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Help needed - market research for FG

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Re: Help needed - market research for FG

Postby Tomaskom » Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:17 pm

I'd like to present you my experience with Flightgear (on Linux) early after installation.

Long story short, a haven't been gaming for quite some time (counted in years), when I came across an article on Czech linux-oriented portal "root.cz", being a review of FG. I decided to give it a try, thinking of it in terms of relaxing evenings after some hard studying. From today's perspective, that's exactly what FG offers me :).

Installation was really straightforward; using the repos in latest openSUSE, FG 2.8 was few clicks away. While I installed a launcher too (two of them actually), It took me some time to realize that I need to use a launcher, but I'll come to that later. When starting it for first few times, I just didn't use it, resulting in the defaults.
At first startup, I noticed the "Need help? use help->tutorials" message, and because I had no idea how to start up the plane (it would be just plain try and fail, than try something else), I did just that and started some basic tutorials. I wouldn't say going through the tutorials was frustrating, but they were quite boring and I was eager to get in the air as soon as possible. I managed to do that using the "engine failure" tutorial, and managed to get the basics of the handling and landed quite well at the same time (given the circumstances, being it my first landing) :D.

Anyway, I was flying around KSFO for a day or two, till I found out about about the launchers. From now on, I used mainly Citation X for flying around, soon discovering the MP, which is in my eyes the one most important feature. There are always some people around KSFO, so that was sufficient for some time.
Back to the launchers, I prefer using the "FGx" launcher - it just seems more quickly usable to me (eg. the map showing chosen position).
But I wanted to fly over Europe too... The wiki is very nicely done when it comes to installing the scenery and more planes (having enough disk space, I installed whole world and all planes on FG site). About the planes, I agree there is a need to better distinguish poorly done planes (especially when it comes to unusable FDM) from the good and excellent ones. There are some true gems, as well as aircraft I wasn't able to keep in the air even for 30s due to obviously malfunctioning FDM.
Here I must stress usefulness of the Autostart feature, present in most aircraft not running at startup. It keeps frustration away from those who just want to enjoy the flight :).
(Please note that I actually agree with aircraft being shut down at startup, as long as autostart is present, or the starting procedure is trivially doable by just trying what you see in the cockpit.)

I discovered however, that there can be some problems on Linux about the planes (eg. some versions of the L39 Albatros undergoing several improvements lately). The problems can be caused by Linux being case sensitive about file paths (Windows is not), and I suspect, more models could suffer from some developers not knowing that. It's easy to fix if you know about the problem, but it would better be done on the developer side, as you never know if the smoke is just not implemented or missing due to this. Not to mention how lengthy it would be to go through more aircraft...
I also vote for hosting a non-GPL hangar on the FG site, and tighter coordination with the aircraft developers (I think they should be asked to actively propose their models to the hangar once it is created, of course there could be link to their site/hangar). It would help nice models to be more easily found, an more people could enjoy them. And that's why people spend time creating them, right? 8)

A little downside is how the FGcom is done as a standalone program just cooperating with FG itself. It took me some fiddling with the settings for about two hours to get it working, but again installation was simply done from repos (FGcom and than FGcomGui as well).

When it comes to eye candy, as a user of Intel HD graphics, I cant allow much, but I have to state that the weather and clouds (especially with light scattering; Rembrandt has no chance at this HW) is just awesome, and in my eyes the best visual part of the FG at all.
Most likely because of the Intel graphics, I suffered for a long time from a problem with aircraft models (and some ground textures too) being black or missing some parts (see my post in an older thread complaining about similar problem). I solved it by adding a command line option turning off texture compression.
One of the downsides that result in bad first time impression is a poor scenery (the basic one, not custom). On many places, the quality is too damn low. But AFAIK this is going to be improved, and the current state is anyway reasonable when it comes to HW resources.

To sum up my feelings about FG, it's a great project with high potential for the future improvements. It's nice to see a competitive open alternative to commercial products, which is in many areas superior :wink:.
Keep the good work up and thanks to all those who participate!
"There are no problems in the air. The only problem is hitting the ground"

Get my L-159 ALCA from the FGUK hangar. If you crash it, things gonna go boom!
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Re: Help needed - market research for FG

Postby Thorsten » Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:15 am

I also vote for hosting a non-GPL hangar on the FG site, and tighter coordination with the aircraft developers (I think they should be asked to actively propose their models to the hangar once it is created, of course there could be link to their site/hangar). It would help nice models to be more easily found, an more people could enjoy them. And that's why people spend time creating them, right?


Well, the FG project is GPL, and those of us who don't work on easily separable contributions like aircraft but write the infastructure don't have a choice to use a different license (for instance the skydome you admire is not a stand-alone feature, the required framework touches about 30 different files used also by other effects all over the place... this can't be offered as Creative Commons ). Aircraft developers get the choice if they want to contribute to the project (and publish GPL) or if they want to retain some rights (and publish other), but if they choose not to publish as part of the project, they don't get to use all the project infrastructure for distributing or advertizing - which seems fair to me.

but I have to state that the weather and clouds (especially with light scattering; Rembrandt has no chance at this HW) is just awesome, and in my eyes the best visual part of the FG at all.


Thanks.

On many places, the quality is too damn low. But AFAIK this is going to be improved, and the current state is anyway reasonable when it comes to HW resources.


Spot on with the HW - both from scenery side and from rendering side, we can make it (much) better, but it needs the GPU performance to back it up.
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Re: Help needed - market research for FG

Postby Tomaskom » Thu Jan 24, 2013 2:37 pm

Thorsten wrote:Spot on with the HW - both from scenery side and from rendering side, we can make it (much) better, but it needs the GPU performance to back it up.

Understood, would it be then possible to have two versions of scenery readily available for download from FG web pages/torrent? The normal one being default, and the more detailed one for those who think they have their machines powerful enough?
(I guess Terrasync servers could be quite overloaded when hosting the better scenery as well... but I prefer downloading the scenery manually anyway.)
Even while there is possibility to build more detailed scenery myself, It's very difficult thing to even get terragear working, and it's obviously not intended for ordinary users. Providing better scenery along with the HW-friendly one could help to get more users who think about eye-candy as an important feature. That clould be even some people who would go after the FSX othervise ;).

Thorsten wrote:[...]but if they choose not to publish as part of the project, they don't get to use all the project infrastructure for distributing or advertizing - which seems fair to me.

Yes, fair enough. But still, I think that at least adding links to some external hangars, like the FGUK one, would just help everyone :). Once again, I guess many users don't know that other hangars even exist, or that they host so many planes.
"There are no problems in the air. The only problem is hitting the ground"

Get my L-159 ALCA from the FGUK hangar. If you crash it, things gonna go boom!
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Re: Help needed - market research for FG

Postby Thorsten » Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:55 pm

Yes, fair enough. But still, I think that at least adding links to some external hangars, like the FGUK one, would just help everyone . Once again, I guess many users don't know that other hangars even exist, or that they host so many planes.


The Wiki would work perfectly to collect both hangar and hires scenery links - just someone has to do it and advertize a bit here and there.
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Re: Help needed - market research for FG

Postby Gijs » Thu Jan 24, 2013 6:05 pm

Wiki already has that:
- http://wiki.flightgear.org/FlightGear_hangars
- http://wiki.flightgear.org/Suggested_Scenery (there are actually a few articles that seem to serve the same purpose)
Both can certainly use some love and care...
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Re: Help needed - market research for FG

Postby Hooray » Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:59 pm

One of the downsides that result in bad first time impression is a poor scenery (the basic one, not custom). On many places, the quality is too damn low. But AFAIK this is going to be improved, and the current state is anyway reasonable when it comes to HW resources.


This is obviously true - and you mentioned you hardware, too. So we inevitably need to make concessions here to find a good compromise that works well enough for people with "poor" hardware support and that looks good enough for people with powerful hardware.
Our scenery is compiled using a scenery compiler suite called "TerraGear", at the moment this toolsuite doesn't have any good LOD (Level of Detail) scheme in place, so that it is not easy to solve these problems "dynamically" by scaling complexity up/down at runtime.

Now, regarding first impressions - this is true, we could do better here. Part of the problem is obviously the plethora of options, not just regarding scenery-wise, but also regarding aircraft selection. We have really tons of options that are not really representative of the potential of FG.

Like I mentioned earlier, "first impressions" would be hugely different if we were to start an orchestrated effort to bundle our most-developed features (aircraft, scenery, addons) together, instead of offering an infinite number of more or less developed options to our end-users.

We have some extremely well-developed aircraft and scenery, such as the Seneca, the 777 - France, LOWI. It would just be a matter of packaging these as "positive examples" for a release - even if that would just be a downstripped "preview" release, it would go a long way to demonstrate what FG is capable of:

Subject: Help needed - market research for FG

Hooray wrote:
Which is why I think we need to make sure that high quality planes and low quality planes are distinguished on the download page.

Personally, I have been thinking in terms of making some of our more advanced aircraft/airports more prominent. I think I read about this on the wiki:
For instance, we are currently having two releases per year. But we've been using KSFO/c172p as the standard startup settings for many years.
Personally, I would think that it would be a great incentive for aircraft and scenery developers if we could have polls prior to each release phase to determine which airport/aircraft is going to be the defaults for the next release.

For example, just look at all the fantastic work done for LOWI - or amazing aircraft like the Seneca.
I could imagine we could make such work more prominent by changing the defaults for each release accordingly.
And we could then also change our release naming accordingl: FlightGear 3.2 (LOWI/Seneca)

That would go a long way to demonstrate to NEW users that we really have AWESOME scenery and extremely well-developed airports.
The current situation works such that only the "insiders" know about such things, and know how to download/install/configure everything.
And the screen shot competitions that we've had also demonstrate that we have an active community interested in contributing to polls.
So why not use polls AFTER each release to directly determine which aircraft/airport will be featured in the upcoming release?
That would give us plenty of time to focus on the corresponding scenery/aircraft, and to give other contributors a chance to even improve things further.
Please don't send support requests by PM, instead post your questions on the forum so that all users can contribute and benefit
Thanks & all the best,
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Re: Help needed - market research for FG

Postby Tomaskom » Thu Jan 24, 2013 10:18 pm

Hooray wrote:This is obviously true - and you mentioned you hardware, too. So we inevitably need to make concessions here to find a good compromise that works well enough for people with "poor" hardware support and that looks good enough for people with powerful hardware.
Our scenery is compiled using a scenery compiler suite called "TerraGear", at the moment this toolsuite doesn't have any good LOD (Level of Detail) scheme in place, so that it is not easy to solve these problems "dynamically" by scaling complexity up/down at runtime.

I already mentioned this in my second post here, along with a suggestion to offer (at least) two scenery packs with various hardware requirements.

Dynamic scaling of scenery complexity would be neat, but as far as I understand, it would take a lot of work and rewriting things from scratch to achieve that. And it would take a lot of disk space to always store the best scenery too... What I am suggesting is quite easily doable solution, I think :)
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Get my L-159 ALCA from the FGUK hangar. If you crash it, things gonna go boom!
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