As I review scenery and use many of them day-to-day, I thought it was time to note what is “Good” scenery to be put up for X-Plane.
When I access scenery that comes across my desktop I want you to see what I am looking for and what the general aim is.
I consider myself as a “Scenery Nazi”…I really hate bad scenery and all I want is the very best for the simulator, many just don’t cut even the basic marks now and so get my “next please”.
Certainly I don’t want to discourage anyone from creating or converting scenery for X-Plane as that is of course our lifeblood.
But I do get annoyed when with just a little care and attention anyone can make their contribution go from “pass” to “oh I do like that” – It is not that hard to fix up something that is really average to bring it to life on our screens.
Worse is that we are now in the “Age of Ten”, or version X-Plane10…not nine or eight or seven…but TEN. the big One-Zero.
Why do scenery for ver9?….”well I haven’t got Ten yet” is certainly the usual reply….Well first I feel very sorry for you and that you are stuck in a timewarp!
Tough..Yeah, I know many Xplaners are not swilling in cash and things are really bad out there in “real world land” and certainly food on the table is more important than a computer simulator…But “Nine” is so well…
… ” yesterday” and why bother building up something you will have to throw away anyway when you do come to your senses and upgrade to “Ten”.
But from a scenery point of view Ver9 is now just simply “ugh!”… Awful.
The major point is that when you drop scenery into “Ten” there is far, far more things to consider than “Nine”, In fact with Ver9 you were pretty happy to put almost anything up there to help it along, if it didn’t quite fit into the overall view of things then “Okay” It will do anyway.
But that sort of reasoning in Ver10 is just simply not on, because “Ten” is a very different type of fish than “Nine”, In “Nine” the scenery was really placed on top of the tiles and so it didn’t really matter if it stood out like Drag Queen at a bucks party…
In “Ten” you have to really put the scenery into the tile than place it on top of it, In other words it has to fit in perfectly within the surrounding areas around it, this is important because of the OSM (OpenStreetMap) system, get it right and the default system will wrap itself around and sometimes even go through and into your custom scenery.
So getting the effect right now is vitally important and when you do then it turns your airport (or city) world into a bustling and busy place of activity….
Here is EGCC (Manchester) and the scenery was not configured to XP10.
What you have here is green fields and this was set out this way all the way around and way back from the custom scenery.
Dave then went and adjusted his scenery to compensate for the OSM network…
The effect is outstanding as the OSM network now fits in very close and in this case even sent OSM roads into the airport custom scenery.
Perfect airport approaches are possible now with a little effort, and looking all around EGCC there is now contact with the airfield at every point of its boundary.
The great thing is that the OSM should not cross the airport where it should not be active like over runways, because the data of the real world scenery will show as there is no such roads going across a runway. (Unless the scenery is out of date and the old runway is now a housing estate!).
The problem is that you have very limited tools to create the effect, and really just four.
The first is the Airport Boundary tool in WED 1.2, this allows you to create a pretty tight loop around the airport perimeter, and because of its flexibility it can hug the boundary very closely.
But there are other ways as well, the sort of quick and dirty method.
For most of us that are still used to the Overlay Editor, I found it the quicker way to do these sort of quick fixes – mainly because it still shows the scenery in a 3d aspect than the WED 1.2 one dimensional aspect, and that using the three “Exclusion zones”, but they are quite bulky to use in the fact they are square and blocky to the North-South and East-West co-ordinates.
But they will get you out of trouble with a quick fix.
As most scenery is converted from our Flight Simulator friends for X-Plane they will have a distinct MSFS feel about them, worse is the fact is that the best to convert is the older scenery and not the more modern well made scenery.
With this comes many problems as it was made for MSFS after all.
The biggest blot on the scenery is if you leave the MSFS underlay in there.
Talking about a blot on the landscape!….horrible – this is a typical (bad) MSFS underlay.
Try it with the underlay taken away and in most cases it will fit perfectly on the X-Plane layout.
If you do want an underlay graphic then the aim is to find the correct blend so there is no line or colour difference between the two elements, It should look seem-less and the custom scenery should be inside the scenery and not stand out of it at all.
Get it all right and your view should look like the real thing…
More problems from MSFS scenery is the objects and worse their scale….
A big turn off is over populating buildings and also with them not sitting correctly within the OSM network…
It probably looked fine in Ver9, but in Ver10 the buildings now cut badly into the OSM, It is a two-minute job to align them correctly, (The horrible blue water strip should be also removed)
I do admit we have no tools to align the buildings directly to the OSM except for one version for blender, but that is not saying you can’t do it by taking an overhead screenshot and at least move and align them closer to their correct position.
In MSFS the building scale is different to X-Plane so the buildings are quite large sometimes by scale.
Here the houses are completely out of scale to the High-rise buildings – odd yes – this would look better with the houses removed and with just a few more of the High-Rise buildings.
This is the biggest mistake in converting MSFS scenery because it may be a great picture filler but it looks totally out of scale and not real world, and worse from a distance the buildings looks clumped together and the line where they end and the default buildings takeover is not blending in correctly with the view.
Worse is the colour of the houses – In MSFS they can be “well colourful”…but totally unrealistic.
So if you are not willing to discard the over scaled housing then at least make them more acceptable by taking out that children’s palette of colour.
In most cases it is easy to do as most textures are grouped together on one sheet.
Most scenery objects come in two sections and not one as there is the:
.obj – which is the 3d object itself which is white in colour.
.png or .dds – is the textures of the object.
and the texture sheet will look like this.
The great thing about a separate texture sheet is that you can adjust the textures without going into a 3d program to make them more realistic.
In this case I desaturated them in Photoshop (or any other graphic program) to take out that over bright colouring.
And the results are first the original textures…
And the reduced saturated version…
It is not perfect but it does blend in to the scenery far better than the original textures.
I am very surprised that by now we haven’t a library of regional buildings in X-Plane, yes there is a few in OpenSceneryX but not say something like Arab housing or European housing to the correct scale – and ready for placement.
Laminar Research have noted that we will have regional areas in the future so that will certainly come and with that also hopefully some great add-on payware scenery wil also fix this glaringly obvious issue.
Another issue with textures is their size, the bigger the file size then the bigger count you have against your framerate.
I found that far to many textures are far to big in file sizes than they need to be – take for example the KLAX that is a free add-on if you buy items over $40 in the ORGShop.
The KLAX download is a whopping 562.60mb in size so you think you are getting your moneys worth, but at this size most of us can’t even load it and it is impossible to use effectively without KLAX bringing your framerate to its knees.
Part of the problem is not the size of the scenery but the size of the textures in it, take this for example…
and : KLAX_pol_7W4N.png
Can you tell any difference?
I can’t and even at extreme closeup there are no extra jaggies or fuzzy elements…but they are different.
The original (top) is 5.1mb in size and the bottom texture is only 1.9mb in size.
That is less than half of the texture size!
I spent 3 hours adjusting every texture in the KLAX file and from the download size of 562.60mb now my re-rendered KLAX scenery is now only 317.10mb, and that is a huge 245.50mb smaller and with absolutely no difference in the quality of the textures.
There is a line of course of when you lose the quality, but it certainly does help to go through the big textures to adjust them down for file size.
(As a note I used the “adjust image for web” function in Photoshop to adjust these files).
I looked at EGHH Bournemouth and wished for something better, It is not a busy airport or a crucial one in my overall scheme of things but as I do a fair few Channel Islands flights I thought it was worth an hour or so to see what I could do with it.
The first thing I hated was the amount of aircraft that was spread around the default file, and most of them don’t belong in there like the Qantas and Delta aircraft….I mean “Qantas” In Bournemouth?
This is a big no, no…It is hard but keep your regions intact, so look at the Wikipedia list of operators and see who uses the airport, I will admit that OpenSceneryX does not cover anywhere near the range of operators we need, so some will have been a little of the none local operators.
But at least try to keep it still as local as you can, and GA and regional jets are usually universal.
A very big no, no is using spacecraft or futuristic designs like the “Orion” spacecraft at Abu Dhabi? – that is just too far out there and it looks downright stupid and sends out the message that you are 6 years old – unless you are.
And no out of scale aircraft either.
So this is the basic EGHH (Bournemouth) when I downloaded and opened the file…
It has many problems…
A road across the ramp, the terminals out of alignment, a high fence and nothing on the ramp.
But the basic scenery and the buildings are quite good.
At night it is very dark and a very blue glasshouse glowing in the middle.
So to work – all this is done in the Overlay editor and you will need Ver10..no WED.
This is my completed scenery, nothing special but certainly tidied up – this took me about 40 minutes overall.
First notes are that I put some pavement (concrete) under the terminal buildings to seal the area and to give it boundary, I then took away the high fence and replaced with first a corral fence for the fuel trucks and some boundary fencing.
This is the original EGHH in the Overlay Editor.
And the completed version – The large hanger and associated buildings were out of alignment (which is a common problem on converted MSFS scenery) and needed to be slightly rotated.
I put some tarmac under the Hangar as well to fill out the ground, a big mistake many make is to leave buildings in open fields.
There was also to big gaps of open ground that needed patching to make them usable, one leading onto the ramp and another by the large hanger.
I then used the “Exclusion zone” (roads, railways and powerlines) to get rid of the road across the ramp.
Then I just filled in the ramp with Aircraft, baggage carts, power carts and vans and ect, ect.
You do get a large selection of the X-Plane10 library in the Overlay Editor, not everything – but all the ramp equipment, vehicles and fuel tanks you need – and even the airbridges work.
Another big problem is that “Less is more”, some people just don’t know when to stop placing aircraft and some scenery looks more like a circus than an airport with so much stuff whizzing around.
And try to keep it all the same style, many are short of a certain building and so take one from an another scenery, but if it does not match in style (or size) then it just makes matters worse than if you had left it out in the first place.
I desaturated the original textures to bring the brickwork back to life and dropped the colour down and only two files were needed to be adjusted.
You by now may have noticed the lighting?
It is very easy to put in Global lighting in from the Overlay editor, and with the 3d aspect it is also far easier to align and place the lighting.
and it works brilliantly.
Global Illumination (Lighting)
There are three groups of lighting that are listed in the Airport menu.
These are for street lighting and carparks and they light in a circle at the base, they are quite weak in the effect – you have to note that Ovrhd_Flood_Med/Small are not really powerful, I would note them as streetlighting and use them more for that effect.
Ramp lighting is pretty straightforward, just three sizes “Short”, “Med” and “Tall” and their throw surprisingly is quite short, I thought the “Tall” would throw far further than the other two, Tall and Med are different but only “Short” makes a smaller throw.
Just watch that you have to note which direction the light has to throw out, if they are not all positioned to throw in the right direction then the lighting will look odd.
The last group is the Flood.
Opposing flood should be ideal for carparks, but I found that (dir) Flood was more effective.
Here you can see how much stronger and how further the throw from the single Flood is than what it is from the Opposing Flood.
I put the single Floods back to back and they worked magnificently in the carpark.
All together and the G.I. lighting looks great with the changes.
The whole point of this article is to adjust quickly FSMS scenery to fit correctly into X-Plane10.
This approach is a quick and dirty way of doing it, using WED 1.2 would be the correct way and you certainly have more tools at your command.
But that also depends on where you feel more comfortable and in many cases the Overlay has many advantages over WED.
I could of course spend more hours (and hours) on this scenery in installing miles of G.I. lighting and setting out the taxi-lighting and so on and on – but that really for me is not required at this point.
You have to understand that X-Plane10 is a very different way of positioning scenery, you would be smart to evaluate all your scenery that you want to be seen and use in the simulator, throw away anything that doesn’t come up to a certain standard, the days of downloading and just dropping the scenery into your “Custom Scenery” folder is over, the days of “Nine”, “Eight” and even “Seven” are past and done – you have to be immensely critical of every aspect of the positioning of the scenery within its X-Plane10 environment – It is best to have nothing sitting in there than something that looks like total crap.
96% of all X-Plane10 scenery comes usually from Flight Simulator and a huge percentage of that scenery is very good, but almost all does need some changes to fit better into X-Plane10
You have two great features in X-Plane10 in the OSM (roads) and the G.I. Global Illumination Lighting and to not use them to your advantage is really just being lazy and not using the simulator to its maximum effect…..the devil is of course in the detail.
… and your final goal should be a total immersion of all aspects of the simulator, and here custom scenery is sometimes the biggest asset of all and so it is very important to get the right feel throughout the whole simulation experience.