It’s that time of year again. Clean up the house…which means cleaning up the Custom Scenery folder of unneeded & duplicate files – and more importantly, updating those that can & need to be updated. And then, yes, searching for that hidden gem…
First on our list was Santiago’s (sorry, Nimbus’) updated KATL Atlanta-Hartsfield, over at the org.
A fairly long list of cosmetic improvements checked off the list with this one, including Xp11 compliant reflective textures and new trees, so let’s see what he accomplished.
Night ramps okay, and lots of reflective runway surfaces, but most of the action appears to be taking place around the airport, along the roadways and parking lots.
Yup. Trees and several large car parks.
I’d say incremental improvements here, nothing vastly new. Still, it was already pretty good to begin with…
Now, let’s jump up north, to the Big Apple.
Drzewiecki Design’s New York City package gave me a scare a few days ago, right after updating Xp to 11.11. I got the dreaded “missing scenery element” warning and Xp shut down on me when I tried to open at KLGA, so I went to the .org and re-downloaded the files again, and NYC opened for me on a nice clear day. This is still THE best “big city” file out there; as not only is the material up-to-date, it’s a lean machine that doesn’t kill framerates. That said, if you check the graphics option to render shadows, you might as well go light the Bar-b-Q and put on a 20-pound brisket. Your dinner will probably be ready to go before Xp loads and opens for you.
The WTC still looks strange without the twin towers, but…c’est la vie, I suppose. What DD has produced looks very much like the new building. What struck me walking around the city a year-ago-or-so was how visible the building is from almost anywhere, from mid-town looking south. I don’t know, maybe we’d all gotten to the point we took the twin towers for granted. I drove by the area a few days after 911, while the rubble was still smoldering, and it was amazing what a gut-punch that sight was – then and now. Anyway, it’s nice to see the site so nicely rendered in Xp.
(above) Roosevelt Island and Queensboro Bridge, but no skyway/tram? A missed opportunity? Remember the film NightHawks, with Sly Stallone? Most of the outdoor scenes were filmed using the tram here. The film was about NYCs first big terrorist event, btw, not that that matters. I was happy to have the file back online, another housekeeping chore done.
I re-downloaded Javier Rollon’s OTHER file, his Jetstream 32, and unlike a lot of my Carenado files, it opened right up in v. 11.11. I’ve just lost my Carenado C210, both Bonanzas, the C206, and my latest, the TMB850. Completely inoperable now, after Xp11.11 downloaded. That’s on the new to-do list now, for next week. Color me furious. Again.
This BAe (nee Handley Page) Jetstream was a state of the art file for Xp in the late v9 early v10 era, and, as this one came out after the CRj-200, the panel is a little better, too. The jump to 11.11 killed AP operations, however, but other than that this file soldiers on – and its panel is still really quite immersive, especially at night.
This has always been a fun .acf to use on the LGA-BOS run, and now, Idaho Falls to SLC will be perfect for this one, too. Innsbruck to Munich? Bergen to Oslo? Tallinn to Riga? Salzburg to Vienna? All perfect.
Right now, without a reliable AP, an hour is about all I can handle…although once trimmed this .acf just purrs along nicely. Back in the day, our 727s didn’t have APs on the FOs side; we were expected to hand fly the aircraft when we had the airplane. Do KDAL to KLGA – nonstop – then top it off with a nice Cat I approach at the end – in blowing snow. About all I can say now: we earned our pay back in the day.
This file will need a real texture makeover to get to full Xp11 compliance, but even “as is” it’s an almost perfect turboprop commuter airliner…a real “easy rider,” but I can’t get the AP to do anything and that’s not good. I’ll keep fiddling with it and see what develops.
My FF 757-200 is now up to date, but the night panel still bothers the Hell out of me. The brown panel is too green, the instrument reflections make everything too murky and, in the end, I know what FF was trying to accomplish but they’ve just gone too far. Manipulators are still funky; one session they work fine, the next nothing works like it should. It’s still one of my very favorite aircraft files in Xp; I get frustrated because it’s so very nearly perfect.
The external add-ons are the best in Xp, from the tractor to all the ground carts, the opening doors, and the air-stairs. They’ve set the bar very high indeed, and in time I think most .acf developers will come around and start providing these accouterments; they’re just too nice to have, and they help create an ultra-immersive atmosphere on the ground. If all .acf developers included this equipment our ramps would look a whole lot better. Thank you SSG for carrying on with the idea.
The blackened door trim looks good in this update, and the reflective “paint” is almost too perfect.
What you see “reflecting” on the engine above is the Jetway behind the “camera,” a visual tour de force pulled off by Xp and an artist capable of exploiting these new art assets.
This is stunning work, yet…these effects break down under certain conditions. Zoom out (with the comma key), the zoom back in with the “+” key, and these shiny textures go crazy, and the dreaded ultra-smoke is back in Xp 11.11. Got to find those replacement smoke textures. Again.
Now it’s time to look at a truly special freeware file. Let’s go to Spain, on the north coast near the Pyrenees, and not far from France.
JGFs LEBB Bilboa is freeware. It’s the only file of his posted at the .org. The airport is about as close to payware quality as you can get but the developer didn’t stop there; he’s worked his way out from the airport adding roadway improvements, then both commercial and residential objects – all the way from the city to the harbor. And after spending a few hours looking around inside the file I feel almost certain I’ve barely scratched the surface. You’re going to want this file, so download it now then finish reading this over before you head on “in.”
And I use the word “in” advisedly. This is immersive scenery creation at it’s very best, and the few flaws I’ve found in no way detract from the overall success of the effort.
Now, Bilbao. If not familiar with the city, read this entry on Wikipedia when you have a few minutes to spare, but let’s proceed now – with the idea of adding this airport to yet another regional training area. Take a look at the possibilities below:
Start off in the south, at Icarus’ superb LEVC Valencia or, alternately, JustSIMs LEBL Barcelona (and Madrid, or Lisbon…or…) and go direct to LEBB, or stop off in Pamplona (LEPP) first. Fly on to LFRB Brest (file here) and refuel while you ponder your options. I usually head up to EIDW Dublin (aeroSOFT’s file) and call it a day, but you can opt for hours more flight-time by heading to Scotland and/or the British Midlands, Norway, or Amsterdam. Or, you can forgo Brest and head to LFPO, LSZH, or any number of German airports direct from LEBB. Almost all of the major European carriers fly here, including BA, Air France, and Lufthansa (but no North or South American carriers, at all). The heaviest traveled routes include Madrid and Barcelona – RJs, in other words, and smaller heavies.
Now, let’s look at the area in Google Earth:
(above) note the commercial area on the south side of the airport (bottom of image). The tower is here, as is a large commercial district, as well as some housing units. Below, the main terminal building, and it’s a wild one – from the perspective of a developer trying to get something into X-plane. In form, it’s almost an airplane, isn’t it?
A few more images from Google, below, but keep in mind Xp doesn’t really like curved surfaces on scenery objects.
Above, the parking garage (yes, I know!) and you’ll find this structure in the scenery file, too, so let’s jump on into X-plane now, and see what kind of scenery magic JGF has created for us.
The download includes a scenery file, an ortho-mesh, and a folder full of charts (yes!); there’s a fairly long list of scenery libraries you’ll need on board to make this file work, too. Open the file with Runway Follows Terrain Contours checked ON or you’ll run into all kinds of grief. When you do, when all this stuff works in harmony, welcome to the wonderland.
Below, looking from one of the industrial warehouse areas towards the harbor, the terminal just to the left, mid-image. Note the cruise ships. Note the harbor. And everything in between. You gotta go check it all out, because there’s almost no auto-gen.
Above, the main terminal in Xp; no, it’s not an exact duplicate. Recall: Xp does not like curved surfaces. It’s hard to build a structure for Xp that is all flowing curvilinear form, so something had to give. Still, the essence of the building is captured in this model, and I have no complaints. I know what the developer ran into, and I commend him for a job well done.
The ortho slides into the default overlay and the entire area just look excellent. It’s hard to tell this isn’t the real airport…
Next, look at those night ramps. Bathed in light. No dark pools – just nice, safe, immersive light. In my book, this is scenery perfection.
What an image can’t show you is the sense of dynamic motion in these scenes. Looking at the area from the opposite end of the ramp you can see a mass of vehicles clustered, many have flashing lights and strobes, so the effect is truly chaotic…the best I’ve seen in a long time. Payware or freeware.
It was about here the thought hit me…
This project is a labor of love.
Below, the sense of fluid motion is overwhelming here, in the area where cars circle around the parking structure. I think all the drivers down there are Formula One drivers, too. When you open this file up, do so at night. The feeling of immersive reality is almost overwhelming…on a flat panel screen. Amazing.
The tower? Oh well, yes, it’s almost perfect. No figures up there behind the glass, but that’s the only negative. The model is a near perfect duplicate of the one on the ground, too.
You’ll have to look at all the highways in and around the area; many are auto-gen, many are custom creations, so complex it almost boggles the mind.
Same with the roadways from the airport to the harbor area. Some auto-gen and a whole lot of custom objects, and all of it immersive, all of it pulling you in.
Below, approaching the port area. Using a helo is the way to go here, as you can stop and look at these elements closely. Believe me, there’s a lot to stop and look at. The main harbor area is a case in point…
Not simply ships, but an entire port facility. Mind boggling detail everywhere you look, then, when its time to go back to the airport just turn and follow the highway…
On the “tower side” of the airport, more housing, more industrial areas.
More custom roadways, more custom tree objects, lighting…on and on…
Below, northside, looking south. Most everything you see is a custom object, too. Again, I’ve seen many payware files with nowhere near this level of quality, or detail.
Our conclusion: Don’t miss this file. It’s a 10 out of 10.
And…it’s a work in progress. It’s not finished yet. Holy guacamole!
In the image below, the airport is immediately below the 412. There’s a low mountain between the airport and the City of Bilbao.
We’re signing off now, not spoiling the rest for you. Have a good time exploring.
Thanks for dropping by. See you next time. – A