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P3D Converter and New Aircraft - Important!
(For All USAF and IAF Players)



NOTE: What I'm trying to do here is to ultimately convince the big companies who made Jane's USAF to do one last post-release project on Jane's USAF (and hey, why not IAF too at the same time).This is a long document, but please bear with me and read all of it - the end is the most crucial part! This may not be news for some people, but at least it's all official from the developers of USAF and not conjectures by fans!

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... Aviv Yam-Shahor, the Lead Designer of Jane's USAF, posted a letter in a CombatSim forum where he said that Pixel Multimedia will continue its support of the product and might even consider releasing a tool that will allow users to add their own custom aircraft to the simulation. But since then a lot has changed for the worse: Pixel Multimedia changed its name to ''Pixel BBS'' and shifted its focus from flight simulations to multi-platfrom, multi-player online games; and Aviv went to work for a company called ''SimiGon''.

Don't despair, there's still hope for custom aircraft. But first let's explain this concept a little for those of you who didn't know. Custom aircraft, like every 3D object in the game, require at least 2 files: one is the bitmap (BMP) file which controls the exterior look, and the second is the P3D file which controls the actual shape model on which the bitmap skin is rendered (apart from these requirements each object must also be properly represented in the file ''Admin.ini''). Generally speaking, an ordinary user can only modify bitmap skins and other graphics, and a more experienced and savvy user can control a large amount of advanced aspects within ''Admin.ini'' and other less famous files - but that's it! And hence the great value of the promised tool: allowing anybody with an artistic talent to improve the game!

So what is this tool anyway? Well, it's not a real program at all... It's hardly a secret that Pixel created all of its object models using the ''3D Studio Max'' software, the only twist was that it used some kind of proprietary converter to turn the 3DSMAX files into P3D files. With this tiny converter, anyone could turn his 3D models into legitimage Jane's USAF objects.

By the way, the X file format in Jane's IAF (Microsoft DirectX) corresponds to the P3D format in Jane's USAF. They are very much alike, except P3D is more advanced. But the sad news are that the small differences between the 2 formats don't allow a normal user to import Jane's IAF objects into Jane's USAF simply by changing the file extension (from X to P3D).


Thanks to the perseverant questions of a few USAF fans, I began to look for a sympathetic ear at Pixel. However at the time when I first contacted my sources I was already overwhelmed by personal difficulties which had nothing to do with the matter at hand. Only recently did I regain my spare time back, and after a week of celebrations I tried again.

After my initial attempt failed, I tracked down Aviv at ''SimiGon'' and phoned him.

Now you might wish to slow up a bit and take a glance at SimiGon; this company was located a year ago in the same building as Pixel and is concerned with exactly what Pixel used to do, only it's for real military pilots in real air forces: simulation solutions for reference, training, planning and debriefing purposes. Their product is so similar to Pixel's games in its general appearance and feel that the only big difference is in the wrapping. In fact, when I examined the screenshots and the AVI movie clip in their site I thought to myself ''Aren't these objects from the Jane's World War development phase?''

Anyway according to Aviv, since Pixel abandoned entirely the field of flight simulation games (and any further development of Jane's USAF) it's highly unlikely that they'll release the P3D converter now, so I was advised to talk with Sharon Rozenman who was the game's Producer and an all-around nice guy. When I talked with Sharon, he shed some new light on the matter, though not too much... Here are the official viewpoints of Pixel on this whole affair:

1. Is the "Jane's World War" (JWW) project really dead?

Yes, but not quite. Pixel BBS is doing now with its Jive technology exactly what JWW was supposed to do, but it's not for Electronic Arts. EA may not have abandoned this, but Pixel BBS has no active development relations with EA these days.

And actually it's not entirely true that Pixel left the flight simulation business. Their latest product is an online civilian flight simulator (with lots of nifty features) which is now being evaluated by interctive-TV suppliers (so its future is a little hazy). By the way, there's a scoop regarding the origins of this game: it was first concieved during USAF developent as... get this... Jane's first civilian simulator! (Yep, this was confidential info until now, I couldn't say anything).

2. Can flight models / weapon behaviors / cockpits be added or edited?

Anything is possible, but some things were not meant to be open-architecture (i.e. compilation of the game's source code is necessary) while others are fully or somewhat controlled by data files. I've spoken with Sharon about some specific how-to details, but there's no point is writing all the long, boring details here. I'll just mention the key topics (which in themselves are not news for veteran USAF tweakers, sorry):

3. Most important of all (in my opinion), will we see a P3D converter released?

The unsurprising bad news are that currently no one (Pixel BBS or EA) has any plans to do so. Pixel BBS moved mainly to its Jive technology and no longer monitors Jane's USAF, only EA supports it - both of them have copies of this tool, but it seems that neither of these companies are interested in any further development for USAF.

I tried to ask Sharon if they could post it as an unofficial, unsupported add-on, but he (rightfully) declined: no respectable company can release a half-done, half-tested, internal tool without any proper documentation or testing. And good thorough documentation is absolutely necessary in this case. So an ''underground'' release for the benefit of the players is not an option at the moment.

The good news are that doing this work this is no more than a nuisance for a few hours. If we could somehow convience EA or (dare I hope) Pixel, even a single generous employee in any of these companies could pull it off (does anyone here know such an employee maybe?).

Sharon suggested sending e-mail to EA Technical Support and to ''comments@pixel.co.il''. Yes, even he admitted that Pixel doesn't really reply to user comments, and that EA usually tend to pick the easy way out, and answering ''send a request'' to an actual request sounds really bad... However these are not rules, and a sudden change may happen if we all collborate together and concentrate our efforts. I personally read Aviv's post before I bought the game, and even though I'm not a lawyer and this would never stick, I really believe that they owe this - at least morally - to the community of USAF players.

I know it's not a lot, the bottom line is that I personally hoped to get a better response and failed, but at least it's something. I believe the odds, slim as they are, are still worth it.


THIS IS THE IMPORTANT BIT, EVERYBODY READ ON!

I'm asking each and every one of you players of Jane's USAF and Jane's IAF to do the following:

Send e-mail and faxes to both Pixel BBS and Electronoic Arts Technical Support - not once or twice, but on a regular weekly basis. Sure they'll claim that their products are complete and as such they need no further development; but don't give up and consistently swamp them with our KIND, RESPECTFUL and FIRM pleas, show them how much we need this. Remember that the people there are just like you and me, if you treat them with politeness and dignity, flatter them once in a while and don't piss them off, they'll eventually like you and take pride at their own work.

Jane's USAF players, ask for a P3D conversion tool now!

And don't be shy, you may also ask for the ability to convert objects from Jane's IAF too - it shouldn't be hard to do at all, and there's no copyright problem since both games were made by the same people!

Jane's IAF players, why should only USAF enjoy an additional aicraft (the Thunderbirds F-16) - to celebrate the Israeli Air Force's acquisition of the F-16I we certainly deserve such an addition to the game! Making this model is no hard work for anyone in Pixel's 3D Studio Max staff.

POWER TO THE CONSUMERS!
Here's all the relevant contact information:

Pixel BBS

E-mail: comments@pixel.co.il
Fax: 972-3-5377768 (Israel, international number)
Mail:
Pixel BBS
4 Ha-Rekhev St.
Tel Aviv 67771
Israel

Electronic Arts Technical Support

E-mail: (from http://www.ea.com/tech_support/)
Fax: 650-628-5999
Mail:
Electronic Arts Technical Support
P.O. Box 9025
Redwood City, CA 94063-9025

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