x+s+r // lirf rome-fiumicino

LIRF HDR

Well, here it is. Rome. One of the biggies, an airport we’ve all been waiting for. Yeah, sure, there’ve been a couple of freeware versions of this one over the years, but when you get right down to it all those earlier airports looked – at best – like hastily placed boxes on smeary orthos. And yes, of course, the car parks looked like smeary orthos, too…because that’s exactly what they were. Classic, vintage version 9. Good those days are gone, isn’t it?

So, imagine my surprise when I opened aeroSOFT’s latest – LIFR Rome Fiumicino – and found an airport file that in many respects looks just like a version 9 freeware file. Disappointed? No, not really, because after looking at the few preview shots I guessed this might be coming our way. Is this an unexpected result? Yes. Given the team members involved on this project, I think it was appropriate to expect more. A lot more. But again, I don’t think this is an unexpected outcome, as in the text for this release it states quite clearly that the developers were aiming for a good performance to detail ratio. This has come to mean that developers are willing to cut a lot of detail in order to achieve optimal performance on low-end machines. A laudable goal, true enough, though I understand there are many reasons to take this approach. Still, if you have a high-performance computer this file is going to disappoint in more than a few very basic areas. AND, this IS aeroSOFT’s Rome, and the airport looks good from pattern altitude, yet I can’t in good conscience tell you it’s worth 25 bucks. It’s not, at least to me, and we’ve all seen better freeware files than this lately; indeed, if some of these developers turn their attention to Rome now…well, THAT might make an interesting comparison review.

In the end, what we have here is a couple of good custom models slapped on a large ortho, and even here we ran across more than a few errors. The ramps are not quite bare – but almost so; the night window textures are loaded with the same smeary blue window textures we hoped we’d seen the last of in v9; all the cars in parking lots are represented by smudges on the ortho (as opposed to objects placed on an ortho); and even the parking garages don’t have cars – because that would entail using objects, and, well, that might hurt framerates.

Sure, this is a big airport. So is EDDF, and so is LSZH, and I didn’t see these same short-cuts applied. So…why  here? This airport file feels like it was either rushed into a premature release or, in the pre-planning stages, some key people made some questionable decisions about end results.

Here’s the thing. Most people willing to shell out twenty five dollars for an airport file are probably not running a Commodore 64 or PC junior, so tailoring a release to low-end computers seems like a lose-lose situation. aeroSOFT is going to alienate the people who DO buy high end scenery files, and in the process their reputation is going to tank. I doubt aeroSOFT wants to be known as “the company that markets low-end files,” so…why? That said, most of the major buildings here are really well made – yet all that hard work was wrecked by skimping on the details.

Okay, let’s look at the basics, and we’ll take a quick look at an overview of the real airport next.

LIRF chart 1

There are currently four runways:

07/25 3,800m 12,467 ft Asphalt
16R/34L 3,900 12,795 Asphalt
16L/34R 3,900 12,795 Asphalt
16C/34C 3,700 12,139 Asphalt

And five major terminal buildings.

LIRF diagram

  • Terminal 1 (Gates B1–B13 and B14–B30) is used by Alitalia (short-haul flights), Air France, Croatia Airlines, Etihad Regional and KLM.
  • Terminal 2 (Gates C1–C7) was mainly used by easyJet with Blue Air, Wizz Air, and Ryanair being the only other tenants. This terminal was closed on 15 December 2017 for Terminal 1 extension.
  • Terminal 3 (Gates C8–C16, D1–D10, E1-E8, E11-E24, E31-44 and E51-61) is the largest terminal and used by Alitalia (long-haul flights), Vueling and several other companies.
  • Terminal 5 (Gates E1-E8, E11-E24, E31-44 and E51-61) is used by all U.S. and Israeli carriers. This terminal is closed for renovation.

You can look over the airlines and destinations served here.

LIRF real 1

Above, a photographic image of the terminal area, from wikipedia. Below, the same area, in Google Earth.

LIRF GE

LIRF GE comparo

And above, the same approximate vantage in Xp 11.20; note the hard boundaries between the ortho and AlpilotX’s v4mesh. Little to no feathering, and, in the circled part of the image, major highways and railways disappear – and then don’t line up. The built-up urban area between the airport and the sea lacks depth and contrast, a striking change easily fixed. Why so small an ortho? Framerates, of course.

LIRF CARP1

Above, the central parking area from about 2000AGL, and it looks okay from up here, too. But not from ground level.

LIRF Departures

As above, much closer to the ortho, you see the results, and all the parking lots look just like this. Cars are smudges. But there’s more going wrong here than meets the eye. The left circle shows two covered walkways, but the walkways are on the ortho – so why include them. The other circled area? Dangling driveways and support columns that support nothing. And worst of all, there’s no scale on this upper deck…not one car or pedestrian to lend scale. It looks like an airport the day after armageddon.

The frame rates are, however, quite good…but this is NOT what we’ve come to expect from payware files in this price range.

LIRF Dep 2

Most, not all, of the roadways are represented by orthography, and again, all the roads and pedestrian areas are devoid of traffic – and as a result there’s no sense of scale. All the buildings look small, because there’s no visual context…no visual cues to give you an idea if a building is ten meters high, or five.

LIRF 320 ramps 3

You want bare ramps? You got ’em here. Many of the ramp objects you see in the image above come from the payware Ground Handling Package…but how about the rest of the area? This hardly looks like an airport, even a freeware airport. Without the A320, this could just as easily be the scene at a shopping mall.

LIRF 320 n2

At least the smeary blue window textures aren’t garishly bright. I guess subdued blue smears makes up for the lack of good window textures? That’s always been the strategy with freeware files, anyway. And again, the detail on the ramps is mainly from the GHE package. Again, you want dark ramps, here they are.

LIRF 320 cp vu

It’s the same story all over this airport, too.

LIRF 319 bare ramps 1

And it’s the same no matter the time of day. The GHE file is providing most of the action out here…night or day.

LIRF 319 N

LIRF T5 777cp vu1

LIRF T5 N1

Mind you, these images have been made with ALL rendering settings at MAX, including World Objects and Shadows, and frame rates were NOT an issue with the Vmax777, the A320U. the A319T, or the default 744, and I would expect them to be good at an airport this denuded. You might get a GPU with 1Gb to work well here too, and if that was aeroSOFT’s goal, they’ve succeeded.

LIRF T5 3

Even the number of static aircraft has been dialed back. This airport makes a perfect case for WT3 or X-life, and I think it’s X-life ready so – by all means, take that route.

LIRF bare RJ ramps

You’ll note the RJ ramps behind the 777 being pushed back, above. Aside from the fact there are no RJs out there, the area looks quite nice. Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the models used here, and yes, again, most are uniformly good-to-excellent.

Including the Alitalia maintenance complex:

LIRF maintenance

An old auxiliary radar tower:

LIRF aux tower

The new Hilton, complete with a hole in the roof:

LIRF Hilton

And this terminal building, awash with bustling activity:

LIRF nice bldg bare ramps

The best of them all? The railway terminal…just ignore the ortho parking lots.

LIRF Ov rail entry

The central railway station is truly well executed, yet even here they didn’t take it to the next level. Yup, the train is not animated but that doesn’t keep this part of the file from taking center stage. Ooh, I get it now…they’re going to integrate this file into Train Simulator X!!!

LIRF rail station file inset

Below, the real station:

LIRF rail real

And my personal favorite, the multi-story parking garages, complete with no cars:

LIRF park

I could go on, but I think by now you’ve gotten the point. This is a splendid v9 airport file…oops, check that. Well, looky here. Some PBR materials on display!

LIRF pbr

I think whether you end up liking this file or not will depend a great deal on the way you intend to use this airport. Under X-Life or WT3, having a bare, naked airport may be desirable. If you have an older, under-powered computer, you’ll want to give this file a try. If you’re expecting an airport like EDDF or LSZH, you’re going to be a little disappointed, or maybe underwhelmed is the better word. From the moment you open this file it looks empty, and many of the terminal buildings look small until you get close, because, again, there’s little-to-no scale everywhere you look. The ortho reeks; it’s a blurry mess – yet it’s asked to carry a lot of the visual load here (the parking lots, many areas surrounding buildings) so of course it fails, and miserably.

Or, I should say it fails as an aeroSOFT airport file circa 2018. This looks like aeroSOFT, vintage 2010. The lighting is poorly executed and the ramps are too dark, but who cares – because there’s nothing out there to see! What a brilliant plan. It’s too bad, of course. This file is so close to being excellent, but too many bad choices ruined the final product. I suppose it could salvaged, but if recent history is any indicator I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Anyway. This isn’t a BAD airport file, but it’s far from being a great one – and it should have been – indeed, could have been. The problem as I see it is simple enough, too. When aeroSOFT releases a file the buyer expects a certain level of quality. For years we’ve heard phrases like “an aeroSOFT class file,” or, “as good as aeroSOFT,” meaning the file in question was so good it was beyond reproach.

No more. This isn’t the first aeroSOFT stink-bomb to come out recently, and I have a feeling it won’t be the last. In the end, there will emerge a new class of better, hungrier developers, and I doubt these women and men will care whether they work for aeroSOFT or not. Maybe this file represents a changing of the guard? When aeroSOFT stopped caring about the high quality of their products and lost their edge?

There was an interesting book that came out in the mid-60s called Airline Safety is a Myth, by Captain Vernon W Lowell; back in the day it was required reading, and many of the safety protocols that evolved after the freewheeling 60s did so as a result of this book. I bring this up now as Captain Lowell was taking off from LIRF in 1964 when his TWA Boeing 707-320c went into an uncommanded asymmetric thrust/slat configuration and cartwheeled down the runway just after reaching Vr, and he writes lucidly about the experience, and what was learned in the aftermath of that day. The book can be found from time to time on Amazon, and if you’re into aviation you should read it.

Why this airport file made me think of a wreck more than fifty years ago…I’ll never know – A

This entry was posted in Opinion, Scenery: Europe and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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