Summer is, for some odd reason, the prime buying season in the flight simulator world, but for the life of me I can’t figure that one out. Christmas I can understand, yet last Christmas was, as I’m sure most of you will recall, almost completely dead. It was like the breathless rush for all things XP10 took away every developer’s momentum, and hoped-for new releases just vanished from the radar. Lots of new product announcements, sure, but despite having months of lead time it’s like developers were caught unprepared, and shelves were bare. Despair was palpable in some quarters.
Well, that was then. Welcome to June 2012: Warning Winds are raging, and AeroSOFT is leading the charge. Fresh off the Lugano release and the Toulouse announcement, AeroSOFT released LSZH + Zurich earlier today, and in many ways it’s stunning, yet they’ve also said they’re aiming for a release a month for the foreseeable future. If all their airport files are all as good as Keflavik and Lugano, well, we’re going to be in for a very fun time.
Noticeably absent from all these release announcements: Santiago Butnaru and his KORD, the Leading Edge Saab, Ramzzess’s 757, and worse yet, word on the IXEG 733 continues to dribble out at an agonizing pace. Still, when you look over this short list you can also infer that the market for add ons in XP is as healthy as can be, and things are getting better, it seems, with each passing week.
So, maybe summer is a good time after all, if for unpredictable reasons. Schools out, right? Swimming pools are open, weekend Bar-B-Qs are blazing, and kids should be out working the fields, or at least outside riding horses? But no, they’re inside installing new software!
Oh well. Times change.
So, some news today:
- Blogger Robert Goyer wonders what will happen to Hawker Beechcraft’s piston aircraft after the company emerges from bankruptcy. “The one segment we haven’t heard much about from our sources is with the Beechcraft Bonanza and Baron models, though whether that’s because there’s no interest or because there’s radio silence among fierce competitors, we can’t say,” writes Goyer. Flying online
- ICON Aircraft is working with Lotus Engineering on the cockpit design of the A5 amphibious light sport aircraft. “The collaboration with Lotus is perfect for ICON because it provides us with world-class expertise during this intense period of production development,” said Klaus Tritschler, vice president of design for ICON. General Aviation News
- The Federal Aviation Administration updated its guidance on electronic flight bags last week. The FAA recommends taking safety precautions on tablet devices such as the Apple iPad. The guidance recommends testing for non-interference, as well as having mitigation procedures in place in case a tablet fails. AIN Online
Before we dive in and look over AeroSOFT’s LSZH, I thought it would be fun to look over an oldie, so let’s dive on in and take a look around.
From time to time ACF developers look over their inventory and see a file that’s reached the end of it’s useful life as a payware file, and for whatever reason they put the file out to pasture. STMA did that recently with their Fokker TriMotor, and yesterday Wilson Aircraft moved their Breguet Provence over to the Org’s freeware DM.
So yes, this is actually an old file, and yes, in some respects it’s actually a dated file as well, technically speaking, but it’s also a worthwhile file, too. Knowing Mike Wilson as some of you do, you’ll immediately recognize the artistry involved while looking over the exterior of this aircraft, but yes, the panel is a little tame by today’s standards.
Even so, after a few minutes flying around Reunion Island I was impressed with the ACF’s flight model, and the 3D cockpit is workable enough to make this a rather fun flyer. Read up on the history of this old gal, realize that this was for all intents and purposes historically a very significant aircraft (as in a double decker passenger aircraft with over a hundred passenger capacity, designed in 1944-46!), and that what was up until just a few days ago a payware file can now be yours for a few moments of download time.
Also out today, a compulsory “Porsche” livery for the Carenado F-Bonanza from SkyHarborDesigns.
Great job, John…but why not Guard’s Red?
And seen here over XPFR’s Reunion Island scenery package, another must have file. Now let’s head up to Zurich!
Getting AeroSOFT’s LSZH was kind of a bittersweet experience for me, and it could be a complicated experience for you, so let me explain – because this is going to be a hard call.
Well, there’s been an excellent freeware file for this airport available for quite a while, and it’s been one of our favorites for a long time too, so much so that the immediate question has to be: “Is AeroSOFT’s new LSZH worth the money, or can I make-do with the freeware file?”.
The simple fact of the matter is that while the freeware file is very good, AeroSOFT’s is better, and in some very specific ways. The amber hued ramp lighting in the freeware file, good as it is, just doesn’t convey the stark realism found in AeroSOFT’s new file, and Jetways in the new file are uniformly excellent. The freeware file has not been brought up to XP10 compliance (yet), while AeroSOFT’s ramp and building lighting is generally very good (with, however, a few glaring problem areas showing up). Too, while the exterior models used in both are well done and very accurate, AeroSOFT’s feel subjectively more “crisply” executed.
So, I hate to steal AeroSOFT’s thunder here, but we need to look over the older freeware file first, so we can look at these issues as objectively as possible.
And some night/LIT shots:
A few things to note here: in twilight, the amber hued lighting is subdued but doesn’t compare to AeroSOFT’s work, but note the good main terminal building interior lighting. The white Jetways look tacky, however. LIT textures, of course, and no v10 GI lighting. So, all in all, this file is really quite good, especially by XP v9.70 standards.
Here are a few more images, just for good measure. Note all the static aircraft on the ramps:
I think it’s pretty clear that the Freez version holds up very well, even in XP10.05. If they were to tackle the amber ramp lighting and generally bring lighting into XP10 compliance, this would be a tough file to beat.
Looking at AeroSOFT’s version of LSZH + Zurich
First things first: lets get oriented:
There are three major terminals here; A, B, and E, and on the chart above “E” is topmost, then “A”, then “B”.
Here’s the take from Google Earth, with “e”, “a”, and “b” labeled, top to bottom:
Note colors on Terminal A just below. I think they’re quite accurate on the AeroSOFT model, while the Freez model seems to have more amber in it. No big deal.
And that’s Terminal E below:
So, at first glance AeroSOFT’s LSZH impresses, yet the night lighting disappoints in a few key areas, but we’ll get to those in a moment. First, let’s look at the airport in general terms:
First up, the terminal areas in daylight, with E top, the A/B parking area bottom left, and E lower right:
And one thing becomes immediately apparent. Still not one static aircraft parked on the ramps. That’s Samen’s A333 at Terminal A below. Quality of the model is superior, and immediately apparent.
But this emptiness is generally disconcerting at a large airport like this.
From a distance this isn’t a shortcoming, but when you move in close this emptiness is almost annoying.
Still, details are well executed, and small added elements make this a standout effort.
And once again, from working distances the lack of static aircraft doesn’t matter.
And not everyone has the same (negative) feeling about this. Joe at Fly-J-Sim points out that this lack of static aircraft works out really well for those using XP to make VatSIM flights, as when they arrive at a destination airport all the gates are free to be assigned by controllers.
Still, I’d guess that most readers would like to see more activity on the ramps, and NO activity is frankly not really standard operating procedure in payware scenery. Even AeroSOFT’s MsFS sceneries are loaded with static aircraft, and XPFR’s freeware LFPG Paris CdG has animated baggage carts, buses, commuter planes taxiing about, and all manner of visual chaos, while AeroSOFT’s Zurich remains simply lifeless – unless you have the processor power to get several AI aircraft up and running in XP10.
So, you can theoretically have lifeless (above), or a little activity (below):
As you can see (above), the problem with relying on AI aircraft to fill in the blanks is a choice full of pitfalls, or pratfalls, depending on your point of view. Taxiing on the ramps you witness all manner of collisions, aircraft taxiing blithely through terminal buildings or each other, and even when several AI aircraft are “active”, there’s simply no way to tell where they’re going to show up, or if there presence will enhance – or detract from – the simulation:
Above, with seven AI aircraft active, the SWISS A319 was the only one visible during this takeoff, while below it’s almost impossible to tell there are three AI aircraft on those ramps.
So, apologies to Joe and the VatSIM crowd, but my first gripe with relying on AI aircraft is that for the most part they’re never where you want them to be, and second, compared to static objects they’re resource hogs. A big problem with this airport file, as a result, is that it looks like Zurich after a neutron bomb blast: lifeless. There is ZERO visual chaos, and the freeware file wins this part of the contest handily.
Next, a few night shots:
Terminal A, in the large image above, is not lighted, and the interiors of all buildings are not visible. Compare this with the freeware EICK Cork, Ireland in XP9 or 10.
Now, let’s look at a few of these locations closeup. That’s Terminal E in the next two images below.
The global illumination lighting seems a little dim to me. Or are these really simple LIT textures? The clover leaf light pattern (below) is found everywhere on AeroSOFT’s ramps. Texture, or GI?
More troubling still, look at Terminal A, below:
Someone forget something here? Like lighting inside Terminal A? From either side?
So, this leaves us with kind of a quandary. Clearly there are some flaws here, or a few omissions. The lack of static aircraft will be welcome news to a few people, but generally speaking this file isn’t working out real well for me in this regard. A lot of people are sounding off about it in emails to us today too, and guess what? They don’t like it, either.
I have no idea what’s happening with the Terminal A lighting. Mistake? Error? Something on my end? Well, HDR was on, res at very high…so? That said, my Freez freeware file had no such problems, and it has a number of appropriate static aircraft parked at gates and on the ramps, and all in all it looks pretty good.
Still, AeroSOFT’s buildings are more crisply modeled, colors are better, and the feel of it all is simply more…professional…at least in daylight. The amber ramps on the Freez file looked kinda cool once, but now the look doesn’t ring true. Still, AeroSOFT’s ramps are almost too dim, and the brooding darkness only serves to make the lifelessness more chilling. I’ve been in and out of LSZH over the years maybe a dozen times, and this just isn’t the way it feels to me.
So…a recommendation? Should you buy?
Depends. If the emptiness really bothers you, stick with the Freez version. If the lighting error bugs you, hold off purchasing until a fix is noted. I’m still not sure whether true XP10 global illumination compliant lighting is being used here or not, but not being able to see interior details inside terminals, day to night, was kind of a letdown too. Will that bother you? Still, framerates weren’t bad. Was this a compromise to achieve better performance?
On the plus side, runway lighting was above average quality in the AeroSOFT file, and both files have grown some really good weeds along the taxiways.
Me? I’ll use both for a while, continue to evaluate, but if the folks at Freez upgrade the lighting to v10 compliance, like I said, this one will be hard to beat (just look what the team working on EDDM did!). On the other hand, if AeroSOFT fixes the lighting? Adds some aircraft? Well then, I’d go with that file in a heartbeat.
The problem for AeroSOFT this time out is that the Freez freeware file is a particularly good one, but there’s some really good freeware material out there so to capture and win over the market in XP I’d say AeroSOFT is going to need to do their groundwork better, and make QC a top priority. So, again, it’s a close call…too close for comfort, but if the static a/c and lighting bug you, it boils down to (1) wait and see if the issues are addressed in an update, (2) save the money and go freeware, or (3) stay with AeroSOFT out of loyalty. If these issues are, however, unimportant to you, and if you’re ready to buy now, the downloadable file is out at the AeroSOFT store, and it costs a little less than 30 dollars (US) today, but this without VAT. There are downloads for all three XP platforms BTW, and the two resulting folders (airport and scenery) will be placed in your main Custom Scenery folder – after the installer finishes. There’s DRM in the installer to work through as well, another sign of the times. It was fast and trouble free, but you’ll need the serial number from your emailed invoice.
Well, we hope this sheds some light on a complex purchasing decision, but that’s all for now. We’ll have more up soon, and thanks for coming along… Hasta Later… Chip