P3D v2.3 wake and light effect issues

Revised plan: I had started tweaking some wake effects for P3D v2.3, but discovered a few issues that suggest should I hold off for now.

http://www.prepar3d.com/forum-5/?mingleforumaction=viewtopic&t=8192

At a minimum this means that in P3D v2.3, marine nav aids flash twice as fast as they should, and it appears that this applies to at least some other flashing lights too. It also means that the tiles that make up wake effects start out twice as large as they are in FSX. There are a number of other parameters used in effect files that are dependent on time and or distance, and it’s possible that these are affected also. Beau from LM says that they will put these issues on the fix list for v2.4 so on that basis it’s not worth making special versions for 2.3. The good part however is that in working on P3D specific effects, I discovered a few things that I think help the appearance a lot, not only in P3D but in FSX too.

As of now, the hope is that I can have one set of effects that work both in P3D and FSX so there will be no need for confusing file manipulations.

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Addons for the Vic+ for ORBX PNW Service Pack 1

In conjunction with the release of Service Pack 1 for Vic+ for Orbx PNW, I’ve now posted the optional items referred to in the manual. You can find them via the links page.

In addition to what I’ve previously posted, there is a static version of the cruise ship Norwegian Jewel, and an AI version of the Norwegian Pearl. Although the boats are so large that they look almost out of place, nonetheless they are accurately scaled. These boats work in P3D v2.3 too although the optional P3D cruise ship wake is less than ideal. P3D is still somewhat of a moving target and twiddling with wake effects eats up a lot of time so it’s not high on my priority list. I have also posted a pilotable version of the cruise ship Norwegian Pearl.

My intent is that these files be used in conjunction with Vic+ for Orbx PNW only; please see the copyright notice on the links page and in the downloads.

If you decide to try any of these files, please follow the instructions in the Vic+ manual carefully. Be sure that you completely replace the object library rather than simply overwriting it, which can result in duplicate objects. The pilotable boat has its own instructions and the other objects have additional information beyond what’s in the manual.

Again, these and previous files for Vic+ for Orbx PNW are optional enhancements. I think they are most suitable for those who might have a particular interest in detailed maritime scenery for the Pacific Northwest and don’t mind the tradeoffs involved in using them.

Wake effect compromises

These comments are in preparation for the soon to be released service pack for Vic+ for Orbx PNW where some of my stuff is suggested as optional enhancements.  It is strictly optional I should say. So if it is a pain in the rear instead, it’s an optional pain in the rear. The solution is as near as the delete key.

I think to some extent what’s desirable in a wake effect is in the eye of the beholder as well as the configuration of the sim and of the users computer, but nonetheless there are some unavoidable compromises. Also, the appearance of the effect is different in P3D compared to FSX, and P3D is a moving target which makes it even more difficult. I think that’s why many boat models use default wakes; less hassle. So for your own use, feel free to edit the sim.cfg file of any of my AI models to use one of the default wakes that come with the sim, or any other wake you might find on the web for that matter.

Options for tweaking the look of the wake yourself

Based on the look of the cruise ship wake and the Coho ferry wake on my machine, I’ve made them more transparent and grayed the colors significantly. I think it looks more realistic. These are controlled by the start color= and end color = lines in the .fx file. An entry of 180, 180, 180, 175 gives the values for red, green, blue, and alpha (transparency) in that order. Values are from 0 to 255. 0, 0, 0, 255 is pure black. The start color progresses to the end color over the lifetime of the particle. There are three parts to the wake effect; a bow wake, a quarter wake and a stern wake, each with its own color values. So if you are not happy with the look of the wakes on your machine, adjust these values to your liking. It’s a lot of trial and error. I think it’s safer to stay with pure gray because the color of the water varies.

More about the compromises

Wakes can be thought of as a sequence of semi-transparent tiles representing waves or wash that expand exponentially over time until their lifetime is up* or the scale goal is reached. This means that they expand very rapidly as they approach their maximum extent if limited by time. If you limit them by scale goal the wake typically forms an hour glass shape unless the lateral scale rate is very low in which case the Kelvin wake angle (~20 degrees)  is not very accurate. These tiles are produced at a constant rate and are not a function of the boat speed, although they do stop when the boat is stopped.

The result of this is that a wake that looks nice when a boat is at its nominal speed will look far too spread out when the boat is going very slowly or when turning. Every time the boat changes course, the wake effect re-starts and this produces sharp discontinuities in the effect. It is possible to minimize these discontinuities, but that can produce unwanted side effects. So this means that when creating routes, one can have longer straight legs where the wake looks nice but not that great when the boat turns, or one can have a lot of shorter legs with minor course corrections which improves the look of the wake when the boat turns. But because the boat slows before the turn, there is a larger portion of the time where the wake effect does not look good. My current choice is longer straighter legs, but at the turns, a series of closely spaced course corrections.

In addition, modern large ships do not leave that much wake. Nonetheless, the wake effect seems to help situate the boat on the water surface. For the time being I’m going to quit while I’m ahead (relatively speaking) but I may start playing with reducing the alpha and increasing the time until fadeout begins to compensate. A lot of trial and error. This may or may not work.

For those who would like to try the latest wake effects that I think have promise, I’m now posting them via the links page.

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*My empirical formula generated from some tests I made is

D = SeSR*t

where D is the distance that the edge of an effect travels on an axis is:, S is scale, SR is scale rate and t is time. These values are specified in the effects file.   Notice that there is no vt  corresponding to the distance that the boat has moved.

Annotated effects SDK documentation

Several threads on FSDeveloper prompted me to annotate the documentation for creating effects as I understand them, or at least understood them at the time I did it. I’ve been intending to finalize the draft, but it has not happened, so I decided to post it as is. It’s the same file linked on FSDeveloper. There is a link on the links page. Most of it should be accurate, although I keep discovering new things.

New installation method

I believe, or I should say would like to believe that I’ve come up with a somewhat simplified way to install my projects if you are using more than one of them. We will see if I’m right based on feedback from the upcoming service pack for Vic+ for Orbx PNW.

The instructions in several of the projects describe using a ‘paste into the root sim folder and say yes’ method. The problem is that the common sound and effects files are of varying dates based on when the project was done. The result is for every effect and every sound file, you may be asked ‘do you want to replace…’ and if you say ‘yes’, you may overwrite newer files with older ones, then older ones newer ones, back and forth. Who knows how many possibilities there are. It could end up a real pain in the butt.

I’ll either post or supply a link to the new instructions when finalized for Vic+ and then tested, but the gist of it is to first copy and paste the latest sound and effect files. Now you are done with these files. The final part consists of a ‘copy these specific files or folders and paste them here’ method. It’s not a one click and you are done solution, but at least the logic of what you are doing should be clear.

It may still be a pain in the butt, but then again, the value is what you paid for it.