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    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.

    *****
    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.
    Last edited 03-26-2013, 09:45 PM.
    For when it goes wrong: Win10x64, GTX1080, Intel i7 @3.5 GHz, 32GB DDR3, Warthog HOTAS, Saitek combat rudder pedals, TrackIR 5 / Vive Pro, a case of Pabst, The Funk

    #2
    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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      #3
      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!
      Shagrat

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        #4
        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.
        Intel Core i5 4690k @4,6Ghz, Gigabyte GTX 970 OC, Gigabyte Z97-X, 16GB G Skill Sniper @2400, Samsung 860/850 EVO , Win 10 64 bits, Dual monitors 27"@144"
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          #5
          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.

          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.

          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?

          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.

          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.
          Last edited 03-27-2013, 04:50 AM.
          For when it goes wrong: Win10x64, GTX1080, Intel i7 @3.5 GHz, 32GB DDR3, Warthog HOTAS, Saitek combat rudder pedals, TrackIR 5 / Vive Pro, a case of Pabst, The Funk

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            #6
            Trial and error is a must.

            I spent over 2 years creating the effects in BMS
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              #7
              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.
              Last edited 03-27-2013, 05:48 AM.
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                #8
                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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                  #9
                  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...).
                  Last edited 04-15-2013, 10:41 AM.
                  For when it goes wrong: Win10x64, GTX1080, Intel i7 @3.5 GHz, 32GB DDR3, Warthog HOTAS, Saitek combat rudder pedals, TrackIR 5 / Vive Pro, a case of Pabst, The Funk

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                    #10
                    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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                      #11
                      Hope you enjoy it - It's being updated right now and still waiting to be approved, but keep checking back.

                      No real leads on the craters or explosions... I tried messing with the .lua files in config/effects/explosions but except for "ShellOnObject" they don't seem to change anything. I'm really satisfied with the way the dust trails now fade away, and I'd love a similar effect for the dust puffs from the explosions.

                      Messing with the crater parameters in bazar/SmokeTable.sht made the sim not start, so...
                      There are several "vorodki" .edm files that presumably control their appearance, but I can't find any coherent info on how to open that format.
                      For when it goes wrong: Win10x64, GTX1080, Intel i7 @3.5 GHz, 32GB DDR3, Warthog HOTAS, Saitek combat rudder pedals, TrackIR 5 / Vive Pro, a case of Pabst, The Funk

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                        #12
                        Put them back. They're reduced smoke motors. There's a reason why they were made this way.

                        Originally posted by Frogisis View Post
                        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%).
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                        I used to play flight sims like you, but then I took a slammer to the knee - Yoda

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                          #13
                          Oh, OK - I knew there were reduced smoke motors in the later AIM series, but being the newer missile I figured the 9X would be more reduced, since that feature always seems to be mentioned in any description I read of it. Maybe they couldn't swing it or didn't prioritize it in that version, though, and I'm all turned around on the matter.
                          Thanks for the heads up, I will bump it back to the same proportion right now... EDIT: Oh, turns out it was originally set to "tail_solid", which is pure white at 100% opacity, same as the 9P, big SAMs, and all the Russian AA missiles (See!? Visible smoke must not be a big deal after all ha ha ha!). Looking it up on several sites just now, it looks like the reduced smoke is actually really more of a 9M thing, anyway. I must have dreamed that about the 9X or something.
                          Last edited 04-16-2013, 09:48 AM.
                          For when it goes wrong: Win10x64, GTX1080, Intel i7 @3.5 GHz, 32GB DDR3, Warthog HOTAS, Saitek combat rudder pedals, TrackIR 5 / Vive Pro, a case of Pabst, The Funk

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                            #14
                            In general I think this ancient engine is not that capable of generating effects we come to expect from a 2013 simulation. There are some great mods but it's the engine that's the limiting factor.

                            I'd like to see physics applied to ground units. Especially when being hit by a missile or other object.

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                              #15
                              In the abstract I think that's true, but until we get to the point where simulations are generating worlds at the level of particle physics, these are all essentially artistic problems.

                              A better engine would kick things to an entirely new level, but even some 8-bit games had explosions and other effects that really popped just by virtue of a good visual imagination. Assuming we can find the right knobs to twiddle, there's a lot more we can do with what we already have.

                              Unfortunately, it seems like the current explosions might just be rigid stock animations, with every puff of smoke hard-coded to follow its one little pre-taped dance for all eternity, and no outside parameter can modify it. Maybe. Theoretically you could change the code in the .lua file to change the animation, but when I say "you" I mean that literally in the sense of "not me."
                              Last edited 04-16-2013, 11:17 AM.
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                                #16
                                You can change the .lua file to adjust the particle emitter to say, throw out the particles at different velocities, heights and how long to sustain the effect for. I've done it before.

                                However, the engine seems to hard limit the amount of time the effect can live for. I wanted to create lingering smoke but the engine culled it no matter what setting I changed.

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                                  #17
                                  The 9M and 120 are all reduced. The 9X uses the 9M motor, though with some modification (these motors always get some form of review and possibly minor upgrade with each batch )

                                  Reduced is used instead of completely smokeless because reduced is hard enough to see and is more powerful than the composition of smokeless propellant. The propellant that creates white smoke is supposedly even more powerful, but I believe that the new reduced smoke motors may have eroded a lot of this difference.

                                  Originally posted by Frogisis View Post
                                  Oh, OK - I knew there were reduced smoke motors in the later AIM series, but being the newer missile I figured the 9X would be more reduced, since that feature always seems to be mentioned in any description I read of it. Maybe they couldn't swing it or didn't prioritize it in that version, though, and I'm all turned around on the matter.
                                  Thanks for the heads up, I will bump it back to the same proportion right now... EDIT: Oh, turns out it was originally set to "tail_solid", which is pure white at 100% opacity, same as the 9P, big SAMs, and all the Russian AA missiles (See!? Visible smoke must not be a big deal after all ha ha ha!). Looking it up on several sites just now, it looks like the reduced smoke is actually really more of a 9M thing, anyway. I must have dreamed that about the 9X or something.
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                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by 112th_Rossi View Post
                                    You can change the .lua file to adjust the particle emitter to say, throw out the particles at different velocities, heights and how long to sustain the effect for. I've done it before.

                                    However, the engine seems to hard limit the amount of time the effect can live for. I wanted to create lingering smoke but the engine culled it no matter what setting I changed.
                                    Ah, alright. I changed the contrails and vehicle dust trails that way, but the explosions don't seem to follow the same logic.
                                    Screw it, then - I'll just wait until ED gets around to it. They already look decent, I can wait a while for "excellent."

                                    Making the craters larger and visible from farther away now is the only other change I want to make. There was a mod by Teka Teka a few years ago called "Bomb Holes Visibility Mod" that apparently did the latter for LOMAC, but the download has been allowed to expire, so I can't reverse engineer it to springboard a DCS World version.
                                    .edm files seem to be the key, but google isn't forthcoming with what it takes to open and edit those.

                                    Have to say, though, I'm really satisfied with the results of increasing the shell and rocket damage parameter to the same "2x warhead weight" value the bombs use - It clicks with the AI unit behavior in a way that makes me think it was always intended to be that way but just slipped through the cracks, given all ED is working on. That could be completely wrong of course, and they've been carefully calculated to be exactly what they are, but now, for example, the way tanks start with HE instead of AP rounds from far away results in them actually hurting each other a little bit. Before, I could jump into a tank and "headshot" the opposing column with AP rounds from like two miles away, but now the way they start off with shells instead actually makes a bit of sense. And artillery feels more believably effective, as well.
                                    To be honest, the bombs also strike me (ahem) as a little weak, especially the big ones like the Mk.84 and the FAB-1500. In video clips they create these immense, apartment building-sized explosions, so maybe kicking the bombs to "3x warhead weight," or even 4 (back to their original proportion re: shells/rockets), would be an interesting experiment. Some of the AA missiles with shaped charges have multipliers of 5 or more for their little 11kg warheads, so it's not completely unprecedented.

                                    Once I separate all these out into purely cosmetic MP-compatible packages vs. incompatible ones, I'll upload them for people to play around with/argue over. Someone with first-hand experience could probably come up with an interesting alternative set or two of realistic damage values once pointed to the right lines of code. I think that "Well, change it and see" option is one of the things that makes simulations uniquely fun, along with the potential to realize all those whimsical "never were" designs that were axed for practical, back-end reasons that don't have to concern us.

                                    *AHEM*
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                                      #19
                                      I would love for better smoke/dust/explosions. I really liked the explosion they added a few patches ago, with the debris flying up, but even that I would love for the smoke/dust to linger a bit.

                                      As for the engine, I'm thinking that's definitely something that's holding the particle effects back a little. There are so much other things being calculated, a whole extensive particle system would really test our CPU limits.

                                      I have to say though, that some of the things currently in the game, (like the bullet shells from guns being calculated?!) are a huge waste of resources, and I'd much rather see better smoke/explosions/tracers than that behind the scene stuff.

                                      Keep up the good work though!
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                                        #20
                                        Thanks, I plan to put these in a package with several variations and some instructions on the files so that people can experiment a little.

                                        ...The explosions are frozen as-is, but I wonder if it would be possible to add a separate smoke generator to them. Vehicles, jet/rocket engines, and wreckage have something "on" them that gives off particles, so maybe you can make a new one and stick it on explosions... No idea how to do that at the moment, though. I'm more of an idea man.
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