Tools of the Trade (Software)
During our development process, we use quite a wide range of software to help us along the way. Some of these tools are an absolute necessity, whilst others are just extremely useful to have installed.
Google earth gives a great overall picture of the area and helps us scout around for POIs. The automated 3D models and images found in certain areas are a huge help when we lack reference photography. We also use websites like Youtube and Flickr to grab reference material.
We use Sketchup to get accurate width and height dimensions of all the buildings we model. You can export from Sketchup and import into 3D modelling software.
3D Studio Max, the successor to GMAX, is one of the most used tools in the office and certainly the most expensive. Thanks to Lockheed’s continuous support of P3D the SDK works with the latest iterations of 3DS Max. This tool can do a lot of interesting things with 3D geometry and animation.
Photoshop is another tool that’s used abundantly here at Turbulent. We use it to create all the HD textures that can be seen on our 3d models and ground polys. Our primary source for textures is a great website called textures.com. Most of us have used this site so much that we will recognise the use of some of its textures in other products, even ones not relating to flight simulator! We use a variety of plugins and scripts with photoshop to make development a smoother process.
We try to include a large coverage area with our products, luckily the US has a good selection of continuously update satellite imagery, which is typically at a good standard. Global mapper is a program we use to get the PR imagery projected correctly for use within FSX and P3D. Global mapper does a lot of other useful things with satellite imagery and GIS data to help with our development.
We must say a big thanks to Arno Gerretsen for maintaining support of the tools he provides over at scenerydesign.org, our job would be so much more difficult without some of those tools. A few other utilities we use are batch converter for renaming multiple files simultaneously and notepad ++ for editing text files.
As you can see we use quite a few tools, most of them are freely available but the ones that aren’t free typically cost quite a lot. We’re constantly looking for new ways to improve our products, and the tools we use often come under review. These tools are relevant to FSX/P3D development and not other projects we are running. While some of these tools do cross over, new projects often require a different approach.