It is not often in these days that you get a chance to look at something new when it comes to add-ons for Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X. Of course, an add-on can give you a new aircraft or an add-on can cover a scenery area in much greater detail than ever before – but new? No, that’s not new – that’s just exploiting the possibilities new hardware and experience present…
Looking at ORBX’s Airport Scenery for Fall City (1WA6), however, suggested that finally something new might have come around. In this case, it was what ORBX is calling NatureFlow (next to it’s PeopleFlow which I also have not seen yet).
Purchase & Download
I have purchased the scenery right of the Flightsimstore Website at a price of 32.95 AUD. Not knowing the exact conversion rate yet, I am thinking this will turn out to be just around 25 EUR.
The download of the roughly 620MB and the emailing of the registration information was quick and easy – the download was finished in some very few minutes (less than 5).
The installation is quick and easy – the wrapper requires the usual data around your purchase, then the installation runs through smoothly.
The only important thing to note is that you must the latest patch for ORBX’s Pacific North West Scenery installed which you can download here.
Finally, from the same page, make sure to have the latest version of the ORBX Libraries on your system.
Location & Default View
This little airport, Fall City (1WA6) is located some 26 miles east of Seattle. The terrain around the airport is scattered with hills, you can already see the Cascade Range to the East (and to the South).
The airport itself is located east of Fall City, in a bend of the Snoqualmie River. It comes with a single runway bit interestingly seems to follow the concept of an Airpark with housing area to the south of the runway.
The default (or rather ORBX NA PNW default) does not really stand out by any means – just another airstrip in nowhere with some refueling and hangar facilities…
If you want to be fair with the developers (and the product), its a good advice to read the manuals first (I know, most of us rarely do but if you don’t, you cannot complain about bad performance or odd behavior). So here are the changes to the settings based upon ORBX’s user manual:
- Level of Detail Radius: Large
- Mesh Complexity: 100
- Mesh Resolution: 5m (which is marked as the required setting)
- Texture Resolution: 15cm
- Scenery Complexity: Extremely Dense
- Autogen Density: Normal (based upon ORBX Recommendation)
A first Flight
I have parked my Cessna 182 at the backside of the only hangar in Fall City. Something that needs to be done manually as the scenery does not offer any parking positions.
What catches the eye first is the intense care the designers have put into the design of the airport – at least in those areas that you would see under “normal” operations. All textures are crisp. The trees and the grass now moving in the wind add to the atmosphere of the airport – so do the obviously stacked crates and boxes on the hangar behind the aircraft.
But at the same time, it becomes obvious that that area around the hangar and adjoining buildings is about the only area of the airport that you usually would see – and then, the details which at first glance produce this “Wow, look at that…” effect will quickly become obviously confined to the area.
If you compare the scenery in Flight Simulator X with the aerial photo provided by Google Maps, you can quickly see which buildings are meticulously recreated and where default autogen objects (default as in “not following the actual building in form and shape”) have been placed.
In the image above, the red square area is what I would consider the “central part” of this scenery – the hangar building, the two storage buildings south of the runway and the one north of it. These are solidly rebuild with extreme care and very well-defined textures. This is also the area where there placement of additional objects (cars, crates, etc.) as well as people (animated with PeopleFlow Technology) have been placed.
Outside this area – marked by the orange boxes – are buildings that have been custom-built to follow the original building in shape and form – but while their textures are carefully done, they are not loaded with the level of detail the hangars have been treated with.
Fall City in Real Life and ORBX Representation
The biggest difference between the ORBX Representation and Real Life is not by any means the availability or lack of specific buildings. It is not even the animations with NatureFlow and PeopleFlow. In real life, Fall City is a privately owned landing strip attached to an Air Park. In FSX, the essence of this project – the ability to taxi from your very own house with your very own hangar to the runway and then take off into the skies… it is lost! If you want a taste, I have found one property being on sale as this post is written… check www.aviationacres.com for more examples.
While the airport itself with the hangars is very cleverly and nicely captured, the airpark area is not. Some of the neighboring houses are present but merely for the visuals – there are no taxiways to the homes you can use, there are no homes you can park your aircraft in front of – in short: there is nothing that would ultimately take this scenery above any other given airport (unless you live in Fall City and want to land “home”).
To me, that is a chance lost – that would be the story around the scenery that would have (or at least could have) separated it from the general airport sceneries we see every day. Without it, it just stays another airport, extremely well done but just another airport.
Seasons at Fall City
Because Fall City is not a photo scenery but a truly built FSX scenery, seasons are not only available but also make a difference in the scenery display.
The left image shows spring time in the hangar area – the grass is green and fresh, people are moving around, birds are chirping. The right picture represents the summer time: the grass has dried our a bit and taken more brownish look.
Up where we belong…
Taking my Cessna 182 out of the hangar area (which requires some caution because the taxi way is pretty close to the hangar) and towards the runway, you will (at latest) notice that there are no taxiways at this small airstrip. You actually have to taxi on the runway so please make sure that you have the traffic monitored carefully at all times!
The coverage here ends (to the west) at the city limits of Fall City – the city itself is not covered anymore!
To the east, the covered area includes the Snoqualmie Falls area with the parking lot, building and bridge.
Given that my system – an Intel Core2Extreme 9650 running at 3MHz with 8GB of RAM, an nVidia GTX560 Ti and Windows 7 64bit is not the latest and greatest in computer technology, I have to attest that the performance – always between 15-20 FPS and above – is more than adequate and provides for a perfectly flyable scenery.
Technically, the scenery is solidly designed and in those areas that have received special care (e.g. the hangars) far above average. Beyond that, I would say it is a scenery like any other professional scenery – nothing to complain about but also nothing that sticks out. I personally have to switch of collision checking, otherwise I end up with a crash in the middle of the runway but that might be my system.
With respect to PeopleFlow I have to say that this airport is too small to really see if PeopleFlow would add to the scenery. One mechanic looking at an aircraft, one guy walking around the Cessna and one more guy north of the runway standing by its car is simply not giving me the impression that I must have PeopleFlow… but maybe in an airport with a bit more life, that might be different.
NatureFlow is certainly something I do not need. Yes, it is nice to have the grass and the trees moving in the wind but honestly, how many times do you really pay attention to these details when you are busy taking your aircraft to the skies? The same stands for the birds chirping: in real life, you can of course hear then when walking around your aircraft, pulling it out of the hangar and maybe even while you are performing the first steps of the engine start checklist.
But as soon as the engine comes to life, that’s it – you will have your headset on by then anyway (which is eliminating most of the outside sound) and the rest is covered by the engine noise… no room for chirping birds.
If this would be around Sims in an Airpark, it would be different – but for a flight simulator?
Finally, I can only repeat myself by saying that the limits of the scenery – the runway and the hangar area as such – are way too small for me to justify the cost. It’s an eye-catcher, not more. But 25 Euro for an eye-catcher? I’d say on my personal list, it would be somewhere around 12.95 Euro but certainly not twice that much.
Nice little airport, solidly done with superb textures and love to detail in some places. But unless you have a specific attention to that airstrip… I cannot really recommend it… unless of course you need the eye-catcher 😉