Sunday, December 6, 2009

A bit off topic...

Just a song I'm smitten with lately. It was featured very briefly in a recent Top Gear episode (during the Lamborghini vs Airship segment), and it's been stuck in my head ever since. I love the playful simplicity of it, and her multitasking skills are impressive.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Cobwebs and Tumbleweeds...

Been a hell of a long time since I posted here it seems, but I have an excuse in the form of an all-consuming project which is called "supporting the L-39". :)

Life the past few months has been quite an education, I'll say that much. Between bug solving, and learning what it is that simmers like and don't like about the Albatros, and fixing and improving it in two full updates, I've been pretty damned busy. It's been fun though. Aside from the CTD bugs in the first week, thankfully quickly sorted, I think the launch went as smoothly as could be expected. Somewhere in the middle of all that I went to Ireland, which was great, but I don't remember much of it, my head is so full of code these days. It was very green, that much I do remember. Oh and everyone drives like maniacs, loved that part.

Today I sent out what I think will be the final update for the 'tros, v1.3, which sort of puts the lid on the whole thing and wraps it up in nice shiny paper. It includes the last of the major user requested features, namely RXP GPS compatibility, and adds some new paints (those are fun to make!) and other stuff.

So that leaves me really, starting tomorrow, with a whole lot of nothing to do! Well, not really. I have a lot to do actually, but at the moment it mostly involves some thick textbooks and learning little things like C++ and Simconnect. Yes, there will be a second plane, at least one is fully planned. What will it be? Not sure I'm ready to make it fully public yet, still have a lot to figure out first, but it has two engines, one seat, it's not American, and it's FAST. :) I got to sit in one on my vacation, and it's quite simply a badass machine, one that demands respect even standing next to it.

I must say that despite the odd bug and hiccup I feel quite gratified to see that my entirely stubborn and inflexible philosophy on aircraft design did actually pan out in the end, specifically that the majority of users are happy with how I built this thing. Framerate performance does matter most and I feel that there's really no excuse for not making a plane shared cockpit compatible (if it has two seats mind you!) because it's just not that hard to do, compared to the other aspects of coding anyway. It just requires thinking in terms of bandwidth consumption a bit more when it comes to variables and how often they are updated. It's actually kind of an enjoyable logic problem sometimes, and the endeavour to maintain shared cockpit functionality comes complete with some mighty humourous results when you get it wrong!

I did ultimately have to eat a bit of humble pie though when I realized that draw calls do actually matter, just not for the reason everyone thinks. It turns out that excessive numbers of them can, even when efficiently structured, stall the PCI-E bus on heavily overclocked systems. Not good! Luckily I've been able to mostly mitigate that problem in the L-39 updates, and know how to avoid that issue entirely for the next project.

Additionally it's also been a ton of fun getting to know some of my customers by flying with them in multiplayer, something I suspect a lot of devs don't do often. They've given me some great insights into their perspective as end users, things I will be keeping in mind for the next project for sure. Our little (ok, long...) celebratory flight from Vancouver to Vodochody is nearly at an end, and it's been a blast to fly along with so many others in L-39s. I get an indescribable satisfaction from each one of those flights, using the results of a year and a half of hard work in exactly the way it was intended to be used. Hopefully there will be more in the months to come.

Anyway, I'm honestly not sure what purpose this blog will serve going into the future from here. I came to the realization on August 3rd, the moment that the L-39 went on sale actually, that I no longer have the right to publicly say whatever I please about the flight simulator industry and those who partake in it. I gave up that right willingly though, something a few other rather vocal members of this community might want to try doing, but really, after experiencing firsthand what it actually takes to see an FSX plane through to completion I have the utmost respect for any developer that chooses to deal with all the ups and down and pitfalls of this career! Some days I'm surprised anyone bothers, but I'm glad they do. :)

So since I have the right to keep my mouth shut I'll mostly be keeping my opinions to myself from here on out... mostly. ;)

Lotus is now staring at a blank screen once again, for the first time in a year and a half. Whew... here we go again!



Sunday, August 23, 2009

I am the Stig?...

According to the first line of what follows... apparently I am, haha.

Avsim just released their review of the L-39, and have awarded the plane their Gold Star of Excellence, woot!

Many thanks to Tom Dilbeck for the excellent writeup. :)

You can read it here:


Sunday, August 9, 2009

What... a... week.

A bit of a different blog post this time, since I have nothing new to show exactly, but much to talk about, hehe. This one is more of a diary about my first week as a payware developer I guess.

The L-39 has been received with much fanfare, certainly much more than I expected. Some of the forum comments and emails I've gotten have been humbling to say the least. I've had comments from people that have been utterly awe inspiring, to the point that I'm printing them out and making a little book of them, for times in the future when I might feel a bit flat or down. The fountain of beautiful repaints coming out is amazing too, and also a bit depressing! I thought I was a pretty decent painter... umm... no! :) But I'm cool with that. It's amazing to see what people have done with the paint kit. Good thing I don't have to change any UV coordinates! I'd get lynched at this point if I did.

The support questions have been INSANE. I really had no idea some of the things that could go wrong with a plane that's been in a constant state of testing for months. Between a couple of people not being able to click anything in the cockpit at all (thankfully sorted with a reinstall of SP2 or Accel) to the strangest crashes in multiplayer which I have NEVER seen before, nor can reproduce yet! It's been an adventure, and I suspect it will be for weeks to come.

Then of course there's the piracy. The rampant, unbelievable, and incredibly hurtful piracy. How people think they are entitled to 15 months of my life, and I do mean MY LIFE (I have done nothing else but work on the L-39) I have no idea.

At some point today I remembered to eat something, probably only because the waitress put butter chicken directly in front of me, a wonderful celebratory dinner out with my friend Eric and my mother. I think I've had perhaps 5 meals total since Monday, and maybe 25 hours of sleep, it has been a busy week.

To the pirates, if you read this or even care, you are doing yourself a great disservice, though you're simply too small to see it coming sadly. If you paid any attention to the ORBX site yesterday, that is where we're going unless you get honest and quick. Really. I'm not kidding. I hope pirates like their ill gotten goods though, and are comfortable with their karmic debt, because it will come back to them. It always does.

To my honest customers though, thank you so much for taking the time to send me the most wonderful comments, something you certainly didn't need to do. I can't tell you how much that support and enthusiasm means to me after such an incredible effort.

And that's about all there is to report. Back to the forum dance.

So far this is one hell of an experience!


Monday, August 3, 2009

4... 3... 2... 1...

The Albatros... is... OUT!

This feels like a dream... fifteen months of incredible effort has come to an end. This is the single hardest and most satisfying thing I have ever done. Thanks for all your kind comments and support this past year, and I hope you like the results!

Have a look at the features page items... you're in for some interesting surprises! ;)

You can download the manual before purchase, from the media/extras page.

A seriously huge thanks to Pebble for all the beautiful manual work and Eric Smith for creating one hell of a website.

Also, please note that I will not be providing any product support here on this blog. You're welcome to comment here of course but if you have any questions or issues please ask them only on the LotusSim forums so that I can retain what little sanity I have left!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

10... 9... 8...

She's oh so very very close to done. We could be looking at release in less than a week. I'm now performing final tests on all of the L-39s and their installer, and finalizing the vendor deals. Price and purchase locations will be given on release day, and I'm looking forward to revealing her little secrets at last. :)

Stay tuned, starting in about 4 or 5 days from now anyway. ;)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


This is something I've been looking forward to doing for many months. If anyone ever thought for even a moment that I didn't care about realism... well...

Click the picture to see the video.

Turbulence not included. (may take a min to buffer)

If you want to see a higher res WMV version click here


Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Milestone...

Well I guess it's time to post something kinda major here... and that is that the L-39 itself is now complete! Woot. All versions finished, all bugs accounted for and squashed. Man I'm tired!

However, before anyone gets excited or anything, I still have a TON of work to do on all the stuff that has to go with the plane, such as the manual, developer website, paint kit, promo video, and some tutorial videos. In a few weeks I will hopefully be able to let you know at least where it will be available for purchase from (not finalized as of yet). Don't ask me for a release date though please because I simply can't give you one, nor can I give you a price, that is still under consideration. I don't know yet how long the items above are going to take but I will post again when the major ones are complete and sorted.

Anyway, here's the final roster of what will be included in the package:

- 9 Full featured Dual Cockpit aircraft (100% shared cockpit compatible). 5 of them are military models, 4 are civilian registered.

- 3 Single Cockpit versions of the aircraft above. They have the same features minus the rear cockpit. Two are military, one civilian. The single seaters knock about 28% of the render load off the VC, so probably better for marginal systems or big multiplayer hops.

- 1 Reno Racing model (Pipsqueak), single seat only, again full featured, and with mad performance compared to a stock L-39.

- 1 Special multiplayer formation team model (in Vjazma Rus Team colours). This one is completely stripped down for pure framerate performance. It has very little extra fun stuff in it, and does not have bump maps, but its external model will likely outperform the default Extra-300 in multiplayer. That means you can get a rather enormous pile of them on screen before your fps starts to tank.

- 1 very complete and hopefully entertaining manual.

The Breitling Team paints will not be included in the package I'm sorry to say, simply because I can't get an answer out of them on permission at all. Five emails and three phone calls later without a response and I officially give up. :) It's airshow season now and they're probably too busy actually flying their L-39s to care, haha. All power to them I guess. I doubt I'd have time for a virtual L-39 if I had access to seven real ones. ;)

Therefore I will make both Breitling paints available for free download, probably on the day of the L-39's release.

The manual will be available for download prior to a purchase if you want to read it, and the paintkit will be available for download as well. The paint kit is not included in the package itself in order to save bandwidth. The L-39 download will be approximately 200 mb in size, around 450 mb installed. Not sure yet on the size of the paint kit, but it will include at least 3 complete paints to use as guides, so it won't be small, that much is certain.

There will be a small manual included with the paint kit as well to guide potential repainters, and I'm not kidding when I say it *needs* to be read first before grabbing your paint brush. Everything in this plane is built for performance first, which means there are some non-standard repainting considerations. It's not a plane for beginners, put it that way. :) I must also mention that the paint kit makes extensive use of Photoshop specific features such as layer styles, and layer groups for organization, which means Photoshop is absolutely required to effectively repaint the plane. GIMP is simply not up to the task.

Anyway, that's all the news, back to the trenches!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Virtual Cockpit done like dinner...

That's one big piece of the L-39 puzzle wrapped, actually the biggest. There are still a few little tweaks left to do here and there, but this is the final look of the pit. This is a military spec cockpit obviously. The civilian and formation team L-39s in the package will not have the gunsight, and they have a few minor colour changes here and there, but are otherwise the same.

Night shots will be shown just prior to release, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Anyway, this is going to be a seriously crazy month as I wrap up the final bits here, so further posts will be erratic at best. ;)

Also, sorry about the image load times but jpeg compression murders cockpit pictures. Hope you like it. :)

Click to enlarge as usual. Just for fun there's a comparison shot from the very first VC export at the bottom. ;)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Onwards and...

Now that most of the bugs are fixed (and which are boring to talk about) I figured I'd give a preview of how the second pass on the cockpit is coming along.

Coming up with a really good and consistent lighting solution was a major headache and required about a week of extremely annoying trial and error alone, inducing a lot of uncontrolled cursing and ranting (sorry Peb, hehe), but the results realism wise so far are well worth the effort. Keep in mind this is still work in progress and the improvements here are only about half complete, just the panels, seat, and controls really. The upper frames still need much love, everything else needs a little tweaking still, and this is also pre-weathering, but it'll give you a hint as to the final look of the pit.


Friday, May 15, 2009


This screenshot by TopDollar is the best I've seen of the plane(s) so far and puts my roster shot below to shame. It's both very strange and very inspiring to see such artwork done by another using my creation. :) My new desktop. Thanks TopDollar.

(click to enlarge)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Comms open... and other stuff.

Well, time for another update. First off, I'm opening up this blog to comments again, but, I'm asking anyone who reads it now:

Please do not give me any reason to close them again.

I really don't need any grief, I certainly don't have time for it, and if I see any comments that are even remotely insulting to myself or anyone else I will delete them immediately. If you feel the need to rant on me because you think the plane is taking too long, well, simply go and find something else to do because it just doesn't help, in fact quite the opposite, it's very demoralizing. C'est la vie.

If we can keep things polite and civil I am happy to keep correspondence going here, but if not then I will probably shut them down again, for good.

Anyway, on to better things.

I wasn't originally going to do this paint below, mostly because I'm an anarchist and not particularly fond of 'corporate' anything, but I've put that aside since my respect for this team has grown a lot in recent months. I also don't want to be a stick in the mud in the face of umpteen requests for this scheme, and nor would I wish it on any potential repainter, haha. One of the downsides of my mission to keep performance high on the airplane is that the UV coordinates are designed for speed and the lowest number of texture vertices possible, rather than ease of repainting. Generally the airplane is fairly easy to paint, but lining up the Breitling logo on the bottom of the plane would be a complete bloody nightmare without having the original scene files. Actually it was hard enough with them and I'd probably get real hate mail from the first person that tried to do this paint, so I figured I'd save them the bother. ;)

I'm trying to secure permission from the team to include their schemes in my release package, but if they say no then I'll probably just release them as freeware around the time the plane goes on sale. One way or the other I think they will be available for use. Both the 2008 and 2009 paint jobs are represented. The 2009 is the yellow tailed one.

As for the status of the plane, she's getting close. The paints are done, the code is now very solid, with few remaining bugs and some new fun features added, and all that remains really is a good second pass on the cockpit textures, some optimizations, and the writing of the manual, plus of course sorting out distribution. While that still represents a ton of work, enough that I delayed a trip I had planned in June until October, it feels really good to see the to-do list getting smaller every day rather than bigger.

In other news, if you haven't heard, Avsim sadly had their servers trashed by a hacker. There are few crimes I hate more than senseless vandalism and the turd responsible should simply be killed in my opinion. It's good to see that they're going to come back though, however long that takes. I wish them the best of luck.

They have a temporary forum up and I'm sure donations are welcome now more than ever. There's been a lot of support shown for them, even from competitor sites, which is great to see.

Avsim's Temporary Forum

By the way, here's a truly excellent film of the Breitling Jet Team in action shot by the best aviation filmmaker out there, Lionel Charlet.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Roster...

Well, finally finished the last planned paint scheme today, which brings the total up to 10, an acceptable number to ship with in my opinion. Man that was a lot of work.

In my picassa gallery I always end up showing just one or two of them in screenshots from testing, and so just for fun here's the entire family posing together. There may be one or two more paints on the way, but this is the guaranteed lineup for the package.

Click to enlarge as usual. :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bonne Anniversaire Albatros...

I realized this morning that the L-39 project is officially one year old as of today... drew the first polygon on April 8th last year. Wild. Happily the end is clearly in sight and not far off now. :)

She's come a long long way... 150,000+ polygons built, 100+ textures painted, 300+ parts animated, 7000+ lines of code written, 454.6 hours of testing flown, and at *least* 900 cups of coffee consumed. What a year.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mustangs for breakfast...

... with salsa.

Pipsqueak has finally joined the roster, a seriously fun variant to build (over the course of 28 hours without sleep haha) and she's one fast machine... the fastest L-39 in the world actually. Oh did your archaic Victorian era steam engine fail while trying to catch me? Aww... poor little P-51. So sad. ;)



Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

External v3.0 ...

I promise I won't be all long winded with this post, hehe. The short version is that all of the external model upgrades (minus rebuilt pilots) are now complete. So here are some pics for your enjoyment. She's come a hell of a long way...



Sunday, March 1, 2009

Upgrades aplenty...

Well for those interested I figured I'd give a little L-39 status update.

The past few weeks have been spent doing a complete rework of the external model and all of its 27 textures, a very big job, one which I'm about 2/3 of the way through. The shape is now a *lot* more accurate, with a completely rebuilt external model cockpit, cleaned up mapping, and a ton of performance optimizations. It's very slow work but the results are well worth it so far.

Performance of the already very lean external model is now up by about 25%, which puts it somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the performance hit of the quite efficient Acceleration F-18 in multiplayer. I've also done some tests with the special formation team model, a 'no frills' L-39 which lacks bump and specular mapping, but which absolutely blows the doors off anything out there performance wise. The final count on that model came in at around 20,000 texture vertices, and that means it's even less of a rendering hit than the default Extra-300... aka it's *FAST*. On a really good system you should be able to get at least 10 of those Albatroses on screen before noticing any kind of real performance hit. If you're into large online formation team flying then I hope that extra effort will be a big help to you. That external model will be paired with a similarly spartan single seat VC.

In other news I'm still waiting for my sounds to arrive but what I've heard from TSS so far is pretty stellar I have to say. Permission to recreate Pipsqueak (the reno racer L-39 I mentioned several posts back) has been obtained, so that's going to be a very fun addition to the lineup soon, and one that I'm very much looking forward to building. It's fully 100 knots faster than a stock Albatros and boasts double the climb rate as well as faster roll rates. Should be a good laugh for racing or very short cross country trips, and, performance aside, its crazy ass paint job and winglets are worth it alone. ;)

Almost forgot, in addition to all that, the real L-39 pilot testing the plane for me has given me a solid thumbs up on the flight model. Aside from some small compromises necessary to work around FSX's essentially broken jet engine model, the plane flies just as an Albatros should and no major changes are needed. Feels good to put that part to bed.

Oh, and in case you're wondering why I felt I needed to redo the external model at all, well, a picture will answer that question. The right wing is new, the left wing is the old style. ;)

And of course external upgrades have benefits in the VC too...

Bottom line... I'm a perfectionist. I want this thing to be as good as I can possibly make it.

After all of the external upgrades are finished then it will be merged into the VC model and a second pass of improvements will be done on that as well. Now that all of the cockpit parts are in and textured I can talk a little about performance there as well. If you have RealAir's excellent Spitfire for FSX (if you don't then you need to get it!) it's probably the closest match VC performance wise. The L-39's cockpit has fewer polygons and texture vertices but it does use a lot more texture space and draw calls, so it generally evens out in the end. Whatever performance you get with the Spitfire is probably around what you can expect from the L-39's full featured two seat pit. The L-39's VC texture load times are definitely longer on view changes but that's a fair trade for a smooth performing aircraft with two fully functional and detailed cockpits in my opinion. The single seat version of the L-39 VC is roughly 25% more efficient than the two seater though.

Like many recent addons, almost everything is built into the VC model itself and there are no 2D gauges apart from the GPS, so the L-39 is very much the opposite of traditional addon aircraft when it comes to performance demands and is pretty much videocard limited rather than CPU limited. The more powerful your videocard is the better your performance will be. People always seem to assume that FSX is strictly CPU limited but this isn't actually the case. It depends entirely on how content is built for it and I've gone to rather stupid lengths to keep the plane's render load on the videocard where it belongs, and off the CPU. As always top end Nvidia cards with 512+ mb of video memory yield the best results, though we're seeing surprisingly good performance even with a lower end 256 meg ATI card on a stock 2.4 ghz Q6600, 25-30 fps in most situations, even in multiplayer, which is very encouraging. The best part of an all-3D gauged aircraft like this though is that it's virtually 100% stutter free. Be gone archaic 2D gauges! :)

(I will no doubt eat those last few words one day when I decide to do an aircraft with a digital MFD based pit ;))

Anyway, again my apologies for disabling comments, but I just don't have time to deal with unreasonable people these days. I'll re-enable them after the L-39 is done, at the latest, and I'm looking forward to reopening dialogue with you all, but in the future I will probably be forced to delete comments that are outright rude or disrespectful to myself or anyone else.

Ok, that 'little' update kind of turned out to be long, doh. Hehe.

And with that, back to work...



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Enough is enough.

My sincere apologies to everyone that visits my blog but I'm disabling comments until further notice, possibly until the L-39 is finished. I simply don't have the time or energy to put up with any more abuse and insults from certain posters. I believe in free speech and so I refuse to delete comments but I'm truly fed up with the bile being thrown at me lately in my own 'house'. To everyone that's been very cool and left some great comments and questions, thank you very very much, I *really* appreciate your support.

If you want to get in touch with me or have a question etc then please contact me through my youtube email.

I will still post updates on the plane whenever I can, but for now my blog will be a passive medium only I'm afraid.

Thanks for your understanding. I'm sorry it had to come to this.

Happy flying.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Back seat drivers...

Yup, you can be one. Here's a shot of the rear cockpit so far.

Click to enlarge as usual.

In case you're wondering about the orange panel on the centre console its technical name is the "Trainee Instrument Fault Simulator Panel", but a better description I think would be "Panel of Misery". ;)

The switches and levers on it let a rear seat instructor fail just about every single instrument in the front cockpit, in several combinations, including all electrical power, while everything in the rear pit continues to work normally. It's fantastic for partial panel or IFR training in Shared Cockpit. Most of the instruments in the L-39 are electrically driven and if you flip every failure switch at the same time then the only remaining reliable instruments in the front are, and I kid you not, the fuel quantity indicator and the slip ball. That's it. :)

Flip all those on someone at night or in cloud and you're going to be in for a lot of verbal abuse.

I should also mention that despite not having a huge 'step up' for the rear cockpit, visibility from the back seat of the L-39 is really good, and on a standard three degree approach you can easily maintain sight of the runway threshold and centreline until the very end of the flare.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Office...

I guess it's time for you to see it. :)

I still have a about a thousand tweaks to do on it plus a fair bit of scuffing and weathering and have to add the canopy glass and such, but it's getting close, the front cockpit at least. The rear still needs a lot of work.

Most of what you see works and pretty much anything that could be animated does actually move. I'm a track-ir snob of course but I'm not cruel, so those without one can hide or show the control sticks in either cockpit independently by clicking on the leather boots at their bases. It makes things a little easier for IFR flying sometimes, even if you have a track-ir actually.

Anyway, enjoy. I myself am pulling the fuel cutoff handle and taking a day or two off now. I've been running at full burner since christmas and I'm utterly beat. ;)


(click to enlarge, it's big)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Time to make some noise...

...and blow some piping hot sprite based jet exhaust in Microsoft's face.

Francois Dumas, a longtime addon developer, has started a facebook group called "100,000 Microsoft Flight Simulator Fans" in an effort to show the total fucking idiots at MS just how many of us there are out there that love this sim.

Anyone with a Facebook account can join, it's an open group.

700 people have joined in the last 36 hours, and the list reads like a who's who of the FS community. Quite impressive. :) Peb and I joined tonight.

Here's the link if you want to as well:

It may all be for naught but it's something anyway. The other rather tempting option I guess is to drive to Seattle and punch Ballmer's smug face in.

It *is* only 160 kms away for me.... hmmmmmm. ;)

And yes, my shock has now been replaced with something akin to mild rage, hehe.


(wow, 27 joined in the time it took me to write this)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Did not see this coming...

If you read this blog then you've no doubt heard, but if not, it looks like ACES just got decimated by MS's big layoff.

What this means for FS11, who knows? I feel really bad for the people that worked there.

Here's the article.

Article Link

Lots of speculation on the usual forums, and real facts are pretty thin, but according to Phil Taylor it was pretty bad.

I'm trying hard to look at the possible silver lining, but in the mean time I think a toast is in order to the boys and girls of ACES.

I wish you guys the best of luck.

Oh and MS... next time... cut the goddamned VISTA team, or hang them from the nearest Douglas Fir, whichever is easier.



Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Just to be clear...

I kept forgetting to post this image from a few weeks back. Did I mention that the plane has backup systems? ;)

The L-39's development would have driven me truly insane long ago without such little moments of insomnia induced stupidity... and there have happily been quite a few along the way, the best of which will be included at the very end of the plane's manual. ;)

And speaking of the L-39's manual, Pebble has very kindly taken on the job of designing it (a huge load off my shoulders), and it's already the most beautiful and stylish thing I've ever seen for a flight sim plane. I am *uber* impressed. There will be a few good laughs in there as well for those who take the time to read it.

And those who don't? Well, they'll be spending more time crashing the Albatros than flying it I think, hehe.