AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

Flight One Software
FS Global X 2008

Product Information

Publisher: Flight 1

Description: Add-on Terrain mesh.

Download Size:
N/A

Format:
DVD
Simulation Type:
FS9 & FSX
Reviewed by: Etienne Martin AVSIM Staff Reviewer - February 1, 2008

Introduction

FS Global 2008 delivers a completely new flight experience in the virtual skies by adding a massive topographic database to the default scenery in Flight Simulator.

Terrain elevation in Flight Simulator is quantified in terms of the level of detail (LOD). The quantity (and quality) of the data, as included in the simulator’s default scenery, varies by region. In addition, it varies according to the edition of the simulator you have purchased (for example, FSX Deluxe Edition includes more data than FSX).

Level of detail Approximate resolution (distance between data points in meters)
LOD6 ~600m
LOD7 ~300m
LOD8 ~150m
LOD9 ~76m
LOD10 ~38m
LOD11 ~19m
LOD12 ~10m

FSX Deluxe edition covers the United States at LOD10 (~38m), most of Canada and Europe at LOD9 (~76m). The rest of the globe with few exceptions is primarily at LOD7 (~300m) resolution.

While armchair pilot favorites such as Mount Everest in Nepal and Victoria Falls in Africa, are depicted in full glory with much higher resolution than the default scenery. The geological features of the rest of the simulated world are mostly ignored and best described as “blah” for a lack of a better word.

FS Global 2008 fills this gap. Using topographic data scans taken by the space shuttle (SRTM data), it adds high resolution elevation data for the colored areas in the world map at LOD 9 (76m), LOD 10 (38m) and LOD 11 (19m) between 60N and 54S latitude. Why not near the poles? Well, the SRTM data doesn’t cover these areas.

Enhanced terrain elevation coverage in FS Global 2008 (from the product manual)

FS Global enhances the SRTM source data where no scan data exists through various interpolation and hand tweaking techniques to create a continuous mesh that works well with the default scenery and scenery add-ons.

To get this level of detail, you will need to dedicate a whopping 35 gigabyte of disk space. So then, is it worth it?

Packaging, Installation and Documentation

Packaging front Packaging back

FS Global 2008 comes in a shrink-wrapped clear plastic DVD package with a paper insert. No download versions are available, likely due to the size of the dataset. FS Global is strictly a DVD product.

Catalog (left) and install guide (right) A surprise when opening the box, the bottom DVD's are double sided

The package contains four DVD's, a pair for the FS9 version, and a pair for FSX. While the data is identical in both versions, the encoding of the data is different and thus two distinct versions must be installed.

Installation

When my copy of FS Global arrived via the mail, I found that the double sided DVD for the FS9 version had detached from its plastic hub holder. It clearly suffered during shipment, showing several scratches due to rubbing inside the packaging. Perhaps Flight One can consider a better packaging mechanism to avoid potential shipping damage.

The installation process is a standard wizard driven affair, straightforward and uneventful. With the amount of data being written, it can take some time depending on the speed of your system. My installation took about 15 minutes.

The setup program supports English and French Main setup dialog
The setup program knows what data disk you have inserted and prompts for the remaining ones. This can be done in any order, a very nice feature. Backups of key configurations files are made using the system date and time as part of the file name for the backup. Multiple changes can thus be made, each with a versioned backup.
Confirmation of changes. The final step is to pick terrain behavior options.

One of the two install DVD's is dual sided and it must be flipped in the drive during installation. The setup program is smart enough to detect which disk you have inserted and eliminates any guesswork. After loading the data, you will be prompted for the discs that have not been read yet.

Documentation

An 8 page “important read me” pamphlet is included in the package. The manual covers all the basics of the installation as well as system requirements, and instructions on how to handle the new security features in Windows Vista, if that is your operating system.

After installation is completed, a 35 page PDF document named “inside FSGlobal 2008” can be located in the start menu. The document goes into much technical detail and illustrations. It makes for an interesting read if you want to know how Flight Simulator “sees” the world and how some of the challenges of creating FS Global were solved.

Visuals

FS Global 2008 is all about enhancing the simulator’s visuals and bringing the terrain to life. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, what follows is a sample of my world tour showing representative “before” and “after” screenshots. For the sake of comparison, I am also including local topographical map LOD differences.

All screenshots are taken from the same vantage point through saved flights in the simulator using similar weather conditions and lighting. All shots are in DX10 mode under FSX Acceleration (SP2).

The topographical data comparison comes from the map feature in FSX. It shows the relative level of detail of the terrain data from a top down view, and probably better illustrates how FS Global 2008 affects the default scenery.

All images can be clicked to view a high resolution version.

FSX deluxe - Mount Pinatubo, Philippines (click for hi-res) FS Global – Mount Pinatubo, Philippines (click for hi-res)
FSX deluxe – Zambales mountain range, looking North, Philippines FS Global – Zambales mountain range, looking North, Philippines.
FSX deluxe – Zambales mountain range, Philippines FS Global – Zambales mountain range, Philippines
FSX deluxe – Krakatau Islands (Krakatoa) - Indonesia FS Global – Krakatau Islands (Krakatoa) – Indonesia
Missing islands appear.
FSX deluxe – Krakatau Islands area topographic map FS Global – Krakatau Islands area topographic map. Note the detail on the volcano craters.
FSX deluxe – Mount Elbrus – Russia FS Global – Mount Elbrus - Russia
FSX deluxe – L’Alpes d’Huez – France
This ski resort near Grenoble is the finish line for one of the endurance stages of the Tour de France. The road to the ski area has 21 hairpin turns.
FS Global – L’Alpes d’Huez – France
The flattening of the terrain can be seen near the road leading up to the resort, as well as a slight increase in the level of elevation detail.
FSX deluxe – Courchevel airport, 1700 ft runway, one of the difficult airports in FSX FS Global – Courchevel – some perceptible details appear.
FS Global – Courchevel airport, top view, notice how the airport is sunk into the rear of the mountain.
FSX deluxe – Topographic map, Courchevel, France FS Global – Topographic map, Courchevel, France
FSX deluxe – British Columbia near Whistler FS Global – British Columbia near Whistler
FSX deluxe – Topographic map, near Whistler BC FS Global – Topographic map, near Whistler BC

The Andes in South America has some of the highest peaks in the world. Cuzco in Peru is known for a swoop down in the valley at 11203’. This is one area where FS doesn’t have much detail, in the terrain elevation, or the textures for that matter.

FSX deluxe – Cuzco, Andes mountain range, Peru FS Global – Cuzco, Andes mountain range, Peru
FSX deluxe – Topographic map, Cuzco, Peru FS Global – Topographic map, Cuzco, Peru
The Andes come to life in FS Global.
FSX deluxe – Andes mountain range, Argentina, near the Aconcagua Mountain.
Note the (incorrect) desert texture in this part of the world. FS Global does not add any textures, only elevation data.
FS Global – Andes mountain range, Argentina, near the Aconcagua.
A clear difference in detail here, even with “blah” textures.
FSX deluxe – Topographic map, Andes mountain range, Argentina FS Global – Topographic map, Andes mountain range, Argentina – note the improved detail

Below are some areas already covered in high detail by Flight Simulator X deluxe.

FSX deluxe – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
This is already a high detail area.
FS Global – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Not much difference with FS Global.
FSX deluxe – Monument Valley, USA FS Global – Monument Valley, USA
Again, not much difference as most of this area is already at high detail terrain.
FSX deluxe – near Grand Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA FS Global – near Grand Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA
FSX deluxe – Topographic map, Rocky Mountain National Park FS Global – Topographic map, Rocky Mountain National Park

Options

FS Global is a terrain elevation add-on and has very few options.

First option – enable/disable terrain

The first is to enable or disable the scenery, which is done via the scenery library tab.

The terrain data is split into regions (Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe and North/South America). A “local terrain” file aims at fixing the most obvious errors with vector objects in the scenery in flight simulator, so that objects appear at the correct elevation when rendered. Chief issues with this type of add-on are lakes, rivers and roads, and anything vector based. Incorrect elevation data causes havoc with the scenery by creating artificial plateaus or sink holes in the ground.

Scenery library, FS Global files enabled Scenery library, FS Global files disabled.
In FSX, no restart is necessary if a change is made, the index will simply rebuild.

Second option – enable/disable vector data flattening features

The second option is to modify the behavior of the terrain flattening for some vector objects (roads, lakes) through the terrain tool.

Performance

Test System

Intel QX9650 @ 4GHz
4 GB of RAM
NVIDIA 8800 Ultra
CH Products controllers
Windows Vista 64
FSX Acceleration/SP2

Flying Time:
37 hours

I didn’t notice a difference in FPS with FS Global installed. DX9 and DX10 mode did not make any difference. To fully benefit from the high level of detail that FS Global provides, the terrain mesh resolution must be set to 19 meters in Flight Simulator.

While not performance related, the biggest impact FS Global has on the average system is probably its use of 35Gb of disk space (70Gb if you have FS9 and FSX installed)!

Conclusion

FS Global transforms the VFR and bush flying experience by creating incredibly detailed vistas and eye candy anywhere I went in the world, even adding much interest to places with no texture enhancements.

FS Global brings an incredible level of detail to the entire world except for the Arctic and Antarctic, and this should entice anyone to fly outside the high detail areas included in the default scenery.

I found myself leaving my high altitude heavies in the hangar in favor of the down low, down slow exploration. Of course, the occasional thrill ride in an F18 at 460 knots and 50m AGL in the Andes is also now quite fun…

Even at a hefty disk space commitment, this is definitely a product that once installed will not likely be removed.

 

What I Like About FSGlobal 2008

  • Drastic difference in terrain detail across most of the world
  • Fantastic VFR and bush experience anywhere in the world
  • A very simple and smart installer
  • Works well with landclass/texture add-ons

 

What I Don't Like About FSGlobal 2008

  • The package design allowed one of the DVD's to become detached and get damaged during shipping.
  • No download option compared to competing products with similar file sizes

 

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