AVSIM Commercial Utility Review

Real Sky

Rating Guide
Publisher: Sandy Lyon
Description:  Sky Textures and Weather Environments for FS9
Download Size:
20 MB
Format:
Auto-install or CD
Simulation Type:
FS 2004
Reviewed by: Brian Fletcher AVSIM Staff Reviewer

Introduction

Have you been neglecting anything lately? I’m sure that you have plenty of aircraft in your inventory, a good flight yoke or joystick is probably front and center, but what about your sky textures? Unlike many add-ons, upgrading your sky textures can improve Flight Sim throughout your entire virtual world. No matter where you go, there will always be a sunrise, sunset, and everything in between. But if you’re still stuck with the default sky textures, you might want to read on and see what you’ve been missing.

What may be missing from your virtual skie, is the Real Sky texture add-on that replaces the bland sky textures in FS9 with a more life like representation. With Real Sky you will now have a more realistic ground glazing sunrise, accurately toned daytime textures, and a blazing orange sunset that leaves the default textures in the dark. Even the night sky takes on a whole new look, with or without the four new foggy weather themes included with this package.

In addition to the new sky textures, there are also a few new weather themes that provide different levels of fog. And, if you would prefer, there are also additional texture sets included that will allow you to alter the sky’s color to fit your liking. But despite having your skies undergo such a massive makeover, the frame rates remain the same. That’s right; this is all done without inhibiting the frame rates in the least.

For a mere EUR 12.49 this package might just be that one thing you need to take your flying experience to the next level. You may find that you prefer a different sky texture add-on, but I am confident that seeing what can be done to the default virtual skies will leave you wanting a change from the “out of the box” textures. No matter where in the world you like to fly, Real Sky will make a big impact, especially if you enjoy flying during dawn and dusk.

To see just what this package can do for your virtual skies I will be taking several screenshots from all over the globe, with different weather themes, and at all hours of the day. I will provide you with the coordinates of some of the screenshots so that you can compare them to what you are used to seeing with the default textures, or any third-party payware or freeware sky textures that you may be using and decide for yourself if you like what you see. To get this show on the road I will need to install the Real Sky textures available from http://secure.simmarket.com/default.php as a 20 MB download, or through CD-ROM.

Installation and Documentation

I cannot possibly stress enough how important it is to follow the instructions when installing this add-on. It was not until several attempts later that I discovered I needed to change the installation directory from where it was set by default. The same goes for the Real Sky optional textures folder, which I will discuss momentarily. The installation is done by means of an auto-installer, but the directory may or may not be set correctly by default.

When you run the auto-installer, you will be asked to agree to some terms of use, then you will be prompted to enter the password that you get upon purchase (download version). In my case, the password was very long, and trying to cut and paste it from my e-mail proved to be difficult. Once it did take my password, the only problem I had was that I neglected to set the destination directory. This is not a problem with the program, but rather my lack of attention during installation.

 

The optional sky textures set will install the same way, with the exception of needing to enter a password. This folder will be installed into the main FS9 directory called “Real Sky Optional Color Set”. You can choose to use these textures in place of the ones that Real Sky uses by default if you wish. Also added to this directory, is a folder with the text documents for this program. There are three text documents inside, one of which is the license agreement, and another has some useful Q&A.

The third text document details a procedure that you can use to alter the water textures in Flight Sim, which can help you to pick up some needed frame rates. In short, this document will show you how you can remove the water textures from Flight Simulator and allow the Real Sky textures provide a glare on the water in place of multiple textures. Also added to your Flight Simulator files will be four new weather themes, available in the weather selection menu in FS9.

Unless you choose to use the additional optional sky textures, there should not be a need to consult any of the installed files. If you have any questions related to this package, the publisher has provided an e-mail address, and I am told that a response will happen in a timely manner, though I did not need to try for myself. But enough about installing this, let’s go try it out.

From Dawn til Dusk

Depending on the season, the night sky will begin to lighten into the early dawn textures sometime between 5:00 and 6:30. Rather than making a quick change from night to light, there will be an increase in the haze of lighting over the horizon which can last as long as three hours. Dawn begins with a dark orange and fades into a pinkish white and yellow as the sun rises. Eventually, the pinkish hue will subside leaving the crisp blue day textures.

 

Dusk is almost the opposite of dawn, except there is not as much of a pinkish glaze around the sun before the orange takes over. The whole process of changing from day to dusk can take several hours, the most notable part lasting about an hour and a half. Once the sun begins to touch the horizon, the light orange blaze will begin to dull darker and darker until night sets in. This process can begin as early as 5:30 in the winter, and as late as 8:00 in summer.

The biggest difference between the Real Sky sunrise and sunset when compared to the default textures is that the colors and glare are much bolder, and in my opinion, much more convincing. Also, you will notice that with Real Sky installed, the cycle of night to dawn and day to dusk go through phases with more color. For example, dusk will begin with the sky fading from blue to a light orange and eventually into a multitude of dark orange colors. Throughout this process each texture will blend together seamlessly without any big changes in a short period of time.

When using any of the weather themes that have fog and rain, you may notice that the sky becomes much more dense with the Real Sky textures. I found my forward view to be slightly more limited than by default, but much more authentic. Most of the other weather themes will not be affected by these textures as much.

Day and Night

It is kind of difficult to find a big difference between the Real Sky and default day textures at first glance, but after a deeper look I noticed three advantages to Real Sky. First, the sun appears with a more brilliant white and yellow texture with a larger haze. Second, I personally found the multiple shades of blue from after dusk to before dawn to be much more realistic. And third, I definitely prefer the clouds now that they reflect a mild glare off the sun, especially around the edges.

Comparing the Real Sky and default night textures was like…well, it’s like night and day. Once the sun goes down, the night sky takes on a very authentic feel with a light glare of the moon off of the clouds, bold stars, and a brilliant glare off the water as the moonlight strikes. I would not say that it is any less dark than by default, but there are a lot of times when the moon and stars will provide an ambient lighting far beyond what I have ever seen by default.

 

In addition to the day and night textures, and the dusk and dawn textures, you will also notice that the sky cycles through many phases in between. Rather than going through a quick night to dawn process, the sky will go through many different levels of light. This is especially noticeable when the day textures begin to work towards dusk, which actually happens a couple of hours before the sun begins to set.

Regardless of what time of day you fly, the Real Sky textures will have an impact on any of the weather themes, especially those with fog and rain. This is because the sun will now glare off of the edges of the clouds and not penetrate through the fog as much. The rain will take on a more glistening appearance as the sun has more of an impact than by default.

 

Snowy weather will appear a little brighter, but not blinding during the daytime. At night, even though it is more difficult to see rain, snow, and fog, the moonlight will glisten off of the clouds, and at times will actually highlight rain and snow making it more visible than by default.

Cutting Through The Fog

The fog I’m talking about here comes in the form of four weather themes included with this package. The first is called “haze and fog”, which is a nice mixture of dense fog with a low lying spotty haze. This is not too dissimilar from the “fogged in” default weather theme except that the fog seems more authentic and is not as thick. The biggest difference between the two is that the haze and fog theme is lighter in appearance.

Another weather theme included is called “low fog with clouds”, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You can expect a moderately dense fog below 1,000 feet blending in with clouds that are textured similar to those in the “stormy weather” scheme. As you increase altitude, the fog will lighten in density and color until you cross the fairly low ceiling. The third weather theme, called “low lying fog”, is basically the same as the low fog with clouds minus the storm clouds.

 

The last weather theme included with Real Sky goes by the name “small foggy patch”. In this weather environment, you may or may not run into any fog depending on your luck. You may come across several patches of fog in a row, or you might just make it all the way to your destination without ever needing to turn on the lights.

All of the weather themes included with this add-on have one thing in common; none of them will rob your frame rates any more than the default “fogged in” weather theme. The weather will change just as frequently as you have defined any of the default weather to change, so you may not run into the same fog on arrival as you did when you left.

Stormy Skies Ahead

I figured the best way to get a look at what this add-on really does for my virtual skies would be to take an around the clock flight from dawn to the following dawn and see how all of the textures blend together. To do this I chose to take off from Orangestad Intl. Airport in Aruba and work my way north until the sun rose the following day. Of course I had to use a slower aircraft so I didn’t end up in the North Pole, so I chose the Piper Cub…with unlimited fuel that is.

The Sun Rises - After taking off around 5:15 AM, I had just enough time to get up to my cruising altitude and start heading north before the sun’s light started to peek over the distant horizon. As someone who likes to sleep in, I was rewarded for getting up early with a stunning dark orange haze over the increasingly large sun. The sun had a multitude of white and off white colors where the center touched the horizon and expanded into a yellowish and ultimately orange blaze as it grew.

 

The ocean reflected the sun in a narrowing pattern as the light came closer to my aircraft. A mixture of white and a yellow-orange blended in with the very light blue water textures to provide a very realistic view to the east. Off to the west, I can see how the light began to slowly capture the ocean more and more as time moved on. Eventually the sun found its way completely over the barren horizon and began to fade into a whiter texture as the skies became blue. After going through a dark orange to light orange to pink and finally into white phase, the sun ultimately worked its way higher and higher until blue dominated the sky.

High Noon - From the time the sun began to rise until just before lunch break, the sky went through a phase of changing from the light textures to a darker blue. The clouds began to appear with a touch of glare around the edges as the sun worked its way to its highest point, which was somewhere around 1:00 PM or so. This will be the longest part of the day without much change in the sky, so I will play around with different weather themes to see how they react to the new textures.

Adding a little rain to the equation has changed the previously bright blue skies to a dark and gloomy gray. The same glare that was once gleaming off of the clouds is now absorbed into the dark rain cloud textures. The ocean reflects much less of the sun, in fact, only the occasional break in the clouds yields any room for water glare.

 

Moving on to foggy settings has created a barrier thick between my aircraft and the sky above the fog. Though the clouds are gone, the fog still has gleams of light at inconsistent intervals, again allowing just a small touch of light to penetrate. The same went for all of the foul weather themes.

Dusk Sets In - After a long day of flying, I finally get the chance to watch the sun as it disappears over the western horizon. The orange glazing sun is sparkling off the water in shades ranging from light blue to white to orange and yellow. As the textures work their way closer to my aircraft, they become much darker until they reach pitch black off to the far east. The brighter orange textures begin to work their way to a darker and darker orange as time progresses until they finally fade away.

 

As the sun goes to bed, so do I. There is still much to be seen, but I figured it would be easier to see with my eyes open, so a brief nap seems to be in order. As I awoke, I expected to see white stars in a black sky, but that was only the beginning of what the night skies had to offer. To the west is an unexplainable maroon texture that covers the horizon for as far as I can see. This texture fades out to either side and never actually comes any closer to my aircraft.

Night Is Upon Us - As the night sky grew more dominating, I noticed that the maroon textures over the horizon began to expand slightly towards the east. The moon glows with a bright white light interrupted only by the occasional dark blue craters that I can see as I zoom closer. The stars remain bright and vivid until the storm clouds set in again. The brilliant moon reflects off the water directly in front of me, slowly moving to the west. The stars continue to light up the sky, seemingly without moving at all.

 

As night moves on, the moon becomes larger as it reaches its peak to the northwest of me. Eventually it began to fade smaller and smaller as the sun worked its way back around. The early morning skies between 4:30 and 5:00 AM were a complete change from the default textures as the moon lit the west, while the sun started to provide just a glimpse of a pink hue over the east horizon. Ultimately the sun took charge of the sky and began the cycle again.

Test System

Compaq Presario SR1232
AMD Athlon 2.2 GHz
2 GB Ram
NVIDIA Ge Force FX5500
StarLogic 21” Flat Panel Monitor @ 1024 X 768
CH USB Flight Yoke
CH USB Rudder Pedals
Saitek X52 Flight Control System
FTP 290 Throttle Quadrant
Bose 5:1 Surround Sound

Laptop
Toshiba Satellite
1.6 GHz Intel Celeron M
512 MB DDR2 SD Ram
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900

Flying Time:
44 hours

The Sun Sets On This Review

To be honest, I would define this add-on as being above par…not the best, not the worst, but very good. I would like to be more definitive in recommending this product, but it all comes down to a matter of taste. Some simmers like the traditional coastal sunsets while others prefer a little less orange on the horizon. Some of you may enjoy the dark sunrise textures fading lighter, while many like a morning haze. As for the day textures, I found them more convincing than by default, and probably as likeable as any other day textures I have seen. Night was again just a matter of opinion. The bold moon and star textures fit my taste, but may not enthuse others.

The screenshots have no opinion. They will show you the same thing I saw at different times of the day with different weather themes. All of these screenshots were taken with the scenery and weather settings set at high and ultra high. Since you already know what the default textures look like, you can compare what you are used to with the screenshots I have provided. I have not gone out of my way to find the most scenic places to take these screenshots; instead they are randomly selected from all over the globe.

Though I cannot recommend this add-on for everyone, I will say that in my opinion it does blow away the default textures, and I cannot imagine anybody being disappointed when compared to such. If, however, you have already installed a third-party set of sky textures, then I would take a good look at the screenshots I have provided, and those on the Real Sky website to see how they compare. Again, I believe that this particular aspect of Flight Sim is all a matter of personal taste.

One thing that I can suggest is that there is little, if any, chance that your frame rates will suffer in the least. After testing these textures on my standard review computer, a laptop, and my home cockpit, I can report that I never lost so much as a single frame per second. This also goes for the additional optional texture sets provided.

So to sum up my feelings towards this product, I will say that if you are still flying the default skies, than I would highly recommend giving this, or any add-on a shot, but considering the cost-value, I would try Real Sky first. (after the freeware products of course). Given how much this product can enhance Flight Simulator throughout the world, the EUR 12.49 leaves you with little too lose and a lot to gain.


 

What I Like About Real Sky
  • The optional texture sets allow you to alter the sky textures to your liking
  • All sky textures from sunrise to sunset, and even the night textures are much more realistic than default
  • The frame rates will not take a hit from this huge enhancement
  • The included weather themes are a nice change from the default weather

 
What I Don't Like About Real Sky
  • Just be careful during installation, the directory may not be set right

Printing

If you wish to print this review or read it offline at your leisure,  right click on the link below, and select "save as"

Real Sky

(adobe acrobat required)


 

Standard Disclaimer
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 provide you with background information on the reviewer and connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

Tell A Friend About this Review!

2006 - AVSIM Online
All Rights Reserved