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Guest JonP01

My very early impressions of FS9

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Here are my very first impressions of FS9. They relate mainly to installation issues, as well as my impressions gained from several hours flying whilst attempting to tweak the sim. Obviously what I think of the new sim could be subject to change (read "hope" will be subject to change!). Although some of the things I will say have been said by many others as well, I still think it is useful to post my early opinion - as this sort of post is exactly what I have been seeking myself over the last few weeks. I am running Windows 98SE with an Athlon 1500XP and Ti 4200 card and 512Mb RAM.Firstly, installation was a nightmare - it took all of 5 hours before I was able to fire the sim up for the first time. The first problem (anticipated, so no big deal) was that I had to disable DMA on my hard drive to install the sim. If I didn't do this, the install would always stop at around 16 - 18%.The first big problem was the "splash screen" syndrome, whereby the sim would not proceed past the splash screen. This has been a well documented problem and there have been a lot of equally well documented solutions, including solutions relating to the My Documents and My DocumentsFlight Simulator Files folders. Unfortunately, 3 hours spent methodically going through these lists of documented fixes (both by users and Microsoft) simply did not work. Rather than be peeved at never having got FS9 any further than the splash screen, I took the dramatic and time-consuming step of re-formatting my entire hard drive (I had 4 partitions which was the way I wanted it) and reloading Windows 98 exactly as per defaults. After doing this I was then able to successfully fire up the sim. Why it was necessary to completely re-install a perfectly running OS I don't know, but I suspect it had something to do with deeply buried registry entries relating to the My Documents shell extension. Today I will spend a lot of time experimenting to try and determine exactly what FS9 thought was wrong with my "old" Windows 98 installation - as my old installation is the way I want Windows 98 to be installed.Once firing up the sim I can verify like everyone else with a Ti 4x00 card that there are menu problems when 2x AA is selected in the Nvidia drivers. Again, I was expecting this as there have already been so many complaints about this. What really annoys me is that my previous 42.30 drivers are so much better (in terms of image quality and performance) than the 31.40 drivers I am now using to circumvent this problem. I really don't wish to run the sim on older, obsolete drivers, when newer ones - at least for me - are so much better. So I really think a fix is required - having to keep going from full screen to window mode and back every time I want to access anything from a menu is ridiculous, and a show-stopper as far as I am concerned. And I'm not going to run either 0 x AA or 4 x AA. Also, what would happen if and when I put another game on my machine that needs up to date drivers?The next big impression was how far I had to push the sliders left and turn features off to get reasonable performance. OK, I had been warned about this as well, but I was still unprepared for the huge shock. I knew I would have to back things off, but I didn't think it would have to be to this extent. I think a couple of other people have mentioned that by the time you back everything off in FS2004 to provide comparable performance to FS2002, then you've more than lost all the visual advantages of the new sim. So far, I'd have to agree with this, although two improvements I have noticed is that FS2004 is smoother than FS2002 for the same fps and also that I can use 16 bit colour in FS2004 seemingly without problems. I never liked 16 bit colour in FS2002 because I experienced significant problems with the dawn and dusk sky when AA was turned on. As it is, it's probably easier to state what features I've turned on rather than what I've turned down or off! Autogen, for example, is a performance killer even at "sparse", so I am running the sim with it turned off. And unlike others, I have found simple clouds to reduce stutters and improve performance - but yes, they do look ugly, especially and dawn and dusk.I can't make my mind up about the new aircraft, especially when it comes to flight models. Not being a pilot, I don't know whether the new flight models are higher fidelity or not. I am disappointed by the Vega and Comet (I just don't like the flight models, and they don't seem to be very fps friendly for some reason). I am impressed by the Ford Trimotor, DC3 and Piper Cub. But all the flight models just seem to be lacking in a bit of fluidity, damping and overall control harmony.One eye opener was that in this version of the sim, I'm getting better performance from the VCs than I am the 2D panels. In CFS2, for exmaple, I did find this to be the case, but in FS2002, I found I got better performance with the 2D panels.Anyway, as I said, today I will be concentrating on trying to make the sim workable under my preferred Windows 98SE installation with 4 partitions. But at this stage I am not sure if I will use the sim in lieu of FS2002 - at least using the hardware available to me. The menu black out issue with Ti 4x00 cards would, I am sure, drive me stark raving bonkers after a couple of weeks or so. I didn't realise how often I went into the menus until this issue came up. So unless this is fixed, I think I'd prefer to stick with FS2002 with it's noticably better image quality using the 42.30 drivers. There is also no doubt that my machine would only be able to run FS2004 in it's most basic form. I am thinking the sweet spot for FS2004 is around 8 Gigahertz and a GPU about 4 times as fast as what we can buy now. That's not pie in the sky stuff, as that sort of equipment should be easily be available within the next couple of years. I can't really say I'm too surprised by the performance aspect of FS2004 - afterall, every time I've bought a new MS flight sim, I've had to either turn everything down or buy a new machine. It's just that this time around, I'm at a stage of my life where I can't afford hardware upgrades like I used to. As I said though, just using an up to date Nvidia driver is almost like a hardware upgrade in itself, so I really hope these menu problems are overcome - otherwise I don't think FS2004 will realistically get a look in. I certainly don't think the sim is doom and gloom like some people have made out, but I really think it needs to have a few things fixed. I'm certainly not getting rid of FS2002 any time soon.

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