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American Data is King of the Roads (Long Post)

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Having purchased both USA Roads and American Data roads from FSGenesis, it took only a short time for me to declare a clear winner.First of all, I would like to thank Scenery Solutions for such a ground breaking product. If it weren't for you guys, American Data might not even hit the streets. Your are to be commended for your groundbreaking efforts, but alas, you have been replaced.Now, let me tell you, this review is highly subjective but hey that's what forums are for. And I have tried to accurately show the strengths and weaknesses of both products.Now on to the results.Ease of installation: A wash. Both products were flawless in my installation. Some people have mentioned that there are install problems with AD roads, but I didn't have any.Customization: AD roads is clearly a winner here. While USA roads allows you to customize between All roads, Major Roads, and Default roads, in addition to traffic densities and reflections, AD Roads allows you to Toggle each of their settings individually. AD Roads also allows you to either turn on or off roads crossing water, which is a major distraction in USA roads near coastal areas or misplaced bridges. Also AD roads has a flatten feature for each of the road sets as well as railroads, and streams. The new .exe for AD roads even has a depth offset that allows you to customize how deep the streams cut into the scenery. AD Roads also allows for autogen on the roads (such as lamp posts and billboards) and autogen bridges (which doesn't work as well as one would hope).Appearance: AD roads wins again, barely (thanks mainly to flattening). While the appearance of the roads in USA roads is generally better, (with little dots representing cars, and good representation of complex interchanges), the roads are WAY too bright, even at the lower reflection rating. AD roads are often more "rough" in appearance, especially in complex interchanges and intersections. AD Roads often leave out exit and entry ramps at smaller interchanges at certain freeways except the most notable ones with cloverleafs. However, AD roads' "minor roads" are darker and tend to blend in better. Add in the "flatten" feature that AD roads provides, and the mountain regions are nothing short of spectacular. Roads in mountains now have "beds". Gone are the look of painted roads in mountain regions, but rather switchbacks where the roadbeds are drawn. Granted, with the flatten feature on "minor" roads, the flatten area is a bit too wide for what one might consider a logging road, but it does beat the "painted" on look for USA roads. The area that USA roads does excel in is night. The AD roads use a much less lighting for night lighting, and while it is VERY effective for minor roads, for Major Highways, they are not bright as they should be. USA roads has the opposite problem, The freeways look marvelous, but the minor roads stickout way too much at night. ACCURACY: No battle here. USA roads clearly wins the accuracy battle. The most noticable difference is in the minor roads. The tiger data is often quite a bit off from the USA roads, and although the general shape of the roads is similar, the Tiger data is often more exagerated. However, without the ability to turn off roads that cross water, the USA roads often cause graphic anomolies in coastal cities due to inaccurate shoreline data. One such area is the Alaskan Way Viaduct which clearly cuts across Elliot Bay. In AD roads, since roads crossing water can be turned off, then the road ends in the water and appears on the other side. Much less distracting in my opinion. Also USA roads in more accurate in it clearly shows divided highways and transitions which AD Roads does not do. Advantage USA roads.FEATURES: Again AD roads comes ahead. AD roads also enhances streams, railroads. AD roads claims to do power lines as well, but on my system that is a hit or miss proposition. In reality, it does not emulate every single power pole nor high tension pole in the US. High tension lines are visible in areas, but in areas that I know of near my home where there should be High Tension lines, there are none. However, AD also allows Autogen for power lines and for the roads, which means major highways often have power lines going down them, and most freeways have billboards, lightposts and freeway signs. You must fly fairly low to see them, but they are there. USA roads does not support this. In addition to covering the continental 48 and Hawaii, AD Roads also covers Alaska as well. USA roads only covers the continental 48 and Hawaii.PRICE: AD Roads is the clear victor here, due to the Tiger Data being free, AD roads is able to offer it's product for 1/2 the cost of USA roads. USA roads is twice as expensive due to the higher cost in obtaining it's more accurate source data.OVERALL: While USA roads was first out of the gate, and offers more accurate data, and in some cases, better night effects with simulated "traffic" on the roads, AD roads better customization, added coverage, flatten features, better blending, and low price makes it the clear winner in my book.Again, this review is not meant to "bash" the USA product, as it is very good in it's own right, and many folks may have different preferences than I do. I am happy both products have hit the market, because the competition between the two houses can only mean better product for the rest of us. Thanks to American Data and Scenery Solutions for providing such a great Addon, and I look forward to future products out of both houses.

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Thank you for pointing out your bias Will :-lolI do know that you and Jon have been rather outspoken about a couple of USA Roads features (flattening and major roads over water).To be honest, you guys are the only ones that have ever requested these features from us. Many more users have told us that they prefer the roads over water, because there are no FS2004 bridge objects for a majority of the bridge locations in the USA.I do agree that roads near the coastline look pretty bad over water, when the FS2004 coastlines are way off.It is nice that AD Roads allows you the choice to turn off the roads over water. We will be releasing a long planned patch for USA Roads users to turn off roads over water if they want. We may even release a patch for flattening, if a good many of our users really want that feature.No doubt the presence of AD roads is pushing us to add these features. The competition is good for all FS2004 users.I do, however, believe that the majority of users will greatly prefer the USA Roads appearance over AD Roads.The fact that AD Roads uses default textures, gives them advantages in flattening, utility pole/line enhancements, and maybe signs.However, our custom texture usage gives us a whole lot more flexibily in road appearances. We have 196 different night textures, 10 different day textures, 5 seasonal grass variations (beneath and beside the roads), plus usage of the default dirt textures for the dirt roads.- The choice of 4 different types of night lighting.- Transitional street lighting from the cities to the rural areas (lights in the cities, but not in the country).- Choice of lighter or darker pavement sets.- Roads that cross, but do not have a dividing grassy strip at the intersections. We put seasonal grass textures underneath the roads as a separate polygon layer, so the grass does not appear at intersections.Frank Bergstrom's 3rd party textures provide darker roads if that is desired. User's are more than welcome to modify and publish different texture sets.I know that you do say many of these things in your review, but you give the nod to AD Roads because of the flattening alone. I understand that is your opinion, but I would like to hear from others that have both USA Roads and AD Roads, because flattening has not been much of a requested feature.The FSGenesis web site will show this flattening effect in comparing their product against ours. What they do not show, is the differences in road accuracy, road appearances, and night lighting. I guess we will need to provide our own comparitive shots.I should also note that the free USGS data used by AD Roads is taken from older aerial images. I know this product very well, because I initially considered it for USA Roads. Many, if not all, of the recent roads will not be in the package.I hope you don't mind my rebuttal. It is certainly not meant to criticize you personally. And, you did mention that this is your opinion.I am very proud of USA Roads. I just feel like we need to give our opinion on some of these things now, since we have not spoken up about this new competition. Nor have we been able to show visual comparisons from our side of the fence.The AD Roads and Streams product looks like a very nice product. For the money, many people will be really happy with it.However, the fact that we use the most accurate commercial data available, plus the custom textures, does give us some distinct advantages.Anyway, I hope the Avsim users don't mind me giving my very biased opinion. I would really like to hear the opinion of others that have used both products.Cheers,Allen KriesmanScenery Solutions

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Thanks for the very good review. Looks like I'll be purchasing the FS Genesis product.

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Allen,I agree with absolutely everything you have said. I too miss the bridges, but I am particular about coast lines. When FSGenesis released their hawaii project, I first dismissed it because of multiple buildings in the water. This really takes me out of my suspension if disbelief.FSG responded to many peoples view by hand moving all the buildings and runways that were in the water, but as a result, the beach hotels on Waikiki are still behind the Ali Wai canal. The whole area of Waikiki is barren save for some autogen.The patch for USA roads to allow me to turn off water crossing will do a lot. Not only will it eliminate the "concrete" shadows that plague default bridges, but will also eliminate the incursions into the inaccurate coastlines.I do miss the bridges. The autogen feature in AD roads is nowhere near where I would like it to be, nor where I expected it to be, so the only real option is to either have the roads cross the water, like USA roads, and deal with the incursions, or to end the roads at the water line.What you said about intersections if very true. USA roads has a much smoother appearance, and intersections especially are smooth and free of lines, and that I appreciate.I was never a big fan of flattening until I went up into the mountains. In the cascades, with USA roads, the mountain roads, because of their brightness, and because of their placement looked painted on the side of the mountain. In AD roads, there are switchbacks instead, and the actual road surface is not visable unless you are equal in height or above it. This feature, has to be seen to be believed, and as a result, I can understand why this feature has not been widely asked for, as none of us have seen what this can do until now.In all fairness, I do like USA roads, "major roads" only option better than that in AD roads. Your data is much more detailed and accurate, and as a result, your "major roads" option provides many more roads for those who may want to get a nice feeling of roads without overload. With the AD product, Major roads is restricted for the most part to only major freeways and highways. As a result, with AD roads, having all the roads active is almost an necessity. In USA roads, "major roads" only is a very viable option.Your night lighting is very good, and the use of textures is nice, but the sparse lighting on AD roads "minor" roads, gives the broken appearance of roads as they appear at night when there are trees and such obscuring them. In USA roads, the minor roads are often too bright, and in mountainous regions, (specifically logging roads) they provide too much contrast to the surrounding area.I am aware of the alternate textures available, and do improve things a lot. Overall USA roads do look better, and are more accurate. The traffic density setting is very nice as well. However, one of the major criticisms cited against USA roads by many is how "mappy" the scenery looks in areas. Especially areas that are remote, or in woods. AD roads, because of their smaller size, and darker textures seem not to jump out so much. I recently took a flight from Huntsville AL to Fort Lauderdale, and to be honest, I was amazed at how difficult in real life it is to pick out specific roads. Freeways and highways have great visibility from the air, but smaller roads blend in very well with the scenery and are hard to pick out, and for a "default" package, AD roads has you beat on this in my opinion. I have to look hard to see the minor roads, and I like that.Of course, like I said, this is all a matter of opinion. I am not trying to bash your product, but considering the price, I still believe I like the AD product better.Don't count on me relenquishing my USA roads license key anytime soon, however, it is sitting on my system in hot standby, and when the patch you mention is available, it is quite possible, that I will go back to USA roads for the very reasons you stated in your rebuttal.But for me, at least for the time being, AD roads is King of the Road.

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Allen,I have your USA Roads and love them. I would like to know what your timetable is on the lakes/rivers/coastline project? I am really looking forward to that one!

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Thanks for taking the time to reply Will. Your comments are definately valued, even if we are not in agreement on some things.Perhaps we should consider releasing an official darker version of our textures as an additional option. The concrete and asphalt colors were actually matched against high resolution aerial photos. I seem to remember even having to darken them a bit so they did not stand out as much.Perhaps in this case reality is not better regarding the texture colors.Cheers,Allen

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>Allen,>>I have your USA Roads and love them. I would like to know what>your timetable is on the lakes/rivers/coastline project? I am>really looking forward to that one!Thanks !The lakes, rivers, streams, and coastline project has been in the works for a several months now (and is about 80% complete). It is a pretty large effort.The product will be based off very detailed commercial data. For example, the very small stock tank behind my neighborhood is part of the data set (I can easily throw a rock across it). If anything, we might have to scale back on some of the data to get it to work well in FS2004. Because of certain events that have taken place lately, we may have to temporarily switch some of our priorities a bit. Also, several users have brought up some valid concerns regarding coastline fixes (as Will just did regarding Hawaii).We are going to continue the project, but I don't have a definate release date as of yet. The misplaced water in FS2004 is something I really want correct (and enhance).Cheers,Allen

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What makes the roads stick out is not necessarily their color, but the inherent lack of "obstacles" (buildings, shrubery, flora) which tend to obscure them in real life. Also realize that buildings, shrubs, and flora, cast shadows during the day which also darkens the appearance of roads.Artificially darkening the roads, as was done in AD roads is not any more accurate by any means, but given the limitations of placing a 2d texture on top of another 2d texture, it does provide a slightly more realistic "feel" vs. being more accurate.I have no doubt that your "textures" are more accurate based on the actual color of the asphalt, but since in real life so many things can change the appearant coloration of the roads, like mentioned above, your accurate colors are definitely more stark than they would be in real life.Again, I hope you don't take my "criticisms" the wrong way. I was one of the first out of the gate to buy USA roads and have enjoyed it immensely. One of the main considerations of purchasing AD roads was the pricing. If Marcus had priced his product at a similar price point to yours, we would very likely not be having this conversation as I would have seen little use in spending another $30.00 for esentially the same data, and flattening alone would not have justified the expense.The fact that it is SO Low, is one of the reasons I took the leap. I am not criticising your pricing as too high, I gladly paid it when the project was released, and would gladly do so again. But in reality, the low price of AD roads is what attracted me to at least give it a try. I understand your source data was more expensive and that Scenery Solutions took great care to make custom seamless textures, and it definitely shows, in it's quality.As for shorelines, again, I'm at once excited and apprehensive about the product. I don't wish to see buildings sticking out in the ocean, or oceanfront landmarks being too far inland.I understand that it is not in the realm of reason to expect you or any other developer to hand place all the "misplaced" buildings.I continue to support you and your efforts, and those of Marcus, simply because I think your products, more than any other, will have a definite impact on future versions of Flight Simulator. Perhaps the demand for acccurate roads and coastlines will force Microsoft to improve their data set a bit.I'm pretty happy with the default mesh as it stands, I have tried different mesh products, and have been happy with them, but the obvious issues with mesh (plateaued rivers, plateaued airports, sunken airports, or abrupt coastal regions) also takes away a bit from my enjoyment. I have bought many mesh products, but rarely use them since for me, the default mesh is fine in many areas and of course, blends in better without the "issues" pointed to above.What would be "heaven" for me, is if Microsoft took the time to create a global 72m or as a minimum accurate 144m mesh for all areas in the simulation (Of course more famous "landmark" areas should be rendered in even higher resolution), as well as accurate placement of rivers, shorelines, roads, railroads, bridges (autogen is fine), etc...I know that "dream" of mine could potentially put many people I care about out of 'business', (like you and Justin). But your efforts and the efforts of other scenery designers only go to highlight what is eventually possible with this product. Even if Microsoft handed me my "dream" it is quite likely that add-on developers will continue to amaze me at what my humble computer flight sim can deliver.We've gone so far since FS98 (which blew my socks off back then!!!) However it's innovative developers like you, Justin Tyme, Holger Sandmann, and Markus Brunner, that will continue to push the envelope and provide us with many hours of enjoyment

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I am an owner of both products and what made me purchase the full version of FSGenesis and abandon USA Roads for now is the flattening as well as ability to cross water with bridges. If I could have USA roads with DARKER textures by option (I used the alternate textures), the ability to flatten, able to cross water with EITHER a generic bridge or just road then I would USA Roads and AD for the Streams & Railroads. Now if someone can come up with a way to animate vehicles and moving lights on the roadways would make it that much better. Along with my Blackened Night Fix (which I will be releasing shortly) it would be 1 step closer.It's funny how VERY FEW things that people want can have all the features they are looking for. That is with anything it seems in life eh, unless you build it yourself? Carmine http://ftp.avsim.com/dcforum/Images/wave.gif

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>Thanks for the very good review. Looks like I'll be>purchasing the FS Genesis product.Sounds right to me until USA roads come up with the new patch.

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Interesting review...I actually went back to my USA roads with the fsgenesis combined.I didn't like the colors and "crudeness" of the Ad roads-especially highways-and saw lots of places where the roads "broke off" or were missing.Some complain about the USA roads looking "too bright"-but for my money-they actually look more real-and I happen to like the cars on them. Highways and major roads do show up pretty brightly from the air-and I think the USA look more real here.Perhaps for the smaller roads-the Ad color is better-but I found again a lot of errors here-the road that encircles my airport for instance was "broken"-and the highways and major roads look much more real imho in USA-and those do show up "brightly" from the air and are pretty noticable for navigation-and are what I look for when flying.The flattening is great-but then roads that run along and across bodies of water are "chopped off". Which is more realistic?-certainly a user preference-but I prefer to see what is there in reality even if it looks a little funky sometimes-than a major road that just vanishes because of Ms' inaccuracies.I gave the AD roads a try for two days-but just found I was a little unsatisfied. Last night I reinstalled USA with the AD other features-and found myself going "wow" once again. The streams and railroads of Ad are fantastic-but the roads of USA just look better. I know it may seem stupid-but you do see cars on roads from the air-and the representation on USA looks better to me than just seeing a muddy brown line.They are both great products-and for me right now-the combo method is without a doubt the best.I can't wait till lakes are updated-they are quite inaccurate for the area of the US I live in-even leaving out the lake I live on...So my suggestion is-use them both!My missing lake-and those "bright" highways and major roads-and cars...!http://mywebpages.comcast.net/geofa/pages/rxp-pilot.jpghttp://forums.avsim.net/user_files/94975.jpg

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Geofa looks like is missing the real thing.that is typical of those who fly in real life - and they are used to see the real thing!netherless - the day you can see exactly the real thing is here already - your roads will be shining one day! exactly as the real thing does! rayhttp://forums.avsim.net/user_files/94976.gif

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By the way, anyone with USA Roads who wants the textures darker can try some of the alternate textures. The one I use is NuRoad11.zip located here in the library. Just an fyi for anyone who hasn't found any yet.

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Hi Ray,seems like someone is pitching a new project ;-)Sorry, but I don't quite understand how anything that is flat as a pancake can be "the real thing". Anyone can see the difference between your (nice) preview image and the real photo in the post above - there's no third dimension! Photoreal textures are nice for screenshots and higher elevations but require huge amounts of storage space, generally have perpetual summer and "frozen" shadows, little or no custom autogen or structures, and long loading times. Plus, when the tiles get blurry for one reason or another, the illusion of reality quickly falls apart. Thus, with photoreal we know that we're getting a static snapshot of reality (one second out of more than 30 million in a year!) but with VTP/LWM scenery there's 3D objects, seasonal textures, daytime differences, and many more tricks and tweaks that designers are just now beginning to apply. USARoads and AD, as well as "complete" local or regional projects, like Austria Professional, offer a different approach than photoreal but, in my opinion, a much more believable overall VFR experience.Cheers, HolgerP.S. Very thoughtful discussion, Will and Allen!

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In reference to USA Roads"the ability to flatten, able to cross water with EITHER a generic bridge or a road" Though it would be nicer to have maybe 3 or 4 random generic autogen bridges between 2 points that cross water.This is all im looking for also. Since I live in NH and fly over the White mountains often, the roads just dont do it for me at lower altitudes, otherwise w/ the darkened textures for the major roads I am very satisfied. Now if your flying over the Phillipines mountainous areas then the road flattening wouldnt be realistic though, hehehe.

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Ehi Holger!hi! long time no see!I must agree to a point - photoreal can be flat - that is true - but - not matter what you do with lwm vtp - you will not get even close to the real thing as much as photorealistic scenery.yes is true the lwm vtp can add a 3 d dimension to the whole thing - but it is still not the real thing - unless is done in gmax with real and taken textures right on the spot.therefore is a matter - of again - choice - flat - against 3 d but a cartoonistic 3 d dimension - not at all real.regarding storage space - in these days this can be easly resolved with dvd or a matrox 300 gb external hd - at the cost of only us 99 - but how many photorealistic scenery will go in there - about 300 of 1 gb each - that is why i do design both - photoreal - and lwm vtp - to have the best of both worlds.ray

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Allen, First of all, let me congratulate you on your superb product, USroads. It has turned my VFR flying over the my custom KY 10M mesh, (which reeeeeealy popped out when I upped the Num_vertexes to 21 in the cfg file...btw...this was PRIOR to the fs9.1 upgrade...apparently fs was capable of showing 9.8M mesh all along),I created for my new home in Flat Lick, KY, into an absolute joy! I have put in a 2000' ILS strip with Afcad, and played with the Lago demo to add the farm house, Ground2k4 to add "Stinking Creek" and the new rwy12 for additional object placement. This is all to say, I want my VFR flying to be as accurate is possible.It is glorious to be at 3000 feet and fly over my KY mesh and view the actual roads that lead to the nearest towns to the NW , Barbourville, Corbin, and to the SE Pineville and Middlesboro. BUT!!!...when I get to about 1500 feet, the roads become very obviously painted. I have read your response about the fps toll flattening might have, but I have to agree about the importance of flattening, ESPECIALLY in the hill country where I live. I also noticed in an other post that you mentioned Holger Sandmann as having a solution to flattening which you had'nt thought of, to both Microsoft's and your custom textures. Can you amplify on Mr. Sandmann's suggested,solution? Lacking that...can you direct me to his comments to you regarding Flattening...or was that a private conversation?....Flattening in hill country....IS VERY IMPORTANT...if...and ONLY IF...there is a negligable fps hit...or am I asking for the unrealistic WIN/Win situation?....Flattening on HILLS and MOUNTAINS is Critical for the total enjoyment, involvement and suspension of disbelief of VFR flight, which..if I am not mistaken...was the prime goal of USroads in the first place.N.B.BTW guys and gals...off topic...but I am using the(a?) NEW fs9.1(not the old fs9.0) NOCD patch from AVENGER...it reads version 9.1.0.40901!..runs fine...with...I presume/hope the original code with new offsets and features.Respecfully, and gratefully submitted,Chas Honcehttp://forums.avsim.net/user_files/95602.jpg

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>good representation of complex interchanges), the roads are>WAY too bright, even at the lower reflection rating. You are way behind times. This problem has long been solved with a simple small download.Michael J.WinXP-Home SP2,AMD64 3500+,Abit AV8,Radeon X800Pro,36GB Raptor,1GB PC3200,Audigy 2, Omega 2.7.90 (4xAA 16xAF)

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The FSGenesis product was configured specifically to allow folks to use it alongside USA Roads if they wanted to. The flatten vs. accuracy folks (I know I'm simplifying!) can each have their road preference, while everyone can benefit from the streams and railroads.Jon

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>>good representation of complex interchanges), the roads are>>WAY too bright, even at the lower reflection rating. >>You are way behind times. This problem has long been solved>with a simple small download.>>Michael J.>WinXP-Home SP2,AMD64 3500+,Abit AV8,Radeon X800Pro,36GB>Raptor,1GB PC3200,Audigy 2, Omega 2.7.90 (4xAA 16xAF)...and that would be...?

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First of all, the review was for both products as they stand 'out of the box' It is not fair to review a "modified" product which wasn't even modified by the developers themselves, against a stock product from another company.If you look in my first reply to Allen, I did acknowledge the existence of the alternate textures that you refer to, and did acknowledge they help alot. However, the existence of the textures do not change the comparison of two out of the box products.I still believe the biggest sell point for the American Roads product is the ability to halt roads from going into the water, the "flattening" that really improves the look of roads in mountainous and hilly regions, and the price tag.Again, I purchased both products and enjoy both of them, but the ability to turn off road encroachment due to inaccurate shorelines and the flatten features seal the deal for me. (Plus at $15.00 how could you go wrong).For people who follow rivers, roads and coastlines, the new products from both Scenery Solutions and American Data should be a godsend. However, I wonder what the effect will be in major coastal cities when all of the sudden buildings end up in the water, or 'ferry' terminals end up on land. (a quick trip to Seattle using US roads will show the Alaskan Way viaduct is quite a bit off shore of the existing coastline. Thus when the corrections come, how many ships will we suddenly see in inexplicable drydock?

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I looked at all 63 shots...I'm convinced....loading your files now...Thank you very much!Chas

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Can someone send me a screen shot of their American Data road ? Please shoot from the enclosed jpg coordinates...btw..what you see is my USARoads and my Lago scenery ...so don't think it comes with any commercial package.Thanks,Chashesynergy@charter.net

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Hey, Chas, you might want to post at fsgenesis.net, that's who distributes that product.Jon

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