Friday, July 13, 2007

FlightGear multiplayer and moving map

First, in reference to the doldrums mentioned at the end of my last post, I'd like to say once again that my remedy of flying the pattern really helps me get back into the groove. I can't recommend highly enough the benefits of pattern flying, particularly when your base airport is on the small side or presents some other challenge. There are few things as satisfying as honing a skill over the long term.

One thing I've been doing a fair bit in the last few months, but have not yet blogged about , is multiplayer flying in FlightGear. I know people have been flying multiplayer in MS Flight Simulator for years, and perhaps some day I'll give it a try. However, multiplayer mode is really easy to set up in FlightGear. See this article in the FlightGear Wiki for instructions.

When you fly multiplayer in FlightGear you fly with the entire world of online FlightGear users. An additional really cool feature is the live map that shows who's online, where they are (their plane, that is), and what they're flying. You can see whose flying right now, without signing up or logging in or anything, by checking out the online server. If you click that link you will see KSFO (San Francisco), which is the default FG airport, and anyone who's flying at the moment. You should at least see "mpdummy" who is not some self-effacing individual, but rather a test connection to show that the server is running properly. If you happen to see "marlboro", that's me!

A fun thing I like to do when I have a few spare minutes is to check the server, see if anyone's flying, and then starting up FG and trying to fly formation, or at least buzz the other planes. I hear there is a way to message other pilots, but that requires a newer version of FG than I have (i.e. the kind you have to build yourself).

The server map can also be used to track your flying. It can be configured so that your plane is always centered on the map. you can zoom in and out, and display road names and such, just as with any Google Map application. It's easy to switch back and forth using the Alt-Tab combination. Unlike MSFS which tends to go into a sulk if you try task switching, you can switch in and out of FG very quickly.

Last night I decided to do a comparison between where I was in the FG world and where the server would show me. The results are below. I think that's pretty amazing.

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