Friday, May 11, 2007

Whoa! FlightGear scenery design!

The more time I spend with FlightGear the more I love it. I've spent the last week flying nothing but FlightGear. I got some neat screenshots I hope I get a chance to share soon. I'm sure I will go back to MSFS after the novelty of FG starts to wear off (or FSX SP1 is released, whichever comes sooner), but I know I will continue to fly FG. I'm working on a kludge that will let me sort of save favorite flights (this is not built into FG, suprisingly). When that is done I will be a double-click and about 45 seconds away from my favorite flying situations any time I'm at the computer. If my kludge works, I will share it here.

The above shot (by the way) shows my first attempt at scenery design, adding a few buildings around my local airport. Sure, the buildings are kind of cheesy, but cheesy rhymes with easy. The whole project, from never-having-done-it-before to flying with the new scenery took all of 5 minutes.

What makes it work is that the UFO "plane" in the FlightGear 0.9.10 is actually an object placement tool that allows you to place scenery objects with a mouse click. You can read the whole procedure on the FG Wiki here, but in brief, what you do is fly the UFO to the desired location (the UFO flies like skew mode). Then call up the airplane help ('?' key) and that will tell you the commands you use to place objects. There is a command to output the information to the terminal, and then you paste that gobbledegookto the appropriate scenery file, as explained in the wiki article.

You can only add from the included scenery objects, which is a pretty limited collection. There's probably a way to get more, but that may require getting deep into the developer's world. Anyhow, there's enough generic hangars and buildings so that you can make your airport look less like they've bulldozed the place and are about to rip up the runway and put in a subdivision.

Maybe (probably) you're not very impressed with this scenery. But it does help a little with the suspension of disbelief when the airport has some features vaguely reminiscent of its real-world component. I was lucky to find a quonset hut, because this airport really has one (see photo, a few posts back). I will go back and add a few trees in front of the runway.

Anyhow, the crudeness of the objects has one advantage, and that is I will not be tempted by the desire to tweak it to perfection.

Now that I've gotten a glimpse of how scenery works in FG, I'm going to look into whether I can get rid of that fictitious tower, and adjust the location used for the tower view. If I figure that out I'll share it here.

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