ADX FirstLook: JetStream Designs Metz–Nancy–Lorraine!
P3Dv2.3. Welcome to another ADX FirstLook, my brief journey into the virtual world of Lockheed Martin's Prepar3D flight simulation platform version 2.3 and the remarkable products developed for it. This time, I have returned to France. It's a happy moment that is quite sad actually. Odd I know. I remember back to the early days of FS9. I think back to those days a lot now that it's gone from my drives. Like a relationship ended... it was actually. One of the things that was a staple with that platform in the beginning was the simplicity of airport developments. Much of what we likely might or might not accept as freeware today was considered top quality back in those days. The developments were so simple, that many developers were able to develop several airport products in just a small portion of time it takes to develop just one terminal of a mega airport by today's standards.
This afforded developers the ability to deliver multiple airports in a single package. The German Airports Team comes to mind where they had nearly covered every major airport in Germany. The most notable developer however, is SimWings. Or rather, was SimWings. I don't think there is any other developer in the history of flight simulation that has developed more airports than these guys. From Sweden to Spain and beyond, you could always expect at least 3-4 airports to arrive in a single package. But as our hunger for higher quality increased, the more difficult for developers to keep up. Practically to the point of taking a developer an average of a year and half or more to deliver one single airport. It seems, that the days of airport packages are long gone.
I remember my favorite SimWings package covering France. Thanks to this team, much like what UK2000 had done for the UK, GAP for Germany, and Overland for Japan, France had a decent presence in FS. A presence that has all but died in recent years. We have CDG that is far out of date, a newer version of Toulouse that is okay... Nice that although good, did not quite match modern quality standards to which even Aerosoft the publisher has considered redeveloping and FranceVFR that is still surprisingly delivering airports that has completely failed to emerge from the early FS9 quality level we used to admire.
So this leaves us with France still very much behind the rest of Europe including Italy and Poland two areas in FS that has caught up with blazing speed. So it's quite sad.
But what makes me happy is this new, unique, and ambitious developer that emerged on the scene early last year. He like me, was tired of waiting on SimWings and other developers to emerge and take on France again. So as his first project, he decided on a rather big project which is unusual for a first timer and he had delivered it in very impressive quality and style. It seemed, we finally had a version of Marseilles we could be proud of. And it was clear, this guy has a very promising future in this business.
[Note: For format purposes, some images are cropped. Click each image for full size resolution preview.]
So would this developer be the "chosen one" to deliver the level of quality France truly deserves in FS? Well time would tell. But if a new developer could deliver a project on this scale as a first timer, than anything is possible. Since then, what we now know as JetStream Designs has delivered 3 airports with more in the pipeline including cooperation with other development teams.
Now one of the things I have noticed thus far is his turnaround time. I really miss the airport packages we used to get, but in the time manner of which Thomas can deliver his works, it's quite thinkable that after time, his projects could be repackaged as bundles. But this is if he chooses to remain developing French destinations. His quality standards certainly could stand up to it.
So as a reminder of the quality, I decided to return to his Marseilles scenery to get an idea of where he began, and where he is now. As for the aircraft... well.. I am in the process of learning the good old days of flying and CaptainSim's L-1011 is currently my pet project. Besides, it's one of the few quality large jets we have in P3Dv2.3 and this is a perfect time to work out my CIVA INS skills. Or lack thereof...
As for the livery, well I always felt Royal Jordanian has the best looking livery on the L-1011 so it's a personal taste for me as my pet GeminiJets model suggests in the shot below. It's keeping me company while I get my thoughts together for the review you are currently reading. Okay time to prepare for the approach.
I used to have hundreds of these by the way. I am down to a diecast fleet of about 50 now...
Now recently with all my destinations in Europe lately, the biggest impression comes from the landscape. Vis-a-vis OpenLC. This product has dramatically changed the face of an entire continent representing a level of quality never before seen in FS. Needless to say, it's not just the airports that make the scenery experience, it's the journey between them. Throw in REX4 Texture Direct and P3Dv2.3 and you have quite literally the very best visuals flight simulation has to offer. So let's take a look at how the centerpiece, our destination, fits into it.
First impressions on the approach showed a very high quality and sharp photo scenery coverage area that blended fairly well with OpenLC EU. I did not have time to note the performance. This is a very good thing. If my attention is not called to the performance than that typically means it was smooth as silk.
Taxiing my abnormal airplane to the main terminal ramp area, the main terminal came into view. The terminal architecture was quite interesting but then again, all the airports in France have some aspect component of non conforming conventional architecture. Nevertheless, I wonderland what the architect was going for with this design. Sadly, I found it quite taxing to find anything about it online which is a total bummer. As a fan of architecture, I really like to get into the minds of the architects to get a deeper understanding of how they conceived their ideas and how I am expected to experience it.
Well... It's an interesting looking building nonetheless and in comparison to real world photos, the developer rendered it perfectly in digital form. Let's disembark and have a look around.
In a time where interior modeling is really going from niche to mainstream, high quality photoreal applications continue to remind us of just how realistic they can be and Nancy here is no exception.
The interesting thing is, I used to absolutely hate and by hate, I mean HATE photoreal airports. The thing about SimWings back then is they would release maybe one or two high quality airports in a package and the rest would be very low resolution photoreal. It just never looked quite right to me...
Because of this, I was always left to believe photoreal to be inferior to the hand texturing methods of Cloud9, FlyTampa etc. Until Drzewiecki Design came along and showed us just how damn good, how damn real, how damn authentic photoreal applications could truly be when they released their Góraszka 2007 scenery. Since then, we have seen a great many high quality photoreal projects come to fruition and FS9 began to show us what it was truly capable of on a visual scale. I rapidly became a huge fan of this technique.
Looking at Metz–Nancy–Lorraine here is clearly representive of the high quality photoreal we can get when it's done right. Here in P3Dv2.3 with the tree shadows on the building almost makes me question reality. Clearly, the developer had direct unobstructed access to the airport.
And good as that might be, I am afraid I am going to have to beat up Thomas once again on his parking lots as I did in the Marseilles review.
Back in those early FS9 days, I remember the majority of developers refused to bother with any landside details. No cars, no trees, nothing. If you were lucky, you got a very low quality blurry lot with 2D car images and that was it. Many flight simulation fans at the time would argue detail in this area was not necessary as it has nothing to do with their flying experience. We still see these type arguments against internal modeling. Sooner or later, these things evolve and improve regardless.
So whereas the parking lot was not bad here, this still remains a major point of needed improvement. One example noted above is Orbx Lake Tahoe pictured left. Developer Misha Cajic, well aware I would pick his scenery apart, elected hand draw the parking lot area to a more accurate level of detail instead of just relying on photoreal. The difference where the scenery meets the photoreal is very obvious and leaves a lasting impression.
The point of pointing this out when many of you could likely care less? Thomas is getting so good in his development techniques, this is the one area in this particular product that could use improvement and would make a major boost in the overall quality. I guess a good rule of thumb for all developers is to match the lot texture quality with the same representation of the ramp.
On a side note, I really liked the roof textures which had very good resolution.
The ramp vehicles are good quality as well as the volumetric grass.
Moving around to the other aspects of the airport, all the other buildings are represented in high detail. Really digging the control tower.
In the above shot, you can see some terrain mesh and elevation issues in the upper right.
This level of quality is a million times above FranceVFR. I could get used to many airports with this quality across France. Most are small or as I would say, short & sweet.
The night lighting looks pristine. The only downside I could see was that the windows remain polarized. Guess we are not going to see inside... Looks like a night club in there. Nice coloration.
Last beatdown: no supporting structures supporting the lead-in chase lights... Slap on the wrist.
Thomas or should I say: JetStream Designs is truly the next big thing in scenery development. Not only is his quality improving drastically with each release, he has already managed to deliver 3 airports in roughly a year. At this current pace, and rate of growth, I imagine it's only a matter of time before JetStream Designs becomes a household name among flight simmers in very much in the same way Drzewiecki Design and Taxi2Gate, has done is the last couple years.
It has been a pleasure seeing JetStream grow over the past year and I have no doubt it's fan base will only get bigger. France needs a new developer it can rely on. As a Western European country, it's far too void of airports. Airports that are all unique. So if I were able to pick 3 additional French airports to include in a fictional JetStream's France Vol.1 package, i'd say Biarritz, Grenoble, and Chambery. Then again, Perpignan–Rivesaltes would be an interesting choice too... heck, no matter where Thomas takes JetStream next, i'll be on the trail. And that, makes for more happy moments indeed!
Get your copy of Metz–Nancy–Lorraine here:
And heck, while you are at it, grab Marseilles and Little Rock too!
Here are the other products used in this review: