Advanced Question How to create bases

xionx

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Hi!

Orbiter has been my main space simulator since a while now, I wanted to get myself into addon devlopement.
I have basic 3D modeling skills, and I'm interested in creating a bases (The built in base are ugly ngl). I've learned how to convert my 3D models into .msh format, but I'm unsure about how to place each object. I’ve read that it’s possible to do this using a .cfg file. Do I need to manually set each parameter? Is it also possible to have different material on the base that could have some kind of PBR we can set with D3D9 client (Just smoothness, metallic, etc...)?
Could you point me in the right direction and teach me the basics of creating simple bases in Orbiter 2016? I’m not sure where to start.

Thanks.
 

Urwumpe

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well, seriously, you will not have many alternatives to at least correcting the configuration file of a base with a text editor (Use a more advanced one, like Notepad++ or Visual Studio Code, if you want to stay sane). There was a base editor once, that was based on VisualBasic and thus isn't really supported anymore and has quite a number of bugs from the start, but so far, nobody felt the pain to develop a better one. There is a simple grid mesh add-on that you can add to your base and use for placing your buildings correctly, also, you can create a scene in a 3D modeller and use the coordinates there with some simple math to place them in Orbiter.

I recommend reading the pages about the folder structure and configuration options for surface bases in Orbiter. Not only can you easily restrict your base to be used in certain contexts only, you can also create different versions of a base for different eras.
 

misha.physics

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I’ve read that it’s possible to do this using a .cfg file. Do I need to manually set each parameter?
I'm using Orbiter Base Maker. Try it. It was made not for Orbiter 2016, but for an older version, but you can use it with some restrictions. You can add a surface tile and thereby place the default objects (like hangars, runways, tanks) and custom meshes in the right places while seeing the surface texture. You can resize, rotate and dragging objects just with your mouse, and the corresponding data will be saved in a base *.cfg file.
 

misha.physics

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Also, you can select multiple objects, copy and paste them using that tool.
 

xionx

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I'm using Orbiter Base Maker. Try it. It was made not for Orbiter 2016, but for an older version, but you can use it with some restrictions. You can add a surface tile and thereby place the default objects (like hangars, runways, tanks) and custom meshes in the right places while seeing the surface texture. You can resize, rotate and dragging objects just with your mouse, and the corresponding data will be saved in a base *.cfg file.
So I just tried but as @Urwumpe said it's outdated.
But it almost "work" with a lot of bug. But thank you this tool will anyway help me to understand how to create a base from scratch.
Btw it would be nice to have a software to automate some task. This outdated one work but there is some basics things that don't for example the surface texture of the planet doesn't display at all.
 

misha.physics

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the surface texture of the planet doesn't display at all
Surface texture can be displayed and you can see where you place objects if you add surface tiles manually in this tool.
 

francisdrake

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To get familiar with the Base structure, best is to copy an existing base, rename and relocate it.
Then you can play around adding your own objects.

Below is the structure I use for the Plato Moon base:

Code:
BASE-V2.0
Name = Plato
Location = -9.4 52.83 
;          East North
Size = 500
MapObjectsToSphere = TRUE

BEGIN_NAVBEACON
VOR LBB -9.4 52.83  116.30 500
END_NAVBEACON

; === List of visuals ===
BEGIN_OBJECTLIST
MESH
    FILE Plato
    POS 0 0 0        ;landingsite at planet surface
    ROT 0
    OWNMATERIAL
END
...
END_OBJECTLIST

For locating objects within the Base, Orbiter uses a left-handed East-South coordinate system:
1716122474864.png
 

Thunder Chicken

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I'm dabbling with making a local airport, and I am wondering about the terrain flattening needed to have the runway on the surface. Is there any guidance anywhere on how to do that?
 

LordCroussette

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I'm dabbling with making a local airport, and I am wondering about the terrain flattening needed to have the runway on the surface. Is there any guidance anywhere on how to do that?
Someone once asked me that question in private messages. So I'll just copy the little guide I wrote for that person here. Disclaimer: The question was about a moon base, so this guide use the moon. But it works the exact same way for the Earth. Just put the .flt file in the Earth textures folder and use Earth coordinates.

----------------

What I use to make the terrain flat in my bases is the Terrain Flattening available with D3D9. It's pro is that it is very easy and fast to use. The cons is that it only work on D3D9 (so anyone using the regular orbiter.exe won't be able to use it) AND it is very imprecise. Good to make a patch of terrain flat, but nothing else. Creating a crater or a chain of mountains would be very, very hard or even impossible depending on the scale.

But anyway, how do we use it? Well, it is very simple.

#1: ou must ensure D3D9 Terrain Flattening is indeed enabled. If it is already, then you can skip this step.
To do this, open orbiter_ng.exe and go in the Visual Effects tab. Ensure "Surface elevation, using" is checked and set to "linear interpolation".
1716125907824.png

Then, go to the Video tab and click on the "Advanced" button.
1716125925198.png
In the Advanced Setup menu, make sure "Enable terrain flattening" is checked. I think "Tile Archive" at the top need to be at "Cache & Archive". Both are already set up correctly by default, but in case it doesn't work, come check this and change it.
1716125936633.png
#2: Okay, it is now setup. So, this time, you need to go in your Textures folder. Then, you need to open the folder of the planet/moon where you want to flatten some terrain (in this case: Textures/Moon).
Once that's done, you will end up with a window showing at least three folders: Archive, Elev_mod and Surf. What you need to do is create a fourth folder named Flat.
1716125948257.png
It's in this folder that the magic is done. So, open it. Then, you need to create a new file inside. It can be named whatever you want, as long as it end up with the extension ".flt". For clarity's sake, name it "MoonbaseAlpha.flt" or something like that.
Once you created the file, open it with notepad, or any other program you can write code with.

#3: Now it is time to flatten the terrain. But first, what is inside a .flt file? Well, it is simply some basic lines of codes. Here is what's inside the Quebec.flt file I use for my Quebec City addon:
1716125970280.png
It look complex at first view, but it is very simple. What this file does is allow you to turn a section of terrain flat by creating a new shape in the terrain. Either a rectangle or an ellipse.

[Shape] [Altitude] [Longitude] [Latitude] [Length] [Width] [Angle] [Fusion]


  • Shape: This is the shape of the area you want to flatten. It can either be a rectangle (RECT) or an ellipse (ELLIPSE).
  • Altitude: This is the height/altitude the terrain will be.
  • Longitude: Longitude of the centre point of the terrain.
  • Latitude: Latitude of centre point the terrain.
  • Length: This is the length of the shape of the flattened terrain.
  • Width: This is the width of the shape of the flattened terrain.
  • Angle: This is the angle the shape of the flattened terrain is pointed at. (It is not the heading, but something based on the equator, or something.)
  • Fusion: This is essentially the "rate of fusion" of the edited terrain with the surrounding regular terrain. Or simply: how steep the blending of the terrain is.

Now that we know what value does exactly, it's time to write our first line! And, to do that, we need to know where our base will be, for it will be the centre point of our flattened terrain. Here I used the side of a cliff as an exaggerated example:
1716126044133.png
With the scenario editor, we can see our exact coordinates. So, we put them in our line, making it this:

[Shape] [Altitude] -30.3299 48.8852 [Length] [Width] [Angle] [Fusion]

Then, the shape. That all depend on the terrain you are trying to turn flat. I will use an ellipse for this example.

ELLIPSE [Altitude] -30.3299 48.8852 [Length] [Width] [Angle] [Fusion]

The altitude is unknown. But that can be found by playing with the value a bit. But, for now, I will put a very exaggerated value of 5000, which should bring our flat terrain way higher than it should be. But, it will give us a good view of which sections of the terrain is affected by our .flt file.

ELLIPSE 5000 -30.3299 48.8852 [Length] [Width] [Angle] [Fusion]

The length and the width all depend on how big you want your base to be. For this one, I will put 1000 on both.

ELLIPSE 5000 -30.3299 48.8852 1000 1000 [Angle] [Fusion]

The angle is rarely used. I personally only used it to turn single runways flat. Since this isn't needed here, I will simply put 0.

ELLIPSE 5000 -30.3299 48.8852 1000 1000 0 [Fusion]

And, finally, the fusion value. This is another value that might need some playing with. But, usually, I put it at around 15.

And here, we have our completed line!

ELLIPSE 5000 -30.3299 48.8852 1000 1000 0 15

Let's put it in the file and load the game to see what it does.
1716126068216.png
The terrain is flat! And it is way too high! But that's fine, as it was done on purpose. We can see which section of the terrain we turned flat that way. Now, it's time to bring it back down. Let's switch it the altitude value to 100.
1716126086365.png
Still a bit too high. But, I quite like the idea of having a flat, elevated platform. So, why not change the fusion value instead! Here, I changed it to 50. Here, the cliff is less steep.
1716126100131.png
And that's done! Now you know how to done some very basic and simple terrain flattening! I hope this helps you! Don't hesitate to mess around with the values a bit to see what it can do! ;)
 

Thunder Chicken

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#2: Okay, it is now setup. So, this time, you need to go in your Textures folder. Then, you need to open the folder of the planet/moon where you want to flatten some terrain (in this case: Textures/Moon).
Once that's done, you will end up with a window showing at least three folders: Archive, Elev_mod and Surf. What you need to do is create a fourth folder named Flat.
View attachment 38188
I am running into a problem here. I am trying to flatten an area around an airport on Earth. In the Earth textures folder there is only an Archive folder (no surf or Elev_mod). Does that matter? I am working with OpenOrbiter.
 

misha.physics

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Also, the altitude for the D3D9 terrain flattening could be taken from the Orbit MFD (parameter "Alt"). Just reduce it by 2.5 meters (for DG).

Does anyone know how to make custom elevation tiles for Orbiter 2016? Some tool for the custom elevation tile making will be very useful in the future.
 

misha.physics

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I am running into a problem here. I am trying to flatten an area around an airport on Earth. In the Earth textures folder there is only an Archive folder (no surf or Elev_mod). Does that matter? I am working with OpenOrbiter.
Do you use Orbiter 2016 installation to have planet textures in OpenOrbiter? I have the only "Flat" folder with *.flt files in:
/OpenOrbiter/Textures/Earth
The rest folders are in:
/Orbiter 2016/Textures/Earth
 

LordCroussette

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I am running into a problem here. I am trying to flatten an area around an airport on Earth. In the Earth textures folder there is only an Archive folder (no surf or Elev_mod). Does that matter? I am working with OpenOrbiter.
You need to create the FLAT folder yourself. It does not exist by default ;)
 

Thunder Chicken

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Do you use Orbiter 2016 installation to have planet textures in OpenOrbiter? I have the only "Flat" folder with *.flt files in:
/OpenOrbiter/Textures/Earth
The rest folders are in:
/Orbiter 2016/Textures/Earth
I installed OpenOrbiter over a Orbiter2016 installation which has been working fine, but I only have the /OpenOrbiter/Textures/Earth, not /Open 2016/Textures/Earth.
 

LordCroussette

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Understood. I just don't see the other Elev_mod and Surf folders.
That's normal too. By default, Orbiter only come with the Archive folder, which has all the textures in .tree files.
But, you can easily get access to .dds surface tiles and .elv elevation tiles from this website: https://mirror.orbiter-radio.uk/orbiter/assets/earth.html
There is a map at the bottom of the page. Click on the square where your base is located and it will download a zip file with the extracted tiles. All you will have to do is put the textures folder in your root Orbiter folder, and then go in Textures/Earth to find the Surf and Elev_mod folders!
 

misha.physics

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OK, but the problem is the error I have when I attempt to run Orbiter_ng.exe. I just get a white screen and the above error in the log file.
Just to clarify the problem. Has it just happened after you created a *.flt file and located it in the?:
/OpenOrbiter/Textures/Earth/Flat

Try to delete the created *.flt file. Does the problem remain?
 
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