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September 17th 2010 09:39 am
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Diary of a Test Pilot (Part 2)
As I've said in my first blog, one of the main reasons for this upgrade is to make F-Sim fully useable on the iPad. The simplest way would be scale everything up, but that would be a waste of a nice screen. So, the menus were overhauled and redesigned to make the best of the extra space available on the iPad.

If you ask me, it looks very clean, clear and most importantly, simple to use. There might be the odd minor tweak here and there, but, I think nothing needs to be changed.

With previous versions, the HUD has been a basic overlay on the screen. Now that the cockpit is in 3D, the HUD has to look and behave like the real HUD. This has needed a bit of research on the dimensions of the HUD and a lot of understanding of HUD technology and optical physics. The Orbiter's HUD utilizes two reflecting glass plates, which the HUD symbols are project across both plates.

The real HUD has the symbology projected at near infinite distance. This is very useful, as it gives perception that the runway overlay appears on the runway. Move your head up or down, side to side, and the symbology stays in relation to the runway. Very useful when the turbulence is turned up.

Other improvements on the HUD include CRT flicker, lens glare and fade (green circles on the glass). These effects can be turned off.

Until now, the landing score only takes into account the actual touchdown of the Orbiter. In the next version it will include how accurate you have flown in the HAC, final approach, all the way to wheel stop.

Another addition to the scoring system is a ‘Statistics' menu. This will show how many Perfect, Good, Safe and ‘less than safe landings' users have performed.

With the new scoring system, new scoreboards for Final and Full Approach are going to be implemented in Open Feint, as the scoring is completely different, as compared to version 1.4. Additionally, there are new scoreboards to show how many consecutive perfect, good and safe landings.

External 3D. a sneak peek into the future...
Whilst testing the next version, the version after this upcoming release is already being worked on. As you might of guessed, the next major enhancement will be focused on external views, which means a 3D model of the Orbiter is required…

This will be one of the biggest technical challenges, creating a complete new section of code that will allow users to view the Orbiter from outside and to make for some impressive screen shots.

The 3D model above is made up of triangles (polygons), comprising of many different shapes and sizes. Since the iPhone and iPad have limited 3D graphical capability, we don't how many polygons we can use. The Orbiter above is made up of 6000 polygons, and this is only an early development version, which still needs to be optimized for iPhone / iPad use. Too many Polygons and the devices can't cope and will stutter, too few polygons and the Orbiter will not look realistic. It's basically a balancing act of quality and performance. Ideally we're aiming for 30 frames per second (fps), anything higher is a bonus.

Once the 3D model is complete, we'll test it in a basic display mode. If it slows down, stutters or crashes the iPhone / iPad, then we'll reduce the polygons, recompile with the updated 3D model and start the testing cycle again. However, if it performs well, with a modest amount of polygons, we can add detail.

All this is early development work and we have simply no idea what can be achieved or what the final outcome will be. However, if you have downloaded “Epic Citadel” for the iPad / iPhone, you'll know how much detail these devices can handle. So we remain very hopeful that a detailed 3D model of the Orbiter will be available.


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©2010 Sascha Ledinsky
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