Update 28/01/2023: Website is up, final polishing stage in progress.
While I’m putting the finishing touches on the official launch of Aircraft Manager Pro (New Utility Release - Aircraft Manager Free) I’ve also been hard at work scratching another itch I have with MSFS - location management!
I know we have great tools like LittleNavMap etc (which I also use extensively) but I just want something simple as well, that I can access in game. One of my favorite activities in MSFS is playing interactive earth explorer: spin the globe a bit, look for interesting visual formations, pick a plane, and go sightseeing. Having an easy way to remember some of the better locations, for different reasons, and quickly go to them in game has always been something I wanted.
Here’s a couple of screenshots of the WIP, which is in the final stages of development.
The existing UI works in VR, how well it works for you visually is the question.
Can you outline the contexts and use cases of how you would see yourself using something like this in VR, to give me a better idea of the workflows?
I haven’t tested it in VR yet, I’ll leave that till it’s closer to alpha stage soon, but the limitation with the UI in VR is basically down to the quality and sharpness of your headset, with some controls being a bit too fine for VR interaction.
You still need a mouse or mouse analog, and the trouble with VR controllers is they work well as pointers and clickers on bigger objects, but they are not so hot for fine UI interactions, which the grid has. That said, if all you want to do in VR is hit save, and organise later, that’s possible. The button elements are large enough, but the filter controls and text input are probably best as flatscreen interactions.
I don’t particularly like using the UI in VR because I’m on a older Rift V2 (part of Oculus dev program) and it’s bit blurry, especially in the fine text details sometimes. However, I know some of the higher end super sharp headsets it can look almost as good as flatscreen, or so I hear.
Would be neat if markers you place can interact with the Flow Portal, and appear on that map too. So you could jump to a POI by searching for it in Portal.
Also a minor annoyance of mine is that the Orbx GB North and Central packs don’t have POI markers in the world for the hundreds of objects they have added. Apparently there is a way to have them as an overlay in Sky4Sim Pad tool but I have not tried that, but it shows that data is there somewhere as importable data (I think they provide a CSV in the packs).
Technically it should be afaik, but actually getting on to the XBox is a very long process that has a big backlog and wait time. You can’t test on XBox yourself (ie: sideloading is not possible), it has to be submitted to Microsoft and they test, leading to a test/fix cycle there if any issues are detected. After passing technically, it then has to pass whatever other content checks they have.
So the best I can say on that front is “we’ll see” as there are too many factors outside my control.
If I can proof of concept the utility and stability on PC, then that goes a long way to smoothing the process for XBox, so the focus will be there first.
Thanks for the suggestions & feedback, will keep it all in mind. Keep 'em coming!
This looks great! You certainly nailed it when talking about LNP - a great tool to be sure, but if you just want a simple app that helps you to remember places you like and why, this is a great idea. Will there be any sort of capability to export/import your list of places as backup? Looking forward to hearing more…
Doing surgery like this on the MSFS UI to insert some additional useful functionality is delicate work, and we’re also constrained from doing some things by the design of it. One of the constraints, which I came across investigating export/import for New Utility Release - Aircraft Manager Free , is it appears you can’t open a save file dialog as you would on windows.
Another one is you can’t have unlimited storage of custom data. While persistant data is written to the savegame which is cloud synced (via Asobo dev, see ref below), for safety reasons there will be a size limit imposed on the number of saved locations. Probably 100 to 200, initially, just to keep things within the bounds of safety. I’ll adjust this as more data comes in and I get more clarity on the limits as to what can be safely done.
I recognise export/import is a both a useful backup feature and also has utility for loading different sets of custom content, especially if there is a size limit on storage, so I’m still looking into this aspect as to how it might be done despite the limitations I’ve found so far.
I have some ideas on this, but they need to be prototyped and tested to validate the approach.
The JS Datastore writes to the savegame which is cloud synced. I don’t believe there are restrictions to it on Xbox.
One piece of advice: Writing too much data into one key:value pair can corrupt the savegame. I don’t know the exact limit but I would try to stay under 200 characters per value to be safe
The “markers” are virtual, and referenced in the grid only, but you’ll be able to click on them to load into the map to go to them. So currently no visual marker on the map, which could also be quite messy as you can save any location, whether it’s custom (ie: no marker on map) or an existing MSFS Map marker that designates an Airport, POI, Fauna, City++
That said, I am looking into the possibiliy of doing an overlay marker that you could bring up (but doesn’t ruin an existing marker it was saved from), but no guarantees on that atm.
Like many good ideas, it might end up being a bugsplat on the windscreen of harsh implementation reality . That might be a deal breaker for some, but as previously explained we have to work within the constraints of what we have access to in the UI framework.
I took a quick look at their API and currently this won’t be possible due to them not having a generic storage retrieval call atm, which would be needed to hook them up. If they enhance the flow API further it might be possible to develop a custom search script. Will keep an eye on it.
I may also develop a toolbar extension to LM that will allow you to do this, in which case it could be loaded into flow that way. That’s likely to be a post V1 release feature, if at all, and as per usual it’s an idea only atm and no guarantee.
Orbx GB North and Central packs don’t have POI markers in the world for the hundreds of objects they have added.
This is really on them to fix by properly adding them as POI’s, in which case it would be a simple matter of clicking on a POI and saving it’s location to LM. As you’re a customer of them who bought the product, I would submit a ticket to them asking them to implement this. I don’t know why they didn’t, it would seem to be a requirement for a POI addon! I don’t have them myself.
Are you talking about using the main map in VR to select interesting places/POIs on the map and then pressing FLY, or more like Flightshare/Fstarter/Flow++ toolbar or external app maps where you can select a map point and teleport to it while already loaded into a flight?
They’re related but different use cases. I can guarantee the former (main MSFS Map UI), the latter maybe, but no guarantee atm. Needs investigation, and I’d like to knock the main UI map use cases over first before looking into possible enhancements - ones also that are already covered by existing apps. eg: see point above in previous reply re: Flow integration
It’s possible, there’s mulltiple tools that do this already though.
Location Manager V1 will be focused on enhancing the main UI map location/fly experience initally, as that needs to be working seemlessly before extending into the flight mode with/without VR.
On the plus side, I solved a major UX issue hooking into the main map click n’ zoom capability (it was harder than it looked to do without access to the lower level functions, and took a bit of creative thinking to solve), so forging ahead now.