Monday, 27 December 2010

Flying at the End of the World



Using the map in GEFS, you can take-off from over 30,000 runways in the world. While exploring this database of runways, I found some pretty interesting places. I will try to publish some of my discoveries in this blog.

GEFS now accepts direct links to place a specific aircraft at the chosen location. Following this link, you will be taken to the Teniente Rodolfo Marsh Martin Base. This place is full of magic. Taking off with the DC3 from this runway and flying by the small church while climbing gave me the impression of being an old times adventurer ;)

Enjoy!

GEFS 0.4 is Live



I just released version 0.4

This is not a major step but it includes quite a few improvements and bug fixes.

- Improved muti-player mode, with a better extrapolation/interpolation.
- Current flight (and some preferences) is saved when exiting the sim, and restored when starting it up again.
- Orientable cockpit camera
- Improved players icon display on the map (orientation and altitude)
- A link generator so it is possible to link directly to GEFS and initialize a flight (plane, location).
- Updated flight models (the Piper CUB now has a bit more power, the DC3 a bit more grip)

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Anti-Aliasing in Google Earth Plug-in

Most of us simmers/gamers probably have a great, bulky, power hungry and overheating graphic card that can handle heavy 3D rendering and plenty of effects. Sadly, the Google Earth plug-in does not make a very good use of all this computing power. While I hope it is going to improve by every release of the plug-in, I would like to give you a small hint that can greatly improve the graphic in the Google plug-in and in GEFS as a consequence.

The only limitation here is your graphic card. If it is high-end enough, you probably have access to some settings via the card's driver. It usually can be found in the display settings of your operating system (in the advanced section). Each manufacturer and/or model of graphic card will present it differently and, there, I would recommend to look on the internet for details about how to set it up.

In the end, what we are looking for is something called anti-aliasing. It is not active by default in the Google Earth plug-in and there is no way to turn it on except for the manual driver settings.
Anti-aliasing, for those who do not know what it is, is an algorithm that smooth all the scaling (jaggies) you can see in an image (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-aliasing).

Most 3D graphic card drivers will offer a way to force this anti-aliasing to be turned on. Usually the default setting is to depend on the application to ask for anti-aliasing. Your driver probably offers an option to make it "always on".

I am talking about anti-aliasing because it is probably the most widely spread option among graphic cards, and also one that has the greater impact on rendering quality. Other settings may be available in you driver configuration panel (such as Anisotropic filtering or Texture quality).

Anisotropic filtering (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anisotropic_filtering), if available, will also dramatically improve the rendering, especially when flying low and looking far.

Note: I do not own a Mac but from what I could read, it is apparently tricky to force 3D options in Mac OS. If anyone has some advice on that matter, please let me know.

Rolling Out Version 0.3

I published 0.3 yesterday!


Among other minor fixes the changes are:
  • Added the Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet
  • Added flaps and air-brakes when available on aircraft
  • The map now displays about 30,000 clickable runways to take off from.
  • The aeronautical map shows a layer of airspace areas (DAFIF data).
  • Improved camera handling (orbit, zoom). Added the "chase" camera
  • Improved moving propellers rendering
  • Improved flight models
  • Added some exponential filtering on controls
  • Added call-sign display for network players
  • Removed the hold while loading terrain: physics tweaked to handle it.
  • Re-factored the multi-player back-end to be faster and more stable
Have a nice flight!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Multiplayer is off

Update: It's back on. Still trying to figure out what happened.

Multiplayer mode is off for technical reasons until further notice.

I am really sorry about that and will work hard to get it back on as soon as possible.

On the positive side of things: it means GE Flight Simulator is really successful and I thank you all for that!

Have a nice flight... anyway!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Early adopter

I would like to thank Skycooler (Aka Skyler Lehmkuhl) for being a long time fan of my Flight Simulator attempts. He was already enjoying the Sportstar Simulator about 6 years ago and made a video of it.

Recently, he has been very enthusiastic about the new GEFS release and... made a video of it.

While I may not share his musical tastes (neither his unique flying skills) I am very thankful to his enthusiasm and feedback.

Cheers, and have a pleasant flight!

The Google Earth Blog Effect

Mickey Mellen has posted a really nice review of the GE Flight Sim on Google Earth Blog. The consequence, though, was that my Google App Engine account reached the 1GB limit in less than 5 hours! You can call that the "GEB Effect" :)

I promptly redirected the flight sim to a mirror hosting server to keep it on.

I am really happy with the feedback I got so far: some "real" pilots and real gamers gave me critical and technical advices and this is what I really need to keep improving GEFS.

It was also a lot of fun to join in the crowd in GEFS and see all these planes taking of from Stradbroke Island airstrip. I counted up to 15 planes in the air simultaneously. That's a lot of requests to my backend server: I hope it's not gonna melt down.

Meanwhile, I keep working on release 0.3. To come (and to keep people interested):
- The Dassault Alpha Jet
- Working and animated flaps and airbrakes
- Improved instrumentation
- Improved flight models
- Better camera handling.
- Database of airports and runways (DAFIF data) to fly to/from

Have a pleasant flight!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Rolling Out Version 0.2



I just released version 0.2. We are still talking about a beta version here, and I am still looking for help on reporting bugs and feature requests. But this version contains some great improvements:

- Animated aircraft parts
- The introduction of one of my favorite planes: the Douglas DC-3
- Revised physics engine and more robust collisions detection
- Tuned flight dynamics
- Moved to hosting on Google App Engine for faster response time
- Many bugs fixed

I'll start working on 0.3 right away as I have millions of ideas for making G.E. Flight Simulator even better.

Have a nice flight.

X.

Friday, 1 October 2010

It's live!

GE Flight Simulator, the beta version of a new online Flight Simulator, based on Google Earth.

It's been years (6 I think) since I released the Sportstar Simulator. Overall, the game was running well and was fun to play. A lot of people enjoyed it very much: a fan even released a Youtube video of it :) Sadly, the big plans (more planes, worldwide scenery, etc.) I had in mind never came to exist, mostly due to lack of time and use of an outdated technology.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon "Ships" from PlanetInAction and realized how suitable the Google Earth plug-in would be to build a flight simulator, quickly, while enjoying the fantastic scenery it can provide.

So in the free time left to me between a full-time job and new dad responsibilities, I managed to put together a beta version for people to try out.

Here is a short list of the features already implemented:
- Worldwide scenery, thanks to Google Earth
- Three aircraft (The original Evektor Sportstar, a Piper J-3 Cub and a Cessna 172)
- Real-time physics
- Some (very) minimalistic weather simulation
- Sound and animated parts (trust me, this was non trivial using the GE plug-in)
- Joystick support, through this excellent browser extension
- (Basic) multiplayer

The GE-Flightsim will require a fast PC and a good graphic card in order to achieve comfortable performance: on my 2Ghz Dual Core + Gforce 9600 it runs a 60FPS but on my Celeron laptop with shared graphic chipset I only get 6FPS



Plenty of things still have to be fixed or improved:
- Collisions are not right and lead to jerky behavior of the plane on the ground (especially at low frame-rate). I am working on it.
- The model orientation runs into a gimbal lock situation under certain circumstances (90 degree tilt) hence the weird barrel roll the plane may do in that case.
- Building collisions are not realistic.
- and the list could go on forever...

I definitely need input from users in order to improve the GE Flight Sim and aim in the right direction: let me know what you think so I can improve it in future releases.

I am soon planning to open up the aircraft library to the public so people can create and add their own models. More to come on that subject in this blog.

Have a nice flight!

X.