The ability to create scenery libraries started with X-Plane® v8 and the sim has used libraries internally since then to organise and publish its built-in scenery resources. OpenSceneryX was created because there was a growing need for a good quality collection of resources to supplement these built-in collections and it is the only scenery library for X-Plane® that actively collects contributions from the community and publishes them. There are several benefits of using libraries generally:
- The resources are installed once but are used many times across many scenery packages, reducing the size of downloaded scenery.
- A high quality set of library resources is a big benefit to scenery authors, who no longer need to spend many hours modelling common items or hunting around for pre-built ones.
- Because of the way libraries work, scenery authors don’t need to worry at all about copyright issues – they are not distributing the library resources with their sceneries, so there are no copyright issues associated with using them.
There have been many discussions about scenery libraries at x-plane.org over the years, but only since X-Plane® 8 have we been able to package up groups of resources that can then be used by other scenery authors. One of these discussions prompted me to set up the project and start building the library. From humble beginnings (the first object, an animated hangar, was contributed by psiteo on 26th October 2006), and a slow start (the first release, v1.0 contained just 9 resources!) many contributions have poured in from the community, to make a total of 2225 for the current release version as of writing (2.0.0). From version 1.2.0 (4th May 2007), the library has used an incremental installer, which means that updating an existing install is much quicker and more painless. The use of the library has picked up as it has grown and as more and more scenery authors have become aware of its existence. There have been a lot of scenery packages released recently that use it, which is very rewarding to see.
The library is organised into five top-level categories, corresponding to the five types of resources currently contained in the library – objects, facades, forests, polygons and lines. There is nothing stopping us from extending this to include X-Plane®’s other resource types (beaches, roads etc.) but no-one has contributed any yet so currently there is no need. Within each resource type, the library is organised into categories and sub-categories down to several levels, to produce a hierarchical organisation scheme. For example, objects are primarily categorised into ‘aircraft’, ‘buildings’, vehicles’ etc. and ‘buildings’ are further subdivided into ‘commercial’, ‘industrial’, ‘airport’ etc. Getting this organisation right has been one of the challenges of managing the library, and a few mistakes have been made here and there along the way!
Problems and Challenges
One of the most time-consuming parts of managing the library is handling the copyright on all the objects. Every object that is submitted has to have all authors included in the read-me and the original contributor isn’t always clear about who the original authors are! Gathering this information can be tricky, sometimes impossible, but without permission the resource cannot be included. Luckily much of the community has been very supportive and practically everyone I have contacted has given permission to distribute, not only the specific resource being contributed, but all resources ever authored by that person. The future of the library depends on this open attitude and I must say I’ve been very impressed. Most other challenges are logistical ones to do with the growing size and complexity of the library – most operations that can be automated are automated, and the installer has made updates for users a lot faster.
Well, firstly the future will always mean growing and improving the library. However, care must be taken as it is already 0.5Gb in size and even with the incremental installer this is a lot of content to download. Encouraging contributors to optimise their objects is a big but important task, I think a lot can be learned by Bertrand Augras’ clever texture sharing scheme – his many static aircraft all share the same livery file, which not only cuts the size of the library but also makes rendering in X-Plane® much more efficient, therefore improving framerates.
X-Plane® 9 features will be added to the library at some point, including DDS textures, and this will mean a cleverer library structure and installer will need to be developed so that X-Plane® 8 installations are still supported but new features are installed for X-Plane® 9 installations.
I have been discussing with Ben Supnik some new features for the X-Plane® file formats that could give us a reduction in library size.
Home page: http://www.opensceneryx.com
Latest release notes: http://www.opensceneryx.com/doc/ReleaseNotes.html
A good general tutorial on scenery libraries: http://marginal.org.uk/x-planescenery/library_tutorial/index.html
One of the many threads discussing scenery libraries over the years: http://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?showtopic=23039 This thread is a little bit special because it actually kicked me out of ‘thinking about it’ mode and into ‘doing it’ mode.
The original OpenSceneryX ideas thread: http://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?showtopic=23217
The official OpenSceneryX release news and bug reporting thread: http://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?showtopic=25174
The official X-Plane® documentation for scenery libraries: http://scenery.x-plane.com/library.php?doc=about_lib.php