AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

SyDesigns / BSS Holding Margarita 2005

Product Information
Publisher: Sy Designs and BSS Holding
Description:  Scenery enhancement of the Del Caribe International Santiago
Marino Airport on the island of Margarita, Venezuela. Also
includes photo mesh scenery and additional enhancements .
Download Size:
NA
Format:
CD
Simulation Type:
FS 2004
Reviewed by: Brian Fletcher AVSIM Sr Staff Reviewer - July 22, 2006

Introduction

For today’s review I am inviting you to join me as I explore the beautiful Isla de Margarita, Venezuela, as enhanced by the Sy Designs and BSS Publishing Margarita, the 2005 package available for FS9. Our adventure will include a trip to the island’s Del Caribe International General Santiago Marino Airport, a tour around Margarita Island, and we’ll top it all off with a trip to an amusement park.

Margarita 2005 completely revamps the island of Margarita from just about every angle. The improvements include a detailed version of the Del Caribe International General Santiago Marino Airport (SVMG), new photomesh scenery, and an array of default and original scenery objects placed throughout the island and even in the sea.

Whether or not Margarita 2005, available at http://fsheaven.com/ for 29.95 EUR, is worth the simmers money is yet to be seen, but I can say that it has certainly opened my eyes to an otherwise unused area of my virtual world. Until this product came around I never spent much time south of Central America, and perhaps it can have the same affect for you. Let’s learn a little about the island and then go find out how Margarita 2005 stacks up.

A Little About The Island

Margarita Island, or Isla Margarita, is the largest of the three islands making up the Nueva Esparta State off the northern coast of Venezuela, which also includes the islands of Coche and Cubagua. Margarita Island is populated by approximately 420,000 people spread throughout the cities of Porlamar, Pampator, Juan Griego, and the capital city of La Asuncion. They combine with a few other smaller cities to bring the island to 1,020 square kilometers, which is embraced by some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.

Test System

Computer Specs

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:
31 hours

The Island of Margarita thrives on tourism as the island makes for a fantastic getaway with an average annual temperature of 27C-38C, duty free shops, and an absolutely gorgeous mixture of mountainous, low-lying area, and beach terrain. And for those who want to take the “so I can say I was there” trip to Venezuela, you are only 19km from the mainland.

Another big selling point for Margarita Island is its close, or fairly close, proximity to other area attractions including Aruba, which is one of the most frequented islands in the Caribbean. And with the Del Caribe International Santiago Marine Airport (SVMG), Isla De Coche (SVIE), and a few grass airstrips, not to mention the endless supply of water for the amphibians, you don’t have to look too hard for a place to land.

By default this section of the FS9 virtual world is a little drab, including less than thrilling mesh scenery and not much in the way of detail. The airport yields a lot of room for improvement, and is so boring that even the AI traffic doesn’t stop too often. How well Margarita 2005 improves upon this area is for you to decide, so let’s get to it.

Installation and Documentation

My copy of Margarita 2005 came in the form of a CD, so I had expected to simply insert the disk, click “OK” a few times, and be flying in no time. But that was not the case here. Instead of having the necessary files automatically installed to their correct location, the CD installed the components to the FS9 directory, and then required me to manually place them where they belong, at least some of them. The most important move I had to make, was to cut the scenery folder from the folder titled “Sy Designs” in my FS9 main directory and place it in the add-on scenery folder.

Once I moved the files to their correct location, which is covered in the manual, I simply needed to add the scenery to the FS9 library. To do this you will need to start Flight Sim, then click on “settings”, followed by “scenery library”, and then “add area”, and finally “addon scenery”. Once there you will need to single click on the folder titled “Margarita 2005”, then exit your way out of Flight Sim. The next time you start FS0 the scenery will be generated and ready for use.

There is some documentation included with this product. Outside of the installation help files, I did not find a whole lot of use for any of it. Located in the Sy Designs folder in the main FS9 directory you will find two additional folders, one titled “documentos”, and another titled “Margarita 2005 help”. Either of these will help you to install the program and make sure that every file is where it belongs. All of the documents and information are provided in English and Spanish, but they can be a little confusing to follow.

The Del Caribe International General Santiago Marino Airport

Though Margarita 2005 contains a lot of scenery enhancements for the entire island of Margarita, the Del Caribe International General Santiago Marino Airport is the heart of this product. The airport is located on the southeastern portion of the island, and with its 10,450 ft asphalt runway, it is accessible by just about any aircraft you can find.

The airport contains just one runway (27/09), with a single parallel taxiway giving access to a medium sized parking ramp. The runway is much more authentic than the default runways with textured touchdown marks and a worn appearance. Heading towards the parking ramp you will encounter a number of scenery enhancements, some of which are original, and others that can be found in the FS9 scenery library.

Starting on the west (left) side of the ramp and working our way east, you will notice a pair of fuel tanks and a fuel truck. This is followed by a pair of open ended hangars and several ground servicing vehicles and stairs. Then you will come across the terminal buildings and the control tower before the ramp ends at the fire station.

In between the buildings you might be able to make out patches of grass, fencing, and the occasional car driving around behind the terminal. There are also some animated ground servicing vehicles that will pass in front of the parking area on a loop from one end to the other, over and over. There are animated people that can be spotted at the main entrance of the terminal.

The animations are mildly acceptable, but certainly not overwhelming. The animated ground servicing vehicles are of satisfactory quality, but they do not have any operators at the controls. The vehicles that are not animated, such as the fire trucks at the east end of the airport, are sub-par at best. But what is the most disappointing for me is that there are too many default scenery objects used. There is quite a bit of this airport that is original. I’m sure that most of you will be able to decipher the default scenery objects from those created for this program.

Some other enhancements to this facility include a water tower, fairly well modeled ATC tower, stairs at one of the parking spots that will align with aircraft comparable to a 757, box trucks, tugs, and more animated traffic behind the airport. The vehicles behind the airport drive around a loop that goes from the entrance to the airport in a counterclockwise pattern right back to the entrance.

For the most part, I am pleased with the Del Caribe International General Santiago Marino Airport. The only major complaint that I have is that I came across too many default scenery objects, which I don’t care for in payware products. We will visit this airport again later on, but now it’s time to go check out the rest of the island, and find out what our approach into the airport looks like.

Exploring the Island

Using aircraft, cars, and boats, I have toured this island from every angle, and after countless hours of exploring Isla de Margarita I still continue to find new scenery enhancements with every pass.

The modeling of the structures on the islands reminds me a lot of the airport as there is a mix of default and original objects. Again, you can look at the screenshots and determine if the balance of scenery objects is appropriate or not. One item that you won’t find in the default library is the amusement park located across the mountains from the airport.

The amusement park consists of an animated roller coaster, Ferris wheel, and one of those rides that take you up vertically and let gravity bring you down (on a track of course). This is actually a fun place to pull off to the side of the road and watch the rides, even though the roller coaster cars are poorly represented.

The rest of the island contains countless houses and other structures, two grass strip runways, and a lot of different varieties of trees and shrubs, all of which are encompassed by a nice beach that wraps around the island. My favorite part of the island are the roads that you can use to tour the perimeter of the island, go up into the mountains, or just take a Sunday drive through the different towns.

Looking out onto the water you will notice a few boats, and even a ship docked on the south side of the island. There is a long pier, some docks, and the occasional party boat floating around. Though I am not certain about some of the boats, I think you might find the docked ship in the default library.

There are a few towns throughout the island, most of which are made up of a series of homes on either side of a road, and you might find an occasional shack, barn, or other type of structure in between the houses. These towns, as well as the rest of the scenery objects, all blend quite well into the new terrain mesh, which is the next topic of this review.

The Mesh

The new mesh terrain included with this package is a welcomed change from the flat and undefined terrain on this island by default. The outer perimeter of the island, from the beaches and in a few hundred yards, is fairly flat but there is an indication of mild undulation here and there. As you get further away from the beaches, the terrain becomes a little bumpier.

The most noticeable terrain is the mountains northeast of the airport, which helps to make for a great approach if you’re coming in from the north. Aside from this, the rest of the island is a mixture of small hills, valleys, and flat terrain. There are also a handful of lakes, ponds, or whatever you want to call them, and the Caribbean cuts into the island in a few different places.

The new terrain mesh is certainly an improvement over the default terrain on this island. I have noticed that the new mesh defines the undulation much better, and takes away the blurriness. The mountains are more defined with steeper peaks, and the hills are not as rounded as by default. I also noticed that the lakes have banks, and the beaches blend in with the water and island quite well. But with the new mesh and all of the scenery enhancements, what kind of hit will your frame rates take? Let’s go find out.

Performance

To find out how my frame rates were affected by this add-on, I performed a series of flights in and out of the default Del Caribe International General Santiago Marino Airport in a variety of aircraft. I also taxied around the airport, flew around the island, and used land and sea vehicles with different scenery settings.

My overall average FPS with the default scenery set to High, which is required to fully enable all of the scenery enhancements in the add-on, was 41.7. This included a mixture of all of the aircraft and vehicles I used, from different views, and at different times of day with a variety of weather themes. Once I installed the Margarita 2005 add-on, my average FPS with the same parameters dropped to 32.2 for a decrease of 9.5 FPS.

On my laptop I had a similar drop in frame rates, which went from 30.5 to 21.7 for a decrease of 8.8 FPS. Of course, the decrease was more noticeable with my laptop, but I did not find either system to stutter too bad with Margarita 2005 installed. If you do happen to have a sizeable decrease in frame rates, I would suggest cutting down the AI traffic first, as there is not a whole lot in this area anyway. After that, you might find that a scenery setting of medium-high makes for a good compromise of scenery and frame rates.

Sight Seeing

For today’s flight I have decided take my C172 out for an aerial tour of the island. Departing from the Del Caribe Intl. Gen Santiago Marino Airport I will be heading east and working my way counterclockwise around the island. I have begun parked in the open overhang at the west end of the ramp, and have made for the runway after receiving clearance to taxi.

After waiting for a 757 to get out of my way, which happens to be heading for Orangestad Intl Airport in Aruba, I have clearance to takeoff. Once airborne, I found myself in the company of a few other sightseers, and according to my traffic viewer board, there are more on the way. As I reach the beaches on the eastern end of the island, I will head north for the mountains.

From 3,000 feet you can get a good view of the undulation throughout the island, and you can also see how the scenery enhancements, such as the amusement park, houses, shacks, docks, and more are scattered from one end of Margarita to the other. What you can’t make out from here are the two grass strips that house my Traffic 2005 ultra-lights, so let’s go in for a closer look.

As you can see there is not a whole lot of activity going on at either of the grass strips, but they certainly provide a beautiful approach over the beaches. Now we’ll get a little more altitude and go hunting for a few screenshots before I return to the airport. In my search for some decent screenshots I have stumbled across a few points of interest, including some out on the water.

With the sun starting to set I will head back to the airport, but as you can see from my approach, a lack of daylight is no problem at this well lit facility. And finally, I am back on the ground and ready to taxi back to the hangar, which I see has been occupied by someone else. I guess I’ll be parking under the stars tonight.

On Final

The time has finally arrived for me to give my approval, or lack thereof, to this product. Let’s begin by reviewing the positive aspects of this package. For starters, I am pleased with the Del Caribe International General Santiago Marino Airport enhancements, not overwhelmed, but pleased. Though I can think of a number of items that could have been added to authenticate this facility a little, I am not disappointed with what is there. And when compared to the default facility, it is a welcomed improvement.

I was expecting more from the animated people at the airport terminal, that is to say, that I was hoping they would be a little more realistic in appearance. But I do like the fact that they are animated, even if the animation is a little weak. Speaking of animations, I also like the dynamic ground support vehicles, though they don’t have anyone driving.

The quality of the modeling and texturing of the airport buildings and vehicles must be described individually, as some of the items are very well done, and others, such as the fire trucks, yield much room for improvement. But all in all, I would say that the airport looks pretty good. Since the same cannot be said for the default airport, I consider this version to be a necessary improvement.

One aspect of this product that I have really enjoyed is that it makes a fantastic one stop shop for me to test all of the add-ons that arrive in the Avsim file library. Aircraft of all sizes are welcomed here, as are ground vehicles and sea vessels. The airport has a long enough runway to handle any aircraft you can throw at it, the island provides beautiful scenery for the ultra-lights, there are a lot of undulated, curvy roads to put your “follow me” truck to the test, and of course, you won’t run out of water for the amphibians and boats.

Of course, it would be nice if every product I reviewed could be a “must have”, but as I have demonstrated in recent months, that is not always the case, nor is it the case today. I can think of a few reasons why this product might not suit every simmer, starting with the 29.95 EUR price tag. You can determine whether or not that is reasonable, but personally, I would like to see it come down a few euros.

I am also a little irritated with the presence of default scenery objects, which I do not like to see anytime I spend money for payware. After all, with EZ-Scenery and Rwy 12, I can place objects myself, but modeling them is a little more complicated. However, not all of the scenery is taken from the default library, but perhaps a little too much is.

So what is my recommendation? Well, I don’t really have one. While this product does suit me nicely, I doubt that all simmers will agree. Therefore, I would suggest examining the screenshots and taking a trip over to http://fsheaven.com/ for a closer evaluation. If I were to rate this product however, I would say it's better than default, but yielding room for improvement.

 

What I Like About Margarita 2005
  • Good quality mesh terrain
  • The airport enhancements are considerably better than the default airport
  • Decent performance

 
What I Don't Like About Margarita 2005
  • Too many default scenery objects used
  • The cost-value is questionable
  • The animated people at the airport are not as realistic as I had expected
  • The lack of operators for the animated ground vehicles
  • Some of the roads around the island are too jagged

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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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