Hands-On Review: Xtreme Cities X USA South-Central released for P3D and FSX brings order to the landclass

Scenery Solutions have joined up Flight 1 Software to release a new revolutionary product called Xtreme – USA SouthCentral for both P3D and FSX.  This package alone delivers 16 cities worth of technology never seen before in FSX or P3D.  Below is a small review of the basic features and what i personally have experienced using the product.

Overview of the Main Features

First a brief version of the feature sets of the product…  Of its main features includes nearly every building, including houses each object in their real world location.  The objects follow the actual real-world roads, not the randomly generated ones that we have seen in products of the past Landclass Textures.

Flight1 is claiming that the software’s performance exceeds that of the standard autogen performance and so far my tests seem to agree.  The product even includes custom night lights and other things such as railyards railroad cars.

Each feature can be turned on and off like we are all familiar in their other products like Ultimate Terrain.

The TexturePhoto technology allows for vegetation to “pop up” through in transparent areas as well.  Buildings, trees, lights then appear in their real world locations.

The other big feature is that this new software works seamlessly Ultimate terrain, GEX and Orbx FTX Global.  They have separate installers depending on whether you have these products installed.

To help combat VAS (virtual address space) usage for people that like to flight at high-altitudes, they have included a configuration mode that allows for the detailed cityscapes using little VAS and minimal frame rate impact.

Coverage

  • New Orleans alone includes 19,245 building objects, 75,959 houses, 51,779 lights and 35,658 trees all in a 115 km/sq area, but also includes the following
  • Baton Rouge, La
  • Austin, Tx
  • Corpus Christi, Tx
  • Dallas, Tx
  • El Paso, Tx
  • Fort Worth, Tx
  • Galveston, Tx
  • Garland, Tx
  • Houston, Tx
  • Little Rock, Ar
  • Oklahoma City, Ok
  • New Orleans, La

The size of the base installer for FSX appears to be 1.8gb, while the GEX one is 1.2gb, FTXG 1.3gb, while the P3D installers are a base of 1.8gb and FTXG 1.3gb.  Here is a link to the product page which has it retailing at $34.95 USD at the time of this writing.  It is noted that the FSX keys do not mix the P3D and vice versa as well.

This certainly seems like a great concept and one that will add a ton of realism to simming.  I will say though, that perhaps the “PR” screenshots don’t do it justice and may be “underwhelming” to some, but to me I have no concern on this point.  I think the major point of the product is to take disorder from autogen and give it order and also for users who use photoscenery, this gives them an option to have a 3rd dimension of scenery that is based in reality, which from above will look like the actual structure of the landscape and could be more useful for simulating real life flying and for training.

Interesting note as well here, that in one of the simforum threads, one of the Scenery Solutions team members stated that they are working on a UTX version for P3D v2.x possibly in a month for the USA one and two months for a European version of UTX v2.0, which should be exciting news to many, as we all are still waiting for Orbx to release a landclass for the USA (FTX Europe LC is already available).

Here are some of the promo / PR screenshots that have been circulating on the forums and product pages.

Via Flight1 Product Website

HoustonNight
dallas

 

Future Expansion Areas

According to a Simforums thread, there will be 8 more regions coming out for the USA and up to 17 planned for Europe in the next 2 years.  They are aiming to release 1 product per month, particularly after the UTX V2.0 release after November.  They also mention that their products for at least the next 2 years will be based on TomTom’s 2D Maps data set.

Here is the chart they posted for the USA Northeast area:

usanortheast

Hands-on with P3D v2.3

So I opted to give the product a shot and here is how things went from the moment I installed.

I downloaded the exe package from their website then did the whole extraction process to begin the install, which starts off the basic choose your location:

Via Flight1 Product Website

xtremeSouthCentralInstall-2

Note how in the above final install step they make a mention about installing Texturephoto packs (free) from their website if you are using the base install and PhotoSceneries.

 

xtremeSouthCentralInstall-3

 

The install finishes and you end up a typical “UTX-style” configuration area, where if you click on a city such as New Orleans you end up this:

xtremeSouthCentralInstall-4

Post install it DOES insert into your scenery.cfg file.  It puts an entry “USA South Central” above everything else with priority 1.

All that said, lets test out New Orleans as a first area to try leaving it in TexturePhoto mode.

In this test I did a visualization mode flight (no cockpit)and the fair weather theme for some clouds.

My initial test of 5760×1980 was done FTXG+V, Rex 4 and i had NOT installed the Xtreme Cities product yet.  I was getting around 45 fps paused.  Setting things to 1920×1080 I was getting a fps rate of 60 paused, again pre-install.  Here is a link to my basic p3D v2.3 settings when using my 780ti graphics card the 4930k cpu.  Note:  in this test I had the cpu set to 3.9 GHz and not overclocked.. typically though i overclock to 4.4 success.

Here is a screenshot showing the before shot at 1920×1080 resolution:

p3d-xtcitiesSC-before

Leaving everything on TexturePhoto mode in the configuration, post install at 5760 I was getting around 54 fps paused (perhaps a drop of 6 fps the settings at default).  I’m basing this off the fraps indicator not the fluctuating P3D one.  I need to do a few more comparisons to confirm this is the case though.  A paused frame rate really doesn’t tell us a whole lot, but I still like to keep tabs for stat fun.

Here is a screenshot showing the after shot at 1920×1080 resolution:

p3d-xtcitiesSC-after

Finally, here is an animated gif showing the comparison before after:

XTcitiesloop2

A larger version of the animated gif is here.

UPDATE:

I had some issues initially testing framerates, turned out something was wrong with one the of saved flights.  I was able to move on and prove that so far i’m still seeing a minimal UNPAUSED framerate drop compared to not having the product installed, roughly 4-6 fps depending on the area or aircraft used (this test is only in New Orleans so far).  On my display with the 780ti and 5760×1080 with the fair weather theme i’m able to hold 33-35 fps in a more detailed cockpit like the Ants P92 Eaglet, which is very good for my needs.

Satellite PhotoScenery comparison

Here is a screenshot showing how the area looks TileProxy Satellite imagery the software still set to TexturePhoto mode.

p3dv2.3-xtcities-tileproxy

 

I’ll be doing more testing and adding to this post in the coming days, but so far it looks pretty exciting as far as matching better to reality using 3D objects and trees when you put it in Photoscenery mode with actual photoscenery.

One step further, here is the same scene but with Aerosoft US Cities X New Orleans as a higher priority layer, which as you can see doesn’t change a whole lot, just some enhanced building textures (plus this one is MegaSceneryEarth Ultra-Ultra Res New Orleans not TP):

US Cities X + Xtreme Cities New Orleans + PhotoScenery Mode + MegaSceneryEarth UltraRes

 

Here it is again but with JUST US Cities X New Orleans plus FTXG/V:
Aerosoft US Cities X New Orleans + FTXG/V without Xtreme Cities

UPDATE:

Moving on to tweaking the configuration.. I’m now moving into testing how the option of “Photoscenery” compares to the “TexturePhoto” + TileProxy.. If we open up the configuration tool and select Photoscenery, you can see the option it disables.. then you must press one of the two boxes to the upper right to save the change.

xtremecitiesConfiguration1

In the gallery/animated gif below the first 5 photos show the comparison of what P3D v2.3 looks like with just satellite imagery (TileProxy) then I switch to Xtreme Cities TexturePhoto configuration, then compare that to Photoscenery configuration.  If you look closely at the images (click to enlarge), you will see that Photoscenery, at least to me, appears “closer to reality” when you compare to the pure TileProxy example.  The stadiums in the lower right look like a closer match.  This is pretty spectacular as far as matching to reality goes.

You get a better idea of how each change affects the scenery below (and clearly no benefit to leaving the Config tool on PhotoScenery unless you are actually using PhotoScenery!  Its a mess if you leave it like this).

Click this link for a full size animated gif to compare the different results (7 MB!) or this link for a slowed down version (still 7MB in size).

(Click to Enlarge)  UPDATE:  I’ve added an image showing what PhotoScenery Mode looks like with MegaSceneryEarth Ultra-Res New Orleans (to compare to Tileproxy).. any real differences would lie outside the boundary of Xtreme Cities, more on that in another post.

P3dv2.3-XTCitiesSouthCentral-before-justFTXVG-65fpsC
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Here is a shot from night in the New Orleans area with TextPhoto mode.  It looks pretty well lit up, no real impact on performance (Combined with FTXG Vector lighting on the outskirts of town at least), though in my opinion the main downtown buildings look a bit too much like “light-bright” objects, though still much better than the default P3D.

TexturePhoto Mode at Night in P92 Eaglet near New Orleans downtown

 

Here is the same shot but with PhotoScenery Mode + MegaSceneryEarth Ultra-Res

PhotoScenery Mode with MegaSceneryEarth Ultra-Res New Orleans

 

For comparison, here is a night view from the air in real life:

new orleans aerial

 

Here is another shot lined up as close as possible to the above real shot (still PhotoScenery configuration):

Comparison angle shot for reality check in 172

 

Here is another shot, this time in TexturePhoto mode, which if you look closely, you will see that texturephoto mode has more street lights.  At nighttime, its better visually if texturephoto is enabled:

Xtreme Cities SouthCentral New Orleans plus FTXG + FTXV Night shot TexturePhoto

For reference here is the same shot but with default P3D + FTXG/V:

default P3D with FTXG + V + Vector Lighting

And here is one more from the outside:

Prepar3D 2014-09-23 14-23-43-87 night shot xtreme cities outside view1Here is a shot from Austin, Texas, this one in TexturePhoto mode:
Xtreme Cities USA SouthCentral Austin, Texas - TexturePhoto Mode

Conclusion

I’m mainly a VFR kinda guy and I like to simulate real world flying to see what I would see if flying in reality such as real building with their proper heights and other objects.  I’m hoping one day to resume taking flying lessons, so to see a product that shows a better 3D representation of real life is exciting.  Until now the closest you could come would be 3rd party addons that add buildings that are hopefully close to reality and mostly autogen elsewhere.  So in many cases I preferred using TileProxy, but i disliked not having objects close to the airport, though it wasn’t really a deal breaker, as most of the time even in GA VFR flying you are 2,000 feet or higher.  However, many will say that the 3D objects in this product aren’t textured enough or sharp enough for their liking.  To each their own I guess.  Sure it would be fantastic if their real world 3D object looked exactly like the real thing, but this is not practical.  That is the area of 3rd party addons such as Aersoft and as we know those can be huge frame rate killers without major tweaking.  Also, there aren’t a ton of objects right near the airport, something that is still lacking at this point and a bit critical to simulate real world conditions.

At any rate, now thanks to Flight1 and Scenery Solutions, offering the ability to still use PhotoScenery and add 3D objects in their REAL locations we can have a closer match to reality, though its still not perfect as far as textures goes, but it works well.  This is true even if you don’t have photoscenery for a given area as well.  TexturePhoto by itself is a pretty good match for the area.  The combination of MegaSceneryEarth Ultra-Res New Orleans also is terrific in this region and nighttime flying doesn’t seem to suffer a big performance hit either.

I think what i may try experimenting with is to create multiple scenery folders for a given area, especially if i end up flying there alot.  I think in theory this may work, i will test in the near future to see if this is the case.  I’m thinking if you use the configuration tool, set it to TexturePhoto for a given area, then backup that folder or rename it, you could then have it as an option in sceneryconfigeditor.  Why would I go through this trouble?  Well if you want to switch to photoreal for a given area, you still have to enable either Tileproxy scenery entries or MegaSceneryEarth (or similar product).. and at least using the scenery editor you could then group the two together and toggle them on and off and not need to use the Configuration Tool AND manipulate the scenery library each time (I’ll update if this works later).

With much of the major population areas of the USA to be covered in the near future, particularly my area in Pittsburgh, I’m pretty excited for what is to come with Scenery Solutions and Flight1.  In addition,  we have the bonus of UTX v2.0 coming for P3D by later this year.  It will also be interesting to compare UTX 2.0 to FTX Vector and FTX OpenLC.  For now, its more flying in the SouthCentral, so happy flying everyone!

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