Pick your helicopter up, land anywhere (the world is our helipad, right?), and set camp.
No, really: set camp.
That’s the basic premise of Parallel 42’s most recent product, //42 Campout. The addon gives you the ability to set up camp anywhere in the world in MSFS.
More than once.
In a persistent way.
The way you want to want.
For such a “small” addon there’s really a lot to cover here, so I’ll start from the beginning.
Installation of the //42 Campout is pretty straightforward. As far as I am aware, Parallel 42 is waiting for Microsoft to approve their product into the marketplace – which will also make it available for our XBox cousins. That will make installation a snap.
Launch is via Orbx exclusively, and comes with a 10% Discount if you own FreedomFox/Fox2 via Orbx as well.
The basic principle
Like I said above, the basic principle of the addon is for you to create your own campsite. That is accomplished easily through the – very polished – interface.
Once installed you will find a new icon in the MSFS top menu. Parallel 42 did a great job at providing it the same look and feel as the other icons, which makes it look as if it’s an integral part of the sim.
Once you click on it, you will be shown a small panel with the top silhouette of an aircraft. This happens even if you are using a helicopter. I have asked //42 about it and they said that it should depend on whether the aircraft being used tags itself as a helicopter.
From what I was told, doing that is still prone to causing some issues with the sim, so we may have to live with a fixed-wing graphic until that’s sorted out, and //42 can change it.
At the top right corner, you will find an icon with an ‘i' which you can click for more info/help.
You can pan the image by dragging your mouse and zoom in/out by either using your mouse wheel or the 2 zoom buttons available at the bottom right corner. You will also find another piece of information: a number (it starts with 200) and a small plant. That’s the number of Eco Credits you have. More on this later.
At the top left corner, you will find 3 icons: a ‘+’ sign, a bookmark, and a share icon.
The plus sign allows you to add items to your campsite. Tents, fireplaces, stoves, bags, chairs, and smoke canisters (oh yes, this is interesting), among other things. A lot of them are customizable, meaning you can select from a few color options.
The bookmark icon lets you manage your sets. You can assemble a campsite and save it for future use.
The share icon will show you a panel where you can export your current campsite or import a new one (from a friend, for example). This will place a campsite exactly in the same spot as your friend, with the same items.
The way sharing works is pretty simple. You will have to copy a piece of text (for the tech folks out there, it’s JSON – a simple data format) that you can then paste into the program.
This will allow you to see the same campsites as your friends.
A note, though: once you import it, you will make it “your own”. This means that you can edit the campsite. Don’t worry, though, you won’t mess with your friend’s campsite. He will have his copy and you will have your own. Whatever you do won’t mess his copy and vice versa.
These campsites will be persistent. Whenever you come back to MSFS, they will be there, as they are saved in Microsoft’s cloud. You can also have more than one, which means you could have your campsites spread across the world.
But that could create performance issues. Which //42 handled in a smart way.
Spend your Eco Credits wisely
Remember the Eco Credits I mentioned above?
Well, it turns out that assembling a campsite will cost you Eco Credits. Every fire, tent, bag, chair, stove, windsock, whatever is it that you place in the world will cost you some Eco Credits. And you only have 200 to spend.
This means that you will not be able to litter the world AND create yourself performance issues by throwing in dozens or hundreds of campsites. Once your points are gone, they are gone and the only way to get them back is to delete campsites (or portions of campsites) around the world.
This is a great way to keep the number of world objects in check and reduce the usage of memory and other resources.
The addon also comes with what //42 calls an “intelligent purging system(s) to protect sim performance”, which will clean things up for you in case you go a bit overboard.
Also, you need to keep in mind that persistence is not infinite. If you don’t visit a campsite for 7 days, it will disappear. This is obviously //42 taking care of your performance to get you a good experience overall. And that is rather nice of them, clearly having us, the user, in mind the whole time.
Pack your stuff!
There’s an option to rapidly pack and unpack your campsite and create setups that you can reuse in another location. These setups are also saved by aircraft so you can have different layouts, depending on the aircraft you are using.
Amazing features, great quality
//42 Campout works with any aircraft, anywhere in the world.
The objects are of great quality with beautiful models and texturing as well as effects such as light, smoke, fire, it’s just… Gorgeous! Especially at dusk/dawk or even during the night.
The company is also planning on adding additional themed objects, which will include military, hunting, or festival items. //42 has not indicated if they will allow users to add their own packs/objects but that would be REALLY cool as well!
The amazing user interface
I need to mention this as I always find UI (User Interface) and UX (User eXperience) very important with any product. Having the software development/project management/product ownership experience that I have as my professional background, this is something that I pay a lot of attention to.
Well, even if not for my experience, I have always found it important since it can make or break a product. If users have a hard time with it, they will not enjoy the product, unleash its potential, or both.
One of the things that I have always enjoyed about //42’s products is the care and attention to the interface and detail. And it’s visible here as well.
From the beforementioned icon on the MSFS native menu to the interface of the product, the iconology, the processes, and the way things are done, everything shines and shows a lot of care and thought going into the product. Not just on the features but also on how people access them.
That’s very important and a huge kudos to the team.
The potential that //42 unleashed
It’s quite curious how, without discussing this product before its development, //42 has produced something that I have been thinking about for quite some time. Not only with campsites in mind but in other scenarios as well.
Like medevac, SAR, and other types of helicopter-related missions, this is clearly a tool that could allow users to create their micro-environments, share them easily with their friends and spend a few hours of fun doing something very cool.
Even if that’s not the goal, the sheer fact that there are smoke canisters makes it possible to create simple but very compelling search and rescue missions, for example.
Edson Soriano, CEO of //42 confirmed that "helicopter fans will get a few special objects like helipad markers."
I can see way beyond the scope of the current product and I am excited about what this can become and bring to the table, not just for MSFS in general but for helicopter pilots in particular.
//42 has done an absolutely amazing job with its Campout product. It’s simple in its concept but developing it was certainly hard. None of that matters because the way the company made it easy to use, we don’t even get to realize how hard it was for the guys that had to code it.
On top of that, simply building the campsite is a ton of fun. It really is! Placing objects around, rotating them, and placing them the way I want them to look nice and practical, it’s like playing with Lego inside the sim. Taking off and then returning to the campsite is so cool and adds so much to the sim.
Granted, we are using pre-built assets but the sheer fact that you can add your own creations to the world and use them for your flying makes it highly satisfying.
There’s a title on the //42 product’s page that reads “//42 Campout — Flying is optional”. And in a way, it is.