Review by Gene Davis. Since the original Instant Scenery was released a few years back I have been an avid user and supporter of this program because of its ease of use and simple integration into Microsoft Flight Simulator. Now, enter the third release of Instant Scenery, aptly named Instant Scenery 3! This time around you get the same features as before as well as some new and significant program improvements.
Purchase and Download
Purchasing Instant Scenery 3 is just like any other Flight 1 product, simply download the program from the Flight 1 website and purchase the program via the Flight 1 Wrapper. If you owned the previous version and bought it after January 1, 2013 you are eligible to get the new version for free, otherwise owners that purchased before will need to pay the $29.99 to buy the new version. Instant Scenery 3 will work and install into FSX, FS2004 and or Prepar3d 1.4 (Not quite sure about 2.0), in fact the installer actually asks you which program you’re installing it into!
Having owned Instant Scenery 2, I did uninstall the previous version before installing 3 and the found that the install process is short and straight to the point. Once installed you can access Instant Scenery 3 from the Add-ons menu in FSX when FSX is running and it is recommended that you run FSX in windowed mode when using IS3 otherwise you might experience CTD’s.
There is also a manual included that is easy to understand and will have you jumping in and creating scenery for FSX and or P3D in no time!
Instant Scenery 3 Features (IS3)
IS3 comes with many different features and gives the user the ability to add over 1000 different objects to the Flight Simulator environment without having to leave the program (FSX) or restart it. IS3 actually uses the existing scenery objects, buildings, etc. that are default to FSX to make its list of available objects for use when creating new scenery areas.
In total there are over 20 different categories to choose from, but if you are like me you will probably spend most of your time in the Autogen, Airport Objects and Building categories because these are where the most common objects are stored.
The program also makes it easy to implement scenery objects by simply using the mouse to place and or manipulate said objects. The core program will also give the user the ability to change height, size, elevation and complexity for each individual object when using IS3. It is as simple as clicking on the object or building you want to place using the core IS3 program and dragging it onto the screen in FSX.
The program also features a Favorites window, but it would be nice to see a most used window instead that would maybe list the last 10 objects used for easy reference.
There are some rather significant additions to IS3 which make up the core changes to the program and to where it has evolved into Instant Scenery 3. The biggest change and newest features have to be the ability to create land polygons, roads (with traffic), railways, power lines, and water polygons with shorelines within the Flight Simulator environment without having to generate bgl.files outside of the simulator, this is a pretty significant enhancement as it really adds to the kind of work that can be done from IS3 within Flight Simulator.
| || || |
| || || |
Using and Creating With IS3
One of the things I truly enjoy doing with a program like IS3 is using it to populate cities or towns while using photo-real terrain. With my FSX installation I use MegaScenery Earth V2 Scenery and though it does look great it is totally devoid of any autogen and is pretty limited when it comes to scenery object placement in some locations. So, that is where IS3 comes in, it allows me to take a small area and grow it into the town or city I want it to be. I find that I often compare it to be like designing a city in the old game SimCity only for FSX instead without all of the budget constraints!
With previous version of Instant Scenery I have created scenery for the city of Yakima and its surrounding communities like Selah and Gleed and I have also done quite a bit of work along the Oregon Coast by building up marina’s and adding motels, bay fronts and other structures throughout to give the areas a more realistic appearance when flying in and out of them. This work has been ongoing and it has the coverage areas have grown considerably and I do plan on uploading my files to AVSIM soon.
| || |
| || || |
For the sake of this article I took an area that had no previous scenery and started fresh with IS3 and decided on a small town that is just south of Yakima, WA called Wapato. Wapato is small little town in Eastern Washington and it is mainly an agriculture community and only has a population of right around 5000 people. The town itself has an old look and feel to it and that was something I wanted to capture when placing the scenery objects and buildings.
In life I have been to Wapato many times and I am very familiar with all of the little towns and communities throughout the entire Yakima Valley as I spent many years there so there is a bit of nostalgia involved when I do these kinds of projects.
Two of the largest buildings / complexes in the Wapato has to be that of Inland Fruit and Yakima Fruit as they are quite large and stand out most when viewing the scenery from the air as they are the first thing you see when you approach the town from the North. These two facilities, along with the water tower that sits just South of Yakima Fruit make’s for the largest landmarks in the area and they are what defines the town when viewed from afar.
| || |
| || || |
Objects in IS3 are all default to the SDK that came with FSX so you are stuck using what is available unless you go looking for other 3rd party object libraries, but keep in mind that you may have distribution problems if using other libraries without the approval of the ones who designed them. Keeping that in mind there is a lot of repetition involved when using certain objects and you are only going to find buildings and objects that “look like” what you are trying to convey as real world buildings in certain locations unless you use a program like Instant Object Maker to create your own objects and buildings that are true to their real world counterparts.
Take my downtown Yakima scenery; I think I came pretty close to a decent design of what the Yakima skyline looks like and that was done using only default scenery objects.
| || || |
| || || |
When you first start creating the scenery area IS3 will ask you if you want to add the scenery to an existing BGL or create a new one, in this case the last scenery file that I altered was my KYKM.BGL so I needed to create a new scenery file called Wapato.BGL and this is so that each area remains separate from the other and you are not building one file for one large area. After that it is merely going through the list of objects and buildings and selecting what you want to incorporate into your project and making it fit the way you want it to.
Luckily, there is a tone of agriculture type buildings available in FSX and I have found that even though they get repetitive you can adjust them or manipulate them to give them their own identity. I usually do this by taking two of the same buildings, or two different buildings and merge them together using IS3, this is done by simply placing one over the other and one being at different angle then the other thus giving it a different appearance.
| || |
Designing and trying to get an accurate layout can be a bit overwhelming because you don’t always know the actual size of certain buildings when placed and often do not realize this until after you have closed out IS3. Just because it looks good in the top down view doesn’t mean that it will fit the scenery properly and portray an accurate and realistic look.
This was the case with my first attempt at creating the Inland Fruit and Yakima Fruit complexes and I ended up going back and redoing most of the work I had already done because I had buildings that were way to large in height and they just didn’t fit in with the surrounding scenery. Though IS3 does allow you to view the scenery from any view within or outside the aircraft while editing it I usually only use the top down view while dropping scenery objects just because I find that is the easiest way of doing it for me and makes it easy to align it with the photo-real scenery.
The town of Wapato is made of mostly older buildings and most are small so I found myself using a lot of the same types of buildings as I laid out the downtown area. From the ground it tends to look repetitive but from the air it isn’t that noticeable and offers a pretty decent recreation of the town. Personally, I would love to see more objects and buildings released with Instant Scenery especially when it comes to North American design. Though there is a lot of agriculture based buildings there is definitely a lack of commercial style buildings that actually fit in rural America as most of the commercial buildings available are quite large.
Several of the new features with IS3 are that of the ability to create roads, rail, land polygons and water polygons and I was amazed at how easy these features were to use and incorporate. In the case of the rail, I simply followed the existing track on the photo-real scenery and laid it down over the top, same with the roads!
Roads will give you the ability to add single lane to multi-lane freeways that also includes traffic, as for the polygons I didn’t spend much time trying to figure them out but adding a lake to an area is pretty simple as the shorelines are automatically adjusted to your design. It is important to note that when creating roads, rail, and polygons IS3 will create a different BGL file for you to use; in my case, the rail I added and the road became a BGL called WapatoCVX.bgl keeping it separate from the other Wapato.BGL which includes the buildings and objects and makes it easy for removal if you do not want to use it.
Time is your only true enemy here and in some cases you can literally spend hours working on one area. Once I get started I tend to not want to stop and keep building until my eyes start to hurt, in the case of Wapato it took me roughly two hours to get the base of the town down, then check it out and then go back and make changes where I wanted to, several days later I invested another couple hours to make changes to it again after looking on it with fresh eyes.
| || |
Instant Scenery 3 is an exceptional program and I have used it since it was originally released years ago. It has added so much to my own enjoyment of FSX because when I go flying I can look down on the world below and say “Hey, I created that!” and it gives me a sense of it being my own because I designed a small portion of it. IS3 has a simple to use interface that incorporates itself into FSX nicely and it doesn’t over complicate by making the user take other steps to complete what he or she wants, it is just straight and to the point!