Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

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Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby toprob » Sun Apr 30, 2017 5:21 pm

I guess that most developers have been giving this some thought over the last few months, with the promise of some new and updated simulators which move away from the MSFS-based system of FSX and Prepar3d. With Orbx announcing their commitment to Aerofly FS2, and just yesterday their screenshots of LOWI in FS2, I've decided to jot down some ideas on what could happen. This specifically relates to NZ content, as that's what interests me. So, what are the choices?

X-plane 11
This has now been released, so it would be the ideal time to get stuck into some local content. I do plan to give this a try, in fact I've done some sample scenery areas, but I'm not yet ready to show anything, at least until I decide whether this is something which I can fully commit to. The trouble I still have with X-plane is simple -- from a scenery point of view, which is 90% of my interest in sims, I have never seen anything which surpasses the MSFS-based sims, except for night lighting, and some water effects. Since I never fly at night, this effectively means nothing to me. Since a lot of my visuals in Prepar3d are the result of addons, I'm happy to sit and wait for some third-party or otherwise addons. Until then, I am keen to potter around and see what I can create, but I'm not all that fired up by X-plane.

Aerofly FS2
This is still in development, but is available as a payware beta. From the start, I have been impressed by this, mainly because of the photoreal content, and the atmosphere/lighting. The lighting in particular is a major factor for me, Prepar3d is the best of the MSFS-based sims, but still it is the very same old engine which we've had for years, so Aerofly's much more modern engine is what will sell me. However, as expected, this is very much system-based, so you will need a killer machine to run it properly. Basically, if you want to see it at its best, you will probably need a GTX 1080 or similar. It will run on much lower systems, like mine, don't get me wrong, but for top-notch visuals, I'd need to spend some serious money.

Orbx have committed to Aerofly, at the expense of X-plane, and I can certainly see why -- LOWI is a recently-released FSX/Prepar3d title, and as such is a top quality scenery, as expected from Orbx. But seeing the Aerofly screenshots, this is a different league -- same scenery, very different atmosphere. Orbx Prepar3d scenery will never look 'real' to me, although it does look nice, whereas these Aerofly LOWI shots look like photos. And all using built-in visuals.

Sure, there are limitations with FS2, for example the water is photoreal, and to we're still a long way away from world-wide coverage. It is pre-release, after all. But committing to developing for AFS2 would be a tricky decision.

So, what could happen?
Someone could easily run with full-on development for either platform. At the moment, this probably won't be me, not because I'm not itching to get stuck in to both sims, but because it would take a financial and time investment which from past experience, won't give me any real return. Well, maybe it will, but initially not enough to support myself. When I started out full-time eleven years ago, I did have enough funds to support myself for a year, but now I have enough to support me, let's see, carry the two... till Friday. Plus also there's Orbx's commitment -- Orbx have no plans to do any further MSFS development for NZ, but since they already have plenty of NZ resources, which they didn't get a huge return on, they might just dump the whole lot on AFS2, and even if they promptly abandon it like they've done with NZNI/NZSI, it would make any other development very risky. X-plane would be less risky from this point of view, but I'm still not convinced that following the release of AFS2 and Prepar3d v4 it could become anything than a niche sim.

But if someone else was to do this, then I'd fully support them. I think that both sims will have a reasonable distribution arrangement, via Steam, so this probably wouldn't mean having to set up a store, but I'd be happy to promote anyone in any way I could. I wouldn't attempt a start-up with less than $50,000, so if anyone has more money than sense, get in touch with me. I'd also be happy to make scenery for any sim on contract, but initially it would probably mean payment in advance.

One of my main goals would be to see some of the existing Godzone photoscenery in both sims, that's where I'm heading, so I may have something to show in a month or two.
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby MichaelBasler » Mon May 01, 2017 6:55 am

Rob,

I think I agree to most of your assessments. I've been on AeroflyFs2 since day 1 (and actually AeroflyFs1 before) and to me, as a pure GA flyer, it's indeed a big jump visually - despite the issues still present like missing moving objects, autogen, and watermasking.

I own XP11 too, and while it's indeed much of an improvement over XP10 I still didn't make friends with the tendency of cartoonish/sterile visuals. I say this even though I know (and confirmed myself) W2XP + Ortho4XP can do wonders - given appropriate imagery being availabe.

However, don't forget to factor in the new Dovetail Simulator. Yes, their FlightSchool was a completely missed apporach in my eyes, but they might have learned their lesson. Even worse: They must have been forced at the price of DT imploding. I am sure we will see the result within a few weeks, probably even earlier.

From my point of view, Prepar3d4 will be a good bed for the future. For the others ones I would wait a few months and see things evolve. Personally, my favorite is AeroflyFS2 at this time, which, moreover, would be the perfect fit to your skills and liking of photosceneries.

Kind regards, Michael
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby toprob » Mon May 01, 2017 11:41 am

Yes, Prepar3d might always be the most mature choice, I can't see me giving that up in the near future. At the moment I also develop for FSX, but that's only because it is 90% compatible with Prepar3d... once this compatibility goes -- and I suspect it will, maybe not v4 but certainly beyond -- FSX may just fade away into the past like FS2004.

I certainly won't overlook DTG, but at the moment for me this is 100% speculation -- at least with the other sims, I've seen for myself, but I cannot guess what DTG's sim will look like, or what impact it will have on the market.

If I was to speculate, there are just two things which concern me:

I'd love to look at it and say Wow!, now that's the modern simulator we all wanted, but I have no clue about this at the moment. Frankly, if I love the 'look' -- in the same way that I'm excited about AFS2 -- I'll be in 100%. If it is a FSX-ish I'd be a bit more ho-hum.

And I suspect that even if we see something shortly, we won't see a fully mature sim for a long, long time, so the effect on the market won't be abrupt whatever it looks like.

Of course another main consideration for me, for all the sims, is the SDK -- how frustrating would it be to release nice, top-notch scenery using a lot of the resources I have from MSFS projects? How frustrating will it be to distribute them? Can you teach an old dog new tricks?
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby MichaelBasler » Mon May 01, 2017 6:09 pm

Rob,

DFS will come with a full SDK. I know at least two developers (one Scenery, one Tools) developing in advance fór it for many months. Otherwise I am as unsure about it as you are, even more, after their FlightSchool was dull as hell.

Kind regards, Michael
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby Charl » Mon May 01, 2017 8:41 pm

I'm looking for something new, so based on your comments I idly downloaded FS2 (Idly?? Took 18 hours because Steam decided to protect my streaming bandwidth...)

It's pretty enough:
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But it is quite far from being a Flightsim, in terms of flight model and systems.
I wonder what it sees as its purpose?

It has VR capability, in which case that might be the point.

ORBX would certainly look good in 3D, perhaps I'll look at an Oculus Rift in anticipation?
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby toprob » Mon May 08, 2017 4:23 pm

I spent the weekend revisiting my previous attempts to make X-plane scenery, and it is starting to make a bit more sense. However as I haven't purchased X-plane yet, I only have the demo which doesn't display NZ, so I can't really gauge it in relation to my existing Prepar3d/FSX scenery.

I've also had an increase in the number of emails about the possibility of producing Godzone scenery for X-plane, and got into some interesting discussions. I did explain to one contact that I was yet to purchase X-plane, and they did offer to help, but I'm not able to accept financial help at the moment. But this discussion did lead to the terms of the old Godzone Subscription -- technically, because it included any yet-to-be-completed scenery within the four photoscenery areas, it could include any X-plane version, if and when it ever eventuated. So I'm opened subscription sales again, very low-key, and with absolutely no promises, but it is a way for someone to help me get into X-plane scenery. The second subscription purchase will send me immediately to the Steam Store!

I can foresee this applying to X-plane only at the moment, given that there is a lot of discussion about licensing terms for the other upcoming sims, and I wouldn't want to offer anything which I couldn't deliver because of some weird license condition. This means you, FS World, and even Aerofly FS2.

There's been some 'vibrant' discussion on AVSIM and other forums about the marketing methods which we may see for the new sims, with lots of words like 'unethical' and 'greedy', but I don't really see it that way. First, nothing is set in stone, but even if Dovetail did insist that all developers placed their products in the Steam Store, as well as on their own site, then it wouldn't be the end of the world. A thread begun by a PMDG bloke makes this out to be the death-knell for FSW, but I think that there's just a lot of letting off steam (sorry, no pun intended) without really knowing how it will work. I wonder if any of the developers concerned enough to 'boycott' FSW really have a good grasp of their current customer base? How difficult would it be to hang onto your existing customers, if you have offered a good level of support in the past? Those who are used to buying addons from trusted developers will not all jump immediately to Steam. So it is really up to developers to figure out how to retain and grow their customer base.

Of course some will prefer Steam, simply because it is a nice system -- automatic installs and updates, a big improvement over the current way of installing and maintaining addons. But then there are the Steam customers, those who don't look beyond what is on their Steam app. Current developers can only gain from these, even though of course it is less likely to get a huge number of new customers via Steam. Still, a steady trickle, even if you only make 40% of what you normally get, can add up over time to a nice little earner.

Personally, I wouldn't want to put my money on FSW, not because of developer support or lack of, but because Dovetail's business model just doesn't seem to be a great fit for the existing simulator base. It might be easier for them to just continue on with FSX or Prepar3d, or X-plane, as I suspect that developers will stick with them for a long time. A brilliant, modern simulator doesn't guarantee success, and it may be that FSW isn't quite as 'modern' as people are expecting. Yet, anyway -- remember that MSFS was in development for a lot of years before it got to FSX!

No matter what, exciting times at the moment, with plenty of entertaining discussions happening...
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby Charl » Mon May 08, 2017 5:49 pm

I've puttered with AFS2 and its strength and appeal seem to be for VFR flyers.

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Early days, so there's certainly scope for a small airfield scenery, with a surrounding area of high-grade photoreal.
I've found Steam to be quite the most painless experience... plug 'n play.
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby toprob » Thu May 11, 2017 2:46 pm

Dovetail have a live Twitch preview of FSW tomorrow morning -- Yay!

It's at 5am... ok, I'll pass. The forecast here is for 4 degrees then, I don't get up until double digits. Let me know how it goes.
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby NZ255 » Thu May 11, 2017 3:36 pm

toprob wrote:Dovetail have a live Twitch preview of FSW tomorrow morning -- Yay!

It's at 5am... ok, I'll pass. The forecast here is for 4 degrees then, I don't get up until double digits. Let me know how it goes.

You'll be able to watch it after the stream. That's what I'll be doing too :)
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby toprob » Fri May 12, 2017 11:08 am

Ok, I'm still posting in this thread because it doesn't make sense to me to create another FSW thread until release. Still, there are some interesting points raised by the Twitch stream, plus there's Jordan King's preview video, which is probably as lot more useful.

The DTG stream itself was basically the same few screenshots running as screen show, with hardly any new info. I don't quite understand why they did it at all, as a marketing exercise it wasn't great. However it did cover the idea behind the early-access, with a vague roadmap for future improvements -- well, the mention of a roadmap, rather than an actual map. The idea being, I guess, that anything which isn't included or working in the initial release, or anything which has not received any update since FSX, can and may be addressed down the track -- I can imagine that a lot of this is 'long term', maybe 3 or 4 years away.

This is not really a bad thing, when I think about my favourite sim -- P3Dv3 -- it didn't spring fully-formed, it was built on years and years of previous work, so although there are a lot of vocal people who will go on about what's missing from FSW, and what hasn't been fixed, I'd hate to see these drown out those who want to give it a real chance. One of the great things about P3D is that it is still being actively developed and improved -- nobody really wants a 'finished' sim, but there seems to be a lot of people screaming for exactly that.

Don't get me wrong, I think that Dovetail have a bit of a battle on their hands, there are a lot of new things which will send some people to their soapboxes. I've gone through enough new sim releases to know that the community follows a pattern, and at this stage the forums seem to be flooded with those who can only see the negatives. Sure, my soul died a little in the FSW twitch stream when the (admittedly beautiful) aircraft taxied past the same old default windsock, but I'm still keen to give the sim a go, if it survives the initial attacks from the community, I'll start to push for some of the features which are important to me -- which probably differ from most of the users.

Unfortunately, I don't meet the minimum system requirements for FSW, so I may not ever get to try it out. Maybe Dovetail have some optimisation in the works, or maybe I might be able to run it with low settings, I don't know yet. Jordan King did say in his video that raindrops should be the first to be turned off on slower systems, maybe that's all it takes. People seem to love their raindrops, personally I'd swap them for a textured windsock....

So, next Friday we should be able to try it out, although it would take a lotto win for me to be able to afford the GPU upgrade, somewhere around $600 -- $800 should do.

I do think that I'll be a P3D user for a long, long time, but I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised with FSW, not on day-one, but in a year or two.
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby NZ255 » Fri May 12, 2017 2:42 pm

Thanks for the HU.
I won't watch the 'live' stream in that case.

Saw Jordan's video and I thought id looked pretty good. Most of the content is presented the same but the rendering looked different. Love the rain drops!
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby toprob » Fri May 12, 2017 2:54 pm

Actually, there is SOME new video content in the DTG stream, but theirs is kind of processed-looking, like the previous vid, I didn't really begin to think that I'd like the visuals until I saw Jordan's clip.
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby jpreou » Fri May 12, 2017 4:13 pm

Now that I am in ChCh I am out of simulators (back in to my r/c models) while I get a house built. The rental I am in simply doesn't have the space to setup my sim. Nonetheless, I watch the sim space with interest in my absence ... when I do eventually come back in perhaps 10 - 12 months time it looks like a) I'll have plenty of choice and some new things to check out (yay!) and b) I'll likely need a whole new computer that I probably won't be able to afford (poo!).
My money still sits with P3Dv4 though I hope FSW shows promise ... right now it looks to me that DT have re-compiled parts of it in 64-bit but the old FSX code has way more technical limitations than just the code being 32-bit.
Watching with interest...


PS Rob, don't worry mate, I'll still buy your sht as fast as you release it so I can hit the ground running on my return [to P3D]! ;-)

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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby Ian Warren » Sun May 14, 2017 12:20 pm

Jeff moved myself closer to your new area, I still have issue s to sort.
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Re: Some thoughts on NZ scenery for new sims

Postby jpreou » Sun May 14, 2017 2:23 pm

Yeah, I hope things work themselves out.
So far so good (apart from the commute!).
Enjoyed a couple hours out at the model flying site this morning; the throttle servo on my WOT4 decided not to work (I'll need to check that out later), but I enjoyed a couple of flights on the micro sbach and three flights on the TREX-500. Nice day today too.
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