Elite Dangerous!

Is a very, very impressive space based game. Produced by the same genius behind everyone’s beloved ’80s Elite (I became obsessed with my version on the mighty Commodore Amiga 500), David Braben, it seems to closely follow the original formula, except with cutting edge graphics and excellent FPS performance.

It’s pretty pricey, at 50 British Pounds or around $93 Aussie Pesos. But well worth the entry price, even at this early Beta stage of development.

This game is also one of the best showcases for the DK2 version of the Oculus Rift, so once I receive my kit expect a full report of the experience.

After flying this for a few minutes I immediately realised that this is a monumental game, a major shift in direction, I was seeing the early stages of what I think will become genre busting! The speel sounds impressive, a galaxy of 400 billion stars to explore. There are only 50 such stars able to be explored so far, so I’m not sure how they will go populating the balance!! But braben is well known for his procedural approach to randomly generating such huge quantities of content.

I imagine that this initial game will form the backbone of an incredible and beautiful galaxy filled with wonders to explore. It’ll be great to see the game and future expansions develop.

Enough talking, enjoy the videos!

Here’s one of me flying through the space station and ‘landing’, if you can call it that.

 

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F1 2011 Slow Motion

An updated video now that I’ve become more used to some of the replay features. As I say in the Youtube blurb, this game is so much more detailed, clear and subtle than the now ancient consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360). A dream to drive.

The modelling of the track in uncanny – having been there quite a few times, I recognise the undulations of the driving surface and they’ve even modelled the barbecue rotundas that are dotted around the lake.

Simon

VERY low altitude flying!

Yeah, I am a smart-arse. F1 2011 by Codemasters is a very impressive ‘game’ for the PC. You can even fly if you get your braking points wrong.

In researching it, I almost accidentally bought the PS3 version, however fortunately for me I came across some scathing reviews of it, there are some shocking jaggies due to very poor anti-aliasing in the PS3 version.

The pc version is getting excellent reviews though, and even better, it was only $49 on steam, compared to the usual overpriced 70-80 for the consoles. Come on Sony, wake up to yourselves! It ain’t the 1980’s anymore. Oh and as I’ve said before, kill that Vita portable crap before it kills YOU. Between Android PS2 emulators and iPad/iPhone domination, you just won’t succeed. I digress…

Below are some pictures of my local Formula One track down in Albert Park, Melbourne, including close ups of one of our favourite haunts, the Melb. Sports and Aquatic Centre, stunningly realised in 3D behind all the rain.

The video shows you how well this game runs on my (now) slightly above average PC. I have all its settings MAXED out, and it still runs at 90fps without fraps! If I didnt use my PS3 for hd video recording, I might scrap it. No wonder pc gaming is starting to take off again, these consoles are getting very long in the tooth nowadays. The only thing the console is really good for is its controllers, which I’ve been able to connect to the pc and use for driving.

Oh well, another diversion again. This WILL keep me addicted for a fair while, I’ll be posting any good videos or photos of the most spectacular tracks/crashes along the way

Seeya soon

Simon

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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

 

Take On Helicopters – Latest Community Preview

The sacrifices we make for you all!

A few months ago I purchased the hardcore Arma II by Bohemia Interactive, it’s quite fun and very violent/scary in parts, see my video below. If you get bored watching me do friendly fire, fast forward to about 5.30 to see the fun you can have with the mission editor:

Why did I buy it? Typical, just so we could keep in touch with progress of the impressive LOOKING ‘Take on Helicopters‘. BI have a great community preview available, where you can see development of one of their helicopter models (a fictional light heli) and sample the controls and flight model. The only catch is that you need to BUY their Arma II ‘Operation Arrowhead’.

I’ve just downloaded their latest preview no. 84444, apparently they’ve done a few tweaks to their flight model.

THE INTERIM VERDICT

Before the update, the flight model was as accurate as my Donkey Kong Game and Watch…meaning pretty well up/down, left/right! Really crap.

Now, after all their hard work, I can truly say that the flight model is actually up to Nintendo SNES standard, still very crude, absolutely NO feel of flight or randomness. It feels like the programmers are TRYING to model a gradual lift and velocity feel, but to me it still feels highly digital, on or off, but to smaller degrees.

Maybe I’m spoilt with Xplane’s helos and the FSX Dodosim. Sorry, but I’ll remain so until more improvements are made.

Graphics

They’re pretty good, as y0u will see from the screenshots and video below. I say pretty good, as my standards are now very high after seeing FSX at its best. I’d say the Arma graphics are 50% of the best of FSX, eg Orbx or Aerosoft scenery.

One MAJOR fault I’ve noticed is the alarming pop-up of trees as you progress, and their strange white look. See the screens and video for this ‘feature’.

Sound

Bits nice, other bits underwhelming. Watch the video to see what I mean. I’m pretty sure you can’t normally hear the birds singing from inside a chopper on takeoff.

At this stage, If I were a heli-nut, I’d stay right away, and keep with what you know. Let’s hope the devs’ learning curve is going stratospheric and they make some big improvements. I like the look of their city scenery. We’ll let you know if any improvements appear.

So there you have it. Trust Simon and Chip to keep you HONESTLY and INDEPENDENTLY  up to date!

See you ’round the traps later!

S

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Central Rocky Mountains Video + Aussiex.org Heroes

Woah, what a huge learning curve of a day, coming to grips with FSrecorder 2 AND Ezdok camera, all at the same time! Anyway, I’ve been raving onto Chip about the bonus features of Ezdok camera, especially the motion effects (so good that my trackir hasn’t been needed yet), so finally decided to get more into the details of ezdok. Lord I hated the default camera controls in FSX! The camera options in Xplane are actually pretty good, and with dexterous fingers, one can get some excellent camera work going.

So here’s my first video using Ezdok, so please be kind! There are some lovely transition effects possible, smoothly gliding between points. Funny, in the end I used my old manual movement technique, as I loved how smooth it was. Yes, you’ll see little imperfections, like the demo FRAPS logo every now and then, as well as the darned pilot tips text and that red text to the right. I’ll get rid of em soon.

Today I rediscovered the amazing Aussiex.org website, where a talented team of freeware developers have been beavering away creating amazing aerodrome and scenery packages for us. I’m yet to check out their airplanes as well! Go over there and take a peek, as contrary to the name, there’s a heap of international scenery, including a stack of US fields. Here’s their famous mega-pack of scenery, which also includes 15 PNW airfields. It also holds a large Grand Canyon scenery (fairly low res though) and a very tempting Death Valley that I’ll try next week.

Found a great little airfield pack, ‘Idaho Dirt Gold‘ by ‘Catchman 86, with accompanying videos of real life approaches. You MUST watch the Johnsons Creek video, that’s what convinced me to buy the FTX Central Rocky Mountains scenery. Just to replicate that single approach (oh, and maybe have a ‘little more’ area to explore!!).

Don’t forget to donate once you sample their creations. I know I will.

Hope you enjoy a little snowy chill, with the Bonanza V35 that I’ve fallen in love with. Those reflections! Those mountains! Those stuck landing gear…

Simon

 

 

 

 

 

Battle of the Helicopters – FSX Versus Xplane

Ok, I’ve had time to survey the new world of FsX helicopters for awhile now, and feel confident in reporting back to you all with a moderate level of experience.

Searching through the various flightsim retailers, I can certainly appreciate the huge variety of helos available for FsX. Many look great, but when you dig deeper and go searching for opinions in the forums, it seems that there’s not many truly great helos.

Funny about that, it’s probably similar in Xplane land. What does it have? Well of course, the high achiever is Nils Danielsson’s BK-117, a seriously detailed work of art, with an excellent flight model/feel. Then we have the Dreamfoil 206, which is quite well-regarded. Then what else? Mainly just high quality freewares. Nicola, one of Xplane’s recognised helo specialists did a great post just today, recommending the best helos to a newcomer, here.

In the first week of my FSX exploration, I bought the Nemeth Designs MD500. Why? Well I’m an avid listener of the Fsbreak podcast, and recalled Mark Stewart being very impressed with their models.

Not sure if I picked the wrong model, but as you’ll see from the pictures below, the 500 is not that visually impressive for a $26 payware. Ok the commandos look cool, but the 3D pit is almost 2D compared to Xplane’s average models, and Nils’ 117 virtually pokes your eyes out with it’s beautifully constructed gauges.

I also found the flight model very disappointing. Far too easy to fly, I did some perfect takeoffs and landings straight away. Helos are MEANT to be frustrating, like learning to ride a bike or drive a car for the first time. You are meant to jump with glee IF you actually land without leaving a 2 ft crater where your $2million craft used to be. Reading some of the review of the other helos from Nemeth, I’m afraid everyone is complimenting them on how easy their models are to fly. Maybe I’m wrong? I’ll never know if you don’t chime in..

Here’s a quick video I just did of the MD500. Watch how smooth the takeoff is – I can tell you, it’s not coz of my skillz!

Before I gave up on FSX for helo flying, I posted a request for good quality recommendations over at the Avsim forums. Success, I received a few consistent recommendations (Wow, they’re really helpful over there). One recommendation that stood out was the ‘Dodosim’ (gotta love that name) Bell 206, available here.

Another that was well-respected was the Seahawk/Jayhawk from Aerosoft, as well as the Bell 412 from Cera Simaircraft.

Ha, well I might eventually try those 2 but I also hear that Dodo is working on a Huey to be released this year…

Due to the common acclaim for the Dodosim, I went for that, and did not regret it. For a taste of how deep this sim is, here’s a link to their publicly available manual:

http://www.dodosim.com/img/x206/mandraftx206.zip

Let’s just say that I’m yet to start manually, indeed progress from sim mode 1, ‘baby bottle suck mode’, to 2, 3, 4 and 5! I feel like I never need to buy another helicopter, this is something I can slowly grow into and appreciate all its subtleties. Sheesh, it feels real enough at level 1, god knows what it’s like at full sim level 5.

Below is a video featuring the helicopter. I hope it captures some of the ‘feel’ and randomness for you.

As a comparison, here’s an earlier video of the BK-117:

For the Dodosim, I can tell you that I had an absolute ball doing little ferry trips from Diamond Point to across the bay and back. I had multiple ‘pinch me’ moments, where it just felt so real, with the sound, the control, the views, the sky, all combining to make it feel so wonderful and just ‘right’. I can also tell you that I have NEVER felt such a buzz and air of reality with Xplane 9. I hear that Xp10’s weather and cloud simulation is going to be something really special – it’ll have to be for me to stick with it.

And the sound, oh the sound! As one of my YouTube commenters said, that rotor slap is so cool! I find the sound superior to even the Dream Engine enhanced sound of the BK117.

I had the most manic grin you can imagine flying this 206 baby! I’m in luurrrrve.

But what about the video and pictures below? Isn’t the BK-117 just so much better looking? Look at those gauges, a work of art! The night lighting is so much better! Well, the xplane model does look heaps better, and it has more complex systems. However I never really got into it, having ended up trying so many other aircraft later down the track. I NEVER went for long flights in it. So it turns out that the most perfect 3D modelling does not count when it comes to immersion. If the flight model is spot on, combined with great eye-candy scenery, weather and clouds, a slightly simpler, but still 3D cockpit, is quickly forgiven, or frankly, hardly noticed! You’re too busy flying…

The Dark Horses – Conex’s 206 and R22

I’d all but written off Xplane, with my newfound joy at the Dodosim flightmodel. Then I came across the incredible Hovercontrol forum, one that is chock full of VERY SERIOUS helicopter sim enthusiasts, many doing real life training.

I’ll be hanging out there every now and then, especially given their multiplayer facilities (free) and obvious expertise.

It’s interesting that many of them love the Dodosim, in fact from what I can see, it appears to be the only decent model for FSX in their opinion. The good news for Xplane fans though, is that a number of real life pilots swear by Xplane’s ability to accurately model real life flight characteristics very well.

I fell across THIS THREAD, where very nice comments about Conex’s new R22 project are being made.

And THIS ONE has people raving about his fantastic Bell 206. Many say the Dodosim is the better procedures sim, with the xplane model having the higher fidelity flightmodel.

My own initial opinion

As I hoped, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Dodo’s flight model. I’ve always criticised FSX for its flight model, with Xplane generally having a much more satisfying feel of flight/randomness. I can officially retract my criticisms. As ever, FSX addon developers have proven to be expert at circumventing FSX’s shortcomings, creating wonderful programs to add nuances to the bland flightmodel, to turn it into something thrilling. It’s a pity that it means that the addons seem to be more expensive than Xplane, but in the end it’s all worth it. We can all marvel at the quality of simming we are doing now compared to, heck, 3-5 yrs ago. What is that quality worth?

As I am not doing real-world training, and I see that most of the gurus are happy with the FSX Dodo, I shall be too.  I may buy Conex’s 206 for xplane soon, just to get a true taste of what a real one feels like! Fantastic references Fred!!

VERDICT

  • Both sims have their dross, bulk quantities of blandware. FSX may be more dangerous for those with deep pockets.
  • Both sims have very select, elite quality helos, you need to pick carefully. Don’t hesitate to seek opinions!
  • I’ve always said xplane has the better flight model, with FSX just being a ‘game’. I have to retract that, for certain products at least..
  • Therefore, to me, the combo of a very good flight model and superior scenery makes the FSX solution compelling, ‘Immersion City’.
  • For pure authenticity of handling, apparently the Hovercontrol gurus say that Xplane is the best. If I was spending thousands on training, I’d certainly be spending time with Conex’s creations and Xplane.
  • With such deep and quality simulation, fewer helo addons are needed – this one will keep me busy for 6 months at least.

I now formally open up this blog to a hailstorm of debate and conjecture. Please be aware that I may not reply right away, as I’m very busy ferrying more tourists around PNW, while progressing to level 2 on the Dodo…

Simon

Below are some comparison pics – you can definitely observe the superior presentation of the Xplane models. The first 9 shots are the Dodo, the latter being the BK-117.