Publisher: RICHER SIMULATIONS
Description: CARIBSKY: ST. VINCENT 2019 FSX P3D
Reviewed by: Marlon Carter
In 2014, Richer Simulations released an FSX scenery product for the island of Grenada which featured a stunning level of detail that few have ever been able to achieve with Caribbean scenery add-ons. Since then, Richer Simulations has also released scenery products which cover Barbados, St. Kitts and Antigua. These products focus on the entire island while also being compatible with freeware and payware scenery products already available for these islands. If you haven’t seen these products as yet, I would highly encourage you to do so, since they are by far the most accurately detailed scenery available for these islands. As a preview, you can see a few screenshots below.
With some of the most well-known Caribbean islands already covered (with more to come), it was no surprise that this developer also seized the opportunity to recreate the newest international airport within the Eastern Caribbean. Argyle International airport is St. Vincent’s newest airport which replaces the E.T Joshua airport as the island’s main gateway. While E.T Joshua served as the main airport of St. Vincent for many years, it was only able to do so in a limited capacity. Due to the location and size of this airport, it could only accommodate regional aircraft such as the Dash 8, ATR72, Twin Otter and other smaller aircraft. Though the airport was also able to accommodate the operations of Amerijet’s 727, this operation was very limited due to performance factors.
This being the case, it was quite evident that in order for St. Vincent to experience a growth in tourism and its overall economy, a new airport was a necessity. However, unlike larger countries, building a new airport on a Caribbean island is much easier said than done. Due to the topography of St. Vincent, a new airport would require a significant adjustment to the natural layout of the island. After nearly 10 years of development however, Argyle international was finally opened in early 2017.
While covering the history of an airport isn’t always the norm for a scenery product review, understanding the development of this airport helps us to understand the challenge for the developer in recreating it. With the decommissioning of one airport and the development of a new airport that makes changes to the terrain of the island, recreating the new Argyle International airport for FSX/P3D would also mean a complete redesign of the entire island of St. Vincent. In taking up this challenge, I would say that the outcome was quite astonishing. As a preview of what we can all expect, here is a list of the features contained in this product.
newly constructed airport represented as of 2019
newly constructed solar farm
surrounding quarry, houses and related buildings
Fully bumped-map buildings, vehicles, objects and ground polygons.
Hand crafted 1m mesh for terrain on approach to runway 04 and the gentle slope near 22, as well as around the entire airport.
Approach and directional lights
Fully customizable options which can be turned on/off
fully modelled interior
fully modelled parking lot
Individual Dynamic Lights
Pre-rendered Apron Shadows
Sparse to Dense 3D Grass
High Poly Vegetation
Upgradable to 4096 Ultra HD textures (free separate download)
St. Vincent includes:
344 square km of photoreal coverage
0.5m/px photoreal terrain resolution
Custom 5m LIDAR-generated mesh
1.2 million custom autogen shrubs, trees, buildings and lights
Arnos Vale Stadium
Decommissioned TVSV airport now used as a dragstrip/raceway (with animated race cars) or usable as a sloped runway.
Advanced Night illumination: building windows and street lights
Surrounding reef textures
The features listed shows that quite a bit of care and attention to detail was put into this scenery with the goal of recreating not just a product that looks good, but a product that accurately depicts the look, feel or “vibe” of a Caribbean island. For a bit more information on the development of this product, here are a few comments from the developer that you might find insightful.
After developing Grenada X, how was the development of St. Vincent a step forward in overall quality?
My Customers #1 complaint with GrenadaX was that the modelling work was fairly good, but the texture work was poor. Therefore I did lots of research on developing proper textures for the terminal. I think this paid of as I was able to discover new methods and tailor them to my needs. This resulted in much higher resolution and better quality textures, while still keeping the drawcalls to a minimum for great performance.
Hardware has also come a long way since GrenadaX was released 5 years ago. This allowed me to pay greater attention to detail. The finer details are what really makes an airport shine.
Also, thankfully, this time I had great source photos to work from as the airport was new and extensively documented.
Given that Argyle is a new airport that required changes to the terrain of St. Vincent, was it a challenge to develop this airport?
The terrain at Argyle was a very unique challenge. A recent survey of the almost the entire island was done using LIDAR. But this was done before the airport was completed. The airport was literally cut out of the mountain side, hence there are steep cuts visible on all sides of the airport, and especially on approach to runway 04.
Simply dropping an airport flatten onto the area would not have represented the terrain correctly, as there is reclaimed land on approach, terraces on the sides, and a gentle slope on the other end
To model this I developed a process where I could bring the original LIDAR Digital Elevation Model data into Sketchup, cut and shape it by hand, and then export it back into a DEM for placement in the sim. It was a very long, frustrating and interesting learning process that allowed me to determine what I could and could not represent in the sim, but the results were extremely satisfying.
With one other product on the market for this airport, what sets yours apart?
The competing product for St Vincent actually caught me slightly off guard when it was released as I was nearly finished myself. However I took this as an opportunity to improve and polish this product. The delayed release allowed me to provide a more accurate and up to date representation which includes fully bump-mapped 4K textures, the newly constructed solar farm and other surrounding buildings, hand crafted 1m mesh, a fully modelled airport interior and parking lot, high polygon vegetation and a sloped runway implemented at the old E.T. Joshua airport.
Are there any other projects that the FS community can look forward to in the future?
My immediate project currently under development is TDPD and TDCF on the island of Dominica (which coincidentally was the very first freeware project I ever released, almost a decade ago). I also eventually plan to release a new version of Grenada, but work on that has not started. Please don't ask for any release dates! There is also one other secret airport currently in development which will be announced when it is fully ready.
We would certainly like to thank the developer for providing some further insight into the development of this project. From the responses to the questions asked, it is quite clear that this product is a step up from previous releases and it seems like we have more good things to look forward to in the future. Until then, let’s get a closer look at the new St. Vincent scenery.
In the real world, St. Vincent is an island that is known for being forested and very mountainous. In fact, you might have already seen a glimpse of this island in the 2003 Pirates of the Caribbean movie which was filmed in and around this island. Among the many interesting sights around this island, a notable feature of this island is that it’s now decommissioned E.T Joshua airport is uniquely positioned on the south coast of the island surrounded by hilly terrain and residential homes. What made this airport especially unique is that there was only one direction available for landing due to the surrounding terrain.
Another challenge in recreating this Caribbean island is that the layout of residential areas is not as predictable or orderly as with more developed countries. In the Caribbean, what you will find is that on many islands the layout of residential areas tend to be focused along the coastal or city areas with a sparse layout moving toward the center of the island which tends to be more mountainous.
For a scenery developer, this means that recreating an entire island would require the painstaking task of not only designing autogen specific to this region, but also placing them in an accurate and realistic manner. In addition to this, recreating landmarks and the now decommissioned airport which was also known for its sloped runway would also be quite a challenge. As we look at the screenshots below however, you can see that overall, the developer did a fantastic job at creating the entire island. At night, you will also see that quite a bit of work has gone into recreating an authentic night time experience with the placement of street lights at just the right location and intensity. Overall, the layout of the island of St. Vincent is by far one of the best depictions of a Caribbean island for FSX/P3D.
For the new Argyle airport, as mentioned in our introduction, with the challenge of having high terrain throughout the island, building this airport would require significant modifications to the terrain. With the island having a new layout after the construction of this airport, the developer was also tasked with the challenge of making all of these changes while ensuring the accurate placement of the new airport. At a first glance, it seems like Richer Simulations has done an outstanding job.
For the airport itself, the design seems to take both modern and traditional Caribbean design into consideration with the use of modern architecture and vibrant colours. When comparing this scenery to the real world airport, the design of the terminal, hangars, perimeter fencing and even the ground equipment are all very accurate in both its placement and its design. What was also impressive, is the fact that the terminal building’s accurate design covered both the exterior and the interior of the terminal. This level of detail truly creates an immersive experience that P3D V4 users will especially enjoy.
As for the now decommissioned E.T Joshua airport, the old terminal, runway and surrounding buildings have all been nicely modelled to reflect its current status. With this old airport now being used primarily for local motorsports, this product includes an option for drag racing action to be seen at the E.T Joshua airport. In addition to this remarkable option (which may also be a first for FSX/P3D), what’s also remarkable is that the sloped runway of E.T Joshua was also nicely implemented to add to realism of the airport terrain. For those of you who enjoy a challenge, I would high recommend putting your skills to the test by flying an NDB approach with a small aircraft at least once.
As we look closely at the textures used for each airport, the textures provided in this product are very high quality with an option for both standard and 4K. With the Argyle airport being the newest airport in the Caribbean, the textures show a fine balance between on airport that is new but also slightly tainted by the elements. What was also very impressive, was the fact that even the smallest of details were included as far as signs and wall murals are concerned both inside and outside of the airport. With E.T Joshua being much older, the textures of the terminal and surrounds adequately reflect that fact.
Moving now to the vegetation, scenery products for the Caribbean often fall short in this area due to the heavily forested and tropical look of most Caribbean islands. Also, with wet and dry seasons, the look of Caribbean islands can change quite drastically. With this product however, it was very impressive to see level of care that was taken in providing high polygon vegetation (optional) in addition to 3D grass which has an option for varying levels of coverage around the airport. As the seasons change, the textures and vegetation for the wet, dry and transitional periods have also been included and they are sufficiently accurate to what you would expect during these periods. Overall, while FSX/P3D may never truly capture the beauty of the Caribbean, this product gets us off to the right start.
As a final note on the appearance of the airport, for users of P3Dv4, you might be wondering how well this product supports features such as dynamic lighting. If you commonly use this feature, you will be quite pleased with the night time environment of this airport. With individual lights having dynamic lighting capabilities, the airport environment takes on a realistic appearance that nicely matches what you would expect to see in the real world. Additionally, if you use products such as GSX Level 2, you will also be very impress with the overall compatibility and proper placement of various gates. If you do not use GSX, TVSA also comes fully compatible with SODE jetways for realistic operation of the two jetways available.
In conclusion, I think this scenery product provided one of the best representations of a Caribbean island with a high level of detail that will satisfy the needs of customers who prefer a high quality add-ons. Thus far, the only potential issue I’ve discovered is that users of the RealityXP or Flight1 Garmin units may encounter an issue with loading flightplans from this airport if their navigation database isn’t updated with a database from 2017 onward. While this isn’t a major issue, it is an issue to be expected with any newly constructed airport for FSX/P3D.
Despite this minor issue however, for the price of Euro 20.00 or approximately $23.27 US, you really can’t go wrong with this purchase if you are interested in improving your Caribbean scenery or looking for some new and interesting places to fly other than the US or Europe. For many years the Caribbean has somewhat been neglected by FS developers, but thankfully we are now seeing a renewed interest in this region that pays homage to the stunning beauty of the Caribbean. Whether you use FSX or P3Dv4, you will be quite impressed with the overall quality and performance of this scenery product.
I would like to thank both Zev Richards (Richer Simulations) and Simeon Richardson for their assistance and contribution of screenshots for this review.
AIRCRAFT PRODUCTS SEEN IN THIS REVIEW