Realism in sceneries. Now and with the next version.

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Realism in sceneries. Now and with the next version.

Postby Barry » Tue 05 Dec 2006 - 15:16

Realism in sceneries.

Although my main interest is the age-of-sail covering the period about 200 years ago, I think realism in sceneries could just as well apply to any era. I am not including racing, as realism is not really applicable to this section of interests, and also it is not amongst mine.Although of course would not mind the occasional race, but on dial-up, etc.

After generating the terrain in a scenery we need to bring it to life. This is done by the use of textures and adding suitable vegetation of trees, woods and forests. Regarding the textures this is very limited at present, and I am now using a single colour texture I made, to try and simulate rocks, grass, gravel and sand all in one texture. The simulators use grey-scale default textures and the colours are added as singe bands of colour as required, etc. So hopefully we will see better options in sailsimulator 5 to bring more life into a scenery with the textures.

Next and important, for any realism, we need the trees, woods and forests. To save the frame rates being affected too much this is done by using 32 bit textures for backdrops and single trees and clumps can be added to create realistic effects. Some of this can be done now but only applies to the motorboat sim as this function is not yet available in the sailsim. Hopefully sailsim 5 will also see this function. I have included trees and woods, etc in some on my sceneries, which are now available from the Stentec site.

Tides are very important, as around the coastline of the UK where I live they are up to about 11 metres at spring tides. This alters the complete outlook of the coastline, with many miles of land being added and taken away with each tide, so the rocks, gravel and sandbars would all add to the realism. Rocks would need to be made seperately and collision spheres added to the rocks, etc. They can be very easily be made with Blender. So again let's hope sailsimulator 5 sees the introduction of tides.

People need to be added and it really needs a variety of people on the quays; coming out of the inns or houses; waiting to help to tie up the boats; standing besides the hand operated cranes, and waiting to haul in the square rig sailings ships using the capstan/windlass on the quays. Again I have tried to include some of these effects in my sceneries. That they are static is not too important as it is more about an overall effect of a coastal environment. Docks need dock gates, Canals have canal gates. Boats when moored need access to the quays by ladders and steps for the crews, and bollards for the bigger boats to enable the bigger ships to moor.Again all easy to make with Blender and I try to add them to my sceneries where appropriate.

The lighting function is already available in the simulators and for night-time sailing, to add a bit of interest it is fairly easy to light the windows of houses and inns. The lit parts can be made as seperate objects and not attached to the main object; buoys can be lit as required and lighthouses tops and a lighthouse light cone are easily made. There are two problems with these. One is that the lit items are visible during the day and during the night, and second as there is no function for rotating the lighthouse light-cone any light beams are in fixed position. I have added light beams to one or 2 of my sceneries.

Simulators are not always what they seem, as everything you see has to made. Although an item can be lit it does not cast light and it needs a lit light cone. Although I made old fashioned lamps I have not as yet added light beamcones to them. The same applies to say a lightning flash which can be a seperate texture plane that is lit at intervals when the flash occurs. Not keen on shadows and reflections myself as shadows and reflections have to be made as a copy of the original object with less detail. Boat reflections may need an upside down boat stuck on the hull, etc. Perhaps there may be other way to achieve the effects but I don't know of them at present.

Anyway just a little insight into realism which does not necessarily mean a huge drain on the frame rates.
Must also add one of the most important things is other moving boats in a scenery, without which true life maritime sceneries are lifeless, so hope we see this function appear in sailsimulator 5.

I know it is a simulator for racing and navigation practice, yet as I have shown it can be comparitively easy to create real life sceneries with the functions that we have, with which you can create any era of your choice.

By using the srtm2 satellite data the coastal terrain can be made quickly and and are realistic, if the sceneries are kept small, say 20 to 50 miles each section. Content can be made easily with Blender and most important the Stentec simulators are failrly user- friendly, so objects can be added with a few mouse clicks. The only problem is some of the functions are becoming outdated. An example is the dem editor which may need making compatible to windows 95 to enable a dem map to be saved, again let's hope sailsimulator 5 is not too far away and has plenty of "goodies" in it!


5 Dec 2006
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Postby ajnasreddin » Mon 25 Dec 2006 - 16:12

You know Barry, I think this Sail Simulator program strated off just simulating the boat. I'm a bit worried now that Vista is out. It seems to run quite a bit differently than XP. More specifically, I had a look at Microsoft Flight Simulator X - it has an interesting set up - a lot of things are set up with XML scripts. Perhaps a bit complicated for users to add materials, but not impossible.

Anyway, these programs take a couple of years to write - that with a team. I don't know how many people Stentec has - looking at the employees page, it seems to be what we call a Mom-and-Pop shop in America. If they have two guys writing, some more test and working out the bugs, we might get something for Christmas 2008. Of course this is all a guess as I don't know what Stentec is doing.

Naturally, the more we wish for and the more Stentec is willing to put in, the longer we will have to wait. I wouldn't mind some sort of basic program with which we could buy some substantial add-ons as they are developed. I got a new graphics card (at a discount) to try to get a few more months out of my aging computer, and my Sail Simulator isn't work much anymore - so I'm definitly looking for something new.
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Postby Barry » Mon 25 Dec 2006 - 23:22


Beginning to wonder about the Vista position myself as some of the reports I have read don't seem too enthusiastic with so many security safeguards built into it, and possibly a lot more demanding due to the background programs running. I will have to decide by May as this computer getting a bit tired as 3 years old then and getting afew problems.

Stentec mentioned a while back though of having tested some the ideas in other programs I think, as regards better texturing of terrain, etc.

Basically all that is needed is the ability to get user made boats moving perhaps by some sort of adapter to simplify the configuration settings, and perhaps background boat movements with some artificial intelligence, but again maybe boats animation movement is linked to the sea wave motion fequency?

Tides would be helpful and essential in my case. Regarding satellite data several simulators are now using srtm2 satellite data so again possibly the different ideas have already been worked on and need putting together into the simulator or scenery designer.

As you say once the basics are there, perhaps some add-ons by Stentec, and users I am sure, would start making a variety of boats whether moden racing types, or general run of the mill like my older style gaff rig. etc.

At least it sounds more promising for SS5 with the new staff they have taken on.

Regarding Blender once you make the model and save the blend file you can save it. If the file types change you can then perhaps export the blend full to up to about 20 file types. I have used vrml2 for Stentec, direct.x for Virtual Sailor and for Trainz I thing it was obj or dxf but had to re-texture with gmax in that case. Have my gaff rig boats and content in all 3 simulators using the same blend files. I have kept all the original Blend files I made, about 200 now over a few years so will see what happens.

I use Irfanview to change texture types using tga or bmp which most simulators use at present.
No idea about how to use scripts, etc.

If nothing appears by mid year 2007 I will call it a day as 66 now and pointless waiting year after year, and my time can be better spent on other things.

Also if the simulator is not user-friendly I will forget about it as spent enough time with it now.


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Postby ajnasreddin » Wed 27 Dec 2006 - 15:59


If your computer is three years old, you will probably need to get a new one. I think my computer is fairly like yours. Apparently Vista takes up quite a lot of space on the hard drive - which is something most new computers have a lot of with one hard drive ranging with 150 - 250 GBs! Also the graphics card shares RAM, so 1GB RAM is now minimum, and 2-3 GBs for gamers. Dual-core processing is something I hear a lot about as well. My friend who is an IT specialist at New Horizons say that you'll need all these things for Vista to run well on a computer. It seems Microsoft is taking advantage of high performance to run several applications together in different windows - which is pretty much how Flight Simulator X works - the outside scene is in one window while the guages are in another, as well as all the other things like the GPS system.

I think we have moved far enough in technology that instead of trying to run one program faster, we're now running multiple programs hoping that they'll all run fast enough! This seems to be the path of Microsoft now.

As far as 3D modeling, I think it's no problem as most programs allow for some kind of data transfer from an old format to a new format - if any changes occur, and just as long as you don't wait too long to do it. 3DMax has come out with a program called Gmax, which is included in the Flight Simulator Delux Edition, and which seems to be included just for folk like you Barry - to do their own modeling. Anyway, Microsoft knows that user input is one of the jewels of their program and it's in their interest to include it in their package. If Stentec could include a link to Blender and other free-ware / open-source programs, it would be enough.
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