Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flightgear 1.0.0 Released

After more than 11 years of development, Flightgear 1.0 has arrived.

Flightgear can be played on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, as well as other *nix platforms including FreeBSD, Solaris, and IRIX. Distributed under the GPL, Flightgear is one of the first major Free Software games and has become a flight simulator that rivals it's commercial counterparts. It is a stellar example of enthusiasts coming together to create something for the community.

The scope of the Flightgear project is, as you might expect for a game 11 years in the making, nothing short of impressive. Whilst it does fall short in a few departments when compared to commercial flight sims, in others it is unequalled. Having no full time developers and being of such high quality is a testament to the dedication and organisation of it's development team.

Flightgear has a pluggable flight dynamics model with 3 primary options, giving the enthusiast an opportunity to find a flight model that they feel is most accurate and/or fun. The integrated flight dynamics model is optimized for implementing plausibly behaving aircraft without requiring heaps of hard-to-acquire aerodynamic test data. Another is based on an FDM originally written by people at NASA. Quite impressive detail that most players probably won't appreciate.

Flightgear comes with an extensive and accurate database of world scenery. Over 20,000 real world airports are included in the full scenery set. Runways come with markings, lighting, taxiways, some sloped with variable elevation, the latter a feature missing from most commercial titles. The world scenery fits on 3 DVD's - pretty detailed coverage of the entire world with accurate terrain based on the most recently released SRTM terrain data. Scenery includes lakes, rivers, roads, railroads, cities, towns, land cover, and nice scenery night lighting with ground lighting concentrated in urban areas (based on real maps) and even headlights visible on major highways.

You can fly seamlessly around the world, as scenery tiles are paged (loaded/unloaded) in a separate thread - minimize the frame rate hit when you need to load new areas and keeping memory requirements realistic.

FlightGear implements extremely accurate time of day modeling with correctly placed sun, moon, stars, and planets for the specified time and date. Taking the 'term' simulator to another level, the sun, moon, stars, and planets all follow their correct courses through the sky and the [correctly placed] moon is illuminated by the [correctly placed] sun to get the correct phase of the moon for the current time/date, just like in real life.

Getting onto the aircraft, and you can fly a variety of aircraft, from the 1903 Wright Flyer, strange flapping wing "ornithopters", a 747 and A320, various military jets including the A10 tank buster, and several light singles.

Flightgear even can do fully animated, fully operational, fully interactive 3d cockpits which even update and display correctly from external chase plane views - although only a few aircraft have had this implemented thus far. Impressive nonetheless.

Despite the unbelievable attention to detail, Flightgear can be played on a rather modest PC. However the better the PC, the better it looks and runs so those with the latest, greatest 3D cards can still enjoy the extra beauty and a smoother experience.

I grabbed a few of the nicer screenshots from the Flightgear 1.0.0 gallery.

Well, what are you waiting for? Go and download Flightgear 1.0.0 (extras / source available here) and get flying - and enjoy knowing that this is Free Software gaming at it's glorious best.

Spread the word and digg this story on FSDaily and Digg.

The Flightgear feature list contains more in-depth analysis of the Flightgear features and is where I grabbed most of the above info - I'm in the business of Free Softare game information rather than Free Software game reviews. ;-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007



OpenCity 0.0.5 has been unleashed upon the wider public. The game is, well, not yet much of a game but it is progressing steadily. I would like to see the author approach maybe the Open Transport Tycoon project to see if there's any room for utilizing some of their many wonderous building models. I'm a big believer in project synergy, of which there isn't nearly enough occurence in the Free Software game world. People seem to fear a lack of identity to a game, but a game identity is foremost created by experience - of which graphics are only a part of the bigger picture. Also, just becasue two projects share graphical resources, doesn't mean they have to completely overlap.

Getting back to OpenTTD, version 0.6 is around the corner and 0.6-beta2 was released a few days ago. 0.6 final, "will give you loads of new features, like newhouses, newindustries, signals and diagonal tracks under bridges, trams, autoslope, oneway roads, half tile slopes and much more. It furthermore contains quite a few performance improvements under certain conditions as well as a very long list of bugreports."

OpenTTD is pretty addictive and this sounds like another good upgrade. I'd better stay away, if this blog is to regain momentum. ;-)

There's a lot of people hacking away on OpenTTD for one reason or another. I thought this 3D hack-up (as opposed to a mock-up, a hack-up is a barely functioning codebase to showcase an idea) was pretty interesting, as was the suggestion that 3D could work in different ways - I quite like the idea of an abstract 3D transport simulation.

Free Games on SkyOS

Keeping with the city/transport simulation theme, Simutrans 0.99.16 got released a few days ago. Simutrans and OpenTTD are both incredibly portable. Both have been ported to BeOS [a classic-but-defunct operating system]. I'm not sure how current the OpenTTD build is, but Simutrans could probably run on Haiku [an open source successor to BeOS].

I do think that a good niche for Free Software games is alternative operating systems. Not only does it allow OS enthusiasts to port games to their favourite platform (e.g. the SkyOS author has ported a number of open source games) but it allows the games to be played on a platform that commercial games are not available on, even if it is a tiny minority.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Allo Allo with Allacrost

Ok, I've been slacking. I could make excuses (please somebody tell me a cheat so I can complete level 50 of Kobo Deluxe) but I won't.

Another Hero of Allacrost release is up for grabs on their website. This version does bring a few new features to the current tech demo status of the project, but it's a major rewrite of several parts so versions will hopefully be coming thicker and faster in the next few months.

I tried it out and it's impressive, although not very expansive yet. If they can keep up the production quality and go on to make a full game, it's going to be an amazing game indeed.

Fortress WIP

There has been plenty of work on the project that was started here earlier this year - Fortress. Check out the castle components courteousy of our very own povray magician, Rushhour. There'll be a playable tech demo soon so I'll post news of that when it arrives!

Sun Dog Resurrection is a project to make a Free Software successor to the classic game Sun Dog for the Apple II (now that's going back a ways). What makes this project interesting is that it's the original Sun Dog game author who instigated it. They had been a bit stagnant but there's activity on the project page.

Project Apricot got it's blog going. It's syndicated on the FreeGameDev planet, as are many other Free Software game project / developer blogs, so if you enjoy this blog then the planet is a good place for you to go as well.

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