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How To...Run FS2000 Scenery/Aircraft Under CFS2

Posted on Aug 25 2001 04:00:08 PM by webmaster (4727 views)
Lessons & tutorials Many of the scenery display improvements of FS2002 are already available in CFS2. Even better, its quite possible to run most FS2000 aircraft and scenery using CFS2, allowing you to enjoy those benefits now. In this article Damion Shelton tells you how.

How To...Use CFS2 To Run FS2000

By Damion Shelton

Introduction

You might be interested to know that FS2002 was actually released last fall.

Surprised? Well, its (fairly) common knowledge that FS2002 is based on a tweaked version of the Combat Flight Simulator 2 graphics engine. What isnt common knowledge is that CFS2 is lock-stock-and-barrel compatible with the now-aging FS2000. How compatible?

Completely.

In other words, the FS2000 aircraft and scenery set can be dropped into CFS2, and gain the benefits of vastly improved mesh scenery handling, improved lighting effects, and 32 bit textures. Those of you with compatible video cards will enjoy hardware transform and lighting (T&L) acceleration, and anti-aliasing. Everyone will enjoy dramatically improved frame rates, even with Eddie Denneys lovely but notoriously frame-chewing mesh scenery update.

Heres how to try it for yourself. Although my description is wordy, the process is actually relatively short, probably less than 15 minutes.

Scenery Conversion

First, back up your scenery.cfg files from both your FS2000 and CFS2 directories. And now its time for a disclaimer: the following is reasonably hard-core FS hacking. Mistakes may necessitate reinstallation of FS2000, CFS2, or both. So be careful, and when in doubt make multiple backups of the files youre playing with. OK... now that youve been warned:


    •Rename the CFS2 scenery.cfg to scenery.cfg.old
    •Copy (dont move) the FS2000 scenery.cfg file to the CFS2 directory
    •Open the copied FS2000 scenery.cfg file. Youll see a bunch of entries, depending on any custom FS2000 scenery youve installed. You now need to change the paths of each scenery module to point to the "absolute" location on your computer.

This deserves some explanation: paths can be "relative" or absolute. Consider the following:

[Area.006]
Title=FS2000 Generic Libraries
Local=scenedbsco
Active=TRUE
Layer=6
The line "Local=scenedbsco" says "look for the directory scenedbsco starting in the directory where this scenery.cfg file is located". Youve moved the scenery.cfg file, so this is no longer correct. On my computer, FS2000 is installed under E:FS2000 and CFS2 under E:CFS2. So, I would change this line to read:

Local=e:fs2000scenedbsco
The original entry was a relative path and the new entry is an absolute path. As another example, consider the FS2000 entry:

[Area.080]
Title=Hong Kong Kaitak
Local=..fs2kterrainKaitak
Active=TRUE
Layer=80
"..fs2kterrain" means "go back one directory, then look for the fs2terrain directory". The actual directory is E:fs2kterrain - now, this is also one directory "back" or "up" from e:CFS2 so wed be in good shape, but keep in mind that this might not have been the case. When in doubt, specify the directory absolutely rather than relatively, since the entries were relative to FS2000, not necessarily to CFS2.

In practice, I found it easy to use find and replace in Notepad (under Programs-Accessories) rather than manually typing things over. For instance, replace all "scenedb" entries with "E:fs2000scenedb" or the equivalent on your machine.

When youre done editing, save the new scenery.cfg file. It now contains information about your original FS2000 scenery, but in a way that CFS2 can understand. Now you need to add CFS2s own terrain info. Open up the scenery.cfg.old file (the backup version of CFS2s scenery.cfg you created earlier).

Copy and paste the header:

[General]
Title=CFS2 World
Description=CFS 2 Scenery data
Cache_Size=10M
over top of any existing FS2000 header. I changed "Cache_Size=10M" to "Cache_Size=50M" in order to agree with the FS2000 scenery.cfg file. This probably wasnt necessary, but feel free to experiment. Now, copy the rest of the scenery.cfg.old file, which by default consists of 11 areas, into the end of the new scenery.cfg file (the one you just edited).

The entries copied from CFS2 need to be renumbered to agree with the existing numbering inherited from FS2000, but otherwise shouldnt need to be changed. Make sure you renumber both the Area.XYZ and Layer=XYZ sections. This numbering should be continuous starting with the last entry from FS2000.

Aircraft Conversion

This is the easy part. Copy your entire gauges directory from FS2000 to CFS2, overwriting any files if asked. Also copy your entire aircraft folder. Thats it.

Not everything works 100% perfectly. 767 Pilot In Command simply refuses to work, although Im still tinkering. Other planes that use custom gauges, or the default FS2000 GPS display, can cause lock-ups. On the whole though, Ive had very few problems with add-on aircraft, and no problems at all with the standard FS2000 planes.

Performance

My system: Celeron 566, GeForce2 GTS, 512 MB RAM

As hard as it is to believe, the complexity of ground terrain seems to be largely irrelevant to the performance of CFS2. Grand Teton National Park, a virtual slideshow under FS2000, is now as smooth, say, central Kansas. Large numbers of buildings and complicated (photorealistic) ground textures still slow my system down, but considering Im running a Celeron 566, this isnt a huge surprise. For rural flying though, even in high-polygon areas like the Rockies, frame rates approach those of X-Plane. This is not an exaggeration - the hype surrounding the performance of FS2002 appears to be true!

Since the lack of a GPS precludes automated flying of flight plans, I do mostly VFR flying with CFS2. Nav radios and autopilot still work fine though, so VOR to VOR flying is possible, and indeed quite entertaining.

Miscellanies

An obvious side effect of flying under CFS2 is the possibility of dog fighting in, say, downtown Manhattan. CFS2 also adds default guns to whatever planes you import, so if you have the - lets face it, unavoidable - urge to try chasing Zeros in a 737 feel free to give it a try.

Once you get that out of your system, which didnt take very long in my case, youll probably want to change the key mappings to match your FS2000 setup. CFS2 helpfully offers the option to automatically set key bindings to FS2000 defaults, so this takes only a second or two.

Depending on the performance of your system, you might want to twiddle with graphics settings to decide what the best tradeoff of eye candy and frame rate is for your system. I leave mine cranked to the highest level. Even in relatively complex areas the frame rates are still quite acceptable, and a far cry above those in FS2000 with similar settings.

Also note that the interface is a bit different than FS2000. For instance, youll probably want to fly using "Free Flight", and set your starting airport using the "Advanced Go-To". CFS2, at least in my experience, always places you on the runway with your engines off.

Caveats

Youll notice that when switching back and forth between CFS2 and FS2000, whichever sim youre using will tell you that its "rebuilding scenery indices". This is because you are using same scenery (literally the same, not a copy) for each sim, and the scenery index formats are incompatible with each other. Although a bit time consuming, the only workaround that I know of would be to completely duplicate the FS2000 scenery set under another directory, and point CFS2 to this new directory structure. In my opinion, this would be an incredible waste of disk space, but if you have a couple spare gigs lying around and are annoyed by having to rebuilding the scenery indices, give it a try.

Weather effects are quite good under CFS2, but since the South Pacific is always warm and sunny (or warm and rainy), Microsoft didnt add the option of changing seasons.

Finally, the texture set for CFS2 reflects the period, and might not be exactly what you had in mind for modern cities. On the other hand, the forest textures are very attractive, and the city textures - while "dated" - work well in the context of rural VFR flying. You might want to experiment with copying the default FS2000 textures into CFS2, or using one of the many replacement packs found on FlightSim.Com - BUT, remember to make back-ups!

Final Thoughts

Given the performance increase, you owe it to yourself to install Eddie Denneys free U.S. mesh update, or his payware world update. Enough griping about frame rates and stutter, Microsoft has really delivered this time. The novelty of combat flying wore off pretty quickly, but with the exception of using FS2000 for 767 PIC, I do nearly all of my civilian flying in the overhauled CFS2.

Thanks are in order to the poster of a few CFS2/FS2000 screen shots that provided the inspiration for trying the conversion for myself.

And, lastly: If you werent already excited about FS2002, get excited. Get very, very excited. Thanks to the power of the CFS2 engine, I am no longer suspicious of the hype.

Cheers,
Damion Shelton
damion@opengc.org

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