A guest editorial by William Ortis
I wish to make known to the Flight Sim world and sim enthusiasts the work of a new pioneer in the realm of FS2004, the golden child of the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise.
First, let me set you up with the state of FS2004. Â For years, developers of aircraft addons were trapped with the inability to make super fine models for FS2004. Â The system had locks that kept one from being able to use high amounts of polygons, (65,000 polygons to be precise), as well as super small detailed parts, which a system called ‘autoweld’ would turn elaborate little parts into what looked like crumpled foil in the sim.
Along comes Luckasz from Poland, a ASM code specialist and FS2004 developer, who found some ways around modifying codes that enabled one to get around these ‘barriers’. Â Through the next couple of years, a handful of people (only) in the world knew of this new technique. Â A person, only known as PropTrash from the FSdeveloper forums, found out that one could nearly use this system in an unlimited fashion and set about making a proof of concept model, a Boeing Stearman biplane. Â This man, not only created a high detail rendition of this classic, including all the exterior bolts and rivets and things on the skin, small fixtures, brake parts, engine with every single nut and bolt (does it have pistons in this thing???), but also the inner frame, where when you bring up the little green manual book pop-up, you can turn off the exterior skins of the plane and the full guts of the bird are revealed, showing you things from animated throttle and controls linkages, to radios and wiring, cables, an airfilter case with high detail filter, etc, etc, etc.
Now, it doesnt stop there. Â This man found ways to make ‘more’ revolutionary FS details, and in this now vintage simulator, FS2004. Â He has a jacket on the pilot, that when airborn, his sleeves ‘ruffle’ in the wind, literally buffeting like real fabric. Â You will note that the plane is shaking a bit, which they do, being a large open biplane with a giant radial engine, the wind hitting the wings and cables, they shake quite a bit. Â So PT has parts of the airframe animated to shake, just enough to see, but not hurrendous, only realistic enough for your subconcious to be caught up in the realism that is being portrayed in this wild masterpiece of a virtual plane. Â Then, underneath the belly, you will find, when you switch on your Nav lights, is a red rotating beacon. Â No big deal you think… Â No… Â Big deal! Â This is a dang replica of an actual, motorized rotating beacon featuring the small reflection cup that rotates around an illuminated red bulb, beneath clear glass. Â This is a bit of work you see, as spinning animation was for a while not known how to do with a on/off switch, let alone layers of various transparencies. Â So to see this high realism light ‘running’ and looking so real, yet the size of a small jewel (remember, we used to make parts like this and they crumpled up like balls of foil) is a marvel for a developer like me (gray eyebrows, having prayed for years to be able to make models like this for FS2004), and now here they are, before us, in all their glory, running effortlessly….
Skins are removeable which reveal the EXTREME DETAIL underneath, the radical and extreme precision work on the actual airframe, from radios and fuel cell to air filter and working linkages.Â Note all the various nuts and bolts on the engine, the detail of the air filter and its box are amazing alone.
Then, something that brings a tear to my eye. Â As I am testing this thing out, I find a light switch for the instrumentation. Â The knob has the famed little symbol for a low to high illumination. Â It cant be… Â I turn the knob just a tad, and you only see the glow paint on the instruments softly lite up, then, the Radium glow. Â I keep turning and the mouse over is indicating percentages of the light increasing, as also the illumination in the instruments. Â Soon, the Gauges are brighter and brighter, and then the cockpit map light flips on… Â lol.. Â This again is another achievement. Â Before, we had pioneers find out that we could illuminate gauges ‘alone’ in the cockpit. Â But now, people like PT come along and find a way to make these things ‘continuously variable’, not with just a single texture map, but from Radium paint, through glowing gauges, to the interior dome light, (which before, was all we had, the harsh bright light in a cockpit for night flights).
Skins are removeable which reveal the EXTREME DETAIL underneath, the radical and extreme precision work on the actual airframe, from radios and fuel cell to air filter and working linkages.Â Note here the detail of the landing gear with the Oleo fairings removed. Also the brake mechanicals on the wheels.
Now.. Â You say, ‘surely this thing will be a monster and pull down the frame rates. Â You are half right. Â It is a MONSTER! Â The file is 20 megs big. Â 21 megs actually. Â The normal maxed out size of a FS2004 aircraft model (MDL) file was 6 megs, approximately. Â This thing is 20 megs!!! Â Yes, I know, some pushed the limit to 7 megs, but this is far more then that. Â Far far far more…. Â Â And does it pull down the smooth frame rates of the sim? Â No….! Â It runs quite well on my Apple iMac running Windows XP 32bit with 4 gigs of RAM, and as you know, XP only uses 3 gigs of that RAM. Â So if it runs like glass on this unit, imagine Win7 64 with 6 to 8 gigs of RAM. Â Well, you wouldnt tell the difference as its already running smoothly. Â So it seems that the tales of ‘huge models, if they could be made for FS2004, would slow the sim down to a jittering mess’ is totally untrue. Â Super models can now be made in FS2004, and they run fast and smooth….
Now if only we could increase the size of the texture limit from 1024 pixels to 2048! Â Yes… Â Always barriers, and barriers are made to be shattered, and with that note, I wish to thank PropTrash for this revolutionary masterpiece and marvel of FS2004 technology! Â And thanks to Lucasz as well for his pioneering work in finding ways to modify the ASM files to make this possible, as well as Arno and his team for BGLC-9 which can compile such incredible works….
PT says he will be releasing this beauty soon to the world as freeware and a proof that such technology can be done in FS2004.. Â He is presently now hard at work on a Saber jet fighter classic. Â I can only imagine what that will look like with this Boeing Stearman being the fore runner of his new ‘barrier-less’ abilities.
It is so cool to see limits taken away from artists so that they can make massive jumps in their capabilities…
You can see photos of PropTrashes plane in my Photos section in Facebook. Â I have created an album there of his work.
William Ortis is an FS aircraft developer and publisher at http://www.lionheartcreations.com/