I took advantage of the Orbx launch sale and yesterday downloaded the HD version of the new ORBX True Earth Southern California scenery package. It is excellent. Here’s a long video where I tour the visuals and consider the performance implications of TE SoCal over my prior homemade orthoscenery, with visits to Van Nuys, Oceano, San Louis Obispo, Palm Springs, and Orange County John Wayne. My sense of the performance hit: 5 PFS on X-Plane 11.5beta6 Vulkan, which on a single-screen system with my rig would be about 15 FPS. Your mileage will likely vary. All that said, if you’re using X-Plane and enjoy this part of the world — and if you use PilotEdge in particular — I think this is an excellent product to own (especially for VFR flying).
First impression? Wow. Big improvement in visuals, at least for me. Colors are better, and in the virtual aircraft I have to work to notice the screen door effect. The difference was immediately apparent. No problem fitting over my glasses. No problem with pupil distance, at least for me. Comfortable. Sound is not as good as the prior version with its headphones (as many have reported) but I use a headset anyway. Blacks are not as dark, but I may need to turn off SPUD as I did with the original Rift. Performance for me was great. Very smooth with OVR set to 45 FPS (which sets to 40 in the Rift S) and ASW set to Auto. With HDR on, textures at max, 2xSSA+FXAA, objects at max, and my auto-LOD tool working I had lots and lots of buildings with 1.5 supersampling. That is no loss of performance for me, and in fact, it may even be a slight improvement. With no supersampling I could read the G1000 including the airports on the MFD map display, and with 1.5 things were even sharper. It was no problem to lean the aircraft to 50 lean of peak using the EGT reading on the MFD. Reading charts and maps in AviTab is significantly improved. Put it this way: I didn’t zoom my view once in my short virtual flight. Ortho scenery looks fantastic. Not having sensors is great — no hand controller blind spots in my cockpit and not a single “wow – it just jumped my view 45 degrees left and three feet back” moments. Your mileage may vary, but for me this is an easy upgrade decision. Very glad I did it.
The very nice folks at VirtualFly have recently sent me their new Yoko “The Yoke” PLUS for testing. I took it out of the box today, and here are my initial reactions. The short story: like the original Yoko Yoke, this is a product of superior build quality. I hope to have it in the sim this weekend at which point I will post a more complete review. The Yoko Yoke PLUS product page is here.
As I noted in a prior post, the folks at RealSimGear were kind enough to send me their GNS 430 unit for review. I was quite happy about this as this is the unit I use in the real-world, and I’m very eager to have it in the sim. Short story: It’s a great unit of the highest quality. It’s ideal if you use a 430 real-world, if you have a panel in which space is at a premium, or if you want to dual-stack with the 530. And note: this unit, like the 530, works just as well on a desk, giving you a real-world interface for the GPS if you fly the sim on a desktop rather than in a cockpit. I hope to do a panel rebuild next week, in which case you can expect another video soon thereafter that shows it panel-mounted. Until then, this is a quick glimpse, and you can learn more about the unit here.
Yesterday I was able to download and install (on my own dime, not as a promotion) the new True Earth Great Britain South scenery from Orbx for X-Plane. I had posted about this upcoming scenery earlier in the month, along with some Orbx screen caps. It looked fantastic, and in all candor this was an announcement I’d been waiting some time to see. I used Orbx scenery extensively when I used P3D, and while the ability to create your own photorealistic scenery in X-Plane (for free) is a huge asset, as is the availability of HD mesh (also for free), there’s nothing quite like photo scenery, mesh, and landmarks created by someone who’s really doing it with intention.
And after spending about 90 minutes kicking the tires on the scenery in VR yesterday, I can say without hesitation that Orbx has created an amzaing product for X-Plane. I streamed that VR flight online, and it’s posted below. It was my first flight in the scenery, and we started in London, in part to find out what it does to my frames, optimal settings, etc. So if you choose to watch the video, know that much of the first 40 minutes or so are me trying different settings, re-loading the scenery and X-Plane, etc. Summary of the London experience? Really hard on my frames in VR, although people in the comments noted that it seemed to be much easier on frames in their physical cockpits. So perhaps it’s something about the VR rendering. It was not unflyable — nothing is unflyable if you compromise your settings — but to have what looked like a natural draw distance of objects, and a decent density to my taste (one notch below full on the object slider), my frames were really being tested. I can tolerate it, but it doesn’t make me eager to spend a lot of time flying around London (at least not until I upgrade my PC and video card).
We also ported to three other locations, though, and that experience was spectacular. Good-looking tiles, fantastic color-correction of the ortho scenery, trees everywhere (and of many different varieties), fantastic autogen buildings, gorgeous blending of the water textures on the seashore, and many, many custom local objects just where they should be — with highly flyable frames (at least on my rig). It was nothing short of thrilling in VR, and it looks good at all times of day (including at night, with all kinds of unique strobes, flashing red lights, etc. on different objects).
Summary: If you like to fly GA, this scenery is a must have. GB Central and North are next, and then Orbx plans to move to the US. And if you are tracking the path of X-Plane scenery development, all I can say is that Orbx have done it. The future is here.
Video and screen caps from the video are below.
xVision, a new (and free) shader utility for X-Plane is getting a lot of attention. I’ve never used shader tweaks, although I have modified some art assets via my own Lua script, so I decided to give xVision a try. Below is a flight in VR from KSBP to L88 and back, at dusk and into night using the XtremeRealistic Enhancement preset. Having used xVision a little bit, I have two conclusions:
- It works great, at least for me. And the XtremeRealistic Enhancement preset is excellent and X-Plane absolutely looked the best I’ve ever seen it look. It sharpened the image a bit more than I like (it gave me jagged edges in VR), but I was able to turn that down in the xVision Pro settings.
- The xVision preset improved the clarity of the VR image for me, enough that I probably could have turned down super sampling. This was a surprise for me, but I was happy to see it. I could read the GPS frequencies with absolutely no difficulty.
Absolutely give it a whirl – but be sure to back up per the instructions! (And if you are wondering where the activation key is that xVision asks for on installation, it’s in a text file in the folder you downloaded.)
Readers and viewers know that I’ve been flying the Alabeo / Carenado Mooney Ovation around the PilotEdge coverage area for the past several months. During that time one of my flight sim buddies has told me to keep my eyes on the forthcoming Ovation from Advanced Flight Modeling (AFM). This is actually a collection, as the package includes the Ovation II, Ovation III, and the Acclaim. I signed up for the early release of the package, and while it flew great the interior textures weren’t polished enough yet for me to enjoy it in VR. The official release is out, though, and I have to say this is a spectacular aircraft. I recorded a VR tour and review of the plane, which you may view below (including the random engine failure shortly after takeoff), but the short story is, “Worth every penny.” You may get it here.
My video review of the RealSimGear GNS 530. Summary: a great piece of gear that I can highly recommend. Build quality is excellent, setup was a snap, and with the RealityXP GNS 530 running on it it’s as close to the real thing as you can get. If I were starting from scratch I would prioritize this unit well ahead of any Saitek radios. And if you don’t have a home cockpit, this self-contained unit can sit your desk and provide a fully-functional GPS running alongside your monitor and keyboard. Lean more about it at http://www.realsimgear.com.
Jarrod of RealSimGear was very kind in sending me a beta unit of the new GNS 530 he is offering. Unlike other GPS 3D-printed build-your-own kits, the RealSimGear unit is complete and ready to plug into your X-Plane sim. Here’s the unboxing, and I’ll have a full video review up as soon as I’ve got it in the sim and have given it a few flights. Already this morning I’ve plugged in and configured the unit. I can tell you that this unit running the RealityXP GNS 530 plugin is JUST LIKE the real thing. I’m mounting it in the panel now and a full review will follow, and I hope to use the unit during the PilotEdge flight later today.
The good folks at Rising Dawn Studios were kind enough to send me a promotional copy of their Half Moon Bay (KHAF) scenery for X-Plane 11. I was able to spend some time flying there today, first in a live-stream GoPro physical cockpit flight to Sacramento over lunch, and then in streamed VR flight (a video of which I post below) after work where I really tried to show the details of this very cool scenery. The scenery is available here at the .ORG store and here at FS Pilot Shop for $19.90 US.
It’s a pretty remarkable little field with a ton of detail. The designers have modeled all the on-airport buildings, including the cell towers and the on-strip cafe (which, cleverly, has open shutters and an “open” sign out during the daytime and closed shutters and a “closed” sign out during the night). They’ve also modeled landmarks from the surrounding area, including the nearby hotel, harbor, and radar installation. Possibly the neatest feature is your own “home” hangar which you can customize with different paint textures and different art on the walls (you can even import your own). Even the user manual is clever, designed as a throw-back aviation magazine. It’s smart and well-done.
This field is a nice piece of work, and visually quite impressive (the tarmac textures, in particular, are great in HDR and I wish all X-Plane ramp textures looked like this). See the video below for the tour, including a few laps of the pattern and a “walking tour” via VR teleportation. If you want to make a small GA strip your X-Plane home base (especially in PilotEdge) this is an excellent choice and, in my view, worth the $19.90 . I found it reminiscent of ORBX GA strips, and the more of this we have via professional developers for X-Plane, the better. Looking at Rising Dawn’s Facebook page it appears they’re working on more fields, and I can’t wait to see the coming lineup.