AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

Scenery Tech
Europe / Asia
Landclass

Product Information

Publisher: Scenery Tech

Description: Scenery Add-on.

Download Size:
16 MB (Europe) 15.6 MB (Asia)

Format:
Download
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Etienne Martin AVSIM Staff Reviewer - March 2, 2008

Introduction

Scenery Tech’s Europe and Asia Landclass products provide accurate terrain mapping data for large areas of the world.

The scenery engine in FSX, as with previous versions, uses the Olson Global Ecosystem Legend, a table of terrain coverage types created by the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS). This data, called landclass data, is used by the simulator to associate up to 255 types of terrain to map the entire surface of the globe. The smallest level of detail is 1.2 square kilometers (0.46 square miles).

The landclass data is used by the simulator to select textures and objects to render the scenery. The table below shows an example of the Olson classes used in FSX:

0 Ocean, Sea, Large Lake 40 Cool Grasses And Shrubs 131 Dirt
1 Large City Urban Grid Wet 41 Hot And Mild Grasses And Shrubs 132 Coral
2 Low Sparse Grassland 42 Cold Grassland 133 Lava
3 Coniferous Forest 43 Savanna (Woods) 134 Park
4 Deciduous Conifer Forest 44 Mire Bog Fen 135 Golf Course
5 Deciduous Broadleaf Forest 45 Marsh Wetland 136 Cement
20 Cool Rain Forest 46 Mediterranean Scrub 137 Tan Sand Beach
27 Conifer Forest 53 Barren Tundra 143 Glacier Ice
29 Seasonal Tropical Forest 54 Cool Southern Hemisphere Mixed Forests 144 Evergreen Tree Crop
33 Tropical Rainforest 60 Small Leaf Mixed Woods 146 Desert Rock

I’ve highlighted in blue the respective coverage areas for the Europe and Asia products.

Europe Landclass coverage (includes the Azores population density only) Asia Landclass coverage (some Japanese Islands such as Iwo-Jima also include population density only)

The Europe landclass covers Iceland through the Kurile Islands off of the Siberia region of Russia, while the Asia landclass goes from the Middle East to Japan.

Packaging

Each product comes as a 16Mb download. My version came through the familiar Flight1 wrapper. The product is first downloaded, and when the executable is run, you are prompted for payment information. Once the license key has been obtained, the wrapper extracts the product’s setup program and runs it automatically.

The license key should be saved in a safe place in case the product must be re-installed. You will be prompted for the license key and the last four digits of the credit card used to make the purchase to unlock the product in the future.

I like the Flight1 delivery system because products and updates can be downloaded as many times as needed with no artificial limit on how many times the product can be downloaded, or with expiring links to worry about.

Scenery Tech also states that updates are provided free of charge. In fact, the Europe product I downloaded was version 1.1, so no patch was necessary. The Asia product is release 1.0.

Installation

The install is completely automatic. You will end up with a new folder called Scenery Tech in the main FSX install folder. Each product uses a bit less than 10Mb when installed, so it is quite small.

Main setup (Asia shown) Option to enable the landclass to FSX
Option to install new texture and texture map file Backup confirmation for modified textures

The setup program offers an option to replace the default rock/glacier textures, and also to replace the lookup table (lclookup.bgl) with an “improved sloped” surface rendering. These options should be considered with care as they impact all terrain rendering, not just the areas covered by the products.

Thankfully, the setup program does create a backup of all impacted files so the changes can be undone if necessary. 63 texture files and the one landclass file are impacted between the two products.

Documentation

The documentation for each product comes in the form of a 5 page RTF format document. The documentation contains the basic installation instructions, a map of the area covered, a list of updated features by product version, a complete list of files replaced, and support information.

Visuals

We’ll use two methods to evaluate the impact of the Scenery Tech Europe & Asia landclass.

The first method uses the data visualization tool in the Flight Simulator Software Development Kit available to scenery designers. The tool color codes the landclass data on a map, thus providing a visual demonstration of differences in landclass information between the default FSX dataset and the new data Scenery Tech installs.

The second method is the tried and true “Mark I eyeball” before/after in-flight screenshots, taken from similar location, weather and angle. These are random, yet representative screenshots in areas of the world covered by the product.

Please click on each image for a high resolution version.

Landclass data comparison
Korea/Japan FSX
High density city landclass highlighted in magenta
(none to be found)
Korea/Japan FSX Scenery Tech
Highlighted in magenta are high density city
(note Seoul and Tokyo areas)
Cyprus, FSX Cyprus, Scenery Tech – note the increased variation and detail in the bottom right
Denmark & southern Sweden, FSX Denmark & southern Sweden, Scenery Tech -
Note the gray population centers in the top right
Ural mountains, Russia, FSX Ural mountains, Russia, Scenery Tech
Murmansk region, Russia, FSX Murmansk region, Russia, Scenery Tech
China, FSX China, Scenery Tech

 

In-flight visuals
Sweden, near ESSA (Stockholm Arlanda), FSX Sweden, near ESSA (Stockholm Arlanda), Scenery Tech
Sweden, south of ESSA, FSX Sweden, south of ESSA, Scenery Tech
Southern Sweden, FSX Southern Sweden, Scenery Tech
Russia, Murmansk airport takeoff, FSX Russia, Murmansk airport takeoff, Scenery Tech
Murmansk airport, FSX Murmansk airport, Scenery Tech
Murmansk city, FSX Murmansk city, Scenery Tech
Look at the left bank of the river
Geneva, Switzerland, FSX Geneva, Switzerland, Scenery Tech
Going to the Mt. Blanc from Evian, near the Swiss border, FSX Going to the Mt. Blanc from Evian, near the Swiss border, Scenery Tech
French Alps, FSX French Alps, FSX, Scenery Tech
French Alps, going to the Chamonix valley, FSX French Alps, going to the Chamonix valley, Scenery Tech
Note the rock textures on the left and valley floor in particular
Russia, Murmansk airport takeoff, FSX Russia, Murmansk airport takeoff, Scenery Tech
Murmansk airport, FSX Murmansk airport, Scenery Tech
Murmansk city, FSX Murmansk city, Scenery Tech
Look at the left bank of the river
Near Guangzhou, China, FSX Near Guangzhou, China, Scenery Tech
This town wasn’t here before
Near Guangzhou city, China, FSX Near Guangzhou city, China, Scenery Tech
Near Guangzhou city, China,, FSX Near Guangzhou city, China, Scenery Tech

Observations

The Scenery Tech landclass visibly increases both the variety and resolution of the terrain type across the areas covered. The effect is drastic in areas of the world neglected by FSX where pervasive desert textures make the visuals rather bland and uninteresting.

I also found the Scenery Tech data refines the transitions by utilizing more classes on the Olson scale, in particular for population areas. This makes urban areas from small villages to large cities magically appear in the terrain, while providing a gradual transition from rural to urban types.

The new textures and texture map file impacts mountains and rocky areas significantly. It adds “more rock” to mountains, and second, it eliminates some of the zigzag effects on sloped surfaces. One danger here is the impact on other add-ons that rely on the default texture maps.

There are some limitations on the impact of the product: (1) the landclass data resolution, while much higher than that provided in the default FSX landclass, is still subject to artifacts due to the approximations in processing the data. This is tied directly to the processing of the raw data by Scenery Tech.

(2) While more accurate than the default landclass data, it is not a substitute for ultra-accurate, hand massaged local scenery. Because of the large areas covered, Scenery Tech landclass cannot hope to create your neighborhood golf-course in the right location.

Lastly, (3) the full visual potential of the landclass data can only be realized through the addition of texture, elevation and vector (example, bridges and road) data. The product largely needs to live with the default texture sets provided by Microsoft, unless augmented by other add-ons.

Test System

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

Flying Time:
11 hours

Performance

Because the additional landclass data must be loaded and processed, one can expect an additional burden on the scenery engine, primarily in load times. This said, I did not notice any frame rate impact on my system outside of a slightly increased load time. It should be noted that landclass data increases the variety of textures loaded, which increases the number of textures cached in memory for a given region.

Conclusion

With Europe and Asia Landclass, Scenery Tech’s landclass data impacts the flight experience in FSX in a very positive and pleasing way. The appeal is, of course, far more subjective than qualitative.

The largest impact is on population centers, with thousands of hamlets and villages appearing in rural and remote areas where none are found with the default landclass. The product goes a long way in eliminating the pervasive desert textures in less detailed areas of the world. Mountains and valleys are also transformed with additional detail.

Landclass data alone cannot revolutionize the virtual landscape as key elements of the rendering palette available to the simulator are largely untouched: ground textures, objects on the terrain or elevation, all key contributors to the “as real as it gets” experience.

In the narrow confine of terrain classification, Scenery Tech’s landclass does the job well and fills major gaps in the default landclass data.
For these reasons, Scenery Tech’s landclass deserves a good look if you’re looking at improving scenery in FSX.

 

What I Like About Scenery Tech Landclass Asia & Europe

  • Adds gradiated, accurate and uniform landclass data to areas covered
  • Reduces desert textures
  • Major impact on population areas, with villages and small towns appearing where they should be
  • Increased detail in mountainous terrain

 

What I Don't Like About Scenery Tech Landclass Asia & Europe

  • Potential to impacting other add-ons by changing the default texture maps to realize its full potential (can be undone)

 

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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order to provide you with background information on the reviewer and any connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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