though the double-attributes or duplicate attrbibutes might seem to be inefficient, the optimizer will fix them for you.

One reason you might care: the cost of panel texture is one-time – that is, you pay for the size of the panel texture once per frame. But the cost of manipulatable triangles is per-triangle! So having more is bad. With ATTR_manip_none, you can use the panel texture but not have it be clickable, which can be a big performance win.

930 will handle manipulatable triangles a lot faster than 920 — but that’s still not a good reason to have all of your triangles be clickable!

This article is still unfinished, but I am trying to put together some info on how to detect performance problems like too many clickable triangles.
Posted in Aircraft, Cockpits, File Formats, Modeling by | Comments Off on Panel Texture and Panel Clicking

Fixing Panel Editing in AC3D

The X-Plane export plugin for AC3D doesn’t handle panel textures very well.  The current plugin tries to identify cases where you have used your panel background as a texture – this queues it to generate ATTR_cockpit.  This scheme has a number of problems:

  1. The search paths for the panel background are not up-to-date.  The plugin doesn’t know about the new naming conventions or the cockpit_3d folder.
  2. The scheme doesn’t address panel regions at all – there is some support for them but it doesn’t work well.
  3. Most important: panel editing is not WYSIWYG.  Since you are using the panel background as your texture, you can’t actually see where all the moving parts are!  Doh!

That last point is perhaps the most important one, and it is why, for the next version of the plugin, I am introducing panel previews.

Basically a panel preview is a screenshot of your panel with the instruments on it, sitting in your cockpit_3d/-PANELS- folder.  AC3D will recognize and use the panel preview when possible.  This will solve problems (1) and (3) – there will be only one naming convention for previews, and they will be screenshots of the panel in action, so you can texture with a preview of the instruments.
Plane-Maker 930 will contain a facility to generate panel previews; if you are using X-Plane 920, you can generate the preview manually by taking a screenshot in X-Plane.
For panel regions, we will have one preview file for each region (e.g. Panel_preview0.png, panel_preview1.png).  This addresses issue 2 – usage of the region previews will invoke ATTR_cockpit_region.
Finally,  I am moving the panel sub-region information from the preferences to the .ac file (hopefully) so that it will be saved with your plane.
Hopefully this will make a work-flow which is much simpler.  To make a 3-d cockpit you will simply pick “generate previews” in Plane-Maker, and then start using the previews as textures.
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Liveries vs. Configurations

I want to revisit the question of whether (and how) the livery system should be extended. In particular, it is my opinion that the livery system should not be extended to allow:

  • Replacement of OBJs used for modeling the airplane or cockpit.
  • Alternate or modified ACFs*.
  • Generally, the livery system shouldn’t be used for changing the plane’s behavior – it’s just paint!

I have commented previously in three parts that the livery system is meant to make easy the integration of third party paint without (a) violating copyright, (b) requiring byzantine installation instructions or (c) requiring the painter and original author to coordinate. I have received requests from a number of very talented airplane authors, asking for the livery system to cover a whole range of new features, most of them involving configuration. I will try to explain in this post how I think should should be handled.

First, to be clear: an aircraft file is the .acf file that contains the X-Plane specific data needed to simulate the plane; the aircraft package is the folder containing that .acf file. A livery is a painting scheme for the 3-d model of the airplane, and a configuration is an instance of a plane with certain features, e.g. with or without G1000, with P&W; vs. Rolls Royce engines, etc.

Configurations of an aircraft should be created by putting more than one aircraft file
(.acf) in a single aircraft package. Because the graphic and sound resources needed for the aircraft are accessed relative to the .acf file, you can build a family of aircraft with some common aspects and some unique aspects to each plane.

Files used by an aircraft fall into three broad categories:

  • Files found by a fixed formula using the .acf name, e.g. be20_paint.png. Let’s call these “file-specific”.
  • Files found by a fixed formula without using the .acf name, e.g. the contents of the aircraft plugins folder. Let’s call these “package specific”.
  • Files that are explicitly named in the .acf file, like airfoils and OBJs. Let’s call these “flexible” (since this naming scheme could be used in any way).

Here’s how the important files in an aircraft break down:

  • The aircraft paint scheme is file specific.
  • The aircraft panel background is package specific (but you can effectively have each file use a different panel background by setting the panel type differently for each plane).
  • Sounds are actually either, which effectively makes them flexible. Non-generic instruments are package-specific.
  • Objects, generic instruments and airfoils are flexible.

In other words, if you can live with duplicating your aircraft paint files (and I suspect that in most cases either the plane is built by objects, or the modifications in each configuration warrant paint changes anyway), then every other feature can be set to package or file specific, allowing you to build a group of aircraft around a single real-world plane.

Now if there are aspects of a multi-configuration aircraft package that don’t work right now, we can look at possible changes to the sim to make this work. But it appears to me that just about everything necessary to make multiple configurations is already available in the sim now.

As a final note, the question here (livery vs. multi-file aircraft pack for configurations) is one of file formats, and thus of data organization and contracts between authors and programmers. It is not a question of user interface. The user interface can be reshaped to make multi-aircraft packages look like liveries, or liveries look like multi-aircraft packages. But I suspect that most of the interest in extended liveries is on the file-format side.

* The one exception for liveries is the tail number — given the strange state where the tail number, as painted into the livery, is also written into the ACF, it wouldn’t be bad to be able to override this property. Some people are already doing this using plugins.

Posted in Aircraft, Cockpits, File Formats by | 5 Comments

The “Airplane Modeling” Datarefs

I have blogged about this before, but I will try to create one simple explanation of what’s going on with sim/cockpit2 and sim/flightmodel2 datarefs.

Sandy and I (with the help of others who helped compile the list) created “new” datarefs (first released with X-Plane 9) , aimed at airplane modelers. These new sections are:

  1. sim/cockpit2/ which provides a new set of datarefs for cockpit modeling via OBJ animation and generic instruments.
  2. sim/flightmodel2/ which provides a new set of datarefs for airplane exterior modeling via OBJ animation.

These datarefs sometimes include new data that was not available in version 8, and sometimes they simply provide a second dataref with the same information. Why duplicate datarefs? The new datarefs have some special properties, so I wanted to have a complete set of datarefs for modelers with these new properties.

Skip to the end for the rules of thumb on how to use them.

Clean Naming

The new datarefs are designed to have longer, less confusing names; the old datarefs contained a lot of abbreviations – potentially acceptable for programmers (who are used to seeing things like fstat and chgrp on a regular basis) but not good for modelers who do not speek English as a first language. The new datarefs have long names and are more consistent in their conventions. They also contain complete documentation.

Array Sizes

You will see the array dimension of some of the new datarefs as symbolic constants, e.g. [engine] instead of [8]. This is because the dataref generation system we use knows that these new datarefs sometimes track the maximum number of parts in the aircraft structure. This tagging means that it is much simpler for Sandy and I to adjust the datarefs when Austin increases part maximums.

With the old datarefs, if Austin allows for 10 engines, Sandy and I must search for every [8] dataref and decide if it must be [10] – some will be per-engine and need to change, some will be per-battery and will not! With the new system, we simply redefine the “engine” constant to 10 and the datarefs adjust.

(Note that if your plugin really needs to run dynamically with any number of engines, the best thing to do is to read the array size using XPLMGetDatavX.)

Failure Support

There are two ways to view a dataref: before system failures (such that the dataref reflects simulated physical reality) and after system failures (such that the dataref reflects pilot indications). For example, when the pitot tube ices up, the pre-failure airspeed reflects how fast you are flying; the post-failure airspeed reflects how much crud is in your pitot tube.

Pre-failure datarefs are appropriate for animating the exterior of the airplane. For example, if the gear indicator light fails but the gear is working, you want to animate your landing gear based on the real (pre-failure) gear position, so that the gear really does look like it’s down from an outside view.

Post-failure datarefs are appropriate for animating the cockpit. For example, you want to use that post-failure indicated airspeed for your air speed indicator, so that pitot ice will affect your generic instruments and animations, as well as the built-in instruments.

The new datarefs are designed to clearly provide two different views:

  • sim/cockpit2/ are all post-failure whenever possible, and are thus appropriate for cockpit modeling.
  • sim/flightmodel2/ are all pre-failure, and thus are appropriate for external airplane modeling.

Be careful not to swap them! You should always be using sim/flightmodel2/ for your aircraft and sim/cockpit2/ for your cockpit. If the dataref you need is in one and not the other, email me and I will add it to the right place.

Correct Multiplayer Behavior

The older datarefs all return data about the user’s airplane. However if you build an object, attached to an ACF, and that ACF is loaded for a multiplayer plane, you will get incorrect results — the user will see his own plane’s actions visualized on the multiplayer plane.

The new sim/cockpit2/ and sim/flightmodel2/ datarefs handle this case correctly: they return data about whichever airplane is being drawn. Thus if your object is attached to airplane number 5 in a multiplayer session, that’s the airplane that will animate your control surfaces.

(Plugin developers – outside airplane drawing, these datarefs return information about the user’s flight.)

For this reason, you should always use sim/cockpit2/ and sim/flightmodel2/ – not the older sim/cockpit and sim/flightmodel/ datarefs. If the dataref you want is only in the old sections but not the new ones, email me!

What Dataref Do I Use?

Here’s the rule of thumb:

  • If you are targeting X-Plane 6/7/8, you must use sim/cockpit and sim/flightmodel, otherwise
  • If you are targeting X-Plane 9, use sim/cockpit2 for your generic instruments and 3-d cockpit. Use sim/flightmodel2 for your attached objects.

That’s all there is to it!

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