A few days ago I pointed X-Plane as the best helicopter flight simulator out there and talked about its weakness: scenery. I now try to make a plea. Scenery developers: X-Plane needs you.
X-Plane is amazing. The flight model is top-notch and flying helicopters in it (especially the DreamFoil ones) are a complete and utter blast.
Starting up a B407 or S300CBi and take them for a spin is a great feeling. We have to be on top of the helicopters the whole time and micro-manage every inch of rudder, cyclic or collective movement.
While landing we need to be careful not to fall into our own Vortice Ring State (VRS) and smash into the ground. While in flight we need to keep an eye on the torque instead of pulling the collective through the roof just like in FSX. Yeah, baby!
All this is probably why most people don't like helicopters. But it's also because a lot of people do. And even more in X-Plane.
On this previous article of mine, I mentioned that X-Plane's biggest issue was scenery. Scenery in X-Plane is so dull and sometimes, plain terrible. Even with some great HD scenery out there, it often fails to work properly. Roads become bridges, the mesh is weird, the textures are annoying. I confess: I hate it.
When I look at screenshots taken in FSX and, especially, P3D, I can't stop thinking about how amazing X-Plane would be if it looked like that. I look at screenshots of ORBX ENNK - Narvik Airport and I cringe at the fact that we don't have scenery of that quality for X-Plane -- at least I don't know of any.
We need that. We need better scenery. Especially us helicopter pilots that fly very low and slow and love to hover around and check every detail. But the thing is that everyone loves some good quality scenery. Even the airline pilots or the fighter pilots. Good scenery is quite a big chunk of why we love flight simulation.
Yes, there is an offer out there. There's X-Plane 10 HD Mesh v3, for example, which is gorgeous and there are quite a few amazing airports out there. But, in general, there's no way I can easily look my country look as good as it looks in my FSX right now, with the help of generic/european scenery and the good old autogen.
Whenever we ask about a specific country or region, we often get answers like "you can do it yourself" and "use Ortho4XP". What about those that don't know how to use the tools or just don't have the time to learn them?
I know a lot of simmers love the way X-Plane works for them simply because the region they fly at is beautiful but this is simply not true for a lot of others out there -- especially those that don't fly in the US or the UK.
Companies like ORBX, Aerosoft and others should start looking at X-Plane a bit better. Laminar Research is already working on something that's very annoying to me for some time: it's user interface. Now what we need next is great quality scenery.
This is an area in which I recognize Laminar Research should probably not spend a lot of time and money on as they need to improve other areas of the sim (the interface, ATC, etc.). Also, in a way, it's kind of established that there are always great companies out there focusing on specific areas of the different aspects of a flight simulation.
I have no issues with having other companies doing high quality scenery. In fact, I rather have them doing it and let Laminar Research focus on the nuts and bolts -- and tools for developers.
So, guys: X-Plane needs you. Laminar Research should make this appeal as well. I am sure that with better scenery, people will look at X-Plane differently. It's already a great sim. It now needs to be a great looking sim.