I had a little fun in DCS World today. This game / sim is incredible in Virtual Reality.
I’ve been hoping to increase the quality of the sky colors and clouds in X-Plane 11. While I have used xEnviro for some time and have liked it very much, I don’t think it always looks great in VR (especially in how it handles haze). I had downloaded a number of free cloud and sky enhancements over the past few days, but none of them looked right (or even much like what I saw in the screen shots online). Today I realized that part of the problem was that I was running the wrong version of FlyWithLua — I need the “complete edition” if I (or other scripts I install) are going to modify art datarefs (data refs are the variables X-Plane uses to run its world). Things immediately got better once I had the correct version installed, but I also continued down the path of playing with different cloud and shadow datarefs in search of a mix that suits my eye.
I’m getting close and have attached screen captures below of various cloud decks. These use the FSEnhancer sky colors (free) and set 2 or 3 (I can’t recall which) of the Unique Clouds Variety Pack (also free). I’ve modified quite a few datarefs in getting this look (and they load in via a little LUA script I’ve written), and in addition to the clouds looking good I am particularly happy with the look of the cloud shadows — something that I think the default X-Plane release handles quite poorly. Things look good in VR as well, with one exception: the cloud shadows rotate when you move your head. I’ll work on figuring that out next, and once I have it nailed I’ll post the LUA code here.
A few posts back I reviewed the awesome GNS 530 unit from RealSimGear. It’s a great piece of gear, one that I find extremely true to life (especially when running the RealityXP GNS 530), and one that I was very happy to not have to build myself. I also did not have to pay for it as it was a courtesy unit sent to me for review, but in candor I would pay for it if I did not have the good fortune to have one.
Along the way the good folks at SimVim have sent me a note to make mention of the fact that the unit uses their Arduino board and firmwear, and a user of this GNS 530 also downloads their ArdSimX plugin for use with X-Plane. I just wanted to mention that here in the interest of proper credit being placed where it’s due. This is also all an excellent example of how the different parts of our simulation community work together to create amazing things for us to use in our hobby or real-world practice.
A while back I was flying a Piper Saratoga from place to place in X-Plane. I gave that up some time ago, but recently have started a similar process in the Alabeo Mooney Ovation. Starting in Half Moon Bay the aircraft is now in Goodland, Kansas, and in each flight I have flown under real-world weather conditions. I was thinking of flying it all the way to the east coast of the US, and then perhaps on to Europe, but I really do prefer being in the Pilot Edge service area so I can practice my ATC skills. Goodland is near the far eastern edge of the PE map, so I’ll probably head south next.
Here’s the current map. I’ve also been live streaming most of these flights on YouTube, and you can find them here. It’s been an interesting experience, especially with me trying to follow real-world procedures and decision making throughout. I also found an Ovation operating handbook online, so I’ve also been following its procedures for managing a complex aircraft. That, too, has been very worthwhile (and thanks to the YouTube viewers who have helped me learn the proper way to lean the mixture for takeoff during the run-up).
… since my last post, so here is a brief update.
All is well. Just busy. Real-world instruction is coming to its final phases. I’m scheduled for my second solo cross-country this Thursday, and have two night flights set for next week. If the weather cooperates this will fulfill all remaining requirements for my check ride. So let’s hope for clear skies and reasonable winds. If things go that way, I’ll probably do two check ride prep flights and if I’m lucky schedule my check ride before the end of May. Keep your fingers crossed!
Sim time has been spent trying to fly on the PilotEdge network and follow real-world procedures, trying to keep things as realistic as possible with the check ride on the horizon. I’ve also been preferring VR to the physical cockpit as it’s just a more realistic experience for me. In doing so I’ve been flying the Mooney Ovation from point to point using real-world weather, starting in Half Moon Bay and making my way to Wendover, NV so far. Here’s a stream of the latest flight. I think I’ll go on to Salt Lake City from there and you are always welcome to join in.
Went up today to knock the rust off before tomorrow’s scheduled XC solo. Today was my first solo hop in Tampa. It was intense – big boy airspace, traffic, and the door popped open on climb-out prompting some unintended pattern work – but it felt good to be in the airplane alone again. Weather permitting tomorrow it’s off to Ft. Meyers Page and Arcadia.
I’ve done some troubleshooting in the sim and all seems to be working well, so we’re going to take another shot at practicing the real-world solo cross country that I’m set to fly next week. The flight is KSPG – KFMY – X06 – KSPG. If you would like to come along, there are two ways to do so:
For route planning, see the route I’ve planned on SkyVector here. Hope to see you then.
Today I’ll be simulating my real-world solo cross-country, which is scheduled for this Monday. I’ve decided to stream the flight, and if you want to ride along you may do so here. I should be streaming around 11:45 AM ET today.
UPDATE: Boy was this a pain trying to get off the ground. First there were USB problems on PC boot. Then the audio wasn’t working in X-Plane. Then the sim crashed. In the real world I have a “three strikes and you’re out” rule for any flight — three small problems, taken together, is the Universe telling you not to go flying. So we ditched the flight and I instead did Q&A with the viewers for a while, which I enjoyed. I will try to stream this flight again tomorrow morning US Eastern time.
Recently while driving I’ve been listening to and enjoying the Flightsim Community Podcast, which is produced by a host of simulation enthusiasts under this mission:
The Flightsim Community Podcast is a collaboration between four friends with years of real world aviation and flight simulation experience. The show primarily consist of real world aviation and flight simulation discussion, but other extremely important topics such as BBQ will also be occasionally be discussed. Episodes range from discussions on a particular airplane to interviews with various developers within the industry. We hope that you will gain some additional knowledge from our podcast, but most importantly have a good time and get a good laugh.
They have 10 episodes up so far, and the interviews with Keith Smith are particularly interesting. Check it out via the link above or you podcast app of choice. I hope they stick with it as it’s well worth listening to.