Sunday, February 01, 2009

Stuff I'm Looking At

I'm always a little bit nervous about posting grand new initiatives ... if we don't actually do the initiative, invariably someone comes out of the walls later to say that we "promised" a feature that we didn't do. But road maps are important. So, bearing in mind that this is not an official announcement, and that nothing has been decided yet, here are some areas of active investigation:
  • An airport art asset library. Sergio already started this process by making some aircraft OBJs and other elements (like custom pavement types) available in the libraries that ship with X-Plane. We are looking at extending this over time to include more useful elements for building airports.
  • Sharing airport building placements the way we do airport layouts. Right now, airport layouts are shared in a communal database under the GPL license. An airport building database would work the same way - it would be a collection of placements of airport buildings, GPLed and redistributed with X-Plane. The idea would be to make it easy for people to add simple buildings to their local airport and share the results with everyone.
  • Using OpenStreetMap (OSM) for roads. We've been looking at OSM for a while, but it's too soon to announce a plan.
  • Sharing obstacle data with FlightGear. We already share airport layout data with flight-gear; this would be a similar initiative. We looked at OSM for this, but FlightGear's data needs are a lot closer to ours. This is still in discussion; the FG guys are a sharp bunch, so I think we'll able to work something out.
One of the common threads for all of these ideas is that X-Plane community members have dug into them before we have. This is not surprising, and I think it is a good thing!

Another common thread is that these are all open data sharing initiatives. Collaborative data sharing has come a long way since we redesigned the scenery system, starting in version 8.0. My hope is that over the next several months we can make some of these ideas a reality.

But first I have to fix my 930 beta features. :-)

6 comments:

naoliv said...

Something at the lines of http://www.opensceneryx.com/ and http://xvfr.beomuex.org/ (that uses OpenStreetMap too)?

Daveduck said...

I think scenery designers everywhere will greet the "more library objects included" part of that road map with a standing ovation.

Anything that allows us to create self-contained scenery packages, without dependencies on a library that we can't know whether the user even possesses, would be a huge step in the right direction.

Dan said...

I for one oppose the idea of having generic buildings placed at random locations in and around an airport. Any efforts beyond random placement of buildings, such as maintaining a database of building outlines, locations etc., is a waste of time in my opinion, and is in direct competition to quality work done by third parties, either freeware or payware. There is already a growing availability of quality scenery, including MSFS conversion, and I believe resources should be spent on more important areas to start with.

Instead, what I would like to see is some attention to the global scenery. Enhanced library of regional buildings subject to location, enhanced city and town textures and intelligent placement of these, aligned with the underlying texture. Not to mention seasonal textures, which has been missing in action for far too long now.

And finally, we need better tools. Tools are the number one reason we don't see more quality scenery being made for X-Plane. Third party developers have done a great job of filling in the gaps, and most things are possible to create, but it is a bit cumbersome, at least for new scenery authors. A more streamlined and integrated "tool palette", a one stop shop, would be welcome. Not to mention the ability to edit and flatten "rough terrain" with Mesh Tool or a similar program.

Just my two cents...

Benjamin Supnik said...

Hi Dan,

Who said anything about random? (There have been a lot of proposals and feature requests, so maybe you are reacting to something specific other than this blog post?) Generally I think I completely disagree with you:

"I for one oppose the idea of having generic buildings placed at random locations in and around an airport."

Me too - random buildings are not good - buildings need to be placed, either algorithmically or manually, with some attention to detail.

"Any efforts beyond random placement of buildings, such as maintaining a database of building outlines, locations etc., is a waste of time in my opinion and is in direct competition to quality work done by third parties, either freeware or payware."

I disagree. A database of building placements is a much lower cost art project than custom scenery. It is therefore not in competition - "default buildings" (e.g. placements of library elements) would provide a stop-gap where custom scenery does not exist, not a replacement to custom work. We cannot expect there to be 20,000 custom airports - it just takes a lot longer to model a terminal in 3-d than to place a library object. Apples and Oranges!

"I believe resources should be spent on more important areas to start with."

But what resources? Default placements can be made by users who do not have the 3-d skills to make custom scenery. I would argue that not only do the efforts of custom vs. default not compete, but the resources to create them don't overlap much.

Re: tools. Yes. You need better tools. No one is disputing that. But better tools are necessary for BOTH efforts.

"And finally, we need better tools. Tools are the number one reason we don't see more quality scenery being made for X-Plane."

I disagree with this too. Market share is the number one reason. Tools are important, but they don't change the marketshare situation.

Anyway, tools are coming, and necessary for either effort, but I don't think you can convince me that we shouldn't allow default buildings because they compete with custom work...I think we need both.

Anonymous said...

"Using OpenStreetMap (OSM) for roads. We've been looking at OSM for a while, but it's too soon to announce a plan."

I just LOVE to see this!

RD said...

Benjamin,

So, is it theoretically possible to have towers appear based on the airport layout data at airports where no scenery exists?

Thanks,
RD