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A pale reflection of reality...

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We recently got permission (in the last 3-4 months or so) to both blog and reply in some small way in the forums of Flight Simulator enthusiast websites. Because I already have a a lot of work to do, :) I find it hard to do both with regularity.

Anyway, since I'm lazy, I thought that I'd post an answer I gave at a thread over at Avsim as a new blog post. So forgive me if you've heard this one before... :)

Some background; as part of our announce during CES, ACES released 60 or so screenshots showing various degrees of development on Flight Simulator X. You can see many of them here:

FSX screens

Like a lot of what we (MSFT in general, ACES in particular) there were mixed results .(mostly very positive).  A couple of shots showing a wet airport environment...

1 and 2

...got some attention, some good, some negative.

A thread over at Avsim is indicative of the sort of comments that were seen about this particualr feature. For those who don't want to wade through the thread, here's my reply to a customer who wasn't so impressed...

Bob,

I know that it's a bad idea to argue with customers, but I'm going to do a little of it anyway.  :)

Let me put up a bit of a disclaimer:

You and every single other customer is entitled to your opinion on every aspect of what we do. You've got every right to like, love, and or hate the things we do in each version of Flight Simulator.

I realize and recognize that you can't convince someone that they like something that they just plain don't like, and I aint gonna try.

Anyway, allow me to respond. :)

To set your expectations: What you've seen in the released screens as far as the "wet" surface effect is effectively what we're going to ship.

You’re not the only person who has commented negatively on what’s been seen so far (there’ve been a bunch of positive comments as well), but I figure your post is a good place to stake an answer. To put the screens in the proper context, I'll say that the precipitation settings seen in the shots are set to the very highest level-- that's the [b]most[/b]"reflective" the scene'll get. (The effect increases as precipitation does) The time of day in this and the other shot is later in the afternoon, so the sun is relatively low on the horizon, which gives a bigger specular effect.

Having seen a heck of a lot of wet concrete and asphalt in a variety of conditions (light drizzle to heavy downpour), at different times of day and season (we do live in the Pacific Northwest after all), I'd disagree with you about both the amount of reflection and resulting specularity with overcast conditions. To be sure, light is diffused by overcast conditions, but it is [b]not[/b] totally blocked (it doesn’t become night). Instead there exists a spectrum of fully diffused and partially diffused light conditions that are hard to capture in real-time CGI. We have to settle on a solution that covers a broad range of the real world possibilities.

 

A few samples to show that you can have pretty hot specular, and/or high reflection in a variety of wet conditions:

 

http://www.cs.indiana.edu/~mhtang/dscf0052.html

http://www.concreteparking.org/pervious/PC%20benefit-%20alternative%20to%20costly.htm

http://www.ramblers-wilts.org.uk/050519l.htm (bottom of page)

http://www.airliners.net/open.file/0935078/M/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/79999807@N00/1199840/

All show varying degrees of specular/reflection effect on overcast days.

That being said, I don't disagree that hazy/overcast days change lighting conditions-- they do. If we were building a track or level based game and there was an overcast scene we'd massage our environment to match our desired effect. With our current open ended, go anywhere, any time, have conditions change on a regular basis, world we often have to accept less than optimal solutions so we cover the broadest scenarios.

You are also correct that there are shadows being cast by all objects in the scene. As you can see in one or two of the examples above, overcast conditions don't necessarily get rid of shadows-- it can make them more indistinct, but not necessarily [i]gone[/i]. We (MSFT) have discussed and investigated trying to dynamically modify lighting/shadow conditions based on cloud coverage, but it's a pretty big kettle of fish to tackle, and it's not going to happen this time. Like nearly all things we do, there will be some mechanism by which you can adjust or delete the effect if it truly bugs you that much.

I realize that based off what you wrote that you are likely to be disappointed with our upcoming release in this regards. I figure that you'd like to know that now as opposed to being disappointed later.

Cheers,

Jason

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