Announcements, both for new files and fresh revisions, are beginning to hit the news-streams again, so – perhaps – we’ll begin to see some major new scenery and aircraft files this Spring. Regardless, (and I almost don’t like writing this) we’ve had so many really excellent freeware files release the past five weeks that I haven’t missed the expected payware deluge all that much. There are really good files in the pipeline, but there are really good freeware files releasing all the time.
Anyway, we have a handful of really nice files for you to work with this weekend, so let’s dive in and take a look around. We’re going to Ibiza, Spain – and look at three files, then on to Petersburg, Alaska, for a nice surprise; and then to a small rooftop helipad in Innsbruck, Austria. It’s likely you’ll want all three LEIB files, too, and, assuming you like flutterbugs, the Innsbruck file might float your boat, too. And the Alaska file is a no-brainer. So – off we go…to an island rich with sunshine, just off the southern coast of Spain, not far from Valencia.
LEIB Ibiza, Ibiza, Spain
So, first things first. What’s this whole Ibiza thing?
Well, if generally unfamiliar (or you’re from Des Moines), think of it as many European’s ideal place to spend Spring Break…and you’ve kind of got the picture. It easily beats Lauderdale and Daytona for outrageous nightlife, while places like Galveston and Padre Island and Destin aren’t even in the running. Maybe, maybe the only places that top Ibiza are in the South Pacific…but that kind of depends on what taking a break means to you.
When you think of modern, electronic music, what name comes to mind? For me, it’s Chicane, and though he’s been around a while and isn’t really considered cutting edge as much as he was 20 years ago, his stuff stands up, even today. Dig up an album on iTunes called Club Energy (you’ll know it when you see the girl on the “cover”) and run Chicane’s Sunstroke through your phones. That tune was almost synonymous with JRollon’s CRJ-200 too, as the breathy, techno-string intro defined the opening of his earliest pre-release teaser videos. And, to me, anyway, this version of Chicane’s Sunstroke pretty much defines Ibiza, too. Frenetic, pulsing with life, this is music on its own terms. Powerful – yet kind of peaceful. If Chicane is too staid for you, try Ulrich Schnauss’ Medussa. Turn up the volume and zone out for a while…
The list of airlines carrying holiday-makers to Ibiza is tilted – and strongly so – on the scales towards budget carriers. While most of the European majors fly here, blatantly low-cost airlines dominate. And…what does that tell you? Yup, lots of backpacks and sandals. Ibiza is all about nightlife and in Europe that means basement clubs packed with kids – and lots of light pulsing to music louder than a Saturn V launch. It’s also beaches and water so clear you’d swear it’s a swimming pool. It’s also hormones – and The Love Parade is definitely in full swing.
The airport is located west of the island’s main town, Vila d’Eivissa (or simply, Vila), and the old port area is loaded with UNESCO World Heritage Sites – which will come into play shortly – and note, the airport has been around, in one form or another, since the 1930s.
And the really, really neat thing?
We now have three very good LEIB files available in X-plane. Two are freeware, and one is a v10 payware file that also works rather well in Xp11.11. The real airport is no big deal…a medium sized facility with no particular architectural magic going on. It is what it is, and the main tower looks kind of like this:
Let’s take a look at what we’re dealing with in X-plane, starting with the latest to hit the servers at the Org: Luis Garcia’s latest LEIB Ibiza, and I’ll be right up front here. This file includes a lot of detail in and around the old port, including a decent number of UNESCO WH sites…such as this little area:
So, right off the bat, I’m already leaning towards this one as my favorite…but…but…not so fast there, Kimosabe. TDGs freeware file has a lot going for it, and Pilot Plus’ payware file is very definitely in the über high-quality file category, so a lot depends on what YOU want out of a LEIB airport file, too. If, like me, the inclusion of city landmarks means a lot to you, Sr Garcia’s file is going to knock you for a loop.
Luis Garcia’s LEIB Ibiza
Take a look at the image above, of Luis’ LEIB Ibiza, Spain. I’m not at all hesitant to call this file near “payware quality” – because, in some respects, it is. And so what if a file of such reasonable quality is free? Does that make it somehow less worthy of being used?
You already know when we’re dealing with control towers we’re, well, we’re fiends. Throw an Open Scenery X or other scenery library object into your project and we’re ready to slice and dice it. We’ll show no mercy. But really, who gives a hoot?
Yeah. We do. If you want your file to get a good review here, start with a custom tower – OR A REALLY GOOD LIBRARY OBJECT. If the tower is lighted watch as we go crazy, too.
So, Sr Garcia’s file has a lighted, custom tower.
Need we say more?
He’s got v11 lighting, the terminal area has a fair amount of detail, and framerates were so good we were able to open the Rotate MD80v1.4 file here. And framerates were – good! Well, settings were dialed back (a lot), but the beast was flyable. That filthy, hi-res Iberia paint on the latest version is really over the top, too. I’ve never seen anything as filthy – unless it was in a back alley behind the Crazy Horse Saloon.
All in all, for this reason alone you might want this file over the others, but as they say, Wait! There’s more!
Yeah, the old port area, and the other two files offer nothing like this. Nothing. As in: Nada. Zip. And…nothing!
The odd thing about it? If you never saw this extra material you might not consider this file. Without it…it’s good, but it lacks a few things, too. The ramps are quiet, not as much clutter, and as the file relies on a small ortho to provide detail, many of the airport’s smaller buildings are missing. But…include all the detail in the nearby port area and all of a sudden this file jumps to the head of the line.
So, Mr Scenery Developer, what does this tell you?
But first, consider this one extra factoid. Big FsX/P3D developers like Orbx have made their reputations on creating such immersive, yet ancillary detail. No, this is not a part of the airport…YES, it is a part of the experience of flying into this airport – or ANY airport, for that matter. If you want your airport file to attract a wider, more critical audience going forward, you’re going to have to start including this level of detail. Wait, you say! I can’t use that stuff from Google Earth or SketchUp’s Warehouse due to copyright issues…? Well, guess what…? Time to fire up Blender and get to work. It might add a week or so to your production timeline, but you’ll make it back. Or…you’ll find someone out there who can help you make this stuff easily and cheaply because, in a competitive market, you need every advantage you can get, and in flight sim scenery right now, city detail is IN. It’s IN right now because we finally have hardware that can handle it. Notice all kinds of developers adding city detail? Notice they’re selling well, so earning their developers money they might not have otherwise? Don’t miss out on this one, guys. It’s only time and sweat…and only your reputation on the line.
We’re generally pretty high on TDGs files around here, and his LEIB is no exception. The ramps are the best of the three, as there’s both clutter AND movement all over this airport.
Ramps are even well lighted – but wait one. You’d never know that, right above the tail in the image below, there’s a control tower lurking in the darkness. I mean…really? Nothing? Not even a lamp post nearby to give the tower a little glow? Sorry, but this is a “remove from consideration” item around here.
And, in case you were wondering, there’s the old port area (below), in all it’s default auto-gen glory. As in, there’s nothing on that hill but a highway and a few bushes…and none of the UNESCO details in Sr Garcia’s file.
So, TDGs file works, and works well, assuming you have all the scenery library files onboard. The night issues? If you don’t fly at night, will that bother you? If you don’t care about city details, will this lack bother you? TDGs file has great detail where it counts, and that won’t bother you.
If I’ve given you the impression this payware file is somehow inferior, well, it’s not. Far from it, in fact. As you would expect from an expensive payware product, this one is loaded with all kinds of detail not present in the other two freeware files…
However, I think the control tower in Sr Garcia’s file is a little more accurate, and the night lighting in this file looks like I came straight out of Xp – version 8.7…
I’m sorry guys, but I’m not sure why you thought this is somehow appropriate. Take a look at AeroSoft’s EDDF, and then decide if you want to move up to the big leagues; because when your night lighting is no better than freeware, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. When it’s not as good as freeware, something’s wrong.
But night textures aren’t the end of the ball game, are they? Pilot Plus has a new Gatwick file that we’ve not looked at, but their Block Island file is one we’ve used – and enjoyed. Still, this file needs a makeover in the night department. On the other side of the equation, with the sun out, this file simply works, and very well, too.
Oh, that “New” Lufthansa paint is on the default 738, link here. Ramp details here are decent, with just enough detail to work, but nowhere near the level we’d consider top-of-the-line. There could be more movement but, as is, the file gets the job done and framerates are in line with the Garcia file. But…it could be better.
You’ll find payware levels of detail here, like foliage and buildings around the airport perimeter that are not in the other two. What you will not get is city detail in the port area. Again, as with TDGs file, how important is that to you? Xp is, after all, a flight simulator. When is enough, enough? When do things get out of hand? There’s nothing about landing here, in this file, that doesn’t ring true. It’s an immersive experience and I enjoyed it very much.
Really, besides the funky blue window lighting at night and the file lacking city detail, this package beats the other two hands down. Good mesh, excellent static aircraft, the taxiways seem far better (wider, better lighting), and all the other little details surrounding the airport simply look “better” – as in extensive, more thought-out.
Oh…and that hyper-detailed roof on the terminal building (above) is a photo-texture. Get down low and it looks like a photo-texture, too. From a thousand feet it looks decent, and once on the ground you won’t see it, so this looks like a good compromise to enhance looks and save performance.
File sizes tell a tale here, too. The Pilot Plus file weighs in at 500+Mb, while Sr Garcia’s file comes in at 250Mb. TDGs file? Don’t laugh…but it’s a whopper, coming in at 12.2Mb (yes, all those scenery library files you spent all last summer downloading are carrying the real load here). TDGs file has performance on par with Sr Garcia’s, which is just a little better than PPs file, but considering the PP file is twice the size what’s surprising is how well optimized their file is. I did not try to open the Rotate MD80 at PPs file (I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough, I suppose, for another hard crash), so if using the Rotate file is a ‘must-have’ for you, I’d get either of these two freeware files and laugh all the way to the bank. If you want a better looking, more detail airport for daylight use, stick with the payware file. If you’ll be using this file more at night (like, uh, me) then the Garcia file almost makes more sense.
On the freeware scale, Luis Garcia’s file is a nine out of ten. It simply needs more detail, more buildings, more clutter. TDGs file loses big points with the dark tower, but it picks up momentum when you consider the other detail included.
The PP payware file? As currently priced at the Org store (24USD) this is actually one of the more expensive files out there. Yes, there are a few close to 30, but then again there are a bunch under 20 that equal or exceed this one. Does that matter? I doubt it, and the idea of a few backs making a difference is kind of a stretch.
Well, these days going to dinner and a movie – for one – costs more than this file. So, one meal, one movie…versus, literally…years of use from one file…so in that context does a price of 24$ make this somehow less interesting than 19? Not to me.
What matters most in this group is the inclusion of the old city and port. Of the three LEIB files I have, I’ll end up using Señor Garcia’s file more often – because his is, literally, more interesting. Each has strengths and weaknesses as airport files, but only his, in the three file’s current state of development, has something going on beyond the airport itself. Why this is beginning to mean so much to many in the community is a little bit of a mystery, but I suspect the popularity helicopters has something to do with the phenomenon.
Luis Garcia’s file can be found here.
TDG’s file is hiding out here.
And you can find the Pilot Plus file at the Org store, and at their own web-store.
If you use files that need scenery library objects in order to function, odds are you’ve run across the PM Library. PM is PaulMort, and he has made the odd scenery for Xp from time to time, and this PAPG Petersburg file is the latest example. Not far from RD’s PAWG Wrangell (which we covered here a few months ago), PM’s file is similar in many functional ways (heavy use of scenery file objects chief among them), yet this one is almost whimsical feeling…in a way. It’s also quite good, and you’ll want this one onboard if you fly the bush from time to time.
Juneau, Alaska is about 120 miles to the NNW; Wrangell is less than 30 to the SE. Alaska Airlines currently operates 737-700 (thanks, EADT!) to Anchorage, Juneau, Ketchikan, Seattle/Tacoma, and Wrangell, but as we’ve said before, there are many acf in Xp that would be fun to use up here. Try the Dash-8 Q400, or the Saab 340. Use the IXEG 733, as Alaska used to use the 734 on this run. The Beech 1900D is my favorite turboprop on these waterfront strips. The SSG E-jets would do the job, of course, so there are plenty of options to work with. Of course, there are also plenty of freeware options for the other airports on this list (gee, I wonder where I can find a nice KSEA…?).
I used the word ‘whimsical’ to describe this one, and I think you’ll see what we mean after using this one a few times. In the image above, man and pick-ax take on a pile of rocks…while below, man and forklift tackles a stack of sewer pipes.
While a construction crew gets set for another day’s work across from the airport.
Writing about EDDC a few weeks ago, I bemoaned the lack of people visible there – well, anywhere – around that airport. It’s a total Zombieland, a dead zone…yet PaulMort’s Petersburg is the exact opposite. There are literally people…everywhere!
Does it take away from the file? Well, you tell me. Would you rather have airports with people visible, or denuded of all traces of humankind? Assuming I can’t have airports full of bouncing puppies, I’ll take people. ‘Nothing’ gets kind of old, kind of fast.
Of course, the radar set is animated. In the village down the road, fun little buildings from the PM library pop up here and there, too, as well as custom homes and boats, including the local Coast Guard cutter near the seaplane base…
And while I suppose Beavers on floats would seem to be the thing up here, flutterbugs might be better for looking over the town itself.
In the end, however, this file makes the most sense when considered as part of a larger network. Wrangell is a toughie, but can you imagine making the thirty-mile flight between Petersburg and Wrangell – in CAT II conditions? Bliss! And, do it at midnight, with 30-knot winds out of the north, maybe a little icing, too. Now…that’s a flight simulator! No problem, you say? Okay, try it in the Fly-J-Sim 732, without the FMC. Just steam gauges…and see if you don’t get more worked up than Trump at a beauty pageant.
You can find the file here.
Those wild and crazy guys at X-plane Austria are still at it, cranking out new files on the order of a couple a week. Now, knowing how much everyone hates LOWI/Innsbruck, I thought it would be fun to look at a heliport on top of a fifteen story hospital in the middle of the city. Thank goodness there’s no such thing as a crosswind at a heliport…
Yes, Virginia, there is a helicopter up there by those blinking red lights, and – don’t look down!
Because it’s a long, long way down…
And that pad is looking itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny right about now…
But you just got another call, this time out at the airport, so it’s time to load and go…are you ready, Eddy?
The lighting up there is almost not enough, maybe the pad could use a few spots? And maybe a light in or on the wind-sock? Still, I like these types of pads; they’re a challenge you just can’t get in a fixed wing (well, no AV-8B Harriers allowed on hospital roofs, right?), and this one is really well done. Then again, so is most of the material coming from this group.
Oh, two new paints for the DF407…seen here:
AlpinLIFT v1.0 shown; the current version is 1.1, and it’s located here.
Zip Aviation, link here. And this just looks kewl…
Anyway, that’s all we got for now. Have a good weekend, and don’t forget…Carb Heat…!
If anything interesting breaks, we’ll get it out as soon as we can. Seeya then.