Friday, 5 October 2012

GenX vs OrbX

For my UK flying I have been using UK2000 VFR Photographic Scenery Generation X, with Treescapes and the demo version of VFR Airfields (which fortunately includes Wellesbourne). Judging by Wellesbourne the airfields are excellent in terms of accuracy.

GenX is the first photoreal scenery I've used and I have mixed feelings. Before buying it I read a quote saying that above 800 feet it looks amazingly realistic.

I have to disagree with this. For me, at anything under 2000 it looks very 2D and just like what it is: a big photo. This makes take-off and landing a little disappointing.

However, at above 2000 ft it looks great, although the shadows from the trees can be a little jarring at times. It's particularly good with poor weather and low visibility.

Treescapes is a great product and helps enormously, positioning thousands of trees to give the landscape a more 3D feel, and mitigating the shadow problem to some extent by plonking 3D trees and woods on top of their flat photo texture.

Landclass accuracy seems good too, with the roads, railways and rivers I'm familiar with all in the right places.

But I don't have to limit my virtual flying to Blighty. Two of the great advantages FSX has over real world aviation is that you get to fly in aeroplanes and to places you would never get a chance to experience in RL.

In FSX I enjoy bush flying around Seattle, Canada and Alaska, and a while back I installed OrbX's free demo of their excellent FTX Pacific NW product.

I was very impressed, so this week I took the plunge and installed the full version, together with a couple of their free add-on airports.

After a quick hop from Vashon Island to Seattle-Tacoma and a buzz around Bowerman I was blown away.

For me, this is far better than photoreal scenery, with fantastic textures, buildings and trees right down to the moment your wheels hit the ground.

OrbX offer most of Australia and New Zealand, and a large amount of north western North America.

I would recommend the UK2000 products, but for me OrbX is streets ahead.


  1. Dom. Word on the street is that OrbX is only a month or two away from releasing their first European scenery which will be... England. Definitely one to look out for. I've also got the UK2000 VFR Airfields collection, and hope they mesh well with the OrbX scenery.

    I'm with you on photoscenery. I have a few freeware photosceneries and generally the sweet spot seems to be 2000 feet and above. Personally I don't like it so much for low and slow GA flying.

    In a tubeliner, however, I found the experience much better. I have the freeware "Belgium 2012" scenery and did a flight to Brussels EBBR just after installing it. The effect on the descent and approach was stunning. I found that once I was on final and started dropping below the altitude where the photoscenery started to pixel up, I found I was too focussed on the runway and the process of landing to notice.

    One other issue I have is consistency. I can live with scenery that looks a little synthetic as long as it's consistent. Taking off in OrbX quality scenery, flying over GEX/UTX terrain and landing in a photoreal city kinda breaks immersion a bit for me. I prefer all the scenery in a flight to look like part of the same world in a consistent visual style. Doing that with photoscenery can get prohibitively expensive really fast.

  2. I didn't know about OrbX England - fantastic!

    I'm fortunate that I tend to do short hops so I can generally stay within the OrbX PNW area. It's pretty jarring just starting a new flight in a default scenery area after having done one in OrbX, so actually 'crossing the border' in flight must be a shocker.

    I used to be okay with the default scenery but now it's a big problem for me, and I find myself sticking to the upgraded areas.