It’s been a confusing week for this member of the Chaos Manor crew, what with all the hype over Alaska for MS Flight and recent Xplane developments. I am now officially a very confused simmer, not knowing where to turn to next!
I’ll be doing a followup report for Flight soon, however I can already let you know that while PARTS of Alaska are stunning, I returned from a far-flung map tour rather ashen-faced, dumbfounded at the really awful treatment of some of the less visited environs – read an awful lot of the northern reaches. Dare I say that some of the airfields look emptier than a standard Xplane install of outer-Mongolia? I got quite annoyed at this cheat by MS, really they were far better off releasing a smaller section of Alaska at uniform quality, rather than misleading the fans with an impression that the whole State was as good as Sitka for example. Enough of my rant!
Back to the magnificent ‘consistency’ of Xplane!…
A few of us have seen the great videos of Benny’s OSM2xp in action recently, eg this video. It seems that each month, as the OSM mapping data is gradually being updated, the density and detail of the OSM buildings generated by Benny’s amazing tool is improved exponentially.
For those still new to Xplane (and there are a surprising no. of you who come here to ask questions, welcome!), OSM2xp is a fairly easy tool that allows you to log on to the OSM site and extract an area’s mapping data, including every single darned building, including height, shape and position, and automagically create basic but pretty convincing building and objects sceneries for your selected area. Even better, Benny’s site has a section that is even easier, with already exported scenery files ready for download and simple placement in your Custom Scenery folder. Too easy!
After seeing some recent videos and screenshots (many from the prolific MdMax from France), I thought I’d give Hawaii a go. OMG, bloody bewdy! Really densely packed buildings scattered all over Oahu. In combination with Realscenery Oahu Enhanced photoscenery, it’s very impressive! As you can see.
I had a ‘spare’ couple of hours today, so went about addressing an issue that still annoyed me about the OSM2xp tool. Its default textures used for the buildings. They’re an impressive first effort, but I felt the night textures in particular needed some more subtle treatment. The standard _LIT textures are far too bright and uniform for me. Here’s a before and after comparison:
It was a pain, as usual, to get it remotely right, but I like to think I’ve added value to the OSM files. Tell me what you think! I’ve emailed Benny and we may work on it a little more, especially to tweak the light positions for how his facades are specced (as a result some of my light positions are far too uniform).
In the meantime, I’ve posted the 3 .PNG files to this link (Copyright Simon W 2012, no use in payware approved, usual attribution requirements apply) so you can preview the change if interested. Just go into any scenery file available at Benny’s download site, e.g. Hawaii, go into the facades directory and rename the 3 original files as ‘_orig’ or whatever. Then paste my 3 into that directory. Done.
Newsflash – Benny has just contacted me, he informs me that most of the files generated in his repository were made with his version 1 of OSM2xp, with new texture files used for version 2. Fortunately the night textures are better, but not as good as mine . Maybe! Looks like I’ll have to do another version for his V2 textures.
So be aware, if you replace the LIT textures in a directory generated with the V2 tool, you may get very strange looking results indeed.
Doing this texturing was so easy, yet it has a huge effect across any similar scenery. It makes me think that I, or more likely someone else with more time, could ‘dirty up’ the day textures. Even better, I’m wondering what the performance impact of increasing the texture size would be, to get higher-rez, better quality shadow & material effects in. The files are currently 1024 by 1024. Might be some room to move? As ever, it would be a large job, as you would need to get the positions perfect to match with the spec of the facade file. If you have to ask why, don’t bother! It’s all about getting the windows and door positions, for all 28 or so house textures, EXACT. Or totally re-doing the facade calculations.
Oh well, maybe after the Red Centre project..
Here’s a quick demo video I did of the night textures and the ‘Van, but damn, as my xplane install is pretty new, I forgot to increase the video resolution settings. Sorry! So I gave it an ‘Ektachrome’ look, for old-time’s sake eh Chip!
Carenado’s Grand Caravan C208B
Chip and FT56 have covered this plane pretty thoroughly before, I’m just the straggler – so no huge detailed review from me. Not that I do many of those anyway!
What do I think of it? Superb, wonderful, eye-gougingly detailed, a true testament to Dan Klaue’s skills and efforts working with Carenado to get it out in a top-notch condition. It’s my new favourite plane for X-plane, so versatile, pretty fast and handles real nice. Almost impossible to stall (well, almost..). Very pronounced attitude changes on flaps adjustments, feels good to me. FPS performance is fine with me, I didn’t have any serious slow down as mentioned by FT. Then again, I do have a better video card.
I flew this plane straight after a long depressing explore of Alaska’s outskirts in MS Flight. I literally burst out laughing on first load, it’s so detailed and lovingly created compared to the Flight planes! I still enjoy Flight, but it’s obviously a few rungs below X-Plane on the ‘Enthusiast Ultra accurate sim’ scale. This Carenado is at the top of that scale, reeking of enthusiasm and love, hours spent on each gauge and as you’ll see, even the seats.
As a born fiddler, button-pusher and open/closerer, all the doors and luggage panels are my dream! Just wonderful. Haven’t bought it yet? Loser Go get it at the .org or Carenado sites.
Some of my favourite features highlighted in the pics below:
The armrest and access ladder flip out on the door opening:
The world’s most manipulate-able sunvisor! Fiddle-city:
Look at the details – even the chair mounts!
The interior glass reflections are superb. Look for the reflection of the vent on the top of the glare shield to the right of this image. You may have to view full size and most likely not on your tiny iPhone screen. Reflections are everywhere in this craft:
Another chair image. We just love it when developers pay this much attention to detail:
One of Simmo’s patented camera angles, first used on Tom’s Falco all those yrs ago. Just as effective on the ‘Van
MOVING THE BLOG
This is advance notice that some time next week, probably later, we will be moving to a self-hosted site, with the new name ‘www.xsimreviews.com’ Exciting eh! Due to our growth and need to attract a little sponsorship and donations to keep us covering all that is good in Sim-dom, we need to get off the excellent WordPress.com host. Plus the fact that all of Chip’s empty cider bottles are fouling the air and FT’s half-eaten Souvlakis have grown new life forms. We just gotta leave the old digs!
Fortunately we have decided to get WordPress to do the transfer for us, so all our images, links and more importantly, your own contributions will remain in the new site. Once the new site is up and running properly, we will cease posting here, moving straight over to the newly painted Manor. Wish us luck, or else it’ll be one real blank start to the new financial year!
As we’ve said before, we’ll be keeping up all the core xplane coverage, but the wider name will sum up our intended coverage of all things good in the future of simming. We’re getting a few visitors from other sims like Flight and DCS, great for everyone who is willing to have an open mind and wallet! Even better for the devs and sim proprietors, who will gain from being able to show their beauties to other potential customers.
Happy simming, wishing everyone a happy version 10.10 and see you at xsimreviews.com soon, if all goes well!