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X-Plane 10 : HD Scenery v2 by Alpilotx


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X-Plane 10 : HD Scenery v2
In the matrix that makes up Laminar Research, the scenery is mostly the work of Andras Fabian (AlpilotX) and Albert Laubi who is the texture artist in that with Ben Supnik (main Guru) create the virtual X-Plane world that we use and fly around.

The creation of scenery is complex and is methodical in practice to create. In a very basic form it is textures laid over a mesh base. The mesh is created out of irregular sized triangles that hold information. Each of these triangle patches represents one type of terrain and X-Plane is different in the way that the mesh and these textures are all arranged on to the .dsf (Distribution Scenery Format ) tiles that we load continuously as we transverse an area or move across the world.

Since X-Plane10 was released the amount of information created on to the .dsf tiles has been significantly increased. The biggest inclusion was the data of the OSM (OpenStreetMap) project that creates all the roads, building placements and the structure that highlights the complex world around us, the bonus of OSM is that it represents the real world data and that gives X-Plane the way to mirror the actual infrastructure and road networks in use in real time, and this is important for a flight simulator in the use of VFR rules (Visual Flight Rules).

The main criticism with the release of X-Plane10 was the amount of data in OSM available was only very basic and that the actual textures were also very basic and still related in reality to older X-Plane simulator versions. People point to sceneries created by say ORBIX and other scenery developers and note “Why can’t we have that?”.

Initially there was several reasons. One, most of these highly detailed sceneries where only created for a very small area, and with a concentration of a small landscape it is a lot easier to put in every rock and building - and you had to pay for it.

Secondly, Is the fact that your computer could not run such highly sized scenery, a small portion yes, but not say a whole state or small country..... certainly not the whole of say, Alaska.

On the surface it may look like X-Plane is running at a glacial pace, but that is not really the case. Andras has been putting out significant developments for quite awhile that will now soon start to show the progress that has been achieved.

The first development was in HD (High-Definition) that you can download from AlpilotX site : X-Plane 10 HD Scenery Mesh
They come in 10×10 degree areas that cover:

“European” (9 downloads – each covering different regions)
“Alaska and Canada West” (10 downloads)
“USA West” (7 downloads – each covering 10×10 degrees, one covering 5×10 degrees)
“Madagascar” (1 download)
“Hawaii” (1 download)
“Canary Island” (1 download)

These sceneries are all experimental in context but at least will give up a lift up from the standard base areas that come with X-Plane.

The next step was the release of a much higher density scenery that covered New Zealand : X-Plane 10 New Zealand Pro

This release showed the potential of the HD when combined with the extremely high resolution base mesh (that is a bit higher than the other HD Scenery Mesh regions) with updated (and more detailed) land-class data (riverbeds, mines and morains which are entirely new – compared to the standard default Global Scenery.

If you go to Juneau in Alaska, the current standard X-Plane scenery will look like this...




From a distance it looks very good, but looking in closer it does look quite basic in that the textures are stretched and the detailing is quite average.

The next step is v2. We got a first preview of the HD v2 scenery in July when Andras posted some scenery from Europe.

This HD v2 scenery includes:

    Increased mesh density
    Improved forest representation (in Europe, reprocessed/improved raw forest land-class data)
    All new OSM data (streets, railways, power lines, water)
    Linear OSM rivers included (Tag:waterway=river)
    Some – minor – land-class tweaking (like strip mines or riverbeds etc.).





Looking more closely you can see there is significantly more detail. The urban areas are far more complex and more natural, mountains and rocks have far more texture and detail, there is a more realistic feel to the scenery.




Fields now look like fields and not just patches of green and the different types of textures have been increased significantly.




More importantly is that the OSM data is far more denser, the areas look filled in with more autogen (Still too many mobile houses though), but it does look very good to what we have now.

Andras has just posted another set of images (16th Sept 2013) and this time the scenery is focused on Canada.





If you go back to the current default scenery you can see the difference in the v2 detailing, The images here are amazing in their shading and the far smaller rugged textures.




Like Europe the grass areas here in Canada are again significantly different in detail.




Overall on both sceneries it is the density of the forests and woodland areas that makes the most impact to the coverage of the landscapes. Instead of a trees you now have the realistic thickness of forests that has been missing from the current scenery.

Areas to be covered by the v2 scenery is:

    Europe (this time, entire Europe)
    USA (complete)
    Canada (possibly not all of it, but definitely the South and West …)

So why do we not have v2 scenery right now?

There are two reasons. One, we needed 64bit in place to handle the larger sizes of these complex tiles. That job has now been done with the 10.22 (beta) and the 64bit is now stable.
Secondly, is that the extra data and elements in new terrain textures are required to be in place to receive this scenery and that will be part of the 10.30 beta.

When will the 10.30beta be released?...  God Knows!

But the work by Andras and Albert (plus some new .dsf cuts) will finally give the scenery the quality that we have hankered for, for so long.

For more images of Europe and Canada and for any future release information then go to Andras Fabian’s (AlpilotX) web site: Alpilots l X-Plane Scenery

Stephen Dutton

18th September 2013

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