THE REALM GALLERY | Duane K. McCullough
The Realm Gallery Collection / World Playground Scenery Project V2 for Vehicle Simulator
World Playground Scenery Project V2 beta sample by Duane McCullough -- Read Me 3/2017
My name is Duane McCullough -- I am an artist, author and photographer. More information about who I am and what I do can be found at my therealmgallery.com website or at the Google search website.
As an artist that has worked in many mediums such as drawings, paintings and lately photography, I mostly enjoy designing and building object models using computers -- particularly objects within scenery projects used by Virtual Reality simulators.
In early 2017, I released a beta sample of version 2 of my World Playground Scenery Project for Ilan Papini's Vehicle Simulator program and made it available to him to host at his main hangsim.com website.
The Vehicle Simulator program -- also known as the Vehicle Simulator Framework system or VSF, can be a serious computer simulator program for designing and testing all kinds of model planes, boats, submarines, cars and even trains within a gravity and inertia based environment.
Because of the open architecture nature of the VSF program -- and other similar programs by Ilan, many CAD developers have, over the years, taken the opportunity to create hundreds of vehicle models that work in the VSF program which are now free to download at his websites.
The VSF program also comes with a great scenery design tool program option that can be used to recreate either real or virtual world places in realistic detail.
And it is within the scenery folder of the VSF program that this scenery project can be copied to and be experienced.
Version 1 (released in 2011) and Version 2 are "Not To Scale" add-on model scenery projects for the Vehicle Simulator program and, when installed correctly, are located in the western Atlantic Ocean of the VSF mapping system as small model areas to explore -- therefore, because they are small models of the real Earth's surface, normal GPS options used by the VSF program are not accurate when compared to real world mapping data.
The mountains and depths of this scenery project have been scaled to fit the width of a 92 NM mile world map -- which translates to several 800 ft mountain tops and some 800 ft deep underwater canyons.
Using the free Anim8or CAD program, I rebuilt a few of my older CAD object buildings from some of my scenery model projects I once used in the Virtual Sailor and Micro-Flight programs -- and included them into this new scenery model project as objects from the design tool menu option.
Many new model objects include big bridges, marine lighthouses, pagodas, pyramids, floating boats, seaplanes, new skyscraper buildings and landmark tower sites such as the Eiffele Tower, Seattle's Space-needle tower, New York's Freedom Tower and the Washington Monument.
I have even included several new vehicle designs that are based on my understanding of aeronautics which can be found throughout the scenery project -- these new vehicle models cover a wide range of transportation options such as car, boat and aircraft concepts which have never been seen before.
What this scenery model project lacks in fine coastal detail and harbors of the real world, it more than makes up in the incredible realistic water waves and landscape detail that Vehicle Simulator is capable of -- especially the water wave activity reacting with the atmosphere.
The moonlight views of a sandy tropical beach with palm trees that includes a fiery campsite under the stars -- and nearby moving underwater plants showing through the clear water surface reflections of the sea, are absolutely outstanding.
Another example of landscape detail within this scenery model project is that while viewing from a cabin porch on a mountain top in North Carolina, one can see across the Caribbean Sea to the Andes Mountains of South America.
Using the Matrix Map Editor tool that comes with Vehicle Simulator, I "dredged a few world rivers" and, for example, players can now navigate up the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico aboard several large ships all the way to the Great Lakes and out the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean.
This beta sample of Version 2 includes a developed area along the east coast of North America and the Caribbean with several objects that demonstrates the design capabilities of the VSF program. A few other area sites are also included throughout the scenery project -- see if you can find them.
Much like the many objects that can be experienced within Version 1 of my World Playground Scenery Project, a final version of more objects -- like roads, train tracks and boat docks, should be available later this year when the full version is ready. Currently, there are twelve airports and many boat anchorages included in this version.
The educational and entertainment values of exploring the environment within the Vehicle Simulator program are very rewarding -- I encourage users of this scenery project to experiment with the design aspects of the VSF design program.
I have spent many hours playing the SimCity and Tropico games through the years -- and the VSF program is more capable at custom building a personal dream world if you know how to use a good CAD program that can save object files in the 3ds format like the Anim8or program can.
Converting 3ds object files into the x file format is necessary because the VSF program uses the x file object system. You can find a free 3ds file to x file converter at the VSF website.
So, if you are an artist and would like to create your vision of what a dream world could look like in 3D that can easily be shared over the Internet -- or if you just like to explore a unique model of the world, this scenery project is yours to play with.
For more information regarding the VSF simulator program and add-on models, please visit the hangsim.com website.
SOME TECHNICAL NOTES ABOUT THIS SCENERY PROJECT AND THE VSF DESIGN MENU:
1.0. When driving over bridges, make sure the "land on objects" option in the Vehicle tab is checked.
1.1. When flying under bridges, make sure the "land on objects" option in the Vehicle tab is NOT checked.
1.2. When driving over bridges in a train, make sure the "road" option is NOT checked in the autopilot menu -- but IS checked when driving on ground tracks.
1.3. Also, when driving trains, make sure the HDG and NAV options are NOT checked in the autopilot menu.
2.0. If you have a very good graphics card, perhaps the best graphics options are the following:
* Set the water view option on reflect/refract and water bumpmap on medium.
* Set the Volumetric Clouds to about 80% and lower them to about 600 ft.
* Set the regular and high clouds to one step above lowest level.
2.1. Even with a very good graphics card, try not to load a complex scene at night -- like the New York City area, and then reverse time to the daylight hours, because the program may stop working. I'm guessing that this problem may be related to how the VSF program loads the day textures of buildings after the night textures were established in place at start up -- which may conflict with the "automatic" day to night object texture loading formula. I did not have this problem in my WPSPV1 project perhaps because I had no night based textures on building objects -- at least that's my working theory. If you come across this bug, restart the VSF program and try loading the scenery again in some remote place without any objects -- it should default to daytime and you can continue. Also, by removing the vsf.ini file in the VS program folder, the program will create a new vsf.ini file and will reset the default graphic settings to "average" values -- this trick solved my problem of the program "crashing" when "reversing time" in the Weather Menu. My graphic options were set at maximum when this issue appeared -- and now, the program is stable again.
3.0. Because there is no "undo" option in the VSF Object Design Menu (object placement mode), take care in creating or making changes to the scenery project. If you make a mistake and significantly move a nearby object by accident -- such as a carefully created roadway, just close the VSF program session down and start over without saving changes to the object file list.
3.1. Again, it is very easy to make mistakes in the design aspect of placing objects into the scenery -- the most common mistake is choosing another object near or sometimes far in the distance from the object you are working on and moving or scaling it to the wrong values. To minimize this common mistake problem, remember to uncheck the "Pick object" option in the Object Design menu after placing objects and then examine your placement without the worry of accidentally picking other objects in the area.
4.0. Try NOT to build around sunset or sunrise time because the program will auto-load night or day texture files during these events and you will lose your building work.
5.0. Do not load the "night version" of the model objects from the Design Menu -- they will auto-load at sunset time. They appear much darker than the "day version" and their names end with the "_n.x".
6.0. The VSF program saves your design work in the scenery folder file called the Objects Text File (objects.txt) -- it is where most all your latest updated changes are recorded and it includes data on the objects with their GPS locations during your last design work session. Therefore, when finished placing you objects in the scenery and saving your work to the design/scenery files/save user objects menu, exit the program and your work session is finished. However, before starting again, avoid choosing the start scenario option in the startup menu because, if you do, the start session may load an older past session from memory that was recorded before your last design work session -- and, therefore, you will loose all your recent work you created. So basically, save your work when finished -- exit the VSF program, and when starting again choose the Load/New/Scenery Options from the Start menu -- NOT the Start Option. Using the Start Option is fine -- but not if you are building a scene of objects over time in the Design option mode.
6.1. The GPS location of any airport runway launch site that is created and saved using the Design Menu option will be recorded in the locations.txt file -- they appear as little squares on the Position or Map options menu. If you want to change a runway launch location after saving it to the location.txt file, you will have to manually delete the GPS location of the old location to erase the launch site of the runway in the Position or Map options.
7.0. Several texture images in the scenery project came from the program's default graphics folder but have been "enhanced" to appear better in the project folder.
8.0. I had to create and repeat the same dense land texture image from levels 2 through 9 in this scenery project so that some of the default dense texture files from within the program's graphics folder would not auto-load and interfere with the project.
9.0. When creating roads WITHOUT "street lights" at night use the "dark_road_a.bmp" file from the Road building option because if you use the "road_a.bmp" file, the VSF program will load the night version of that file and use the "road_a_n.bmp" image from the common folder to auto-create roads with "street lights" at night when the sun goes down. I believe the project looks better with less "street lights" on roads out in the rural areas.
10.0. It may be better to use the custom scalable bridges now available in the project to build pathways around mountain areas than to build roads through mountain areas. Survey areas of rough terrain extensively before building and constructing pathways around and through them -- the less you have to change the landscape the better. A few examples of this concept can be found by studying the roadway that runs from southeastern USA to the California area across the southern Rocky Mountains where bridges were used to build over rough terrain instead of using the Matrix Editor to "clear pathways" through uneven places.
11.0. When building flat areas for airports and some road areas, use the Matrix Editor to "pan" and "zoom" to where you want, then choose the elevation level needed for the area and use the "change" option to "spread" that elevation level where it is needed. Make sure the Brush Radius is the right size (avoid using the 3 level) and the Brush Opacity (speed of application -- I use level 12) is correct for the job -- smaller values are better for slow detail work. To check your elevation change results, return to the "pan" option and see the elevation value where the pointer curser is. If you make a mistake, just close the Matrix Editor without saving -- because there is no "undo" in the program.
11.1. In preparing the surface area for an airport runway, sometimes it is better to add elevation to a "hard to level" area and then, use the "change" option to level the area back down to the desired level -- for example, find the average elevation of the general area and target that value for the airport runway.
11.2. Also when preparing to build airport runways, lay the grass patch first -- then the runway, and then align both to the same degree direction with the runway patch ontop of the grass patch. Play with the scaling of both patches before adding other layers of patches like taxiways or "tarmac" areas. Also, take a ground edge view the runway surface the entire length too see how flat it is -- if it is too bumby, go back to the Matrix Editor and correct it as described above before adding more elements to the airport project.
12.0. Because the Matrix Editor is really a paint program that manipulates the elevations of a "wire grid" which represents the surface area above and below the sealevel line in a 3D environment, it has certain limitations in creating accurate coastlines. Using the Matrix Editor to create deeper harbors or rivers in the this scenery project can be very tricky because changes to one map affects needed changes to the other maps that the VSF program uses -- for example, if you want to use the "change" option in the Matrix Editor to deepen a coastal area to the depths needed for a large ship -- like , say the Barken cargo ship, use this method:
A) Choose the Depth Map option because we only want to change the sea bottom -- not the land surface.
B) Find a depth near the entrance of your desired area at about 30 meters deep -- and use the "change" option in the menu, at level 1 in Brush Radius and at level 12 in Brush Opacity, then slowly and carefully drag the center area of the cross pointer to and around the area you want to change. The depths in a narrow channel area will only appear at about 20 meters deep instead of 30 meters because, remember, we are changing the elevation values of a "wire grid" in a 3D environment that are linked to other elevations of the nearby coastline.
C) Choose the Pan option to check your desired results -- if ok, then save your work using the Save Matrix option. If not satisfied after several attempts, close the Matrix Editor program down without saving and start over -- remember, there is no "undo" option.
D) After saving the Matrix file and before you close the program down, also save the Depth map and the Land map.
E) Now open the VSF program to see your changes -- if you now see trees in the water near the coast where there was once land, the texture bitmap map (txt.bmp) needs adjusting.
F) Load the scenery txt.bmp file into a paint program (I use Adobe Elements) and choose the blue color in the palett and paint the coastal area a pixel or two to replace the land colors where the "trees in the water" were in the scenery area with the smallest pixel pencil tool -- then save the bitmap file.
F) If you have enough computer memory to also run both your paint program and the VSF program, then keep your paint program open while you check the scenery area in question in the VSF program. If satisfied, close the paint program down and keep working in the VSF program.
G) If not satisfied, go back to the paint program and try again by following the above instructions until you are happy with the results. Make sure you also change scenery areas in the VSF program between testing events so that the program can recalculate the data. This whole method is somewhat a trial and error way of finding a successful result -- just make sure you have backup in every endeavor you try.
13.0. There is a yellow "tow_truck.x" file in the Objects Design Models menu option that will give scale to whatever building event you want to create -- you can also use it as a reference object to keep the road width proper when scaling bridges.
14.0. It's fun to light up areas at night by placing lights near buildings or bridges -- experiment with the Light value options at night using the "Others" option in the drop down menu. Vary the light object values in the scale option to create colorful lights -- choose the right "mood" of the site area your working on. Take note that, for example, to create a pure "green" light you have to scale down both the "red" and "blue" light values one color at a time.
15.0. The VSF program loads with a default north wind unless you have saved it differently otherwise -- and although you have the option of placing and rotating floating boat objects in any direction when designing your scenery, it is better to keep the north wind option during the building process because every time you choose the Load/New/Scenery Options from the Start menu, the VSF program will default again to the north wind direction anyway.
16.0. If you place objects -- such as buildings and runways, at the cardinal directions (0/90/180/270 degrees) using the Heads-up Display as a guide, you will find that other objects -- like road objects and pavement patches, will line-up more accurately than by just randomly placing objects in the scenery.
17.0. This scenery project has divided the Pacific Ocean in half -- however, for those who would want to travel the entire Pacific Ocean from east to west -- or from west to east without interruption, there is a technique in which to copy the scenery project folder, make some changes to the copied scenery project folder, and place the new copied scenery project just to the east within the VSF mapping coordinate system.
Follow these instructions to accomplish this technique:
First, copy this scenery project folder (WPSPV2) from the scenery folder within the Vehicle Simulator folder on your computer and paste it onto your desktop.
Second -- and this is IMPORTANT, delete the object text file AND the locations.txt file within the new copy on your desktop. The VSF program will create new ones at the right time.
Third, rename the new scenery project folder on your desktop to WPSPV2x.
Fourth, open the map.hdr file within the new WPSPV2x file on your desktop by using Notepad and change the "left_map_x = -60.000000" value to "left_map_x = 58.500000" value.
Fifth, do the same with the "right_map_y = -58.500000" value to "right_map_x = 57.000000" value within the map.hdr file.
Sixth, save the map.hdr file NOT as a text file (.txt), but as the hdr file (.hdr) it once was.
Seventh, then cut the new WPSPV2x folder project from your desktop back into the scenery folder of the Vehicle Simulator program folder.
17.1. If all goes well, when you launch the VSF program again it will see the new scenery project and place it in the VSF mapping system -- which is located in the western Atlantic Ocean area, right next and just to the east of the WPSPV2 map.
17.2. So now, users can travel across the entire Pacific Ocean between both scenery projects without manually loading the adjacent scenery if the auto-load scenery option is selected in the VSF menu. Moreover, you just doubled your playground area!
17.3. Another reason -- if not a more important reason, to create a second "flat earth" scenery project next to this scenery project, is to have a second place to experiment with developing your own version of the known world -- because, later this year, when I release newer objects.txt and location.txt files that will include more objects and their address locations, it will replace the current objects.txt and location.txt files in this beta version -- and if all your custom design work is done within this beta version, they will be erased by these new text files of later versions.
17.4. Therefore, if you want to keep your personal developed version of this scenery project without losing it to an updated version later -- make a new copy of this beta version on your computer desktop, rename it WPSPV2x, place it next to the WPSPV2 project as described above, and develop that one instead.
17.5. I should add that all the volcano smoke sites appearing in this beta version will not appear in the "eastern copy" of this project if you decide to create a new one because their GPS locations are "anchored" in the Object Text file of the beta version -- which is not copied to a new scenery project just to the east of this beta project. In other words, if you want many of the earths' volcano smoke sites to appear in your new copied version of this beta project, you will have to manually create them again using the Design menu and the Google Earth program as a reference option. It took me many hours to record them, and not all of the sites are accounted for -- but at least I now know more about where the locations of volcanoes can be found on Earth.
17.6. Moreover, many floating objects -- such as anchored sailboats located all along the coastlines, will also not appear in the new copy because their GPS locations, like the volcano smoke sites, are lost when the objects.txt file from the beta version of the project is replaced with a new empty file during the installment of the new WPSPV2x scenery folder. So, basically, if you decide to create a copy of the WPSPV2 folder as a new project named WPSPV2x -- there will be no objects in the new scenery unless or until you place them in it using the Design Menu option available in the VSF program.
17.7. The criteria I used to place boats at anchor along the coastal areas of this scenery project is based on my experience in living on a sailboat offshore for over 14 years -- therefore, if you place any new boats as floating objects in the new WPSPV2x project, study the formula I used before doing so. Basically, if big waves from deep water can reach your boat at any degree angle -- don't "anchor" there.
18.0. I had to modify the texture map (txt.bmp) -- which is linked to the elevation values of the topographical map used by the VSF program, so that certain areas of this scenery project -- such as desert and arctic regions, could roughly match the real world areas of Earth.
18.1. By using surface tile colors assigned to areas of different elevations, I created areas on the texture map that properly match the landscape desired -- for example, the color tile that represents a sandy sea bottom can be used for a sandy desert area at a higher elevation.
18.2. However, because the texture map is still linked to the elevation values of the topographical map, the VSF program now auto-loads the final texture scenery map file in such a way that a distracting "narrow border line area of mixed textures" forms a "surface texture seam zone" between the modified areas and the normal elevation areas. Currently, there is no known way to solve this problem -- so, ignore it as much as possible.
19.0. The art and science in placing array objects like palm trees in your scenery took me several hours to learn -- so, listen up. Basically, the custom palm tree I created for this scenery project appears much bigger than the same palm tree bitmap image used in the regular scenery texture tiles -- but that ok, variety in height is nice for trees. However, I had to scale their height up to about the 14 value to make a proper proportion image -- which makes them, like I said, taller and larger than the regular palm trees in the scene.
19.1. Placing palm tree array objects is really neat on large open areas -- you can scale and cluster them in "batches", and then move them where you want. However, placing them in small islands is tricky. It is all about scaling them down to a small area within their "box zone" that does not overlap any other objects on the small island -- in fact, place any other object first like buildings or roads before placing the palm tree arrays because if the array "box zone" overlaps other objects, you will have a problem of trees "growing out" of other objects when the program reloads in the future.
19.2. Moreover, after achieving the right amount of array trees for a given area and properly scaling them, it is sometimes better to "clone" that batch and move those trees to the area needed instead of creating new trees for an area needed.
20.0. One may ask how did I create such a detailed map of the world? It was not easy and it is a long story -- but I did find some free online maps and scaled them down to a 6000 by 3000 pixel bitmap image, where, after modifying some areas, I used the 3DEM program to create the matching land and bathymetric maps needed for the project.
21.0. I hope to create a few Youtube videos sometime this year that will show the wonderful design capabilities of Ilan's Papini's remarkable VSF program -- we will see...
22.0. Several tree array image objects by Marcel Aerni from his VSF World Scenery project are included in this scenery -- thanks Marcel!
23.0. A couple of texture images in the project are based on Alan Winter's texture work from the Virtual Sailor program days -- thank's Alan!
24.0. This scenery project was created on a home-built computer system with the following specs: ASUS P7P55 WS Supercomputer Motherboard / ASUS GTX570 / 8G RAM /
HANNS-G 28" monitor.
24.1. The VSF Program Frame Rate Per Second using this system is 90 to 60 FPS average high above sea-level -- and 34 FPS average near sea-level at clear-water action waves.
25.0. The bottom line is to keep testing your design theories until they work right -- all roads to success are uphill.
P.S. If you like this scenery project and would like to reward my efforts in making this project free -- please visit my therealmgallery.com website and invest in some artwork images that I have created over the years. The POD websites of fineartamerica.com or pixels.com are where my artwork galleries can be found online.
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