While doing a flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago to check out the Andes, the default FSX pre-sunset rendered a rather odd mixture of yellows and neon-like reds, greens, blues, and blacks. Not very real. That same day I saw that Real Sky 3 for FSX was available for review so I asked for it with the hope of remedying this neon-sky default stuff. And it did exactly that; it will be staying on my HD until something better comes along.
Although Real Sky, by the same author, has already been reviewed by Brian Fletcher (in the AVSIM archives), this version of Real Sky 3 (also called REAL SKY V3 EXTRA EDITION) and its textures are not a previous version of REAL SKY with a new name, and are not randomly generated.
REVIEWERS NOTE: This is TWO-FOR-ONE package. Since you get Real Sky 3 for both FS2004 and FSX in the same package, I am doing a review for both sim versions.
Installation and Documentation
Be sure to have your serial number already copied onto your clipboard before running this setup or you will have to stop the install to go get it (setup uses the whole screen). It found my FSX (not on my 'C' drive) right away and yes, it makes a back-up of targeted texture files before changing them, but it does not tell you this. I had to figure that out for myself. Setup is a substitution of textures (with uninstall working fine, returning the originals without you needing to do that yourself, so don't worry). There is no documentation available that I know of.
Regardless of what textures you had before install, they can be reinstalled if required. If you find that you would prefer any previously used textures to the ones Real Sky gives you, these can be retrieved individually from the backup folder (rs3backup) in your main texture folder.
Install makes a start menu entry listing of only the uninstaller and Simmarket’s link to the product. There is an entry made in the registry under Sandon Lyon. Installation of both setups was seamless; it read my registry entries correctly. What does it change? Cloud, lights, water reflections, and sky textures.
For the better, IMHO.
I quote from Simmarket regarding water textures: “This product can be used with both FS2004 and FSX by use of two separate installers. However, the water textures and other textures specified were specifically designed to work in FS2004 only. Amazingly, the water textures created are only 32 kbs in size as compared to default water textures of 170 kbs. Therefore, your sim will load and run Real Sky water textures much more efficiently.”
My FS2004 is a fresh install with the patch, so the default pics are supposedly “default native”. Since Real Sky 3 affects the water, sky, and clouds, my settings are set to “fair weather” using the FS2004 weather themes settings and most are over water. Time settings are for sunset, sunrise or noon. I have Dawn/Dusk texture blending ON, Extended terrain textures ON, Sun glare OFF, and land distance is at max.
Terrain distance and clouds are all maxed. Mip mapping and lights are all set to max. It is unlikely that the situations I’ve chosen to display here will mirror yours. These are only comparisons to show how Real Sky does indeed improve textures in both FS2004 and FSX.
Here's what you get according to Simmarket:
1. All NEW super realistic sun textures
This first set shows a sunrise at 07H15, 07H30, and 12H00. The last one at 18H45 was with the sun setting to my back.
I noticed that the default water textures do not have the sun reflection ‘broad line’ on the water, as is the case with Real Sky. FS2004 is a virgin full install with the patch, with no modifications except as noted. Since Real Sky comes with new cloud textures, these are different from the default set and are nicer in my opinion. Also, the ocean field height file seems to generate a wider and mode distinct wave pattern. The water textures themselves are an obvious improvement.
The lens flare effect is much more subtle with Real Sky 3. The native FS9 has distinct squares in succession, which is not very real.
Shown next are runway night lights for KSEA. I noticed that the approach lights are nice and precise with Real Sky whereas they seem out of focus with the native FS2004. The overall impression is much nicer, with less unnatural brightness. I couldn't get the landing lights to show any difference between default and Real Sky 3.
Here's what you get according to Simmarket:
1. A complete set of NEW sky textures for night, dawn, dusk and
day.These textures all work together to bring realistic lighting
of the sky.(Texture size is the same as default FSX)
Default FSX clouds are those from the original installation. My terrain textures may be a bit different from yours but are not seen in this review. Settings are as shown, with cloud draw distance and cloud density set to max. These are set high to enable a comprehensive comparison but are not my water settings for regular flight (I use mid 1.x).
The first set shows a sunrise at 06H00, 06H30, and 7H30. The reason I have captioned the top row as “My defaults” is because I had made some substitutions prior to testing Real Sky 3 for FSX. But I was unable to recall which textures, so my defaults will not mirror yours. Nevertheless, Real Sky 3 shows an improvement over the freeware textures I had previously installed.
In my opinion, the Real Sky textures show a significant improvement in realism. I’m sure the real thing is even better, but afterall, this is a simulator not a duplicator.
Time settings are as follows: 18H00, 19H00, 19H15, and 19H30. These pics undoubtedly demonstrate the excellent renditions for sky textures that Real Sky 3 has to offer. Just compare the unnatural transitions to orange from 18H00 to 19H00, as seen with the default pics, to the natural dimming of a calm sunset with Real Sky 3. Cloud textures seem more diffuse, or wispy, making for a nice effect.
Lens flare, seen here just behind and below the aircraft, are subtler with Real Sky 3. With the default scenery you get the unrealistic hexagonal lens. Also note the unreal pink sunset…need I say more?
One comprehensive conclusion I have, is the fact I’m keeping this Real Sky 3 on my system for use with FSX until something much better can be made.
I did not experience any performance problems, as these textures are the same size as those that are installed with the native FSX (or FS2004).
Similar items and textures are available as freeware, true, but do they install as cleanly while backing up your previously installed textures? With the limited amount of installs available for FSX, one does not want to be calling MS every time you have to reinstall because you lost your textures.
Real Sky 3 is safe to install and uninstall over your textures. There is a backup folder so some clever substitutions could be made IF you know how to do this. I am not going to explain any of this, but suffice to say, if you know how to do it fine, otherwise don’t try your own file substitution modifications.
Those not anticipating any other purchases of more expensive add-ons in the future may be interested in getting Real Sky 3, as it is a significant improvement (in my opinion). Also, one might as well check what freeware is available first, but I found Real Sky 3 to be quite desirable. Indeed, if you are using FS2004 and FSX, you get both installations for the price of one so it may be worth it in a lot of cases.
The author, Sandon Lyon, says it himself: “Before REAL SKY v3, I was always unsatisfied with the colors of the day even with all other versions of Real Sky. Now, I am happy! If nobody else feels the same as I do that is also fine. At least, I can go outside in the real world and look up and say WOW that sky looks like what I see in the sim. That’s all the gratification I need. If there are other people out there like myself that may desire the need to have a realistic looking sky in their sim. They now have this option to purchase such an enhancement called REAL SKY v3.”
|What I Like About Real Sky 3|
|What I Don't Like About Real Sky 3|
Tell A Friend About this Review!
All Rights Reserved