Category: Scenery

WorldEditor 1.2 is Final (Finally)

WorldEditor 1.2 is done and declared final!

Laminar Research, creators of the X-Plane flight simulator franchise, is pleased to announce the availability of WorldEditor for X-Plane (WED) version 1.2.

WorldEditor is an airport scenery creation and editing tool for Laminar’s X-Plane.  WED is intuitive and easy-to-use, as it features drag-and-drop scenery creation in a graphical environment that is designed for the typical X-Plane user.

WorldEditor takes a graphical CAD-like approach to creating airports.  All airports are made up from a collection of different items or entities of a specific type.  For example; runways, taxiways, windsocks, signs, and buildings.   A runway has length, width, surface type, lighting and taxiway signs for example.   WED is organized to create and edit each of these different items on an individual basis, so a user can add an item, then edit it’s characteristics or attributes at will.

A key feature of WorldEditor is the ability for a user to create an airport scenery and then send his or her creation to Laminar’s airport scenery database service.  Once checked by Laminar for acceptability it is then included in the airport data when X-Plane users receive automatic X-Plane updates from Laminar.

Robin is ready to accept submissions of airport layouts including ATC traffic flows and default airport object placements using the new “Export for Global Database” function.  We are also working on tutorials and additional documentation beyond the WED user manual.

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WED 1.2 RC4 is out

I posted WorldEditor 1.2 release candidate 4 a few days ago.  If you are using a WED 1.2 beta, please grab this latest release candidate.  If we don’t see any show-stopper bugs in a few days we’ll call it final.

Thanks to Mathias for finding and helping squash the last few bugs; the bugs in the release candidates have all been oddball cases where clicking with multiple mouse buttons induced multiple commands at the same time; the program was usable by avoiding these cases, but in the rare case WED could crash.  Release candidate 4 should fix that.

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WorldEditor 1.2 Release Candidate 1 Posted

WorldEditor 1.2 Release Candidate 1 is now available here.  Please try it!  If you have a scenery project you use, please export using WED 1.2 rc1 and report a bug immediately if the export does not work!  My thanks to the testers who have helped find the bugs in the 1.2 beta run.

If we don’t find any new show-stopping bugs, WED 1.2 will go final in a week or so.

Update: There is a bug in WED 1.2r1 on Windows that stops all art assets from being found in the library.  I think this is responsible for all of the bugs reported against the RC.  (This was from a change I made while my PC was down that I should have checked on Windows.)  RC2 will fix these bugs.

Update 2: Release Candidate 2 is now uploaded; this fixes the one underlying bug that caused a lot of reports.  The bug was that art asset location from the library was broken on Windows.  This caused failed previews, facades that were rings and not fences, and red question mark objects.  This is fixed in RC2.

I’m not sure what will go into the next WorldEditor release, but X-Plane 10 scenery usability features are on my short list.

  • The ability to create and edit X-Plane 10 road overlays.
  • Better options for managing overlay orthophotos for airports. (The current “make orthophotos” command is a stop-gap.)
  • Possibly the ability to create base meshes (by importing data – WED would then run MeshTool for you, so that you don’t have to write a script).


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Learn From My C: Fail

The C: drive on my Windows box died over the weekend.  I mention this so that you can ask this question now (when my drive failed) and not later (when your drive fails):

What’s your plan if you have a hard drive failure?  Do you back up regularly?  Could you rebuild the machine from original install disks?  Would the amount of time it took to restore the machine be acceptable?*  If you make backups, would the data loss between what you had and the latest backup be acceptable?

The problem with hard drives is that they fail infrequently; my wife has never experienced a hard drive failure in the decade+ that she’s owned a laptop.  The result is that I’ve known too many people who haven’t given the problem of hard drive failure much thought until they had already lost data.  A hard drive is an electro-mechanical device…with moving parts…that spin really really fast.  It’s amazing they don’t fail more.  Think about backups now!

For backup these days I like 2.5″ USB drives – they’re fast enough, small, store a ton of data, and they don’t require an annoying power cable.  You could use one to back up several computers.

Nag over…WED 1.2 is almost done – the remaining bugs are Windows-related and will need to wait for a replacement C: drive, which is in transit.  So perhaps we’ll get an RC1 going this weekend.

Update: when the replacement drive arrived, I used Trinity Rescue Kit to boot from CD and do a drive-to-drive copy using the tool ddrescue.  I do not recommend anyone ever have “I’ll rescue my drive” as a data safety plan – it’s a terrible plan.  But…in my case I appear to have gotten lucky; the rescued image is bootable.  This is a nice-to-have in that it saves me a few hours of reinstalling Windows + MSVC from scratch.  (On the other hand, I don’t get that minty-clean feeling of reinstalling Windows from scratch with a clean registry.)  So…chkdisk is running now and I should be able to kill off remaining WED bugs “real soon now.”

* For my Windows and Linux setups (two drives that are alternately used in one machine) my approach has been “rebuild it when it fails”.  For Linux this has already worked well – my Linux drive died a while ago and a total rebuild from a new Ubuntu install DVD was quite fast.  We’ll see this week whether putting a Windows box back together can be done in a reasonable amount of time.

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New Scenery Tools – WED and MeshTool

Two updates to the scenery tools today:

WorldEditor: WED 1.2 beta 3 is now out – see the WorldEditor page for download links.  Beta 3 fixes the broken orthophoto exporter from beta 2, fixes jammed file-open dialog boxes on OS X, and has a handful of other fixes.

WorldEditor is open source, so you can see the exact changes made here.

I am hoping that WED 1.2 beta 3 will be totally stable and usable; the remaining open bugs are mostly UI quirks.  If we find more work-stopping WED bugs, I’ll try to cut a new beta once a week until they’re fixed; after that WED can sit for a few weeks, then go final.

MeshTool: MeshTool 2.1 is released.  This is an incremental update to MeshTool 2.0 with bug fixes and a new “contour” option that lets you use a shapefile to force specific contour lines into your DSF.  See the README for details, and the MeshTool page for download.

I have done some work on MeshTool 3.0 but it’s not ready for beta yet.

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WED “Make Draped Polygons” Will Be Replaced (Later)

WorldEditor’s “Make Draped Polygons” feature is a stop-gap and a hack, and someday it will be replaced with something better.

I mention this as I debug it because there are feature requests in the bug base to enhance its operation; I think I will replace it with a more fundamentally useful (and less awkward) interface before adding more functionality.

“Make draped polygons” was born out of a hack to WED to allow Sergio to finish his LOWI custom scenery pack before WED 1.1 was even public beta.  In other words, it was a crude attempt to get draping into WED before the real UI work was done.

I am resisting the urge to nuke the feature now because there isn’t something to replace it yet.  But in the long term, what WED needs is better tools to work with imagery and manage the text files that are needed to create ground imagery around an airport.

This new UI will be after the 1.2 release; for now the goal is to get 1.2 stabilized and finalized.

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WorldEditor 1.2 Beta 2 Is Out

WorldEditor 1.2 beta 2 is now available for download here.  First, a few notes about WED betas:

  • WED 1.2 is in beta – be sure to back up your work, as it has been known to crash.
  • The scenery tools are open source – you can view the WED source code here.
  • The scenery tools have their own public bug base. So please report all WED bugs here.

Please be careful to report X-Plane bugs to the X-Plane bug reporter page and WED bugs to the scenery tools bug base.  Moving bugs to the right place just burns time that could be spent fixing bugs.

What’s New?

Pretty much all of the changes from beta 1 are in the area of exporting scenery.

WorldEditor now has the concept of an export target – the version of X-Plane you want to export.  It currently knows about four possible targets:

  1. X-Plane 9.70 (that is, the final version of X-Plane 9)
  2. X-Plane 10.00 (that is, any version of X-Plane 10 back to the earliest)
  3. X-Plane 10.21 (that is, the current latest version of X-Plane 10)
  4. Robin’s database

Changing the export target can change how export works to optimize for that version of X-Plane; it also programs the “Validate” command to detect possible problems specific to that version.  Examples:

  • If you set the export target to X-Plane 9.70 and export a DSF overlay with forests in “line” mode, validate will catch the error – line-based forests are new to X-Plane 10.
  • If you set the export target to “Global Airport Database” and use your own custom OBJs, validate will catch the error – for sending data to Robin you must use our library objects.

“Export for Global Airports” is now available on the File menu – this exports a single zip file that you can send to Robin.  The zip file contains an apt.dat and one .txt file per airport with the DSF overlay data.

The exporter itself has been heavily rewritten (view the git logs to see what a blood bath it was) – this should hopefully fix all crash-on-export bugs, particularly on Windows.

So the hope is that this beta will (1) let people send their airports to Robin and (2) let custom scenery authors work without crashes on export.

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DSF Mesh Formats – v9 vs v10

Tom asked a good question in the comment section of a previous post: what is the difference between DSF mesh formats for v9 and v10.  Here’s the story:

Mesh: In X-Plane 8 and 9, the terrain mesh is stored as a set of triangles in 3 dimensions; each corner of the triangle has a latitude, longitude, and altitude.  The shape of the mesh comes from the location of those triangles and the heights of each corner.

Mesh + DEM: X-Plane 10 can also handle a new extended DSF with raster (array) data.  In this mode, the mesh contains triangles (just like it did) but they contain only latitude and longitude.  The elevation for the entire DSF tile is stored in a 2-dimensional array of elevations (a raster DEM).  When X-Plane 10 loads this format, it reads the height for each triangle out of the array of elevations to “rebuild” the 3-d triangles at load time.

X-Plane 9 supports only the original “mesh” DSFs.

X-Plane 10 supports both the original mesh DSFs and the new Mesh + DEM DSFs.

Therefore, old scenery from v9 loads fine in v10.  But you cannot load the new v10 global scenery in v9.*

Why Did You Guys Do This?

Moving elevation data out of the triangles and into a separate raster layer actually makes the DSF smaller.**  That’s a nice-to-have, but that’s not why we did it.

DirectX 11 class graphics cards can enhance meshes on the fly, on the GPU via tessellation.  We wanted to shift the DSF elevation mesh toward raster data so that we would have the full source raster to feed into the GPU.  In this configuration, we can make a low resolution mesh, give the graphics card the full data and say “go to town.”

If the graphics card can ‘enhance’ the mesh quality, this solves a problem we have now: there is no rendering setting for mesh complexity.  Right now everyone uses the same meshes, so we have to limit mesh detail to meet the specs of low-end supported computers.  With GPU-enhanced terrain, users with more powerful systems can crank up the detail.

We’re not ready to code this yet, but one first step was modifying the DSF format to be ready for tessellation.  We did this with the X-Plane 10.0 global scenery, and a nice side effect was smaller DSFs.

What About MeshTool?

MeshTool 2.0 writes DSFs with the classic “mesh” format, and it uses the v9 global terrain definitions to fill in land classes where there are no custom orthophotos.

MeshTool 3.0 will write DSFs with the new mesh+DEM format, and it will use the new v10 terrain definitions.

Therefore, MeshTool 2.0 will make v9 scenery (that can be loaded in v10) and MeshTool 3.0 will make v10-only scenery.

* There are also a million other v10 0nly features that the global scenery requires that v9 does not support.  Besides not supporting Mesh + DEM, v9 doesn’t support the new terrain shaders, the new draped road system, or the new autogen!

** The space savings come from two places: first, we don’t need to save terrain normals.  Instead we calculate them since we have the full DEM.  Second, we use 7-zip compression, and it actually gets better compression ratios on less heavily encoded data.  So the raw raster DEM compresses better than the highly encoded triangulation mesh.  The triangle mesh encoding format was designed a long time ago for classic pk-zip, not 7-zip.

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Scenery Tools – a Roundup

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”?)

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X-Plane 10.21 Release Candidate 1 Is Out

If you haven’t participated in the 10.21 betas, run the updater and click “get betas” to get it.  Release notes here; report bugs here.

If you have a custom scenery pack, please try it on this RC!  There have been a few changes to the facade engine to fix cases that were clearly broken in 10.20; please check your scenery to make sure these changes didn’t cause some other problem that I didn’t see in my testing.

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