• Getting Started In Scenery Design For X-Plane

    Getting Started In Scenery Design For X-Plane

    By Brian Godwin

    This article will serve as a roadmap for a series of articles detailing how to create an X-Plane scenery package from start to finish. At first blush, people think creating scenery is an arduous task. It really isn't and I will attempt to prove that out. It's also free (costing only time)...although you could spend money for more sophisticated tools. Without further ado, here we go!

    1) Preliminary Work And Tools

    2) World Editor (WED) Phase 1

    3) Modeling And Texturing

    4) WED Phase 2, Testing And Publishing

    Step 1: Preliminary Work

    In scenery design, it is important to research first, and then start building. You should strive to know as much as possible about your airport as you can. With Google and other search engines as your friend the quest for information is limited only by the proper keywords and/or secure servers. X-Plane scenery functions just like any construction project (everything is built from the ground up in progressive layers) so we will use that model.

    If I'm not familiar with the airport, I will read up Wikipedia or check to see if the airport has a dedicated web site. This will give you information on what airlines serve the field and which terminals or concourses they use. This will help you decide what type of static planes to use and where. In addition, I check the airline sites for route schedules or FlightAware.com to see exactly what type of equipment serves that field. airnav.com is also a good web site to check for airport diagrams (Google Earth doesn't typically tell you "what" a building is) and also to check out the IAPs, SIDs and STARs. The airport diagram will be invaluable when creating the ATC routing structure. Also, check for a VATSIM entity near the airport (like ZFW, ZLA, etc.) as these generally have valuable information about how the airport operates.

    So, to model or not? There are several levels of project that you can do, each with its own associated degree of difficulty. Starting from the lowest:

    1) Basic airport data. X-Plane does not contain extensive data for every airport on the planet. What it does is provide basic coordinate data for most every known runway (be it paved, grass, dirt or water). The remaining data is provided by end users in the form of custom scenery. Most regional airports already have some form of runway/taxiway/terminal area created thanks to users who have come before us. This does not mean that they cannot be improved or corrected. We won't know what kind of shape they are in until we open them in WED. Finally, the smaller airfields really get no love at all. In the absence of user submitted data a default taxiway is generated for each runway at an airport. This is done through the wonderful work of Robin Peel and his wizardry laden database at http://data.x-plane.com/index.html. As airport data only gets automatically updated with each software release, some data can get stale. Robin's site allows users to download the latest database file as they need. Your contribution will be updating the work you have done to the master so that the entire community can benefit from the new layout.

    2) Airport with library-only art. Once you have finished up the requirements from the basic data you have the option to add hangars, buildings, static airplanes and other objects that will start making it look like a real airport that you are flying into. A new function in WED is the option to include references to these objects when you submit the airport to the master database. This takes X-Plane one step closer to having more realism right out of the box. X-Plane ships with a library of "art" that it uses to populate the surrounding world. Included in the library are two types of assets: fixed shape objects and "facades". Facades are items that you can define into custom shapes to give the look of originality. If you use ONLY those library objects you can submit this work to the database. The downside is that the X-Plane art library is limited, but growing. Doing anything other than a small regional airport would start to be repetitive. If planned properly, you can submit AND move on to a more complex, realistic iteration. You could build to this point, submit, then delete the library art and move on. It is extra work but can be worth it.

    3) Airport with outside art assets. There are some common resources available that allow you to build scenery without loading up either your scenery package or users computers. As long as the users have the common assets in their Custom Scenery folder they can run any scenery package that relies on it. OpenSceneryX is by far the largest and most common. RUScenery is a lesser known (and sometimes difficult to obtain) package. In either case, if you include art from these packages and the user does not have them installed, X-Plane will crash so a prominent notice of inclusion is warranted by designers.

    4) The Works. This package typically includes most or all of the above and also includes custom models. These models can either be community contributed (search the enthusiast sites) or models that you create.

    5) In addition to all these choices WED (1.2 and forward) now includes the capability to "target" your package toward a specific version of X-Plane. As this is a new capability, I will provide more info on it later.


    1. johnmaxx's Avatar
      johnmaxx -
      Brian a very good read! Answered a few questions I've had in regards to designing airports.
    1. luisalicea's Avatar
      luisalicea -
      Thank you for this, I look forward to your next article. I got a little overzealous with what I thought would have been an easy airport and I've been needing to delete & redo when I realize I did something wrong way.
    1. LowTransition's Avatar
      LowTransition -
      Great stuff, Brian! This is right up your alley!
    1. MdMax's Avatar
      MdMax -
      Just great !
    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Thanks Brian. This will help a great many people!

      Great stuff!!
    1. DaveLTB's Avatar
      DaveLTB -
      Thanks Brian - very well written. Looking forward to the next article
    1. jrmartin's Avatar
      jrmartin -
      When I do custom design such as Albert Whitted the only way I could get building demensions was from Google earth even though Dan sent me super photos of each building. It was so amazing when I did get to visit the airport to see it in person just as we had designed it for FSX/FS9. I miss my real flying days but sure enjoy flight simming. - jimmy R martin
    1. briangodwin's Avatar
      briangodwin -
      Quote Originally Posted by jrmartin View Post
      When I do custom design such as Albert Whitted the only way I could get building demensions was from Google earth even though Dan sent me super photos of each building. It was so amazing when I did get to visit the airport to see it in person just as we had designed it for FSX/FS9. I miss my real flying days but sure enjoy flight simming. - jimmy R martin
      Jimmy, that is exactly what I do as well.
    1. wycliffe's Avatar
      wycliffe -
      In all respects Google is your friend, street view can be helpful depending on whether or not Google have been anywhere near your chosen airport.
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