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Creating a Global AI Shipping Package for FSX

A month ago I uploaded to avsim, simviation and flightsim the first part of a project aimed at creating a more realistic AI ship traffic for FSX. The package included 63 ships modeled in GMAX and AI ship traffic for North West Europe and the South American East Coast. Since then two more packages with ships and traffic files for the US West Coast and the Caribbean have followed. And more are under preparation – because what started out as my first little FSX project suddenly got an ambition to reach at least a partial global coverage… And then the headache begins…

In the FSX living world the AI ship routes can easily be created using Google Earth KML files and the AIBTC. Normally the FSX AI engine also ensures that even if you place more ships on the same route, they automatically avoid collisions…

But the FSX engine does not take into account that modern bulk carriers, tankers, and container ships are often between 300 and 400 meters long. And models of these ships actually can collide in FSX if you put them on the same route. But they don’t always do it, and that fact made me believe while preparing the first package that they would never do it… But then somebody discovered a couple of collisions somewhere off the French coast… To solve this and to prepare future packages I needed to find the reason.

Since then I have been doing a lot of testing including trying to adjust the parameters such as the acceleration or stern point position in the sim.cfg of the AI ships as well as changing the position of the center point in the mdl files in GMAX. The last just resulted in a change of the point of impact and the first adjustments did not have any noticeable effect.

But with the tests I have come to the conclusion that the collisions are related to the speed used in the AI traffic file and the length of the AI ship.

The higher the speed the larger is the safety distance the AI engine proposes – that is, the earlier one of the ships will initiate the maneuver to avoid the other and the longer ships you can use without having collisions.
The approximate relation is that 2 ships of 200 meters will avoid each other at 16 knots, while two ships of 400 meters will need a speed of 30 knots to avoid each other…

The last might be realistic for a nuclear air craft carrier, but not for a giant bulk carrier or the newest mega container ships. In fact the trend at the moment in the real world is to slow down the speed of the merchant ships to save on the fuel bill… So to have a realistic speed of the different AI vessels the larger ships must be put out on individual routes. This of course means more work and an increased number of AI traffic files if you want to create at least a partly global coverage. The larger number of traffic routes creates a problem in narrow waters as there is a limit to how close you can put shipping lanes in FSX without having the ships influencing each other. With less than 300 meters between the ships some ships starts turning when they passes each other on parallel routes. This makes testing much more time consuming and complicated.

SO… Did I overlook something??? Is there a different way to avoid collisions between large AI ships in FSX? Do some of you have insights in the AI engine which could help in solving this issue in an easier or more elegant way?

And ps if somebody wants to join in on the project you are welcome either to get models included or to help preparing and testing routes. Below a few screen shots.

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not that it is of any help (i'm not into traffic creation), but i do think that you have a great and original project going here!

Hopefully someone here can be of help to you.

Hi Willem,
Thanks for the comments also if it doesn't solve the problem - which is anyway also more a perfectionist issue than a real problem :) Anyway I still hope somebody with a deeper insight than me can contribute.
Hi Henrik,

I already said yes to your project and invite other ship designers to do the same!

For your question about ship collisions, remember that FSX AI engine is probably the same or very similar than of AI aircraft and considers the normal length of an airplane. And FSX is a flight simulator... I note that little ships avoid collision in my Halong bay scenery (under development) but I never note the effect of one on another near one.

To avoid collision of large ship, may be changing the centre point of MDL... but here we probably have non-realistic turning behavior...

With a friend I works on a scenery that place ice in Saint-Laurent river, estuary and gulf. And when a ship hits ice, it stops!
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Hi Jean Pierre
You are probably right with the comparison to the plane size - the FSX ships are also all rather small compared to real ships so therefore the problem will not appear with the default shipping traffic.

I don't know if the ships affecting each other also depends on ship size. I did not make any tests of that as I focussed in the first place on eliminating the collisions between the larger ships, but I realised the problem when I created AI ship traffic for the narrow entrance to the Guanabara bay in Rio de Janerio. If the shipping routes were to tight to gether one of the ships would start turning towards or away from the other. But it is a simple test to do so I will post the results soon. How do you get the ship to stop when it hits the ice???

And for everybody who would like to join in on the project to create a Global AI Shipping Package - With the ships of Jean Pierre and my new ships we would have well above 100 different AI ships including everything from small high speed ferries and coasters to the world largest container ships available for creating realistic AI shipping for FSX. So if you feel like filling the empty FSX Oceans or maybe just a local bay or harbor area which could then be added to a larger package please join us.
How do you get the ship to stop when it hits the ice???

I just replace water class polygons by ICE land class. In FSX when a ship hits a land class polygon she stops whatever the kind of texture. Nothing more to do! In our frozen water scenery I have to trace water class corridors to keep my ships sailing. The FindlandX scenery also have frozen water but I dont know their technic.
Sounds simple enough - but it is good that you have made nice Icebreaker model also :)
maybe some kind of water class you can't add lanclass, but should be a costume one, a water mask with the image of a glacier, or simply ice or something that look like ice, with tools like sbuilder or glabal mapper, then this would be a water mask.
about the ships traffic, would the ship stop if this meet with another in the same route?
If two ships on the same route meet each other one will turn away from the route and let the other pass - unless the ships are large and slow. Then they collide - but one will still make the turn. The below sequence is at 25 knots with two ships of 400 meters

And the ship from the test in a slightly more advanced stage of the construction process - Mærsk Mckinney Møller - the world largest container ship which will soon feature in a documentary on Discovery if somebody wants to check the details ;-)

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Very cool, I asked because I can see how a speed boat stopped when I crossed a helicopter in front of him, which was amazing :D
Yes, couriously I have seen recently a documentary about this ship, I think this was the largest ship of the world, the documentary was about a competition betwen the top five ships of the world, one cruiser , an air carrier, a tug ship,etc. but sorry can't remember the names at all.
the air carrier won regarding engines power (this is nuclear:p) of course.
About the idea, it's a great task and time consuming cheking every route, nevertheless would be great to have library routes (and a ships library), to load different routes according to the zone of sea, good luck.
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Very cool, I asked because I can see how a speed boat stopped when I crossed a helicopter in front of him, which was amazing
It is why I think that it is managed by the same FSX engine than for planes (when you stop in front of an AI airplane, it also stops!).

then this would be a water mask
But I want to be able to land (wheels or skis) on "my" ice! My ice has to be solid. It is why I use landclass instead of waterclass.

would the ship stop if this meet with another in the same route
Like those of Henrik, my ships avoid themselves when metting on the same FSX route.
it's a great task and time consuming cheking every route

I think it is not obligatory to check all routes, especially not in real time. To check mine I set different times; if the ship never arrive it is probably because she went aground somewhere.

A good monitoring tool to follow AI ships in FSX is FSXGET, that links FSX and Google Earth to spot ships.
The routes I did so far and uploaded in the first packages are grouped through their names for different areas North West Europe, Caribbean, South America East Coast, and US West Coast - so it should be possible to create some sort of library even if I did not really give that any thoughts until now.
Thanks Jpfil for the reference, I think you have a good challenge making those glacier, but maybe we are asking too much to Fsx, but I could imagine driving your ship across those ice straits, it can't be modeled either ,the frame rate could be bad.
KL791 if you want a catamaran ferry (maybe this is the name) from Canary Island just have to ask for him :D, anyway I still have to contact with the author, this was a Dae model wich I clean and apply photo textures. ;):cool:
And AI boats do run aground some times especially if they meet each other in narrow straits...

No damage to the environment was reported but I had to redo the route which is from the US West Coast package...

I try to check the most critical points on the routes close to harbours and near airports where you are most likely to see the traffic - and then calculate potential problems in other places based on the considerations earlier in this thread.

PS the apparent sinking of the largest of the two is due to the influence of the bridge. The bow came up again 2 seconds later and the ship continued normally.
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Bernardo - a catamaran would be great to include - Jean Pierre also did some but the more different types we have the better :)
The ai ships routes eventually make me some weird output, I have had working routes and after a long time and without any reason the ship were all running aground, as if the route were displaced , they all saling too close to the coast.Here two ships from dae files, a local fisherboat, and the Catamaran, but take into account the they are only local traffic. :cool:
Many Dae ships are cool but are too much for Fsx, very weighty, I worked a lot to clean polygons. and retexturized.


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They're great and the catamaran is very different from the others - and with a repaint it could also go on other routes - some similar ones are sailing here in Denmark
Well, you might have thought the project died... It did not... But too much to do in the real world prevented me from spending a lot of time on both modelling and communicating, but here are some previews of what is cooking...

M/V Marie Maersk

M/V Hong Kong Express

M/T Maersk Promise

M/V Vijayanagar

M/T Tilda Kosan

M/V CSCL Vancouver

M/V Doric Freedom