Godzone Photoreal Subscription

FSX/P3D. If you saw my Carenado Seneca V review earlier in the week here on ADX, you would have seen plenty of screenshots from around the country of New Zealand, and may also remember reading that NZ is also my home country. Whilst I grew up in England, I've been living down under for the last 11 years, and have completed the majority of my real world aviating in the country. Being an immigrant from the United Kingdom has also led me to gain a real appreciation for the diversity of my new nation, with high levels of geographical variety from one end to the other of our relatively small 103,500 square mile landmass to the other. To put this value into perspective, that’s only 64% the size of state of California, yet we have over 11 times the length of coastline, and everything from golden sandy beaches to snow-capped mountain ranges within our borders, not forgetting an abundance of volcanoes, a generous helping of glaciers, beautiful braided river systems and unspoiled lake lands!

This isn't a tourism brochure to market our overused clean green 100% pure slogan to overseas travellers though- I fear that one’s been done to death actually. Nor am I here to sing Orbx’s praises on their FTX NZSI and NZNI products. I use both of these happily as a base layer with my simulator, but today am showcasing a local developer’s high definition photorealistic addon series that get placed on top of the landclass, and which brings an unprecedented level of realism to FSX and P3D to shows off New Zealand at its finest! I am of course, talking about REAL NZ and their 2014 Godzone Virtual Flight Subscription package.

[Note: For format purposes, some images are cropped.  Click each image for full size resolution preview.]

A little background on the developer. I first stumbled across Robin Corn in the FS2004 days, when his windowlight.co.nz domain name was one of the only results from a google search of ‘New Zealand scenery for flight simulator’. For those unfamiliar with the term, Godzone is a widely used slogan among Kiwis use to describe their home country, a shortened use of the phase ‘Gods Own Country’ as published by famous poet Thomas Bracken in the 1890’s. (Yeah, I had to Wikipedia that one). Robin sold a magazine subscription styled series of CD-ROM’s for FS2002 and FS2004 in those days, covering select areas of interest in large scale autogenned photoreal ground textures, all be it a much lower resolution per pixel compared to today’s standards. He then moved on to developing GMAX modelled airports to accompany the photoreal bases for the likes of Wanaka, Rotorua, Tauranga, Wellington and the Marlborough region as well as providing the only photoreal coverage addon for our largest city, Auckland. 

With the arrival of FSX, Robin generously provided free of charge installer updates to his older scenery’s, as well as producing a FSX native Nelson city and airport addon in 2012, which set the benchmark in payware standards Kiwi simmers had come to expect. Smaller freeware airports for Paraparaumu (NZPP), Ashburton (NZAS), Timaru (NZTU) and Hokitika (NZHK) sprung up on the REAL NZ download page over the following years, initially only compatible with the 2011 release of Vector Land Class (Orbx’s predecessor, and still a popular landclass and texture alternative as well as being P3D compatible) although one by one, have each been made to work with the FTX regions.

Come 2014, Robin hosts his REAL NZ support forums on the well patronised NZFF.org website that I started in my teens, and has many customer fans amongst our registered users. Land Information New Zealand, who own hold high resolution aerial photographs for the whole country, made an announcement in April that they would be releasing 95% worth of the country’s imagery under a new publically available licensing option. For Robin, this meant a whole new range of areas that he could transplant into the world of flight simulator, and he re-established the subscription program to fund the progression of this beginning in May.

So far, three instalments have been digitally released to his customers, with the first covering Mount Cook, and the Mackenzie Basin area- the highest mountain in New Zealand at 12,218 feet AMSL (along with some separate smaller easter egg like locations). The second issue expanded the Part 1 area over to the mountains surrounding the township of Omarama, a world class gliding destination set amongst spectacular central South Island alpine scenery. The third edition, released just last week, covers the twin cities of Napier and Hastings, located on the rolling green pastures of Hawke’s Bay wine country in the North Island.

In my eyes, considering myself connoisseur of realism, there are three elements of the REAL NZ product that keep me coming back for more.

To start with, it was the accurate autogen placement on top of the aerial photos that impressed me. This was from a time when I had Just Flight’s DVD of UK VFR photoreal loaded into A Century of Flight, an empty two dimensional landscape lacking any buildings or fauna protruding above ground level. I also remember the occasional cloud included either my mistake, or just part of the limited source aerial photography available at the time on the ground textures, and dramatic changes in colouration between segments as you crossed the country. REAL NZ separated New Zealand down into smaller chunks, never attempting to cover the whole landmasses in one go, and achieved a far cleaner, hand annotated three dimensional result.

Come the latter stages of FS2004’s popularity, REAL NZ had achieved a method of blending the perimeters of their photoreal coverage into surrounding landclass base, making it difficult to notice where the scenery package ended. This was carried on with each FSX release, with the photoreal boundary edging faded seamlessly with the VLC texture placement, and almost as well with Orbx’s effort, although the general consensus amongst the community was that the colourisation of the FTX series was a tad too colourful and oversaturated. 

But I digress- the third reason that I limit nearly 99% of my virtual simming to the country I live in and know best is the beautiful clarity of the ground textures, that REAL NZ are able to deliver to the casual home simmer thanks to LINZ. 1 metre per pixel resolution is as good as the real thing in my opinion- with focus areas up at 40cm per pixel, including both the towns of Napier and Hastings in this third instalment. The installers come as a .zip download, with Issue 1 totalling 1GB (split into part A and B, 500mb a pop), Issue 2 at 888mb and Issue 3 was 946mb. All three are dual installers for both FSX and P3D v2, with the payware licence you buy in for with the subscription legally permitting installation to both platforms.

Issue 1

Issue 2

Issue 3

Now by no means am I preaching to the choir here- anyone who is serious about simming in New Zealand signed up for the subscription months ago. However, for the benefit of some overseas readers of Air Daily X, it would be rude not so share some captioned screenshots of the latest product areas in action. The following are all captured in FSX, with any cloud textures visible on behalf of REX. The shadows on the ground are a feature of CumulusX, although are static fixtures unlike it’s dynamic counterpart in P3Dv2. 

Godley River, Issue 1

Tasman River, Issue 1

Dobson River valley, Issue 1

Benmore Range, Issue 2

Makenzie Basin overview, Issue 2

Jackson Bay, Issue 1

Jackson Bay from 12,000ft, Issue 1

Okarito Lagoon, Issue 1

Twizel township and the central otago hydroelectric power scheme canels

Hastings township, Issue 3

Napier township, Issue 3

Hawkes Bay Airport, NZNR

Hawkes Bay backcountry, clean and green- just like the adverts.

Due to file size constraints, each region is limited to summer season day time. Obviously, 4x the season plus a night texture set would increase the file size fivefold and be impractical to host online. For VFR flyers, sunny weather and daylight are what pulls us out the hanger, so it’s only logical that the developer has selected this type of aerial photograph to work from.

In summary, if you’re a VFR explorer type, have visited New Zealand before, never heard of it, or want a change of pace from the major continental coverage regions from other payware distributors, give REAL NZ a go. Like D’Andre mentioned in his Manila review, it’s the stepping outside the square that you’re familiar with and virtually exploring far away destinations in the sim that have the potential to spawn intrigue and adventure, and for many, be the closest we could ever go to physically travelling to such places.

A year’s subscription will get you an estimated new scenery release each month, with some exciting areas potentially on the cards for future instalments. 

The capital, Wellington, is next for a revamp (with the original Wellington International airport and city area payware region now available on Avsim as of December 2013, filename: realnzwgtnfsx.zip) and some tantalizing preview screenshots already show almost release ready captures from around the city with some brilliant water masking along the Cook Straight. Hints at Napier and Hastings getting custom built airports to fit with the photoreal from issue 3 have been mentioned, although Robin has said it very much depends on the uptake of subscribers to fund on site visits to photograph the environment in person. Hopefully, my above V key bashes and assembly of descriptive adjectives do the developer justice and can entice a few new customers for our hard working home grown scenery guru!  

Check out the Godzone Subscription Blog here: http://windowlight.co.nz/godzoneWP/ 
Next, become a fan of the official REAL NZ facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GodzoneVirtualFlight
And finally, visit the store to place your own order here: http://www.windowlight.co.nz/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=33 

Current price is $99 NZD for a guaranteed 12 months’ worth of top quality, industry leading scenery or $83 USD at the current exchange rate. Payment options are available in two $50NZD / $42USD, or even four quarterly $25 NZD / $21 USD installments.

Andy Underwood