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Old 03-26-2013, 08:32 PM   #1
Frogisis
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Default Dust, Smoke, & Destruction

tl;dr Please show me what files to modify to make various dust and pyrotechnic effects last longer, and if possible increase certain splash damages and make the crater decals larger/more conspicuous.

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In the spirit of Kuky's excellent Better Fire & Smoke mod, I was thinking the dust effects could use a little tinkering as well, but I don't know what files to modify in order to change any of the parameters, and I was hoping one of you with more experience could point me in the right direction.

I will do the gruntwork of fiddling with the numbers by trial and error until I get something I think looks right and doesn't kill FPS, but first I'd like to be able to narrow things down to the relevant files or even sections of code - Being able to modify the smoke from burning vehicles makes me think there are equivalent configuration files out there for the other "vapor" effects.

To give you a better idea of what I'm talking about, I was watching some videos of Falcon BMS and sighing with envy over their gorgeous explosion effects, but the thing that struck me the most was how they way they linger gives a much better sense of their actual scale, like the smoke and dust from pretty much any actual bomb footage I've ever seen:
http://youtu.be/LUp-mMfSkKs

ED's given us some much better effects lately, but they still seem a bit "timid," maybe for fear of looking unserious, and I don't think it's providing appropriate visual feedback in terms of the real-world scale of things like tanks and buildings. The current effects seem more like something you'd see on Mythbusters, with household items quickly going up in flames and then dissipating, or a bit like a special effects model not properly filmed in slow motion, instead of dedicated concentrations of high explosives excavating a chunk of earth and setting it on the wind.

Right now there's a big puff of tan smoke when bridges or some buildings collapse, so maybe it's possible to invoke that asset as well for some of the larger munitions, and slow it down a bit. Same with the vehicle smokescreens - I'd think there'd be some parameter somewhere that controls the speed of the animation so that it doesn't dissipate within a second like it does now.

Finally, while the vehicle dust trails are a huge improvement, they still don't seem to linger like real dust, so I'd like to be able to thin them out and have them persist a bit, and, like a lot of other people have wished for, I'd like to know if there's a file somewhere I can tweak to make some of the missile smoke a little beefier.

Getting Greedy: Here are a couple things I'd also like to change that I think are related enough to not need their own thread:
- If possible, or unless someone convinces me they're accurate the way they are, I'd like to know how to increase splash damage for some of the weapons, namely rockets and the Mk 84, both of which seem to barely dent even a jeep or put some shrapnel in a guy unless they're actually engulfed in the fireball. In fact all the "dumb" AG weapons except the GAU seem rather weak in general; even the daintiest love-tap from the GAU will obliterate anything unarmored, but a half dozen rockets, CBU bomblets, or artillery shells exploding essentially on top of a truck only seem to ruin its paint job. Again, maybe that's realistic - Life is weird that way sometimes - but it definitely does not seem right. If it can be tweaked, though, I'll start doing my homework to figure out what an appropriate level would be.

- Also, if possible, I'd like to increase the crater decal size and usage, so that damage to the landscape is actually noticeable from the air, and so that shells leave a mark as well: As helpfully Green as it would be, I doubt we've invented sci-fi weapons that can annihilate a tank or shred a runway while leaving grass unharmed. You can see heavily cratered areas around those low, square warehouses that keep on exploding for like an hour if you hit one, and I'd like the rest of the landscape to get in on that action. They already come in different sizes and a while ago someone posted a bug where they suddenly encountered a town-sized crater, which makes me think it's possible to modify them. I know there's some z-fighting going on, but someone had a similar problem with the text on new textures for the Russian missiles and solved it by doing... something with the alpha channel so maybe a similar approach would work here.
*****

Anyway, thanks - That was a lot of stuff and it's probably not all doable with the way the assets are organized now, but it'll almost certainly be a while before ED can get around to working on superficial things like effects again, and I figured one of us should take a stab at it in the meantime.
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Old 03-26-2013, 10:58 PM   #2
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You need to becareful with smoke dust etc because if they are too strong and linger too long they will kill your fps.
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Old 03-26-2013, 11:27 PM   #3
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well, fps may drop, but I think better (bigger) explosions be ok. And talking about splash damage: try killing infantry with rockets! Just keep in mind they were invented to shred infantry positions. Better throw a handful potatoes, they deal more damage!
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Old 03-26-2013, 11:45 PM   #4
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Hi,
You will find the effects files in ProgramFiles/ED/DCSW/Bazar/ParticlesEffects and /Effects. That's AFAIK, all the important part.

I've to agree with you Frogisis, the explosions are IMHO, one thing that has to be worked on. I think there's a little margin to get better particles effect. The reality is, there's no game in 2013 producing explosions like IRL, and something is telling me that it's not for tomorrow .

First, there would be a lot of work to achieve with the physic engine, as it is, the effects don't react enough with the environment i.e : the amount of dust depending of the humidity, type of ground, wind, possibility to keep traces in the soil, the length of the smoke duration depending of type of vehicle, each ordnance need customized effect, depending of the explosive charge, the place where it's blowing up... a lot more factor without speaking of water motion...

Second : visually, it's missing density and proper colors indeed, of course the performances would, I guess, take a huge kick here, though I pretty sure we could have an effect like at 6:15 on your video but something like the last one is a dream, literally it is... but it would be nice to see chunks of grass, metal parts or concrete whatever, here comes the physic engine to tell what's going on.

About the missile (which one) smoke trail, do you have sources? I would be interested to see some IRL launches. AFAIK it doesn't produce that much smoke, like rockets which don't produce a huge smoke trail as we see in some stupid hollywood movies.

I've done some tweaking with the smoke effect, to make it last longer, I'm still testing a bit but I like how long are burning the cars now, without performances drop (not noticeable at least) however I've a mediocre PC.
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Old 03-27-2013, 02:05 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Madone View Post
Hi,
You will find the effects files in ProgramFiles/ED/DCSW/Bazar/ParticlesEffects and /Effects. That's AFAIK, all the important part.
Thank you so much! I will get cracking on experimenting with these as soon as I have the free time.

Quote:
The reality is, there's no game in 2013 producing explosions like IRL, and something is telling me that it's not for tomorrow .
For sure - In literal terms that kind of stuff in real time is at least five years away, probably closer to ten. But it's not actually necessary to model them perfectly to achieve explosion special effects that are almost as convincing. That's where the "art" portion of game design comes in. A lot of the explosions in that video, for example, have a big spike in the center of a funnel-shaped spray, or are just lumpy amoebas of dust. Any of those are pretty simple to build from just a few chunks - Even those last ones are really just a few lobes of dark dust and a ring of light dust. You don't have to show grass and concrete flying in the air so much as little irregular dots, and the brain will fill them in just like how a couple jagged brush strokes in the background of an impressionist painting becomes a convincing human figure when you step back. You don't have to model every curl of the dust cloud, when some different colors and a little movement in the "sky" clouds we have now would create some pretty effective kabooms.

What I'd love for the explosions to do right now more than anything, though, is be large and long-lived enough to believably cover up the disappearance or switching of a model. Right now, when a plane crashes (or is completely blown away by a missile), or a building collapses, it whimsically pops out of existence to be replaced by a little cylinder of flames. That would be a great place for a tremendous fireball to act like a dressing room changing screen to cover up that "costume switch." Again, I think just some modifications to the puffy weather clouds we have now could create a pretty decent inferno of jet fuel or dust envelope around the regular fireball and smoke.

Quote:
About the missile (which one) smoke trail, do you have sources? I would be interested to see some IRL launches. AFAIK it doesn't produce that much smoke, like rockets which don't produce a huge smoke trail as we see in some stupid hollywood movies
Yeah, that's pretty low on the priorities list. Obviously an SA-10 launch isn't going to look like the space shuttle, but I think some of the bigger ones and the MRLSs might be a touch thin in the initial "boost" part.
EDIT - I'm back with examples:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xROtIChEpWI
http://youtu.be/oBXgpTt_JB8?t=1m43s and
http://youtu.be/OOCx9DyGxcY?t=25s
http://youtu.be/OIcJlOetsT8?t=1m12s
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3TlOEeb6Bw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpJSviD8D4k
http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=sp-cXkIKqcA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UqFRGZ9CnQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgTXu8EWnpw <- Especially cool

Bottom line, it depends (of course), but more often than not it's quite a spectacle. ...Though I suppose the anemic-looking shots don't make it into video compilations. But since our effects are collections of a few of pre-rendered animations to represent all events of each type, why shouldn't we choose the most photogenic examples as the model?

Quote:
Originally Posted by shagrat
And talking about splash damage: try killing infantry with rockets! Just keep in mind they were invented to shred infantry positions. Better throw a handful potatoes, they deal more damage!
I know... In those instant action missions where you attack the patrol, I pepper that collection of infantry with the full salvo and rarely nail more than one guy. I feel like they're about as on-target as you get them given wind and spread, but maybe I'm just forever bad at rockets.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BoneDust
You need to becareful with smoke dust etc because if they are too strong and linger too long they will kill your fps.
Definitely, thanks for the warning. This is where the Trial & Error part really comes in... Ideally there's a way to be clever about it where you cover up lower absolute detail with some artistic repurposing of the parts.
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Old 03-27-2013, 03:21 AM   #6
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Trial and error is a must.

I spent over 2 years creating the effects in BMS
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Old 03-27-2013, 04:45 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BoneDust View Post
I spent over 2 years creating the effects in BMS
It shows, because they look amazing. I downloaded BMS but sadly my copy of Falcon 4.0 is in a box in my dad's attic. I'll order another copy or something once I get paid.

I'm not sure how the explosions in DCS are structured, but hopefully ED won't have to start from scratch or anything to reach that standard. They're definitely on the right track, they just need to approach them with a little more gusto and an eye for copying from life.

In the mean time I think I just want to find and tweak the numbers that correspond to, uh, panache.
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Old 03-27-2013, 10:43 AM   #8
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I know what you mean, indeed the SAM and MRLS launches are impressive oO and are nothing like ingame, I find the A2A and A2G missiles pretty fine though.

About the tweaking, it's sometimes hard understand what is what, there's a readme in particleeffects/effects but it's all crypted.
Though you will find all the lua about smoke/dust/fire there, the lifespan/lifetime is what give the duration of the effect in minutes, windage is the wind speed acting with the smoke, 1 is equal to the wind speed, initpositionbox is the size of the effect in meters, life is for the flame duration, velocity is in m/s (width/height/depth).

Indeed you pretty much have to test it out, but if you have a replay with different type of burning/exploding thing, you will be more efficient, anyway, try to set some high values for the quantity to start and narrow it bit by bit. For the duration it's easier.
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Old 04-13-2013, 07:22 PM   #9
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Step one! I finally got a chance to get down and modify the dust trails to make them into something I think is a little more realistic and satisfying:
http://www.digitalcombatsimulator.com/en/files/339335/
I'd like to have some more variation in how long the dust trail particles last, so that every once in a while you get a little wad of dust that lasts for a minute or two, but I'm just doing this by trial and error and still don't fully understand what those two-number parameters mean.

EDIT: I actually shortened them a bit, I think they were getting too long. Someone would probably get an FPS hit and it looked a little silly on grass as opposed to dirt or sand.

I modified the contrails, too, by changing things in "contrail.cfg" in the three LOD subdirectories in bazar/Effects/SmokeTail to make them look something more like the ones we see overhead everyday, but the missile trails seem to be aloof from whatever files I'm tweaking.
EDIT: They're in "Config/Weapons" (duh, search the root directory for "missile"). I made all the AA, AT, and rocket trails about 30% more opaque, which more or less preserves their relative visibility while making all of them that weren't already maxed out more conspicuous. The only one I decreased in relative terms is the AIM-9X, which had more visible smoke than the other AIM-series missiles except the Sparrow, but I keep hearing that a reduced trail is some kind of big selling point with it, so I left it at ~30%, as opposed to the other Sidewinders' and AMRAAMs' 50% (up from 20%). All the Russian AA missiles were already at 100% which strikes me as odd, but oh well. The one place I took a little straight-up artistic license was in having the Russian S-series rockets put out denser smoke as they climb up the weight brackets: If you're firing a 13cm or 24cm rocket, it should feel bigger...!

I was also able to increase the damage from the rockets and shells, after extensive googling and number crunching, looking up things like the megajoules/kilogram of various explosives ("Composition B"? "Tritonal"?), and it seems like most rockets and shells use a chemical just a hair more powerful (and fragile) than that used in bombs (I couldn't find any info on what explosives the Russian weapons use, so I just assumed the same setup), so I added few percent to the same damage calculation bombs use (basically doubling their "warhead weight" parameter, instead of leaving it be like the rockets and shells), making all the rockets and shells just a shade over twice as powerful, and now a Hydra is ~0.06 the strength of a Mk.82 instead of ~0.025, and about 3/4 the power of a non-shaped-charge AA missile. Artillery shells are now about 25% stronger than a basic small AA missile, instead of 50% weaker.
I decided to ignore fragmentation effects because A) they seem to be calculated separately and B) while the shrapnel is a bit lighter than a bomb's, I figure it would be propelled proportionally faster by the slightly more powerful charge, and either way the bombs are still far more powerful, using exactly the same "simple_explosion" logic - I think this is just correcting the way rocket and shell shrapnel was essentially worthless. I only upped the AP rockets by 1.06x, though, since they have some other parameters going on involving cumulative damage.

I applied this to the little shells, too, however, so now a Bradley's autocannon will set a truck on fire with one shot (instead of like, two). Maybe it should - They're incendiary, right? It seems a little much, though, so I might just revert everything smaller than 120mm, but for the sake of consistency I kind of want to keep all the power parameters that use the "simple_explosion" logic with the same "2x warhead weight in kg" system the bombs use.

Presumably people more knowledgeable than I am could figure out more accurate relative power, but even for just the modified smoke these almost certainly aren't MP compatible because the files I had to modify also contained a bunch of performance parameters. So I haven't uploaded any of this yet - I only figured it all out an hour ago - I'm just telling you about it.

Still to do:
Increase crater decal size (found the sprite, where is the config file?).
Increase explosion duration and maybe size to cover up mesh changes (uhhhhh...).
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Old 04-15-2013, 05:31 PM   #10
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Nice one Frogisis, I'm going to install your mod tonight and test it out. At the first glance, your trails tweaking seems really nice.

I couldn't help you with the damages, there's a lot of parameters to take care about, I also think that it will cause problems for the multiplayer.
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