Posts from May 2012.

Instant Object Studio

Flight1 has released a new tool, Instant Object Studio. This evening I had a play with the demo version and I must say I am surprised by the tool. After seeing the video I had the impression that the tool would be nice to make some quick buildings, but that it would be hard to make really detailed photo realistic objects with it. But after testing the demo version a bit I think I was wrong there. Since the demo version does not do export, I have not yet been able to see how optimized the output generated by the tool is.

Here’s a list of the positive things I have noted:

  • The concept of building your object inside FS is cool!
  • Making the geometry is quite easy. The different shapes snap together and after reading the maniual (yes :)) I found out there are some easy ways to fix the movement of polygons or edges along an axis. All that together makes it rather fun to model the shape you want. It’s a bit like SketchUp. Modelling geometry in SketchUp is also fun (more fun than in GMax at least).
  • When making a new material you have access to all the FSX specific settings if you want, but they are hidden under advanced settings.
  • It is cool how you can easily make your own texture using the generic templates. You can adjust colours and even overlay a second texture. Nicely done, only don’t get carried away as you might end up with a lot of drawcalls.
  • You have rather good control over the texture mapping. I think it is even easier than those clumsy pins in SketchUp. So even if you have all parts of your house on one texture (as you would try for good performance), it is not too hard to alter the texture mapping.
  • You can attach effects and control the amount of detail in the crashboxes.
  • The fact that your textures are directly saved in the format that FS needs and that your model is exported to BGL right away will be very useful for many people. It saves the steps to use BGLComp, ImageTool, etc. Especially for new developers that is very good.

Of course there are also some points I am not so sure about:

  • Although the manual mentions it is important to use as few textures as possible, the way you can make generic textures could tempt a lot of people to use much more textures than is good for the performance. If you only build one of two houses it is not going to hurt, but on bigger projects it will.
  • Although it is cool to work in FS directly, it also adds overhead. FS running uses more memory and CPU than the average modelling tool. And when making scenery you will often have a painting program and some other utilities open as well. I did not yet run into trouble, but I guess it could happen.
  • I would like to have more control over the texture mapping, a bit like a UVW unwrap editor where you can move each vertex of the polygon to the correct texture position. But that could be me, I am a control freak and prefer to have my mapping very accurate.

Since I haven’t been able to save yet, I can’t judge yet how easy it would be to adjust your model after you made it. For example if you made a mistake in the shape of the texture mapping. I’ll probably buy the tool so that I can have a look at that. And then I can check how optimized hte output is as well.

So all in total I think this is a very nice tool for people who want to build a few scenery objects or maybe their small local airport. Working with it is quite fun (which is also important). And from the functionality point of view I think it is similar to modelling with SketchUp. You won’t get the fancy animations, levels of detail and very complex shapes that you can achieve with GMax or 3DS Max. But on the other hand it is much easier to learn and probably more enjoyable to use.

ModelConverterX 1.3 released

Just a quick note that ModelConverterX 1.3 (stable version) has been released. It is the same as the development version of yesterday, but now with a updated manual. It will be the stable release for the near future, since version 1.2 was getting very old. You can read some more information here.

Ground polygon wizard upate

I have updated the ground polygon wizard in ModelConverterX. Two new features have been added to it in the latest development release:

  • You can now specify which layer and visibility are used by default in the options. This should mean that you have to change less values while working on your ground polygons.
  • An option has been added to convert the textures used on the ground polygons. This means they are converted to DDS (when using FSX) or DXT BMP (when using FS2004). Before you would have to do this conversion manual. In the screenshot on the right you see the options for the texture conversion. In the text box you need to specify the location where the new textures will be stored.

Hopefully these changes make the wizard a little more easier to use!

Reading X files

I have added a new function to ModelConverterX. It can now also read X files. This can be a X file generated by the FS2004 or FSX gamepack, but also a X file generated by another tool that does not contain the FS specific information. The following features will be read from the X file:

  • Geometry, normals and texture coordinates
  • Material settings (including FSX specific material settings)
  • LOD information
  • Animations

This new functionality is in the latest development release. Let me know if you have any issues with this feature.