Monday, October 16, 2006

Anatomy of the Scenery Tools

This is a description of what I am planning for the anatomy of the "full scenery tools". Until now we have only published small utilities (ObjConverter, DSF2Text, etc.). The next scenery tools release should cover a lot more, including the first versions of WED.

First of all, WorldMaker is not part of the next-gen scenery tools. WorldMaker is slowly going away, as functionality in WorldMaker is either moved directly into X-Plane for "live" use (navaid editing) or into the scenery toolset.

The new scenery tools will be a single distribution for all tools. In other words, instead of a download for each tool, you will download one archive that contains all of our tools and support files. They will live together in a single "install" folder.

The distribution will not be based on our installer - more likely they will just be a zip file. The scenery tools total size should be small enough that there is no need to do incremental installs. There is no need to put customized files in the scenery tools folder _ever_, so simply replacing it should be a non-issue.

The scenery tools will be completely separate from X-Plane itself and will have their own release schedule and versioning. The scenery tools contain no x-plane code and will also be available in source.

Some undecided issues:
  • What to call the main visual editor. The working name has been "WED" (WorldEditor) but that's so similar to WorldMaker that I fear total confusion. I am open to naming suggestions.
  • Whether to make a distribution or each platform or simply put all the EXEs for all the platforms in one download. I don't think code size will be so huge as to prevent this.
  • Whether to allow the scenery tools to be installed in any folder or to require them to go in /Program Files (Windows), /Applications (Mac) or /usr/local/bin (Linux).
One more change: currently I provide a GUI version and a command-line version for some converter apps. With the new scenery tools, I will provide a command-line version for each converter (like now) and a single GUI tool that can do ANY of the conversions that ALL of the command-line tools do.

In other words, for users who want a UI, you will be able to do model->OBJ conversions, ENV->DSF Overlay conversions, OBJ->OBJ conversions, and DSF<->TXT conversions in a single application. This "swiss army knife" GUI application will be extensible and will be our "master converter".

So the new scenery tools should include:
  • Many command-line tools for low level operation.
  • A swiss army knife GUI converter tool.
  • A visual scenery editor (WED).
  • The AC3D OBJ export plugin.
I do not know what the release date of all of this will be, and I do believe that the tools will come out in stages - that is, the first WED will not edit meshes, the AC3D exporter may not be included in the first release, etc. I don't want to hold up the availability of useful code (like a WED that can edit apt.dat 850 airports) because other parts are missing (like an AC3D exporter version 3.0).

Please do not email me to ask about release dates; now that X-Plane 850 is final, I am working on scenery tools today. I will post more info as I have it.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is great news, especially the decision to make all the source code available so people can contribute patches and help with development! I'd suggest having one package for all platforms since code size really doesn't matter so much these days... also, I'd like the ability to install into any folder. Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben, absolutely good news to us,
1. my proposed name for the files : "PROJECT GENERATOR"
having in mind, all what I do in scenery is a project consisting of
• general scenery as houses, nature, streets, rivers etc
• scenery as airports with much more detailed infos as general scenery
• runways, taxilines, infos etc
• combination to satelite ground pictures for the exact fitting of the objects

2. For my own sake, I got now so much x-times copied scenery objects and textures for about the same area - I need something to combine that big amount of files into one only pool where I can trop the objects into my scenery easy and clean.
regards paul

SteelBlades said...

There are still a good number of folk on dial up, so I'd recommend distributing the different platforms separately (unless the zip file is under, say, 5Mb). I definately recommend against forcing users to install the tools in one particular place (I can hear fellow Mac users crying foul now - if it can even be done on a Mac). As for a name; Gen Tools, Scenery Ed, Place Maker, Designer Tools, XPlane CAD? Food for thought anyway.

Love your work!

Anonymous said...

Here's a name suggestion: Scenery Construction Kit. This should avoid confusion.

dAb

Anonymous said...

Here's a name suggestion: Scenery Construction Kit. This should avoid confusion.

dAb