FSX Boats: Limited Effects

Hi Guys,

I have downloaded a couple of vessels from FS-Shipyards.org and although they are FS9 files I managed to get most of them to work satisfactorily as drivaeable versions in my XP FSX setup. They have that little bouncy problem sometimes :eek: but some massaging of the contact points seems to solve that most of the time. However, my main reason for downloading them was to setup some AI shipping around the coastal airports I frequent. I'm not talking about the default leisure craft that turn up around the coastlines depending on your traffic settings or the larger default crusie ships and merchant vessels which are all set in the 'trafficboats.bgl' file, but rather more customised large commercial vessels, container ships, ferries, oil rig support vessels, coastal traders, tugs and the occassional military vessels.

I am using the AI Boat Traffic Compiler or AIBTC to generate near FSX compliant plans using a Google Earth KML file to create the routes plan...all detailed in the good documentation with this free utility.

So, when creating the "aircraft.cfg" file which in the case of AI Boats is called a sim.cfg file, I find there is very little in this file and that it doesn't require a '*.air' file. My sim.cfg for the MV Kaitaki looks like this.

title=challergerVX Kaitaki


static_pitch=0.0 //degrees, pitch when at rest on the ground (+=Up, -=Dn)
static_cg_height=0.0 //feet, altitude of CG when at rest on the ground

max_speed_mph = 50
acceleration_constants = 0.5, 0.4 //Time constant (effects responsiveness), and max acceleration (Gs)
deceleration_constants = 2.0, 0.5 //Time constant (effects responsiveness), and max acceleration (Gs)
SternPosition = 50

wake = fx_wake_l.fx

It occured to me I would like to puts some lights on the ship so that I could see the AI vessels at night so I added the LIGHTS section from the aircraft.cfg file of the drivable version as follows:

;type, Z, X, Y, effect
;Light types: 1=beacon, 2=strobe, 3=navigation, 4=cockpit, 5=landing, 6=taxi, 7=recognition, 8=wing, 9=logo
;---internal (bridge)
light.1 = 4, 149.000, 0.000, 18.000, fx_navred ;night light
light.2 = 4, 140.150,-28.200, 52.000, fx_navredh ;red port
light.3 = 4, 140.150, 28.000, 52.000, fx_navgreh ;green stbd
light.4 = 4, 5.212, 0.000, 42.100, fx_navwhih ;masthead
light.5 = 3, -50.812, -15.000, 55.000, fx_navredh ;red port
light.6 = 3, -50.812, 15.000, 55.000, fx_navgreh ;green stbd
light.7 = 3, -90.000, 0.500, 55.000, fx_navwhih ;stern

Unfortunately, no joy. :( I have checked to make sure all the fx_ files are located in the Effects folder of FSX and have tried to add other water and smoke effects to the sim.cfg file but to no avail. The sim.cfg file only seems to recognise one wake effect file and that's it. I can get a bow spray or a wake but I can't have both and I certainly can't have any lights or smoke at any time.

I have asked this question over at FS-Shipyards.org but I suspect there aren't too many FSX gurus over there yet. I have also asked it on the FSX Forum at Avsim.com but not much joy there either, although it was pointed at that default AI ships have lights as part of their texture files.

I thought I would try running a default ship (VEH_water_tanker01_sm) as a driveable (category airplane) by adding a *.air and aircraft.cfg file from another FS9 ship I downloaded. Sure enough, the night lights on the default ship appear to be represented by texture files but when I pressed 'L' the strobes, beacons and nav lights come on as well (albeit in ridiculus positions since the contact points were for the FS9 ship according to its 'aircraft.cfg' file. These are the same lights we see on AI aircraft but if I return this vessel to the Boat category and make it AI I am left with the just the textured lights. The sim.cfg file needed for it to work in the 'Boat' category will not read the LIGHTS section that seemed to work fine in the airplane category, aircraft.cfg file? AS I said earlier, it seems the sim.cfg file only allows one wake effect and that's it!

Can anyone confirm that this 'single effect for AI FSX Boats is indeed the case and that I'm not just doing something wrong somewhere?

Regards :)



Resource contributor
Hi Terry,

interesting observation about the sim.cfg file. We've ported our AI ships to FSX but decided to keep using the FS9 approach (invisible taxiways with AFCAD files) instead of trying to plug into the FSX AI ship system.

Using AI vessels as ground vehicles works just like it did in FS9 and allows for multiple light and other effects. If you're interested in our approach you can check out our little fleet in the Victoria+ scenery, http://library.avsim.net/esearch.php?CatID=fsxscen&DLID=112674and http://library.avsim.net/esearch.php?CatID=fsxscen&DLID=112675

Let me know if you have any further questions.

Cheers, Holger
Holger, perhaps you can provide an answer to a question concerning ai boat traffic in a Vista/FS9 environment. Your Columbia River scenery contains a paddle wheeler and on my Vista system and in FS9 it appears and works successfully. I have a paddle wheeler designed for the Ohio River, using AFCAD and Traffic Tools that worked fine in Windows XP/FS9, but does not in Vista/FS9. The boat simply never appears in the scenery.

Another ai scenery by Allen Richards called ai_river_queen also fails to appear in the Vista/FS9 environment. I don't understand why your paddle wheeler works and ours do not. I assume you also used AFCAD and TTools. You had helped me a few years back with effects for the Belle of Louisville and getting me started with paddle wheel ai traffic. Thanks for that.

Are you aware of any conditions that would cause our ai boats not to work, or what can be done to allow them to work?

Jim Jones.


Resource contributor
Hello Jim,

sorry, I don't run Vista yet so can't offer any direct advice.

However, if one model shows but not the other I'd suspect it's an installation error. We all know this: sitting in front of a file set that refuses to work until, at some point, we notice the obvious mistake that was there all along ;-)

A quick test would be to replace the working model with the apparently non-working one, leaving flightplan and AFCAD the same. If it shows up then the issue is with flightplan or AFCAD, if not then perhaps there is a problem with the model itself.

Good luck!

Cheers, Holger
Thanks Holger for your detective approach. The working files from my Windows XP/FS9 system were merely moved enmasse to the Vista/FS9 system. So there should not be a problem with the files being correct or in the right folders, that is unless the XP system ignored the error.

Its been a while since I used the AFCAD and TTools programs, years in fact, so I'm having to go back and relearn. At 73 years of age it seems to be harder to comprehend all this stuff, especially when things don't work as expected.

I had assumed we used the same programs, AFCAD2 and TTools, but when I tried to use AFCAD to look at your AF2_4S24.bgl file, the sternwheeler route in your Columbia River scenery, nothing appeared. So that may be one difference in why I'm failing to get results.

Looking over notes from when I first generated the Belle of Louisville ai successfully, contact points, if imporperly chosen, can cause the ai not to appear. I'll pursue changing those to see the result. Things always seem pretty grim until things begin to work. So far, nothing.



Resource contributor
Hello Jim,

that's odd about 4S24; when I load it in AFCAD.exe it looks like the screenshot below. Sounds like there might be an issue with your installation of AFCAD or maybe it is VISTA that's responsible for the difficulties?

You could also try the opposite approach: use our Sternwheeler with your AFCAD and see what happens there. Just make sure that the parking spot size is adequate for eaither model.

Cheers, Holger

Thanks again, Holger, for your keen advise. After having played for an hour or so with the contact points on the PC where AFCAD and TTools were used to compile the AF2 and Traffic files, I realised this was not the problem. Funny, though, at one extreem set of points the Belle pointed its nose up, sank and disappeared leaving a brief puff of smoke.

Then, taking your advise, the Belle parameter was placed into TTools with your Columbia River Gorge files and tested. Success! Feedback like this is quite encouraging, thus provided the impetus to forge on to isolate the problem. After much checking of file locations on the Vista PC and convinced all was as it should be, that left seeing if the compiles were correct. And this required looking at the parameters of the three files going into TTools. The Airplane and Airport data files looked fine, but scanning down those in the FlightPlans file gave me a start when seeing the FS Traffic percent. Eureka, bells and whistles etc... I realized that I had not set the Flight Simulator traffic percent high enough. Such embarassment. So I set the Flightplan percent as low as it would go, 1 percent, to avoid that problem in the future.

So then it worked fine in fs9 on the Vista system. The real goal was to get it to work in FSX on the Vista system. On the first trial, I did not see the Belle for a time but a side glance allowed viewing the tops of the smoke stacks moving backwards, then forwards out into the Ohio river without the usual smoke, steam and wake effects. The FSX river is set about 40 ft lower than in FS9, and thus was the reason for the submerged Belle and the trough or channel of the traffic path that really ruined the flatness of the river. Adjusting the height in the parameters in the files and putting the effects for the Belle into the FSX effects fixed all the problems except for the mystery of the Belle backing up which I had not observed in FS9. Not too concerned about that so that anomoly will remain.

Holger, I am still unable to see the af2_4s24.bgl file on either a Windows XP or Vista system. No big deal since my problem is solved, just another mystery.

Thanks, Holger, for your sound advise and generous time to respond to my little problem. It is much appreciated and will give me peace of mind not to have to ponder the problem any longer.

Cheers, Jim



Resource contributor
Hi Jim,

glad to hear you've got the Belle running again and thanks for the kind words.

There are a couple of changes to AI ground behavior in FSX, including the issue with backing up. I haven't spent a lot of time yet with my AI vessel and floatplane AFCADs but I believe there is a work around for this; Jon Patch and Don Grovestine have done some experiments.

Cheers, Holger
On effects...

One thing you can do for the default shipping is nest all your effects into one effects file...

It'll require basically putting the effects placement for the boat all offset within the one effects file. It should be a lot easier within FSX because the xyz values have been standardized...

That's the approach I took with the top gun tomcat effects upgrade in FS2004, the only trick is that in the aircraft.cfg or sim.cfg you'll need to offset the z value (vertical) to 0.1 in order for the effects to show, so should be X=0, y=0, z=0.1 or 0.01 if that works...

Whatever your offset is on the z value, be sure to subtract it from the emitter z value in your .fx file, so that it doesn't get bumped up on the model... so for example wave bow effects, in the sim.cfg would be z value of 0.1, but for the emitter in the effects file you'll want to set the z value to -0.1. The final result is a z value of 0 in the final value at run time...

In other words one thing you can do is nest all your lights effects into a custom wake effect and while the lights may not work if the vessel is stationary, they should come on while the vessel is moving... It's kind of a cheesy way to go about doing it, but should get you the results you're looking for, in fact I'm almost tempted to do that myself just for the fun of it one day... It's got me to thinking that perhaps someone might be able to write a program to auto nest effects files based on data within the sim.cfg or aircraft.cfg files... Could be a handy tool...

Hope that makes sense. I can explain i further if you want to pursue it further or I need to make further clarifications...

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Resource contributor
Hi Dean,

thanks, those are good points!

I've been using nested effects for my AI vessels for a while now. All the nav lights are defined (as single effects) in the [Lights] section while the spray, smoke, and wake effects are coded as one fx file that is triggered by the concrete= parameter in the [Effects] section. This approach means that those dynamic effects only start showing once the vessel is actually under way (I believe the minimum speed is 5kts for the "scraping" trigger to work). Also, I've added a delay into the large wake effect so that it doesn't show until a minute or two into the ship's journey.

Last but not least, I've added some nice sound effects, which is now well supported in FSX.

Our Victoria+ (freeware) and Vancouver+ (payware) packages for FSX include several AI vessels coded this way.

Lots of interesting stuff possible with effects.

Cheers, Holger
See Holger, that's why you rock, you think outside the box to find creative solutions as well...

I'm seriously thinking about finding someone to program a couple of tools...

One is a tool to autonest effects by reading the [lights] section of a .cfg file. Also possibly the [engines] section. If I could get that to work I'd love to be able to do some cool stuff with AI aircraft for Ultimate Traffic such as engine exhaust effects on aircraft that kick in upon takeoff. I'll email a good friend at Flight1 as I think he'll like the idea.

The other thing is OT, but if I can do something similar with .inf files and .tfw files and have a program I can run to batch render the .tfw data and plug them in to the .inf files it'd save a lot of work on watermapping...

You solved my problem :). It took a little bit to work thru the FSX SDK but I eventually managed to nest all my effects under one *.fx file and now my AI shipping has wake,spray, eng smoke and lighting effects all working as you suggested once the vessel is under way.

Thanks again for your suggestion.:wave:



Nested Effects


Did you find that the co-ordinates are screwed up (maybe I should read the SDK). I have the tug from deltasim which I use in FSX, all effects work OK. I then created an AI Boat from it and nested all the relevant fx files, only to find the offsets were now all wrong and I had to manually edit them.

I think this problem is related to the fact that the sim.cfg file is only 'seeing' a wake file. Therefore, any nested effects will have the origin of a wake file. All nested effects on an AI vessel therefore need to have their emitter offsets adjusted from that 'wake' origin to be in their correct positions. (Note: the particles will follow and don't need to be adjusted). Others may be able to add to this. Hope this helps you Les :)

You'll have to excuse my ignorance here. I'm having trouble wading through the SDK.

I also have some AI Boats to which I want to attach some Effects, but only one appears. The "nesting" of effects sounds like the way forward, but I'm having trouble figuring it out. :eek: The SDK is a tough read! :( I've also downloaded Victoria+ and still can't see where the nesting is done. Would anyone be willing to spare the time to point out the basic steps for nesting, to give me a head start? ;)