x+s+r // MMHO and Scenery Development

xsr mmho hdr

It’s been fun watching the “competition” between tdg and ruifo develop this past year…if you could justifiably call it that. They are both masters at creating the “scenery library” type of airport file, yet if I was at all interested in creating scenery files of any sort for Xp, whether payware of freeware, I’d certainly pay close attention to how these two structure their models, as week after week they craft one great airport after another. Amazing, to say the least, and these two have really left their mark on X-plane. It is hard to imagine where we’d be without all their hard work, and great talent.

We’ll look at that talent today, in ruifo’s latest 2018 MX file – this time for MX-MMHO Hermosillo, located near the coast of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez and not all that far from the Arizona border. We’ll also take a quick look at several other prevailing modeling styles as currently used by a variety of developers – just as a sort of reminder, or perhaps eye-opener is a better choice of words. Still, ruifo’s MMHO provides a mini-master class in how to structure a small airport to be both faithful to the original and visually more than immersive – and all while using Laminar’s LegoBrick art assets…as provided in Wed, and nothing else.


MMHO hdr

Hermosillo is located on the Sea of Cortez, and Phoenix, Arizona is located about 300 miles to the North. Most traffic here is domestic, while American Eagle handles Phoenix.

The point today is to talk about ruifo’s sort of development, as – along with tdg – he has developed a style that is both immersive and economical. You’ll find detail, in other words, but not too much. He seems as concerned with performance as much as he is with modeling detail, yet his files are hyper detailed – where it counts.

As you look over the images of Hermosillo below, I want you to keep the word “layering” firmly in mind:


And by layering, I mean something like sedimentary strata…of lighting, of structural elements and supporting ground detail, all coming together to impart depth to a scene.

In the next set, try to pinpoint elements, from objects to lighting, and see how these elements are grouped together, how they help create depth in the scenery…


He uses light masterfully, too. Look at the next set of images, try to count the number of different types of lighting in each image. Breaking these elements up into dynamic groups is just another way to create immersive depth…


Yet you can use all sorts of objects to create depth, too…


So…why is depth necessary? Simply because you’re looking at a flat screen. In order to create a convincingly immersive scene you simply have to create an honest sense of depth, or your scene will look flat, almost cartoonish.

Another element ruifo uses that many payware developers don’t is roof detail, from air conditioning compressors to all kinds of duct work, ruifo’s roofs help bring more realism to the scene than a simple ortho used as a roof does.

roof details

So, let’s look at this one scene again and count the elements that are used to create depth: the fences up front, then the pallets and other cargo items, ramp detail, four types of lighting, trucks, buildings, foliage by the runway, and then on the far side of the runway. Okay, got it?

pallette fence

Now let’s go back over a few of the more interesting, and in a few cases more disappointing, files that came out over the last year, starting with one of the best: aeroSoft’s EDDF Frankfurt…


The developers did not model any interiors here, but instead took another route: they used highly detailed phototextures. These textures reveal interior detail and impart a warmth to the scene that we’ve rarely seen before… The 789 Lufthansa paint was new this week, too.

eddf 2

The problem with such phototextures on a large building is such scenes become repetitive from gate to gate, yet we’re only parked at one gate at a time – so is that such a big deal? I like this EDDF, and the experience of pulling up to the gate here feels immersive enough to earn this file a 9 out of 10.

aeroSoft’s EDDC Dresden has all the ingredients of a successful file too – until you get to night textures…

eddc 1

…when the scene becomes cold and dark, almost devoid of life. Windows are either black or faint smears of blue, and you half expect zombies to come shuffling out of the doors at any moment…

aeroSoft’s Larnaca, Cyprus tells much the same story…a great model complete with amazing detail on the ramps…but after the sun goes down the terminal windows are a wash of smeary blue-gray haze. Another great effort ruined.


FlyDesign’s EPSY is one of the best files of the year, and in no small part because this small terminal is completely modeled…inside and out…


And then there’s DDs EPWA Warsaw, the best of the best:


And this model proved once and for all time that large scale modeled interiors CAN be executed without destroying performance. Pulling up to a gate is a jaw dropping moment the first time you come here, one of the great experiences in X-plane – because there’s simply no alternative to a modeled interior if you want to impart maximum realism to a scenery file.

We’re seeing more and more files in development with such interiors, notably Short Final’s EDDM München, and we hope there will be more to come. Critical mass has been reached with powerful and affordable GPUs becoming more mainstream, allowing this transition in detail to take place. Now it’s time for scenery developers to jump on this bandwagon – and take all our files to the next level.

Laminar could help this transition along by developing new art assets with true 3D interior models already in place. Failing that, third party scenery libraries could lead the way, allowing freeware developers to keep pace with more innovative payware developers…but for now, payware has the edge – and they should take advantage of it while they can.


More coming soon. We’ll see you then –


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