Reading through John’s announcement over at X-Aviation concerning the release of his latest weather/terrain enhancement package – TerraMAXX – it wasn’t hard to pick up the excitement in his words. And yes, he has every right to be excited. Bringing seasonal change to X-plane has long been a sort of Holy Grail for a bunch of developers over the years, though I guess Tom Curtis should get line honors for the Winter World (WW) freeware file he developed to accompany his Canadian and Alaskan scenery packages. Curtis’ WW came out something like three hundred years ago and wasn’t updated all that often (or…at all?) and it had some fairly deep limitations. Most bothersome was needing two Xp installations – one summer, one winter – and all that entailed, so there was no dynamic change of seasons, no autumn, and no variations within the winter milieu. TerraMAXX brings all that to the table – and more, and in the process creates an astonishing assortment of landscapes within X-plane 11.
The 6Gb file (download size, 12Gb on your drive), available at X-Aviation (link here), will set you back thirty-nine bucks and some change, or about the cost of two moderate quality pizzas. For your money you’ll get either one of the most useful utilities we’ve ever had in X-plane – or cramps, gas, and three hours of non-stop fun on the toilet. Do yourself a favor; get John’s file.
There’s currently one hitch, and it’s a big one: Orthos are not covered. Take a look at aeroSOFT’s LSZH Zurich v2 above. Aside from looking colder than a well-diggers (rear end) the airport proper looks more like Miami Beach than northern Switzerland. There’s a simple fix but John can’t make it; scenery developers will have to, and that’s going to be interesting. Some will, I feel sure, see the financial incentive that goes along with making their file(s) more useful, others may take a “wait and see” approach – and therein sits a big, fat problem. If too many payware developers take the wait and see approach it could spell all kinds of trouble for end-users. Well, trouble is a relative term here, because about the worst thing that could happen is you begin or end a flight at an airport that looks like this.
So, we’re talking synergies. And we’re also talking about the X-plane community, and you know what that means. My guess is the first developers to give this a try will be freeware scenery file developers, maybe home-brew developers at that. Word will get out how cool the end results look and then a couple of payware developers will make the leap…
Above, same view, midday, and time for a word about FPS and file size. X-Aviation and John have (thankfully) included an interesting option at download: a hi-res or low-res option, hi-res for machines with over 5Gb on the video card, and this was a stroke of genius on their part. I didn’t want to buy two copies so I went ahead and opted for the hi-res version, and so installed this on my iMac Pro which, among other things, has 16Gb on it’s Radeon Pro Vega 64 card. These images are all 30bit and 5120 x 2880 on a 5K monitor, and with all rendering options at MAX, including objects & shadows. The A319 is scooting along in the hi-40-FPS range, the IXEG 733 was in the 50s. And the JarDesigns A330v3 still won’t open unless I drop rendering options (so, yeah, that file is going in the trash and you won’t see it on these pages again unless they get that file tamed…).
From a testing standpoint a big machine is a little less than optimal, and I understand that, but I knew this file was going to be a keeper. I knew that because I dealt with John for years, especially around the time he first started out, and I know him to be a man of boundless optimism – and serious integrity. That said, when John says he’s going to do something, you can count on it happening. You can read his thoughts on the download page, and I recommend you do so, and there’s no need for me to repeat all that here…but he offers a roadmap of sorts to think about.
Above, looking south from LSZH you can see the alps in the distance and yeah, they’re white. So is everything between here and there. It’s just great to see this coming now, when everything else is coming together in Xp. Now let’s take a look at a stretch along the Limmat River in central Zurich… Here’s the view in Google Earth Pro, north UP:
Next, here’s the same area with default autogen scenery under all that white stuff:
And the same area with AlpilotXs v4 mesh under the snow:
At least here’s proof…it works!
Now, one of the other cool things in the file…autumn!
And there are all kinds of interesting permutations to consider…such as starting a flight in, say, Rome, on Finnair – in January – and landing in Helsinki a few hours later…and in the process going from an autumn to a winter landscape – seamlessly, with no work at all on your part.
You should be.
There’s another permutation out there already, too, and we looked at it a few weeks ago.
There are several airport files out there that have a winter option – right now. TruScenery’s EFJO is but one of them (and they have a Helsinki winter file that’s full of ice along the waterfront, too), and you can see that this looks “okay” – but even so it could use some work. It’s obvious where one texture set ends and the other begins. At the same time, it looks like a fix is easy enough to implement…though the developer might have to spend a few hours tweaking his or her file to get convincing, immersive realism.
Is it worth it?
Consider the reasons why it might be, from a developer’s POV:
- It advances the sim, and makes Xp a more interesting platform;
- If, as a result of this increased interest, more people come to Xp, or if more people switch from “another platform,” developers stand to generate more sales;
- If a talented developer can make all the necessary changes to her or his file in, say, one day…what if that one day’s labor generates hundreds of additional unit sales for each file on the market?
I think this is a win-win situation for scenery developers, and John too. That’s what “synergies” means, after all. John sells a few copies and a developer sees the potential and modifies her files. She sells a few more than expected, and her potential customers note the option and so buy her file too, and because of that, they pick up John’s file too. The more developers that jump on this synergy train the better, as it becomes like a loop at that point. Sales of one file reinforces sales of the other – and on and on.
The point, if I may, is simply this.
If John’s TerraMAXX was a poorly implemented file none of this would be possible. But John’s file produces beautiful results, and so TerraMAXX has the potential to increase airport scenery file sales – but only if developers jump on his train.
To my way of looking at this game, TerraMAXX is a game changer, a real paradigm shift, so “Ted Customer” has got a choice to make. Spend forty bucks on a file that is going to radically alter the way he experiences X-plane, or go buy a couple of pizzas.
Don the Developer has a different choice to make. Invest a few hours updating his files, or go buy a couple of cheap pizzas. Invest a couple of hours in X-plane’s future, or stop off for another pizza.
The toilet paper? That’s all on you, Slick.
TerraMAXX is a 10 out of 10, a solid must have file.
Later – C