One of the first tool I made for scenery designers was the Conditional Animation Tool, CAT. The first version of this tool was released in 2003 and I mainly started making it because I grew tired of tweaking animations by hand (and I got tired of explaining people how to tweak them by hand). After the release of FSX, the development on CAT sort of stopped. The new native FSX format does not allow that kind of tweaking and for FS2004 the tool had most needed functionality already.
But since then there is another kind of animation tweak that I made a tutorial about, the tweak to get animations with more than 1024 frames into FS2004. For this tweak there is no tool yet and on the FSDeveloper forum the tweaking required is discussed now and then. I always hoped to make a tool for this tweaking as well one day.
Two weeks ago I got a good idea. Why not use the FSX gamepack to make long animations and then convert them to FS2004 MDL for people using FS2004? That way you can overcome the limitations of the FS2004 gamepack. The only thing you need to do is write the correct ASM code for the long animation. Since ModelConverterX can already convert objects from FSX to FS2004, I thought it would be nice to add this animation functionality as well.
So you can say that there will be a new version of CAT. It is now called the Animation Tweaker and it will be a wizard in ModelConverterX. But the icon will still be the cat you are all familiar with. I have been coding on this new wizard in the last days and I have got the basics working now. I just need to do a little more testing before I include the functionality in the development release as well.
At the moment the wizard does two things:
- Make sure that the animation does not use the user variables of FS2004 anymore. By default MS uses usrvar, usrvr2 and usrvr3 to store the frame number of the animation. By using these variables you can get conflicts with other tools or sceneries that also want to use the same variables. That’s why I prefer to make animation using local variables inside the MDL. The wizard will perform this tweak to any animated object you process with it.
- Tweak the ASM code to get correctly working animations with more than 1024 frames. This means that no more ASM tweaking is needed to get them working. The only limitation I have found until now is that the total animation can not be more than 32768 frames. But that is around 30 minutes of animation already, I think that should be fine for almost everybody.
In the future I also want to add the original functionality of CAT, so the possibility to apply triggers and conditions to your animation. Since I made this tool 9 years ago I have learned more about how the animations work. So I think by now I can make the conditional animations even more efficient. For example without the problems that CAT has when you have many animations in your object. But I will only start on this part of the Animation Tweaker when the long animations tweak is working.
Just to be clear, let me stress one point. This Animation Tweaker can only export FS2004 MDL files, since that is the only format that allows such animation tweaks. So they can not be used in a FSX MDL file. The tweaker will read FSX MDL files, since they allow you to define longer animations without problems.