A preview of novel features for the next release

Flightgear is constantly under development, and the current development version (2.11) contains already a number of interesting features beyond what 2.10 could do – so here is some (incomplete) list of what to expect from the next release:

Novel water effects

As part of the Atmospheric Light Scattering rendering scheme, some novel features have been added to the water shader:

Subtle variations in sea color and surface reflectivity are rendered at high quality, which together with slighly patchy fog improves the visual impression significantly. In addition, an experimental effect generating surf at some coastlines is under active development (coast of Lanai, Hawaii from the EC-135 cockpit).

The environment control allows to a drift ice overlay effect to render winter scenes in cold climate (coastline near Juneau, Alaska).

Improved usability

Flightgear becomes better accessible for the novel user:

A new tooltip system has been added, identifying knobs, gauges and levers for the new user and also indicating their value, thus eliminating the need to zoom to read badly visible instruments. On-screen messages are rendered in a new gnome-like semi-transparent window style. These changes are part of a larger restructuring of the user interface, which standardizes the interaction with cockpit clickspots and adds a more intuitive view mode by right-click/drag as option.

Lighting

The Rembrandt rendering does shadows best, but this does not mean other frameworks can do nothing:

The balance of direct and indirect light has been re-adjusted to simulate the self-shading of terrain better. In clear weather, shaded surface are now rendered much darker, leading to much improved visuals in low morning or afternoon light (the B-1900D over the French Alps near Grenoble).

Air-air refueling

Fans of realistic air-air refueling will be happy:

The air to air refueling system has been much improved. It now contains a menu to select tanker type, speed and contact radius. Two new tanker planes have been added, and the contact points are now correctly specified, allowing for a much more realistic aerial refueling experience.

Ground texture resolution

Landing somewhere off an airport was never before this nice:

A high resolution shader effect has been added to the procedural terrain rendering of the Atmospheric Light Scattering framework, which renders cm-scale detail resolution. This allows for a much improved low level flight experience and more interesting helicopter operations in the terrain, as there are now visual markers available to gauge distance to the terrain (the EC-135 landing on Lanai shrubland).

Weather

The weather system has received a major upgrade. The grouping of sparse clouds into patterns is now much more realistic, replacing simple clusters by visually more interesting undulatus or wavy patterns.

As part of these changes, the rendering of low visibility scenes in Atmospheric Light Scattering has also been made more consistent.

EC-135

The next version of a well-known aircraft arrives:

The Eurocopter EC-135 is currently undergoing a major overhaul. The FDM is completely revised, leading to a more stable experience in level flight, and the cockpit is done in high-resolution photorealistic texturing (over the French Alps, close to Grenoble).

A large selection of different models is provided, all with different liveries, equipment and slightly altered FDM (over the French Alps, close to Grenoble).

Canvas

The environment becomes more interactive:

Canvas is a technology to render 2-d information into the scene – it can be used for complicated instruments or a HUD. However, it has now been extended to be applicable to scenery objects as well – this allows for novel features such as airliner docking guidance systems as shown here.

Seasonal effects

Now you don’t only have to fly in summer or winter:

As part of a restructured tree shader, deciduous trees now shed their foliage if they are above the snowline, thus they adapt to the shader-drawn snow effects better. In addition, Atmospheric Light Scattering includes now an experimental season effect (mostly tested for Europe) which allows to simulate the autumn coloring of deciduous forests and pastures.

And many improvements more…

And that’s not all:

* regional textures for Middle East, the UK, Greenland, Indonesia, the arctic sea and Madagascar have been added
* improved aircraft checklists
* better interface between Basic Weather and Atmospheric Light Scattering rendering
* tree movement in the wind
* novel animations, allowing e.g. for more realistic rendering of complex gear motion

*…

Stay tuned as we fly towards the next release!

30 thoughts on “A preview of novel features for the next release”

  1. WOW, just WOW…. I was looking for some flight sims (always been into flying games sorta) and I got showed Microsofts Flight Simulator so I’m like SWEET. Then I’m like…. I dont have 5 bucks how am I suppose to buy that…. So I started searching for a free flight sim (ugh) and stumbled across this after much researching, I downloaded and got a few add-ons while I was at it…. IT WAS WORTH IT! I now play this game at least 3 hours a day and am CONSTANTLY getting new stuff….Only wish… I had a joystick to increase the realness…. :) keep up the good work and I plan to get the next update after the next

  2. Hello FlighGear team,

    This improvements are really amazing and makes me impatient already but what about perfomance increase? I mean for integrated video cards (laptops). Can we still enjoy to our beloved FlighGear on such a machine?

    Also what will happen to the 2.10 aircrafts and scenery (I must again download them)?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. My understanding is that FG runs on integrated video cards, but with rather minimal settings. If you run 2.12 with the graphics typical for 2.0, it actually should be a bit faster, there have been performance improvements to core and rendering frameworks.

      The reason for low performance on integrated chips seem twofold – the Intel chipsets often do not come with adequate OpenGL support, and since the FG rendering is based on OpenGL, this is a problem. The second item is that integrated video chips are rather low powered and really not intended to run high-performance shaders – so lots of the new graphics options demands just too much performance, and these settings are really intended to be used with high-end video cards.

      So in summary, yes, there has been work on performance increase, but the high-end graphics options are for high-end machines.

  3. Don’t just improve the realistic side of the graphics, but improve the realistic side of the navigation too! There are so many airports’ ICAO in Indonesia which isn’t updated, ILS system for some airports isn’t available although in the real life it exists! So please improve the realistic side of the navigation and the gameplay too :)

  4. Great post, thanks Thorsten – great to see the results of your hard work (and that of others within the FlightGear community).

    I think you’re doing a great job communicating and showing the new features!

  5. Any news on the MD-500 (Hughes 500 / OH-6 Cayuse) Helicopter? I know all the wiki uploaded pages are out of service now.. I have been yearning for the download of that particular helicopter and it is nowhere to be found!! PLEASE HELP!! :)
    THANKS!!

  6. I see that there is certain airlines printed on the boeings and MD series, I was looking for an Eastern Airlines dc-10 or Lockheed Tristar. I was asked to be a pilot on the their virtual site.

  7. Any chance of the Farman IV and the Demoiselle being bundled with the next pack? It’d be nice to see the default plane list include more of 1909 – and it isn’t like the avionics need much updating.

    Thanks :)

  8. Hi Thorsten.

    Is there a plan to introduce detailed ground physics? I mean, different/specific ground friction depending on which type of surface you are taxiing on. It seems like all ground is made of one big unique asphalt texture. You can even land on water like if you was on a runway… That spoils the experience.

    Do we have also a chance to see one day an autogen working for airports/airfields to populate those ones?
    Anyway, congrats for your team work, your weather engine is even better than X-Plane one!
    Cheers.

    1. This may not be a definitive answer, as I am more into the rendering problem than in flight physics, but my understanding is as follows:

      Friction coefficients based on terrain type are defined and provided by the terrain model. YaSIM aircraft have some default behaviour for ground interactions, but JSBSim aircraft do not – so for the latter, it’s up to the aircraft creator to specify what to do with ground interaction. As a result, some planes (e.g. the MiG-15bis) break in characteristic ways when stresses exceed tolerances whereas others just bounce (e.g. the F-16). So my impression is that this is possible even now (some people have created ships or cars to explore the FG world), but needs to be done on a per-aircraft basis.

      As for autogen to populate airfields, there has been talk, but I am not aware of any concrete project in this direction.

      1. Thanks for reply !

        One last thing (well, not really the last one but I don’t want to bother you) concerning the rendering you are aware of ; is there a way or is it planed to make ground texture transitions better than they are now ?

        I know that we can now use procedural rendering but it will surely be a bottleneck for small PC configurations. I even fear to try this on my old Macbook Pro (Geforce 8600m 256Mo).
        So, is it possible to avoid the “harsh” texture cutting/transitions we have now without procedural rendering ? That would improve a lot visuals. Or do you have to recut the scenery files to include texture overlays, sort of ?

        I’m not a developer so maybe I’m missing something… That a pity because I would like to work (I mean hard coding) on FlightGear project.
        Anyway, thanks again for reply.

        Cheers.

        1. There is no way to simply smooth the transition lines over because pixel shaders do not have any adjacency information, i.e. processing a pixel of one landclass, you don’t know what is nearby. Moreover, you’d want to smooth a beach in quite a different way from a agriculture-road boundary (which is a pretty hard transition in reality as well).

          I am aware of two ways around the problem:

          Phototexturing or equivalently pre-smoothed textures have no seams, but run into severe memory issues once you want to have both realistic visibility and high resolution on the ground.

          Complete procedural texturing would need metatextures rather than vector landclass data and use even more precessing power then the current most expensive scheme.

          Both strategies would require substantial changes to the way terrain is generated and stored. Phototextures face the additional problem that it’s very difficult to get good GPL-compatible material. A procedural strategy based on metatextures has been discussed, but with no concrete plans. Given the terrain data we have available under GPL, it’s unfortunately a very tough problem.

          You can find a slightly more in-depth discussion here:

          http://wiki.flightgear.org/Procedural_Texturing

  9. Wow, more realistics..
    I am happy for this news.. Can’t wait for this next-release..
    Finally EC-135 is ready to go.. :)

  10. Hey FlightGear team,
    I am a 1 year old kid from the small islands of Fiji.. I downloaded FG version 2.4.0… It works perfectly in my HP laptop but when i installed version 2.10.0, it showed some problems such as installation configuration incorrect.. so if 2.10 does not work, i think version 2.11 will not work as well.. Here is my old fashion laptop’s details:

    Microsoft Windows XP
    Professional
    Version 2002
    Service Pack 2

    Intel(R) Pentium(R) M
    processor 1.73GHz
    366MHz, 0.99GB of RAM

    Please look into this and reply me on either e-mail or facebook.. Facebook ID Krishnal Kavit Singh.. Profile Picture is me standing in front of 777-200 Air NewZealand.. Looking forward for your reply..

    1. I am a 1 year old kid from the small islands of Fiji..

      You are either exceptionally young, or you have a typo :-)

      The normal channel for FG user support and troubleshooting is the forum

      http://www.flightgear.org/forums/

      please have a look, assemble the required info to debug your problem and get in contact there.

  11. Wow! I’m so happy this is the year I chose to focus on flight sims on Linux. I bought X-Plane 10, a Trustmaster joystick and…then discovered FlightGear again, nearly 3 years after I tried it out for the first time in the Cessna 172 on KSEA. At the time I wasn’t too impressed by the visuals and although it seemed interesting, I didn’t have a flightstick and so it didn’t take too long to move on. Also, FGRun wasn’t included by default and that sort of nailed it for me.

    And then when I tried FG again this year, the sheer quality of the sim, visuals, ease of use especially regarding automatic terrain download and extensive collection of quality aircraft impressed me tremendously.

    And then 2.10 came out further improving the quality and made me completely hooked.

    And then, this… just wow!

    …ok enough rambling. Now, I really like the quality of the presentation in this article.

    Small nitpick: I’m sure you really meant to write:
    “better accessible for the *novice* user:”

  12. How about a inflight Save-Load feature? :) Not for realism, but for academic use, to create a batch of situations to test autopilot software, for example

  13. Thing that I have in my mind is something similar to the video below which is from RiseOfFlight war game.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V20CIcaZ81U

    But it is still way behind the best one I have ever seen from Truesky , but that is expensive though.
    I have started playing with codes and I hope someday I can contribute to this amazing project although I think it takes ages to become a professional programmer like you guys.

  14. Hey folks,

    I only can say WOW!
    I appreciate your work and all the headache that turned into this beautiful release.
    Can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    Cheers

  15. Does flight gear support cloud shadow?
    If not do you plan to add this feature?

    So far I have only seen this in X-plane!

    1. Right now Atmospheric Light Scattering simulates a mean light attenuation underneath cloud covers, i.e. you get credible shading of the terrain by clouds for broken or overcast conditions or in the presence of diffuse haze.

      I guess what you mean are the hard shadows cast by individual Cu clouds which are currently not supported. I am toying with several schemes to make such shadows work, but so far I have not been able to come up with one that isn’t either too slow or has artefacts under some conditions. So there are plans, but in all likelihood not for the next release.

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