Sunday, 4 November 2012

Torn between two lovers

Prophetic words, these.

"And at some point I'm going to run into an aircraft that requires Acceleration not just SP2, at which point there'll be another choice to be made."

Little did I know.

I was going through the process of bringing the zombie FSX install back up to full strength, reinstalling various freeware airports and aircraft, when I got to the Airspeed Ambassador. Whose readme file repeatedly said "REQUIRES FSX ACCELERATION PACK."


So there we were.  All that work done to get the Greek Airport Projects Rhodes Diagoras package working by reinstalling to SP2, and I'd have to sacrifice my beloved Ambassador.  I fired up the SP2 sim and tried it out to see what wasn't working, and it was only some minor details like the altimeter, heading turn indicators.


Well... I still had the other Rhodes scenery by Live In FSX in my SimMarket shopping basket, from before I started this whole shenanegans.  I'd had doubts about it, since they'd pulled the promo video for it from Youtube, the LiveInFSX forums didn't seem to have been active since 2011 and I couldn't find a single, solitary review of their products anywhere on the interwebs.  So I'd backed off buying them in favour of trying to roll back my FSX to SP2 to get the GAP product working properly.

(In case you missed the previous blog post, basically GAP left a bug in their scenery that conflicted with Acceleration pack, causing framerates to drop to 1FPS and less after dark.  They were aware of the problem but in their support forums had refused to patch it, saying that users had to simply use the slightly older FSX SP2 instead.)

So I bit the bullet.  The Live In FSX Rhodes scenery came as two products, one for the airport and one for photoreal textures & custom autogen for the northern half of the island..  Fortunately these were available together as part of a bundle that also included photoreal textures for the island of Corfu, which together cost about £18 including VAT, which was about the same as I'd paid for the GAP scenery.

There were a couple of minor problems installing - first the Corfu scenery installed some "optimisations" to the terrain.cfg which conflicted with elements of the Ultimate Terrain X Europe package, resulting in large chunks of the mediterranean sea being turned into land.  Rerunning the UTX setup tool fixed that easily enough, and the photoscenery looked so good I had high hopes for Rodos.

After installing the various components and patches for Rodos and the airport, I was left with a runway that disappeared into a ground and a ridgeline that cut right across the taxiways and grass.  I tried several things, but in the end uninstalling and physically deleting the GAP scenery folders from the scenery library solved the problem.  Even though they'd been unticked in the library, somehow the GAP scenery folders were still applying their mesh edits over the top of the Live In FSX terrain.  Things were looking perfect.

So how's the new Rhodes?  Not bad, not bad at all.  Diagoras itself looks very similar to the GAP offering, not hard given the fairly simple layout.  Adjacent Paradisi town isn't quite as custom-modelled as the GAP version, but does the job well enough.  The power station to the south is modelled in this package as well, giving a handy navigation landmark.  About ten miles to the south, the photoscenery ends, and the transition back to the default (or in my case UTX) textures is quite well handled.

Heading north, the suburbs have great phototextures with just enough custom autogen that's been aligned to perfectly match the textures, an effect that continues into Rhodes Old Town.  The hotels at Ixia aren't as well modelled, although even the GAP version is more of a general impression than an accurate representation.  But they're blended a little better with the smaller surrounding buildings, and I was still able to work out from the texture where the hotel I'd stayed at was, and which of the nearby buildings was our favourite bar.  There were also quite a few buildings modelled on the clifftops, including what looks like it might be a hospital with a helipad.

Further north into Rhodes Old Town and the famous harbour itself is modelled fairly well, but instead of modelling the castle, Live in FSX have relied upon the phototexture to delineate where the ancient walls are.  Traded off against this, you have the custom autogen which gives a much better impression of a sprawling city.

One thing that I think may be a little weak is the scaling of some of the sea traffic.  The sailboats off the coast of Ixia dwarf the hotels there, though I suppose it's possible they represent some sort of monster, transatlantic tall ships.  And while we saw some pretty huge private yachts in the harbour, the one that's in Live In FSX's harbour looks about 10-15% too big to my eye.  This could be an optical illusion, cause by so much of the surround detail being 2d textures rather than true 3d.

But on the whole I'd have to say I'm really happy with this version of Rhodes.  The trade-offs work well, and  most importantly of all it's very framerate friendly, barely shifting off 30fps, both night and day.  With this in place, and a set of Jet2 textures for the default 737-800, I think I'm all set for another attempt on the Great White Whale - Manchester to Diagoras (which if you haven't followed the blog from the beginning, was a flight I'd been a passenger on in real life and was my first major flightsimming goal.  Previous attempts have met with various fates, and I've yet to complete the whole trip in one go)

Note: the screenshots of the Live In FSX Rodos were taken at dusk and colour-corrected to bring the detail back out, since I wanted to show the night lighting effects.  The aircraft I used, incidentally, was the Just Flight freeware Cessna 152, which is a nice simple aircraft comparable with the default 172.  I did find some of the Virtual Cockpit textures a little blurry though, which I think was a deliberate design since those tended to be for non-functional panels.  All the actual functional cockpit controls and panels were nice and clear, and the plane handled just as you'd expect a basic fixed-prop GA utility plane to fly.

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