SimSamurai 2D-VIP Instrument Panels

Our biggest concept at SimSamurai has always been one of   “one sim for every aircraft”.
In addition to our cockpit shell designs, the other cornerstone of this ideology is providing virtual instrument panels (VIPs) which set a higher standard for realism and low cost training. 

Since 2012 most every developer for flight simulator aircraft (for Microsoft FS2004, FSX, and Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D) have moved away from what used to be the norm in flight simulation, the 2D instrument panel.  Since 2012 the 2D panel has all but disappeared in favor of the 3D style Virtual Cockpit or “VC”.  And while there are now some very beautiful and complex VC’s on the payware market such as the PMDG 737 or Majestic Q400, or the VRS F-18 Superhornet, most others are still only a “reasonable facsimile” of the real aircraft.  

Most importantly however, every real world pilot will agree that virtual cockpits are not suitable for real world flight training and as an example the FAA has not recognized virtual cockpits, nor virtual reality as a valid training tool.   While this may change in time,  you will never really get the sensation of flying a real aircraft unless your cockpit and instrument panel is something that is realistically scaled and simply “looks and feels like the real thing” whether that be in a real tangible sense, or that of virtual cyber space. 

Therefore the continued use of 1:1 scale virtual 2D instrument panel sets, while a true scarcity these days for the average consumer, are a core necessity for any real world training platform. 

And that’s where we step in to help!

During 2006 to 2010 SimSamurai originally built over 20 instrument panel sets for FS2004 mainly because the performance of FSX was, and still is, absolutely horrid for cockpit building purposes but we never fully released these sets because so many people had already switched to FSX (and then tirelessly complained about it for years while tweaking and tuning every internal file possible to try and gain more performance).  Even the new Steam Edition is not much better, if at all.   Thankfully, now that Prepar3D has matured, it is much, much better than FSX in every respect and is much more flexible for cockpit implementation with multiple displays.  Best of all, it takes full advantage of the latest computer hardware.

On the right side of this page you will find information for the new 2D panel sets we are releasing for Prepar3D.  They will likely be backwards compatible with FSX and FSX Steam but we no longer offer support for those two titles.  In our opinion Prepar3D sets a new standard for the future of professional flight simulation and therefore will remain our core platform indefinitely.

On the rest of this column below and at right, we provide a great deal of free information on how to install, implement, and use 2D instrument panels whether it be from SimSamurai or any other developer that offers 2D panel sets.  If you would like to learn even more, we highly suggest purchase of our UGTAFS tech manual.

The web-link below is to a great 2016 article on FlightSim.com about how to make 2D panels and in addition to the article the comments also provide important insights as to how others feel about 2D panels.

http://www.flightsim.com/vbfs/content.php?16724-The-Flight-Simulator-2D-Panel

Top UGTAFS Tips for FS Gauge Management

* The tutorial below is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of the UGTAFS.

All FS panel sets consist of 3 things; the panel config file, the bitmaps (backdrop artwork) and the gauges themselves which are compiled of code and their own internal artwork.  Single C++ code gauges have a .gau file extension or a .dll extension which is a collection of several gauges, or some gauges are made in XML code with a .XML file extension.  Groups of XML gauges are typically contained in a .cab file which is much like a .zip file.   Groups of gauges are stored together in .dll files or .cab files much like a zip file contains many different documents and pictures.

All panel folders typically contain a varied combination of these types of gauges which are made in either C++ or XML code and both types can co-exist on any instrument panel in Prepar3D. Some developers create separate external gauge programs which run outside of FS, which can have both advatages and disadvantages, but all SImSamurai panel sets use the old “tried and true” standard of panel creation by using both freeware and payware gauges placed on bitmap artwork.  Ultimately, this allows for a greater amount of design flexibility.

All Prepar3D aircraft (as well FSX and FS2004) always have their actual gauges, which are used for a panel set, located in one of two places..or possibly both.  An aircraft’s gauges will either be located in its own Panel folder(s) right alongside the panel bitmap images and the panel config file, or the gauges themselves may reside in the master Gauges folder in the root FS folder. Gauges will always be found in these two places and the sim looks in the aircraft’s panel folder first, then the main gauges folder when loading up an aircraft prior to the flight or scenario.

(The root or master gauges folder is found at a file path such as C:Program Files/ Lockheed Martin/ Prepar3D/ Gauges)

An important tip here is that if there are any gauges or cab files found in the Panel folder you should either copy and paste or cut and paste out these gauges (gauges only …not the bitmaps and not the config file) to the main Gauges folder located in the main root folder of the flight simulator. 

This is because when loading a panel, the FS software will look in the aircraft’s panel folder first for these gauges and then the master Gauges folder second.  The sim then loads this data into the computers RAM.  However, placing all of the aircraft gauges in the master Gauges folder is very important for panel designers and anyone who wants to use different panel sets with a variety of different aircraft.  In short, if you ever want to use gauges or any collection of gauges with another aircraft for purposes of panel design you will have to make sure that those gauges are placed in the main / root Gauges folder so that they are available for sharing with other aircraft.

As a panel designer I always clear out all my aircraft’s panel folders of their gauges when I install the aircraft and then just place all of them in the main Gauges folder.  I then make a copy of the entire Gauges folder and save the copy outside of FS for safe keeping.  This is completely ok to do and as you will soon learn below, this gives a panel designer an added advantage.   For one, it simply allows for more design flexibility and actually saves space as there is no need to bloat your flight simulator installation with duplicate gauges within the many, many separate aircraft’s panel folders as many aircraft will actually use the same exact common gauges anyway.  Thus think of this process as a way to save hard drive space while also trimming out some of the fat from your simulator installation.  All of this is explained in even more detail in the SimSamurai UGTAFS.

If you are an FS Panel Studio user then you may already know that Panel Studio will only reference your main Gauges folder to build panels anyway. Thus if you ever want to modify any of your own panels this will be a necessary process in your panel building goals.  Therefore the quicker you get into this habit…the better!

Once you’ve installed a lot of aircraft (*and we have a suggested list of our top 50 on this website) take 30 minutes, open up each aircraft in your aircraft folder (or Sim Objects / Aircraft) and then open each Panel folder within the aircraft.  Look for individual .gau, .dll, or .xml, or .cab gauge files and then cut and paste the gauges and or cab files in to your main  / root Gauges folder.  Again, these may be individual gauges or may be gauges contained within a .cab file which is like a “container” which holds many gauges.  In any case never rename the actual gauge names nor cab files either..just cut and paste them into the flight simulators main Gauges folder.

When moving all your gauges in to the master / root FS Gauges folder it may sometimes say that you have the same gauge already in existence in the master Gauges folder.  If so, then just say “NO” (meaning you do not want to overwrite the gauge(s) you are attempting to replace.)  However, if it says that the gauge you are moving is actually NEWER than what you may overwrite then, yes I personally DO  allow all newer gauges to overwrite all older ones as this could be because the gauge designer had maybe updated and improved the gauge functionality at some point but yet it still retained the exact same name.  This helps to ensure that you are always keeping the most recent or most updated gauge library.

If there are any instances where you said “NO” while copying gauges from a panel folder to your master Gauges folder just remember that all those non-copied gauges will continue to remain in the aircraft’s panel folder.  Because of this you can then go back and delete those (as you obviously know you have a copy in the master Gauges folder) or you can choose to leave them alone at the expense of keeping the “excess baggage”.

To begin this process just start alphabetically with each panel folder within each aircraft and move down and through your entire aircraft library.  If an aircraft has several different panel folders then just repeat the process for each panel folder.

The only exception to this rule of gauge moving would be with Payware aircraft you have installed.  In those cases, if there are gauges in its panel folder I would generally leave them alone and leave them as is / where is.  

You could however option to just copy them into your main Gauges folder but please know that some payware developers specifically encode all of their panels and their gauges so that they cannot be be used with any other aircraft (freeware OR payware) and so in these cases copying them to the master Gauges folder might not do you any good anyway.  This was also discussed earlier in the section on using SimSamurai panels with payware aircraft. 

The main goal of this exercise is to help you develop a very large and robust freeware Gauges library so that you can use all of them with various aircraft in future panel building efforts.  This process will also help you to seamlessly use any purchased panel sets from SimSamurai.com.  The end result of this entire clean out and slim down process is that you may be able to trim out 500mb to a solid gig of excess duplicate gauge data that you do not need whatsoever.  Trust me, I have done this each time I have built up a new FS computer and it works perfectly fine.  It will not harm your simulator or PC.  It will in fact help your sim load faster because its not having to comb through so much extra or duplicate data.  You should definitely do this if you have installed more than 50 add-on aircraft.

The two final things to do after this is to run the Windows Disc Clean-Up utility and then run a Defrag on the hard drive that Flight Simulator is installed on.   This will re-consolidate and reorganize all your folders and files after having performed this clean out process.  Do not defrag your drive if it is a newer Solid State style drive or review your manufacturers recommendations for this process.

Lastly, whenever you install new freeware aircraft take notice of where the gauges are first located.  Are they in the aircraft’s Panel folder? …are they in a Gauges folder that you are supposed to drop into/onto the main Gauges folder?  The reason I say this is because you can in fact first choose to just move all its gauges into its own Panel folder first so as to just test the aircraft by itself for awhile.  Then later on, if you decide to keep it, or perhaps if it has great gauges that you really like and feel could be used with other aircraft, you can at that point copy or cut and paste its gauges into your master FS Gauges folder.

The Greatest Panel Designer Tip — Combating Duplicate Gauge Entries

As said before, once I have a large “Master Gauges Folder” sqaured away I immediately make a copy of it and store it completely outside of FS somewhere and then this wholly separated gauge folder is what I will actually reference duing panel building sessions.  This is specifically because whenever FS opens a panel set in the sim which calls for the same exact gauge on a panel it will actually make a duplicate of that gauge inside the main gauge folder but with an extra number string.   As a panel designer this can be a huge pain while in the design process.

For example if you have a pilot panel with an Attiude indicator on it and a co-pilot panel with the same exact Attiude indicator being used, FS will copy that gauge and make a duplicate but with a slightly different name such as Attitude_Indicator_01 or _001, etc.  (while the original remains as just Attiude Indicator)  This means that your entire master Gauges folder can quickly become filled with hundreds of duplicate entires that are needed to display those aircraft panels within a single panel set which share a common gauge.  In the case of all  SimSamurai panels which will always have a pilot and co-pilot panel this gauge duplication issue can become extreme!   

Therefore this issue quickly creates a huge hassle in panel building as you would have to sort through the hundreds of extra duplicates whenever building a new panel set.  If you in fact used a duplicate gauge on another panel the sim would then start making duplicates of duplicates of duplicates and so on. In essence your gauges would start multiplying like rabbits and weasels!  I learned this the hard way and it was maddening to find hundreds of these instances of duplicates.  It made it very difficult to spot the originals as the master Gauges folder can already be filled with over 2,000 gauges even when duplicates are not made!

The only way to resolve this issue is to first try and install all of your aircraft up front when you first build a new sim PC  The key then is TO NOT TEST FLY ANY AIRCRAFT, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHICH HAVE COMPLEX PANEL SETS AS THIS IS WHAT INSTANTLY CAUSES THE DUPLICATE GAUGES TO BE CREATED.   Therefore once your 100+ aircraft have been installed you should then scour through all of their panel folders, copy and paste or cut and paste all of their gauges into the master/root Gauges folder and then once complete, immediately copy the master Gauges folder to somewhere outside of FS entirely for safe keeping.

Once done, you would then use and reference that copied folder whenever building new instrument panel sets.  Only this method will allow you to avoid the huge hassle of having to search through the hundreds of duplicates that would eventually be created each time you fly an aircraft which uses the same gauge on separate panel windows within that same panel set.  Lastly, whenever I install any new aircraft into FS down the road, I will first copy its gauges into the master Gauge folder as well as immediately copy those same gauges into my  separate “designer” Gauges folder located outside of FS so that I can use those gauges with other panel designs if and when need be! 

Fortunately what you have available for download on this page is in fact the SimSamurai “panel design” Gauge folder devoid of all those nasty gauge duplicates.   Because of this, once you download the file sets, we suggest that you protect them like gold and save them somewhere safely outside of your main FS installation. 

Once downloaded and opened we suggest that you then copy their contents to overwrite the root FS Gauges  / Effects / Sound folder (but please back up your own originals first!) After dumping in our file sets into your Gauges-Effects-Sound folders you will be able to use any SimSamurai Maxscreen set. (save for some quick config edits if you are not going to use the same payware gauges we do). Regardless, please remember to keep both the original downloaded files as well your own originals “cleaned and gleaned” somewhere safe outside of FS.  

As you begin to use SimSamurai panels you will soon start to see the duplicated gauges come to life in your FS root Gauges folder due to the gauges being referenced more than once on each panel set.   You will eventually be able to see this by comparing your “clean” set against the “dirty” set in your FS installation.  These gauge duplicates will only be created once for each gauge called more than once in a panel config file and this duplication issue will always occur with any new panel set you use whether it be from SimSamurai or any other developers be it payware or freeware.  Unfortunately this issue is simply a necessary action for the sim to use a single gauge more than once on any panel. 

2D-VIP Maxscreen Panel Release Details

Over the next few years we will finally turn up the heat on new panel set design.  Most every general aviation panel set will be completely free for you to download and use and any panel sets that other people lend a hand in or offer up for us to host will be free as well. 

Our goal is to keep the spirit of 2D panels alive and we hope to start hosting other peoples creations in addition to our own in hopes of becoming the world’s premier resource for free 2D panel sets.  If any of our own custom made in house panel sets are sold, such as larger, more complex jet aircraft panel sets they will only cost $5 to $10 each. 

The planned initial release schedule for Prepar3D is as follows;

Cessna — 172S, 182, 210, 310

Piper — Arrow, Seminole, Seneca

Beech — 1900, King Air 350

Embraer — 145, 190

Boeing — 737

Airbus — A320

We hope to release at least 8 panel sets for Prepar3D by summer 2017 and will release them in a tick-tock fashion where we release a general aviation panel or two and then focus on a larger jet panel.  This way we can broaden the spectrum for various users.  We are also planning to rebuild all 20+ panel sets we made for FS2004 and re-program them for Prepar3D.  If this can be easily done, those sets will come to market much faster than any which have to be fully built from the ground up.

1st Release — Cessna 172S Panels for Prepar3D — September 20 2016.

SEE THE 2D-VIP DOWNLOADS PAGE.



A Brief Lesson on Panel Building
(one of many in the UGTAFS)

To make any gauge in a panel config file become non-readable by FS or “hidden” to FS, you can quickly place a //  (double forward slash) beginning at the code line entry (or entries) for that gauge (or gauges).  Applying the hash marks hides or “masks” that line from being read or used by any version of Microsoft Flight Simulator be it FS2004 or FSX, or Prepar3D.   Once a config file code line is marked as inoperative, you can then choose to leave it that way or can replace or substitute those gauges with any others from your main Gauges folder. 

For example, let’s say you want to replace (or substitute) a payware gauge Primary Flight Display and Navigation Display that a SimSamurai panel set has listed in a panel configuration file with 2 freeware gauges that you like in another similar aircraft.   To do this you will first need to find the exact name of the gauge or gauges you wish to edit in the Aircraft’s Panel Config File.  The gauge or gauges may be listed only once or they maybe listed a few times if for example the same gauge is used on both a Pilots panel and a Co-Pilots panel.  This would certainly be the case if you wanted to replace a primary flight display and a nave display as both the Pilot’s side and Co-Pilots side would have these same gauges. Secondly, you will need to know the exact name(s) of the gauge or gauges you are going to substitute in place of any payware gauge(s).

To make the intended gauge entry or entries inoperative you must find all instances of that gauge(s) referenced within the Panel Config File and simply place a double hash mark ” // ” at the very beginning of that gauges entry code line.   You will then create a new line just below that entry and enter in the name of the new gauge you wish to use.   You would use the same numerical number in the same order that you “masked” and should use the same remaining code data which instructs where the gauge is placed on the panel as well the size of the gauge.  This is the random code string of 12 digits which follow the name of each gauge. Therefore keeping that section of data as the exact same as what was being replaced allows any new gauge you are using to retain the same exact LOCATION on the panel and the same SIZE on the panel.  Once again, to make any gauge entries inoperative you must either delete the line entirely or simply use the hash marks method at the beginning of the code line to “mask” or “hide” them.  You will then need to enter in your own new data in a very similar fashion to what is being replaced. Lastly, when you close the file you will need to save it with the new changes.

Panel config file example :

gauge_15= Payware EFIS

gauge_16= Payware NAV display

You can replace the payware gauge names with other substitute gauges that you know you like from other aircraft panels and or instruct the panel config file to ignore the payware gauges by using two hash marks in front of the payware gauges.  This allows the config file to ignore the entries but allows these entries to remain in place for future use. Therefore you are not erasing them entirely, just “masking” them to not be read by FS when you fly the aircraft.

//gauge_15= Payware EFIS

//gauge_16= Payware NAV display

gauge_15= Substituted EFIS

gauge_16= Substituted NAV display

gauge_17= etc…

gauge_18= etc…

Note that you include the names of the new substituted gauges, use the same code for sizing and placement used by the payware but do not include the “//” hash marks at the start of the code string which instructs the sim to ignore that code line.  Yes, It’s actually just that simple but just make sure to pay attention to all proper spellings and spacings, etc!  If caps are used, use them. If spaces are used, use them, etc, etc.  Any small mistakes of improperly spelling any new gauge you are using / substituting would cause it to not work.  Therefore you must be very precise with all config file code editing!

Once done, write in the name of the gauge or gauges you want to use from your main Gauges folder or as you see existing in another aircraft’s panel config file. (so long as those gauges are also copied into the main Gauges folder too) Just remember that in order for an aircraft to use gauges from another aircraft’s panel folder those gauges must be copied into the root  / master FS Gauges folder or copied directly into the other aircraft’s panel folder.

As said earlier, you will also want to use the same exact “screen positioning code” from whatever gauge or gauges you are replacing.  This size / position data is the string of 12 random numerical numbers spaced by commas which are located at the end of every gauge in the entire list on every panel config file you will ever look at.  This data is the gauge’s size on screen and location on screen. By using the same data string as the gauge or gauges you are replacing the new gauge(s) you are inserting would instantly have same size and location as the payware gauge you are replacing or substituting.  You can then test fly the aircraft and re-tweak this data as necessary to re-size the gauges if needed.  If you are still unsure about how this works please read through UGTAFS Chapters 13 and 14 as it gives many more specific examples of config file editing as well a ton of other tips, tricks, and tweaks for panel building.

SimSamurai Gauges – Effects – Sounds

Below this section are free download links for our current Prepar3D Gauge folder, the Effects folder and Sound Folder.  We provide these to you to assist you in your own panel building efforts and to assure you that you will have the right gauges for our panels.  What these folders DO NOT include are any payware gauges as you must purchase those on your own in order use any panel sets we have available which use payware avionics. 

As of fall 2016 the payware gauge packs we own and recommend for Prepar3D are:

Milviz/Rex Weather Radar

Mindstar GNS430/530 pack

Mindstar G1000 pack

SimFlyer Bendix King radio stack pack

ISG Sim Gauges pack

FSUIPC (registered edition)

* Please note that we used to also Recommend gauges by Reality XP but as of 2012 they DO NOT work in any version of Prepar3D and therefore we can no longer recommend them! Their site is still active but again, they DO NOT work in Prepar3D.

Use our provided shareware / freeware file sets to get your SimSamurai 2D-VIP panels sets up and running.    If you want to use any of the payware just referenced in each panel set you will need to either purchase the same payware collection we specify for that panel set or you will have to substitute in similar replacement gauges on your own by editing the config file to ignore the “gauge call line” for the specific payware item as was detailed earlier.  You will then need to substitute these lines of code with your own chosen gauge replacements. (freeware or other payware) and if needed may also need to resize any new gauge.

This entire process was discussed earlier in the section at the top of this column and there are other very important details you should know which are explained in the left column of this page too.  All of this data is also explained in even greater detail in the Panel Design chapter of the SimSamurai UGTAFS.  

Regardless, please know that at most, each Simsamurai panel set only uses 2 to 5 actual payware gauges per config file and therefore any config editing will be very easy once you understand how it works.   The tutorial section at the top of this page gives you the basic examples of how to use different freeware gauges in place of any payware gauges which you do not wish to purchase.

Before you download any of the Gauges-Effects-Sounds folder packs linked below, you should first create a new SimSamurai folder on your desktop or within your primary Downloads folder, or within your My Documents folder.   Next, download the zip files and save them into the new SimSamurai folder you just created. 

The Gauges folder in particular contains a vast array of great freeware gauges which were collected over several years from a wide variety of websites.   The Effects and Sound files are also gleaned from a wide variety of freeware aircraft over many years.   The combined collections are very comprehensive and were mastered after having installed over 300 freeware aircraft.  If you already have a lot of aircraft installed in your sim then you will most likely already have a lot of these same files too.


Extract the contents of each zip file into your master SimSamurai folder that you created.  You will want to protect these files in their original condition.   Please keep these files pristine and unmodified in your SimSamurai folder and consider making a back-up to a separate hard drive or cloud storage site for long term safe-keeping.

Before importing these files into your own simulator you should make a back-up copy of your own current GAUGES – EFFECTS – SOUND folders which currently exist in your Prepar3D Master or “root directory folder” which is commonly located at;

C: Program Files / Lockheed Martin / Prepar3D.

Store these copies in a folder called “MY SIM G-E-S BACKUPS”

Once your back ups of your own default folders are complete you can now copy in the contents from each of the downloaded SimSamurai folders into and “onto” your own P3D Gauges / Sound / Effects folder to fill them up with the Samurai goodness!  By making back-ups of your own original folders it will allow you to put them back in place should anything ever go wrong. 

When installing  / copying in the SimSamurai files it will ask to overwrite any of the same gauges or sounds or effects which you may already have.  Please say NO to assure that you keep your own gauges just as they are and where they are.  However, when and if any gauges are listed as NEWER IN DATE, then it will be your choice to overwrite your gauges with those which have a newer date but again, this is entirely up to you!  If you had already made a back-up copy of your original folders as was recommended, then allowing the overwrite will be ok as you would still have your own back-ups available should any problems ever occur.

GAUGES — EFFECTS — SOUNDS FREE DOWNLOAD PACKS

Each year around January 1st we will revise all of these folders and will re-upload the groups whenever major changes occur or as we build additional gauges for the SimSamurai 2D-VIP Panel Sets. Therefore it will be a good idea to check back here each year and refresh your entire set if you see that we have updated the sets.  We suggest checking back at the end of each January and at the end of each August as most SimSamurai panel building efforts are completed each winter and early spring or January 1st to May 1st.  We will always post the new “born on” dates of all file sets!

IF NEEDED, JUST COPY AND PASTE EACH LINK INTO A NEW TAB OF YOUR INTERNET BROWSER TO DOWNLOAD THE FILE(s).

Prepar3D — GAUGES FOLDER DOWNLOAD Pt-1 

(New Posting Oct 15th 2016


Prepar3D — GAUGES FOLDER DOWNLOAD Pt-2 

(New Posting Oct 15th 2016)


Prepar3D — MASTER EFFECTS FOLDER DOWNLOAD

 


(New Posting Oct 15th 2016)


Prepar3D — MASTER SOUNDS FOLDER DOWNLOAD

(New Posting Oct 15th 2016