Just a couple of information before starting a project to realize a qualitiful add-on. Pay or free, it doesn’t matter
Every now and then I receive messages on my Facebook page asking how long it will take until the next scenery will be released, and every time the answer is “when it will be ready”. I know this might sound very stupid and without sense, but most of times we, developers, have no idea when a product will be released, until a week before the launch, because there are a lot of factors influencing our work, and first of all is our happiness with the product. Let me explain better: if me, the developer, I’m the first person being unhappy with the result of a product, I won’t release it until I fix it.
A lot of people think that creating a scenery is something you can create with a few clicks, and once the developer did the 3D model of the airport the work is 50% done.
When I started my experience as developer I thought that I would be able to finish my scenery, Venice Marco Polo, in just a couple of months. It took me 2 years.
Before starting your project you have to be fully aware of what you are going to do, you have to chose a method and try to follow it as better as you can, and, last but not least, you have to be fully aware of what tools you will need in order to realize it. Usually, if it’s the first scenery-experience and you are not very familiar with 3D tools and image editors, Sketchup and GIMP is the best combo, first, because they are free and they are very well made for being free and second, they allow you to work in a semi-professional way. At the beginning you will be very happy with your tool, your models will look good and your first texture will match your initial idea. Then, after a couple of weeks, you will realize that the roof of the building you made is not that great in terms of texture, so you will try to add some details and some effects, trying to replicate a real one. You will end realizing that the initial combo wasn’t that great at the end. Here it comes a better combo, the most used by X-Plane artists nowadays: Blender and Photoshop CC.
The first time I opened Blender I closed within 20 seconds: I had no idea where to start. Its UI is not great for beginners at all, but after subscribing at a 15$ course on Udemy, everything looked better and more familiar. It’s just a matter of exercise, trial and error and patience.
Blender allows you to make tons of things way faster and way better, especially when texturing the model, in fact it works perfectly with Photoshop!
Let’s say that now you are more familiar with your tools and you got some experience in the 3D world and you can’t wait to test your abilities, so the next step is starting to build your project. If you went for a small regional airport as first scenery (which is something I strongly suggest to everyone willing to start a new custom scenery) you will notice that the hard part is not building the 3D models of the airport, but creating the textures for it. In fact, a good 3D model might take up to a week to be realized (if you dedicate most of your day at the project), but a very good texture for it might take up to a month to be realized!
Most of the people don’t understand how hard it is to create a good scenery. I would say that the 3D model is just 10% of the work, the rest is the texturing process.
Texturing can be very frustrating some times, the secret for that is to just keep calm and keep going. If you have no idea how to continue the texture, just change object and return at it once finished. In the mean time try to find inspiration on everyday things. It might sound stupid, but it’s true.
The most important thing is that you should never drop the project!