AVSIM Commercial Scenery Review

Godzone Virtual Flight
The Magazine of New Zealand Scenery for FS2002
 

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Rating Guide
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This is the default view of Christchurch, looking across Hagley Park past the Square, with its high-rise buildings, onto the volcanic Port Hills. Of course, you need to use your imagination!

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Ah! That's better. Here we have a combination of add-ons—an improved New Zealand Mesh, a better landclass file, plus a photo-real city centre including custom-made and photo-textured GMAX buildings.

Publisher: Robin Corn
Description:
New Zealand scenery in magazine format
Download Size:
N/a
Format:
Executable Auto Install Files
Simulator:
FS2002
Reviewed by: Maury Pratt, AVSIM Chief Managing Editor

Possible Commercial Rating Score: 1 to 5 stars with 5 stars being exceptional.
Please see details of our review rating policy here

Earlier this year I visited New Zealand for the first time and, like so many others, was struck with the beauty of this amazing country of some 4 million people. So I was delighted to hear of Robin Corn''s new venture, a CD-based magazine called Godzone Virtual Flight. In Robin's words, "Each of the four quarterly issues will include tips, tutorials, articles and resources for those who want to expand the kiwi flightsim experience, as well as hundreds of megabytes of additional photo-real scenery which will help flesh out the kiwi landscape."

OK, why isn't this freeware like that of so many other underserved locales in Flight Simulator products? To that point Robin responds, "Well, you are not really paying for the scenery, you are paying for the magazine, part of the purpose of which will involve the distribution of freeware scenery. Plus, the aerial images which form the basis of this scenery are a great resource, but the coverage is very limited—at the rate the images appear, we will have complete colour coverage of New Zealand in more than ten years—too long! Part of the cost of the magazine will go towards purchasing aerial images ahead of public release. This will be used in future issues of the magazine. For instance, one project which may be ready in issue two is New Zealand's version of the impressive Oshkosh scenery release recently by Microsoft—based on the Marlborough Airshow next Easter weekend."

So I installed the Issue #1 CD and frankly, I enjoyed the opening screen, a video overview of New Zealand scenery with the default Cessna that takes off from Tieri's local field at sunset... accompanied by some kiwi country music. Open the table of contents and you're presented with 42 Chapters in html format.

Chapter 1 introduces the magazine; click on the logo at the bottom of that page and an index to the CD's contents appears. In Chapter 2 you find that the first step is to install Christian Stock's New Zealand Mesh nz150mesh.zip (10.3MB) using the supplied website link. Robin also mentions Christian's TMF Manual uploaded January 2003 (this and other files by Christian Stork are in the AVSIM library). This document is all about MS' raster Terrain Mesh File format (elevations, land class, custom photo textures, seasons, etc) and how to do it. Christian remarks, "This is the manual Microsoft should have written in the first place." Robin goes on to briefly explain the effects of higher resolution mesh scenery and landclass (Land Classification) files. And in Chapter 3 he offers a step-by-step tutorial for installing scenery, and some ideas to make installation easy. This alone should prove interesting to any flight simmer who's perplexed by add-on scenery installation! And Chapters 4 & 5 complete the picture by explaining how to install and activate Godzone scenery in FS2002—the latter includes a cool animation of using FS2002's Scenery Library function. Chapter 6 is an 'extra' that suggests various graphics display options to improve framerates, including a discussion of 'mipmaps' and their effect on system performance.

In Chapter 7, "Tracking down and installing other New Zealand scenery" you'll find references to websites where you can find downloadable files with additional New Zealand scenery (mostly airports) and related materials—for example Kiwifly and of course here at AVSIM's file library. Examples are described in Chapters 8 – 13.

The scenery available in Godzone Virtual Flight's Issue #1 is introduced in Chapters 14 – 20:

  • Christchurch City
  • Taieri Plains
  • Taranaki
  • Lake Tekapo
  • Lake Kaniere
  • Napier/Hastings
  • Hampden Coast

Chapters 21 – 23 cover other add-on files which can add to the kiwi flying experience (these are general FS files for water, clouds, and other goodies including ActiveCamera Pro).

Test System

Dell 8200 P4 2,400 MHz
WindowsXP
512 Megs RD RAM
GeForce 4 4600ti graphics card
40X DVD CD ROM
MS Force Feedback 2 joystick
Dell 19" Monitor


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Christchurch - day view

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Christchurch - night view

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The Dunedin airport (included on the Godzone CD).

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This view in the Dunedin vicinity conveys the 'feel' of New Zealand plains.

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Taranaki plains, with Mt Taranaki in the background.

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Mt. Taranaki, the volcano near the North Island's western coast.

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Another example of New Zealand's spectacular scenery, this time at Tekapo.

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A view of Lake Tekapo

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A view of the Napier/Hastings area, on the western North Island coast.

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Another view of the Napier/Hastings area.

The remaining chapters are an introduction to designing your own scenery for the simulator followed with a compendium of tools and descriptions of their use, such as finding suitable aerial images and scaling, correcting and retouching, and rotating these; placing images at the correct geographic locations within FS, using Terrabuilder, autogen, and Gmax, and of course getting your scenery into Flight Simulator.

These introductory pages conclude with an appeal to New Zealanders to contribute scenery they create using these tools; references to applicable newsgroups and forums, "The best is AVSIM.com—they have a scenery design forum, a mesh forum and even one for Terrabuilder, which is frequented by the author of Terrabuilder;" and finally "Thanks" to a list of notable developers in the New Zealand simming community.

Christchurch

This is the only "cityscape" scenery in this issue, but it does contain night as well as day textures. Judging from my visit there it's very convincing. The buildings are nicely done, especially the Cathedral in the city's center. It's all developed in Gmax, with autogen-based buildings and trees.

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Here's a screenshot I made approaching the Avon river in Christchurch.

Taieri Plains

This scenery area, located in the South Island's eastern coast, encompasses Dunedin airport. The scenery does not include Dunedin City—but Robin comments, "there is no reason why it couldn't. If you are a staunch Dunedinite then I could help you get started on extending this to include the city. Just talk to me!"

Taranaki

This is a 30 x 40 kilometre photo-real scenery covering a part of Taranaki from the coast to the mountain. According to Robin, Mt Taranaki is also known as Mount Egmont—the dual name is a feature of New Zealand mountains, many of which have a Maori and Pakeha name.

Lake Tekapo

Another 30 x 40 km photo-real scenery, located in the South Island's mountains. As Robin notes, "Flying over the western ranges gets you to a cute little valley which differs from Tekapo enough to make you appreciate the variety and beauty of the New Zealand landscape."

Lake Kaniere

According to Robin, this was probably the most difficult scenery to make—simply because the West Coast scenery is so distinctive. "It is also my favorite scenery, even though it is not yet finished."

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The lake at Kaniere.
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Another view of Kaniere - Wow!

Napier/Hastings

This is the largest scenery area, covering almost 30 x 80 kilometres. It includes both Napier and Hastings airports. Again, Robin remarks, "If you live in Napier or Hastings you may want to add the autogen—this is a big project, and not to be undertaken lightly! Perhaps it could be split between the two cites. Just let me know."

Hampden Coast

Robin wraps up this scenery collection by saying "This scenery is part of a larger long-term project—mapping the entire east coast of the South Island from Blenheim to Dunedin. This would allow one large VFR flight area where you wouldn't run out of photo-real scenery."

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A view of the Hampden coast.
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Here's another look at the Hampden coast.

Conclusion

Robin and his friends have made a great start with this most ambitious project. Together with Christian Stock's New Zealand terrain mesh underlying these scenery files you have a wonderful foundation to populate the Kiwi corner of the world. We're looking for great things in future Godzone Magazine editions. In the meantime, A number of airports by other developers are cited in Edition #1, such as Auckland Airport, Auckland City, and surrounding airfields by Deane Baunton.

There are two different prices, one for mail-order CD and one to order the CD online. This is because they are related to two different currencies—it's sold by mail order in New Zealand dollars at the Godzone Virtual Flight website, and SimMarket sells the magazine online in Euros. Robin plans to offer a subscription for four issues on SimMarket, so pricing is: Mail order: NZ$19.95 per issue including shipping (about $11USD), NZ$59.00 for four issues; Online order: EUR12.50 per issue including shipping worldwide EUR40.00 for four issues. If you're interested in participating in kiwi scenery development you can e-mail Robin Corn directly.

 

What I Like About the Godzone magazine
  • The magazine, in html format, is well organized
  • Quality Gmax-developed photorealistic scenery
  • Excellent tutorials, with references to more!
  • A wealth of scenery resource references

 
What I Don't Like About the Godzone magazine
  • While an excellent beginning, much work remains to be done to populate New Zealand's cities.

 
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