Manhattan X, VRS F-18E and some ships..

Pardon me for an absence of posts lately – I’ve been a little distracted!

The VRS  F-18E, available here, is verily marvellous, deep, complex and has an excellent flight model/feel, as verified by real pilots. I’m in love, so have neglected you all!

I bought the Manhattan X scenery from Aerosoft, as well as the FSDreamteam KJFK airport, which is situated nearby. Thought I’d really test my i7 920 system to the max. Pleasantly pleased with the results, with the airport allowing over 20-25 fps and the dense city 25-28 fps. At night it gets lower, and just as you take off you get a second or two at 18, but it’s hardly noticeable.  The FSDT airport is pretty good, I think overpriced for the relative lack of detail compared to Orbx’s efforts, but it’s still worth it for anyone like me who will make this a regular destination. The Traffic X traffic works very well with it to boot.

I’ve never been to NYC, always wanted to, so I’m flying around the area a great deal, enjoying the dawn/dusk and marvelling at how dense this area of humanity is, let alone the confusing array of airports. Manhattan X is famous, and justifiably so. Never seen so many scenery objects in my life. And now we modern PC users can get more than 10fps – Maybe I should have said Manhattan X is ‘infamous’ for that reason.

With the F-18 being carrier capable, I did my research and found this amazing freeware carrier package by Javier Fernandez. Dare I say better than the payware Xplane version? Only problem is that it does not have a rolling deck, so landings are too easy..sort of. A handy free ship placement addon,  AICARRIERS,  makes things even nicer, you can have 10 ships all around you, brilliant.

These are the best of the shots I took along the way. I had taken some video, but wasn’t happy with the stuttering result, which I’ve now fixed by using Nvidia Inspector to force my GPU to control antialiasing rather than FSX.

I’m finding the F18 deep, with landings and takeoffs a challenge to perfect. I still miss the feel of a moving mass of air under you in Xplane, but that loss is negated by the other good stuff, like the scenery and the stupidly detailed reflections on the livery of that 18!  All a great diversion while waiting for Xplane10 to get out.

Simon

 

 

 

 

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An overdose of Las Vegas

Just per the title, here’s a stack of pictures that Simon took today, of the FSDreamteam KLAS airport scenery, COMBINED WITH the Aerosoft Las Vegas X City scenery. A couple of years ago, you’d never dare to combine such burdensome sceneries for fear of locking your PC up. Instead, Simon reports a rock steady 30fps in his modified MD500 helicopter from Nemeth Designs. By modified, he means the excellent flight model modifications courtesy of the Hovercontrol forums. You may need to join up to download the modification files. Or not, let us know! Anyway, these Hovernuts are providing a great service to the FS community by correcting all the nasty default handling characteristics of some already expensive models. Thanks guys!

Some points to note:

  • The demo file of the KLAS airport is only active for about 5 minutes. Simon sent me some night shots yesterday, and I found some errors in the images, with autogates connected to airplanes but no terminals adjoining the autogates! Yep, that was because the main parts of the scenery disappeared without much warning. Nice.
  • The airport scenery is beautifully textured, as you see. Its very FPS friendly, largely due to their simplified modelling in some cases, but it’s hardly noticeable. Some of the perimeter textures could be a little better.
  • The pricing seems a little steep – $33 for this one. Simon feels that this is beyond the range where he might buy it just in case he flies there more often. As he doubts he will, it’s not worth the investment. $20 seems to be a good threshold. Quite a few Aerosoft airports are around the $20 range, much more tempting to press the ‘buy’ button.
  • Of course, if you’re a local, or do regular flights this way, go for it. It’s a must-have.
  •  Combining the Aerosoft Las Vegas city scenery is a master-stroke, with such an ‘amazing’ city so close to a very nicely done airport, it seems silly not to go for that as well. Such an unusual skyline seen from the flightdeck. A nice price too, $17.
  • The Las Vegas scenery is looking dated however. It’s great for the price, don’t get us wrong. No FPS issues, even being so close to McCarran. I’d hope not, with some of the building textures being borderline awful. Most are pretty OK, but nothing awe inspiring that you see from other scenery houses, namely Orbx.
  • Night textures of the city are a disappointment. We’re being polite here. Again, OK for the price.
  • A big deal is made about the wide coverage of the scenery, including the Grand Canyon. I think they’re taking the ‘bulk’ approach and not the ‘subtle’ alternative here. The textures away from the city are nothing to celebrate in this day and age. ‘Good for the price though..’

In some of the day pictures you’ll notice a distinctive ‘desert’ tinge, along with some pretty nice atmosphere/haze in the distance . That’s because Simon is also using yet ANOTHER addon, ‘Shade’, the best $10 you’ll ever spend on a sim!  That story is for another day.

Anyway, enjoy the pics, for better or worse, and hope this gives you some ideas. If you enjoy the area, go for it, the 2 packs make a great combo. If not, well, you too can be Leaving Las Vegas…

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Viva Las Vegas!

Simon downloaded the free demo of KLAS from fsdreamteam; he notes very good detail, and the free use period seems a fair amount of time too, enough to really explore it well before deciding to purchase.

Simon adds: “Crazy good fps performance, even with heaps of traffic and the strip nearby. It must be pretty accurate, as even  in-sim it looks a very unpleasant place!!” He’s right. It is. Las Vegas has an excess of everything on hand that looks downright fugly.

News at the FSN: Simon heard that Traffic X was on sale, got it for $20; the program adds accurate traffic and liveries to all airports, so KLAS is full of Northwest and even a few ‘Hooters’ ACF. Simon adds that as an Aussie, its great to see all the “weird” traffic.
You want weird, Las Vegas is the place to go! Let’s take a quick look-see:
We’ll have more detailed images up soon. Until then, fly safe and have fun!

YMEN Essendon, Australia Released by Orbx!+Video

Being a Melbournian, once I heard Essendon Airport was almost ready for release by Orbx, I stuck my money where it had to go and prepaid, getting the handy 15% discount for paying up-front (isn’t that a great idea? Hellloooo other devs/stores???).

For those of you who don’t know, Essendon was Victoria’s first international airport and actually sits dangerously close to YMML Melbourne/Tullamarine Airport. Too dangerously, for I have vague recollections of a few heavy international pilots trying to land late at night at YMEN instead of the appropriately long-runway possessing YMML! Ok, ok, I’ll own up, I’ve almost done it myself in-sim.

There’s heaps of info over at the Orbx page, so I won’t repeat all their info.

I just installed it, as usual a video’s worth more than my blathering on. Suffice to say that it is excellent as usual, FPS is good for me & my ancient i720 and good value GTX560. As a regular visitor/passer-by to the area, I can attest to the scenery being quite uncanny at times. Watch out for when I fly over the overpass in my beloved A2A Spitfire, I had to do a double-take, it looked EXACTLY the same as in real life, the road curvature, colours, everything.

The video highlights something unsung about what Orbx have achieved now – 3 staggeringly detailed, fps friendly airports all within close proximity (well they tell me Avalon is a convenient drive away). Boy are we Aussies spoilt! How often can you take off and land, within minutes, at DIFFERENT AIRPORTS, with these spectacular details. And to think, I haven’t had time to check out the night textures, with us being  night lighting nuts. That’ll come later.

Thankyou to John, Martin and the rest of the team. Ha, and next to come is YMMB Moorabbin.

The backstory to the video – Me and a few mates had a few too many beers, I didn’t want to get stung by the coppers, so just flew the spitfire back to where my helicopter was parked at Essendon (as you do…). Bugger me, the engine overheated (really, not my fault, God’s truth), so I staggered out for a wander round, having lost the helicopter. Then I found it. But kept getting lost trying to find the nearest KFCs.

Please remember that as I’m using fraps, the fps is far better in-sim.

Simon

 

FlyTampa’s “St. Maarten Complete” First Look


I have always been envious of FsX users simply because of the vast amount of high quality sceneries available to them, and FlyTampa’s St. Maarten package, with TNCM, TFFJ, and TNCS, is the one scenery pack I always wanted to have while flying in XP. From what I could tell the package elements really mimics the terrain and layout of these island airports, and I was never able to get this level of immersion while flying around these islands in X-Plane. The buildings didn’t look a whole lot like the ones in real life and the terrain was “off”, making the approaches into St. Barts and Saba unrealistically easy. Improvements have been made to those XP sceneries lately, buy they still don’t come anywhere near what you’ll find in this package for FsX.

What appeals to me the most are the difficult approaches at airports. Each of these airports is very challenging in a different way, and there’s nothing more fun in a flight sim than executing a tough approach!

St. Maarten (TNCM) is the biggest airport in this series and can be purchased alone without St. Barts and Saba, but why not pay a little more and get all three while you’re at it!?! Below are a couple images of TNCM. Keep in mind this is a first look, and these are images taken while I was exploring this scenery for the first time. In the near future I will take more screenshots that really show more detail.

Here are some shots of TNCM, and I had set my target FPS to 30. The images here are with Carenado’s Cessna 210, and FPS can drop to as low as 18-20, but I found it usually within the 25-30 range. This is without using an external limiter or doing much tweaking, and 18 FPS isn’t too bad in FSX, like it is in some other sims…

St. Barts (TFFJ) is my favorite airport in this package. FPS performance is better here, and barely ever goes below 25 FPS. The approach here is very difficult in the 210. Diving down the hill increases speed and causes the plane to float. I found that using less flaps helps fix that.

Here’s that hill imaged from different angles…

Take note of the detail beyond the hill like the sailboats, buildings, trees, etc.

The last airport in the package – but certainly not least – is Saba! This little airport is well known for its incredibly short runway – with rocky cliffs at each end of the runway. Very few commercial aircraft can land here, with one regularly in use here being the STOL-equipped DHC-6 Twin Otter. If you don’t make a slow approach – or brake effectively – you’ll go right over the edge of the cliffs and hit the water after a surprisingly big fall!

As mentioned I was using Carenado’s new HD Series Cessna 210; probably not the best choice, but it worked! Here are the first images…

One thing I love about this type of scenery is the variety of water colors you can see from the air, and in this package it’s even better looking than I hoped.

Bottom line: You can’t find better executed, more immersive Caribbean island package than this. Every element that makes a great scenery was put into this product, from trees to static aircraft to terrain features, and the effort shows the moment you open the islands in SIM, and I would highly recommend this package to anyone who is even remotely interested in flying around these islands.

That’s all for now! I’ll be back with some more images as I get better acquainted with the scenery!

Perry

Xplane 9 Versus FSX – Helicopters & Gibraltar + UTX

A picture is worth a thousand words so they say – I’m sure a video is worth a billion? You’d never read that many words in any case

One of our regular readers and commenters asked us to more thoroughly compare his own freeware Gibraltar scenery for Xplane with our recently purchased Aerosoft Gibraltar X for FSX, so this is the result, a fairly comprehensive comparison. I didn’t show the buoy in the water before the 09 runway, but I can assure you it’s there in the fsx version.

Both the Xplane Dreamfoil Bell 206 and the FSX Dodosim are excellent rotorcraft. As ever, the xplane version feels quite a bit ‘touchier’ and I feel really needs pedals (especially to correct that torque, boy my right wrist is sore today! NO JOKES pls….). The Dodosim, as I have raved on about before, feels wonderful to me and I seem to be flying it most of the time. It certainly takes a fair amount of practice, but I’m enjoying the learning curve and beginning to feel much more confident with its controls. The 3d pit of the Dreamfoil is superior, especially the adjustable night lighting, but I really didn’t notice the difference when flying the birds. I prefer the sound of the Dodo, it has much more impact. As you’ll see, you can’t beat Xplane’s physics, especially in exterior replays.

I’ll save you the guesswork – yes, of course Aerosoft’s $20 payware is superior to Robert’s freeware for Xplane.

At 4:22 you’ll see the addon “Ultimate Terrain X” for Europe in action, at night at least. I’ll be doing a followup article on this impressive product. It certainly adds another dimension to both day and night flying – night in particular. A warning though, it does hit your FPS at night, but if you have a good system, you shouldn’t notice it much.

Ha, so that means that Chip shouldn’t have an issue. He’s still waiting for his PC to be assembled and manufactured. He’s buying it online from DARPA, one of the few places that sells the GTX590!! 🙂

As I side note, I actually bought Conex’s Dreamfoil from the Aerosoft store. An excellent, trouble-free purchase, and slightly cheaper in Aussie dollar terms than the Org store.

Thanks for stopping by the BBQ, see you in the soup next time!

Simon

 

 

 

 

 

X+S+R 012: Aerosoft and XPFR take-on LFPO Paris Orly

Aerosoft’s Mega-Airport Scenery Packs provides some of the best scenery options for enthusiasts flying in MsFS based SIMs, and will soon be available (or so it’s rumored) for users in X-Plane. These efforts have a tremendous reputation for providing ultra-high quality, very immersive ground environments, while X-Plane has garnered a reputation for less than stellar scenery files – generally speaking. This disparity of “opinion” got us thinking: Is this situation real, or simply overblown hype? We’ve heard a lot from people on “both sides” of this debate, so much so that we wondered how one of Aerosoft’s current offerings might compare to an airport X-Plane users regularly cite as “one of the best”.

We chose LFPO Paris Orly for this comparison, and used Aerosoft’s payware LFPO Orly and French-based freeware developer XPFR’s LFPO scenery file, but on the surface this appears an unfair match-up.

Why?

Well, obviously Aerosoft is a large, very successful corporate venture and the file is payware, and relatively expensive payware at that, while XPFR is a group of dedicated freeware developers making all the airports in France available to users in X-Plane. Furthermore, not only is this file is freeware (as are, indeed, all their products), it’s also several years old. Still, XPFR’s LFPO has until quite recently been their most popular download, and even if only subjectively speaking, this file has long been regarded as one of the very best airports in X-Plane – and still is by quite a few people. My guess is that there are really very few add-ons in XP that are held in higher regard, at least by most users, so we’re looking at these two files with only one thought in mind: how does one of the best airports in FsX stack up against one of the best in X-Plane?

And that’s it! No hidden agenda…no ulterior motive. No “this one is better because”, or “that one could use x,y, and z improvements.” Let’s just look and see what they ARE, not what they “should be”, or “might have been” – so let’s look at both without all the noise that attends the usual snarky political infighting that commonly follows such a look.

Okay? Let’s walk through this slowly and take a look around and one step at a time, and just a reminder: most images in this post are quite large, so just click to enlarge!

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Getting Acquainted

And as is our custom around Chaos Manor, we’ll start by looking over the available ground charts and overhead imagery from Google Earth, as this lends valuable reference points and some context for discussion. Charts first:

And Google’s imagery:

A few early comments are in order here. First, this is indeed a huge and very complex airport. The roadways and parking structures by themselves form an impossibly complex maze of visual chaos, and this is a good thing for SIM developers to try and replicate in their work. As we’ve harped on this topic often at XP+10-Reviews there’s little need to mention more than this: visual chaos is good to include in-SIM as it produces distractions that all pilots need to be able to deal with. A SIM is the perfect environment to learn to deal with this often confusing pandemonium, and ALL recreational SIM platforms have in the past failed miserably in this regard. Real airports are simply full of moving objects and confusing lights, while SIM airports tend to be static constructs that are placid and dull in comparison.

Second, concerning the last image just above with the EasyJet A319, this is from Google Earth’s Street View, and LFPO is completely covered in this regard. You can go into GE and simply travel all around the grounds and terminals, rotating your view and checking out all the detail you could ever wish for. If you’d like a more detailed look at the buildings than we can provide here, Street View is where you need to go next.

And now, let’s look at the airports from overhead, in each SIM.

  1. Aerosoft in FsX with default scenery around the airport visible:

And X-Plane, with XPFR’s LFPO and with default scenery elements visible:

Observations? FsX looks very similar to Google’s imagery; XP’s rendering looks like a 90s vintage video game. Aerosoft’s file has included the all important visual context that surround the immediate airport, thereby enhancing immersive realism. Ignoring issues of flight models and framerates, just ask yourself this: which would you rather use as a training aid?

Now, let’s look at the main terminal building in each SIM, looking from east to west. First up, Aerosoft’s version:

And here’s the comparable view rendered by XPFR’s file from within X-Plane 9.70:

Next, let’s run through some daylight images around the main terminal area in Aerosoft’s creation (again, click to enlarge images):

A couple of quick comments come to mind right off the bat:

Aerosoft’s –

  • buildings are accurately scaled, and appear to have excellent textures;
  • roadways are a combination of ortho texture and 3D objects, and are expertly shadowed. Only a few small areas in the parking lots look like unconvincing “ortho” textures;
  • ramps and parking lots are otherwise realistically filled with static aircraft and other objects.

In the sequence just above, the multi-tiered roadways are quite obviously not simple textures. The effect is striking, and gives the main terminal building total visual credibility. It looks and feels like a congested urban airport. The Dodo Bell Jetranger was getting 30+ FPS, BTW.

Alright, let’s take a quick look around XPFR’s main terminal area, working our way in from the surrounding cityscape, which is very well rendered indeed:

A few observations concerning this scenery for X-Plane:

XPFR’s –

  • buildings are reasonable recreations of the originals, but not exactly so;
  • the textures suffer from stretching and are quite blurry in places, especially when you move in close;
  • the roadways included do not reflect what is on the ground – Period – and detract from the overall success of this effort;
  • ramps and aprons are very well done.
  • With XPs object render settings at maximum levels, the city around the airport is rendered very well, and provides a nice context, albeit with an extreme performance hit on even newer PCs.

And with these comments in mind, a few more images from XP to consider, especially texture clarity and scale of buildings and roadways:

The Night Landscape

Now let’s turn our attention to the facility at night. Aerosoft first:

Still the overall first impression holds: this looks like a congested urban airport on a hot August night! Some more thoughts and observations?

Aerosoft’s –

  • ramps a perfectly rendered, their LIT textures a work of art;
  • buildings and Jetways produce multiple shadows from numerous light sources, and pools of light are evenly tapered, producing realistic shaded effects that enhance realism;
  • roofs are shadowed and textured to accurately reflect point light sources, but some are too dark while others appear well lit.

Now, some night shots in X-Plane:

Impressions? XPFR’s scenery file is just too dark, and:

  • the ramps aren’t LIT and are rendered black,
  • buildings are inadequately LIT and details are lost as a result,
  • the LIT textures that are employed are uniform and show little directional variety or variation in light intensity
  • light fall-off on roof-tops is limited to just a few small textures, hence the buildings appear almost black from above, and ground objects are almost invisible, lost in darkness.
Yet even so XPFR’s file has a certain utilitarian minimalist feel about it. It gets the job done with little fuss and is certainly useable, but taxiing around the ramps in all that darkness is a bit of a challenge!

One key element of both these scenery files lies just beyond the airport boundaries: the City of Lights… Paris itself… and both platforms offer a similar approach to the subject. Again, let’s look at FsX’s rendition of Paris first, using default textures and whatever the Aerosoft file has thrown into the mix:

There are some auto-gen structures on the ground, a few extras like Notre Dame, but overall the city is sparsely rendered, rather lackluster and dull. What about after the sun goes down?

Note the view just above, and compare to a similar vantage from XP you’ll find a few images down. Some impressions? This is after all the default landscape in FsX, and yet the city has a bombed-out look, with flattened sections of glowing landscape next to standing buildings. The net effect is not very good.

And so let’s be charitable and say that the default LIT landscape in FsX is somewhat innocuous, and could be improved.

Okay, let’s look at XPFR’s Paris:

Above, the image you should compare to the FsX version, an oft overlooked relationship between monuments in Paris, seen in the highlighted box above, from the new pyramid at the Louvre’s entry court to the Grand Arch de la Defense, passing through the smaller Arch, the Place de la Concorde, and the main Arch…and all perfectly rendered in X-Plane.

And another image to consider: the major architectural triumphs of Paris (above), including the Grand Palais (right), the Eiffel Tower, the Pont Alexander III, and les Invalides with Napoleon’s tomb far left beyond, and again, perfectly executed, and the city a well rendered and complex urban environment.

XPFR’s Paris is a peerless tour de force, and a stunning achievement in any SIM. I simply can’t imagine X-Plane without this file. Looking around this cityscape you can simply see and understand that with proper add-on development XP COULD BE the equal of FsX in this regard.

CONCLUSIONS?

The images tell the story and there’s very little we can add about the comparison between the two platforms that hasn’t been said before. It’s like a match-up between a professional sports team and a talented local school squad…comparing landscapes and airport files in FsX to version 9.xx of X-Plane is almost a pointless exercise – except that XP wants to be taken seriously as a viable platform in the SIM marketplace. It remains competitive as a SIM platform simply because it has a demonstrably more accurate flight model, yet it remains at a competitive disadvantage because third-party add-on developers have been slow to embrace the platform and create the scenery files needed to make the environment a viable option for gamers who crave a more immersive experience. It’s almost a Catch-22 situation, but…

…Laminar’s X-Plane has one good chance just ahead to capture market share: the release of X-Plane 10, which promises to build on previous strengths and address acknowledged weaknesses, namely deficient scenery elements. The new version is slated for release this Christmas (2011), and a lot hinges on a successful product introduction.

So… The real valid comparison between these two airports has yet to be made, and won’t be made until XP10 is up and running, but will XP10 address scenery deficiencies well enough to take on FsX? Will third-party add-on developers cross over to XP in the numbers needed? Well Carenado has crossed over, and successfully too, and Aerosoft’s pending foray into XP is a highly anticipated affair!

And while time will tell, Laminar has simply got to get it right this time out.

Why?

Because the question here that is most germane, and that has not been asked yet, concerns MicroSoft. Let’s ignore that FsX and groups like Aerosoft have developed huge market momentum, because MicroSoft has shelved further development of MsFS. Third-party add-on developers are now stuck with FsX as it is, and they can tweak it and manipulate it’s basic architecture all they want, but the basic problem of a less than optimal flight physics/model will remain. That’s the program’s Achille’s heel, where FsX will always remain weak compared to X-Plane.

So…the Big Question? What impact will MicroSoft’s new MsFlight have on this dynamic, and will the multi-player, gaming oriented new kid on the block somehow make these concerns irrelevant?

The tertiary concerns? Will MsFS developers be able to get in on this new action, and will they in effect have to start from scratch? Or will MsFlight be a closed platform, not open to third party development in a way and to the degree that previous MS platforms have been? If that’s the case, these developers might find that developing for X-Plane is a viable way forward for them. Product innovation and development for a new platform? That equals expansion, and that equals new markets to explore, more money to be made.

Now there’s some food for thought.

We’ll end this little exercise with a little bit of a teaser. Simon is working on tweaking the Paris landscape in FsX with a very powerful scenery enhancement program. We’ll post additions to this article soon. In the meantime, if you have anything you’d like to share just drop us a comment.

Thanks for coming along, and we’ll see you again soon. Chip

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The Aerosoft LFPO file is available here: http://www.aerosoft.com/cgi-local/us/iboshop.cgi?showd480!0,5920563760,10885

System requirements for FSX:
Microsoft Flight Simulator X (SP2, Acceleration or Gold Edition)
Windows 7, Vista, XP
Processor with 3.0 GHz (Core2Duo Intel recommended)
2 GB RAM
3D graphic card with 256 MB, recommended 512 MB
Download-Size: 300 MB
Installations-Size: 540 MB

Current download price, in USD: 29.87

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XPFR’s freeware version of LFPO for X-Plane is available here:

http://xpfr.org/index.php?body=scene_accueil&sc=106

The freeware Paris scenery files are here:

http://xpfr.org/index.php?body=scene_accueil&sc=110