With Indianapolis X, DreamScenery adds three detailed areas in Marion county Indiana:
• Indianapolis international airport (KIND)
Indianapolis is the 13th largest city in the United States according to the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association.
Indianapolis International Airport (KIND) opened in September 1931, and received its current name in 1975 after being called Weir-Cook airport in 1944. It now occupies some 7,700 acres located 8 miles south-west of downtown. The airport is currently going a major upgrade to be completed towards the end of 2008. In the plans are a new passenger terminal with parking garage centrally located between its two main runways, and a new interchange from I-70. KIND is a major hub for shipper Federal Express, for the United States Postal Service, and many other cargo and maintenance facilities. According to the operator, the Indianapolis Airport Authority, KIND saw over 8 million passengers last year and 1.15 million tons of cargo.
Packaging, Installation and Documentation
Indianapolis X is a 322Mb download through SimMarket. A CD can be ordered, although I was very surprised that the cost of the CD adds 50% to the purchase cost. Be warned the cost is in Euros, currently a drawback for US dollar based customers. SimMarket has a seamless purchase experience, with the download link available through your registered account page. The download link is only valid for one year from the data of purchase, although additional time can be purchased through a “subscription”. Product updates are available through SimMarket. A support forum is available here.
The installation of the product was uneventful, except that the installation wizard was unable to edit my scenery.cfg as advertised in the documentation. This was not an issue as the scenery can easily be added inside Flight Simulator. The documentation states that the automatic feature works when using the default installation folder – which I did. This didn’t work for me on Vista x64. While unexpected, again, a quick fix.
When all installed, the product folder occupied 476Mb on my disk drive.
The 25 page PDF document covers all the essentials from the installation to the configuration options of the product. It also includes a welcome history of the region going back to Samuel de Champlain in 1615, a list of major buildings and features, an FAA map of the airport, and reference data such as airport runway information and a table of frequencies to operate hangars doors.
An external configuration utility is used to customize the options for Indianapolis X. Its primary function is to adjust the level of detail for the performance of your hardware by enabling or disabling objects. I was surprised to see how many options were available. Clearly a lot of thought and time went into making this scenery work well for different hardware capabilities. An image representing the effect will be displayed in the top-left, showing the “before” and “after” impact of your selection.
After the options are selected, the utility will copy a number of objects and textures to the product’s scenery folder using batch commands. Each command causes a command line window to come up, causing a surprising flashing effect. The first time, it wasn’t clear to me whether the utility was working or not, but it worked very well. I found out I wasn’t the only one surprised as someone posted this question on the product’s support forum.
Given that we are in the business of flight simulation, our tour of virtual Indianapolis will, of course, begin at the airport. We will then hop 8 miles north-east towards the capital of the “Hoosier” state for a downtown fly-by, finishing our journey at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Indianapolis International Airport (KIND)
DreamScenery depicts the airport with the new midfield terminal still under construction (the facility is scheduled to open in October 2008). The scenery comes complete with cranes, unfinished buildings and structures, and even a picnic table under a tent.
This can come at a very noticeable frame rate hit with all the detail enabled (30% to 50% hit on my system near the terminal). However, the level of detail is entirely customizable and good performance can be achieved with moderate detail levels, without necessarily sacrificing the experience.
DreamScenery adds an interesting twist to the rendering of ice in the virtual winter, using optional polygons in winter time. The effect is quite pleasing as it allows ice and snow to make it across the taxiways in irregular lines – much more realistic and a good idea.
Nearly all the facilities are incredibly detailed.
Moving towards downtown, we find that autogen fills the 8 miles between the airport and downtown and does a good job filling the gap.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
I found the textures to work equally well at night, with good variety.
The quality of
the 3D modeling is good to excellent. There are hundreds of objects in the
scenery, and focusing on a handful of minor issues would be
nitpicking. Even up close, 3D buildings and other polygonal objects are
sharp and varied. The developer didn’t repeat many of textures.
First, the ground textures in the scenery have a prevalent green hue that does not blend well with surrounding tiles. I was hoping the green lush would go away with other seasons, and discovered that spring and fall seem to use the same summer textures. This has a side effect of making the green lush even more visible.
A winter texture is available and makes a valiant effort at making the green go away. Yet everything still looks green to me with a ground texture that looked touched up with white spray paint. This is not helped by a few brilliant patches of freshly mowed lawns here and there in the scenery during winter time, untouched by the surrounding white.
DreamScenery uses photorealistic ground textures, and these will typically clash with the default (or enhanced) scenery in the simulator. Photo textures of the three areas covered by this scenery would not be so noticeable had the area been large enough. In this case, the three are within close proximity of default FSX textures and terrain. Whereas the scenery in FSX makes approximations causing some lineup issues, the photo realistic ground textures in Indianapolis X simply stick out. I wish a bit more effort had gone into blending them with surroundings, especially with highways. A few rendering issues are also present in some tiles, likely associated with night lighting needs.
This scenery is very complex with all options turned on. At the highest level of detail, it dropped my FPS by 30 to 50%. The key impact was the terminal area at the airport, especially with many AI aircraft at the gate.
Load times can be significantly increased as well, especially when the scenery is loaded the first time (cache probably is at play here, as subsequent loads were much faster on my system).
Thankfully, it is not difficult to find a good balance of eye candy and FPS through the configuration utility. The best way I can characterize my performance experience is that KIND is very similar to that of the New York City area at full detail in the default FSX – meaning most high end systems will handle it. Due to the number of textures loaded, I surmise that video cards with more on-board memory will help performance quite a bit.
Indianapolis X provides a high fidelity rendition of the Indianapolis International Airport and adds many of the buildings and landmarks found in Indianapolis and vicinity.
The 3D modeling is good, if not excellent, and the product makes it mark through the sheer amount of unique features to be found, begging to be explored. The package’s ability to tune details through its configuration utility will certainly help mitigate the frame rate hit that is sure to come.
Indianapolis X has the most polish with its star airport, which has seen prior releases by this vendor for FS9. KIND visibly benefits from this experience. DreamScenery makes a valiant effort to depict a large city and mostly succeeds, so long as it can keep up with building density to hide the ground.
In the end, I
wish the product had ground textures to match the excellence of the 3D objects
rendered on top of them. Thankfully, there are
so many objects covering the ground that the subpar terrain textures
some 3D objects here and there, are easy to forget.
What I Like About Indianapolis X
What I Don't Like About Indianapolis X
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