In this review I’ve grouped together two of Orbx’s recently released Australian airport scenery packages; YPMQ Port MacQuarie Airport v3 and YMEN Essendon Airport v1.
YPMQ Port MacQuarie Airport
Port Macquarie Airport; ICAO: YPMQ is a small regional airport located 5 km from Port Macquarie which is on the east coast of Australia in New South Wales. The airport has two runways; 21/03 which is asphalt @ 5,249ft and 28/10 a grass runway @ 2,283ft.
Qantas and Virgin Australia are the two airlines that operate regular flights from this location using the ATR72 aircraft.
The scenery package as you can see by the screenshot includes the airport and the nearby city of Port Macquarie.
YMEN Essendon Airport
Essendon Airport, ICAO: YMEN is located in Essendon which is a northern suburb of Melbourne Australia. It was for a time Australia’s second and Melbourne’s first international airport. From 1950 to 1966 it was actually renamed Melbourne Airport. The airport has two runways; 08/26 @ 6,302ft and 17/35 @ 4,931ft.
The Essendon add-on includes the airport and a small area around its perimeter.
The installation routines are identical for both products. It involves running the executable which launches the FSS wrapper and then follows several simple steps, one of which is to add the registration info sent to you at the time of purchase. Overall the whole process is a very simple one.
The file size for each add-on is quite large but considering the amount of detail you get it was no surprise. YPMQ Port MacQuarie Airport has a file size of 366Mbs and YMEN Essendon Airport has a file size of 601Mbs.
A PDF manual is included with both products; they are essentially the same in their design and content. I have to say that I really like the layout of these manuals; they are well written, include pictures where appropriate and overall are very informative.
These airports can tax your PC due to the amount of detail included, so it is no surprise that a significant amount of the manual is devoted to settings; FSX settings and scenery specific tools. To avoid frustration I strongly suggest reading the manual and paying attention to their recommendations.
There are several panels that are unique to Orbx products; FTX Central, the FTX Aero Tool and the scenery Control Panel.
FTX Central is where you must enable the FTX region you wish to fly in before launching FSX. The main screen presents you with your choice of region based on what Orbx sceneries you have installed. In this case you would be choosing Australia as the active region. A word to the wise; it is a good idea after closing FSX to go back into the FTX Central tool and reset the active region to FSX. If you don’t and you install additional scenery that isn’t an Orbx product you may encounter some visual problems.
The Control Panel is where you will play with your scenery’s complexity. To get to the panel you can either go through the desktop shortcut that would have been created when the scenery was installed or you can get to it by going to the FTX Central interface.
To show you what you will be looking at in the Control Panel, I’ve included a screenshot. Typical items that are selectable are such things as static aircraft and airport 3D grass. Your available choices will depend on the airport. This is a good place to tweak your airport if you are having performance issues.
The FTX Aero Tool allows you to make some changes that will directly affect your scenery’s visuals. The choices you make will be previewed in the tool and you can always go back to your default if you don’t like the choice by selecting “Your Default”.
Detailed Bump Map gives you several choices for adding a texture that will enhance ground textures and get rid of the smooth look that is normally the default.
Runway 18's texture is the texture generally used by Australian airports, this tool allows you to use the ones provided by Orbx which have much better detail than those provided by FSX.
Taxiway Markings give you the choice of installing a solid yellow or a yellow/black line for these markings.
Orbx has a very good forum site where you can get scenery updates and assistance from the developers and other users.
Having flown to other airports from the Orbx group I was definitely looking forward to my time with these two airports and it didn’t take long to see that these were going to be two more exceptional sceneries.
ORBX FTX regional sceneries for Australia are not required for either one of these airports however you will miss out on certain features and enhancements if you don’t have them. In my setup I have the appropriate Australian regions installed so the airports blended in very well with their adjacent landscapes.
If the regional sceneries aren’t installed here is what you’ll be missing as stated in the product manuals:
Blending of the airport photoreal into the surrounding terrain
Both airports use the Peopleflow and Textureflow technologies which are specific to Orbx products.
Textureflow is said to substantially increase the performance of the 3D models used to create their buildings.
Peopleflow is their technology which allows them to include all those people seen moving around and doing a variety of tasks in the sceneries. Peopleflow is something that I think is quite revolutionary and raises the bar when it comes to making airport scenery come to life.
The activities are varied and include a number of different scenarios such as baggage handlers putting suitcases onto a conveyer or a mechanic working on the engine of a small aircraft. The variety and complexities of these activities I’m sure is going to grow as Peopleflow 2 is rolled out in the near future.
The Port MacQuarie scenery has, in addition to the Textureflow and Peopleflow, some audio enhancements which are essentially scenery hotspots that when entered trigger a specific audio sound; an example would be a dog barking.
The buildings at these two airports definitely caught my attention. They have incorporated all of the elements that I believe are important when it comes to creating realistic looking buildings. Lots of details, high quality images, multi-tone colouring and the precise placement of the buildings on the base ground textures.
Looking around I immediately noticed colouring and details. The colouring techniques used are such that the buildings have a weathered and textured appearance, looking close enough you can visualize the different building materials used; they are that good. To me this is one of the most important aspects of making them look so real and they do it extremely well.
The quality of the images they use show many subtle details and this is a huge factor as to why the buildings look as good as they do. These images compliment the added 3 dimensional details that are incorporated throughout. From any angle or side the quality is clearly visible.
Both of these sceneries contain a wide variety of buildings from the simple to the complex and all of them were done to the same outstanding quality.
Both sceneries offer enhanced ground rendering; Port MacQuarie Airport is done at 15 cm with the remainder of the coverage area at 60 cm. Essendon Airport is rendered at an even more impressive 7 cm. It is also the first Orbx scenery add-on to be done entirely at this high resolution.
Having ground textures rendered at such high resolutions provides a ground environment that is both clear and detailed even at the lowest altitudes. It also allows them to more precisely place the objects and buildings that are within the scenery coverage area.
They also make good use of colours here too. Doing so allowed them to portray the different types of ground cover from dirt and mud to lush green grasses. The variations in these colours combined with the 3D vegetation almost makes you believe you can reach out and touch the ground and feel the dirt and grass it looks so real.
Hard surfaces get the same treatment; again you have color variations depicting the asphalt and concrete used for runways, taxiways and aprons.
For the other areas of the scenery add-ons they use more high resolution photo textures. The Port MacQuarie airport add-on includes the nearby city of Port MacQuarie. It has a mix of different areas including residential, park and recreational and commercial areas so there is an interesting variety here and it is well worth checking out.
One of the most noticeable and detailed buildings they include is the nearby Settlement City Shopping Centre. Flying over all of these at low altitude lets you take in some really amazing examples of how good photo scenery and autogen can look when done correctly.
Objects and Vehicles
What I saw here with regards to scenery objects and vehicles amazed me. When they create something they don’t hold back; like the buildings, their objects are detailed and use high resolution graphics. I encourage anyone flying their sceneries to get in close and explore because lots of what they add is best appreciated that way.
It’s more than the fact these objects look real good it’s also where and how they are positioned in the scenery. They are extremely adept at knowing where to put things to make the sceneries look alive. Sometimes it’s having people standing by a fence looking out over the tarmac waiting for a flight to arrive or depart or having a taxicab parked in front of a terminal or storefront as if it were dropping off or waiting to pick up a passenger.
It’s the little touches like these which aren’t always obvious that pull everything together to make it work.
They include quite a variety as well and they go beyond simply adding mainstream objects. I even came across something I had never seen in an airport add-on up to this point like a lift for a wheel chair.
Part of the fun with these airports is being able to take the time to explore them at ground level using “Bob” which is the first person mode add-on from Orbx. I highly recommend this for anyone who wants to check out any scenery package from a very intimate and close up perspective.
It’s at this level that you can get to see some of the great work that goes into an add-on that might otherwise go unnoticed. Checking out all the little nooks and crannies of an airport can be an eye opener. I was able to appreciate some of the finer details such as reading the warning signs on a gate. This is only one example of many you can find if you to take the time to explore these airports.
I’ve included the following sets of screenshots to show off some of the great visuals these two airport sceneries have to offer.
YPMQ Port MacQuarie Airport
YMEN Essendon Airport
Night time operations at both airports was interesting. I chose to fly mostly in a small Cessna CT210 so that I could enjoy the night lights at these two airports and their surroundings. Overall, I was very happy with how they were able to make the whole experience a realistic one just like they had for daytime flying.
These are both wonderful airports and just like with other Orbx add-ons, they continue to push the envelope of scenery creation in FSX. With the extreme amount of detailing and now the inclusion of such enhancements as their Peopleflow and Textureflow animations they are on the cutting edge of scenery design.
What I Like About YPMQ / YMEN
What I Don't Like About YPMQ / YMEN
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