It’s fair to say that there’s been a fair amount of anticipation about Runway 26’s new Kingston, Jamaica file. The pre-release renders looked pretty good and there’s always been a shortage of payware airports in Xp – where Caribbean airports were concerned. But that’s the way this market is evolving. As X-plane has evolved into a more interesting simulator, the market for files in FsX has evaporated and the limitations of P3D are becoming more apparent with each passing day.
Well, developers heard a door…opening…for their products. An opening that just looked too good to be true.
And now, right the heels of Skyline’s botched MKJS Sangster-Montego Bay effort we get another Jamaican airport, and suddenly – the pressure’s really on. Will we end up with at least one decent payware file in Jamaica? Or will Jamaica prove to be a jinx on any developer trying to crack this nut? Or…is something else going on…?
We’ve been amazed by all the hype behind the pre-release imagery we see these days – and then the eventual reality of the new file. I can usually get a feel for things if the developer includes night imagery of their work; then again, it speaks volumes when the developer omits night images, too. Right away it’s easy to figure out where corners are being cut, and guess what? I never saw a pre-release image of this file at night. And after opening this file, I know why. It’s like smoke and mirrors…you know – like do it quick, and maybe they won’t notice!
Above, an exterior image from the real airport’s new terminal building: transparent glass, and highly reflective too, is readily apparent here, isn’t it? Perfect, in other words, to let Xp11s new rendering technologies really shine, so to speak. And…it’s a small building so modeling the interior would seem a no-brainer, too. In other words, this airport provided the perfect opportunity to let a P3D developer really strut their stuff, show the world what they were capable of.
Above, two images from Google Earth. In the top image, take note of the orientation of small buildings in the parking areas, the varieties of roof detail, and the grass and trees in the green spaces. In the second image, note the surf-line, the roadways leading into the airport, as well as the roadway and parking areas around all the smaller buildings located away from the two main terminal areas. Refer back to these images as needed, and as you look at the following image:
Referring to the image above:
- That “house” is in the middle of the roadway, and trucks drive through it, not around it;
- The two sheds in the parking lot are oriented wrong;
- Multiple buildings here are not showing up, or are only partially modeled;
- Same with this building;
- The entry canopies aren’t modeled at all.
Below, refer to items 3. and 4. above. You can see artifacts of partially drawn scenery elements.
Now, let’s dive into the more subjective areas.
So, MKJP Kingston is actually less busy than MKJS Sangster, though there are direct flights to/from both North America and Europe from each. Simply put, there are more tourist resorts on the north coast than around Kingston, and that’s that – because tourism is the mainstay of the Jamaican economy and the best beaches – and the Ochos Rios area are there. Beyond that, MKJP has a single 8900 foot runway and sees about 130 international flights per week. Here’s the list of airlines and destinations.
Another image to file away for future reference: in the entry area below, note the canopy structures along the departures sidewalk area? Yup. Refer to item 5. above.
When you open this file do so in daylight the first few times; while this isn’t a “bad” file I think it likely your disappointment will be lessened this way. You’ll note the terminal buildings look pretty good and that the main control tower is a massive, poured concrete affair (though no interior detail is visible, night or day). Pretty soon you’ll note the ramps aren’t exactly bare, but neither are they teeming with activity. And why are there airliners on these ramps that have no business being there? A Swiss A320? An Alaskan MD80? Seriously? Does someone not know how to make sure only appropriate airlines show up on their ramps? Of course, the airlines present are different each time you open the file.
As you scroll around the airport you begin to feel that, by and large, this is actually a very nice effort – in daylight, anyway. Okay, so most of the better freeware developers in X-plane craft more realistic ramp detail. Or…better parking lots. Or, for that matter, better looking apron details like concrete and asphalt textures, painted markings, and lighted signage? What most freeware developers rely on, however, is scenery library objects, and this terminal area looks very well done…too good looking to be from a cookie-cutter library, anyway.
And then, above, you see all kinds of building elements floating in the air (as in items 3. and 4. mentioned above), but baggage trains – parked on grass? Anyone heard of FOD before? So, you quit and make sure everything is loading correctly, then you restart and check runway contours and see if that makes a difference. Nope. It’s just a part of the scenery file – that either didn’t load correctly (like four times) or was never modeled correctly in the first place.
You tinker with the light, change the time of day and note there are some PBR materials on the apron and runway areas – yet no reflecting window surfaces. Odd, given the highly reflective glass on the original building. You observe that the JarDesign Ground Handling package looks really good here – if only because there’s so little detail in evidence elsewhere. And, you try to ignore the very limited roof detail, too, but by this point you’re like waiting for the other shoe to drop, as in “what next?”
Yup, (above) the main entry is incorrectly modeled; there are no entrance canopies and no reflective glass. Street and roadway details simply look confused, like the developer simply couldn’t figure it all out so just left it and moved on. Still, the facility looks pretty good while taking off or landing, so you’re willing to forgive all these little transgressions…
…including all the little errors in the parking lots, the bad glass, the lack of detail on the ramps…
…but then…the sun goes down.
And all you see is one smeary blue window after another. No interior details visible at all, and then – the ramps are too dark. And…to make matters even less interesting, all the little peripheral buildings are dark, even the nearby large warehouse complex. Pitch black. Instead of seeing a vibrant airport apron area bustling with activity, at night you see a black hole, and when you pull up to the gate the impression only gets worse. It looks dead down there, and the only thing breaking the monotony are these pale blue smudges – but, oh! Those are windows?
Maybe a little compare and contrast? Look below, first image, at the blue tower (center) and part of the new terminal building (left roof). Now scroll down to the fourth image, the last in the set.
Note the windows under the tower. Though dark, they’re uniform and sharp. Next, look at the window textures on the new terminal building…they’re splotchy and pixelated, aren’t they? So, these textures are very unlike the tower’s windows, let alone the Rotate MD80s and JarDesigns GHE textures, which are razor sharp. It almost looks like this work was done by someone else.
And be that as it may, the parking lots are a little too dark. And yes, while satellite imagery shows only trees and grass along the roads around the terminal area, you see all the Rancho Cucamonga Estates tract housing and realize this developer maybe doesn’t really know how to set exclusion zones. Worse still, they didn’t bother to include any appropriate detail beyond the airport grounds. Even more interesting, though apparently they used a very small ortho around the immediate terminal area, the interesting looking surf line seen in the overhead imagery is nowhere to be found and the roads often don’t line up.
The last image, above? The warehouse is not as tall as a one story tract home? Really? You see more, too. Like the area by the new control tower? The fence over there…is half in the water? And it’s about that time you begin to lose interest in this file, too. You begin to feel like this is just another P3D developer who rushed this file to market, ready to foist off yet another half-baked scenery file on an unsuspecting audience because, hey, this is X-plane and those rubes don’t know anything, let alone how to tell a good file from a mediocre one.
Yeah? Think so?
So, our verdict? A decent file in daylight, though not as detailed as most good freeware files in X-plane. At night? Sheesh. This is just another wasted opportunity, an airport file so close to being interesting it hurts. What we’ve got instead is a developer who didn’t bother to finish out his airport to current levels of payware quality, so what we end up with is an almost-but-not-quite average payware file – or, well, a really very nice freeware file. Who knows, maybe tdg will make this one, too. Then, well, you know how that song goes…most of his more recent files are way better than some of this converted stuff. The problem here? It feels like we’re getting files now that were state of the art in FsX – like fifteen years ago…
In the end, this scores a subjective 6 out of 10, and a resounding “don’t bother” rating for this file – unless you really want or need this one. If you do get it, you’ll enjoy it more if you stick to daylight OPS.
Suggestions? Sure, why not?
Why don’t developers get these files out to a bunch of beta testers, including reviewers who happen to be very critical observers of such things? Why not ask for advice from some of the better freeware developers too, maybe buy them a cup of coffee for their efforts? May I suggest tdg and ruifo? I hear MrX is very helpful too.
All I know is…if FsX/P3D developers keep dumping this kind of stuff onto the market, interest in such work is going to fall off fast. We have high expectations in our little community, true enough, yet the best files we’ve seen recently have been released, for the most part, by experienced X-plane developers. But, why is that a problem?
Because the really big, extremely detailed airports we’ve seen in FsX are simply NOT showing up in X-plane – so the very files the X-plane market is starving for are being held back, for whatever reason, and the end results aren’t going to be pretty. For anyone.
So, maybe that sound you hear? Is that the sound of a door…closing?