First and foremost - I just want to specify that i am new to object design for FS2004 !!!
Abacus released sometime ago a great little program called FSDS. For those of us who have tried other programs (ie: GMAX), and did not have the actual time to learn a new program all by it's own, have recieved a treat from the heavens.
First of all the program layout is quite simple to learn. All menu bars and options do not require you to learn a whole new language. The simplicity of the program allow anyone, especially myself to pick-up and go on any type of scenery project (i'll be releasing some time in the near future my first scenery addon project for FS2004 : Canadian Military Vehicles - photoreal textures)
The features are simple to use and the program itself is designed specifically for flightsim. Anyone can pretty much start building an airplane or object from scratch with even the simplest knowledge of geometry and being able to visualize in three dimensions. The program even comes with ''some'' pre-built pieces that allow for a faster learning curve.
It's jammed pack with a number of features for adding lights, moving aircraft parts, animations and is equipped with a good basic help / tutorial to get anyone started.
Putting myself as well as the program to the test, i started working on a third project, HMCS Halifax (Canadian Navy Halifax Class Patrol frigate). Though the program itself is a slave to Microsoft's FS2004 Scenery Developement Kit, more specifically, MAKEMDL, some head-aches can be encountered and expected. Especially when building / welding the project into a actual object (major glitch that i have had to overcome was that MAKEMDL and FSDS had issues with the Communications Tower on top of the ship's mid-ship section - cause : to many points, not enough parts, wrong faces and non-normalized normals).
Another problem that i have encountered with FSDS is the inability within the program to create the object as ''SOLID'' or with a ''Patform'' to land on. This caused some more tylenol moments ravaging forum after forum trying to find options to get over this issue. The only 2 solutions that i have found up to date involve:
A) - Taking the FSDS project, running it through a CVA converter then importing into GMAX, cloning the object, adding the remove crash box scripts, then the add platform script before re-running the remove crash box scripts. (by doing this, you lose all your previous texture assignments and have to repaint your object usign GMAX - )
B) - Exporting the XML file, and modifying it so that object becomes a airport. This option hasn't been tried yet, but.. i will try it very soon and post the results.
Texturing and FSDS.
Texturing in FSDS also comes as a breeze. For developpers looking to 'paint' their objects, the program creates easy to use templates based on the object. For those more like myself who enjoy having that real as it gets feeling and wish to use photo-textures, FSDS allows that option with no problems. Texturing parts and or faces is quite easy and is a no-brainer. As long as you have a good picture editor or paint program, you can create your Textures and imported them into FSDS. Some practice might be required at first, the process is quickly learned and mastered.
All together the program is good buy, but, warning to anyone wishing to build hard landable objects, your in for head-ache.