Commercial FSX Review
PILOT’s FS Global Ultimate “Asia & Oceania”
|Publisher:||PILOT’s FS Global Ultimate Asia & Oceania|
|Description:||High Quality Terrain Mesh add-on for Asia and Oceania Region|
|Software Source/Size:||DVD Box|
|Flight Simulator:||FSX/Prepar3D (FS2004 AFM Only)|
|Reviewed by:||Angelique van Campen|
Computer / Software Specifications
|Computer System:||- iMac 27″ 3.4Ghz Mid 2011
- Intel i7 3.4Ghz / 3.8Ghz during Boost Mode
- ATI/AMD Radeon HD6970 2GB
- 256Gb Intel SSD and 2Tb 7200RPM HDD
- Saitek Pro Flight System
|Software:||- Windows 7 x64 Ultimate (BootCamp) / Mac OS X 10.7.3
- Flight Simulator X Acceleration
- X-Plane 9
Finally, PILOT’s is proud to announce its third FSGlobal Ultimate package. It started a while ago with the The Americas, followed by Europe & Africa, and now Asia & Oceania. But there’s always that question that pops-up …. what actually is or can a “terrain mesh” do for your Flight Simulator X, Flight Simulator 2004 (not applicable for Europe & Africa and Asia & Oceanic) and now also for Prepar3D?
I can confirm that FSGlobal products deliver a completely new and different flight experience by replacing the topographic database of the default Flight Simulator X, FS2004 (FS9.1) or Prepar3D scenery. Earlier, FSGlobal products used SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) data. Later, FSGlobal versions, starting with FSGlobal 2010, used better sources like NED (National Elevation Data set). Let’s highlight the term “LOD”. Terrain elevation in Flight Simulator is expressed in terms of the Level of Detail (LOD).
The quantity (and quality) of the data in the simulator’s default scenery varies by region. According to Stefan, “For this FSGlobal Ultimate project he assembled the best data currently available in a reasonable resolution. It does not make sense to deliver the “Great Plains” in the USA in a resolution of LOD12 (9m). Flat is flat. There is no benefit for you, and FS 2004 can’t even display it! Furthermore, the amount of data gets extremely huge. Resolution itself is not the only thing responsible for the looks of your world in FS.
At least as important are algorithms and error correction when converting data into FS readable scenery files. Our experience helped us to improve these, compared to previous versions of FS Global.” Stefan continues, “Earlier FSGlobal products were based on SRTM data, however, starting with FSG 2010 and up, additionally do use much better sources. For example, for “The Americas” USA (Alaska, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Samoa) and Mexico we used NED, for Canada we used CDED, for Costa Rica and Ecuador “aic.ac.th or in plain English local meshes” and finally for the rest of South America SRTM.” Another important item is that a higher LOD is not always a guarantee of a better output and a more realistic mountain. Many other aspects are, as well, important.
Stefan explains, “What’s important is, how data is managed, handled and processed. You can create a LOD 14 mesh with source data of LOD 9 mesh. This is what some of our competitors do and so some people tend to think LOD is the key. It is partly, but more important is data processing on a consistent base. In FS Global Ultimate, in some areas we’ve even reduced the LOD number, since you would not see a difference (flat areas). In some areas the LOD number is the same as in FS Global 2010, but it looks much more realistic as we have improved processing. It’s difficult to tell what LOD number is applicable for a particular area, as all areas will have all LODs according to the source data.
Our data processing checks every square for how 3D mesh tends to be (flat, hills, mountains, etc.) and then selects the LOD, which is most appropriate for drawing that mesh in relation to the resolution of source data we have for that square. So, you will find several different LODs in a country. It does not make sense to have a map for the readers showing all different LODs around the world.
And what makes FS Global unique? We think it’s the perfect relation between potential of source data, reasonable FS LOD and space requirement. We are not processing “country A in LOD 14″ like so many others do without checking if the source even has the potential to show LOD 14 in FS. Or, worse, with knowing it has not, but hoping people will buy, because they think, LOD 14 must be the hit! I can compile LOD2 source data to LOD14, no problem, but it will still look like LOD2.”
When you’re so close to the source, it’s not difficult to ask Stefan for some advice or other related issues. One of these, is the new FSX/Prepar3D installer. Yes, you’re right … from this FSGlobal product and on, there’s no longer FS2004 support. That said, here’s some important information regarding the FSX and/or Prepar3D installer.
According to Stefan from PILOT’S, “As you already may know, ASIA / OCEANIA comes with a new faster installer. This one is offered to you if our setup program finds all system requirements (dotNET 3.5) fulfilled. What’s new is, that after installation of ASIA / OCEANIA you can use this installer to also install other versions of FS Global since 2010 in a much faster way! This works in FSX and Prepar3D and is very important for our bundle-customers. Install ASIA/OCEANIA first and then use the installer to install the rest.
Proceed as follows for FSX (Prepar3D):
Insert DVD1 of the ASIA / OCEANIA edition into DVD drive, start Windows Explorer and navigate to the DVD drive.
On the DVD you will find a directory \FSX (\Prepar3D). Copy this directory and all subdirectories on your hard disk.
Now navigate to the folder just copied with Windows Explorer. Run the file “PILOTS_001_Setup.exe” (PILOTS_002_Setup.exe) and please DO NOT run the file directly from the DVD drive!
You will now be offered the opportunity to check for online updates of the installer. Please make use of it, because there already is an update available! At the following screen you can easily choose, in a drop-down menu, which version of FS Global you want to install.
Then you will be asked to which drive you want to install. You can choose drive only, no file path.
Remember, the installation path of your FSX (Prepar3D) normally is detected automatically. If not, you will be offered an opportunity to browse to the correct directory.
Now you can start the installation. Please keep the original DVDs of the FS Global product you wish to install ready. You will be prompted to put them into your DVD drive as they are needed. Maybe some of them are needed several times.
If, after you have installed this product, you wish to install another FS Global product into FSX (Prepar3D), just run “PILOTS_001_Setup.exe” (PILOTS_002_Setup.exe) again from the hard drive. You will not need to check for online updates, as you already have the latest version.”
Installation, Settings and Documentation
The installation process can be divided into a “pre-installation” and the actual “install” The pre-installation description helps you out with information you need before you actually start with the “Ultimate Asia & Oceania” installation.
According to PILOT’s, this installer is new and much faster then previous versions. This means that when you buy the bundle, containing all the three FSGU products, the installer from the Asia & Oceanic should be used for a fast install. I had already installed the previous FSGU products, so there was no need for me to do this.
The DVD box comes with a small flyer with information in both English and German. It refers to the README text file and PDF manuals that come in different languages – English, German, Spanish and French.
You can find them on DVD 1 and they offer important background information. Probably the most important part of the document is on page 3, the “FSX Scenery Display” modification. In other words, the manual is worth to reading and shows you how to make the corresponding changes in your flight simulator.
What to expect?
For some it seems difficult to understand what FSGlobal Ultimate can do, but believe me, the truth is easy to see. To prove what this FSGlobal Ultimate product can do for you, I’ll help you out with some examples. First of all, FSGlobal doesn’t replace default ground texture. When you’ve installed, for example, a ground texture enhancement program like Ground Environment X, then hills, mountains, valleys, still stay and look the same.
The “same look” means that what you see on the mountain slopes keeps the same texture. That’s something that FSGlobal doesn’t change. Instead, it will change the shape of the mountain slopes, valleys or mountain peaks and this means the way the hill or mountain looks or is shaped and that it comes close to the real mountain or hill. In my previous AVSIM FSGlobal Ultimate reviews it wasn’t always visible.
Let me explain what I mean with “not always visible”. Sometimes the default FSX mesh is the same as the one supplied from FSGlobal. And now comes the trick. Although they have the same LOD, that isn’t a guarantee, since data processing is another key factor as explained before.
So, FSGlobal Ultimate changes the way the landscape (hills and mountains ) appear in FSX and Prepar3D. What is not more frustrating then flying in a known area and notice that the hills and mountains of your default FSX scenery aren’t what they should be? Just install the applicable FSGlobal Ultimate package and you’ll see with your own eyes that the known area where you’re flying, is transformed into an area “that is as real as it gets”!
Enough … it’s time to check a few spots within Asia and Oceania.
That’s a large area to cover and making comparison screenshots of every mountain or hill I see is pretty useless. The idea is to show you what FSGlobal Ultimate can and will do for you. Let’s start with some Asian FSGlobal Ultimate versus default FSX examples of known and unknown areas.
What you see is India or to be exact, a mountain rim close to VOR/DME station Coimbatore. The difference between the default FSX screenshot and the one with FSGlobal Ultimate active is easy to see. Right now it’s not even important what LOD was used for the default FSX as compared to what FSGlobal is using.
The idea is the difference between them and thus what you miss when you don’t have FSGlobal Ultimate. As I said before, the ground textures tiles aren’t changed. They are still the same even with FSGlobal installed and active. So again and to make sure you got the idea; FSGlobal products doesn’t change ground texture tiles.
FSGlobal scenery mesh only modifies the presence of mountains or hills as they really are, within the boundaries of the source material and processing techniques.
Next example is a mountain peak in Sri Lanka.
As you can see on the default FSX screenshot, the landscape looks more or less flat, however, this is far from reality. Those who live in Sri Lanka can confirm this and others, like me, from other parts of the world, keeping its limitations in mind, can use Google Earth.
In the middle of Sri Lanka there are mountains. It isn’t flat! This can be clearly seen on the FSGlobal Ultimate screenshot.
The third and fourth examples are near the city of Katmandu, Nepal.
The first set of screen shots gives you an overview, at a certain angle, from the airport towards the Himalayan mountains. Forget the ground textures since these are default FSX tiles, but focus on the shape of the nearby mountain and the white peaks in the distance.
The fact is that the nearby mountains are completely missing in the default FSX mesh and the white peaks further away are “round” instead of what they should be … young mountains!
That’s all solved with FSGlobal Asia installed and activated.
From this distance, the peaks don’t look spectacular, but wait till you see the next set of Himalayan screen shots. No, it’s not Mount Everest, but another, probably unknown peak. Which peak it is, isn’t important. What’s important is the huge difference between the default FSX shot and the FSGlobal Ultimate screenshot of the same location. And yes, when you have a photo-real scenery add-on package from this region, together with FSGlobal Ultimate Asia, you get the highest look of reality that’s possible. And that’s what we all want. Right?
Our next set example of screen shots is near the city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Ever heard of it?
I hope so, and even if it’s new to you, then still the important issue is the difference between the LOD (and processing technique) of default FSX and FSGlobal Ultimate scenery mesh.
Although the landscape is pretty flat, remember, flat is flat and stays flat, but here,there’s some difference noticeable. The FSGlobal screenshot shows some hills in front of us while default FSX doesn’t show anything. Believe me, the FSGlobal is the correct and realistic one.
From this spot, we travel a little more to the North East, in the direction of Mount Ostry Tolbachik on the Kamchatka Penninsula. This is far into Russia, pretty close to Alaska. As you can see on the default FSX screenshot, Microsoft recognizes that this area is full of mountains, but absolutely not what it supposed to be. No, these Microsoft mountains aren’t realistic at all! That is solved when you use FSGlobal Ultimate Asia, which can be seen on the full right screen shot.
I could make many comparison screenshots, but that won’t help you out. The idea and real output is always the same. Default FSX scenery mesh is, in particular in this area, far from real, either due to lower LOD or bad processing techniques.
FSGlobal Ultimate Asia changes all of this by using high quality sources with higher LOD and constantly improving their processing techniques. It’s time to visit Australia and New Zealand.
Australia and New Zealand
My first Australian stop is Darwin, situated on the Northwest coast of Australia. Darwin area is more or less flat, and as I’ve said before, flat is flat and stays flat. A higher LOD won’t change that since there’s nothing to change.
Flat is flat!
The first set of screen shots of default FSX compared to FSGlobal Ultimate Oceania aren’t impressive. This means there’s nothing wrong with the default FSX LOD and what you see. That’s not surprising since the ground surface is flat. There are no hills around here, not even mountains. Because of the flat surface, FSGlobal Ultimate won’t and can’t modify this. Flat is flat!
Time to move on into the Australian outback. Hopefully this gives us a better comparison. The answer is yes, it does give a huge difference between two outback locations. I’ve chosen the famous Alice Springs and Ayers Rock. As you can see on the following screen shots, it makes sense.
That’s because this area isn’t flat although Microsoft default FSX scenery makes it appear flat. What’s wrong and who’s responsible for this incorrect default FSX mesh? Is it important to know where and what went wrong? What counts is the mesh output and that’s visible easy to see. As I said before, both default FSX Ayers Rock and Alice Springs are flat while the reality is not. This is what you see on the two FSGlobal Ultimate screenshots.
Knowing the outback outcome, I’m curious as to how FSGlobal “performs” on Aussies East coast. Therefore I’ve flown near Sydney or slightly west of Sydney near the mountains and the result is, again, stunning.
Although this area doesn’t have high mountains, the difference is great. According to Microsoft this area not far from Sydney is flat, but this time “flat isn’t flat”! In reality you’ll find that there are hills or whatever you want to call them. Just look at the FSGlobal screenshot and yes, this is the way it should be.
So, finally, let’s move to New Zealand. As you might guess, there’s quite a difference between the default FSX and FSGlobal. I went first to the South Island, near Christchurch. I found some nice mountains and oops, default FSX mesh doesn’t make anything of it.
You can see there’s something, but that’s it. The genuine look can be found at Google Earth or Wikipedia and also in our case, with the help of FSGlobal Ultimate Oceania. And, what’s the outcome? You can see it with your own eyes right below. That’s the way FSGlobal makes it real!
And lastly, the northern island.
I’ve positioned my aircraft east of New Plymouth, close to Crater Lake, Mt Ruapehu. According to Microsoft there’s a crater/mountain, but that’s it. This is the result of bad or low LOD source material and/or a combination of bad processing techniques.
Whatever the real reason is, the FSGlobal Ultimate screen shots make me happy. This is the way it should be and with a photo-real scenery texture on top of it, it becomes “as real as it gets”.
AFM – Aerodrome Flattening Meshes
According to Stefan from PILOT’S, “Hopefully this review has helped you a decision to buy one of the Ultimate products or even better, the bundle. So you have bought a FSGlobal version and admire the realistic looks your landscape looks like right now?” Good!
Stefan continues “But then you found, that at some airports scenery looks like the following four screenshots (courtesy of PILOT’S).
Now, why is that?
For those who have not read “Inside FS Global” (which we deliver with FS Global) here’s a short explanation: There are several possible reasons. The most common is, that airports simply are not flat. Microsoft however has defined: in Flight Simulator every airport has to be flat.
So, of course every runway will have a problem with a high-resolution terrain on its ends. Next in line is, that Microsoft has used a low-resolution terrain scenery as default terrain in Flight Simulator in many areas and has amended the airports to fit the wrong terrain. Enter a correct terrain such as FS Global and this error leaps to the eye. Another common reason is, that some airfields simply are misplaced, because they are misplaced in the database Microsoft has used for placing them.
Move them to the correct position and they perfectly fit into the terrain. Whatever the reason for this error, it does not look nice. As the problems increase, the higher the resolution of the surrounding mesh gets. So we at PILOT’S took a generic approach and generated a flatten mesh for nearly EVERY airfield included in Flight Simulator. Actually not only that, we created it for FSX and FS2004, a total of about 48,000 airfields.”
Stefan finalizes with “After installation of the separate AFM DVD (included in the Europe & Africa and Asia & Oceania), the screen shots and the malfunctions will now look like this ….
I sincerely hope you’ve got the idea what FSGlobal Ultimate can do for your flight simulator experience. If you own FSGlobal 2010, you know what I mean. Otherwise I hope this review will be an eye-opener for you. I can only advise you to visit PILOT’S for further information. If I haven’t convinced you yet, it’s worth reading my previous FSGlobal Ultimate reviews at AVSIM.
My FSGlobal Ultimate “The Americas” review can be found via this link, followed by my “Europe and Africa” impression. FSGlobal Ultimate “Asia & Oceania” is made for FSX and Prepar3D and comes on 5 DVDs in the box. DVD 6 contains AFM (Aerodrome Flattening Meshes) and can be used for FSX, Prepar3D and FS2004. Mentioned before, FSGU The Americas was the only DVD box that holds terrain mesh for FSX and FS2004. From FSGU Europe & Africa, this is no longer true.
The only thing that’s FS2004 related is the AFM DVD. And, FSGU Asia & Oceania, is, completely redesigned and because of this, it can be used for both FSX and Prepar3D. So there’s the always interesting question. Have PILOT’S done it again? In my previous reviews you can read that there’s a difference on paper between FSGlobal 2010 and FSGlobal Ultimate products, but the best way to judge is to see it with your own eyes.
Depending on your needs, FSGlobal 2010 is OK, but FSGlobal Ultimate is far more then OK. Not unexpectedly, the FSGlobal Ultimate bundle comes on 15 DVD’s. Totally, these 15 DVD’s cover the whole “FSGU” Flight Simulator world. Compare that with FSGlobal 2010, which comes only on 6 DVD’s and a simple calculation is made. Yes, FSGlobal Ultimate costs more, but what you see is really what you get.
And then there’s that other question, price/quality?
What do individual FSGlobal Ultimate products cost?
At PILOT’S you can buy FSGlobal Ultimate “The Americas” for €49.99 (US$66.00) and FSGlobal Ultimate “Europe & Africa” for €54.99 (US$73.00).
The reviewed FSGlobal Ultimate “Asia and Oceania” cost you €54.99 ($73.00 American) and is available at Aerosoft’s eShop as well as PILOT’S. But there’s a much better option if you haven’t as yet acquired any Ultimate products and that’s an Ultimate bundle. This bundle is available at the Aerosoft eShop only and, as the name suggests, is a compilation of all three Ultimate product for the nice price of €139.99 ($185.00 American). All currencies are correct at the time this review was written.
Let’s finalize this review.
What else can I say about PILOT’S FS Global Ultimate products. It’s not an airport scenery nor an area scenery and absolutely not an airplane, but this is one of those programs you should have. No, you must have in your hangar drawer. I sincerely hope this review and all my previous FS Global Ultimate AVSIM reviews have convinced you of PILOT’S need. I’m absolutely convinced. Now it’s your turn! Feel free to lave any comments or questions when you have so.
Angelique van Campen
This review is written for Aerosoft News Service and published via the Aerosoft website.
While the reviewer has complete journalistic freedom, we ask the reader to keep in mind where the review is posted.