So, welcome to the party, y’all. To the Paradigm Shift Party.
Time will tell, but once upon a time there was something called X-plane BC, or Xp Before Carenado, and now – long after they shook up the market with their first group of stunning GA aircraft – they’re an established part of the community. Now we have Orbx coming to X-plane, after years hearing things like “we never will” and, well, here they are. And as trite a cliche as this is, all I can say is “better late than never, guys.”
We have no real idea of Orbx’s roadmap into Xp; whether they’ll focus on small, forested airstrips in British Columbia or large international airports in Europe. And frankly, it really doesn’t matter. They’re here, and we’ll likely remember this time as something like: “Remember the way Xp looked…before Orbx came along?”
Because in much the same way Carenado shook up the development scene in Xp eight years ago, I suspect the same thing will take place now – again. As Orbx hits its stride and we see the results in X-plane, smaller developers will either compete or wither away. Sure, X-plane will always have a vibrant freeware community, but our community has to understand what Orbx’s coming means to the future of our platform. It’s an old adage you’ve heard a million times before here, but we need to get out and support every new developer that brings worthy products to X-plane. We need to do that in order to keep development moving forward, by attracting new development teams, and more importantly, to bring in those teams willing to exploit Laminar’s new rendering tools. In short, these new developers (to Xp, anyway) have to make money here, or they’ll go away.
So, here we are.
Orbx comes to X-plane with a symbolic file. THE file that, for a generation of FsX users, came to define what flight simulation was all about: KCGX Chicago Meigs Field. I’ll not debate the merits of this choice, nor will I compare this to other recent freeware offerings that covered the same territory.
There’s just no need.
Again, I see this choice more as a symbolic offering, not a statement of strategic direction.
That said, this small file brings a serious level of detail to the long-gone airport, but, more importantly, it brings a tremendous boost in quality to the Lake Michigan waterfront area.
You’ll find well-detailed buildings on the airport grounds and splendid night textures. You’ll want to get out and look around, too.
Soldier Field looks stunning, both from the ground and in the air.
And this terminal building (below); its subtly lit and the lobby area is completely detailed inside. And no, no smeary blue night textures…
The airport’s ramps and markings are letter-perfect, and (below) note the dome of the Adler Planetarium in the distance. That’s the way the real one looks, BTW.
Passing by overhead, note the variety of light temperatures employed and how these add depth to the scene.
And below, how nicely done the Navy Pier area is – with its carnival rides and throngs of people.
The lighted skyscrapers? Well, there’s a blockish, monochromatic look to the lighting, isn’t there? Thinking about the reasons why one might do this, about all I can come up with is these buildings could conceivably be (more) visible at night from places like Midway and O’Hare. Up close, they look cartoonish, but I’m not at all sure whose art assets these are…Orbx’s or Laminar’s. And I’m not sure it matters a whole lot, either. From a distance, they look just fine.
And in daylight, this downtown area sings with congested morning density. It just feels like Chicago…early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
So yeah, this file is probably everything you thought it might be. The old airport is pretty close to perfect, the downtown area is what it is, too. What matters most in this file, to me, anyway, is the cluster of stadia and parks along the waterfront – and here Orbx really shines. Soldier Field looks perfect, ditto the Adler and the Field Museum…Navy Pier, too. These additions bring a real level of, well, intimacy to the scenery that’s been lacking in Xp. Yes, I know, there’ve been other attempts to make this area come alive, including some recent very good work, but I’d say Orbx has succeeded here where others have come close.
This file highlights the need for up-to-date KORD and KMDW files in X-plane – but then again, aside from a few US airports, the same can be said of too many regions to count. The point here, if I may, is that there’s more than enough work to go around. If Orbx decides to stay and become a real player in this market, odds are we’ll begin to see more airport files release with competitive quality, and that’s the best thing that could happen to X-plane.
The file is available at the Orbx store. Do note: Windows users will need to get Orbx’s proprietary download manager FTX Central onboard; Mac and Linux users are provided a link for direct download. The price is 32.95 AUD (which is Australian for funny money, aka Aussie dollars).
The download is fairly small, three folders go into Custom Scenery, and with rendering options set pretty much at MAX all the way, performance with the Carenado C206 G1000 was simply stellar, with FPS in the 30s to 40s.
So? Yup, a 10 out of 10, “Must Have” file.
That’s all from Chaos Manor today. Hasta later. – C