There’s a new source for news and reviews around town – called Threshold – and it’s been up for a few weeks now. Apparently, they have a few dozen people gathering news day in and day out and all of a sudden it’s become – like almost overnight – a really good place to pick up quick information on the latest release. This website is really broadly focused, too, with developers writing articles, including a new series – by Bill Womack, from iBlueyonder – about the “nuts and bolts” of making the switch from FsX to Xp – from a scenery developers point of view – and it’s a fascinating read well worth your time). They’ve asked Chip to write a few reviews too, from time to time anyway, as well as a few “editorials” – i.e., opinion pieces – about what’s going on in the community. That said, we’re going to keep writing here too – so no big changes on that front.
Well, after you look at the image above, perhaps you’ll notice at least one really big change going on here. Yup, the JarDesign’s Ground Handling Equipment package is making a sort of debut appearance here, and though we’ve only had it onboard a day or so our verdict is simple. How did we get along without this? It’s so fun!
We pushed for something like this to be included in Xp years ago, but I guess it’s the same old story again. Laminar has way too many irons in the fire to do things the developer community ought to be able to take care of, and man – did JarDesign’s come through this time! If you enjoy making screenshots of your time in Xp this is a must-have plug-in, a really fun (and inexpensive) file to tinker with.
And we used it today looking at ruifo’s latest file Down Mexico Way, at MMTO Toluca, a mid-sized commercial airport located less than an hour from the center of Mexico City. Yup, this is once again a Lego-brick airport constructed in WED, and yes, it’s still really good and well worth including in your CS folder – and when added to ruifo’s growing network of airports in Mexico, this becomes a very useful airport, too.
As we were working on our post about the EFJO Winter version, we picked up the Toliss A319 – and yes, we were impressed. Impressed enough to go out and pick up the JarDesign’s A320 Neo AND the new FF A320 Ultimate. That said, neither one of us knows squat about Airbus “Laws” so we’re just going to do what we do best – sit back and read…a lot – try to figure this whole Normal Law business out, then see if we can’t fly these things. Anyway, we made most of our screenshots today using these three aircraft, but we also included the old, original Sukhoi Superjet that Roman made like two million years ago, and we did so because Interjet operates this aircraft all over Mexico (and they fly this beast into Las Vegas, Houston, and San Diego, too). We’ll also look at LFKC St Katherines on the island of Corsica, an AeroSOFT airport that we’ve been meaning to look at for a while. We’ll continue to use the JarDesign’s Ground Handling Equipment package there, too, so let’s get to it…but to start off the festivities, let’s drop in and take a quick look at DrzewieckiDesign’s latest v2 upgrade for EETN Tallinn, Estonia.
We won’t cover this in detail (as we’ve already done so with the v1 release), so we’ll just cover the highlight and go over our first impressions. Let’s begin in an out-of-the-way corner of the main terminal building.
This is over near Gate 2, and you really need to get out and study this area because there’s a ton going on here. The doorways…you can see through the building. The stucco textures are perfect. The tall window, with the stairway. Window reflections. The orange cones with reflective tape. The building sits on a foundation, not just plopped down on the ground. And what is that in the upper corner? A wasp’s nest? Anyway, a huge amount of detail in a tiny area that will not often be seen. This is called, in my mind, commitment to artistic excellence.
So, keep in mind the foundation detail as you look around, but also think about how many scenery files you’ve seen where terminal buildings have nothing like this. It’s a simple detail but to my eye, it makes a huge difference. The building simply looks more “real”…
Same area: window reflections, ramp markings. People talking, the implied story…? Below, simple window textures but very high quality, and behind the glass – giving better spatial depth.
Below, a much more vibrant night setting, with shops visible on the concourse and light coming through the various glass roof elements.
The main terminal building gets the same treatment. Better, sharper textures, much better lighting under the building with good depth achieved through use of multiple light sources in that basement parking area.
Down at the far end of the concourse, you can see the lighted roof elements better, but the real treat comes next…
The brightly lighted café beyond the SSJ deserves your attention now, because, yes…
This area is modeled! What an improvement! Those simple textures – GONE!
Your first question? How was performance here? Well, with the old Sukhoi and the new A319, never below 25 FPS, often in the 30s. I’d say the file is very heavily optimized.
My only complaint is the ortho used on the standard installation.
It does look nice from altitude, but down low most buildings have been removed leaving the area around the airport looking a little vacant:
So DD included several alternate installation files, some with no ortho, others with or without static aircraft, so you’ll have the tools you need to get the look you want.
The adjacent air cargo loading area came in for some attention, too, with more lighting and better-looking hangers all around the area. And good looking static aircraft appropriate to the region are included.
This has been one of our favorites, yet DrzewieckiDesign has made this file better, much better. There’s a 40% off upgrade code at the Org store; just check your account’s purchase history for your original EETN invoice; you’ll see your code there. Just enter this code in the appropriate box at checkout and the price drops to about 15$USD, down from 25$.
Yes, I’d say this is a worthwhile revision, enough to justify the price – and I’m not getting into the whole “upgrades should be free” argument. Minor release updates? Yes, free. Major upgrades like this take a lot of time and cost a lot of money; it’s just wrong to expect developers to work for free. I’m happy with the 40% off pricing, too.
Again, this was a really good file; now it looks even better.
MMTO Toluca International Airport // freeware // download link
As mentioned, this airport is located less than an hour west of Mexico City and is, in fact, a part of the Mexico City Metropolitan Airport Group. Interjet and Volaris are the big players here; you can go over the list of carriers and destinations served (here), or get information about the city of Toluca (here).
This is a “big airport” – at least in area – and ruifo has crafted a nicely detailed facility from Laminar’s assets. It wasn’t so long ago that an airport like this one – in Xp9 – would have blown us away, but the fact of the matter is simple enough to grasp – this is a very nice airport to work out of in Xp11, and yes, it’s a huge scenery library airport. So? Would you rather fly into a bare runway…or this…?
Another thing to keep in mind?
The elevation here is almost 8500MSL, and this airport has the longest runway in Mexico (15/33; 13780 ft/4310m); also, the airport is located in a valley prone to temperature inversions AND surrounded by very tall mountains, including a few nice, large volcanoes. How’s that for fun?
Below, the JarDesigns GHE package at work. Watching all those ground assets glide into place is like watching a choreographed dance; ruifo’s airport file includes a decent amount of ground clutter, but obviously nothing like this. And, that’s the last Mexicana paint and the JarDesign A320Neo.
The overview below reveals a large airport, with the amber lighted area parking lots and garages. Lots of trees all over those areas, too, and it looks very good from above.
ruifo’s facility includes air cargo ramps and an FBO for bizjets/GA aircraft. Also, very nice heliports are included – again. Warehouses surrounding the airport are well done, nicely lighted, and this detail increases the immersion factor on approach to the area. Below, a few images with Roman’s SSJ-100 – wearing Interjet paint on MMTO’s ramps. With a little work, this could once again be a very nice acf file, even in v11.
I did NOT successfully use the JarDesign GHE package with the SSJ; invoking the plug-in with this acf loaded repeatedly caused a hard crash. No other acf used caused this issue.
(above) It also looks like Laminar’s assets are getting the PBR treatment…! Below, the JarDesign’s 320Neo had the best reflective glass of the three Airbus acf checked. Ramp markings are nicely done, and this is the generic GPU.
Now, just for grins, let’s look at four different cockpit images taken at the same location (Gate 6) and time of night (05:00). First up, Fly-J-Sim’s 732v3Pro:
Next, the Toliss A319:
Now, the JarDesign’s A320Neo:
And finally, the Flight Factor A320 Ultimate:
What gets me? Three images of three cockpits that should, for all intents and purposes, look almost identical, yet they look anything but. And…I couldn’t pick a favorite…they each have good points – and not so good points, too – though I’d say the FF320U looks the most like 320 cockpits I’ve been in and has features the others don’t. The cool blue-green seen inside the Toliss has a very attractive feel, while the JarDesigns has the most vibrant lighting, but the 319 had manipulators that were a little more difficult to use. The FF320U seems very polished, as indeed it should for the price. Jack’s 732? Well, it IS a Boeing, after all, so it’s simply the best looking! It just has to, right?
One item I checked was the sound-field in each Airbus, though I added the additional cost JarDesign’s CFM sound-pak – and while it’s audacious the FF320U has an incredible sound package built in. The 319s is very good, but could not compete with the JarDesign’s add-on package. If I had to choose just one of these files with sound as the most important criterion, the JarDesign’s acf with the additional sound file would win, the A320U coming in a close second. I used an M-Audio Tranit Pro DAC and matched studio monitor-headphones to listen to each, and the JarDesign’s add-on creates a spatially impressive sound-field everywhere inside the aircraft – and outside, too. “Walking around” by the GPU I picked up different engine valves tapping as I moved around the unit…something I’ve never experienced with any other add-on in X-plane. Knobs and switches on the panel take on different characteristics, too. Very impressive. Flushing the toilet is not something I’d want to experience with this active, but it’s there, just lurking in the shadows…waiting to catch you when you least expect it. There is nothing more awful than a cockpit sharing a wall with a toilet…if the sounds don’t get you the odors will. Maybe Laminar ought to develop a Stink-o-rama scent field, the perfect addition for those nice, long fourteen-hour flights from Kennedy to Beijing…?
“Did you cut one?”
“Hey, whoever smelt it, dealt it, Dude…”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
One of the drawbacks that comes with using a ground handling package is your aircraft looks like a carnival while the static aircraft around you look dead. Developers like Short Final (MrX) get around this problem by including both animated ground traffic and static elements all around their parked aircraft…in effect creating little “scenes” around each aircraft on the ramps. Adding WT3 or X-life complicates this even further, yet, in the end, I like having all the chaos around. Maybe it’s more immersive, or maybe it’s just more fun, but it’s so easy to get running…and then, there you are, sitting in the pit working on the post-landing checklist and suddenly all kinds of traffic are roaming around down there on the ramp… If you haven’t tried this package yet, I’d recommend you do so.
ruifo’s MMTO? On the Lego-brick scale, it’s an easy 10 again. He’s got everything covered, from cargo ramps to parking lots with cars. Streets, trees, nearby details…it’s all there.
One last thing.
Did you read that Orbx is actively recruiting X-plane scenery developers? ruifo? TDG? You guys catching my drift?
Corsica offers one of the most dramatic scenery backdrops in the Mediterranean, and while we have had a few freeware packages that took advantage of this natural beauty, the orthos were lo-res and the airports were not quite there. So, with Xp getting better stock textures we wondered what a good, aeroSoft quality airport would look like now. Enter aeroSoft’s LFCK Sainte Catherine, a sweet little airport file in a dramatic setting.
You’d think, by looking at the image above, you were in the Swiss Alps…but no, this is Calvi, a small town on the NW coast of Corsica, an island rich with both natural beauty and history.
LFKC is just a few hundred miles south of LFMN Nice, and the list of airlines and destinations served is quite impressive, with Air France, Swiss, Brussels, and EasyJet well represented.
This is a v10 airport file that also works very well in v11; ramp lighting is subdued and there’s little clutter on the ramps – but then again I’m not sure how cluttered a small airport like this can get! Well, what about satellite imagery…?
Well, looky there…? Accurate, right down to the ramp markings…in other words, typical aeroSoft quality…right down to parking lots and tree placement. Speaking of trees, look at these. Perfect choices.
And…there is clutter. Just well organized…(but does that still qualify as clutter?).
Here are two views from the FF320U: night and dawn, showing the ramps here.
And here’s the JD320Neo at high-noon:
Ground handling? You want ground handling? SHEESH…
And this is the first livery I’ve seen for the new Air France leisure/budget carrier HOP! – shown on the JD320Neo. Next stop: LFPO.
There’s a single runway here (18/36; 7559 ft/2310m) and, of course, great charts. Oh, one other reason I wanted to start filling out this region? We now have a good airport for Genoa (I promise, I’ll get pictures up soon!) and then there’s this:
A sneak peek at Rome…coming soon. With LFKC and LFMN added to Genoa and Rome, this will become a very, very good region for turboprop and Rj flights, or longer lights to France, Geneva, Zurich, Wien, Frankfurt, and München. So, there’s method to this madness, I reckon.
That said, aeroSoft’s LFKC could use an update. PBR materials? Maybe, but HDR lighting and maybe some more elements in the beach/town area, too. Finishing out the island would be nice, a la Svalbard, as well. Hi-res orthos and towns, all the other airports…? Hey, we can dream, right?
As it is, I like this one. It’s an easy 9 on the 10 scale, useful and located in a nice, dramatic setting.
And that’s all for now, glad you could join us. Later – A