What’s the Flightgear news?

Changes of various kinds affect FG – it seems this year more than in others. Please read here an overview.

Whatever happened to the 3.6 release?

The simple truth is – it didn’t work out. In the end, the release team had personal constraints, got as far as producing a release candidate but then the efforts stalled. Flightgear is developed by human beings, and sometimes things don’t go the way we’d like them to.

Ideally this should have been communicated earlier – we’re sorry for this, the final decision not to have a 3.6 release was made not so long ago.

At this point, let me take the opportunity to point out the links to the automated builds where you can find the (as we now know rather stable) 3.6 release candidate and an automated nightly build of the FG development version.

The matching aircraft collection can be obtained from the repository following these instructions.

What’s the future?

At this point, we’re not sure whether there will be a regular 3.8 release. Rather, the idea which will be tried is a series of more automated stable releases – about four per year. We hope that this will stretch bug reporting by the general audience from the current one-week period between release candidate and stable (which makes it very hard to act in time) over a wider period, giving us the opportunity to respond better. At the same time, it will decrease the waiting period for the next stable. Time will tell whether this works better.

In addition, there are multiple changes behind the scenes having to do with the server infrastructure for the FG scenery. Ideally these would not affect the end user, but they take time and effort nevertheless.

Development on the other side did not stop – we keep making FG more interesting.

More impressive weather

The weather system has received an update to simulate lightning strikes during thunderstorms. Each lightning strike will not only trigger a visible bolt, but also (in the Atmospheric Light Scattering (ALS) framework) at night illuminate the clouds in the vicinity for a split second. In addition, the position is registered in FG, allowing aircraft modelers to include ambient thunder sounds with the correct delay – this has for instance been done for the C-172p. Encountering a T-storm at night will be memorable now!

Improvements to aircraft interior rendering

The ALS framework offers a host of new options for aircraft developers, for instance a quick option to render panel backlighting using the so-called implicit lightmap technique, irradiance mappings giving a more faithful impression from where indirect light can fall into the cabin and the option to show reflections of the lit cockpit panels in the windows at night.

A fire-breathing dragon (and other impressive aircraft)

Among the most interesting aircraft to be added to the repository is the dragon. Demonstrating the versatility of FG, this reptile doesn’t fly on magic (like the Santa and his reindeer do, if you know the model…), instead it uses the aerodynamical data from attempts to reconstruct the flight dynamics of a Pterosaur. Let it slowly climb with mighty wingbeats, soar thermals to rise to high altitudes or swoop down in a steep dive – the dragon sure is fun to fly and at the same time instructive.

Substantial updates also have been done for other aircraft which have been under heavy development: Sounds and pre-flight inspection simulation of the C-172p have been improved. The F-14A variant has been added, making use of all recent rendering improvements and including a simulation of compressor stall. Lots of work have also gone into making the F-15 yet better – it now offers C and D variant, operational weapons and radar, detailed sound and simulation of hydraulical, electrical and ECS pressurization system. The Space Shuttle is now well on the way towards a photorealistic 3d cockpit. Substantial work has been done on the avionics, implementing automatic tracking and pointing routines and a realistic procedure to command OMS orbital insertion and de-orbit burns, as well as one of the most sophisticated failure meanagement simulations in FG.

Improvements to scenery rendering

The ALS rendering framework has added effects for improved rendering of runways. Paved runways are now shown with skid-marks whereas unpaved runways can be rendered with a multitude of materials, smoothly blending the runway into the surrounding airport green.

New terrain textures

The regional scenery texture project is progressing substantially – we have new runway textures, dedicated industrial and port textures as well as detailed customized definitions for South America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia).

Behind the scenes work

Less visually, there is ongoing development on various fronts. The out of window GUI Phi continues to be expanded, providing support e.g. for an instructor station. Using Qt5, a common launcher for all OS is being developed which is expected to ultimately grow into a new in-window GUI option. Finally, the HLA effort aims at utilizing multiple CPUs better by running various subsystems in dedicated threads outside the FG main loop. Currently, only a very limited AI scenario can be run in this mode, but ultimately it is expected to provide improved framerate where poor CPU utilization is the bottleneck.

We hope to be back soon with details on the new release process.

18 Replies to “What’s the Flightgear news?”

  1. I can’t even get FlightGear to work, and am about about to give up on it. After using 7zip to decompress several different tarball tar.bz, I then had to unzip them… several wrong bloody huge files… and at he end I finally think I picked the latest right one, and it says … blah blah blah contains files for version 3.4.0, but this is FlightGear 2016.1.1. Please Update or try another location.

    WTF. Uninstalling…

    Seriously. I can’t even get past the install to a splash screen…

    1. Your description of what you’re trying to do doesn’t sound like you’d be following any installation instruction I am aware of. The only case in which you’d have to unzip ‘several bloody huge’ tarballs is if you’re installing a self-compiled development version without cloning the repository – a stable version install should not usually require this.

      Perhaps if you just describe in the forum what you’re trying to do (and what OS you have)?

  2. Hi, I want to know right now if I should install the versioine 3.4 on my PC again or should I wait for the prox vers FG. ???. THANKS

    1. The options of the current devel version 3.7 and the 3.6 release candidate are linked above – the decision what to install is something you need to make yourself 🙂

  3. More stable bugfix releases sounds great to me. What would be super nice is some re-packaging so that I can have multiple versions on the same machine. I want to help out a lot with testing of daily builds and pre-release versions. The problem is that I want to test them on my best pc. In my case, I’m planning to invest in SSD drives for that machine so I can quickly boot into the stable, daily build or pre-release test environment. However, the re-packaging I mentioned might encourage a large number of users to become avid testers.

    1. There’s no reason known to me why you can’t have multiple versions of FG on the same machine – I think several developers actually have. They can each be pointed to different FGData and FGAircraft directories while sharing the same scenery.

      The parameter sets written to FGHome might be problematic, but at most that requires you to copy a single directory back and forth when changing the version.

      So I’m not quite sure what the problem is you’re experiencing. Perhaps this should best go to the forum to be debugged.

      1. I can handle it a few different ways but the average user can’t. For example, the daily and prerelease packages for ubuntu (see https://launchpad.net/~saiarcot895) conflict with each other and the stable version. Those are rebuilds for ubuntu of debian packages so I guess debian users would have the same problem.

        1. How FG is packaged and assigned directories inside the Linux distributions is outside our control though. As far as I am aware, FG just supplies the source code and data for Linux, no binary package.

  4. I don’t get the difference between nightly, and regular. But, FlightGer still is an amazing game! I do flights mainly in Europe (scenery quality ), and didn’t think it’d get better! But, FG has done it again!

    In the new update, could you add more realistic aircraft effects, such as: immersion, wing flex, more realistic smoke effects, and more lighting on the aircraft (OH Panel, FD, etc.)

    Even still, this is an amazing game guys! I absolutely love it! One of the best free flight sims out there!

    1. The release candidate (‘regular’) has had a one months period with no new features, just bugfixes added to it. The ‘nightly’ is just that – a nightly snapshot of whatever someone currently pushed. So with the nightly you’ll get a state that has been tested on one system only, with the RC you get something that has a month of testing on different machines.

      As for the feature requests – it works like this: The core team creates support for certain features – in the event we have explicit and implicit lightmaps and irradiance maps to create lighting inside aircraft. It’s up to the individual aircraft maintainers to use these features though – so while now every aircraft can use backlit panels, not every aircraft does it. We pretty much have all the effects you mention available and documented (short of immersion, I have no clue what that is in this context), they’re just not used by all maintainers.

    1. If you’re interested in something particular, such as a specific system for a specific plane, feel free to get in touch with the aircraft maintainer and get involved. It’s not that hard to learn how to write some xml to configure systems – and usually gets you precisely what you want, whereas the maintainer may not share precisely your priorities.

  5. Stop worrying about releases! Many fans (like me) are using the latest and greatest anyway, and we don’t have any trouble with that.

    It’s not like people are using FlightGear for anything but fun…

  6. +1, very nice.
    Thank you for your hard work.

    I have 3.7 nightly, and it is **very** beautiful.
    Shall we gice them a round of applause, folks?

    *claps*

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