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Kerbal Express Airlines - Regional Jet Challenge (Reboot Continued)


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27 minutes ago, life_on_venus said:

Yes, that sounds really good actually.

What are your thoughts regarding the categories in the current challenge?

I know in the reboot they added 3 categories (S/M/L hopper), but I'm wondering if some categories should be added or removed for the reboot.

Large hopper, for example, doesn't make much sense because in real life these small city airports only operate smaller planes.

Equally, I think turboprop and seaplane could be turned into S/M regional prop, with extra points for operating on water, snow, gravel, etc.

Finally, we've seen most passenger 747s retire and A380s are going the same way. Since jumbo jets are becoming obsolete, what about replacing it with an Ultra Long Haul category, where you can enter either a traditional jumbo or newer widebody aircraft and compete over cost per passenger mile (with hard minimums for range and speed)?

Edit: To clarify, a system of:

S Helicopters

S/M regional prop

S/M hopper

S/M/L regional jet

M/L Ultra Long Haul

The categories became a bit of a blur in the last one, but other than adding a few tiers of jumbo (because a 152 seater should not at all be put in the same category as some of the hulking behemoths that we posted up before)

 

I don't really see the point in the ultra-long haulers. They've always found their places in with the other planes, just with a bonus of a 6 or 8000 km range. Hoppers, I don't think anybody actually submitted any, and they were pretty niche to begin with. Maybe they get one category, maybe they get lumped in with 'other'. I don't want to touch helicopters myself. I also think jumbos are pretty good, (and designing stupidly big ones was a lot of fun) so I won't remove them at all. Supersonics should have their own categories, and maybe not any with under 60 passengers, ( + hard range requirements, maybe 3400km minimum?) because they don't make sense for short trips. I think they should cost more to maintain and design than subsonic planes of similar sizes.

I think seaplanes should be kept as a small category to themselves, (though any plane can be a seaplane) running just 'area' routes, maybe not going from city to city (there probably won't be many unless I can get a good spreadsheet going, because each city makes it more complicated than the one before. I'm worried that it's just going to be too complex, but spreadsheets might save me.) but servicing just an area, going from small town to small town, landing in lakes and rivers and fields and wherever else is practical.

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On 11/2/2019 at 1:27 AM, CrazyJebGuy said:

On top of that, maybe a hard limit that you can have no more than 6 unreviewed planes submitted at any one time or something.

Yup, we definitively need something like this. Though believe it or not the current queue would only loose 1 or 2 planes with a 6 plane limit (just from looking over it quickly). Though there have certainly been points in time where it would have cut down the queue more. By my count there is ~50 unique contestants in the queue currently, with ~110 submissions between them. I feel like a limit of 3 might be necessary to keep things manageable. 

15 hours ago, CrazyJebGuy said:

It's already there, kind of. Each company starts with a set amount of money (10 million, it doesn't matter what exactly) and designing a plane costs money, and bigger, more complicated planes will cost more. (Each type of plane will have a base cost, say 400k for a turboprop, plus maybe 12k per passenger and 5k per part count, so a typical turbo prop might be 800k-ish to design, a Smallie might be 1.1 mill and it goes up as the planes get bigger)

This does sound intriguing. However, I do fear that it will be too complicated for a lot of forum users to comply with the rules, judging by how many miss things with the current rule set.

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I'm a little bothered my highly unconventional "seaplane" never got reviewed. :P
 

Anyways, at its core, the KEA thread has always been attractive for its relative simplicity as a design competition. There's some basic requirements to be met, but the challenge, really, is otherwise pretty open-ended. I think that shouldn't change (though I, personally, would participate in an add-on challenge that would go further).

 

If I were to think back to the most tedious part of judging, it's really the part getting cruise conditions down, since some of us are really reaching for that maximum performance metric. I think measuring aircraft range is a part that can be smoothed over, which will help make judging slightly more palatable to perform. 
I'm not really sure how that would be done, but it does just seem that manually finding experimentally discovered values is just the worst part of it all. 

You're just staring at numbers and trying to maintain decimals while you tap the trim on the plane, and god forbid you take too long that the fuel drain has kicked in and you're not sure if you're really getting the right numbers anymore. I also like searching for optimal performance, but geez, this was such a tedious part of judging. I'm pretty sure I gave up because of this.

There needs to be some better standardized and potentially automated replacement for that process. Maybe some other mods to fill that gap, at least on the judge's side, but also probably changing up how cruise conditions are defined and calculated.

(A mod/calculator that can straight-up simulate values of flight conditions and aircraft attributes, i.e., lift/drag, fuel burn, etc., would be fantastic.)

Every other part of the judging process (the optional ones as well, though an argument can be made for making them mandatory) is more free-form and actually focused on flying/observing the plane yourself, and I generally enjoyed those portions.

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7 minutes ago, NightshineRecorralis said:

I was using pilot assistant and between that and hand flying the difference was so minimal I fully switched over and saved maybe 50 or 60% of the time needed to judge a plane

Would've maybe been nice to know of the option, but I think the entire process (starting from even the entrant's side) can still be streamlined further. Somehow. 

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I was flying manually, and without fussing over getting the absolute best performance out of the plane at any cost, because we needed a margin for error, and because it rewards stable/easy to fly designs, and it saves a lot of time. Even so, a few planes are pigs to get up and flying right (particularly supersonics) and took ages. Generally my not hyper-careful methods of flying meant that when I submitted a plane the range I advertised was usually slightly less than what it would be officially. Not by much, but I noticed it.

Most annoying bit would be testing at multiple altitudes or engine modes or something.

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For the ones I tested, some of them were from quite a few versions back and did not perform remotely as advertised. I assume it was from aero and/or mod changes. But I guess if we're rebooting and not allowing old designs that won't be a problem.

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We should however force people to take some margins when it comes to calculating range... I didn't like flying a plane for 20mins just to get the exact right situation in which the plane manages its described range. Perhaps something like a 10% margin that should be taken off the range as you calculate it first. Then what remains should become the advertised range. 

Edited by panzerknoef
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2 hours ago, panzerknoef said:

We should however force people to take some margins when it comes to calculating range... I didn't like flying a plane for 20mins just to get the exact right situation in which the plane manages its described range. Perhaps something like a 10% margin that should be taken off the range as you calculate it first. Then what remains should become the advertised range. 

That still leaves judging with the relatively arduous and boring task of verifying range to some extent. A standardized process that's straightforward and that everyone can agree on is still needed.

I think the way fuel/range calculation might need to be looked at.

Gah, what a complex issue. I do really like having more precise test methods, since this is still a KSP challenge where entrants should be encouraged to try and score high in certain metrics if they're submitting with the intention to do so, but finding a good verification process for that that everyone can agree to is really a puzzler.

Maybe a look into Pilot Assistant would be good; I've never used it, but if @NightshineRecorralis says it's as good as it is, then maybe that's all that's needed to make judging a better experience. If not... maybe a kOS script that automates the entire trimming process and allows input for altitude and speed? idk, something that allows me to turn my brain off while verifying an entry's performance for what is ostensibly the "primary" challenge of the whole idea of this design challenge.

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Using kOS would alienate a bunch of players who don't want to spend time optimizing a script for their crafts, though, imo

I'm certainly one of those people, which is why ease of flying should be a factor. If it takes 5 minutes for me to get used to a plane versus 30 minutes it does say a lot about the craft

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If I remember correctly, FAR could produce graphs of drag at various cruising speeds and altitude, without leaving the hangar.

If we could make something similar for KSP's stock aerodynamics, we could calculate the thrust needed to maintain that speed and therefore fuel burn.

Combining this with the fuel onboard gives you the range, crusing speed, and altitude.

In fact, it might be easier to generate these graphs inside of KSP with a small mod or plugin, then export all the data to a spreadsheet that will automatically identify the optimal cruising speed and altitude.

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2 hours ago, life_on_venus said:

If I remember correctly, FAR could produce graphs of drag at various cruising speeds and altitude, without leaving the hangar.

If we could make something similar for KSP's stock aerodynamics, we could calculate the thrust needed to maintain that speed and therefore fuel burn.

Combining this with the fuel onboard gives you the range, crusing speed, and altitude.

In fact, it might be easier to generate these graphs inside of KSP with a small mod or plugin, then export all the data to a spreadsheet that will automatically identify the optimal cruising speed and altitude.

Kerbal Wind Tunnel, maybe?

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1 hour ago, Commodoregamer118 said:

I could submit my airliner but it needs the mod MK3 Airliner just for the cockpit and SXT for an elevon ;.;

Challenge is currently closed as we are discussing how to revive it in a way that's suitable for everyone. Please hold on to be your plane until that time as it won't be reviewed right now. 

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I mean, I was under the impression that it would be possible to create a general-usage kOS script that would just run a test that would work for any aircraft, not need a script specifically for an aircraft; simply set a speed, altitude, then it once it achieves those, auto-trims (because I guess I have this notion that a good program will be able to achieve a proper trim better and faster than a human tapping the trim controls). But if Pilot Assistant already works sufficiently well enough for most aircraft, then that seems fine then.

That said, I was also thinking that FAR is able to do the simulation graphs and that a stock analogue would work equally as well along with feeding it some other values. Kerbal Wind Tunnel looks quite promising in that regard. 

But there's still the extra caveat of the actual aerodynamic layout of the plane including thrust offset, trim settings, and such, which I'm not sure it replicates.

Though one could argue this is the point where "margin for error" comes in, and any angle of incidence seems like KWT does account for.

I think I'd still prefer an automated, but actually experimental, test process though. Working things off of graph readings just... seems a bit against the spirit of the whole thing? Maybe that's just me though.

and since the topic of mods came up briefly, I really like KEA's highly condensed mod list, and dear lord, I loathe mod bloat, but maybe perhaps consider expanding the mod list to maybe include some other smaller but also useful mods out there for aircraft-building? Not sure which; maybe procedural wings and maybe parts, just to give people a little more choice (though I personally would probably continue just using the basics). Tweakscale (including AP+ patch) covers most other bases that's really required for building commercial planes. I do rather like the challenge of forcing people to work within tighter constraints in terms of part availability and using Tweakscale to its fullest potential instead, as I think it's great "training" for learning the fundamentals of KSP aero and even some things about real aero (a fact I maintain as the KEA challenge's true best value); a focus on making parts work, rather than having this huge parts bin of various stats all over the place that everyone can just pick and choose whatever and muddles learning how KSP's aero system works.

Mostly just mentioning this as a note that we could come back to, instead of me forgetting about the topic.

Edited by Box of Stardust
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See that just sounds like pilot assistant - I highly recommend you download and try it out! It will automagically fly the plane at the designated pitch, yaw, and roll, or any speed and altitude combination. If the plane can do it, PA will fly it. It will constantly adjust along the course of the flight as well, which, in conjunction with hyper edit, allows me to simulate cruise at any fuel level. That was where the time savings came in :)

Just like the SST mission challenges, we could have separate leaderboards and judge panels for the basics and the modded, depending on how big the scale gets on this challenge.

Edited by NightshineRecorralis
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Given how much the challenge has evolved even during the time it was running (inclusion of spreadsheets for organizing, testing methods, etc.) it does sound like a complete refreshed thread (if/when it happens) is good just so everyone can get on the same page of what to do, because the KEA processes only really hit its stride once we starting judging enough planes, thus finding and solving kinks in the process, and figuring out what we all really want out of the challenge. Things that would be best listed out in the main post, instead of having these kinds of things lost deep within the thread somewhere where it will never be found by anyone new that might want to judge (or even enter a plane). 

Things like, "if judging, use Pilot Assistant". Or "don't use Aircraft Autopilot, it messes up control surfaces between installs with and without it". These sorts of things.

I personally think KEA's original mod list is sufficient for the challenge, and better retains the spirit of the whole thing. Splitting up between "lightly modded" and "heavily modded" where "heavily modded" just adds extraneous parts or near-functionally identical parts just seems like straying from the strengths of the KEA challenge. I like customization and variety, but I also think KEA is better with its tighter constraints.

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I've given the topic some further thought, and here's my latest idea:

Instead of having submission open constantly, we could establish a system where contestants would be allowed to submit their entries to a certain round. These rounds would last a predesignated time, say, on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and reflect a specific need of KEA. For instance, we as the judges could designate an open order for a long thin airliner, with certain characteristics that are desirable and certain ones that are turn offs. We'd set a budget and open submissions for a week, then close and judge them on an ongoing basis while submissions open for the next round, etc. This would limit entries flooding the challenge and also (I think) discourage poorly thought out designs. I believe this will make the process much more manageable and easier for the judges.

I also think the judging system can be made better - in the last challenge, despite our best efforts, there was still no single standardized method between all of the judges. If I were to reboot the challenge, I would split up various characteristics to be tested by each judge rather than sending an entire submission to be judged by a single judge. As long as each characteristic was consistently judged by the same person for a given round, it would practically eliminate any biases or just oddities from any judge. I think this should be based off of personal preference but if need be a randomizer could be used. For instance, I could judge an airliner's cruise and flight characteristics, while stardust judged take-off and landing performance, panzer the construction and efficiency, and so on and so forth. With this method each judge would score their particular category out of a given maximum, which would then be used to calculate the aircraft's overall score. 

I believe that having a new spreadsheet per round would make the process much better (or at least a new page on a cumulative spreadsheet, perhaps). We had a pretty solid thing going in the previous challenge, and we ought to continue the use of a judging spreadsheet. Whether that be for consistent calculations or just as a repository, I don't know.

Thoughts?

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I considered bringing up the idea of having "rounds" for entries and classes, but ultimately decided that, even with a lenient period of 2+ weeks, I have enough deadlines in my life and don't want to deal with something like that. As well, I liked the open approach to KEA that anyone could design anything for whatever class at whatever time, making the design process rather enjoyable to approach, as there wasn't any pressing need to really work on a design. You want to design a medium-sized jet? Go for it, it's not like there was a specific entry period for that class of aircraft. Each aircraft entered could potentially have its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and it was up to the judges to decide on how an aircraft could best be used.

I like designing craft with an objective in front of me; I feel like I rarely build aircraft for the sake of designing one. I don't think I'd feel motivated to design my entire lineup of aircraft if calls for specific aircraft classes came and went. And the entire design process was certainly educational through experimentation, and I'd rather not reduce that effect by making the entry process more restrictive in terms of requiring a completely focused goal. In this scenario, I think it's more beneficial to encourage free experimentation instead of directing people to a specific design goal that they may meet better if they had gained experience in building other projects.

That's just me though. There was also talk about refining the aircraft classes and requirements though, but I think that discussion can be left for last. That said, I think a case can be made for judges coming together and selecting an aircraft as "best fit for role" (e.g., current top pick for long-haul medium capacity, current top pick for isolated airfields, etc.) and awarding the winning builder in some manner. Though, selecting as such is a bit odd with rolling submissions with open submissions for all classes.

I do agree that a way to filter out poorly thought-out designs would be nice, but perhaps it might be more productive to encourage well-thought-out designs (not that that seemed to be a huge problem anyways). I guess, my point is, the nature of this challenge is such that we're probably going to get the lesser designs one way or another, and it's just something we'll have to work through. Besides, they do provide interesting material to write the more entertaining reviews.

The judging system we were working on, if you recall. It was going along pretty swell, actually; we had most of the important scoring categories down (from aircraft range, control authority, ease of flying, comfort of ride, etc.). It's just that there was pushback for the idea of going through with it because the current KEA was still going at the time, so it would have been somewhat disruptive to suddenly have this value-based scoring system pop up. I think that the scoring sheet we were working on provides sufficient enough uniformity in actual feedback for performance in meeting the challenge's goals, maybe with the addition of easily accessible metrics such as size dimensions for some additional help in easily parsed value-based differentiation between aircraft.

 

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On 11/2/2019 at 9:15 AM, NightshineRecorralis said:

I also think the limits play well with time progression, as it is unlikely for a new company to immediately jump into building large airliners (except Airbus, apparently, but that's not a fair comparison), and so I think not only should part counts be limited by the RnD cost but also what parts to be used.

Say for instance new companies are limited to low cost, low budget parts in the beginning and then would have to progress to newer, better parts. I think that will introduce a handicap enough so that the 'market' does not get flooded. I think it will also encourage the development of variants and promote a more realistic progression and evolution in a company's lineup of airliners.

For categories, here are my thoughts:

Light aircraft - just in case someone thinks a 2 or 4 seater is worthwhile - Skyhawks and such

Feederliners - this would include both helis and small aircraft that fill the role of feeding into regional airports from airfields and/or small airports to larger ones. No jet engines in this category - think of King Airs and 1900Ds as real life counterparts, 10-20 seaters?

Regional Aircraft - These would fill the role of flying between destinations w/o much demand or need fast turnarounds - analogous to CRJs, ERJs, Dash 8s, etc, these may conflict with small jets even though they have different niches. 40-120 seats

Jet Aircraft - you know and love these, and I'm not sure on how to categorize them, probably just small and large, or Narrowbody and widebody, maybe? With long haul and short haul classes in each?

Now the demand and design of each category will likely be influenced by other factors should they come into play. That will probably require a deeper dive into the simulation side of things - how much demand is there between cities, fuel prices, maintenance costs, cost to buy vs lease, company reputation, and more, but this is just a generalized overview.

So I just want to address this in one of my own posts, primarily so I have my own reference regarding it, as well as my own suggestions on how we might be able to help streamline the submission-review process. Because the ideas in this are quite good.

It seems to me that some of the most submitted classes to are the jumbos and supersonics. Not by a huge margin, but the queue is still larger for those two compared to the others. Supersonics especially, but this is, after all, Kerbal Space Program; I suppose that's to be expected. In terms of "problematic" designs, those also seem to be generally spread around, but I expect will be more present in the two previously mentioned larger categories.

It's a good night for distractions and rambling, so here's my take on restrictions based on "company progression":

 

Firstly, maybe just disconnect from any initial pricing-related restrictions. Those could come afterwards, and it's already tacked onto the aircraft submission parameters anyways, and should also factor into a company's "first impressions" in tandem with the actual aircraft's performance and quality (because someone could just come along with a relatively expensive turboprop but it's quite good and fair for the price).

In terms of submissions, a "company" should start with light, small, or maybe medium aircraft (possible as per Airbus). This puts them in a set of "primary" review queues (per class, as we had before), which judges should aim to address and review in order of submission (or such). The idea behind this being that these smaller/more manageable aircraft are fairly easier to put a review out for, and in my opinion, somewhat more fun of an experience to fly around, thereby making it less of an ordeal for judges to review. It then therefore allows people to get their foot in the door a little faster if they can prove that their planes won't be something future judges will have to slog through.

As "company" prominence raises, they can expand their "market lineup" to the larger or more expensive/lucrative aircraft (supersonics, jumbos, even just general large airliners), and their submission allowances reflect this. Maintaining such reputation upholds their submission privileges (in a formal and meta sense). This should ensure that these classes of aircraft that can be somewhat more of an ordeal to review (heavier to handle and whatnot, finnicky flight characteristics, etc.) are generally reserved to "companies" that are known to make reliably flying aircraft that won't be too much of a bother to undertake as a review and would provide an interesting, productive experience.

Making a poor impression imposes a sort of submission penalty that makes future aircraft less of a priority to review until they prove themselves able to build reliable aircraft, keeping the combination of "not so productive aircraft of a tedious class to review" to a minimum.

That said, anyone is still free to submit whatever they'd like; they'll just be put in an according set of "secondary" review queues. If someone wants to just build a supersonic or whatever, they still can. But they should be notified that they will be put in a secondary sort of queue that judges can select when they want to review it; it's not a priority or anything. So at least, the person is warned that they're not exactly following the bounds of the challenge, but their effort is still respected and, if presented attractively enough, may still perhaps get a judge to take interest and review it.

Heck, maybe we could still allow people to submit full-range catalogues, but only place the "starter class" aircraft in the primary queues, and leave the rest in the secondary queues until further reviews deem a possible upgrade for those aircraft to the primary queues.

If it goes somewhat according to plan, we'll have a weirdly big backlog of turboprops, small airliners, and some medium liners, and then it should taper off as it gets into the bigger, more heftier aircraft. We could even have judges assigned to certain tiers/classes of aircraft, which could help onboard people looking to start judging. Like, "Hey, you can start helping us judge by going through some of the turboprops!". Could also act as a bit of quality control for reviews, and ensure that the "bigger" projects go to judges of higher tier that are known to be pretty good about posting interesting reviews.

Restrictions may need adjusting based on how popular general medium and simply large aircraft are, or even smaller business class-like jets. Though I guess it would be pretty simple to divide up the aircraft classes by "starter company tier" and "experienced company tier".

 

I like how KEA inspires people to just build, and I don't want to take that creativity-inspiring aspect away from the thread. But we also need rules in place to ensure that the thread doesn't die off like it did, and so there needs to be a way to encourage people to actually play the challenge in a productive manner.

This is just reiterating the entire discussion that's been going on right now: the queue and review process needs to be manageable such that judges don't burn out quickly and also be easier for new judges to get in so that the challenge can continue along in a healthy manner.

(Or we can also take the route other various challenges have done that, by virtue of the challenge, have taken the core community that had formed and create a Discord server...)

Edited by Box of Stardust
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I agree with pretty much everything @Box of Stardust has said here. As much as I am a fan of a pricing system that could be integrated, it does seem to me like the first plane that is posted should not adhere to any of those rules. Think of every company as one that had massive amounts of economic support from all kinds of places leading up to their first plane. As he said as well, jumbos and supersonics were by far the most submitted classes. They are however as well the most tedious classes to judge since they take a long time to review. 

I would rather not see people submit entire catalogues of aircraft at once though, even if they would be split up between a primary and secondary queue. My opinion is that people should still be restricted by a hard cap on the amount of planes they can have pending. So if they want to upload a catalogue, let them do it in smaller pieces and it'll be fine. 

I would also like to keep the categories that we started out with in the challenge, the more we add, the more tedious reviewing is going to become, and that should always be prevented. 

Now on the topic of cabin rebalancing. I suggest we nerf the mk1 cabin down to 4 people, which will still make it the best price/passenger cabin out there by a fair margin, but it'll at least make it a lot more difficult to spam like before, giving other cabins a chance to actually be used properly. Mk2 can actually stay at 8 people for me, giving it a use other than added luxury. For size 1.5 I would suggest something like 16, size 2 can be 24 and size 3, 32. Oh, and then there's size 3S1 which should keep the 2 passengers that it can actually carry. Perhaps we should consider modding the cost of the mk1 cabin to about 1000 to keep it somewhat in line with the other cabins. 

Aaand, that's all I have to say for now... 

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