At first glance, everything around the airport points to a high amount of detail and many small objects that add to an immersive ambiance.

AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

DreamScenery
Indianapolis X

Product Information

Publisher: DreamScenery

Description: Scenery Add-on.

Download Size:
322 MB

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Etienne Martin AVSIM Staff Reviewer - March 9, 2008

Introduction

With Indianapolis X, DreamScenery adds three detailed areas in Marion county Indiana:

• Indianapolis international airport (KIND)
• Downtown Indianapolis
• Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis, Indiana – Approximate Indianapolis X coverage area highlighted
Satellite picture courtesy of Microsoft Live Maps & the U.S. Geological Survey

Indianapolis is the 13th largest city in the United States according to the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association.

Indianapolis International Airport (KIND) opened in September 1931, and received its current name in 1975 after being called Weir-Cook airport in 1944. It now occupies some 7,700 acres located 8 miles south-west of downtown. The airport is currently going a major upgrade to be completed towards the end of 2008. In the plans are a new passenger terminal with parking garage centrally located between its two main runways, and a new interchange from I-70. KIND is a major hub for shipper Federal Express, for the United States Postal Service, and many other cargo and maintenance facilities. According to the operator, the Indianapolis Airport Authority, KIND saw over 8 million passengers last year and 1.15 million tons of cargo.

New terminal under construction, due to open in late 2008
Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Airport Authority

Packaging, Installation and Documentation

Indianapolis X is a 322Mb download through SimMarket. A CD can be ordered, although I was very surprised that the cost of the CD adds 50% to the purchase cost. Be warned the cost is in Euros, currently a drawback for US dollar based customers. SimMarket has a seamless purchase experience, with the download link available through your registered account page. The download link is only valid for one year from the data of purchase, although additional time can be purchased through a “subscription”. Product updates are available through SimMarket. A support forum is available here.

Welcome screen   Folder selection
Automatic option to update the scenery Alas, received an error with the automated install, likely because of my use of Vista x64. We’ll need to add the scenery manually inside FSX.

The installation of the product was uneventful, except that the installation wizard was unable to edit my scenery.cfg as advertised in the documentation. This was not an issue as the scenery can easily be added inside Flight Simulator. The documentation states that the automatic feature works when using the default installation folder – which I did. This didn’t work for me on Vista x64. While unexpected, again, a quick fix.

I had to manually add Indianapolis X to the scenery library by pointing to the install folder and moving the scenery to the top of the list.

When all installed, the product folder occupied 476Mb on my disk drive.

Documentation

The 25 page PDF document covers all the essentials from the installation to the configuration options of the product. It also includes a welcome history of the region going back to Samuel de Champlain in 1615, a list of major buildings and features, an FAA map of the airport, and reference data such as airport runway information and a table of frequencies to operate hangars doors.

Configuration

An external configuration utility is used to customize the options for Indianapolis X. Its primary function is to adjust the level of detail for the performance of your hardware by enabling or disabling objects. I was surprised to see how many options were available. Clearly a lot of thought and time went into making this scenery work well for different hardware capabilities. An image representing the effect will be displayed in the top-left, showing the “before” and “after” impact of your selection.

An easy to use customization tool is provided.

After the options are selected, the utility will copy a number of objects and textures to the product’s scenery folder using batch commands. Each command causes a command line window to come up, causing a surprising flashing effect. The first time, it wasn’t clear to me whether the utility was working or not, but it worked very well. I found out I wasn’t the only one surprised as someone posted this question on the product’s support forum.

Visuals

Given that we are in the business of flight simulation, our tour of virtual Indianapolis will, of course, begin at the airport. We will then hop 8 miles north-east towards the capital of the “Hoosier” state for a downtown fly-by, finishing our journey at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Indianapolis International Airport (KIND)

FAA Airport Diagram
Airport looking SW Airport looking NE

DreamScenery depicts the airport with the new midfield terminal still under construction (the facility is scheduled to open in October 2008). The scenery comes complete with cranes, unfinished buildings and structures, and even a picnic table under a tent.

This can come at a very noticeable frame rate hit with all the detail enabled (30% to 50% hit on my system near the terminal). However, the level of detail is entirely customizable and good performance can be achieved with moderate detail levels, without necessarily sacrificing the experience.

Terminal from R22 Terminal Buildings – the large trees in the foreground are not autogen
Concourse A Concourse B & C
Concourse B Concourse C
Concourse D Concourse D – note the functioning FSX jetways (ctrl-J to activate)
FedEx has its second largest terminal at KIND FedEx terminal (opposite view)
The new control tower and TRAC bldg Tower detail
Fire station and trucks Note the taxiway edge detail
Old terminal and new midfield terminal aerial Midfield terminal – example of details include the dirt piles
This must be the break tent Crane detail
New terminal
Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Airport Authority

DreamScenery adds an interesting twist to the rendering of ice in the virtual winter, using optional polygons in winter time. The effect is quite pleasing as it allows ice and snow to make it across the taxiways in irregular lines – much more realistic and a good idea.

Summer Winter ice (snow/ice polygons enabled)
Runway markings & signage Taxiway markings & signage
Grass detail on the side of this runway Runway ALS

Nearly all the facilities are incredibly detailed.

GA hangars, Fedex terminal up top GA area
There are 11 hangars in all with doors controlled via the NAV 2 radio Hangar 10, door slides open right, then left.
Parked inside the hangar ATA hangar – ATA Airlines is headquartered in Indianapolis
Detailed architecture
More detailed architecture Pipeline detail
Main terminal departure level on top Rental car shuttles – note the signs
More airline information signs Parking garage and connectors
Parking, roadway detail Parking lot
More parking, roadway detail One of the parking gates
Note the street names and accurate signs The new I-70 interchange

Downtown Indianapolis

Moving towards downtown, we find that autogen fills the 8 miles between the airport and downtown and does a good job filling the gap.

Approaching “the Crossroads of America” Bridges over the White river
Downtown high-rises – glass buildings have reflections More downtown views
Convention center and hotels Circle Center
Monument circle Looking N from Monument Circle
RCA Dome Victory Field
Scottish Rite Cathedral, Library Conrad building & Key Bank tower
Rooftop details Varied textures on buildings
Not all areas have buildings A view of the white river over the State Capitol
Convention center View back towards the airport
More of University Park and Veterans Memorial Plaza Medical center – note the helipads
Bridge detail Promenade detail
Slightly N White River State Park – compare with satellite picture
White River State Park
Photo courtesy of Microsoft Live Maps & the U.S. Geological Survey

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway A glitch here with the roof crossing the speedway.

Night lighting

I found the textures to work equally well at night, with good variety.

Terminal and skyline at night Downtown, night
Downtown, night
FedEx terminal night
Runway lighting Day/Night transition lighting
Parking at night Overhead view at night
Highways look much better at night than during the day Midfield construction and tower at night


Modeling & Textures

The quality of the 3D modeling is good to excellent. There are hundreds of objects in the scenery, and focusing on a handful of minor issues would be nitpicking. Even up close, 3D buildings and other polygonal objects are sharp and varied. The developer didn’t repeat many of textures.
For all the quality, I was disappointed with the ground terrain and seasonal (non polygonal) textures.

First, the ground textures in the scenery have a prevalent green hue that does not blend well with surrounding tiles. I was hoping the green lush would go away with other seasons, and discovered that spring and fall seem to use the same summer textures. This has a side effect of making the green lush even more visible.

A winter texture is available and makes a valiant effort at making the green go away. Yet everything still looks green to me with a ground texture that looked touched up with white spray paint. This is not helped by a few brilliant patches of freshly mowed lawns here and there in the scenery during winter time, untouched by the surrounding white.

DreamScenery uses photorealistic ground textures, and these will typically clash with the default (or enhanced) scenery in the simulator. Photo textures of the three areas covered by this scenery would not be so noticeable had the area been large enough. In this case, the three are within close proximity of default FSX textures and terrain. Whereas the scenery in FSX makes approximations causing some lineup issues, the photo realistic ground textures in Indianapolis X simply stick out. I wish a bit more effort had gone into blending them with surroundings, especially with highways. A few rendering issues are also present in some tiles, likely associated with night lighting needs.

KIND is an oasis of lushness among the default scenery, even in summer Even some roads, like this exchange, has unpleasant greenish hues
All areas use the same textures for summer, spring and fall. In fact, we can tell exactly what areas of the scenery are covered by Indianapolis X in this overhead shot. The three areas look better in winter, yet still very noticeably green.
Photorealistic textures have issues with lining up with roads in FSX Airport surfaces and building textures are realistic.
Edge title More green fields

Performance

This scenery is very complex with all options turned on. At the highest level of detail, it dropped my FPS by 30 to 50%. The key impact was the terminal area at the airport, especially with many AI aircraft at the gate.

Load times can be significantly increased as well, especially when the scenery is loaded the first time (cache probably is at play here, as subsequent loads were much faster on my system).

Test System

Intel QX9650 @ 4GHz
4 GB of RAM
NVIDIA 8800 Ultra
CH Products controllers
Windows Vista 64 SP1
FSX Acceleration/SP2

Flying Time:
9.5 hours

Thankfully, it is not difficult to find a good balance of eye candy and FPS through the configuration utility. The best way I can characterize my performance experience is that KIND is very similar to that of the New York City area at full detail in the default FSX – meaning most high end systems will handle it. Due to the number of textures loaded, I surmise that video cards with more on-board memory will help performance quite a bit.

Conclusion

Indianapolis X provides a high fidelity rendition of the Indianapolis International Airport and adds many of the buildings and landmarks found in Indianapolis and vicinity.

The 3D modeling is good, if not excellent, and the product makes it mark through the sheer amount of unique features to be found, begging to be explored. The package’s ability to tune details through its configuration utility will certainly help mitigate the frame rate hit that is sure to come.

Indianapolis X has the most polish with its star airport, which has seen prior releases by this vendor for FS9. KIND visibly benefits from this experience. DreamScenery makes a valiant effort to depict a large city and mostly succeeds, so long as it can keep up with building density to hide the ground.

In the end, I wish the product had ground textures to match the excellence of the 3D objects rendered on top of them. Thankfully, there are so many objects covering the ground that the subpar terrain textures and a few glitches with some 3D objects here and there, are easy to forget.
Seldom has so much detail made it into a scenery add-on at this scale.

 

What I Like About Indianapolis X

  • Level of customization
  • Eye candy feast, especially at the airport
  • Includes major city buildings and structures
  • Good night lighting overall
  • Innovative and pleasing irregular ice effects
  • I found no issues with FSX Acceleration/SP2
  • Has moving jetways and no less than 11 hangars have working doors

 

What I Don't Like About Indianapolis X

  • “Oasis green” effect and little effort to blend in with existing FSX scenery and seasons near tile edges
  • Terrain textures are subpar compared to those used for 3D objects and polygons
  • (minor) 3D object issues (speedway, trees green year round)
  • High detail mandates a high end system
  • CD cost compared to download cost

 

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