AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

Abacus -EZ Scenery

Product Information
Publisher: Abacus
Description:  Scenery Object Placement Utility
Download Size:
12 MB
Format:
Zip file converted to executable file. Also available on CD-ROM
Simulation Type:
MSFS 2004
Reviewed by: Brian Fletcher AVSIM Staff Reviewer

Introduction

If you have ever tried to place scenery in Flight Simulator, you know how difficult it can be at times. It becomes especially challenging when you try to put two or more pieces of fencing together, or the placement of an object must be precise. There have been advances in technology that have eased this procedure some, such as the Runway 12 Object Placer program, and a few scenery placement tutorials that have surfaced on the internet. But, there is still a lot of room for improvement. And now that improvement has come to light with the introduction of EZ Scenery from Abacus.

The advantage of EZ Scenery lies primarily in the fact that you get to actually see and adjust the object you are placing, as you are placing it. This eliminates the need to constantly make adjustments to the heading, elevation, and scale of an object and then restart Flight Sim to see how it looks. While using EZ Scenery, you have the ability to scale the object, adjust its heading and elevation, and move it until it is right where you want it. One simple click of the mouse and voila, the object is now part of your scenery. You can continue to place as many objects as you wish without ever having to restart Flight Sim.

Before we get this program installed and discuss it in more depth, I would like to address the cost-value of purchasing this utility. I know that it may seem a little out of place to mention this here, but as we progress you may find yourself asking why would you pay money for a product that provides the same results as a free program like Runway 12, or manual object placement? I had to ask myself this question even after using EZ Scenery a few times. But now the answer is quite clear. I have talked with many scenery and aircraft designers who have told me that they spend so much time creating their projects that they rarely get to enjoy them. With EZ Scenery, the time taken to create a scenic masterpiece is only a small percentage of the time it takes doing it the “old fashioned” way.

Another benefit is the frustration that you will save yourself by not having to constantly restart Flight Sim to check your placement. With EZ Scenery, you can rest assured that the object is right where you want it, because you can see it in position. If you have ever tried to connect fencing, or place an aircraft support vehicle just right, you know how frustrating it can be when you have to load the sim again only to find that the object is facing the wrong way, or is not quite where you want it.

Another major plus of EZ Scenery, is the large selection of objects included with the program in addition to the growing selection of freeware objects that are being designed specifically for this program. Included with EZ Scenery is the easy access to the default FS9 scenery library, plus a few libraries that Abacus has provided. But what really stood out for me was the constant flow of freeware scenery objects being provided. I have already found more objects available in the Avsim library than I have been able to try out.

So what would you pay for the easiest and most precise scenery object placement program available? Abacus has decided that $29.00 is a fair price for the 12 MB download, and I could not agree more. I have spent much more than that on scenery over the years, and now I can make my own. And so can you, and anyone else who is capable of using a mouse. To prove this, let’s go ahead and get this program installed and I will show you just how easy it is to make your own scenery.

Installation and Documentation

Test System

Compaq Presario SR1232 AMD Athlon 2.2 GHz
2 GB Ram
NVIDIA Ge Force FX 5500 256 MB
StarLogic 21” Flat Panel Monitor
CH USB Flight Yoke
CH USB Rudder Pedals
Saitek X52 Flight Control System
FTP 290 Throttle Quadrant

Testing Time:
55 hours

Installation of EZ Scenery is simple, but registering the product may prove to be a little more difficult. I will get to that later, but for now the only thing you need to do is follow the on-screen instructions in the auto-install file. You will be asked to accept the terms of use and verify the directory of Flight Sim. There will be a help file placed on your desktop and in the add-on scenery folder. This folder will also contain the Abacus specific scenery included with the program. The help file is a little short, but that is mainly because it does not take much effort to learn this program.

Now on to the registration process. Once installed, EZ Scenery is fully functional within 50 miles of the default Seattle, Washington area. To unlock the program for use anywhere you like, you will need to enter your key code in the product registration menu. This menu can be accessed by entering Flight Sim, starting a flight, and selecting the “Abacus” tab on the top of the screen. (If you use full screen mode you will need to press the “alt” key to see this option). This menu will provide an additional drop-down menu that has a registration tab where you will enter the key code sent to you by Abacus. You will then receive a message thanking you for your purchase, and now EZ Scenery is fully functional throughout the world.

And this takes me to the problem that I mentioned before. Though I’m sure that this is extremely rare, I had to re-enter my key code several times before the program would accept it. Once it did decide to take my code, the program caused Flight Sim to crash every so often. The solution for this was to have Abacus send me a new key code, and I had to download the program again. I have been informed that this issue was addressed, and there have not been any reported incidences with the download that is available now. I only mention this so that if you find yourself in a similar situation, you are aware that Abacus will remedy the problem.

How Does The Program Work?

Now that we have the program installed let me show you how it works, and then we can go add some scenery. You will start Flight Sim normally and select an area from the airports list. It doesn't really matter what aircraft you choose, but something smaller might make it a little easier to navigate around in slew mode. Make sure that the time is set to a daylight hour so you can see what you’re doing. Now go ahead and start the flight. Yyou will need to enter slew mode (by pressing the “Y” key) and maneuver to the location where you would like to place a scenery object. A full list of slew commands are available in the FS9 help menu, which you may want to print out to have as a reference.

Once you are in place, you will select the “Abacus” tab from the menu on top of the screen. I would recommend using a “windowed” mode if you are going to be placing a lot of objects. After selecting the “Abacus” tab, a drop-down menu will appear and you will need to select the line that reads “EZ-Scenery”. A new drop-down menu will appear to the right of the previous menu, where you will need to select the line that reads “Start!” Now you will have a new menu containing the scenery object options.

 

Start Menu

The upper left tab titled “Library” will open a list of available libraries that contain the individual scenery objects. After selecting a library, the specific object can be selected from the drop-down list to the right of the “Model” tab. As soon as you select an object it will appear in Flight Simulator directly in front of your aircraft.

As you are placing the object, you will have a variety of choices to help you in your task. There are four sliders on the EZ Scenery object placing menu that control the distance, heading, elevation, and scale of the object. The distance slider will adjust the distance between your aircraft and the object. The heading tab simply turns the object to a heading of your choice. The elevation slider will allow you to choose the vertical location of the object, and the scale slider will alter the size of the object. A readout of the objects distance, heading, elevation, and scale will be present to the far right side of the sliders.

 

Buildings Menu

Vehicle Menu

Vehicle "Scaled up"

Once you have the scenery just how you want it, you can click on the “add” tab, and like magic, the object is placed in Flight Simulator. You can continue to add as many objects as you wish without having to restart the sim. Now that you know how to do it, you’re probably itching to try it out. But let me keep you in suspense for just a minute longer while I show you some of the objects that are available.

Available Scenery Objects

By default, EZ Scenery offers the ability to use objects from the Flight Sim scenery library, in addition to many that have been included by Abacus. The default library includes just about everything you can find throughout the Flight Sim world, such as buildings, high rises, houses, bridges, sports stadiums, vehicles and more. The Abacus libraries add to this with signs, more vehicles and buildings, and hundreds of other unique scenery objects.

 

A selection of vehicles available

Available by freeware download is a library just as impressive, that has been created by several independent designers. I have found jetways, fencing, GA and commercial aircraft, flight-line vehicles, and so much more. Even oil drums, people, trees and bushes, and road signs can be found. Add these to the already overflowing list of objects included with EZ Scenery, and you can create the most realistic scenery possible.

But the list doesn’t have to end there. Those of you proficient with the Flight Sim Design Studio (FSDS) and Gmax can make your own scenery objects for use in EZ Scenery. If you can’t find that certain something that you would like to add to your scenery, you can just make it yourself.

As for the future of freeware scenery objects for this program, I can only assume that the list will continue to grow for a long time to come. I still notice quite a few scenery files available for the past two versions of Flight Sim on a regular basis. And while I can not confirm the compatibility with the next version of Flight Sim, I would imagine that even if it does take a little tweaking, EZ Scenery will either be compatible or be updated so that it is.

My reference for this statement is taken from the press release of FSX that discussed backwards or reverse compatibility. I usually get a lot of e-mail when I suggest that something will be compatible with future versions of Flight Sim, so let me be very clear; "I do not know if it will work with FSX or not. I can only suggest that the history of backwards / reverse compatibility with Flight Sim suggests that it may."

 

A montage of items

Adding More Objects to the Library and Sharing Your Creations

There are a couple of different ways that you can add third party scenery objects to the EZ Scenery library. To simplify the process, I have created a folder in my add-on scenery directory that contains a “scenery” and “textures” folder. After adding this folder to the scenery list in the Flight Sim settings menu, all I have to do is place the scenery .bgl files in the scenery folder, and place the texture bitmaps in the texture folder.

Each time I add something new to this folder, it becomes available for use in EZ Scenery listed under the library drop-down menu as whatever I named my scenery folder. You can also add third party scenery objects to pre-existing scenery folders. That process is usually explained in a “read me” file of the object download.

If you want to share your scenery creations with others, you can do this by simply sending them the folder that you have been saving your work in. For example, I have chosen to upgrade JFK Intl Airport. So I created a folder titled “JFK” and used that to save all of the work I did in EZ Scenery.

However, if you have used any third party scenery objects, you will need to include them in the scenery and texture folder that you want to share with others. I have found the best way to keep track of what objects I used, is to make a note of an object only if it is not part of the default library. Then I can always find the .bgl and bitmap for that object in the original download or in the add-on folder that I created to hold my third party add-on scenery objects. Because of the ability to send and receive the .bgl and bitmap files, you can share your work with others even if they do not have the EZ Scenery program.

So by now you should know how to use this product, what it includes, and how to share your work with others. That is pretty much all you will need to know. So let’s go ahead and have a little fun adding some scenery of our own.

Let's Try It Out.

One area in Flight Sim that I have always wanted to add a little life to, is Craig Municipal Airport (KCRG) in Jacksonville, Florida, where I trained for my PPL. By default, the airport is geometrically accurate with the placement of the runways, taxiways, and parking areas. Even some of the buildings are fairly true to life (in placement), but I would like to see some GA aircraft, maintenance vehicles, and even a few trees. EZ Scenery has everything I need to get this job done, and done fast.

Unlike other scenery placement utilities, it does not take much time to master this program. But knowing what to place and where to place it is somewhat of an art. In this case, I will just add some vehicles and GA aircraft to my airport. Perhaps a semi truck at the fuel pump and some cars and trucks in the parking lot will add a nice touch. I guess that the aircraft should have a better way of getting fuel, so a fleet of refueling units should solve that.

 

Wait a minute, I almost forgot about the Atlantic Ocean sitting off to the east. Maybe a couple of aircraft carriers and other ships and boats will liven the pond up a bit. And of course, I can’t forget about the other pilots. After all, I’m not the only one enjoying the sunny skies of Florida. A few GA aircraft around the hangars should take away the loneliness. And while I am at it, I might as well toss a baseball field in their somewhere. Take a look around and you may notice a few extra items that I added just for fun.

So in a matter of just a few minutes, I have changed the drab Craig Municipal Airport and surrounding area into something I would enjoy staring at on approach. Now my creation is by no means intended to recreate the actual area, but that is the beauty of adding your own scenery. It doesn’t matter what you place or where you place it because it is all for you. And if you don’t like your work, then just delete it and try again. If you do want a more real to life scenery, that is possible as well. More time consuming perhaps, but also very rewarding.

 

Reviewer's Credit: Credit to Jay Langham for donating these screenshots to Abacus.

Permission to use these screenshots was received from Abacus.

Before I conclude this review, I should address the frame rate issue that has become so important over the last few years. For the most part, the frame rates will not be affected if you are only placing a few objects. The more you place in a given area, and the more detailed these objects are, the bigger hit you will have. In the example above, I did not lose any frame rates.

However, I did not use very detailed objects, and I would not define my additions to this area as drastic. In a few cases, I had added so many items that I lost upwards of five frames per second. But to be fair, I did go a little overboard.

Conclusions

If you are familiar with other scenery object placement utilities, you will be instantly amazed with the ease of adding scenery with EZ Scenery from Abacus. If you have never placed scenery before, you will likely become hooked after just one use. But don’t take my word for it. Abacus is offering this program for free trial at www.abacuspub.com. The only difference between the free trial and the full program is the fact that the trial version limits object placement to a 50 mile radius of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (KSEA).

Of course, the ease of use is a big plus. But there is so much more about this program that has raised the bar to almost unachievable heights. For starters, this program does not run separate from Flight Sim. Therefore, you do not have to keep switching programs to place an object. Also, you can add the fact that the default library and the Abacus library combined with the freeware designer objects add up to an enormously large collection of scenery objects. Tack on the ability to see the object while you are placing it, and the easy maneuverability and alteration of that object and you have the best scenery placement utility ever created for Flight Sim.

Quite simply, the name “EZ Scenery” says it all. This is the easiest way to add that certain something to your favorite airport that Microsoft left out. Whether adding a jetway to a terminal, or completely revamping an entire airport, city, or out of the way area, there is no easier or more precise way to get it done than with EZ Scenery.

 

What I Like About EZ Scenery
  • The ability to see the object as you are placing it
  • Includes a sizeable scenery library
  • Scenery objects can be sized to your liking
  • No need to restart Flight Sim to check your work
  • Good cost-value
  • Easy to learn, easy to use.

 
What I Don't Like About EZ Scenery
  • I had a difficult time during registration (likely an isolated incident)
  • The scenery libraries could be more organized
  • I would like to see some more detailed scenery objects included rather than relying on freeware providers

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