AVSIM Commercial FSX Scenery Review

Massive photo real scenery
Western United States

Product Information

Publishers:  Sim Savvy

Description: Photo real scenery of the Western US States AZ, CA, CO, ID, WY, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT and WA.

Download Size:
N/A

Format:
Comes on a USB external HD
Simulation Type:
FSX
Reviewed by: Angelique van Campen AVSIM Senior Staff Reviewer - April 7, 2010

Introduction

Who should I introduce; myself or Larry Woodson? Let’s go this time for Larry Woodson although I think nobody, except for a limited group of his customers, knows who he is. Larry is the owner of Sim Savvy with his product - Massive Scenery.

Hi all, My name is Larry Woodson and I am a student pilot & I use FSX to practice, between real flying sessions. I obtained some photoreal scenery of my local area of Colorado, but I'm close to the border of New Mexico. I didn't think anyone would make photoreal scenery of New Mexico, so I learned to do it and made my first scenery. Next I made some more for my own pleasure and did all the way to Lake Powell, Arizona. When I finished three states, I got to thinking about sharing it with others. So I contacted three vendors and they showed a lot of interest, but things didn't quite work out because I was just feeling the market was not quite ready. After I finished the 11 western states, I had a product. My purpose was to distribute this scenery to other student pilots to use as I do. But the gaming simmers caught on to the product and they were concerned with additional things like resolution and enhancements as well as the quality of the product.

It doesn’t seem much, but I do the research & development, production & distribution, sales & advertising and finally, bookkeeping. I'm still trying to reach the student-pilot simmer market and to a certain extent I've made some progress, which encourages me.

And now here I am, fully into the vendor market. I've had some hurdles to overcome. Half of the cost of the product is the cost of the USB hard disk drive including national or international shipping. Currently while Angelique is writing her review, I'm completing the East Coast and have good prospects on the Central US. The price of my product will remain the same regardless of what it contains.

Current customers will receive all additions free of charge on a returnable flash drive. This process is up and running and is working well. As technology progresses and my product becomes obsolete, I will try to progress within the industry and continue to serve my loyal customers by providing them with the latest & greatest products available."

Ok, let’s offer some information about this product and I want to emphasize that this review ONLY covers the 11 Western US states.
This is daytime FSX scenery without water masks or other enhancements. For your information; 20% of Nevada (Military Operational Area) is unavailable and therefore satellite photos were substituted.

This scenery was generated from aerial photos taken by the USDA National Agricultural Imagery Program and are in the public domain distributed by the individual states themselves. The quality was determined by flight conditions when they were taken and they have been semi-enhanced and color corrected. Due to size and time restraints, they are not fully enhanced. You will see differences in the images due to the flight patterns at different times of day.

According to Larry he’s focusing on quantity at this time. In total – February 2010 - TWO MILLION square miles of photoreal Scenery for FSX.
First there’s the AMERICAN WEST with 11 STATES and over one million square miles. It covers the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Then there’s the AMERICAN EAST COAST (not covered in this review) with 23 States and over 750,000 square miles. The following states are included: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia.

What can and shall I add to the above? Honestly I don’t know and I think it’s more important to check if it’s competitive with others. Don’t forget that PC Aviator brings MegaSceneryEarth to the market although I’ve got the idea this is more expensive then Massive Scenery. We all know the FS2004 and FSX MegaScenery area and city products. All come with a high quality, so no doubts this is the same for MegaSceneryEarth.

Now it’s up to me to find out the quality of the Massive Scenery product from Sim Savvy. On the Sim Savvy website potential buyers are already informed that the product is without water masks - or other enhancements. Furthermore, they have been semi-enhanced and color corrected, but due to size and time restraints, they are not fully enhanced. This means you will see differences in the images due to the flight patterns at different times of day. I would say this is an excuse for a payware product, but I think it’s also a matter of price/quality. Time to check!

Test System

Intel Core Extreme i7-965 3.2Ghz
6GB Tri-Channel DDR3 1600Mhz
EVGA GTX-285 For the Winner
Triple WD VelociRaptor 300GB HDD
Single WD 1TB HDD
Windows 7 Ultimate X64
Flight Simulator FSX SP2
Saitek Pro Flight System
TrackerIR Pro 4
TrackerClip Pro

Flying Time:
70 hours

Installation, FSX configuration and documentation

This process is special because no installer is supplied. That’s strange, no installer? Does it mean you need to install the scenery files manually into FSX? None of this! So, that’s a quick answer and no more is coming. No, that’s ridiculous since there’s much more.

I know, I said it before; this review covers 11 Western US states, which covers in total over one million square miles. Because of the use of photorealistic material, the overall size is huge. Huge means it comes, in my case, on a 375GB hard disk drive (HDD). A quick look on the USB powered HDD tells me that it holds a folder MassiveScenery, which contains the following Western US states;

- Arizona (AZ),
- California (CA),
- Colorado (CO),
- Idaho, (IA)
- Montana (MT),
- Nevada (NV),
- New Mexico (NM),
- Oregon (OR),
- Utah (UT),
- Washington (WA),
- Wyoming (WY).

Having a look in one of the folders, it seems there’s a second folder, named Scenery. It seems these folders should be installed in the main FSX Scenery folder or probably under the Add-on Scenery one. Anyway, reading the Word document doesn’t really help me, although after reading it three times and consulting Larry (Sim Savvy), it turns out that you don’t need to install these folders/files on your own HDD.

Ok, the product itself coming on a HDD makes sense, because these massive Western scenery files are all together 157GB. As far as my knowledge goes, there’s no other media available to offer this software, therefore Sim Savvy uses a hard disk.

Back to our installation. Because of the massive size, the idea is that you don’t install this on your own HDD. If your HDD is big enough, feel free to do it of course, but the idea of this is that you leave the Sim Savvy USB HDD connected to your computer or wherever you’ve connected it to.

hen within the FSX Scenery Library, you point (remove link) towards the scenery folders on the external USB HDD. I think this makes sense since it saves a lot of HDD space and that’s the whole idea. In my situation - using only a 300GB WD Velociraptor disk for FSX - this is a good solution otherwise my HDD would be full before I know it.

The only problem is how to do all of this! The supplied document is not clear at all. Let’s show you what’s written in that Word document or text file: “Load each state individually, directly from the Sim-Savvy USB hard drive”. I’m aware that I’m not the youngest anymore and although I’ve got a lot of MSFS experience, my brains are degrading day by day – almost 50 years young – but this description is not helping me at all.

Young flight simmers probably know what this means, but it wouldn’t do any harm when the description was a little more detailed and it wouldn’t be a bad idea when some examples were giving of how to do this. You could say, let’s have a look on the Massive Scenery website, but I can tell you that won’t help at all. I’m sorry, but the website seems to be not finished yet. Lots of information is missing like how it’s made, the resolution of the photorealistic scenery, a forum why things are supplied on a HDD, help files etc. Oops, there’s a forum, but it seems to be very quiet!

As I said before; you don’t need to install these files on your own HDD, but you simply leave them on the supplied disk and link the Scenery Library regions to it. Doing this is another problem when you own Windows 7. By the way; it could be that the following is also applicable for Vista users. When a scenery installer modifies the scenery.cfg (configuration) file, it’s no problem, but the problem pops-up when you need to do it yourself.

oogling around offers enough solutions, which work, but it wasn’t a bad idea when Larry offered this to potential customers as well. Anyway, that’s my opinion.

It’s not the intention of writing a complete tutorial of how to do it, but since there’s nothing that helps those who aren’t familiar with these things, a short description won’t hurt.

Ok, here we go …….... step-by-step procedure with Windows 7.

- Connect the supplied Massive Scenery USB HDD directly to your PC or any other USB hub and leave it connected,
- Via FS menu “World” go to “Scenery Library”,
- Click the Add area button on the right,
- Pictures I and II
In the “Look in” dropdown box, pointy to the external Massive Scenery HDD till you see the folder “MassiveScenery”,
- Picture III
Double click the MassiveScenery folder. The result is a listing of all the available US states,
- Double click on the first US state, which is in my situation ARIZONA,
- When you’ve done this, you should see in the Look in window “ARIZONA” and directly below under Name “Scenery”. Underneath the white area, you’ll see “X:\MassiveScenery\ARIZONA” in the directory field whereas “X” reflect the connected and assigned USB drive letter,
- Leave the name in the Scenery area title as it is as well as “Use this scenery directly”,
- For non Windows 7 users (and probably Vista as well), click to OK button. This will store the added area,
- Picture IV
For Windows 7 users or at least I had this problem, and it seems a general Microsoft issue; remove manually from the directory field the word ARIZONA or the US state you where adding. This means this line should show than “X:\MassiveScenery\”,
- Picture V
When you now click the OK button, the ARIZONA state is saved under Windows 7. Again, this different procedure, saving an area, is only applicable for Windows 7 users,
- Follow the above step for all the other US states,
- Picture VI

Ready? There’s one last thing you need to do, which is by the way, in the documentation. Move the US state ARIZONA above NEVADA by using the Move Up button on the right. This is needed for correct border visualization between these two states. I can tell you already that when you haven’t done this, you will see the “wrong” output in FSX.

Oops, that’s a little more text than planned, but nevertheless, when it helps others it’s ok for me. Find for your convenience some screenshots below, belonging to the above step-by-step procedure. I’ll say it again; when you’re own internal MSFS HDD is large enough, you can store all the areas directly on that one. Personally I think when you have the internal space, it always quicker to access then by an external HDD.

picture I picture II picture III
picture IV picture V picture VI
Screenshots belonging to the step-by-step procedure how to install the scenery areas to FSX. The description is based on a Windows 7 platform. Adding and saving areas is for some reason not working as with Windows XP. Therefore additional advice is given. Feel free to Google for more information.

FSX Configuration

According to the Word document, Larry shows his FSX resolution and scenery settings, which are:
Resolution: 1024x768
Frame Rate: Unlimited
NO: Anti-aliasing
Virtual 3-D: High Resolution

Scenery: Level of Detail Radius - Large
Mesh Complexity: 50
Mesh Resolution: 38m
Texture Resolution: 2m
Water Effects: None
Scenery Objects: Off
Water & Traffic: Keep Simple

Later on, I found out with his help that this is not necessary. It all depends on your PC and the performance. I was personally choked by the 1024x768 resolution, since I normally use 1920x1200. This is again something that needs to be available on the website and of course, in the supplied Word or text document. It could confuse people and only results in unnecessary questions by email. With this email information, I returned all my sliders back to their previous position.

Understood? Depending on your PC specs, you can leave the sliders where they were. One last item where Larry warns you; don’t activate all the Massive Scenery areas in your Scenery Library. When doing so, it will result in long loading times in FSX, although with my PC specs I didn’t have any problems with this, but again, this is different for everybody so I would suggest to just try!

Documentation

Last but not least; the manual. Manual and/or text file is unfortunately very weak. The Word document is only one page, with limited information and the required configuration settings. Nothing is said about what happens when you use other photo-real products, UTX (Ultimate Terrain X) and/or GEX (Ground Environment X).

Larry informed me about this item as follows; “I've also been told in the forums that it works well with the other products including the ones you mentioned. Basically, the highest resolution wins out and lies on top of the other. If they are both the same resolution, then the higher placement in the FSX scenery list will win out for display”.

As far as my knowledge goes, photo-real sceneries are like a blanket on top of the default FSX scenery. Because of this, anything underneath it is gone and then in particular programs which changed the default ground texture tiles. During one of my flights over the Massive Scenery, this is clearly visible that none of the original scenery tiles are left. Is this a problem? Let’s see and judge later in this review!

Altogether a little longer section than normal, but every review is different and the outcome can never be predicted, not even for me! I think it’s now time to see how it looks, since I haven’t a clue. I’m aware that photo-real sceneries look very blurry at low altitudes and that it’s also advisable to select FSX “Options – Settings - Display” graphics tab “Filtering” to Anisotropic.

Crossing California

One of the largest areas. Depending on my planned speed, I’ll need to check which airplane I should take as well as the assigned cruising altitude. Some shots will be from 3000 feet, some from 6000’ and finally from 10.000’. I know now already that the lower I fly, the more blurry the landscape will look and therefore, it’s a good idea to test this by using different altitudes. Oops, I almost forgot … all the images are made during the summer of 2009 at 1.00 PM or is it 13:00 local time, and with fair weather conditions.

The first set of images is taken at an altitude of 3000 feet, entering San Francisco Bay. To do this, I followed the coastline in a southern direction, until I reached the Golden Gate Bridge. Especially for the Golden Gate Bridge images, you can clearly see that anything else below – the default FSX scenery - the photo-real scenery, is gone. I’m pretty sure about this, since I reviewed Ultimate Terrain X USA with/without Ground Environment Enhanced USA/Canada years ago.

The area south of the Golden Gate Bridge doesn’t look very nice to be honest (picture IV, V and VI). Others will probably say horrible, but I think these words don’t belong in AVSIM reviews. We always need to remember that scenery - and/or airplane - developers do their best. One is more successful than the other and some are just new and need to learn how to create things.

Anyway, the area south of the Golden Gate Bridge is clearly of low quality photo material. I can remember my images from UTX/GEX and although not real photo proof, they were much better and sharper. Enough, let’s first show you these sets of images.

picture I

It seems something is wrong with the coastline or waves.

picture II

Still not sharp and as said before, a strange coastline border of the Massive Scenery versus the real FSX sea

picture III

On the bottom part of the image it looks like there’s a misalignment between the photoreal scenery coast and the spit of land

picture IV

A good example where a photoreal scenery isn’t always a good idea!

picture V

The residence area makes sense and said before, but I’m more worrying about the coastline.

picture VI
Overall impression for the San Francisco Bay is not good at all. I’m aware that low altitude flying over photoreal sceneries is not a good idea, but here we’re flying at an altitude of 3000 feet! Apart of the coastline waves, misalignment of land and sea, even the suburbs don’t look nice at all.

While you’re still looking at those San Francisco screenshots, I’ll continue with my flight in a southerly direction towards Los Angeles. On my way with a little help of SLEW, I’m facing more mountains than before and due to this, it seems it’s becoming all a little better or is it because of the higher altitude? Remember, I’m flying now at an altitude of 6000 feet, which for VFR is not exceptional high. It seems while approaching the Los Angeles area, the overall view is good, however some ground textures look very sandy colored. This means that the roads and houses have a sand color, much more than normal.

What’s good and what’s bad? That’s the question and I don’t have an answer on that. It could be that the raw imaging material is not that optimum as you hoped for. There’s another thing I saw on the middle lower screenshot. To see this, click picture VIII below and I’m wondering if you see what I mean?

Clearly you can see that there’s a base ground color difference between different ground texture tiles. Behind the mountains there’s a totally different tile color (looks like light brown) while the forward mountain area is more normal colored (the border runs like a diagonal from the RH upper corner to the lower LH corner). Those ground texture tiles have different base colors, it’s not a problem however, as it’s up to the developer to see if it’s possible to modify this or to Photoshop it. If nothing is done, the result looks like this and it’s not even that bad, but later on in the review other examples are worse!

picture VII picture VIII picture IX
Mountain range, north of Los Angeles. In general I’m happy with the way it looks, even with the small glitches. While writing this down, I’m aware of the notes given on the website, but for me this should not be an excuse. Try improving or if needed, try to correct the color balance or overexpose with, for example, Adobe PhotoShop

In-between conclusion: My first US state wasn’t a success, to be honest. Around the San Francisco area along the coastline, I found many misalignments, ground texture colors far from real and although flying at 3000 feet, in some cases blurry landscapes. The limited Los Angeles area I flew showed me at least better mountains, and it all seems sharper. It is my feeling that there’s too much sandy color and thus not always reflecting the real world.

This flight impression covered only 20% of the whole California state and with a resolution of 2 meters/pixel, I could ask myself if this is not too low for FSX. Just to give you an idea; recent MegaSceneryX Southern California used a resolution of 1.19 meters per pixel and this is already a year ago. Even the newer MegaSceneryEarth is still using 1.19 meters per pixel.

Anyway, there are many other developers around who also use this 2 meters per pixel, so it’s not unusual. Long story short; time to move on to another US state which is familiar to me; Arizona.

Flying high above the Grand Canyon

Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon don’t represent the whole Arizona state, but for me it’s important, since I flew here. The plan is that I’ll start from KLAS (Las Vegas), fly a around in this area a little and then head for the Grand Canyon. I’ll do this at an altitude of 6000 feet, hoping for better textures. My first impression of Las Vegas area is not positive. It seems to me that the ground textures are way too light and although I do understand that a sandy ground during at a hot, sunny day does reflect and could distort the normal colors, this looks unnatural.

What can you do about it? Only the developer could do something about this. On the other hand, what you could do on your own is not my issue. I’m just a reviewer, comparing flight simulator ground textures with real Google Earth images. I’m aware that these will never be the same as those from Google Earth and you never really get what you want. Before I’ll continue with my Arizona travel. Let’s have a look at the following images taken at 6000 feet, from Las Vegas to the end of the famous Grand Canyon.

picture I picture II picture III
picture IV picture V picture VI
You can judge for yourself, but some highlighted notes are welcome. Picture III unfortunately shows a nice border of two different ground texture tiles. The RH side is well balanced, but the upper part is overexposed and more or less useless for flying around. Picture II shows again the same problem we have seen at San Francisco Bay. Here it’s not a problem between FSX simulated water and the photo image. No, here the problem is the blending between different photo real ground textures. Is it nice? No, not at all! The rest of the images are OK although pictures V and VI representing the inner Grand Canyon, could be much better. At least; I’ve seen better results!

It’s a 50-50 enthusiast hurray! Yes, in and around the massive mountains of the Grand Canyon it looks real, which is not strange because of the use of digital material. Some vertical rocks look strange, but I think this is one of the problems to expect. Another problem facing some of the pictures is the totally wrong colors of the different tiles or used photo-real material sections. One section offers an average looking color balance, while the one next of it is too light. That’s not the first time I’ve seen this. This is probably a logical result when using real digital material, however when you have to pay for the product, you expect that the developer tried to correct for these extremes.

Another problem is the Colorado river. This is a direct consequence of using photo real material where the river is just an “imaged” river and not real. Ok, it was once real before the picture was taken, but now it’s just an imaged river. This is what you’ve seen before as well, the same with lakes and coastlines. There we noticed another problem; where the photo-real scenery stops and where the FSX ocean begins. This was not always at the same point, resulting in strange situations.

Ok, back to the Grand Canyon. Although this review covers the photo real scenery from Sim Savvy, it’s easy for me to compare it with other vendors like MegaSceneryEarth or with Ground Environment Enhanced USA/Canada. As said before; I also reviewed Flight1’s Grand Canyon and as far as I remember, the GEX team is busy making an upgraded set – version 1.09, which is free for registered users - for the USA. I’ve already seen some results on their forum.

We need to remember that GEX Enhanced USA is not a photo-real scenery, although photo-real material is used for the many ground texture tiles. Anyway, looking at the Grand Canyon I’m partly impressed and have the idea that not much effort was put into the material itself. Even though this is the 2nd Massive Scenery area I’m visiting, the misalignments or failures are the same.

In my opinion, a little overexposed or was the original photo material not very good? That’s something I don’t know, but what I do know and see, is the end result. We’ve seen it before, but here again – LH screenshot - the same problem with borders between different ground texture tiles illumination.

Since 6000 feet in and around the Grand Canyon is pretty low, I decided to climb to 12,000 feet (see the set of three screenshots above), giving me the possibility of making additional images. Hoping that these are a little better and more consistent than what I’ve seen at lower altitudes. Problems that I’ve seen, like the different colored tiles stay the same, areas or tiles which are overexposed also stay the same.

This “overexposed” tile can be slightly reduce by selecting another time of the day; either early morning or late afternoon. I’m also aware that this is not the way it should be done, because the tile should never be overexposed, but this is at least what you can do for the moment.
Let’s move on to another US state; Washington. I’ve never been there, so let’s cross my fingers.

Washington: state of Boeing, Microsoft and much more …..

This time I’ll start at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Flying from Boeing Everett airfield in a southerly direction. After a while it’s time for a right or left hand turn, which leads us back in the direction of Seattle. I’m aware that the state of Washington is a little more than this short trip, but the general failures I’ve seen so far would pop up if there.

The first screenshots I made where not too bad to be honest. No strange coastlines, no different colored ground texture tiles, nothing of that. Ok, with the 2 meters per pixel resolution, you could ask yourself if the “ground look” is something to be happy with. I know I’m critical and not easily satisfied with what I see. I’m always aware that it could be better, but at the same time I also know that the source material is not enough and nothing else is available or the Flight Simulator version doesn’t allow you to go into the extremes. Whatever the problem is, mismatched tiles are a matter of being more critical, while this US state seems, as far as I’ve flown at 10,000 feet, pretty good.

First a set of images taken of Washington state on a sunny day.

Mercer Island and Seattle Ground texture colors are within limits, but not all tiles are loaded Some overexposed spots due to “real” sunlight?
Very nice view of Mt. Rainier Overview area with correct colored ground texture tiles Well balanced image

As you can see for yourself, it’s much better than the problems I faced during my experience with California and Arizona/Nevada. If, after study, you don’t like the ground texture images, that’s something I can’t help you with. Ultimate Terrain X, in combination with Ground Environment X Enhanced USA, is a totally different way of creating ground texture views.

It offers better and sharper results; however it’s based on relocating replaced ground texture tiles and therefore what you see is not always the reality, except for the modifications made by UTX USA. It’s always a wrestling party for every flight simmer. What will it be; real photo scenery, keeping in mind the overall photo quality or replaced ground texture tiles with much better results, but not representing reality.

In-between conclusion: The problems I’ve seen with the two other states are not applicable to this one. That doesn’t mean all is ok, since I can’t check every square mile. That will be too much, but for now it’s ok. It reflects – of course – the real Washington with all of its roads, rivers, lakes, airports, and whatever else I’ve forgotten.

When you’re PC can handle it and you tune your fsx.cfg, you’re able to load more ground textures for close and far distances, which makes the photo real sensation even better. I didn’t do all of that, so what you see is what you could expect. I told you before that all my FSX sliders are set to maximum, which is not always available to others.

Something else; all the screenshots so far are not PhotoShop’ed. They are real with no color correction or whatever is possible, except for the header image. I could continue in this way, checking state by state, but that will become boring and because of that statement, I’ll try to find a flight that covers most of the states at a flight altitude between 6000 and 14,000 feet. With this cross country flight, I hope to offer you a final view of the Massive Scenery from Sim Savvy.

X-country above Sim Savvy’s Western US States

With all the US maps in my hand, I decided to make the following cross country flight: Departing from the Seattle (Washington State) area – not knowing which airport yet – in a south east direction. I’ll try to follow the highway to Boise City, by crossing the US states Oregon and Idaho. From Boise City our route continues to Salt Lake City, which is situated, for those who aren’t familiar with these states, in Utah.

After a fuel stop, coffee, chocolate or tea and whatever else can be found here, we fly via Provo to Denver in Colorado. It seems a long and boring trip, but I can tell you already, it won’t be! The whole idea of this trip is just to cross a couple of Massive Scenery states and see how this works out. Some glitches and mismatches we’ve seen, but what’s important for me is the overall look.

Ready to go … I am, so hurry up or else you’ll be too late to sit in the back.

Our flight - Seattle-Boise City-Salt Lake City-Provo-Denver (US states Washington-Oregon-Idaho-Utah-Colorado)

As written before, but now in a little more in detail; we depart from Renton Municipal Airport (KRNT), pick up the I-90 to Ellensburg, where the I-90 splits and we continue following the I-(97)/82 to Yakima, Kennewick and on to Hermiston. Not directly located at the Interstate, but in the area of Hermiston, we follow the I-30/84 south via Baker City, Nampa to Boise City.

From Boise City we keep following the I-30/84 and when we arrive at or around Rupert, we go south following the I-84 to Salt Lake City. I’ve never been there, but a good landmark is Great Salt Lake.

Time to move on; via the I-15 we pass in a southern direction the city of Provo, where I think it’s a good idea to leave the I-15 and either we keep flying on a heading of 180 more or less where we could pick up the I-50/70 in a westerly direction to Denver.

I didn’t mark anything on these thumbnails and even when I did, you could see and read it. Therefore, click on the thumbnails and for more information simple follow the ViaMichelin website link. More logical would be to choose the Rand McNally roadmaps, but for some reason I couldn’t get what I wanted, therefore I chose Michelin.

I hope you’re able to follow what I’ve just written. If you’re lost; don’t worry. I’ll take care that you won’t be lost in the American jungle.
Time to jump into our default Beechcraft King Air 350.

Ok boys and girls; it’s early in the morning, building storms have been selected via the FSX menu …... oops ……... actually we have building storms activated via REX, and it seems that our rented Beechcraft King Air 350 is parked at parking position 14 at Renton Municipal Airport (KRNT). For those who aren’t familiar here; Renton Municipal lies south of Mercer Island or directly south of Lake Washington. Lake Washington itself, lies on the right hand side of Seattle.

Don’t worry if you’re lost. I’ve attached with the first screenshot of this flight, a small map that should help you. Here’s the plan; take off will be from runway 33, we’ll try to keep the lake on our right hand side, crossing Mercer Island and hopefully we’re high enough that we can see and pickup the I-90. The reason I’m writing this has to do with the blurry ground textures at low altitude. You’re ready?

KRNT (Renton Municipal Airport)-Mercer Island-I-90-Riverband

While all the final checks are done, flight papers, Michelin car route maps and sectional charts next to me, I’m ready. Lucky for me, takeoff is from runway 33, which means after TO, there’s a slow turn to the left, flying between the island and mainland. Here we go. Full throttle, commencing takeoff.

Looking around me – oops, not me sorry, but my friends – the hills look unbelievably blurry and you could ask yourself if these bumps are photo real hills? Anyway, that’s the same for the surrounding area just after takeoff. This is, by the way, not a problem of Massive Scenery since this is a problem in general with all photo real sceneries. It depends a little on the ground texture meters/pixels quality, but you could say that this is a problem for at least the first 1000 feet.

Above this altitude, it should become better. In the meantime, I’m flying between the mainland, with Seattle on my left, and the island on the right. Although it’s an early morning, the ground textures don’t look too good and this time I’m not referring to the blurriness, but to the overexposed textures. While climbing out at 6000 feet, which is our first planned altitude, it’s time to make a sharp right hand turn where we can pick up the I-90.

Even with the overexposed Seattle area, the I-90 is clearly visible. Climbing through 2800 feet, I leave the island behind me and the only thing I see is the I-90. You can’t miss it to be honest. The suburbs, the green hills together with the REX building storms textures, give it a realistic view. It’s a shame – I know, I’ve said it before - that these ground textures over here are overexposed and because of that, the real Seattle is not as real as it could be. We could think and talk more about that, but let’s move on and see what more is coming. Some local glitches should not distract me or you!

Takeoff from Renton Municipal Airport, with a photoreal hill behind, which doesn’t look impressive. Mainland with Seattle. It seems to me that the used ground texture is overexposed. Via Michelin road map close-up, used for the initial climb.
Passing through 2800 feet and just taking a right hand turn. See Mercer Island and Interstate 90 Passing through 5500 feet and approaching Riverbend. Entering the mountain area at 6000 feet and of course, as far as possible we need to climb.
VFR flight part “KRNT (Renton Municipal Airport)-Mercer Island-I-90-Riverband”.

Just before reaching our final altitude, we’ve got a nice view of Riverbend. A small city before entering the mountain area. Altogether it offers me and you a nice screenshot. You can clearly see the photoreal blanket on the mountains and valley. With the weather added to it, the jigsaw seems complete. The only negative item for these screenshots is the overall quality of the ground textures. That could be of a higher quality or those had to be modified / corrected against overexposure.

Snoqualmie National Forest-Ellensburg-Yakima-Whitman National Forest

Our first large city will be Yakima, but I can tell you, there’s a lot in between that is worth showing you. I’m aware that this section of the review will show you too many screenshots. On the other hand, the review discusses the Sim Savvy photo real scenery and because of this, you need to get the correct impression of what to expect if you decide to buy it.

Via Snoqualmie National Forest, we move on at an altitude of roughly 6000 feet to Ellensburg, where the I-90 splits itself into the I-82/97 in a southern direction. From this point, we follow the southern route to Yakima. If you zoom-in on the ViaMichelin maps, you can see every detail what’s coming up on your virtual route and when the photo ground texture quality is good enough, you can pinpoint each map detail. As with most photo real sceneries, they become superior at higher altitudes. The disadvantage of this is the longer and limited loading time of all these ground textures, and that in turn depends on your PC specs.

As you can see in the Yakima pictures, the landscape looks pretty good, in fact, very good. I can’t see any overexposed spots, it’s sharp and the colors look real or at least as far as I can judge. Although the suburbs and Yakima itself looks like a flat populated area, it still looks nice and not unrealistic. Together with the limited mountains and their color, I’m happy seeing this. It makes it even better with the simulated haze and REX clouds formations.

But we can’t wait here; we need to move on since there’s a lot more flying to do. Along the route to Kennewick and the Columbia River, I made many shots and what you see below is just a limited collection, but I can tell you, those screenshots reflect all the others I made. For some reason I don’t have any shots from Kennewick. No idea why I didn’t make anything.

Ok, Kennewick is not directly located along the Interstate, but from an altitude of 6000 feet, that shouldn’t be a problem. A little further along the route, I made some shots close to the Columbia River and after passing this, the Interstate junction of the I-82 and I-30/84. Along the I-30/84 it’s not far before we reach Pendleton. While writing this, I’m thinking about a Canadian city in B.C. that has the same name, but unfortunately, my brains are not correct anymore. The Canadian city I had in mind was Pemberton, on the route from Vancouver-Whistler- Lillooet. Pemberton versus Pendleton!

Further downstream from Pendleton we reach one of the national parks located in Oregon. I’ve only seen a few during my cross country trip, but there’s much more here. Unfortunately I can’t show you every corner of each supplied US state.

Ellensburg, just before the I-90 and I-82/97 splits itself Moon landscape or …….Somewhere along the I-82/97 Suburb of Yakima on the north side of the mountains
Oops, who’s that?
Yakima (Washington)
I know it’s the Earth, but it could be the Moon. Taken somewhere along the I-82 to Kennewick What kind of circles are those? Aliens? Shot taken along the I-82 just before the Columbia River
Near the city of Hermiston with, clearly visible the I-82 (middle) and I-30/84 (left-right) What ….Pendleton?
Indeed, just before reaching several national forests.
Impression of Whitman National Forest. This is, by the way, one of the many forests in Oregon.
VFR flight part “Snoqualmie National Forest-Ellensburg-Yakima-Whitman National Forest”.
Some ground textures during this stretch are unfortunately not optimal, but the overall view and real flight sensation is worth what I’ve seen.

Boise City-Heyburn-Snake River

Let’s make life easier, let me give you a small map of the area to discuss this… more or less. After Pendleton, we cross one of the national parks as you can see on one of the above screenshots, before approaching Boise City. There’s of course something in between, but I have to make certain decisions, otherwise I could stop writing and show you only a slide show. I hardly believe you’d be happy with that.

Near the city of Bliss (you can hardly find it on the map), which seems to me not more than a few houses, a petrol station and a local supermarket, is a junction of three roads; our I-84, and the highways 30 and 26. It’s not that difficult to figure out which one we need to follow. While we’re flying high, clearly we can see the Snake River on our right hand side as well as highway 30. You could say that flying around here is a little boring. There’s nothing other than sand, sand and some alien circles. Oops, no aliens here, but agriculture.

One thing that pops up is the different ground texture colors, which seems to me not as it should be. If this photo real material (pictures IV and VI) is overexposed or having the wrong color balance, that’s something I leave in the middle. Especially the ground acres on picture VI, it doesn’t look good at all. I also have no idea if this is something that can be corrected. As far as my Adobe Photoshop knowledge goes, you should be able to a certain extent, adjust the output colors. On the other hand, that’s a lot of work and it’s up to the developer if he or she wants to put this effort into it.

With the landscape moving away underneath us, we clearly see the I-84 with highway 93 junctions. Not directly visible on picture V, but somewhere in the middle right corner should be Twin Falls. I think I’ve forgotten all those screenshots, but on the other hand, flying by hand costs too much effort. The ground texture “impression” is of course changing every minute while moving on, but it seems this area doesn’t offer the correct balanced colors and at some spots, it even looks like the overall sharpness is not what is was before. If this is the result of overexposure I don’t know. Up to now I can live with it as long as you’re aware that not every spot is perfect, but who’s perfect?

The I-84/25 – it seems this Interstate is constantly changing numbers – is now heading in a easterly direction and on our way, we pass the cities of Heyburn and Burly, with the Snake River sometimes crossing highway 24 before moving in a south-east direction towards Ogden, Layton and Salt Lake City.

Section of ViaMichelin map picture II
Boise City
picture III
I-84 with highway 26-30
picture IV picture V
X-crossing I-84 / highway 93
picture VI
picture VII
The cities Heyburn and Burly with one each side the Snake River
picture VIII
Heyburn with I-84 - highway 24
picture IX
Snake River
VFR flight part “Boise City-Heyburn-Snake River”. I enjoyed this flight section, but as you can see on most of the screenshots, the green farmland looks strange and is either overexposed or there’s a color unbalance. Overexposure is for sure the case with pictures VII and VIII. That’s pity!

Ogden-Layton-Salt Lake City-Provo

While my flight continues, we need to climb to a higher level. When we don’t do this, we’re flying too low and not that this is a problem, but the problem will be the blurry look of the ground textures. Remember what I said in the beginning; when you fly too low, the photo real ground textures become unnecessary blurry and that’s not fun. On the sectional Michelin map you can see what to expect and when you don’t like this, than surf to the ViaMichelin website.

Approaching an altitude of 10,000 feet gives us a better view of the ground textures including those which are not well colored. Look for example to picture XII. Here you’ll see a transition from one ground texture tile to another. There’s not even a reason to mark where the problem is, since it’s clearly visible on the thumbnail. These glitches you will find unfortunately more than expected. Honestly, I’ve no idea how many ground texture tiles a US state consist of or if you’re able to correct these with Photoshop. I know, a lot is possible with PS, but if all of this can be corrected I don’t know. What I do know or see, is that for me not much attention is given to these huge exposure differences, assuming correction is possible.

Although there’s a lot to see between the Snake River and Salt Lake City, I needed to reduce the amount of images. Nevertheless, what I offer you is a well balanced collection of well exposed screenshots and a few of which could be better.

The lower set of images (picture XIII, XVI and XV) offer a real and natural look and it seems to me that those are sharp as well. Remember, all these screenshots are slightly compressed JPG files and they don’t reflect the same sharpness as I see while flying through this area. Salt Lake City downtown is unfortunately not visible because of the cloud formation. Believe me; I’ve seen it in a split second. Not applicable for the airport, but clearly visible with all its ins and outs and by the way, it’s just the default FSX airport.

Further south we reach Provo. For me all those cities look the same, which is also the result of the similar way they are situated and built. Something else ….. Lake Utah. It’s not easy to see on thumbnail picture XV, and therefore you need to click on it to get the large image. Once you clicked on it, you’ll see on the right hand middle side a dark green spot; this is the photo real lake. Not new since we’ve seen this before. I’m so happy that Salt Lake City lies behind us. It means Denver is within arm’s reach.

Section of ViaMichelin map picture XI
The I-84 from 10.000 feet altitude. Not bad at all!
picture XII
This doesn’t look good! A wrong color transition of textures.
picture XIII
Somewhere along the Interstate 84/30 or the I-15. I’m lost!
picture XIV
Northern Salt Lake City with their airport
picture XV
Finally Provo. I can see Denver already from here!
VFR flight part “Ogden-Layton-Salt Lake City-Provo”.

Provo-Grand Junction-Denver

What I completely forgot was to check the maps for the correct cruising altitude. It’s easy to say that I needed to climb to at least 14,000 feet, otherwise I’m somewhere inside the mountain. The problem is that I’ve never been to Denver and because of that, I wasn’t aware of its elevation.
In case you’re not familiar with Denver; The City and County of Denver is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Colorado. Denver is a city-county located in the South Platte River Valley on the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Denver is nicknamed the "Mile-High City" because its official elevation is exactly one mile, or 5,280 feet above sea level.

Great plans, and although I’m looking forward to an American beer, we still have a long way to go. Via the I-15 South we pass the Uinta National Park on our left hand side and if we want, we could make a short cut via highway 50, which connects the I-50/70 to Denver. The only problem I’m facing is to find that road. For some reason I missed it, which means we have to fly much further south until we get to junction I-70. Along the route so far, the ground textures are pretty good, which means no color problems or overexposed tiles. Currently we see from an altitude of 12,000 feet the I-70 junction, we make a gentle left hand turn and try to follow the last Interstate.

While following this, we see on our left and right hand side the Fishlake National Forests. Our journey continues via Fishlake, crossing the Green River, Crescent Junction with highway 191, Fruita and finally Grand Junction. You could ask yourself why Grand Junction is so special.

First of all; it lies in the middle of the I-70 from the moment we picked up this Interstate and because the Colorado River flows here. It flows in a way similar to Arizona, known as the Grand Canyon. Only difference is that the Grand Canyon over here is not as deep as it is over there.

evertheless, it’s great to see this from our cruising altitude, and while our last part is really ending; it’s time to climb for a last time to 14,000 feet. This gives us a great view of all the mountains, but unfortunately we still can’t see Denver.

Until now, I’m impressed by the ground texture tiles. I haven’t seen any anomalies, but it seems I’m too quick. While flying somewhere between Grand Junction and Denver, there’s again a color difference between tiles. Just have a look at picture XXI. It’s not a shocking difference, but visible. The remainder of the flight shows me some overexposed tiles, however the overall look is good. Just before Denver, there’s one last lake near the city of Dillon and then …….. finally; civilization!

Section of ViaMichelin map picture XVI
Grand Junction 12000 feet
picture XVII
Leaving Grand Junction
picture XVIII
Colorado River and Interstate
picture XIX
See the difference between two ground texture tiles
picture XX
Somewhere in the mountains, heading for Denver
picture XXI
Wheeler Junction I-70-6 versus highway 91
picture XXII
Dillon Reservoir at the I-70
picture XXIII
Finally, Denver!
VFR flight part “Provo-Grand Junction-Denver”. Last but not least; Denver, here I come!

In-between impression? This was not an easy flight. Not because of the ground textures used, but simply because of the distance and the constant cross checking with the Michelin roadmaps. Because it was a VFR cross country flight at a higher than normal altitude, I didn’t use any beacons or whatever is possible. I also didn’t use the GPS, and a part of that, I’m wondering if the default Beechcraft is equipped with it. I did it all with the help of a roadmap and more important, the photo real ground texture tiles.

During this trip I’ve seen very good / realistic ground texture tiles, but also some which are overexposed, or with a wrong color balance while at some places the ground texture tile border was clearly visible between the two texture tiles. Those overexposed images resulted sometimes in not so sharp results. Not always a pleasure to look at. Those images with the light blue/green farmland circles are really a pity. It now seems that I didn’t like it at all. That’s absolutely not correct, the VFR flight was fun.

What more?

Nothing except… That’s an unbelievably short answer, and that’s not me. During the writing, testing and the many cups of coffee, I had several mail writings with Larry Woodson, the developer of Sim Savvy. Let’s give you some highlights of the mail.

Installation of the Scenery files

Normally, a scenery add-on is copied to the FSX scenery directory by the installer if there is one. Then the user is instructed to load the scenery from inside FSX. The same is true for my scenery; you just don't copy the files over to your hard drive. The scenery runs off the supplied hard disk. So in FSX you add the scenery by making your way through the directory structure and you highlight and load each state individually.

It is a bit tedious to do this 11 times, but there is a reason. The 11 states amount to 155G worth of data. Having started working on the US East Coast there will be 100G more. That's why it comes on a 500G drive so as not to fill up the local hard drive. And the states are loaded individually for performance reasons. My system will handle about 7 states at a time comfortably.

FSX Settings

The settings in the offered manuals are just mine. Not minimum or maximum! If yours works with higher settings, keep them by all means. I really haven't had any complaints or problems reported by customers about anything yet.

Ground texture tile resolutions

The resolution is 2 meter. They are taken from 1 meter NAIP aerials. Few believe it, but I have proven it true that cutting any resolution in half is very unnoticeable. Regardless, it had to be done because of file size issues. 11 states @ 150G for two meter & quadruple that for 1 meter.

High resolution imagery is now just starting to become available by the states and 10,000 sq mi of Northern Utah is included with the current product. Its resolution is 1/2 meter or 2 foot. As other Hi-Res areas become available they will be sent to the customer as a free addition. I have several scoped out to do after I finish the East Coast. I've been told through the forums, that it works well with other scenery & terrain products also. The higher resolution wins out in FSX!

Summary / Closing Remarks

It won’t take long, to be honest. Although I didn’t cover every state and every corner including the high level detailed areas, my general impression of this Massive Scenery Western USA product from Sim Savvy is good. I’m aware that certain ground texture tiles are overexposed or borders of adjacent tiles are not color balanced. Even with this in mind, it’s worth telling you again that the overall product doesn’t cost more than 200 US$.

Let’s
- a 500GB USB hard disk drive,
- 11 Western US states,
- 23 Eastern US states.

The quality of most of the textures equals 2 meters per pixel, with some areas even higher. In other words, even with the glitches I’ve shown you, it’s a very reasonable price and a pleasure to fly over these states. I only hope Larry Woodson, if time becomes available, modifies those tiles which are not really correct, or at least that he checks what’s wrong and if possible, corrects it.

Many times said before; even though I’ve seen some glitches, it’s still worth the product since there’s nothing else that can compete. Ooh, I’m sorry, MegaSceneryEarth can compete. I must admit that I’ve never seen the quality when flying above a MegaSceneryEarth texture, but one thing is for sure, it’s much more expensive.

Anyway, I sincerely hope that this review helps you making the correct purchasing decision. If you’ve got any questions because I missed something; just let me know via the AVSIM forum or by sending me an e-mail.

 

What I Like About The Sim Savvy Massive Photoreal Scenery

  • Overall impression, apart of the glitches and other things, GOOD,
  • If you like VFR flying at low and medium altitudes, than go for it with Sim Savvy,
  • Some areas offer higher meter/pixel resolutions than the standard 2 meter/pixel tiles,
  • X-country flights is really FUN,
  • If other hi-resolution areas become available, they are free of charge for registered users,
  • Price versus quality versus updates; whatever you think, that’s very GOOD.

 

What I Don't Like About The Sim Savvy Massive Photoreal Scenery

  • No installer,
  • Directly related to the previous item; there’s not really a good instructive manual with some background information or problems that appear when using Windows 7,
  • I’ve seen too many ground texture tiles that were overexposed,
  • Because of the previous item, some tile borders are not looking good,
  • Along the coastline the end of the photo real scenery not always blends with the FSX lake/ocean,
  • Some ground texture tiles were looking too sandy.
  • Not only because of the desert environment, but also houses and roads were sandy colored.
  • Sim Savvy website could offer more information with, for example, an FAQ section,

 

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