by Maxim Pyankov
Changi Airport (IATA: SIN, ICAO: WSSS), located about 10 miles northeast from the commercial center in Changi (eastern end of Singapore), is the primary civilian airport serving Singapore, a modern city-state and island country in Southeast Asia. This airport is one of the largest transportation hubs in Southeast Asia. According to the Airports Council International website data for year 2013, Changi airport was 13th busiest passenger-volume-wise, being led by Germany's Frankfurt airport, and ahead of such giants as Amsterdam's Schiphol and New York's JFK airports.
ImagineSim, a UK based company well known in the flight sim community, have recompiled their 2010 version of this airport into P3Dv2-compatible format.
Purchase, Install, and Manual
A couple of things to note about ImagineSim's Changi WSSS for P3D - to the existing owners of the FSX version of this airport, the P3D version is available for free. If you already own it, then you can also get a "big update to the FSX version that ... increases performance by an average of 13%". As I am only reviewing WSSS released for P3D, and I did not have a previous version of this airport, I cannot judge on the performance improvement claim. What I can do, however, is report performance in my instance of P3Dv2.5.
If you do not already own an ImagineSim WSSS, then you can purchase it for €14.99. As I understand it, if you purchase it from SimMarket, then the FSX customers will be able to download the P3D version for free, and vice versa. In addition, based on the updates available on ImagineSim's Facebook page, and my own correspondence with them, there is an altogether brand new version of this airport planned for later this year. The catch is that you will need to pay the full price again, as it will be produced "along much better techniques and standards and so [would require] as much investment as a complete new project". Based on the above and your personal situation, you may want to wait until a brand new version of the airport comes out sometime later this year.
The review version I received did not have an installer (although I was assured that paying customers would). As such, I will not be describing the installation process other than to mention that, even without the installer, it was as simple as unzipping the folder structure, and adding the scenery through the proven "Add Scenery" feature of the sim. Included with the textures came a 14-page airport manual with some basic airport information, one airport diagram, a page dedicated to the explanation of Docking system, a set of FAQs, including a series of suggestions on what settings to set your simulator settings to. Be sure to set your Scenery Complexity settings to Maximum to get all of the scenery objects.
Airport Features and First Impressions
Key point to remember, when examining this airport, it that it is a port of a 2010 product, provided as a stop-gap measure until a new version of this scenery comes out later this year. To make sure we do justice to the scenery, we have to set our expectations accordingly. But even with that disclaimer in place, without having experienced the WSSS scenery before, I was pleasantly surprised by many aspects and features of this package. Without further ado, let us examine this package.
Parked at gate C24, sometime in the afternoon hours, I start the examination of the scenery. First - the gates. As long as you have your Scenery Complexity set to Max, you will enjoy a ton of objects in and around the gates. A typical gate will include an airport service minivan, a parked aircraft tug vehicle, numerous luggage crates and dollies, and other airport ground support vehicles. Considering that this is a 2010 port, I was very pleased with the models and texturing of the vehicles. I thought that the luggage "trains" and crates looked the most realistic; I was also pleasantly surprised that all static vehicles did have fairly round wheels (yes, even today there are sceneries out there that may have octagonal or otherwise "non-round" wheel objects on jetways and vehicles).
All of these models are static and are there for your visual pleasure. I tested this scenery with FSDreamTeam's GSX package, and had a pleasant and flawless experience (I asked ImagineSim about AES support and they replied that AES still did not support the P3D platform). In the screenshots above, notice the serial numbers both on the metal luggage crates, and on the dollies these crates are sitting on. A nice touch.
I now move to Gate E4. Again, notice the wide variety of vehicles around the gate. This time, however, let's look at the jetway itself.
First and foremost - these jetways do not move at all. They are there for visual effects only, and do not serve any sim purpose at all.
Overall, there is an acceptable level of detail around the actual jetways. For example, you can find a number of miscellaneous 3D objects, including trash-cans, power units complete with warning signage, and painted sidesteps. On the roofs of the jetways you will find air conditioning units and beacon lights.
Now let's talk about the texturing. As you see in the screenshots below, the quality of textures of building components, such as doors and windows, looks dated and almost out of place when compared with some of the higher quality textures found on the objects around the gates (vehicles, signage, luggage carts, etc.). For example, the ladders, leading up to the jetways, are not ladders at all, in terms of 3D modeling, but a "ladder" texture attached to a plane 3D rectangle.
With that, let's move on and examine the airport buildings and their textures. The 3D modeling of the buildings is uncomplicated and persistent. The only additional objects (other than the gate "clutter") that you will find modeled around the buildings are uniform trash cans, occasional satellite dishes, and parts of the docking system.
The level of detail of 3D modeling is close to what I would have expected four or five years ago. Remember, this is a port of a 2010 FSX product to P3D platform. The modeling gives us a good sense of the outlines of the airport buildings and towers, but lacks the level of detail to take us to the next level of immersion and realism. Practically speaking, depending on where you are in the airport will determine the level of realism for you. You may be parked along a main terminal building that looks and feels fairly realistic. On the other hand, you may be parked right outside a fairly low-level-modeled object that will dissipate the air of realism.
The texturing used on the buildings betrays, more than anything else, the age of this product. Much like the texturing used on the jetways, discussed above, they are a fairly low resolution textures with blurry doorways, uniform garage doors, straight clean lines and edges that collectively convey a somewhat sterile and a little dated environment.
The same as above is really true for the outskirts of the airport as well. Of course, these days we are used to be treated to a number of additional features, extending beyond the immediate buildings of the airport, found in and around the airport outskirts. I mean features like the greater geographic area, modeled to a high level of detail, around the airport; or the deep foliage coverage around the airport; or some landmarks such as train stations and stadiums placed on the approach/departure paths. The outskirts of the Changi airport, in this 2010 package, are fairly basic and are comprised of a low res photo scenery and some major, low detail buildings.
Next up - the ground textures! General statement - the asphalt and concrete ground textures look good. There is enough variability and detail to set these textures quite ahead of stock textures and to provide a feeling of atmosphere immersion. Gate areas have all the correct markings and even exhibit some signs of weather and usage wear and tear.
I would have liked to see more oil spills. I would have liked to see more definition to "ground objects" such as man-holes and various ground outlets. I would have liked to see more weather wear and tear in terms of worn off and fading paint markings, but even with these features missing the grounds look realistic. Another missing ground feature - cracks and imperfections in the concrete.
Runways look good and display well detailed ground objects, tire marks, and ground paint imperfections. Tire marks, by the way, are not present anywhere else other than the runways.
The dirt and grassy areas surrounding the taxiways and runways do not look very good.
Night Light and Seasons
It is my opinion that this scenery looks best in the dusk hours, which is when the airport lights go up, but the sun has not yet fully hidden below the horizon. I like this time the best because it is during this time of day that this scenery, which can look a little washed out in the daytime, gets a lot of shades and tones and overall character not noticeable in other times of the day. For example, the terminal building windows, so lifeless and bland in the day, get a new life with various colors and lights!
The pitch darkness of the deep night gobbles up whatever character and life is presented in the dusk hours and leaves us with a fairly uniform, uninspiring scenery. Don't get me wrong on this one - there is nothing wrong with the dark night lighting - the terminal windows are still lit, the gates are lit, the outskirts are hidden by the night..it's just that there is nothing particular special about the nighttime scenery display.
Understandably so, there is no seasonal variability of any sort. None was expected, due to the geographic location of this scenery.
For the numerous test flights I made a number of (not so short!) back and forth trips between Changi (this scenery) and Hong Kong. During my tests I used Active Sky Next (various weather situations), Electronic Flight Bag, and Radar Contact (all running off a networked laptop), with FSDreamTeam's ground services and REX weather textures on the main (sim) PC. I did not encounter any technical or performance issues worth mentioning in this review.
The airport looked good from the air both upon departure, and on the approach. Of course there could be numerous improvements in terms of realism and detail on the approach/departure paths, but taking it for what it is (a port of a 2010 product), I was very pleased and truly enjoyed flying in and out of that part of the world.
Given for what it is (a port of a 2010 FSX product to a P3D platform), this is a good product. Clearly lacking in details both on the 3D modeling and the texturing fronts, the package has enough solid features, definition and character to provide a pleasant experience. The 2010 technologies used in this scenery have been non-taxing on my system whatsoever and performance has not once been a concern.
Now the tricky part. This product retails for about 15 Euros. Personally, I think a fair price would be a few Euros below that, but I am not a pricing analyst or specialist. The real catch is that ImagineSim will be coming out with a completely new scenery, for this airport, later this year and none of the money you invest into this scenery you will be able to count towards the new package. So, if you fly in this part of the world, use Prepar3D, and have extra cash to spend now (and later on the new package!), then you should get this stop-gap product. Likewise, if you only sometimes fly here or if you have limited funds, then I my advice would be to wait for the new package. If ImagineSim gave existing WSSS customers a discount, then my advice would be different.
Whatever your personal decision and judgement - I would like to acknowledge the developers for taking steps to help us extend our beloved hobby (obsession?) onto what appears to be the next stable and long-term iteration - the next platform!
What I Liked
Tons of well modeled vehicles around gates
Variability and detail in asphalt and concrete textures
Scenery presentation in the dusk hours
What Could Be Improved:
Jetways do not attach/detach
Low level of detail in textures
Low level of detail in some 3D objects
Airport outskirts lacking detail and character
Ground textures lacking signs of wear and tear
Dirt and grass textures do not look great
System Specs Reviewed On
Intel® Core i7-4770K @ 3.5 GHz, Overclocked to 4.4 GHz
Installed RAM: 8 GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Running on Windows 7 Home Premium, Service Pack 1