Boeing 247
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Dev Blog 11 – Riveting (an) aircraft

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Work on the Boeing 247 keeps progressing. The 3D model is in its final stages, so shortly I’ll be able to move on to the next stage when the coding is done. One thing I found incredibly tedious is placing the rivets and panel lines of the aircraft. 3D objects in MSFS make heavy use of a new material type called “decal”. It is used to draw a high-detail object on top of lower-detail geometry. For aircraft, this technology can be used to draw high-resolution rivet heads on top of your fuselage, wings and engine nacelles.

For FSX and P3D, we used to simply draw those rivets directly on our textures. Provided you make use of 4k texture map, it can give you very good results, especially if you use normal maps to create some bumps. However, after some initial tests I found that this new way creates waaaaay better looking optics. I therefore started creating the extra geometry for all those rivets. The new decal material is laid out in strips on top of the aircraft’s geometry and then you use a “trim-sheet” texture with the high-resolution image of the rivets you want to place. You can see these strips from this screenshots off the model in our 3d software:

The problem with this technique is that it is freakin’ tedious! You have to manually place these strips of geometry on top of your 3d model and adjust the texture placement (uv map) manually. And there is a LOT of rivets on a B247.

And by the way: if you’re concerned about the performance of the add-on: don’t! MSFS can handle lots and lots of geometry way better than lots and lots of high-res textures, so this technique should actually help keeping the frame-rate in check.

Here’s the end result on the tail section of the aircraft:

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