Sunday, December 21, 2008

I said I wouldn't...

...but I lied.

Please keep in mind this is *very* work in progress, but the labour of the last two months (mostly mind bending code) has finally produced a little stuff worth looking at I think. Only a couple thousand hours of work left here haha.

Only the centre panel is remotely complete, minus some shading and weathering, and the rest is basically untextured still. Everything you see though works, and this is the kind of detail you can expect throughout the pit in the finished product. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The virtual Hobbs meter... from hell in my case.

I got a good laugh out of this, so I figured I'd share. You probably already know this, but if not, you can see how many hours you've put on each plane in your hangar in FSX by going into the following folder, and checking the state.cfg file for each aircraft:

C:\Documents and Settings\(your user name)\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX\SimObjects\

Every now and then I like to check these stats out, so, just for fun, here are my current top 5...

5th place: Iris F-14A, 30.15 hours

4th place: Alphasim F-5, 30.78 hours

3rd place: Alphasim SR-71, 37.43 hours (at least I know where 17 of them came from)

2nd place: Iris PC-9A, 41.20 hours


1st place (gee what a shocker): My L-39, at 307.66 hours!

Yes, that's about thirteen days sitting in my damned jet.

I really need to fly something else one of these days. The really scary part about that last number is that 99% of my flights in it last less than two minutes. Load, takeoff, test, quit.



Saturday, December 13, 2008

I want my... never mind...

Black Shark is out... and it's about frickin time. I've been waiting... no, itching actually, for this sim to be released for well over a year now. I told myself I wouldn't get it if it was released before my L-39 was done. Yeah... that idea lasted about 45 seconds when put to the test. ;)

Was it worth the wait? Definitely!

Only installed it just this morning and have been flying around for an hour or so, but I'm already very impressed. The performance is pretty good provided you don't go too bonkers with the settings. It's definitely better across the board fps wise than FSX, though it's a bit less consistent when the detail really piles on.

The flight model though... that is just a work of art. I've never flown a helo sim that feels so much like the real thing. People always say that flying a helo is like balancing on the head of a pin, or a million other such comparisons, that it's as unstable as a flying machine can get and you always have to fight to keep it upright. That's rubbish of course, helos are quite stable due to the gyroscopic effects imparted by large amounts of balanced metal whirling above your head and their very low centre of gravity. If you can compare them to anything simple at all then a quickly spinning top on a table is the closest match. They do get unstable when you abuse their controls though, and the Black Shark, having relatively low yaw stability, definitely makes you pay for it.

Retreating blade stall, ground effect, and the vortex ring from rapid descents are all modeled and the normal manoeuvres for getting out of them in the real world work perfectly in the sim. The vortex ring in particular causes a nice little vibration through the helo.

The trickiest bit I've found so far in getting a handle on flying it is managing the trim. It has an electromechanical cyclic trim that is very much like what you'll find in any modern helicopter: Put the cyclic where you want it, hit the trim button, and that's where it stays until you change it. It basically makes whatever cyclic deflection you had when it was trimmed, into its new centrepoint. It does take quite a bit of getting used to though after FSX's total lack of helo trim, and the patched in pitch trim of FSUIPC.

I have yet to blow anything up (besides myself) but I'll make a post when I do.

One other very impressive feature, besides the (500+ page!) manual, is that they've taken a different approach with licensing/copy protection. I am firmly of the mindset that when you pay money for something then you bloody well OWN IT, end of freaking story. I don't buy into this 'leasing' crap that most software companies seem to think is perfectly fine these days. Fifty (plus) dollars for a game is not a rental agreement, it's a purchase. It's always been this way, and I couldn't care less what the fine print in the EULA says for I will *always* view it this way. You rent movies, you lease cars, and you buy software. I understand the need to protect an enormous investment, particularly now of course, but this licensing garbage has always been way across the line for me.

Anyway, as you're all probably used to, when you install your game, and enter your license crap, everything's great until your machine crashes, or you upgrade, or need to reinstall windows or whatever, at which point you're basically screwed and have to go begging to the publisher for the right to use something that you already OWN.

So in a brilliant bit of foresight (what? people upgrade their computers!?) they've actually allowed you to get your activations back when you uninstall Black Shark. About bloody time! It's still wrong, but this makes it slightly less wrong at least, a small step back towards the realm of 'sane' copy protection.

I also highly recommend having a Track-ir for this, and if you do have one make sure you update your drivers for it (latest version Oct 8th) or you're going nowhere fast. The control setup is a little wonky to figure out at first, but it's customizable in the *extreme*, which I love.

Bottom line: Its Lomac roots are visible, but it's been given an absolute ton of polish and the user interface is brilliant as well. If you've been lamenting the lack of any decent helo sims on the market as much as I have, you really should buy this. Just be prepared to be thrown in at the deep end. There's an 'arcade' mode in the sim, but no self-respecting pilot would ever touch it of course... right? ;)

It's $50 US, a 2 GB download, and took about 6 hours to get.


Monday, December 8, 2008


So I tried the L-39 out in some of the Reno air race missions for the first time yesterday, and well, let's just say I got spanked, and quite badly. The plane's top level speed of around 360 kts in standard form just isn't enough to deal with those racing P-51s.

However I am certainly not about to take *that* crap from some stupid sixty year old propeller planes.

This means that a new L-39 is going to be added to the roster of variants sometime in the next month or two:

That's "Pipsqueak" above, a pure racing L-39C that has been stripped down and heavily modified: No back seat, 15% less weight, about 25% more thrust, no tip tanks, and a ton less drag. It posted lap speeds at Reno of around 500mph.

Granted, with that kind of power and those modifications you've got enough range to maybe make it to the grocery store and back, but those arrogant old crates in their fancy "look at me" paint jobs will be in for a rude surprise.

And yes I'm aware the L-39s run in a class of their own and this sort of match doesn't take place, but as you can see I don't like to lose.

Until that version of the plane is done, those ridiculous Mustangs are going to be experiencing an unusual number of engine problems and a mysterious loss of power across the board. Strangest thing really. They should have bought jets I guess, much more reliable. ;)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Happiness is...

As Jeremy Clarkson would say... "Result."

I say: Good start! Well done. Only a few thousand to go.