Monday, December 21, 2009

F-35 Change to test plans

An unusually cold and snowy weather in Genoa forced me to stay at home for most of the weekend. "Unusually cold and snowy" means we are not used to see much snow, if any, and even a thin white layer is sufficient to paralyze the whole town.
On the good side, I've made some major steps foward with modeling of the cockpit. At present I'd say it is 60-70% done. Probably 15-20 work-hours away from the completion.

So, I've changed my mind for the testing... the test version will have the cockpit but no HMD and limited MFD functionality. This means that the Beta testers "draft" will not happen in the next few days as I planned.

Will post an update when the cockpit is about 90% complete.

P.S. My apologies to anyone who may have sent me e-mails in the past few days. I am having issues with the home internet connection and I cannot reply from my office. I always try to reply to each message - and will do it as soon as the home connection is restored.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

F-35A more screenshots and first cockpit image

Quick progress report: finally I've managed to make some significant progress to thc cockpit. The main display is not finished yet, but it is not far from completition. Side consoles need some more work - especially the right one. Outer model for AA-1 is complete, with the exception of some Easter eggs I would like to add - the additional models will be done as soon as AA-1 is complete. AF-1 and operational F-35 (with and without external loads) will be done for sure. I've been experimenting with -B and -C conversion with mixed results. I think it is better to debug AA-1 first.
Minor tweaks to flight modeling, but it is still prliminary. Flight performance and fine-tuning will be done during testing.

As for the beta test - I wish I had time to plan it properly. From previous experiences, I know it can add a lot of value to the finished project, but needs to be planned/coordinated with some care otherwise some of its benefist are lost. It is likely that a "cockpitless" alpha model will be released for testing before Christmas. I will make a post on how to apply for testing within a couple of days.

Monday, November 23, 2009

F-35A Development and testing plans

F-35 AA-1 for FSX flying over NAS Fort Worth

If you have been following this blog in the past few weeks, you are surely aware that the development of the F-35 is lagging behind the schedule. Originally I planned a Beta test in October and an official release in November. Fact is that I've missed those deadlines by far, and that is not much a result of bad planning as much as it is the consequence of the fact that my "real" job has been absorbing much more time and energy than usual in the past few weeks...

Anyway, seeing the real F-35 project making some major steps is bringing back some inspiration to complete its virtual counterpart - albeit I still have to figure out a way to find the time needed :-)

The major oustanding item on my checklist is the cockpit. Some parts are complete, some others are nothing more than a rough sketch... Honestly I don't know when I will find the time to complete it. But, in order to save some time from the development cycle, I am thinking to release an Alpha build (without the VC) soon in order to sort the main issues of the external and flight models asap. I have not decided yet - as I have to fix some minor details first.

In the meantime, I want to clarify some points and answer some FAQ's.

Freeware or Payware - This is the first project I started from scratch as payware (and I thought I've always been clear on this). Final price and distribution methods are yet to be defined, but I think a fair price would be in the $10-15 range. Free copies of the final product will be given to testers and selected supporters. In case I realize that the project will not achieve a resonable quality level for payware and never will, I will release it for free.

Paypal donation - I have received some emails saying "As the F-35 is payware, why should I make a paypal donation?" - Well, the truth is that the paypal donate button has been added on request of several F-14 and T-45 users. I have plans to update both as soon as the F-35 is released, and the "donate" button was kept in this perspective. Still, I understand this may be misleading - so I am thinking to remove the button. As compensation for any misunderstanding, whoever has done a donation so far (i.e.prior to this post) will receive, upon request, the test versions of the F-35 when available.

Beta testing - As explained above, I have no idea when the F-35 will be ready for beta testing and I am considering an alpha-test release. Once I have decided, I will make a post on this blog on how to partecipate to the testing. The number of testers will be limited - and some slots will be reserved to supporters, friends and contibutors. NOTE: I will only consider Beta testing applications received as per the instructions that will be posted.

FSX SP2 or Acceleration - Not decided yet. Current build is based on Acceleration.

Depicted birds - At present, only AA-1 bird is done. This is the first F-35 prototype, conventional take-off and landing. Most likely, AF-1 (first production representative, weight-optimized CTOL plane) will be done too, as well as an "finished" operative F-35A with and without external loads - of course, this one will be based on latest official drawings but will include some guess-work.

VTOL & CV variants - They have not been completely ruled out yet...but it is unlikely I will do them. Yes, they are similar to the F-35A - but some of the differences are pretty big. For example, the F-35B fuselage is unique while the F-35C wing is much larger and has spoilers and folding mechanism...

Flight model - The preliminary flight model is based on all of the official data I could find...and a big amout of guessing. I'll do my best to provide a realistic flight model - but cannot guarantee its fidelity for obvious reasons.

Your comments will be appreciated as always.

Monday, November 16, 2009

F-35A wip update

F-35 AA-1 external model is almost finished

While some aviation enthusiasts do not like its shape very much, I have to confess I like it. It looks modern and functional... but then, I have also to confess I liked also the "Fugly Fighter" X-32...

I'm still not happy with the reflections on some areas of the fuselage... some tweaks are needed - probably there is something I should fix in the fuselage normal map.

Refuel receptacle doors opening test - passed! F-35B and F-35C do not have this receptacle, but they feature a retractable probe nearby the canopy.

Weapon bay doors opening test - passed. As shown in this image, the F-35A can carry two AMRAAMs and two 2000lb JDAMS internally. Also, six removable pylons can be mounted for external loads.

Testing the flight model with a 4g turn. Flight model is still preliminary - while not perferct it is a good start.

Finally I found the time and mood to do some (much needed) progress with the F-35. There are a couple of annoying glitches in the external model which require some ironing, but as you can see in the screenshots above, the external model is done. I have a couple of "spare" animation sequences to be assigned - but I'll be leaving these for the finishing touches. The main priority is the completition of the cockpit, which is far behind the schedule. But, you know, I also have a "real" job and a social life :-)
By the way, I've just seen the first pictures of the real F-35 AF-1 bird (the first "weight optimized" plane)...and I have to say I am slightly disappointed as I expected a flashy painscheme (that I would have added to the package) while the actual plane took off with many areas still in their "native" acid-green primer color - which I'm not sure makes much sense for my FSX model.
Also, I've read that BF-1 (the first VTOL bird) has been transferred to Patuxent River NAS for a series of tests that will culminate in the first vertical landing. Cool stuff.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Javier Fernandez releases v2.0 of his oustanding carrier package.

Nimitz V2.0 features underway replenishment visual model (and many other improvements including steam effect for catapults)
I just wanted to share the word that Javier Fernandez has released version 2.0 of his outstanding carrier package for FSX. It is really a must-have for every FSX user, as, within the limits of FSX, it is a practically perfect rendition of a Nimitz class carrier. Includes various deck configurations and dozens of easter eggs: freeware (and most payware) add-ons do not get much better than this. And it is fully Acceleration compatible.
As for my own projects, I have to confess I did not work too much on them recently for two reasons: one is the lack of time and the other is the release of some outstanding videogames on the Xbox 360 (Fifa 2010, Forza Motorsport 3 and Call of Duty:Modern Warfare 2) which are absorbing most of the time I spend at home. I will make a post about the status of the F-35 project in a day or two.
EDIT - I forgot to say that the file is available at and the ships are configured as "proper" ships - this means you need AICarriers (or a bgl file that contains routes for them - some are available at sim-outhouse)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Some more work-in-progress screenshots

Above are some screenshots taken during F-35 AA-1 flight testing nearby Edwards AFB. It is very hard to judge what would be the right behaviour of the real plane - but I am doing my best. Definitely there will be some tuning needed during Beta testing. Unfortunately I had not much time to work on the F-35 in the past few weeks - I am doing what I can.
Status of the project is as follows:
  • External model: AA-1 is 99% complete. Some minor tweaks to the afterburner are needed, and the emergency arresting gear is not modeled. Also, the internal should host "mock" ordnance, but at present they have "real" JDAMs (recycled from the Tomcat). The final package will most probably include the AF-1 (weight optimization) model and a final F-35 (probably USAF training unit).
  • Internal model: most of the "hard" part is done. I am having some difficulties finding good hi-res pictures of the canopy frame. Basically, front panels are done - but the MFD needs some more work. Side panels are 10% done but they are not really difficult to model. If I will find the time the internal model could be completed in a week or two.
  • Flight model: the current one needs some work but I think it is a good start

At present - it is likely that the Beta version will be ready in early November... later than I initially thought...but I am doing what I can with the time I have :-)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The real India Foxt Echo

This is me in front of the Socata TB.9 Tampico I-IAFE of the Genova Aeroclub, during Genova Air Show 2004. This is the only time I remember in which the public was allowed to get into the parking area of the Sestri airport. So I took the chance to take picture with my old friend :-)

Another view of the I-IAFE, on the back there are the hangars of the Piaggio Aero Industries, where the amazing P.180 is manufactured.

And this is the Aviamilano P.19 Scricciolo I-GAGI, on which I logged roughly 10 hours. It was cheaper than the TB9, but it was also a significantly older machine. It was also much fun to fly, in my opinion, as its rough cockpit gave you a strong "I am flying" feel, rather than the TB9 that felt like "I am driving a modern compact car" :-) Some days ago I discovered (thanks to google) that it has been acquired by a member of the CAP Lazio and will be restored to flight conditions. By the way, basic P.19 was a taildragger - but could be asily modified to tricycle, as I-GAGI was.

When I started this blog, one of the hardest things was to chose a name for it. I admit IndiaFoxtEcho was not a bright choice. It it the "shortened" callsign of I-IAFE, the plane on which I spent most hours during my days as student pilot at the local Aeroclub. It is also the plane on which I did my first solo flight in 1992.

While I had to sacrifice some things, like the "traditional" European-trip vacation that most people do in the summer between high school and university, I owe the fantastic experience of earning the Private Pilot Licence to my parents.Well,in a broader but more exact sense, I owe them everything. They are hard working people who supported me in everything I wanted to do, and after many years spent working they are currently enjoying retirement. The PPL was expensive and we surely were not a rich family.

I quit flying few years later for several reasons, main one being the money. Flying is a very expensive hobby. And the more I did it, the more I wanted to make new experiences, fly other planes and see other places, but I could not afford more than being a "sunday pilot". Takeoff from Sestri, go to Portofino then back to Sestri. And I could not afford to try more complex and more expensive planes. So, I had to admit that at some point I got bored. But I do not regret anything. Getting a pilot licence is one of the things I always wanted to do, one of those things you want to do before you die. It was great, I am still proud of "eagle" pin and I am grateful for having had this opportunity.

At the time I quit, I logged 52 hours, flying TB-9, PA-28 and P.19. Apart from Genova Sestri, I've also landed and took-off from Albenga, Sarzana Luni, Pisa, Lucca and Cuneo Levaldigi.

Now, in order to give some sense to this post (apart from the self-celebrating amarcord), I wanted to share with you three "lesson to be learned" I took when I was a student pilot:

Lesson 1 - Pride is dangerous.

Being only 165cm tall I am definitely a short person. Which, when you are 18 years old, it is a fact you should have accepted. But I did not. So, when I was flying the P.19 I was advised to use a small cushion so that I could operate the pedals in a more comfortable way. Of course I refused the cushion, which was kind of a symbol of the fact I was short. Fact is that I was not comfortable, so one time it happened, during one flight, that one of my legs "fall asleep" (don't know the proper English for it - hope you get what I mean). Result: when landing, just after touchdown, the plane steered abruptly and I could not correct it as I could not move my leg. Good thing there was the flight instructor.

Lesson 2 - Trust the procedures

One problem you may have if you are a GA student pilot is that if you home airport has a big unobstructed runway, you are not really used to smaller ones. Albenga has not a small runway, but has a small hill on its side that, in case you are not making a straight-in approach from the sea, forces you to make a higher pattern than the one I was used to to at Sestri (which is at sea level and all patterns are done 1000ft over the sea). So, I was slightly afraid to be low...and overshoot the 1500ft (if I remember right) reccomended altitude. Result: I was very high at landing, hence very fast and I had the plane floating a lot over the runway. And I touched with a harder-than-usual landing almost in the mid of the runway. I should have declared a missed approach and retry.

Lesson 3A - Flight must be carefully planned/1

That is, look at the charts carefully and think ahead of what you should expect. I was flying solo from Sestri to Levaldingi, which in VFR basically means: follow the highway from Genova to Savona, then from Savona to Fossano. The issue was I had not planned how to reckon Fossano from the other towns (neither visually nor with a VOR reading). So I missed it, and while I was trying to understand where I was I got disoriented in the middle of the Piedmont countryside. Visibility was decreasing, so I decided to go back to Genova - which was a wise decision - albeit I had to cross the mountains with marginal VFR conditions - but I intercepted the highway to Savona and then I got back safely.

Lesson 3B - Flight must be carefully planned/2 (and you should look around you)

That is, look at the approach charts carefully. While planning your flight,pay particular attention to obstacles around airports you don't know - like high voltage lines, even if they are not close to the path you think you will follow.
In this case I was flying with my instructor (cmdr.Sincich) to Sarzana Luni. It is mainly a Navy helicopter base, with a small runway. Much smaller than Sestri. So, while landing, I was completely focused on the runway itself, and did not notice the high voltage lines. When the instructor warned me,we were not really close to them and there was no real danger. But I still remember this episode as I my attention was so completely focused on one thing (the runway) that I was not looking at anything else.

Flying was a great experience that marked my life forever.

P.S. As for FSX, F-35 development is slowing down due to lack of time. In these days my job is absorbing much of my energies. I'll post an update asap.
EDIT: Forgot to say that all of the episodes above happened almost 17 years ago...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Some WIP hi-res Lighting II screenshots

Above are some screenshots of the F-35 AA-1 taken while I was testing the flight model. It is pretty hard to tell if it is "right", as, obviously, Lockheed Martin test pilots keep on saying it is an oustanding aircraft with excellent performance and maneuverability... but on the other hand, many "experts" in the internet are extremely critical on the plane performance - and the whole JSF project (I guess some of that hate comes from the fact that the F-35 will replace the F-16 which is an extremely successful and popular model)...
Anyway, I am pretty happy with the flight model. It needs some work but it is a good start.
The cockpit is suffering some delay... but I think it will be ready in 2-3 weeks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Couple of F-35 Screenshots

Above are two in game screenshots of the F-35A Lighting II project I am working on. As you can see, the external model is almost complete - there is some minor "cleaning" to be done here and there, but it is done. While it is an highly detailed model, the graphics performance is not bad - in fact it is slightly better than the Tomcat. At present, the model depicts the AA-1 development bird, meaning the first "F-35" (and not X-35) even built. At the moment I am writing it is also the only CTOL bird actually flying, as all the other prototypes undergoing flight test are F-35Bs (VTOL). The only major "artistic licence" so far is that the if you open the weapon bays, you can see two AIM-120 and two JDAMs - but all the pictures I've seen so far of the AA-1 were showing mock ordnance.
The design of the real AA-1 has been subject to major weight-saving oriented improvements, so that the AF-1 and following CTOL prototypes will have a number of design changes. While, at present, AF-1 has been "rolled out" several months ago there are not many pictures of it on the internet, but its first flight should not be too distant... so that more information will be available - the plan being, of course, add the AF-1 to the package (or a "production" model). A third model would be a production model with external loads (there are pictures of a BF bird on the gorund with a pretty impressive loadout).
At present, my project will be focused on the F-35A - and my current target is complete the AA-1 model. While the F-35B (VTOL) is an extremely interesting machine, I am not currently working on it - mainly because IRIS is working on such model and because I prefer quality to quantity - considering I am a one-man team it is mandatory to keep the size of the project reasonable.
While it may not be evident at first sight, the F-35B fuselage is much different from the F-35A.Nose, wings and tails are almost identical - but almost everything else is different.
On the opposite, the CATOBAR F-35C fuselage geometry is close to the F-35A (main differences being the modifications to the nose gear, refuel probe and tail hook) but the wing is completely different: it is much bigger, and has a folding mechanism and spoilers.
So, making the -B and -C models starting from what I have would be surely doable - but it would require some major redesign of several areas so, for the moment, I am sticking to the F-35A - and I will do my best to achieve a good quality level on that before making any further step.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Firefighting and spectacular flying

Fire on Monte Moro, over Quinto and Nervi - at the Eastern limit of Genoa. Due to the exposure, this picture is overly dramatic. The fire is very large and quite close to the houses, but thanks to the hard work of the firemen, there has been no risk for the population.

At the moment I am writing, two Canadair CL415's and one S-64 Skycrane are flying in a vast firefighting operation just above my house.
In the past 24 hours a fire has burnt most of the woods in the Eastern part of Genoa, requiring a major effort by firefighters who have been working continuosly. There seems to be no risk for the the population, as the fires nearby the inhabitated areas have been extinguished - so it is possible to admire the spectacular flying of the Canadairs and the Skycrane collecting water from the sea and immediately dropping it on the nearby hills, without worrying too much for people's safety.

The Canadair is really an amazing machine. It is an usual guest at the local airport during summer and I've seen its demo in several airshows - and its maneuverability never fails to impress me. Seeing it landing on the water is simply spectacular - and it is even more spectacular seeing two of them in action together with the Skycrane. It is also a machine that would deserve more attention in FSX. Massimo Taccoli created an excellent FS2004 freeware model (link below) but afaik there is no triple-A FSX native model so far... But do not start asking me to do one, as my agenda is full...
Skycrane is also impressive, as it is considerably larger than the average chopper - and surely much larger than the ones that usually populate the sky over Genoa.
Kudos to the aircrews and the firemen for their courage, skill and professionality - they acted promptly so that there has been no major incovenience to the population (apart from a blackout and a traffic-jam, of course) - and the only trouble I had was to clean my scooter from the ashes before going to work.
EDIT: I've just read in the news that the Canadairs were 4 and not 2 - I can only imagine the level of training and coordination required in such a scenario.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reinstalling Windows, FSX and the SDK

Windows 7 performance assessment of my computer - My nerd side is relatively happy but needs a new super-fast hard disk to match the rest (...and I'm pretty sure FSX will still be sluggish :-) )

Unfortunately I had to face the failure of one of my hard disks - I had a backup of most of my source files, but I lost some part of my work on the F-35 and few minor tweaks of the F-14.

On the bright side, this forced a much needed system cleanup (format of the main HD and clean install of Windows XP, FSX and its SDK)... And the reason why I am writing this post is a "pro memoria". It is not the first time I do this, and I always face some difficulties in having the FSX modeling SDK work. It really annoying - and I know that some people approaching the SDK are let down by these issues. On the other hand, other persons do not have this kind of issues - which makes the whole thing even more frustrating for those who coul not manage to make the modeling SDK work.

If you follow the SDK instructions correctly - and they are correct! - you may still be unable to compile a model...for several reasons.
So, I am writing down all the "undocumented" steps you may need to take to make the modeling tools work (either 3D Studio or Gmax) with FSX.

  1. In the international options you must have the numbers set in the "American way" that is a "dot" should separate the integers from the decimal, while the "comma" separates the thousands (e.g. 113,123.75) - this is the opposite of the "classic" Italian setting - for example. This may create issues in .xml files
  2. Download and install the .NET FRAMEWORK 2.0 - If you do not the FSX exporter DLE will not work (and appears as "missing" in the modeling tools). .NET was not installed after my clean and genuine Windows XP SP2 installation
  3. Download and install the DirectX 9.0 SDK - otherwise XtoMDL will not run (Note that the DX9.0 SDK version is NOT the same as the "regular" one)
  4. Now you can complile your modeld and be happy

By the way, I've also installed Windows 7 64 bit, just for curiosity, and it seems to work fine. Given that, on my machine (i7920 and X295), Vista 64 bit made FSX run smoother (in DX10) than XP (by almost 9-10 fps with the same settings!), Windows 7 seems to work really good. Time for a OS upgrade? Not sure - may be some of my development tools don't work... Still, the new Windows seems good.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Updating the F-14D flight model

Just a quick note about the F-14 dynamics: I know that v1.00 dynamics are not that good - possibly with the exception of carrier operations. They were developed with carrier ops in mind, and relatively late in the project... and there are some major mistakes.

As I had received a "strong" negative feedback from one user, which was right in many respects, I decided to redo the dynamics by scratch. You know I take criticism seriously (well as seriously as it is reasonable for a videogame)... Long story short, a new flight model is being tested and it is not as bad as the previos one - I will release it shortly.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Few more screenshots of the Lighting II

F-35A for FSX - external modeling is almost done

A preliminary flight model is in place - and seems to work fine, provided that, of course, some of the data are estimated.

Most animations are implemented and seem to work correctly.

A couple of sleepless nights (for wrong reasons) meant significant progress in F-35 modeling. Outer model is almost done - everything is modeled,textured and animated with the exception of the weapon bays, the refuel receptacle and the special effects. Work on the virtual cockpit is just started - but modeling shoud not take much time as the F-35 'pit is extremely simple from the geometric point of view.

Monday, August 10, 2009

F-35 Lighting II - first screenshot

F-35A AA-1 over Fort Worth NAS (FSX - Scsney is MegasceneryX Dallas/Fort Worth)

As today is an unusually rainy day here in Genoa, I finally had the time to complete the main texturing of the F-35A model I am working on - so here is a picture. I'm posting just one image since the modeling is not complete (cockpit and weapon bays) and several parts are untextured yet (landing gear, part of the cockpit - and weapon bays of course). Basic animation is working - but it will be redone with custom sequences.

All the main textures are photoreal and up to 4096X4096 in resolution...this means you will have to modify the config file to allow for large textures....and this also means that the model takes a little longer to load.

For now, I'll stick with the AA-1 model (CTOL development aircraft). BF-1 (VTOL) and CF-1 (CATOBAR - rolled out few days ago) are not completely ruled out for now, but they are not scheduled so far. Albeit similar, those models differ substantially from the CTOL version...and unfortunately the differences are in critical areas for the 3D model... Besides, Iris Simulations is working on an F-35B...

I'll probably add a production model - provided that I will get reliable information on the changes planned to the AA-1 design (e.g. I know they are planning to change the nose gear door to a split one, and I think they are porbably moving the auxiliary exhaust nearby the engine nozzle from the top side to the lower one - my guess based on the fact that both B and C protos have in there).

As for a release will be done when it will be done.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Experiments in specular mapping

F-14D for FSX:Acceleration with added specular mapping - I struggled to get an angle that could highlight the effect most. I gave it relatively "subtle" value so it is barely visible from most angles. I like it....and looks much better in motion.

Sunny weather here in Italy so I am spending most of my spare time on the beach rather than in front of a computer...Therefore my FSX design-work is proceeding veeery slowly. As you may be aware of, I am working on an F-35A model. As there is some chance this may become my first payware project, I am trying my best to make a top notch model - I want it to include every "bells and whistles" allowed by FSX - and so I decided to spend some of my time on testing things I am not really good at or never implemented at all.
One thing I never employed successfully in my models is specular mapping. Basically, for those who do not know, specular map is a texture map which defines what will be the color, the intensity and the sharpness of the reflection of the material on a point-by-point basis. This was not possible in FS2004 and allows some very cool specular effects.
I never implemented it on my models as, in the tests I did, I felt it provided an excessive shininess of the surfaces. On the other hand there are some really coold models out there that use it with extremely good effects - so it had to be there for the F-35....hence I used the Tomcat as a testbed for this effect.
After few attempts I realized what I was doing wrong - and it was the base color of the specular map: to achieve a good looking modern-military-paint reflection you should use a very dark specular map. In the example shown in the pictures, the specular map was obtained by taking the diffuse map. darkening it by 50-70 "units" and applying an uniform alpha channel of 64 value. Obviously, if you are less-lazy than me, you could have tuned both on a per-pixel basis. Specular power was set to 30 (raising it and/or the alpha will result in smaller hotspots - which tend to highlight the mesh defects - better to avoid that IMHO).
The specular model will be part of the next update. And the F-35 will be shown (in pictures) as soon as the main texturing is complete: I am making a 4096x4096 photoreal texture for the fuselage and wings by "assembling" hi-def photos...results are good - but process is slow.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

IL-2 Sturmovik:Birds of Prey demo impressions

IL-2 Sturmovik demo - available now on X360

I was very curious to test the demo of Birds of Prey - which promised to be the first attempt to serious flight simulation on consoles in a I downloaded it as soon as I got back home yesterday and played it for a while...

The demo consists of a brief tutorial and two missions: an air defence mission on a Spitfire over the Dover cliffs and a ground support mission on a P-51 in Germany.

The initial impression was of a huge disappointment: the demo starts in "arcade" mode and it is basically "Ace Combat WWII" (albeit more realistic in flight model and gunnery). Usual console flight-action and much disappointment.

Once you have completed the tutorials or a mission, the demo unlocks "realistic" and "simulation" modes: of course I immediately switched to "simulation" and it made huge difference. For example you cannot use external views, nor you have any kind of markers on targets or waypoints. Damage model is realistic, and its effect on maneuvering is reasonable. Much more important, the flight model is challenging: ham-fisted yoke handling will result in plenty of stall and spins - by the way, spin-recovery works in the proper way. Plane handling raises the biggest question mark on the simulation mode and it is control peripherals. Flight sticks are rare among X360 owners (and not widely available in shops) and controlling the plane with the pad does not feel right: the control scheme is weird with some good points (triggers to "zoom" the view and fire -ala Call of Duty) and some bad ones (right thumbstick controls both throttle and rudder...)
What I like:
  • Finally a serious attempt to bring a flight simulation on XBox 360.
  • Graphics: plane models, cockpit and landscapes are generally wonderful and the game is smooth.
  • Unforgiving flight models in simulation mode.
What I do not like:
  • Gamepad control is definitely not good enough for simulation mode
  • Graphics: special effects (like water reflection, gunfire or smokes) are mediocre
  • Some artistic licence in cockpits, liveries, historical accuracy and realism (e.g. no blackouts, redouts or g-loc)
All in all,being a PC-simmer I am not sold on this one. But it is a good attempt - so good that I was trying to hit the "ESC" key of the PC keyboard (sitting next to the 360 pad) to go back to the menu. Worth a second look.
Last, I understand producers wanted to underline the legacy to the "Sturmovik" series...but really does not make much sense to keep Sturmovik in the title. Aside, "Birds of Prey" reminded me of an old simulation game I used to play on Amiga. It was great...but definitely too ambitious for that time...

Monday, July 27, 2009

On the near future of flight simulation...

Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of IL-2 Sturmovik show some beautiful scenery and plane detail

Cockpit details are amazingly good

Ok, do not panic. It is hard to admit, but it is happening. Finally a console game that looks like it could be called a simulation... The Sturmovik series is heading towards several gaming devices including Nintendo DS and Sony PSP - but we don't really care about those handheld toys :-)...
The main thing for us (us meaning responsible adults who spend a considerable amount of time pretending flying airplanes) is that the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions look really good. And if the previews around the internet are to be considered a serious indicator, they are probably the closest thing to a PC-sim ever.
Sure some compromises have been done, like 100x100km "chunks" of scenery or like some deviations from historical accuracy done for the sake of balancing the difficulty (the latter point has already started some "flame wars" in several forums).
I am still skeptical - but I have to confess it is mainly because I don't like WWII warbirds too much... if we were talking about a Korean or Vietnam wars scenario I would be completely sold on this one.
How will the X360 pad work? What is the actual level of realism? How deep and dynamic will the campaign mode be? Well, as PC simmer I must be skeptical. But, we have to confess that the PC-simulation genre is becoming more an more a "niche" in the videogame world (and it wasn't like that in the good-old-times) and the only interesting things in a while have been Rise of Flight and DCS:Blackshark (both from Eastern Europe like Arma II btw).
Maybe the console user-base can give new momentum to flight simming...
Official IL-2 Sturmovik:Birds of Prey here:
PS For those wondering about the F-35...Well, it is coming very nicely but I've got the main landing gear bay completely wrong. I will remake it and then make a wip update.

Friday, July 24, 2009

On the future of Flight Simulation...

There are several uncontrolled rumors about the future of flight simulation - and Flight Simulator specifically. Well, I have no direct contact with Microsoft - so I know what everybody knows...that is Microsoft is surely working on a sequel "of some sort"...
What follows is pure speculation... and some science-fiction.

Rumors are it will be a Live based experience, possibly (also) on Xbox 360. Honestly, I don't know - but it would surprise me. On the other hand, Xbox 360 is a popular platform, that is surely powerful and easy to code for and inexpensive. And, with the exception of IL-2 Sturmovik:Birds of Prey (that seems worth a look) it is surely lacking anything can could be called a "flight simulator" - as I wrote in this older post

But, the Live based experience could be the ground of some interesting implementations... for example:
  1. Microsoft could have server with worldwide (possibly photoreal) scenery (think of it as an integrated Tileproxy), so that fixes and additions to the scenery can be done on the fly. This appears to be the only way to manage an extremely large photoreal database (thousands of Gb).
  2. In the same way, a server-based deployment of addons could be a great improvement. It could work like this: when you are compliling the flight plan, the simulator tells you that there are relevant sceneries (free and payware) that can be dowloaded if you wish (transactions for payware could be managed via Live) and it can dowload and install them automatically "on the fly".
  3. Add-on planes could be managed in the same way - you could type the plane you would like to fly and, if it is not on your computer yet, the simulator can check if it is available for download, then download and install it on your command and manage the transaction if it is payware.
  4. Note that all of the above can be managed for payware and freeware - developers should only upload to a server in the proper way. And it does not preclude third parties from managing other servers (think of the same way Vuze browses in different repositories)
  5. In case the scenery gets too big to handle for a console, it may be possible to "redesign the game" in such a way that the "action" is concentrated in "chunks" of sceneries (see H.A.W.X. or Flight Unlimited II, say 100 x 100 nautical miles). Long travels could be impossible - still, a lot of common simming activities could be perfomed.
  6. All the points above can be achieved on X360, too - the only problem I see being that the 360 has a total of 512Mb of Ram - it can be split at will between code an video ram. Not enough to handle the most complex add-ons.

Well, these were just a couple of ideas... I have really no clue on what Microsoft may be doing. But, I think there some potential in bringing realistic flight simulation to consoles. I just had a look at some previews of Sturmovik for the Xbox and it looks really interesting.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Still trying to improve the Tomcat...

Here are the new "modeled" burners... they don't look that bad IMHO, but they are not great...

The new burner flames look better from the sides rather than from the tail...

As the weather has been very nice here in Italy, I have not dedicated much time to FSX lately so most of the projects I am doing have been suffering some delays.
The tail section of the F-35 is done...and I have to confess am pretty happy with it, but the main work I am doing in these days is trying to imporve the Tomcat.
I've playing with a "modeled" afterburner effect, that is the burner is not an .fx file (2d sprites and particoles) but 3d geomtery with special materials proprieties. Results are still pictures only. As the geometry is static, the overall effects does not give the proper sense of speed....on the other hand, you may hand draw the differnet textures for zone 1-5 so thaat the diffenece is visible.
Pictures above show how the latest build looks like. As some users may not like this approach, I will probably release also an optional .mdl with no burners at all.
The new build will also bring some changes in flight dynamics.
As announced previously the new build will bring a change in the canopy texture. Now the area on which the crew names are usually painted will not be anymore "mirrored" on both sides.
Updated texture can be found here for your reference:
As result, some existing repaints may need a small adjustment - sorry for the inconvenience guys...but I really could not stand mirrored crew names on some otherwise stunning repaints :-)
The update will be released (hopefully) during the next weekend.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Update and some FAQ answers

I've been very busy in the past few days and I had no time to reply to your comments and apologies. I'll do what I can to catch up asap.

Here is a quick update of what is going on (and some answers to FAQs)

Grumman F-14D Tomcat
While I think the 0.95 was a relatively good release, I am still working on it. The planned changes are as follows:
- Change to the canopy texture so that left and right sides are separate (at least in the lower area): this is to allow repainters to write the crew names onto the canopy without having the right side "mirrored". NOTE: this will impact actual repaints
- Fix the animation glitch when opening the radome
- Improve the flight model (reduce the overpower condition at medium speeds)
- Integrate a couple of repaints (namely VF-101 by BananaBob and VF-31 by Yago9)


Q:Can I host the Tomcat on my website? Can I repack it (with an installer/repaints/missions/whatever)?
A:The current release (v0.95) has still some (minor) I'd like to keep control on the release by limiting the download sources, if possible. The next release will be probably good enough to be uploaded to other sites.
Please do not repack the Tomcat - it will make it impossible for me to keep track of the versions. It is happened on my Fs2004 Tomcat which was extensively reworked and repackaged by several individuals (often without my authorization)...I guess it is the price of the popularity, but this means that identifying the issues and improving the product becomes almost impossible.

Q: Is a repaint kit available?
A: No. The simple reason is I never did one for myself - I use the "photoreal" approach, so textures are made from actual photos "on the fly" while modeling....

Q:Is the flight model overpowered?
A: Yes. Not as much as some users believe IMHO, but the flight model should show roughly a 10% more power than the real one. I've increased the thrust so that it is possible to reach and exceed the maximum allowable speed for the given configuration (Mach 1.8 above 10000ft) as requested by some early users. In general, I think the engine behaviour at very slow and very high speeds is acceptable... but in other flight conditions it is definitely too powerful.
Some users have complained about the "spool time" (the time needed for the engine to react to a throttle change). Jet engines are known to have a slow reaction...but things have evolved from the early jet era... In doubt, I've kept the default Hornet value.

Q:What is the correct approach speed?
A:It depends on the fuel quantity: if you launch with the tanks fully loaded and then immediately try to land, you are too heavy (and in the real world you might severely damage the a/c trying to land) so you need to dump fuel before landing. With proper weight, the flight model should allow an approach speed of 125 to 130 Knots (close to the real one).

Q:Is there a manual? Or at least a checklist?
A:I never had time to write them. Writing a check list that is as close as possible to the real one and works with FSX model takes more time than you expect. I am not sure I will have the time to do it anytime soon...

Q:What is your next project?
A:Definitely the F-35 Lighting II. It is very likely to be payware. It is shaping up really nicely, and I've just completed the tails and the engine - will post some pics as soon as it makes some sense.
I am taking the "HD" approach, that is the main textures will be 4096x4096 and the smaller ones will be 1024x1024. The main subject is the AA-1 bird (the CTOL system development prototype). Possibly the BF-1 (STOVL development bird) will be modeled too, but given the FSX restriction in the STOVL dynamics it is a second priority.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Currently on the drawing board....

As many of you are asking, here is a quick resume of what I have on the drawing board right now (will add some pictures later on):

F-14 Tomcat
There are a lot of things that could be improved on the Tomcat, but I have to confess that I'm quite happy with it as is.
I've already made some more changes to the geometry (for example the missiles have been redone completely) but, as we are talking about minor enhancements, I will pack several changes before making an update.

I have two major enhancements in mind right now:
  • RIO cockpit - It would be difficult, and definitely too time consuming, to make a RIO virtual cockpit as detailed as the pilot one... still, it would be great. I've started working on it a couple of times, but dropped it for the excessive complexity (and limited functionality)... Still, I have not completely ruled it out for now.
  • F-14B UPGRADE - This is much more doable. The external model would not need much work (cockpit, seats and ECM fairings, a new texture set -Jolly Rogers for sure- and may be a new weapon set). The virtual cockpit would not be that easy, but many parts can be carried over...

I will never have the time to do both (also because the F-14B UPGRADE RIO cockpit is different from the F-14D) so I think I will do the F-14B. But improving the F-14D is the first thing.

By the way, I know that Paolo Oriani - who provided an oustanding contribution so far - is working to improve the realism and accuracy of the animations.

F-35 Lighting II
This will probably be my first payware project. I know that the FSX community is generally inclined towards older birds... still, there are a lot of things I like about the F-35 and I think it is a very interesting plane. The reasons why it is likely to be payware are several... maybe I'll do a post about them (and about the whole payware versus freeware debate) one day or another.

The AA1 (CTOL development) bird is the one I am modeling. Production F-35A will differ, and some of the differences are known, so I'll probably do a production model too. I'd like to do the STOVL version, too...but we all know the limitations of FSX in this field. Carrier version is very doable, but, at present, the public information about this version is not enough for proper modeling (please do not send info about the X-35C...X-35 and F-35 are very different).

T-45C Goshawk makeover
This is one project I've been toying with for a while. I'm not happy with the T-45C as is now (while I know most of you are). I'd like to optimize it,make it more accurate and add the instructor cockpit.

Aermacchi MB339
Last, long ago Massimo Taccoli kindly sent me the source geometry of his excellent freeware rendition of this plane. The MB-339 is probably the Italians' favourite and most loved bird, as it it the one flown by the Frecce Tricolori. Massimo's model is really good and I've started working on it several months ago. While the results are encouraging it is highly unlikely I will be ever find the time to do this, too.

As you can see, there is a lot of things I am working on. Well, actually there are too many things... I will have to drop at least half of these projects.Believe it or not, apart from my FSX activities, I do have a full-time job and a social life...

Monday, June 22, 2009

F-14D clear to launch

I've just finished compiling a build that I consider "good for release". I think the visual model is Ok, the flight model does its job and the cockpit is working. I am not completely satisfied with the cockpit quality level as it is full of bugs: some buttons are still inoperative, or mapped incorrectly and some gauges do not work as they should. BUT, as it is unlikely I will have enough time to fix those bugs in the next couple of weeks I have decided to release it as is.

As it very late in the night here in Italy, and the files are not properly packed yet, I am not releasing it now...and will catch some sleep instead.
I will release it asap, probably tomorrow ater work - and after one last test flight that I am sure will reveal some last minute it always does..

Thursday, June 18, 2009

F-14D update...she is almost ready!

With Javier Fernandez's outstanding carriers on the loose, I am receiving many emails asking about the release of the F-14D Tomcat... At the moment I am writing, IT HAS NOT BEEN RELEASED YET. FSX portover of my FS2004 Tomcat was not done by me (and by the way has never been authorized) and has nothing to to with the new Tomcat, which is a completely new model - started from scratch.

I think I've just finished the external model: thanks to Paolo Oriani now there is a flap intelock that prevents flaps from being extended over Mach 0.3....this means a much more realistic behaviour of the wing sweep and flap mechanism. This was the major outstanding issue - so I think the external model is ready. Also, I am quite happy with the flight model, too. I've tried my best to have a realistic behaviour - and I've paid special attention to Guns210's feedback on the Beta version as he was a real life Tomcat driver.
Now, the cockpit issues need some work...but it is already functional and working. Some gauges don't show exact values and it is not yet possible to start from a "cold and dark" situation... But I am confident I can complete it before the next weekend. So...we're almost there.
Here are a couple of pictures from the latest build.

F-14D trap onto Javier's Nimitz carrier. Finally the approach is "power on" and approach speeds are almost correct!

Surrounded by Superbugs... Hornets by mandate, Tomcats by choice!

Thanks to Paolo Oriani, now the wing sweep behaviour is much closer to the real one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A short round-up of Xbox360 air combat games

Apart from being a FSX simmer and designer, I am also a (relatively avid) gamer. My gaming-addiction severity largely depends on weather and mood, but I think I've played many of the most significant games of the current-generation on PC and Xbox 360.
Now, with the growing rumor of a Microsoft Flight Simulator Live-based game, I just wanted to share my thoughts about the modern air combat games currently available on the Microsoft console. As far as I know, there are only three such games: Over-G Fighters from Namco; Ace Combat 6 from Taito and Tom Clancy H.A.W.X. from Ubisoft. Other WWII air combat games exist, like Blazing Angels 1 and 2 - but I've never played them (and, for some reason, I've never actually liked WWII warbirds).

Let's start saying that none of them can be considered a simulation, even in a loose sense of the word. They are arcade games, and should not be treated as Falcon 4 competitors.


Over-G Fighters has been the first jet combat game available on the XBox360. It could have been a good game, but it isn't mainly because of the poor graphics and presentation. In terms of game mechanics it is the only one that could be considered vaguely a flight simulation, as it is somewhat similar to F/A-18 Interceptor or JetFighter series. Still, the graphics are really bland and the manga-like briefings are extremely cheesy, apart from being completely out-of-context. Even if dogfights are vaguely realistic, multiplayer tends to be boring as you have to fly a lot over the mediocre scenery before facing an opponent.

Over G Fighter graphics are generally poor - while the aircraft models show some love, the overall look is the one of an average PS2 game upscaled to HD.

In terms of cockpit fidelity, Over G is the best of the bunch. Also, this is the only game on the Xbox360 in which dogfight mechanics could be called realistic.


Ace Combat games never tried to be realistic. Fictional countries. Spacecraft-like boss-vehicles. Unlockable sci-fi aiplanes. Unlimited weapons. This is a shoot'em-up dressed like a flight simulation. But it is a good shoot'em-up. Graphics are beautiful, partially due to extremely good filters, frame rate is superb and some of the sceneries are jaw-dropping. The game is fast and fun, provided you can stand the fictional environment and the extreme cheesiness of the useless cutscenes. Multiplayer is chaotic but relatively fun.
For my tastes, this game could have been a lot better with a non-fictional environment and a mission editor. It is a good 3d shooter with some brilliant in-game graphics and a Gundam-like flavour.

Ace Combat has intenal views...but they are not functional and serve no purpose in this game.

Ace Combat 6 visuals are good, and the graphics engine is extemely fast even if the sky is crowded by missiles, planes and explosions...and huge sci-fi boss vehicles.


Tom Clancy games on the X360 have been generally good and realistic, like Ghost Recon or Rainbox Six. This is not. This is an Ace Combat clone with real-life photoreal scenery and a fictional (and not really believable) story set in a near future. The only addition to Ace Combat mechanics is the possibility to switch to a "close combat" mode which is disorienting and adds no value to the gameplay. Graphically the game is good, but Ace Combat is better.

What was really disappointing for me was the fact that the Tom Clancy brand was a trademark for quality and realism, so I had (limited) hopes that HAWX could have been a good compromise between realism and fun. It is not. It is just an AC6 clone with the Tom Clancy name attached.

H.A.W.X. cockpit look flat...and they are not much functional to the game mechanics.

H.A.W.X. graphics don't look bad on still pictures... But, in motion, Ace Combat 6 looks definitely better.


...for my tastes and at the moment I am writing,there is no air combat game worth buying on the Xbox 360. Ace Combat 6 is a competent shooter, spoiled by an extremely cheesy setting. HAWX is an AC6 clone that has nothing to do with the usual realism of the Tom Clancy brand. Over G could have been a good next-gen JetFighter but the execution is poor.

If you like (semi)realistic air combat games, there is nothing worth buying on the Xbox 360 at present. And I have some doubts there will be in future. Save your money for other things.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Javier Fernandez releases his Nimitz carriers for FSXA

Javier's excellent Nimtiz in recovery configuration
Just a quick "heads-up" for the release of Javier Fernandez's oustanding Nimitz class package for FSX. This excellent freeware add-on provides AI models for both Nimitz and Eisenhower nuclear carriers. Both carriers are available in different configurations, including launch, recovery and "man at rails". This package is pratically perfect in every respect: textures and modeling are great, with little impact to the frame rate; accuracy and details are oustanding, and just walking around the ship reveals marvelous details (such as the air-boss station, the fantastic hangar or the 3d deck crew) and needless to say everything is 100% Acceleration compatible. It even features a "carrier qualification" configuration with T-45Cs.
This is pratically the "perfect" carrier I've always envisioned and it is a much needed addition to FSX:A as the default carriers are far from this level of accuracy and beauty. The fact it is freeware is simply fantastic.
This is a MUST download for all virtual naval aviators, but I'd say for every FSX user as this is truly a masterpiece. File name is USS_Nimitz_Ike.rar and should be available at both Flightsim and Avsim, or through the link shown in the first page of this thread:
The only word of warning is that these carriers are pure AI vehicles, with no missions or courses attached, hence you will need AI Carriers to make them appear (but I'm sure that missions and bgls will appear soon).
Thanks a lot Javier - a truly oustanding job!
P.S. - I understand that, with the release of these carriers, the Tomcat will be much needed - you definitely have to show the Rhinos how a real fighter looks like! Well, the situation is as follows:
- External model is complete and working. There is just one bump texture that needs some tweak.
- Fight model is OK - you can make power-on approach at close-to-real speeds, exceed the Mach 1.88 and have a realistic maneuverability.
-Virtual cockpit is visually complete and functional. A couple of gauges and buttons are not working properly.
I foresee a release before the next weekend.
In the meantime, I've also update the Goshawk - by applying some of the tricks I've learned during the Tomcat development. The new Goshawk is pratically ready and will be released later on today or tomorrow.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

F-14D Beta 2



GREEN - Issue identified and solved, or any alternative could make the things worse

YELLOW - Issue identified, but fix is either beyond my knowledge or too difficult/time consuming for me

RED - Issue open

NOTE: This issue list is compiled according to testing feedback, either comments on this post (preferred) or e-mail, but inlcude also things I've found myself and comments seen on the internet. The status indicator is my evaluation on the situation on my current build, which is, of course, newer than the Beta 2.
Visual model:

  • Wing sweep happens at much higher speed than the real plane (CLOSED: custom XML by Paolo Oriani provides flap intelock)
  • Maneuver/auxiliary flap behaviour is incorrect (CLOSED: see 1)
  • Nose probe vane is not in 3D (OPEN - unsure if it possible to fix in a reasonable time)
  • Nose probe animation glitch - nose probe animation trigger mixed with JDAM visibility trigger (CLOSED - fixed in model build 30)
  • Right slat animation glitch (CLOSED - fixed in model build 30)
  • Dihedral angle missing (CLOSED - geometry changed in model build 30)
  • Burner special effect peeks throught the engine nacelle (OPEN - .fx diameter reduced, but still visible depending on video card settings)
  • Abrupt nozzle animation (CLOSED - alternative solution evaluated but caused visual interference with the a/b)
  • Landing gear animation glitch - one part of the gear was not animated properly (CLOSED - Fixed in model build 32)
  • Landing gear animation / contact point issue - main gear sinking into runway (CLOSED - recalculated contact points "by the book" - still not perfect but much better. As side effect, catapult kneeling is less pronounced)
  • Tail "root" was missing heat exchanger detail (CLOSED - added as texture in model build 34)
  • Crew access ladder not correct (CLOSED - added new ladder geometry courtesy of Paolo Oriani).
  • Fuselage strakes too thick and tall - (CLOSED - reduced thickness and height of the strakes in model build 34)
  • Tail root geometry too thin (CLOSED - replaced tails geometry in model build 37, new geometry courtesy of Paolo Oriani)
  • Upper/lower fuselage section do not blend smoothly (CLOSED - reworked fuselage shading in model build 37)

Virtual cockpit:

  • Some MFD buttons are not working (OPEN - Reason unknown - XML code seems correct, same MFD works if compiled alone, this prevents seeing fuel status on one display and set HSI/ILS mode on the other)
  • HUD declutter/preset mode controls missing (CLOSED -Added in model build 18)
  • Several buttons/switches not working or incorrectly mapped (OPEN - for some I did not have time, others are just mistakes - please highlight the most annoying ones)
  • Radar altimeter missing (Closed - 3D Radar altimeter added to cockpit build 19, however it only shows approximate values)
  • Autothrottle not working (OPEN - Reason unknown: XML code seems correct... I can't tell why it is not working)
  • Cannot operate from "cold and dark" condition, nor it is possible to switch off everything (OPEN - Need to write a FSX checklist and make the model comply with it)
  • Pitot heat control missing (OPEN - Will add it)
  • Electrical power switch location (OPEN - Tomcat relies on external power before engine start-up. Unsure on where to place a switch for that - currently mapped on Generator Reset switch)
  • Backup ILS behaviour odd. While backup ILS activates correctly on NAV1 frequency (not linked to HUD mode), glideslope indications are not correct (CLOSED - Animation sequence was incorrect. Fixed on model build 20)
  • Misplaced texture on the HUD support (CLOSED - fixed on model build 20)
  • Gauge incorrect readings / behaviour:
  1. Total fuel quantity
  2. LT/RT aux fuel quantity
  3. VSI (odd behaviour around 0)
  4. LT/RT engine display
  5. LT/RT engine nozzle position
  6. LT/RT engine oil PSI
  7. Pressure altitude
  8. Hydraulic pressure

Flight model:

  • A more accurate approach speed has brought incorrect stall conditions. CLOSING - After evaluating different solutions, I was not able to find the right compromise between power on approach, maximum speed and proper stall speed. At present, I am keeping the correct maximum speed and close-to-correct power-on approach speed. Stall conditions seem still incorrect: very high AoA and very low speeds. While no proper stall occurs at the right speed, the lift decreases significantly...and I've introduced some roll-instability as the Aoa increases (not as strong as it should be in real Tomcat). So, there is definitely room for improvement but I think the flight model may be acceptable for release.
  • Toe brake effect too strong (CLOSED - As reported by Tomcat pilots, toe brake is now strong enough to hold the plane at full MIL power but cannot hold it when a/b is engaged)
  • Overpowered approach (CLOSED -At present a 130kts, flaps out, spoiler out approach requires power to be mantained. I'm not sure I can do better than this without reworking the model).
  • Maximum speed with latest flight model (CLOSED - latest flight model exceeds the allowable maximum speed of Mach 1.8)
  • Load stations / weight balance incomplete/incorrect (CLOSED - Fixed / completed aircraft .cfg)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

F-14D Beta 1




Beta 1 has been closed - situation frozen as shown below.

External model:

  1. Low frame rates. Sorry but I went for the maximum details. The Beta has already undergone a round of optimizations. I will do another round before release, but I do not think I can improve the performance significantly.If this bothers you too much, disable the aircraft self shadows. The F-35 will perform better. STATUS:OPEN; ACTION: FURTHER OPTIMIZATION IF POSSIBLE
  2. Wing sweep happens at much higher speed than the real aricraft. This was done intentionally in order to prevent animation clashes with spoilers/flaps. STATUS:CLOSED, NO ACTION (BETTER KEEP IT AS IS)
  3. Abrupt nozzle animation / afterburner. I tried to make it smooth (linking to the RPM) but coud not synchronize the nozzle with the a/b. STATUS:CLOSED, NO ACTION (BETTER ANIMATION WILL COMPROMISE A/B SYNC)
  4. Landing gear does not kneel before cat launch: afaik there is no way to make the gear "kneel" on pilot's command (i.e. in the real Tomcat the nose strut is compressed 14 inches - the pilot command the compression via the NOSE STRUT switch)... Therefore I made a compromise while setting the gear contact points. No corrective action planned. STATUS:CLOSED, NO ACTION (AFAIK IMPOSSIBLE)
  5. Tailhook does not touch the deck. STATUS:CLOSED (Solved on .mdl build 24)
  6. Nose probe animation glitch (seems to sink into the fuselage too much). I knew this. I had major problems in keeping the fuselage smooth while "cutting" the probe vane, so there is a "visual patch" instead of a proper 3D vane... this is causing the glitch which should be visible only at close inspection. I will not modify it. STATUS:CLOSED, NO ACTION (TOO DIFFICULT).
  7. Nose landing gear does not touch the ground. STATUS:CLOSED (Solved on MDL build 24)
  8. Burner special effect bleeds through the nozzle. This is not much visbile on my system. STATUS:CLOSED; (Mitigated by contolling the .fx diameter - still visible - depends on graphic card settings)
  9. Nose gear wheels/tires slightly too big. STATUS:CLOSED (Nose wheels and tires shrunk in build MDL 24)
  10. Minor nose gear animation glitch (tire peeking through the gear doors). STATUS:Closed (Nose gear animation sequence reworked in build 24)
  11. Minor spoiler gear animation glitch (actuators disappear into the fuselage). STATUS:CLOSED (Issue mitigated by reworking animation sequence in MDL Build 24, not completely solved but almost negligible. Complete solution would require a redesign of the spoilers which would be too time consuming)
  12. Minor canopy geometry glitch (does not match perfectly with the fuselage); STATUS:CLOSED (Canopy assembly geometry reworked on build MDL 24)
  13. Missing fuel dump effect. STATUS:CLOSED (Fuel dump added in model build 25, also FUEL DUMP switch now operative in cockpit build 17)

Interior model:

  1. Low frame rates. Will try to make another round of optimization if I'll have the time. STATUS:OPEN; ACTION:PERFORM OPTIMIZATION IF POSSIBLE
  2. AoA indicator replaced by VV indicator:
    Sorry but I've never managed to make a 3D Aoa indicator that I've replaced it with a VVI. STATUS:CLOSED (Added AoA indicator thanks to XML code courtesy of Paolo Oriani)
  3. Radar altimeter replaced by a gmeter:
    Same as (1) - the 3D radar altimeter was not working. STATUS:CLOSED, NO ACTION (CANNOT MAKE IT WORK)
  4. Fuel quantity and engine panels showing weird values:
    I thought I've correctly reverse-engineered the parameters to do them in 3D but while I was making the Goshawk....but it was not true.
  5. Several switches/knobs not working or mapped incorrectly
    I'm not sure I will have the time to fix them all. Please tell me what are the most annoying malfunctions and I'll see what I can do. Keep in mind that some of the Tomcat functions cannot be properly replicated in FSX without external coding.STATUS:OPEN; ACTION:WAIT FOR TESTERS TO IDENTIFY MAJOR MALFUNCTIONS: Some MFD buttons not working for no apparent reason.
  7. Autothrottle not working...can't tell why. I've double checked the code and it should work....Not sure I can fix it. STATUS:OPEN; ACTION:INVESTINGATING XML, MDL,CFG
  8. MFDs are obiviously mutuated from the Hornet (BLASPHEMY!). I do not have the time and skill to make new, more accurate ones. STATUSColore testo:CLOSED,NO ACTION
  9. Difficult access to CRS/HDG knobs. They are currently positioned in the "right" place, but they are difficult to access with the mouse pointer. Can be moved upwards. STATUS:CLOSED (Knobs moved upward for better accessibility in cockpit build 18)
  10. Cannot start engines manually and in general cannot follow actual F-14D startup procedure ("cold and dark operation"). STATUS:OPEN, ACTION:ADD FUNCTIONALITY, WRITE FSX:A CHECKLIST
  11. Windshield frame too big. STATUS:CLOSED (Geometry modified in cockpit build 16)
  12. No VC Backlight - There is no backlight code in the Beta 1 build. STATUS:CLOSED (Backlight added in cockpit build 17 - green backlight+red diffuse light)

Additional functions/features in current build (18):

- HYD HAND PUMP (Mapped to Emergency Landing Gear Lever)

- FUEL DUMP SWITCH now opeartive

- MULTI STATUS INDICATOR shows mock weapon status

Flight model:

  1. Approach speed - It appears to be higher than the real one (reading from the NATOPS). A/c tends to sink below 135/140 kts. STATUS:CLOSED (Modified .air file to lower approach speed - as side effect the stall speed is considerably lower than the real plane...but carrier approaches seem much more accurate)
  2. Overpowered - While I've set the right engine values and a/c weight, I have the impression it is overpowered. STATUS:OPEN; ACTION:TBD After derating the engine and increasing the drag the plane seems still overpowered...
  3. Speed brake effect - I've already boosted its effect...but it still seems weak to me... STATUS: CLOSED (Modified .air file - speedbrake is much more effective now, not sure it makes sense to increase its effect further)
  4. Moving the control surface while on the deck causes the a/c to tilt... STATUS:CLOSED (No changes - I did some trials to fix this but I don't want to change the ground handling is not perfect but I think it is OK)
  5. Asymmetric thrust during takeoff (ashore). Does not seem to be a showstopper often on my system. Keep in mind that AFAIK, the F-14D does not take off with a/b. Not sure if it is a real issue or not. Flight parameters look ok (symmetric values for engine location). EDIT: THIS WAS A TRICKY ONE...IT WAS DUE TO AN ASYMMETRY OF THE AUX FUEL TANK LOCATIONS:so it was dependent on the fuel quantity, STATUS:CLOSED (Solved by removing the fuel tank CoG asymmetry in the .cfg file)
  6. Toe brakes effect weak. STATUS:CLOSED (Solved by boosting the toe brake effect in the .cfg file)
  7. Roll rate slightly high. STATUS:CLOSED (Solved by reducing the roll control surface effectiveness in the .cfg file)
  8. Gear retraction too fast. STATUS:CLOSED (Solved by setting the right retraction time 9.0 sec in the .cfg file)
  9. Add 1 notch flap position. STATUS: CLOSED (Solved by adding one flap position to the aircraft.cfg)