Is it possible that a new developer pushes the boundaries of scenery development with his first release? It certainly is as Peter Suranyi of RD Studios already proved earlier this year with his fantastic KHAF Half Moon Bay.
As if that wasn’t enough, Frank Dainese, pushing those boundaries even further, recently released his Dolomiti 3D masterpiece for X-Plane, in my opinion one of the best sceneries every made for any simulator platform.
These two developers are now about to get company by Attitude Simulations, whose debut KTTF Custer: The Gate to the Great Lakes is about to be released soon! Developer Steaven Mckenzie of Attitude Simulations was kind of enough to grant me access to a prerelease copy of this scenery. Will Attitude Simulations join this triumvirate of top class scenery developers or does their debut disappoint? Find out in this review of KTTF Custer: The Gate to the Great Lakes!
KTTF Custer: The Gate to the Great Lakes is a massive scenery, created by Steaven & Kacey McKenzie, Daniel Johnson, with special thanks to Jacob Stewart, featuring KTTF Custer Airfield and the nearby town of Monroe, MI. Custer Airfield is small public airstrip located just 20 miles south of KDTW Detroit. The airfield was created in 1946 and originally used as a bombing practice area.
There are still signs to this day warning of digging and metal detecting as there have been recent discoveries of unexploded ordinance. Monroe, known for the partial meltdown of its Fermi II nuclear facility back in 1966, is located on Lake Erie’s western coast. KTTF Custer is in perfect range to some exciting destinations, such as NYC, Chicago, Cincinnati or Toronto.
All that said, let’s have a look at the actual scenery. On the screenshots above (click on a thumbnail to view in full screen) you can see the massive coverage of this scenery, which of course features orthoimagery for the whole area, not just the airfield. The screenshot on the left shows KTTF Custer: The Gate to the Great Lakes in stock X-Plane environment. In case you use orthos for Michigan (I use Forkboy2’s orthos from his remarkable US Orthophoto Project), the scenery blends in rather nicely with those, as you can see on the screenshot on the right.
It should be pointed out though that this depends on the actual ortho source you used for your personal ortho tiles so results may vary. Let’s see what more features you’ll get when you decide to purchase this scenery. This is coming from the official readme file:
- Hand painted airport ground textures with highly detailed specular maps
- 64 square miles / 164 square kilometers of high quality USGS orthoimagery
- Thousands of hand placed custom “autogen” buildings
- Realistic foliage for this region of the US
- Commercial areas include actual businesses and industrial warehouses
- DTE Fermi II Nuclear Plant completely modeled with custom raised Helipad
- Accurate night lighting for the airport and surrounding area
- PBR materials for the airport’s structures and static objects
- Many hard to find Easter Eggs
- Animated custom windsocks and airport beacon
- Custom accurate static aircraft
- Created from on site photography and videos
- Plausible LIT textures for most structures
Sounds good to you? See KTTF Custer: The Gate to the Great Lakes in action! It’s utterly amazing! Let’s start with the actual airfield.
The detail is just perfect and the textures are crisp and clear. This does not only apply to the airfield perimeter, but rather to all areas and objects of the massive scenery coverage. Before we check out the surroundings of KTTF Custer, let us first have take an even closer look at the airfield.
Look out for the texture quality! This is now the reality of X-Plane scenery design in all its glory!
Another cool feature is the open hangar, which can be used as a starting location for your flights. This feature which is more and more seen in XPlane scenery (RD Studios’ KHAF Half Moon Bay even features a fully customizable hangar) gives the airfield a more personal feel. Maybe it’s just me but if I fly into a scenery that has a hangar, it somehow feels more like “coming home”. It just brings the scenery to live.
Another remarkable feature of the scenery are the trees. Attitude’s foliage representation certainly ranks among the best in the business. It is impressive to see how real an area looks with improved trees. Leaving the scenery perimeter unfortunately unveils the obvious downside of stock X-Plane trees.
I have high hopes that Attitude decides to offer their trees as a global texture replacement. I would certainly pay the price for such an add-on. The only downside of Attitude’s trees is, they are basically invisible of viewed from directly above (see screenshot below). To be fair, in regular flight you will never have this problem. This only applies in free camera mode but it’s still worth to be mentioned here.
Fans of the helicopter (I am sure a couple of you are reading this) will certainly be delighted to find out that KTTF Custer: The Gate to the Great Lakes features several helipads, all of them looking gorgeous. The high detail of this scenery and the overall impressive texture resolution makes this a must-have scenery for all helicopter pilots out there!
Some of you might still wonder what’s the fuzz about this scenery. Some of you may even think they could recreate most of the scenery
themselves using the popular freeware tools Ortho4XP and W2XP. Well, I hate to break it to you, but no!
KTTF Custer: The Gate to the Great Lakes features thousand of beautifully crafted 3D objects, all of them being hand placed to their respective real life position (as far as I know this was mostly done by Steaven’s wife! A great wife you got there Steaven!). All the bigger restaurants, stores and malls of Monroe are represented and located where they should be. I checked the accuracy of the scenery using Google Maps and I was impressed. The detail is just astounding. So don’t expect this scenery to utilize stock X-Plane autogen because this is not the case. It is all custom.
But don’t trust me, see for yourself!
Before we talk about the night lighting I should mention that I use the Enhanced Lights library. So if you want to have the same results like I have, you need to download this library.
That said, Attitude’s night lighting is subtle and very realistic. I love that the sports venues nearby the airfield have much stronger light sources than the actual airfield. This is not only realistic, it also makes for a great approach at dusk! The LIT textures (these are the textures that appear on objects when it’s dark) of the thousands of objects are plausible and not too bright (a mistake commonly made by lots of developers). Monroe definitely shines at night! Love it!
So, can a new developer push the boundaries of scenery development with his first release? The answer is, yet again, yes! Attitude Simulations managed to create an incredibly detailed and compelling scenery and this sure will be my new standard whenever I review a scenery again
KTTF Custer: The Gate to the Great Lakes is a true joy to fly into. It’s beautiful, it has a perfect geographical location and there is so much detail to discover. The only downside is, there are not a lot of payware quality airfields available for the greater Detroit area.
Thankfully though, this is about to change soon. Once KTTF Custer: The Gate to the Great Lakes is out, the team plans to release several other airports and airfields in this order:
- KARB Ann Arbor Municipal Airport KERI Erie International Airport
- KDTW Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
- KMCD Mackinac Island Airport
- KSAT San Antonio International Airport
We won’t have to wait for too long for these next airports since Attitude were working on all of them simultaneously!
Anyway, it think it’s obvious. I love KTTF Custer: The Gate to the Great Lakes! I can definitely recommend this scenery to all GA and helicopter pilots and basically anyone who appreciates a wonderfully crafted scenery.