Friday, December 11, 2009
The blog is not dead, even though it may have seemed like it for a while. The reason for the lack of updates, is that there has been nothing new to report despite all the work being done. More specifically, I personally have been really busy tweaking the new software that creates the 3D models for the Alaska terrain. And, the rest of the time was spent finishing up the 220+ cities, towns and villages that are being modeled for Alaska. We have repositioned nearly 100 default FSX Alaska airports that clashed with the more accurate terrain environment we are providing. All this is being done for Alaska in addition to the detailed water, roads and other features normally present in our Ultimate Terrain line.
Alaska is going to be one feature rich scenery product. Because of the unique terrain in Alaska, we wanted to put our best efforts into creating something visually special. While there is no official release date yet, things are getting close. January ? That would be a nice way to start the year. Stay tuned. And, if you have not seen screenshots for this product yet, you can find them at the Ultimate Terrain support forum (http://www.simforums.com/forums/forum_topics.asp?FID=19).
As of today, the screenshots are a couple of months old. But, there should be lots of new shots going up in the next few days or so. Thanks for your patience on this product. But, it should be worth the wait. We are certainly excited about getting this product to you.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
So, the hot weather is keeping us inside, working away on existing and upcoming products.
First, on August 5, we released a small patch for UTX Europe to bring it to version 1.3. You can get the patch on the Scenery Solutions download page for FSX.
As most of our users already know, we have not been doing any FS9 development for several years now. And, we really don't expect this to change. We just don't have the time or staff to actively continue projects for an outdated sim, even though there are still a lot of FS9 users that have never made the switch to FSX.
With the above being said, some of our users have taken it upon themselves to make patches or improvements for UT/FS9. And, they have agreed to share their work with others. We will try and make some of them available at the Scenery Solutions download site for FS9 as "Unofficial" releases. On August 17, we posted 3 small patches by Hasse Ramberg that will address a couple of issues in Canada and Europe for FS9 (UT versions). You can get them at the UT FS9 download link below:
What about Ultimate Alaska ? Well, that is still the #1 priority and a lot has been accomplished in the last month. We hope to have the "Utimate Terrain" portion of this product ready for testing in a couple of weeks. Then we will begin to add the objects based on the newer technology that has been discussed here and in the forums. Personally, I am shooting for an Ultimate Alaska product release in late-oct to early-nov of this year, if we can keep up the current pace on this project.
Friday, July 24, 2009
The UTX Europe patch has just been completed and tested. However, since I am leaving on summer holiday and will be unavailable until August 2, we will hold off on releasing the patch until my return.
Nothing more to report for now. But, I just wanted to check in for anybody following the blog.
See you in a few weeks....
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Another week or so and we should have our initial compile of the Alaskan roads and water ready. Holger is on vacation in Europe until August. So, we will have to wait another month or so for him to add his special touches to the product, especially the glaciers.
I have no idea when Ultimate Alaska will be released. But, I am hoping for Sept/Oct if things continue to go well.
Outside of Alaska, there is another small project that we are working on. This consists of a patch for UTX Europe. The patch will not provide all the requested enhancements that we recieved. Instead, it will focus on 2 of the more important issues right now, which is improving some of the landclass textures used and supplying the missing Greek Islands near the coast of Turkey. On a related note, we will soon be releasing a special version of the UTX Europe landclass textures that have been fine-tuned to work precisely with the upcoming GEX Europe product.
Thats all for this week.....
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Well, getting the blog off the ground hit a bit of a snag. There was some debate among the Scenery Solutions team on how the blog should actually be used.
Instead of putting long technical documents here in the blog, we decided that it will be better served if we place technical information in our support forum (http://www.simforums.com/forums/forum_topics.asp?FID=19). The blog will be used for product status updates and other flight sim tidbits related to what we are doing.
With that in mind, here is a quick update on what is taking place at Scenery Solutions.
Earlier this month, we finished our working prototype for the new "Project X" product. As you may know, Project X is not the official name for the new product line. A more official name will be determined a bit later. If you have not yet heard about "Project X", you can follow the link below which will take you to the announcement in the support forum.
Over the last 3 weeks we have been hard at work on our next product to be released. This product is the long awaited "UTX Alaska". Holger Sandmann, of Tongass Fjords X fame among others, is part of the UTX Alaska team and will bring a special expertise needed for that part of the world.
As expected, UTX Alaska will provide the standard Ultimate Terrain X features seen in Canada, Europe and the USA. However, the Alaska product will also be showcasing our "project X" features. Because Alaska is mostly rural, the urban areas of Alaska should make for a terrific "project X" demo region, without requiring extensive development. In the future, "project X" features will be released as brand new products, independent of the Ultimate Terrain line.
UTX Europe Landclass Update
We will be releasing a landclass patch for Europe soon. This patch addresses some misused suburban textures in Europe, improves the landclass around Paris and redraws the wet/dry line for the mediterranean region a bit. While the landclass patch will provide improvements using only the default FSX textures, it will have added benefit when used with the upcoming GEX Europe textures to be released by Flight 1.
That's it for today. My goal is to update the blog at least weekly.
Sorry for the confusion and for the late start in getting this blog going.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Since we are in the business of providing terrain scenery for Flight Simulators, this blog entry may some of you to better understand the flight simulation terrain system in less technical terms (hopefully).
MSFS Terrain System
Someday, flight simulators will be able to cover the entire earth with consistent, beautifully colored, recent, high resolution imagery. To a smaller degree, the technology is here today. And, there are several fine photoscenery products available that support both FSX and FS9. However, neither the data (imagery) nor hardware capabilities are at the point where the world, or even individual continents can be quickly developed, easily distributed and stored on a user’s computer.
When you look at the terrain scenery in Microsoft’s Flight Simulators, the world appears as one continuous skin covering the entire globe. In reality, the entire world is broken into measurable 1km x 1km square cells. So, the world is one big grid system of individually tiled images that wrap around the globe in a North/South and East/West direction. Each of these small 1km x 1km cells is assigned a particular graphic image that is to be displayed. That graphic can be unique (photoscenery) or selected from a set of available graphic images (as in landclass).
In the case of photoscenery, each cell is assigned to a unique image that depicts the portion of the globe represented by the 1km large cell boundaries. How many cells does it take to cover the entire earth ? Well, the earth is broken up into 24,576 columns x 32,769 rows of these 1km square cells. So, the total number of cells for the entire globe is 805,306,368. That is a lot of individual cells that must be maintained by the flight simulator. What if you wanted to display the entire globe with photoscenery right now. Even if a global product was available, here are some rough numbers for you…
Right now in FSX, each cell is represented by a 1024x1024 pixel image (roughly 1m per pixel resolution). At this resolution, the bitmap storage requirements for each image in FSX (DXT1 format) is 699,122 bytes. In order to create unique textures for the entire globe, for a single season, you would require the following disk storage space:
805,306,368 cells x 699,122 bytes = 563,007,398,608,896 (roughly 563 terabytes of storage)
The roughly 563 terabytes would be necessary for depicting single daytime season (i.e summer). However, you need to multiply this figure by 6 to have 4 seasons depicted, plus a hard winter texture, plus a night texture. With unique 6 image versions of each cell necessary, we are talking about storage requirements in the petabyte range (I had to research that one in wikipedia).
You can see that without major changes in technology or image compression, covering the world in photoscenery is still some ways off. Also, the video card has to have enough RAM to hold the textures needed for a current scenery area when flying in a simulator. If the video card cannot hold all the images in its onboard RAM, it has to constantly swap the images in and out with the disk (paging). This will really slow down your performance.
For obvious reasons, photoscenery is a very popular addon product for flight sims. If it is well done, it provides the pinnacle in flight simulation terrain scenery. But, photoscenery products are currently restricted to smaller regional areas, like major cities of the world or very scenic regions.
Photoscenery is not the only way of depicting terrain in FSX and FS9. In fact, Microsoft does not provide any photoscenic areas in the retail FSX product. If photoscenery is not used to draw the terrain, the terrain is drawn using the landclass system (with vector graphic supplements).
Tomorrow’s blog entry will describe the MSFS landclass system and how it is used.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The forum environment works great when it comes to customer support. But, it is probably not the best way to keep our customers (and potential customers) informed of our activities. Information that is posted in the forum can be disjointed and/or quickly buried in the number of forum posts present.
It has been over 1 year since our last product release (UTX Europe). Yet, the last year has been one of the busiest for us. After releasing several patches in 2008, we are now trying to take our flight simulation scenery products to the next level. And, for the last 8 months we have been buried in new development. If things work as planned, the next 12 months will see a flurry of product releases based on the new technologies we have developed in-house.
The intial blog entries will attempt to give an indication of where we are now and where we are headed in the near future. Even though Microsoft has halted development on its flight simulation line for the time being, the 3rd party development community is alive and well.