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Archive for the ‘Starship’ Category

A lot of my projects have stalled, partly due to lots of other stuff going on, but partly due to the fact that they have turned into a huge mountain. To help along, I have created a FogBugz bug database so that I can make a list of discrete little things to work on. This way I can have smaller one or two evening projects rather than a massive mountain of stuff that seems overwhelming.

 

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Been getting into the habit of doing just a little work on the Starship each evening. It is the only way it is ever going to get finished. I am currently focusing on getting the VC geometry and texturing done. I am creating gauges as I go along, but they are mostly non-functional yet (that will come later). Here is the latest progress:

Click for full size

Click for full size

Click for full size

Click for full size

Here is more on the project: Blog posts and Flickr image collection.

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I am trying to put in a couple hours each week into the Starship. Here is this week’s efforts – the audio control panel:

And the reversionary system and controls and misc alerts (these switches don’t actually control anything in the sim):

Next think to do will be the sideslip indicator (which I will make using 3D parts, just to see what that’s like).

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Starship engine gauge

Yesterday I decided to give another push to the Starship – this time I started on the engine data display. Luckily I had a nice clear photo of the real display, so it was fairly easy to get something that looks like the original.

Here is how it looks in FSX:

Here is the real thing:

I forgot to turn on the BRIGHT property on the elements, so it can look a little dark if the sun shines on it wrong (It does have lightmapping in the VC though, so at least if you hit the instrument lights at night you get the bright display).

All in all, it took me about five hours to do this. Most of the time was spent on drawing those multi-coloured arcs, and working out the pixel positions for the nonlinearity tables. Instead of doing the XML in notepad as I usually do, I used the Visual Studio editor, which highlights the XML tags and lets you fold away nodes. That saved a lot of time.

I still need to put the warning captions and status messages into the top-right corner of the display. I have not yet worked out what those are yet, so that bit will stay black until then.

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The first version of Microsoft Flight Simulator that I got seriously into was FS2000. One of the interesting things about it was that you could get Flight Sim Design Studio Pro, a new model editor by Abacus, to design new aircraft for it. I have always been a fan of the Beechcraft Starship 2000A, so I thought it was a good idea to build a starship for FS2000. While 0n my first visit to Seattle, I ordered FSDS and Aircraft Animator (on CD) from Abacus, and when I got back to Cape Town, I started work on it.

That was in 2000. We are about to go into 2009 and I’m still not done. The real Starship went from clean sheet of paper (1982) to first production airframe flight (1988) in 6 years. That means I have already taken 50% longer than the real thing, and I’m still not done. At least I haven’t spent the $300 million the real thing took to develop yet, so in some senses my project is not a disaster.

Why the delay? Partly life interfering (I completed two degrees, wrote some 30 papers, moved in with Ilda, adopted two rabbits, started two careers, immigrated, etc, etc, etc), and partly bloody Microsoft kept coming up with new versions of the sims which kept making want to add new features (there was FS2002, FS2004, and now FSX). Well, recently I started mailing Blake Melancon who for similar reasons got stalled a big project, but has recently gotten back in the saddle with a very nice racing plane. So I decided it was worth another shot. Here is how far I have gotten.

External model

This is almost done. The basic structures are in place and animated. Plus, using FSDSxTweak, I have added a number of custom cameras and nice material effects (click for larger images):

Basic layout

Custom camera (corny Starship view)

Custom camera (corny Starship view)

Wing custom camera

As you can see I am using an imaginary livery – no Starships were registered in Japan, but I like the ANA blue cheat lines, so I thought why not add something similar to the Starship. Akikaze, by the way, means Autumn Breeze.

The most complex part is the wing. It is a single part with several complex shapes cut out of it (for the gear to retract into and the flaps. The flaps are not quite correct, but for the time being I am not going to fix that – cutting holes into parts into FSDS is a huge pain, because the boolean operations often give you a degenerate result. So you need to merge another part with the correct vertices in it, and then add the polygons by hand by selecting vertices, and hitting the ‘create polygon from verts’ option. This is horribly tedious. Worth it in the end, as the gear looks pretty good now (click for larger):

Gear and flaps down, with the canards swept forward.

Front gear - the left wing is still using the master texture.

There is still a lot of texturing to be done. Speaking of texturing, I hid a little Easter egg in the pilot (the pilot by the way, is animated to look into the turns and leans away from the bank, as if by centrifugal force). Look closely at the pilot – he is wearing a CVC sweater! I did work on this in the CVC lab when I should have been doing data analysis, so this is my homage to those days (click for larger, you can’t really see the sweater in the small image):

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3025/3085722821_93edfacebe_o.jpg

Easter egg in the pilot texture

Gauges and the VC

The gauges have been insteresting. The Starship has a glass cockpit (with the exception of a few standby gauges), so that means inplementing them from scratch. Originally I began doing these in C++ using the old .GAU standard, but with the shift in FS9 to XML gauges, I re-coded all the work I did into XML. I struggle to wrap my head around the reverse-polish notation used in FS, but by disassembling the default gauges I am making progress. All the gauges are 3D for the VC. Here are the airspeed and altitude gauges, which allow control of the autopilot settings also (click for larger image):

Here are the standby versions:

And here is the main Navigation gauge – it has several modes, and is heavily based on the default A321 MFD gauge. It is still missing some ILS functions (click for larger):

In general, the VC is generating a huge amount of work. It is hard to make it look good and be functional! Here is a wide view of the VC currently (click for larger):

The throttle quadrant needs to be redone, and I would like to do something to make the walls look a little textured. The seats also need better textures, and the sun shades are completely the wrong shape. Lots of work to do here.

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