AVSIM Commercial Scenery Textures Review

FScene2002 

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Rating Guide
Publisher: Ruud Faber
Description:
Replacement scenery textures for FS2002 — Coverage for Europe, New Zealand / Australia, USA & Canada
Download Size:
5MB - 15MB per set/season
Format:
ZIP file download
Simulator:
FS2002
Reviewed by: Ian Scott, AVSIM Staff Reviewer

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

Introduction

When I try to remember what the scenery looked like in FS2000 I seem to have amnesia. I can vividly picture FS98 and vaguely remember FS95 but FS2000? A blank!

Why is this you ask? Age? Well, yes, I am starting to reach a point in my life when "senior moments" are becoming daily events but no, I don't think it's that. I do remember thinking the rain effects were pretty cool but not liking the runway lighting which seemed too big and "blocky" after the more refined effects in FS98. But the scenery? I don't remember. And here's the reason—because I almost never looked at it. Why not you ask? Well, I will tell you even if you didn't ask! I almost never looked at it because my computer couldn't handle it and I hated the stuttering and jerking of FS2000 so much that the only time I ever flew in FS2000 was in conditions like Snoopy's famous line that begins all his "novels" — "It was a dark and stormy night." Yep, that's how I dealt with the stutters in FS2000. Turn down the detail, turn off the lights, go to 1-mile visibility and fly white-knuckle approaches in IFR. When I wanted to see where I was going, I went back to my beloved FS98. Stayed there until FS2002 came on the scene with an occasional flirtation with FS2000, mostly to fly the wonderful Wilco 767 PIC. (In marginal IFR conditions of course.)

Then along came FS2002 and yea verily, it worked! It stuttereth not! And, to paraphrase the Bible story of creation, "And it was good." (Well, it was until I overloaded things with too much AI traffic sending my frame rates back into the single digits, but that's another story!) And so I discovered that flying VFR, or at least VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions) was fun and a feast for the eyes. Though I never thought it was perfect, compared to everything that had come before it looked wonderful. For the first time, just cruising along seemed like fun, or at least, better than watching TV.

Test System

Athlon 1800 1.6 Ghz
1 Gb SDRAM
Windows XP Home Edition
nVidia GForce Ti4600 video card
Gateway EV910 19" Monitor

Flying Time:
10 hours over 8 days


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RAF Tornado over East Midlands countryside, England

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Falcon 50 flying over French countryside in the Autumn

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Late summer training mission over German countryside in Marine-flieger (German navy) Tornado

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Cessna 172 flying over the outlying suburbs of Moscow, Russia

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NATO training over Newfoundland, Canada – Early snow fall in late October

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Dash-8 on final for winter evening landing in Utah, USA

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New Zealand's capital city Wellington is known for its beautiful harbor. Here's part of the port of Wellington from overhead Mount Victoria

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Airborne out of Wellington Rwy 34, over Newlands NDB looking north toward Porirua and Kapiti Island in the distance

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New Zealand's "high country" – South Island near Kaikoura

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New Zealand's Southern Alps seen from the West Coast near Hokitika

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Australian countryside is not all desert. Here is part of the rich farmland in the state of Victoria

So when a Dutch artist named Ruud Faber came along with a payware set of replacement textures called FScene2002, I didn't think much of it. I read on the forums that Ruud was a well-respected contributor of freeware enhancements for previous FS versions, but I still wasn't interested in paying for a set of replacement textures that I didn't think I needed. As my old grandpa never said, but he might have if he had wanted to, "If it ain't broke don't fix it!"

But after several reviewers in other places—before I saw the AVSIM light I confess I did sometimes frequent other sites—spoke highly of the textures, I finally weakened. Okay I thought, I'll buy one season for Europe. Let's see what it looks like. And the rest (as my old grandpa never said but he could have if he wanted to!) is history!

The concept

Have you ever tried to paint one wall in your house? Oh, you say, it's really not that bad in the rest of the room. I just want to get rid of those crayon marks on the wall facing the door where my 2 year old went through her Impressionist period before turning professional. But once you paint one wall, you see how incredibly grungy the rest of the house is! You can't stop with one wall being freshly painted and the rest in the "old" colors. So much for buying "one season" of the European replacement textures! "If summer looks this good," I said to myself, "imagine how winter will look!" I was hooked. FS2002 looked like a renovated house, sparkling with new life.

Well, that's only part of what you will experience if you download and install some of Ruud's amazing textures. The generic stock textures will suddenly seem dull and uninspired compared to the far more lively, interesting and generally more realistic scenes that you will see. You will fly VFR because you really do want to see the scenery and not just because you can't remember what that ADI thingy is for. "Scenery" suddenly becomes "scenic." Now there's a new concept!

Before I go any further, let me try to explain what does and doesn't affect the realism and "believability" of what you see in the FS scenery world. Now if you're like me, you really don't care about the details of how it all gets done. I wouldn't know the difference between a pixel and pixie dust and frankly, I don't give a hoot. But basically there seem to be three things that make the scenery come alive. One is mesh, the second is landclass and the third is textures. (Yes all you "experts," I'm sure this is not the whole story, but I'm writing for other "scenery dummies" like me here so let's just leave it at that. If you already know better, scroll to the end of the review, see how many stars I gave him then go hang out in the forums and talk to other experts and leave us ordinary folks to bumble along as best we can.)

As I understand it, mesh is the underlying "framework" of the scenery that creates the contours of hills, mountains, valleys etc. It gives the scenery its "shape." If the mesh is based on real world data it will give a realistic "shape" to what you see. The "finer" the mesh, the more complex and real the shape, but this can get hard on frame rates. A fine mesh based on real world data will give you scenery that resembles the real thing—but in shape only.

Landclass, as best as I can understand it, determines what kind of terrain features will be displayed. Again, if it is based on real world data then the landclass files for a particular location will display urban textures if there is a city there, or desert, or tropical jungle or whatever. Whereas mesh determines the shape of the terrain, "landclass files" determine what is displayed on the surface of that terrain. If the landclass files are accurate, you will see city textures where a city is supposed to be, forests where forests are located in the real world, rolling farmland etc. Though generally they reflect the "real world," the stock landclass files are full of errors and many areas of the world are very poor representations of reality. Accurate landclass files can have a significant affect on whether what you see corresponds to reality or not.

Lastly, but perhaps most important for the casual viewer, texture files determine what you actually see. In a way, the mesh is like the frame on which an artist stretches his canvas, the canvas is the "landclass files" and the textures are the paint strokes. The textures will show you crops, fields of grass or suburbs filled with streets and houses made of tickey-tackey (if you don't get that one you weren't around in the sixties) or harsh desert stretching off into the horizon.

It is these textures that Microsoft provided in a generic form that Ruud has so brilliantly enhanced. With the eye of an artist and an incredible amount of patience and talent, he has created vibrant, colorful, realistic, interesting and for the most part, very realistic renditions of the real world, with unique features for various geographical areas and seasons.

Product features

So far Ruud Faber has created three full sets of textures. These are for Europe, the USA and Canada and for Australia and New Zealand. Each comes in four seasons. Recently he also released as a freeware addition an awesome set of night textures that make the night urban scenes of FS2002 come alive.

Let me tell you what you will and won't get. As Ruud points out, you won't see your house. The textures will not make the scenery "photo-realistic" though if you have fine, accurate mesh and accurate, real-world based landclass files, what you will see will be recognizable in general terms. Airports, roads, buildings and weather are not affected. Autogen will blend in well but is not absolutely necessary as the new texture files tend to be far more "3D looking" than the originals. Very importantly, it will have absolutely no discernible effect on your frame rates.

All that will happen is that the generic textures that Microsoft gave us will be replaced by far more realistic and interesting ones. The scenery will be more colorful, more realistic and vastly more interesting. But it will not be "real world." These textures are less "generic" because each set has been created for particular regions. But nonetheless, they are still "generic." The English countryside will look far more like England than with the generic MS textures, but you still will not see Farmer Albert's pig farm just down the lane from Mrs. Hogwell's Flower Shoppe.

FScene2002 texture sets

I have been blessed by an opportunity to spend some time in Europe and can say that the European texture set looks very realistic. European pilots have been high in their praise for the first set that Ruud released, which was the four-season Europe set. Snow coverage was less "blanketed" and more "scattered." Towns were smaller. Fields were smaller and greener. They were ecstatic that for the first time, Europe looked, well, "European" and not like the USA. (Europeans find things like that to be quite important, though Americans find it hard to grasp why. Fortunately the Atlantic Ocean keeps the two separated most of the time so it usually only involves hot words on the forums or in the United Nations, which is about the same thing.)

Though my time in Europe has been all too short, I have spent the last 25 years living in the USA and in that time have flown over just about every part of it. I can tell you that although Microsoft did a better job of creating an illusion of the American landscape, Ruud Faber did a far better job. Though I am slightly less impressed with the Canada-USA set than the European one, I still find it to be a huge improvement over the stock textures. Rural terrain looks far more complex and interesting than the generic textures. The cities and particularly suburbs look vastly more real.

Last but not least, Ruud recently turned his attention to the lands "down under." I spent the first half of my life living in New Zealand and have flown over large parts of Australia and New Zealand as a professional pilot, and can tell you that Ruud's work, though based on "detective work" (his words) and not personal experience is still well worth having. Combined with the many freeware landclass files that you can download for Australia and the wonderful enhancements that are available for New Zealand (see Maury Pratt's recent review on New Zealand scenery from 'Godzone'), these two wonderful, vastly different countries will "come alive."

Closing thoughts

Are there any faults in the textures? Obviously this is a totally subjective question. Ruud is an artist and has given us an artist's rendition of thousands of square miles of "scenery." At times the green of a field may seem too "green" but then I see a farmer's plot bursting with new shoots of corn and I say "nope, it really can be that green." That square is too yellow. Oops, there's a field of mustard flowers in the real world and it just glows like molten gold. Who knows what is "right" and what is not? It will always depend on the light, your perception and even your mood. All I can say is this: Since I bought Ruud's texture sets, my enjoyment of FS2002 has been immeasurably enhanced. I enjoy looking at the scenery in ways that no previous experience of flight simming has ever given me.

The only concern is price. I don't think for a second that Ruud is overcharging. When you think of the time he must have put into this project, it is hard to fault the price. But buying four seasons worth of textures for three different regions does add up to a pretty hefty slice of your pocket money and you may want to think about that. Personally, I think it is well worth it. After all, the "feast for the eyes" is part of what the hobby is all about. Let's face it folks, it is all about "optical illusions." What we are all paying for is to ask some very talented people to "pull a con job on us." What do I mean by that? We are asking the folks who supply the programs we buy to create an illusion on a screen that we are really flying in a "real world." If something makes that world more "real" and more "attractive" then it meets the criteria for me of a good buy. Ruud's textures are a very good buy and he does offer some package deals that will help you save on the total cost.

Purchase is simple. The zip files are quite small and the download time is minimal. All you do is make a backup copy of your original texture files and then move the new ones in and overwrite the old ones. Ruud's instructions are clear and simple.

Is there a "down side?" Other than the price, there is none that I can see. No effect on frame rates. Nothing but a better, more interesting world to fly over. I strongly recommend that you check out Ruud's textures at his FScene2002 website. It is not a "must have" purchase, but if you can afford the price, I doubt you will regret it

What I Like About FScene 2002
  • Wonderful enhancement of the visual world of FS2002
  • More lively, realistic and "3D" appearing scenery
  • No adverse effects on frame rates

 
What I Don't Like About FScene 2002
  • Nothing

 
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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order provide you with background information on the reviewer and connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party.

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