Scenery Tech’s Europe and Asia Landclass products provide accurate terrain mapping data for large areas of the world.
The scenery engine in FSX, as with previous versions, uses the Olson Global Ecosystem Legend, a table of terrain coverage types created by the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center (EROS). This data, called landclass data, is used by the simulator to associate up to 255 types of terrain to map the entire surface of the globe. The smallest level of detail is 1.2 square kilometers (0.46 square miles).
The landclass data is used by the simulator to select textures and objects to render the scenery. The table below shows an example of the Olson classes used in FSX:
I’ve highlighted in blue the respective coverage areas for the Europe and Asia products.
The Europe landclass covers Iceland through the Kurile Islands off of the Siberia region of Russia, while the Asia landclass goes from the Middle East to Japan.
Each product comes as a 16Mb download. My version came through the familiar Flight1 wrapper. The product is first downloaded, and when the executable is run, you are prompted for payment information. Once the license key has been obtained, the wrapper extracts the product’s setup program and runs it automatically.
The license key should be saved in a safe place in case the product must be re-installed. You will be prompted for the license key and the last four digits of the credit card used to make the purchase to unlock the product in the future.
I like the Flight1 delivery system because products and updates can be downloaded as many times as needed with no artificial limit on how many times the product can be downloaded, or with expiring links to worry about.
Scenery Tech also states that updates are provided free of charge. In fact, the Europe product I downloaded was version 1.1, so no patch was necessary. The Asia product is release 1.0.
The install is completely automatic. You will end up with a new folder called Scenery Tech in the main FSX install folder. Each product uses a bit less than 10Mb when installed, so it is quite small.
The setup program offers an option to replace the default rock/glacier textures, and also to replace the lookup table (lclookup.bgl) with an “improved sloped” surface rendering. These options should be considered with care as they impact all terrain rendering, not just the areas covered by the products.
Thankfully, the setup program does create a backup of all impacted files so the changes can be undone if necessary. 63 texture files and the one landclass file are impacted between the two products.
The documentation for each product comes in the form of a 5 page RTF format document. The documentation contains the basic installation instructions, a map of the area covered, a list of updated features by product version, a complete list of files replaced, and support information.
We’ll use two methods to evaluate the impact of the Scenery Tech Europe & Asia landclass.
The first method uses the data visualization tool in the Flight Simulator Software Development Kit available to scenery designers. The tool color codes the landclass data on a map, thus providing a visual demonstration of differences in landclass information between the default FSX dataset and the new data Scenery Tech installs.
The second method is the tried and true “Mark I eyeball” before/after in-flight screenshots, taken from similar location, weather and angle. These are random, yet representative screenshots in areas of the world covered by the product.
Please click on each image for a high resolution version.
The Scenery Tech landclass visibly increases both the variety and resolution of the terrain type across the areas covered. The effect is drastic in areas of the world neglected by FSX where pervasive desert textures make the visuals rather bland and uninteresting.
I also found the Scenery Tech data refines the transitions by utilizing more classes on the Olson scale, in particular for population areas. This makes urban areas from small villages to large cities magically appear in the terrain, while providing a gradual transition from rural to urban types.
The new textures and texture map file impacts mountains and rocky areas significantly. It adds “more rock” to mountains, and second, it eliminates some of the zigzag effects on sloped surfaces. One danger here is the impact on other add-ons that rely on the default texture maps.
There are some limitations on the impact of the product: (1) the landclass data resolution, while much higher than that provided in the default FSX landclass, is still subject to artifacts due to the approximations in processing the data. This is tied directly to the processing of the raw data by Scenery Tech.
(2) While more accurate than the default landclass data, it is not a substitute for ultra-accurate, hand massaged local scenery. Because of the large areas covered, Scenery Tech landclass cannot hope to create your neighborhood golf-course in the right location.
Lastly, (3) the full visual potential of the landclass data can only be realized through the addition of texture, elevation and vector (example, bridges and road) data. The product largely needs to live with the default texture sets provided by Microsoft, unless augmented by other add-ons.
Because the additional landclass data must be loaded and processed, one can expect an additional burden on the scenery engine, primarily in load times. This said, I did not notice any frame rate impact on my system outside of a slightly increased load time. It should be noted that landclass data increases the variety of textures loaded, which increases the number of textures cached in memory for a given region.
With Europe and Asia Landclass, Scenery Tech’s landclass data impacts the flight experience in FSX in a very positive and pleasing way. The appeal is, of course, far more subjective than qualitative.
The largest impact is on population centers, with thousands of hamlets and villages appearing in rural and remote areas where none are found with the default landclass. The product goes a long way in eliminating the pervasive desert textures in less detailed areas of the world. Mountains and valleys are also transformed with additional detail.
Landclass data alone cannot revolutionize the virtual landscape as key elements of the rendering palette available to the simulator are largely untouched: ground textures, objects on the terrain or elevation, all key contributors to the “as real as it gets” experience.
the narrow confine of terrain classification, Scenery Tech’s
landclass does the job well and fills major gaps in the default
What I Like About Scenery Tech Landclass Asia & Europe
What I Don't Like About Scenery Tech Landclass Asia & Europe
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