by R. Lee "Banger" Sullivan
Article Type: How-To
Article Date: January 23, 2003
Product Name: Strike Fighters: Project 1
Category: Jet Simulation
Developer: Third Wire Productions, Inc.
Publisher: Strategy First
Release Date: 2002
Files and Links: Click Here
The Jet SetAccessible and extensible, Strike Fighters: Project 1 (SF:P1) is more than a game. It’s a tool kit, flexible enough to support an almost endless variety of modifications. Skins, ground objects, add-on aircraft, new campaigns, flight-model tweaks—the SF:P1 community has produced a steady stream of mods in the past three months, with more in the pipeline. Tsuyoshi "TK" Kawahito built his latest flight sim with users in mind, and it shows.
|EAWII? A-1H add-on aircraft by Monty CZ and Digital Overload. |
The SF:P1 community is a rare combination of propeller and jet enthusiasts. SF:P1's 1960s setting provides an ideal bridge between World War II and modern technology.
Many are hailing SF:P1 as European Air War II—the first add-on aircraft was even a prop job, the Douglas A-1H Skyraider. SF:P1’s EAW lineage is evident in more than just its gameplay. Much of the EAW community has embraced SF:P1, bringing along years of modding expertise. Notable EAW personalities like Ken "Major Lee" Golden, Christian "Mosi" Mosimann and "Sir" Charles Gunst are already devoting their skills to campaigns, skins and add-on aircraft. Even Chase "Scharmers" Dahl has taken notice.
It’s not just propheads who are flocking to SF:P1. The jet crowd has joined in as well, contributing expert modders from communities like Falcon 4 and Flanker 2.5. SF:P1’s avionics may be lightweight compared with hardcore jet sims like F4, but that hasn’t prevented fighter jocks from frequenting the forums. Message boards are sprinkled with posts from veteran military pilots like Andy Bush, Robey Price and Bill Wald, lending authority to flight-model disputes, tactical debates and historical discussions.
This growing community promises plenty of goodies for SF:P1 aficionados. Thanks to TK’s design decisions, mods are much easier to manage than they were in EAW. SF:P1’s native interface is highly flexible, allowing players to switch between mods from within the game shell instead of relying on third-party applications like “Campaign Mover” or “EAW Stab”. This functionality makes proper installation important—it’s not as simple as dumping everything into the EAW folder, but it’s a lot cleaner.
|Fun in the Hun: Bunyap's 309th FBS skin for the F-100D. |
Let's start with the most common mod of all: skins.
Skins are a flight-sim benchmark—the more skins that are available, the more popular and long-lived a sim is likely to become. SF:P1 has generated tons of beautiful skins in its short life, for both NATO and Warsaw Pact aircraft.
Installing SF:P1 skins is a four-step process:
- Place the new skin texture files into the aircraft’s folder
- Modify the aircraft’s initialization file
- Add decal, number or patch files if applicable
- Optionally assign the new skin as a campaign default
SF:P1 skins reside in the Objects/Aircraft folder. Each aircraft has a dedicated folder within Objects/Aircraft, and each aircraft folder contains a separate folder for each skin. Four or five bitmap texture files constitute a complete skin.
For instance, the default F-104G has a USAF silver skin, as well as German and Italian camouflage; the corresponding folders are:
To add a skin, simply create a new skin folder in the aircraft's Objects/Aircraft folder and name it. In the example above, the path for a new Southeast Asia skin might be Objects/Aircraft/F-104G/SEAsia1. Extract the skin texture files into this new folder. (Remember that some skins use self-extractors that name the folder themselves.)
|Earning His Stripes: Marcelo Silva's Canadair Tiger skin for the F-104G. |
So how does SF:P1 know that an aircraft has new livery? Through an initialization file included in each aircraft’s folder. In the F-104G, the INI file’s location is Objects/Aircraft/F-104G/F-104G.ini. This file tells SF:P1 what skins the aircraft has available.
To enable a new skin, simply add [TextureSetXXX] script to the bottom of this INI file, using Notepad. Continuing our Southeast Asia skin example, you might append this script to the bottom of the default F-104G.ini file:
Name=Southeast Asia Camo
Set the [TextureSetXXX] value to follow the preceding texture set’s number consecutively. The Directory= value is the skin’s folder name—check that it matches the actual folder exactly; the Name= value is the title that will appear in the Loadout screen’s dropdown menu; the Nation= value indicates what default service or country uses the skin; and the Squadron= value indicates what default squadron uses the skin.
Note that many skinners include INI script. This can be especially important for the Specular=, Glossiness= and Reflection= values, which affect the skin’s appearance as lighting changes.
Now save and close the INI file. The skin should appear in the Paint Scheme dropdown menu of the aircraft’s Loadout screen the next time you fly a single mission. You can also assign the skin in campaigns by editing the Campaign1_DATA.ini file—we'll get to that in a moment.
SF:P1 deals with insignia through a decal system that’s very powerful. You can change markings independent of the aircraft’s skin—meaning that you don’t need a separate skin for each squadron or nation. Simply select your unit and service from the appropriate dropdown menu in the Campaign or Loadout screens.
To enable default decals, copy the Decals.ini file from the aircraft’s skin folder into your new skin folder. This will place the game's standard squadron and national markings on the skin when you select them in the Campaign or Loadout screens.
Some artists create individual insignia for their skins, providing a new Decals.ini file. A ReadMe should tell you where to put the actual decal texture files; folders are usually Objects and Objects/Aircraft.
It’s important to know if the skin you’re downloading is designed to work with decals or not. Decals can be tricky to position, requiring the skinner to locate exact coordinates on the aircraft model. It takes quite a bit of fiddling. Instead of creating new decals, some skinners have opted to paint markings directly onto the skin. Default decals will cause a hodgepodge of markings when mixed with these prepainted skins. If you use a prepaint, select "none" in the Markings and Squadron dropdown menus from the Loadout screen, or leave the Decals.ini file out of the folder.
|When Insignia Collide: Decals and prepainted markings don't mix. |
Numbers are similar to decals. Default skin folders have a Numbers.lst file that tells SF:P1 what ID numbers are available for the aircraft. As with decals, copy this list file from the default skin to use standard ID numbers with your new skin. Again, some skins have numbers prepainted, and won’t work well with the default numbers; other skinners include a Numbers.lst file with their work.
The patch file is a small bitmap texture that provides a preview of the skin in the Loadout screen. If the skinner hasn’t included one, you can make it yourself—just grab a 32 x 32 pixel square from the skin and save it as a BMP file.
Every squadron has a default skin assigned to it in each SF:P1 campaign. You can change this default skin by editing a single line in the campaign’s data INI file. You’ll need to extract the INI file using the Strike Fighter Project 1 Extract utility, which cracks SF:P1’s catalog files. This indispensable app is available at Check Six ( Editor's Note )
The file you’re looking for is Campaign1_DATA.ini, located in the Flight folder's MissionData.cat file (Flight/MissionData.cat). Once you’ve extracted Campaign1_DATA.ini using SFP1E, open it in Notepad and scroll down to the unit that you want to change. Find the line DefaultTexture=. The value is the skin’s folder; substitute the folder name of your preferred skin to make it the default scheme. Again, check that you enter the exact folder name. Do this for every squadron you intend to modify, then save and close.
Now drop the edited INI file into the Campaigns/CampaignX folder of the campaign you want to modify; for the default Burning Sands campaign, this folder is Campaigns/Campaign1. The next time you start the campaign, your skin should be the unit’s default livery.
|Better Take Care: Coyote's VF-111 Sundowners skin for the F-4B. |
You bet! Skins are, literally and figuratively, just the surface with SF:P1. New campaigns are under way for Cuba, Alaska and the Iran-Iraq War. Several new aircraft models are nearly complete; these models will import straight into the game from 3DMax (though flight models still need to be developed). Script that makes Soviet fighters flyable is available, along with Soviet cockpits; a Soviet campaign; and conversions of NATO drop tanks and kill markings for Soviet fighters. A European terrain set replaces the default desert tiles. Ground-object repaints adapt default vehicles and buildings for the new Euro terrain. Retooled effects render missile and afterburner exhaust more realistic.
More is on the way, and the best way to keep current is to join the SF:P1 community. Here are some essential bookmarks:
- Third Wire: Developer of SF:P1.
- BioHaz Central: News, links, downloads, forums.
- Check Six: News, links, downloads, forums -– in French! Home of SFP1E.
- McFly’s Hangar: News, links, downloads, forum.
- Major Lee’s Aerodrome: Good Gawd -- the Major’s traded in his Thunderbolt!
- Coyote’s Den: Variety of F-4, A-4 and MiG skins.
- MarcFighters: High-quality skins from Brazil.
- Mostly MiGs: Comprehensive MiG skin selection.
- The Skunkworks: Ambitious working group of SF:P1 modders.
- SIMTweak: Home of the F-86 modeling project.
- Viggen Project: Home of the JA-37 modeling project.
- Blackhawk Island : Soviet campaign mods and a comic-book add-on.
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