FSXA People as Effects Problem

#1
Hi, I'm working on an FSX Scenery project and I want to add realistic Pilots / Groundcrew etc.

So, I decided to add people using the Effects method with a basic effect file, effect texture and place the effect with simple xml code and compile to a .bgl.

I can see the people in position ok and they 'rotate to user' as expected but they appear very dark [not black] when I first start FSX.

Can anyone help please?

If I refresh the scenery the people appear as they should, but obviously there's something I'm doing wrong here!

Regards, Dave.

After starting FSX:

PeopleEffectsDark[1].jpg
 
#2
Hi Dave:

Are the texture files mapped to the FS Effects (Fx) files physically located inside the FS Effects sub-folder chain ? :scratchch

By default FS Effects (Fx) files require and/or look first for any mapped textures inside the [FS install path]\Effects\Texture sub-folder.

FS indexes new (and/or recently-edited) FS Effects (Fx) files and their mapped textures when FS initially loads.

It is possible that when your scenery was "refreshed" in FS during a live flight, FS may have re-indexed "some" Fx-related info for files detected during initial start-up.

However, to the extent I have previously tested this, FS requires all Effect-related files (including textures) to be present in their assigned folder locations during initial start-up in order for Effects to be fully indexed, so that they can then work and display properly.

Thus, AFAIK one may need to fully re-start FS to load and display Effects normally (instead of simply "refreshing" a FS live flight).

Hope this helps ! :)

GaryGB
 
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#3
Hi Dave:

Are the texture files mapped to the FS Effects (Fx) files physically located inside the FS Effects sub-folder chain ? :scratchch
Hi Gary,

Thanks for the reply, but yes the texture file referenced in the effect file is in the FSX\Effects\Texture folder.

I thought this would be straightforward but it's proving to be a real stopper!

I wondered if the fault was in my my effect placement .bgl but I doubt it...

I haven't added any "DAWN=1;DUSK=1;"/> details to the xml so the effect should show at all times.

Maybe I'll try adding these so the effect shows in DAY only. Can you tell I'm grasping at straws now Gary?
 
#4
Hi Dave:

Indeed, working with FS Effects is always an adventure in a relatively less explored subject area. ;)

[EDITED]

When lighting on an entire "visibly" textured face on an object is too dark (aka "[not black]") or too light when viewed at an angle from which that object should otherwise not appear too dark or light, it raises a question of how "Normals" are oriented on the MDL for the object(s); perhaps this is something which might be fixed via settings in ModelConverterX (aka "MCX") ? :idea:

[END_EDIT]

http://www.fsdeveloper.com/wiki/index.php?title=ModelConverterX


FYI ...See: "Assume Vertical Normal" for "DoubleSidedMaterial" in the SDK

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc526973.aspx#EnhancedParameters


Arno: Where in MCX' GUI do we set "Assume Vertical Normal" for "DoubleSidedMaterial" in a MDL ? :scratchch



BTW: Would I be correct that you have reviewed this original thread on display of objects as Effects ?

http://www.fsdeveloper.com/forum/threads/seasonal-objects-as-effects.18180/

GaryGB
 
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#5
Hi Gary,

Thank you for the useful pointers above! Certainly food for thought.

I've experienced the kind of unusual 'shading' on a model a couple of times and hadn't even attributed it to the model's 'Normals' orientation.

However, because the 'People' object I'm having problems with is a pure Effect and no model as such is involved I think I'm right in saying we can rule out any unusual shading due to incorrect 'normals' orientation.

The reference to the post about Seasonal Objects Display is certainly new to me so I'll give it a thorough looking at over the weekend :)

After some late night pondering :banghead: I recalled that scenery made by John Young and Stephen Legg at ACG [Airfield Construction Group] includes Groundcrew displayed by this kind of 'conditional' effect for FSX so I may drop a line to John asking for help.

Dave.
 
#6
Hi Dave:

Perhaps one may test if FS Effect (Fx file) 'Particle' textured sprite object "surface normals" are displayed in a manner comparable to "Normals" in a MDL file via these parameters in the MS FSX / MS ESP Special Effects Tool SDK:


http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc526969.aspx#MainDialog > [Particle N tab] > Facing Pitch, Bank, Heading:

"To have the particles remain perpendicular to the ground but still turn and face the user, set them to 0,0,1."


And perhaps one also might find some additional clues in the example Fx files listed in the farthest right-hand column adjacent to:


http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc526969.aspx#ParticleAttributes > [Particle.0] > Facing Pitch, Bank, Heading:

"To have the particles remain perpendicular to the ground but still turn and face you, use 0,0,1."

Of particular note:

fx_dirtspray_l.fx( Face=0, 0, 1 )

...is listed as an example in the farthest right-hand column



BTW: For those readers interested in using flat (2D) "rotate to user / aircraft" Effect 'Particle' objects in FSX:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc526969.aspx#InsertMenu > Sprite:

"Particles use 2D square sprites as the basic element."



Another pertinent consideration (...and caveat !) discussed by an ACES blogger:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/torgo3000/archive/2006/01/25/418037.aspx

"Q: How come I can't see all of the sprites in the incredibly elaborate and perf intensive effects that I've created?

A: Being the effects artist for Flightsim (among many other duties), this one has bothered me to no end. We have a sprite limit cap that is determined by your effects quality settings (in the display setting dialog). This is for performance reasons, because it is incredibly easy to kill perf using tons of facing sprites. Unfortunately, because the volumetric cloud system are volume clouds of facing sprites, they got thrown into this budget (this is a bug, and our bad). So here's how you hack it. Put an "effects.cfg" file in your effects folder with the following contents:

[Sprite Limit]
Medium=500
High=9999999999
Low=100

Then set your effects settings to high and watch the billions of particles bring your system to its knees.

DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for any fried hardware or lost wages caused by the minutes per frame display you may achieve using this trick. However, I will be fully responsible if you end up with beautiful visuals and not much of a performance hit. [;)]"



Some additional info related to performance when using Effects with an Effects.Cfg file:

http://www.fsdeveloper.com/forum/threads/street-lights-like-ultimate-terrain.6674/#post-238798


FYI:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprite_(computer_graphics)#Synonyms

"Billboard or 3D Sprite is a term often used to refer to sprites that are essentially texture mapped 3D facets that always have their surface normal facing into the camera."


Hmmm... one might wonder whether there is a way to use Normal maps with 2D textured Effect particles / sprites instead of some 3D objects ? :scratchch

http://www.alkemi-games.com/a-game-of-tricks/

"If it looks like 3D, why bother ? Let’s do real 3D ! Well, with actual 3D objects you still have to display a heavy load of polygons if you want decent silhouettes. With normal mapped sprites your silhouettes are defined by an alpha channel and not real time polygons. Your only limitation is similar to any other 2D games : resolution and memory usage. In Transcripted, organic backgrounds with the same visual quality would have required millions of polygons.

Ok, so with normal maps you can have dynamic lighting but you can also have specular effects on sprites"


PS: An interesting example of this concept involving Normal-Mapped 2D Sprites with Dynamic Lighting etc:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2dee/sprite-dlight-instant-normal-maps-for-2d-graphics


Hmmm... one might wonder it it isn't already possible to implement "specularity" and/or dynamic lighting on ex: FS cloud sprites ? :idea:


Hope this info helps in troubleshooting the interesting scenario above, as well as in developing possible other uses for Effect sprites in FS ! :)

GaryGB
 
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#7
Hi Gary,

Thank you for the very interesting and 'effective' [sorry for that] references and comments.

The notes regarding the 'surface normals' was particularly interesting and helped me confirm that I'd got the fx file correct.

As I mentioned above, I did post on the ACG 'Can We Help' forum [John, Stevo and Manfred were really helpful] asking for advice and they replied with just the help I needed.

In short, I had to attach the effect [using attachpoint tool in Gmax] to two flat planes [with Material assigned] with one having effect parameters of DAY=1;NIGHT=0 and the other DAWN=0;DUSK=0. The two planes were then 'buried' underground so they were invisible in FSX. Not rocket science at all - there are plenty of references here to using the attachpoints feature.

Also, the material assigned to the planes must have 'shadow' disabled so it doesnt show in FSX.

A big thank you for your dynamic thinking and very helpful links too!

Regards, Dave.
 
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