Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Orbx Bonners Ferry: Our impression!

P3D. A talented team. An impressive destination. A quality job. If I was told I had to describe this scenery in 3 quick terms that would be it. This review would be over. And you would be on to other things. But whereas those 3 terms very accurately describe the scenery, they don't really say much about it do they? And that's where the review comes into play! Because the team is talented, they did a very quality job, and the destination is perfect. So let's dig in deeper as we head to Northern Idaho and explore Bonners Ferrry. Flatlanders welcome!

Northern Idaho
The region.

Northern Idaho is no stranger to me. I have spent much time in the region actually, with the friends I have up there. Granted, I have never been up to Bonners Ferry, but I have been quite close as I make regular trips to the cities of Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene which lies to the South. Sandpoint if it's famous for anything besides being the headquarters of Quest Aircraft and the place where the Kodiak is built, might be known for a great winter resort just above the city called Schweitzer Mountain. 

Schweitzer a destination of choice for many famous celebrities and politicians as they do their skiing at Schweitzer. It's a perfect reclusive resort that many just don't know about with Mammoth Lakes in Northern California getting all the popularity. A perfect high class and hidden ski resort! In fact, you might be amazed to learn that many wealthy folks actually live out here. Needless to say, I just love it up here and I am also glad I have a destination for the area in FS.

Bonners Ferry
The town.

About Bonners Ferry.

There is not too much to say about Bonners Ferry besides the fact it's just another one of those western towns then made its foundation during the gold rush period. It's quaint, rustic, and quiet. So why pick this destination? Well, I can't speak on behalf of the team. But I can say why I would have picked it. It's a very beautiful destination for VFR lovers like myself. The valley is very picturesque and is surrounded by hills and fjords covered by trees that dip and rise.

It's a very scenic place and that's why this destination is perfect.
No matter which direction you look or what end of the runway you approach, the scenic vistas are simply breathtaking in a way only FS could manage. But this is not exactly the kind of airfield you want to haul ass out of. In fact, this is one of those places where you might just want to circle a couple times before you set course to depart the area. It's just that great to look at and fly over.

The town of Bonners Ferry is small mostly brick and not too much to look at. As I said, small, quaint, and quiet. But it really adds to the immersion of the approach and departure. Nestled along the Kootenai River, the town sits just below the airport itself. Approaches like these with rolling hills, densely covered trees, snaking rivers, and high mountains are what make sceneries like this absolutely spectacular. 

There is just something about this place that delivers a very realistic look and feel. The ground textures are sharp and crisp as you would expect from a FTX airport.

With large commercial airports, the decision to develop is easy. All you have to do is pick a popular airport, do a damn good job at it, and people will buy it. But with places like Bonners Ferry here, many people have never heard of this place much less ever been here. It's quite literally a hole in the wall. Why would anyone want to visit here? This can be said about almost every Orbx airport and it's also what makes them so great.

Having the opportunity to visit a place small and quaint and off the mainstream beaten path. A place you may not get to visit in real life. This is how the simulator gets its own opportunity to take you to new places and show you new adventures. 

So you have to really be smart about the airports you choose as an Orbx developer. Location, location, location is key and I can not stress this enough. But not only that, you must also choose a location that's easy on frames.

Here, everything was just perfectly chosen. 

The town is completely covered and rendered as it should be. Whether your eyepoint is on the foreground or background, it all is truly an eyeful. As I said, a perfect location for VFR flying. Glider pilots will feel perfectly at home here! Obviously, a lot of work went into reworking the terrain to accomplish this effect.

It all fits together perfectly and is very immersive and scenic indeed! Let's move on to the airport.

65S Boundary County
The airport.

Whereas the location is perfect for sight seeing and the town looking scenic as it is, the centerpiece is indeed the airport. It's the reason why you are flying yourself way out here. But I am glad. I am glad this scenery sits further inland. Most of the airports in the region are within 50 miles of the Pacific Ocean regardless whether you are flying North or South. But heading East, there is not much. You have the legendary Felts Field, Airdrie, and 2 freeware Canadian airfields in the area. But the Canadian airfields although good looking, simply do not have the immersion factor of the rolling hills, mountains, rivers, and lakes. It's my opinion why the England airfields were canceled. They are indeed nice. But they all lacked the terrain factor. 

I'll admit, flat land approaches are just not as fun and immersive as places like this.

But what's also good here, is I get to fly East. Not just North or South. 

The airport is perfectly rendered and represented as it is in real world. In fact, there isn't anything seemingly too special about it. It's simple without many complex buildings. But with that said, everything was done perfectly. From the texture baking to grass. This team took an airfield that is not much to look at and made it a place anyone would be proud to call home. It's the passion in the work that is obvious. And it was damn sure worth the wait.

All the little things were added like fences, shrubs, and weeds that make a big impact. In FS, the littlest things make the biggest differences. The effort in the quality of work is obvious in every building.

Looking at the above shot, really proves just how talented the team is in their texturing methods. These guys are making FS more and more real. Just 4 years ago, we were not seeing anything remotely like this. We have reached a point where the developers are improving their skills at an alarming rate. Technology is improving at an alarming rate. But FS itself has not. The lack of a new platform has really forced developers to put more focus in their craft and it really shows here.

Here we get a look at Nature Flow. It's no wonder more and more developers are joining the Orbx team. With all the resources available, who wouldn't? We are just not seeing work like this outside the Orbx world. Few have tried, but haven't just quite captured it on a quality scale for airports of this size. If you are in the business of mega airports, you are already doing just fine. But if you are in the business of VFR serenity, Orbx is not a bad place to find yourself as a developer.

Besides the building textures, the ground textures are sharp and realistic as well. Not to mention the clarity of the 30cm/px terrain.

Now there isn't really much of anything  negative to say here. Really. So, I have been reduced to nitpicking. Sad I know. The red Chevy truck and green Subaru have been used in 2 parts of the scenery and in both cases that I could count, both are placed together and that bothered me. Granted, among many of the cars used in the scenery, these utilize higher polygons and as such are more realistic looking than the others. But at the very least, they could have been different in color if you are going to keep using them in different places. 

Above you see the lower quality cars I mentioned. These don't need to be super high quality as you likely won't be hanging out is this area much anyway.
The Exxon truck stop and gas station. Always nice to see accurate buildings models as trivial as gas stations that sit outside the airport boundaries represented in realistic detail. Holy crap! Look at those cheap gas prices! Good attention to detail there.

Now even though the runway is well lit at night, I am going to go out on a limb and say you might not want to do late night flights here. It's very dark and if you don't mind your proper altitude and heading, you will crash. I found it to be too dark at night for operations and I am not clear on what the rules are for this 65S in real world. So at the very least you are covered from dawn to dusk.

In the winter, this place looks even more beautiful! I was just amazed at how good the winter textures were. Surely this will be a snowy destination of choice for me. Very well done here.

I like the crisp snowy road. Usually I keep car traffic off, but here, I just had to keep it on. Those roads and bridges look too good not to have some cars moving on them.

All the trees look great!

Very scenic!

Final thoughts.

A talented team. An impressive destination. A quality job.

Correct that, a damn good quality job. A perfect location with the perfect scenery that you will need no excuse to visit. And you will enjoy yourself. If you have some performance issues, you can remove some options. For me right out of the box without changing the scenery options I got 23 fps with some stutters. If this is the case for you, kill the grass and you should be okay.

For once, not too much to say in my final thoughts. I think I laid it all out quite clearly in my statements above. The very best thing I can say or suggest, is to go buy your copy and get lost in this amazing scenery. You will not be disappointed. I am strongly looking forward to more work from Jim and Alex!

Know of anywhere else that can crack out a full review in less than 24 hours after release? I hope this timing has helped you off the fence and into this amazing scenery. Support your developers! I've done my part, now do yours and:

Happy Flighting!
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