Monday, October 14, 2013

Letisko Bratislava. Our impression!

FS9/FSX. Well I am back at it again folks! Wow was that Dubai review was huge! At some point I am going to have to pace myself. So after my time in the desert, I hoped on a flight direct from DXB to VIE and had a nice short drive to the little Eastern European airport of Bratislava. Cesar of Taxi2Gate has done an amazing job on this airport and I am very excited to give my opinion of why it's so great and why Cesar is quickly working his way up the ranks in FS development. If Taxi2Gate is not currently on your radar, it's time you start seriously taking a good look at T2G products because this developer is on his way to the top. It's very clear in his work just how much his techniques have been improving over the years. Now this product is one that I dare  just might  say is his best to date and I have lots of reasons why you want it. Lots of screens and rambling in here! Bandwidth Warning! We are going to Štefánik!

Back on the Eastern front.

Now the funny thing here is I used to do a lot of short sorties to and from Budapest from Vienna and back. I stopped doing these runs as I am currently waiting on LHSim's LHBP. Anyway, I would always get handed off to Štefánik between the 2 airports and always wondered if Štefánik was a good destination to fly into. Sadly I never could find anything decent for it. So it simply remained off my radar.
But when Cesar sent Dom and I the first screens of LZIB, my mouth started to water almost instantly. The details were very clear and precise. What also impressed me was just how quickly he was able to complete this project.

Now before I begin, I know it's obvious Taxi2Gate is one of our paying advertisers ant least anyone think I might be somehow biased in this review as a result of that, think again. Dominique and I have no obligation to review anything. And speaking for myself, the only thing that compels me to do a review is the expreience from the product has to make me feel so good about it that I feel compelled to write about it. I want the world to know why I like a product and how a product contributes to my flight simulation experience. In many cases developers give us products to test and review and in many cases we go out and purchase the products ourselves.
Once Stanislaw offered me a copy of Polish Airports Vol.3. As Stan is so busy with all his products, I waited a full 24 hours before i said fuck it and went out and bought the thing. If I am passionate about something, very little will hold me back from it. And let me be clear: I am extremely passionate about aviation and flight simulation. It's also very therapeutic and really has a way of relieving stress. There is just nothing like a fun and successful flight. And it often at times can take my mind off other things and allows me to immerse myself in it's virtual world.
Thus needless to say, the better the product is, the more I enjoy it, the more I want to share with you lot. Thus, Dom and I both don't just review sceneries for the sake of simply reviewing. And believe me, there are some I passed up in the past. Doing reviews are a lot of work and very time consuming. Thus you may very well say that we are quite picky when it comes to products we choose to review. At least speaking for myself, this is obviously very much the case. And if FSX ran like a dream on my machine, I would be doing an Orbx review every freaking day! That day will come.
So, Taxi2Gate was a developer that was not fully on my radar till last year. But in keeping my eye on his development progress I can honestly say that this is a developer you all need to start taking seriously. At the very least, in my opinion, he has tremendously impressed me over the course of 2012. Not because Cesar is the best at what he does, but because he clearly has a passion that is driving the increasing quality in his work. I don't expect every developer to be like George, Martin, or JV. But I do expect developers who expect to earn money on their products, attempt to better themselves and their work with every release. Even if it's just a little bit each time.

We'll this time T2G has rolled out a product that is so good, I just can't help but review it. Cesar is a good friend of ours and we are very proud of our relationship with him. But that doesn't mean that i won't be honest... And with that said, let's see just what we have here.
Now if I am going to run my damn proverbial  mouth in my reviews like I always do, I need to pop some screenshots in here to keep your attention and thus, I didn't really get to talk much about the main terminal model. So in catching up, one thing here is quite obvious about this T2G product that clearly set's it apart from everything else in his portfolio and that's the photoreal texture work. Now LHSim, and Drzewiecki Design have really turned me on to photoreal texture work as used to absolutely hate it! If it wasn't hand painted or texture baking, screw it. But here is another example of why photoreal has won my heart over. This is due to the fact that nothing is more real than real. Simply put, period. But it all has to be done correctly. You need high res images and you have to apply them just right.
some slow loading textures here
Here everything was done perfectly. But there is a slight issue I have with this. As I just mentioned, you really need high-res images taken from a high quality SLR from a photographer who knows how to properly capture images. Beyond this, you also need the level of access to an airport that the photographer working with Cesar had. But the downside is the quality of the images could have honestly been a lot better.
Cesar did an absolute perfect job with all the 3D modeling, textures, colors, and application of the photo images. But it's really the image quality itself that puts a small dent in the hood. But if we review what I am comparing the quality to (the aforementioned developers above) this is honestly a very impressive work and it truly stands out on it's own. I like to think my above shots speak for themselves. It's truly very impressive.
Another thing I love about Cesar is his development methods in creating an exciting environment to enhance the scenery which includes the grass (which I love) and the custom trees which are really improving. Reference the 2 shots up. Trees, grass, bushes and all that crap are a very big deal to me and I applaud every developer that takes the time for this. Even if a developer is lazy to create his own trees, there is always the option to purchase the trees from D.Design. Developers may not think it's worthwhile but it is. It truly is. And I love all the grass as seen above.
Another feature I really liked as seen in both above and below pictures is the ramp clutter. The more vehicles  cones, and GSE equipment, the more realistic the ramp appears. If you ever look out the window when boarding a flight, you see there is always all kinds of junk out there. Quite a few developers miss this. Here though, the ramp really looks alive.
Another feature that brings this scenery to life it the animated buses and cars that roam about the ramp. Don't worry, they don't get in your way and the animation is smooth.

In this shot you can clearly see that despite my feeling that it could have been better, the photo quality is quite good.
In the above shot you will see passenger buses position themselves at each gate to unload the invisible passengers. They almost move in the way AESlite does. Not quite as good, but not bad either.
Here is a nice shot from my helicopter. The roof textures, ramp textures are very well done. Again, very nice photo work.
As we start to move around to the front of the airport we get a good look at the control center. I have to admit, I don't like the darker trees. They appear a bit featureless and almost distract from the overall environment.  But you can see the more detailed trees present as well.
Love the 3D models. good job.
The airfield looks great in the background. And very good parking lot work.
I would have liked to see more cars in the lot but with Air Slovakia, and Sky Europe sadly gone, not too much traffic here. My Uncle-in-law is from Slovakia and I am looking forward to visiting the city with him in the near future.
Very nice environment in the parking lot complete with billboards as well.
And lots of trees!

From afar, the photo res images look very appropriate.  But don't get too close, the slight imperfections will show. Not that you will be spending too much time on this side anyway. Ultimately, everything was properly modeled and Cesar did a great job!

Another shot here clearly displaying the photo work  Well done although I may have made those bridges transparent with glass instead.
Very nice ramp work.
SkyEurope is actually making a profit in my sim thus they are very much till alive and keeping my LZIB busy! BTW, Oliver: AES please!
The quality here is very decent. I would like to see a lot more photo projects like this from  T2G in the future.

More of Cesar's custom trees. I wish there were more of this type in the scenery. Very nice.

The look here is very realistic. However, the pavement in front could have been a lot better in this area.
Nice ground texture work.

Really love the grass! And a very well done job on the fire house. The only thing I would have done differently is to place at least 1 fire engine there or had the door raised to reveal the inside.
Nice texturing. Great environment!

Great mixture of grass cars and trees!
This is the industrial area. Every building was perfectly captured. The only thing that could have been done better here was the placement of the streets instead of just placing them on grass.

All hangars present. Looking nice!

Containers and ramp clutter.

Okay 2 bad things to point out here. The first is one that I am well known for. And that is fences. In my opinion, perimeter fencing is hugely important and I really hate when it's left out. Here there are some fences around the approach lighting, but not around the airport itself. I hope to see an update for this.

The second issue is an even bigger one and that is the autogen exclusion zone to the North and West ends of the airfield. I do hope to see an update that brings the autogen closer to the airfield.
Very nice work here. No object was left out.

I really love the ground image and the grass textured areas. Very nicely done!

Cesar has come a very long way. Again, very nice quality ground image. Very crisp.

Another very impressive part of this airport are the night textures. No complaints at all here!
Really like the night lighting!

From dusk to night, we get a better look on how well the night textures were done.

The ramp lighting is simply perfect. Not too dark at all and the light splashes just how it is supposed to.
The night textures do not disappoint.

How the ramp lighting looks from the VC.

Moving to the winter textures, everything looks perfect. All the custom trees have winter textures and all that grass does what grass usually does when snow and freezing temperatures kill it.

Here we see the approach. Note there are fences this time but only in this area. Why?

If the above screenshots speak at all speak well for themselves, also know the frame-rates are smooth and high as well. There was a lot of attention to detail with this project and the passion in the work is very clear. Given he fact that this airport is primarily composed of photoreal textures show Cesar's ability to adapt very well to implementing new methods. It is a bit of a surprise to see this airport finally make it's way into FS and as such, it is represented so perfectly and stylishly.

If anything, this is more evidence that airports of Eastern Europe are finally making their mark on the FS world. And if anything, this project should be proof that T2G products are really worth a second glance. Of all the developers in the business, this is one of the teams striving for continuous improvement. And this is one product that will not disappoint.

The sad thing however, we get quite a few comments from readers complaining that T2G products don't get AES. This appears to be more of an Oliver issue as Cesar has confirmed that he has sent files on previous airports to Oliver in the past with no avail. There are some very nice T2G airport products in Cuba and Mexico that are in dire need. So currently, the only thing that I don't like about Bratislava, is the fact that it doesn't have AES.

If this region is one of importance to you, than this is a MUST have! And if not, get it anyway because it's just that damn good.

Till next time, and see Dom's FSX review below!


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Yes, Taxi2gate is one of our advertisers. But wow. Stop it. You have just arrived. This second Slovakian airport (after Kosice) is a great piece. And the team did it in less than 2 months.

Version tested : FSX V.1.0

File size : 569 MB
Installation : Very easy / all automatic.
Manual :  Yes (4 pages, english) + a dozen of charts.
Utilities : No. Installer expected to add trees and grass in winter.

Framerate : 
With ATI HD6570 at max quality settings + volumetric grass + FSX sliders at 100 % + REX V.2 :
= 10-13 to 20-25 fps at the apron, aboard the PMDG NGX.

Volumetric grass are massive all around the airport. Deactivating them will provide much more fps.
My (old) system : I5 3,4 Ghz, 6 MB, ATI 6570, Resolution 1280 x 1024.

Important remark : Taxi2gate is now working on a service pack to fix and updates a few things :
(blank building and 2 or 3 things).

Important remark :
Another team has taken the opportunity of releasing on  Simmarket their scenery of Bratislava.
The screenshots are pretty nice. But at least, releasing their own work just after T2G, they should have mentioned the compatibility with T2G airport and surroundings.
Reference is : bratislava-fs-sk

The bad :

* Winter textures but not for trees and grass ( still in summer colors). A new set is available on T2G website and they are working on an installer. Already corrected.

The good :

* A large and very detailed scenery !

* Central location between Western and Eastern Europe. Another Slovakian airport, done by the same team, Kosica, is the eastern side of the country.

All the charts are included in separated PDF files.


The surroundings of the airport include motorways and road traffic. There are no specific bridges on the motorways though. But these surroundings have a lot of photoreal textures. Different areas can be clearly identified : industrial, residential.  
The size of these surroundings can be estimated here on this shot.
The next two pictures show that every building is textured. With this level of precision, i assume that the second developper, Radovan (a local ?) has been granted access to the airport. You really need hundreds of photos in order to get this realism.

I think you will have a good idea of the size of these surroundings here :
From the airport to the bottom of the picture, there is 10 kilometers !
A comparison between Taxi2gate airport surroundings (above) and (below) FSX defaut...
All around the airport, a lot of ground textures and VFR visual objects. To the left, river sides are textured. To the right, fuel depots and photoreal textures.

* * * * AIRPORT *  * * *

Although the terminal is brand new, the runways of Bratislava LZIB are still very old and cracked. A lot of tires traces have been drew too. On the both sides of the runway, the volumetric grass adds more density.  

Check the rusty marks on the roof of the terminal. And all the signs (above) and poles on the main place. You can also find a lot of street ads, cars and bus traffic. No animated people here. But i like this choice. Taxi2gate re-included these people in Asuncion but that was not too good. The terminal is so realistic that developers really need something new. I am not even shure is Orbx People Flow would fit well here.
The terminal is irreproachable. Textures, night lights, details, everything is carefully designed.
I try the old MyTraffic Lite and it has added a few local aircrafts. The streets around this terminal are custom. They are not just a photoreal copy showing real cars shadows.
These 2 Ryanair are static and included with the scenery.
Several shadow textures on the main tower. A rather difficult building to model.
A very detailed old fashion mirador. Absolutely no problems here with the fence nor the stairs (i mean, no flickering).
In this screenshot, showing the fire station, you can have a rather good glimpse of the volumetric grass, all around the taxiways.

Many static vehicles have been included near the tower and terminal. They are lighted as well.

The terminal at dusk.

* * * * * LIGHTS AND SEASONS * * * * *

It's possible to guess the details in offices through their windows, here, on the left building.
Another interesting shot showing the attention brought on the textures. A lot of small objets are added to enhance the realism ; trash bin, wood boxes, pallets...

I have taken this view at night time. The terminal and aprons are still very well lighted. As a matter of fact, the lights are quite different from dusk to night. That's rather seldom. A lot of sceneries show the same lights during evening. Here at night, you are absolutely not blind in your aircraft. Every detail of the airport can be seen.
Taxi2gate could not design Bratislava without winter textures. It's done. Bratislava in its mantle of winter and all the surroundings are white too.
So this is an example here of what i said about the winter textures. They are great if you are just ready to forget that trees and 3D grass are still green (not frozen). The team is working on it.

 I am very impressed by the main apron in winter here and the snow traces.

More pictures ?

Conclusion :

Designing Bratislava was a good idea. 5 years ago, it did not make any sense because it was an old (ex-communism era) airport. I think i landed there for real, in 2006 for a report. It was just about to be renovated.  Now, Bratislava is a busy industrial town and still has its gorgeous old city. And the airport is much larger. About Taxi2gate job here, i am surprised by the size of the scenery and the details. I mean, everything is there : traffic, photoreal areas around the airport, seasonal textures, static aircrafts etc etc. And the service pack will fix minor details. Behind the story, if you remember, Taxi2gate started to design San Diego airport but Latin VFR was on the same work. After the deal, T2G had to find another target. And they did it really good. In less than 2 months.

Thanks !

Airdailyx October 2012
Direct from Bratislava,
Dom Mason


Anonymous said...

Taxi2Gate is becoming a great developer! thanks

Fabo said...


just FYI, the other team you mentioned has released their scenery years ago, they only released it on simmarket recently as a download version.

This developer made his city scenery (that does not include airport at all, just to be clear) available to T2G at no cost, so that they could ensure compatibility. T2G claims compatibility, but at the same time, blames some bugs present when both sceneries are installed, on Bratislava City scenery. (Meanwhile, as of recently, they failed to extend same courtesy to City developer and offer him the aiport scenery so he could fix things on his side)

Airspeed said...

Thanks for the review. Picked up the scenery yesterday and did a few test flights, impressive. A nice addition to my European scenery collection.

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