What May Hold Payware Development Back for AFS

  • It occurred to me that Aerofly's "orthophoto only" approach to scenery might hold back payware development of airports and cities.


    The commercial FSX / P3D / XP developer can develop an airport, city or area and not care about the underlying ground scenery. Either the user will see land-class based scenery, or they will have downloaded their own orthophoto scenery.


    The commercial Aerofly developer has to source orthophotos to go with the area they're developing. Obviously for US, the problem is solved by USGS, but for most of the rest of the world, this will cost at least four figures, maybe five upfront with no guarantee of a return. Dealing with raw satellite imagery is also a massive time sink.


    You'll note that most of the payware scenery we have now is developed for areas that have free orthophotos available.


    I'm not suggesting that IPACS should do land-class based scenery, I agree with their ortho only approach, but it does seem like it makes the dynamic of commercial development for Aerofly different.


    Personally I'd be happy to see "airport only, no orthophotos" payware, but that might be a hard sell to the average user.


    Taking Norway for example. If there was a payware "Norway airports, plus pre-done cultivation, plus hand placed POI models, plus a high-res mesh, but no orthos", could that ever be an attractive commercial product?

  • Maybe the airport developer could include an automated 1-click ortho download step for their payware airport/city.


    The developer pre-codes the NW & SE corner coordinates into a command line-based AeroScenery module that does the downloading, stitching, and transferring of the ttx files to the correct scenery folder. The user buys the airport without the orthos included, installs the airport and then clicks DOWNLOAD/INSTALL scenery photos with the proper warnings "for personal use only".

  • Maybe the airport developer could include an automated 1-click ortho download step for their payware airport/city.

    Seems like a good idea, and I'd definitely be happy to make a stripped down version of AeroScenery for that purpose.


    One issue is that the GeoConvert isn't redistributable so it would have to grab the whole SDK rar and unpack it.

  • I've given this a lot of thought, and change my mind a few times about how it would work best. It helps that I nearly always include photoscenery in my 'MSFS' projects, and have access to quality imagery mostly, but FS2 is tricky -- sure, I could include a large chunk of photoscenery in my first major airport (NZCH), but then there's the issue of somewhere to fly -- the rest of the country is a blurry blank canvas!

    So I was looking at a way to complete the whole country in photoscenery (sorry, can't get used to 'ortho') first, then there'd be a better market for airports. IPACS have been keen to help with this, but in reality it's a big job, too big for one guy who relies on day-to-day scenery sales to live. So it's back to plan A, a big chunk of photoscenery surrounding the airport (6,000sq km in the case of NZCH) and hope that it is enough to make it a saleable product.

    I am very much aware that a LOT of my customers have no interest in anything technical, and even if it was delivered as a simple one-click solution to make their own orthoscenery, they would not do it. Sure, there's a lot of technically-inclined folk here, but my experience of the flightsim market is very different.

  • One thought is to concentrate on the U.S. market using USGS scenery. There is no shortage of interest in Hawaii, Alaska, Florida, Pacific NorthWest, New England, Washington D.C., Texas, Michigan - you name it, the potential exists.


    I’m eager to see some work adding USGS scenery to AeroScenery.


    Regards,

    Ray

  • So it's back to plan A, a big chunk of photoscenery surrounding the airport (6,000sq km in the case of NZCH) and hope that it is enough to make it a saleable product.

    I'd favour that approach.

    ORBX went the other way with TE Netherlands, a whole PR country but limited airport detail.

    It's beautiful, but in the end your closest look is the airport.

    For me the best MSFS RealNZ scenery was Marlborough, with lovely scenery between several interesting airports.

  • Seems like a good idea, and I'd definitely be happy to make a stripped down version of AeroScenery for that purpose.


    One issue is that the GeoConvert isn't redistributable so it would have to grab the whole SDK rar and unpack it.

    I don't think that would be an issue. Once the user has geoconvert installed he/she can install many sceneries. And once we are there we could perhaps add geoconvert to the default installation of Aerofly, so that every user has it per default

  • One thought is to concentrate on the U.S. market using USGS scenery. There is no shortage of interest in Hawaii, Alaska, Florida, Pacific NorthWest, New England, Washington D.C., Texas, Michigan - you name it, the potential exists.


    I’m eager to see some work adding USGS scenery to AeroScenery.

    It's coming, but you might be disappointed with some of the USGS data when you dig into it.


    Hawaii - Images are not redistributable as they're licensed. High percentage of cloud cover as they obviously licensed 'cheap' versions. Not great images either. Bing is much better.


    Alaska - Minor coverage of most populated areas (Anchorage) and not great images. No coverage of other areas, even a few miles outside Anchorage. Again Bing is much better.


    The lower states are a mixed bag. Some of the imagery for medium size metro areas is OK resolution but old, < 2012. If you don't need to redistribute stuff, Bing imagery is better and newer in many cases.


    The complexity of getting USGS imagery is that they try to do everything they can to stop you bulk downloading it in an automated way.

    There's no simple url to call, I have to fake clicks on buttons to get the zip, then unpack the zip.


    (There is a higher level of access which allows automated download, but your application for this has to be manually approved and your need for it justified. They can reject your request. I figured that no one is going to want go though all that.)

    I'd favour that approach.

    ORBX went the other way with TE Netherlands, a whole PR country but limited airport detail.

    I'd rather have smaller areas and detailed airports too.


    Unfortunately it looks like Orbx might do half of the world in photoscenery add-ons, along with "quick and dirty" quality airports.

    I think this could remove the incentive for payware developers to make great quality airports for those regions.


    I guess it's down to someone to make an "airport only" payware product for AFS and see if there's a market for it.

  • All very interesting reading as someone who has battled to make loads of photo scenery over many years for FSX using FSET. Its the age old problem that the scenery is only as good as the satellite image quality which over the years has gone down the pan. Overall Bing seems the better of the two but in certain areas even their images are not top notch. I'm just in the throws of finishing all of Ireland which in fairness to Bing looks usable. I have completed the UK but stopped short of the Lake District as both Bing and GE satellite images are absolutely awful.


    I have never tried making airports although my feelings on this subject are mixed in so far how much time do I spend on the ground after all I want to take off as quickly as I can and fly VFR and appreciate the scenery.


    Generally most simmers in my opinion have absolutely no interest or even enthusiasm to use any software whether paid for or free to make scenery or anything else for that matter. Having said that they are always very keen and first in the cue to download any thing that is offered FREE from others who have worked extremely hard to make photo scenery and or airports.


    ORBX True Earth for the UK broken into three areas looks amazing and even at around 30 quid an area its extremely good value for money knowing how much time I have put into making scenery.

  • So I was looking at a way to complete the whole country in photoscenery


    I am very much aware that a LOT of my customers have no interest in anything technical,

    I think you're right, the current expectation is that you pay for something for AFS and it's ready to fly.


    New Zealand is an attractive prospect for payware developers with LINZ data available. Other areas of interest like Norway and Alaska seem out of reach at the moment, unless you have deep pockets for imagery.

  • This one click download need to be more configurable for the scenery developer. You don't want to download big areas completely in High Level 15 Resolution. Also it often happens in high resolution areas, that some places are not covered at all and you get greyed tiles. If I would sell a scenery airport I need to define in very fine details what photo scenery I like to download by the users to make my airport great. Also there is the Problem of planes, cars and other stuff on the textures you want to get rid off at least at airports, and also the source of the photo scenery can change with time. So at the moment I see only the option to set your airport on top of an existing DLC to habe enough environment around but for example Justflight, Aerosoft,... would not publish airports on ORBX,... DLCs or vice versa because the customer would be forced to buy from a different producer.


    The solution to "paint" the photo textures for small area around the airports is also not really a solution. But if you can automate the painting with OSM Data for Streets and buildings and others... if someone can build such tool the "photo" scenery can be build so it can be distributed. You "just" need to build a huge library of brushes for streets, fields, water and other stuff. It would be something like the normal map-mode but not with plain colors for streets and so on but filled with painted photo realistic grafics. This tool could free you from all the legal problems of real photo/ortho scenery and give the user (hopefully) good realistic ground, still much more real than generic landclasses, especially if combined with cultivation drawn from the same source. I don't know if this has any hope to come alive. :)

    Wish for Aerofly FS 2:

    - Flightpath recording on hard drive and replay in sim from different view points (recording under VR, replay on screen)

    - Smoke for aerobatic planes

    - Multiplayer or at least watching other people flying sitting on ground or inside tower

  • I certainly missed the part that USGS has different rules for Hawaii scenery. Duh. Alaska is hit and miss for all suppliers, it seems - too big, too remote. On any given day Bing is better than Google or vice versa. I have to test each area before any serious downloads.


    Maybe we can just look forward to the next upgrade of AeroScenery. I look forward to more grid size choices. This may have the best chance of AFS2 mass scenery. A version 2 of fsCloudPort to include crossing runways and taxiways and ramps might keep the masses entertained for some time.


    Of course, both are free so that may be the attraction. A special thanks to both of you two generous developers. :)


    Regards,

    Ray

  • ORBX True Earth for the UK broken into three areas looks amazing

    The autogen / cultivation and POIs look great, but actually, when you see a low level screenshots the imagery looks a bit mushy to me. Over-sharpened to an inch of its life.


    This thread at OrbX kind of confirms my thoughts https://orbxsystems.com/forum/…60902-quality-of-textures


    To be honest, when I first read about TrueEarth GB I was kind of disheartened that all my own UK scenery efforts were pointless. I don't think so now.

  • Sounds like we'll continue to live in the flightsim world of fast food consumers & cooks ...


    fast food consumers = buy it, install it, and fly it in ~5 minutes


    cooks = use dev tools to create it in hours, then fly it


    I'd like to see the 2 main FS2 dev tools do the following in 2019:


    FSCloudPort - expand the airport creation to add a POI object icon so other 3D objects can be imported into the existing 3D object library and then easily placed just like the other FSCP objects


    AeroScenery - add OSM download + cultivation option (+ tsc update) for the same scenery tiles being downloaded/created (this may already be on Nick's list)


    Both would allow me to cook/prepare better airports in less time than it takes today.

  • Sounds like we'll continue to live in the flightsim world of fast food consumers & cooks ...


    AeroScenery - add OSM download + cultivation option (+ tsc update) for the same scenery tiles being downloaded/created (this may already be on Nick's list)

    Well put, I like the fast food consumers and cooks analogy.


    A GUI cultivation editor is definitely planned (sooner rather than later). I'll probably use scenProc as a back end app to start with so it'll have to work on 0.1 degree squares.


    For airports I'm still working now and then on code to auto-generate all the ground polys (runways, taxiways, aprons, decals). If it's possible (and it's still an 'if' at this point) where to go from there needs some thought.

  • Well put, I like the fast food consumers and cooks analogy.


    A GUI cultivation editor is definitely planned (sooner rather than later). I'll probably use scenProc as a back end app to start with so it'll have to work on 0.1 degree squares.


    For airports I'm still working now and then on code to auto-generate all the ground polys (runways, taxiways, aprons, decals). If it's possible (and it's still an 'if' at this point) where to go from there needs some thought.

    Nick,


    What are the general sizes of your grids in AeroScenery in degrees - maybe near the equator. I come up with ~ 38 nm at the 20th parallel. But, I keep wondering what the actual specs are for the grid 13, 14 and 9.


    I keep thinking that an overlay with the grid 9 square on top of the FAA sectional charts would be a good visual tool for planning on scenery download.


    Regards,

    Ray

  • Nick,


    What are the general sizes of your grids in AeroScenery in degrees - maybe near the equator. I come up with ~ 38 nm at the 20th parallel. But, I keep wondering what the actual specs are for the grid 13, 14 and 9.


    They are what AFS (and Google, Bing etc) use to divide the Mercator projection into increasingly smaller pieces.


    This image explains it better than I can type. Each tile keeps getting divided into 4.


    https://cdn-images-1.medium.co…2K8PhgEUGRuXDRFzR9w1Q.png


    So, the direct answer is that they don't really equate to anything specific in degrees. However:


    1 degree square = somewhere between level 8 and level 9

    0.1 degree square = somewhere around level 11 - 12


    I find this useful for looking at world airports and deciding what scenery to download

    https://x-plane.cleverest.eu/

  • Wow. those links are real eye openers. The number of x-plane airports are a bit on the overkill, don't you think?


    Thanks,

    Ray

    Nick,


    Is there any room left for yet another Map Type in your AeroScenery? The FAA WAC chart would be ideal. It is evidently free for use. Skyvector uses it as one of their planning charts and the FAA makes the latest edition freely downloadable. I don't know about connecting them together though and they are only for the US.


    Regards,

    Ray



  • Wow. those links are real eye openers. The number of x-plane airports are a bit on the overkill, don't you think?

    A lot of them are heli-pads / ports so don't do much. Quite a lot are bad data. That leaves about 24k real airports and airstrips worldwide.


    Can't say I'd mind having them all available in AFS :) Maybe one day.

    Is there any room left for yet another Map Type in your AeroScenery? The FAA WAC chart would be ideal. It is evidently free for use.

    Unfortunately the map type is provided by the C# map widget I use, which only has the standard Google, Bing, OSM etc.


    It's technically possible to write a new provider for it, but too much work for too little gain to consider.

  • It occurred to me that Aerofly's "orthophoto only" approach to scenery might hold back payware development of airports and cities.


    The commercial FSX / P3D / XP developer can develop an airport, city or area and not care about the underlying ground scenery. Either the user will see land-class based scenery, or they will have downloaded their own orthophoto scenery.

    Er...? For years already airports addons include photoreal scenery already. Orthophoto isn't holding back airport developers at all. In fact, they were the first to use orthophoto's (in FSX/P3D) for their sceneries and now with TreuEarth things have expanded into the area's outside of airports. I can't remember seeing a recent airport (even with cities) that did NOT have ortho's. So I think you are seeing a problem which isn't there at all...? Imhi Aerofly's orthophoto is a PLUS and a benefit!

    The number of x-plane airports are a bit on the overkill, don't you think?

    It may look that way but take note that FSX/P3D comes with all airports included. I never heard anyone say FSX/P3D's airports are overkill. ;) The blue airports on that map are usually awful, the red ones have yet to be added and only the orange once are already in XP. Last time I checked most of those airports were simply runways on a rather empty piece of land (but that may have changed in the meantime) so nothing fancy. Even the TreuEarth airports are better than most of them. ;) Last time I flew in XP I first had to search for and download scenery for every airport I wanted to visit if I wanted it to look a bit appealing... Can't say I liked that.