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Article/Review: Ultimate City X: Buffalo/Niagara Falls

intropic

You know that town? That town with a name that makes you think of Texas? Indians? Cowboys? Yes, I’m talking about Buffalo, the town close to one of the most spectacular natural sights in the USA: Niagara Falls. It’s this town that I’m going to look at in this second instalment of “Ultimate City X”. I will once again combine addons to get the most out of them and that way try to recreate Buffalo as best as I can so that the approach to KBUF’s runway 5 will never be the same again.

A general introduction to this almost-review

This article is not an ordinary review. Ultimate City: Buffalo, is a new series of articles I write in which I cover various cities. In these articles, I discuss and combine various addons to create the “Ultimate City”. While I do this, I review the products that I chose to use, but do note that because multiple products are discussed, this is not a detailed review like I use to do of products here at Simflight or over at Avsim. The main intention of this series of articles, is to show how you can combine addons to make something really nice, that will hopefully make it that more enjoyable to fly into the cities that are discussed. After the good feedback I’ve gotten for the first instalment in this series (Ultimate City: Chicago), I present the second instalment in this series: Ultimate City: Buffalo.

 

Requirements

To make an Ultimate City, we need three “layers” of scenery:

-       Photo scenery;

-       Detailed buildings for the skyline;

-       Airport scenery.

These three are not available for each city of course, and thus I will not be able to look at each and every city. Sometimes, there are multiple packages that we can use to build our city, and in that case I will try to discuss all available packages, but I will always end up choosing one that I personally prefer. You, however, are of course free to choose whatever you wish based on the screenshots and descriptions I give.

 

Default Buffalo

It’s probably not much of a surprise, but default FSX Buffalo is a bit sad compared to the real thing. The skyline of Buffalo is virtually non-existent, but there is one tall building that sort of resembles one of the buildings of downtown Buffalo. And as for KBUF, well, the layout and terminal are okay, I guess. It’s default FSX, and that means that it’s rather poor. Sure, it’s okay, and can be fun if you don’t expect too much, but in this article I set out to make buffalo the real thing. Default FSX Buffalo is far from that, as you can see here:

default-buffalo

default-kbuf

Please note one important thing: the accurate roads are the result of installing UTX USA, and the improved textures are due to GEX USA. If you were to have an even more default version of Buffalo than I have, it would probably be worse.

 

Choosing photoscenery

Searching for photoreal scenery for Chicago, I found one product only: Newport’s Buffalo/Niagara photoscenery, available at one of these two sites:

-       http://secure.simmarket.com/newport-photo-real-buffaloniagara-x.phtml

-       http://www.newportscenery.com/catalog/

How do you rate such a thing? I tend to look at four things:

-       Coverage area;

-       Quality of the used textures;

-       Included seasons/night lighting;

-       Price.

 

Coverage Area

The coverage area of Newport’s Buffalo photoscenery is huge. It goes all the way from Downtown Buffalo to some distance north of KBUF, and then all the way west, much past Niagara Falls. What you thus get is a huge square that gives us coverage of all the important places that we want to have covered in our ultimate city of Buffalo. So from a coverage perspective, Newport’s photoscenery is a winner.

 

Quality of the used textures

This is the most important thing. A photoscenery can encompass the entire world, but if it only looks good when flying at FL180, then you won’t want to buy it. Fortunately, Newport’s photoscenery already looks good as a height of 2000 — 3000 feet. The resolution is of roughly 2 meters per pixel, which is somewhat good, although it’s not the best I have seen. For our purposes, however, it’s good enough. Below are some samples:

quality-sample-1

quality-sample-2

quality-sample-3

quality-sample-4

Some shots to show the resolution as well as the diversity of the terrain.

 

Resolution is not the one and only thing to look at, however. Discolorations and clouds also impact the quality of a photoscenery. Sadly, Newport’s photoscenery is also haunted a bit by clouds that result in whitish discolorations on parts of the photoscenery. Even if they are not actual clouds, then it is some kind of haze, for the photoscenery get s a hazy look, as can be seen here:

discoloration-due-to-haze

Discolorations due to haze can be easily seen here and there.

 

Something that I really like in this photoscenery, which I didn’t see in Newport’s Chicago photoscenery, is that watermasks and such have been added. They add a lot to the realism and beauty of the scenery. Stuff like can be seen in the shots below look great, and especially for Niagara Falls, having this sort of stuff is almost a must. I mean, Niagara Falls without foam on the water?

watermasks-1

watermasks-2

watermasks-3

Watermasks and the combination with the textures gives some very nice views.

 

Finally, I have one thing that is of note and is not so good news. While I was exploring the photoscenery, I found this:

default-error

Default scenery peeks through.

 

It’s clear what we see: These are Ground Environment X textures, meaning that we are seeing the default terrain. Funny thing is, we even see the sort of gradual transition to the default scenery, but this is something we’d only expect at the borders of the scenery, as seen here:

scenery-border

Scenery border: soft transition to default scenery.

 

So what’s causing the error? I have no idea. I had some extensive communication with Tyler Newport about this, but he too didn’t quite know where the problem came from. He had never heard of this issue, so it might just be a one-off. Chances are great you will never see this problem. As it is, it is a bummer for me, since the error is right on the approach path of KBUF runway 5. It is because of this that I’m thankful for the big coverage of FlyTampa’s photoscenery that accompanies their KBUF scenery. More about that later, however.

 

All in all, the quality of this photoscenery is quite good and it’s certainly a step up from the Chicago photoscenery. If not for the error and some rather blatant discolorations, the photoscenery could have been one of better ones out there.

 

Included seasons/night lighting

The scenery includes night lighting, but no seasons besides summer. The night lighting is simply spectacular, though. Here are some shots:

night-1

night-2

Night shots of downtown Buffalo.

 

Sadly, it’s not all great. While Downtown Buffalo and much of the surrounding terrain looks really great, there are some issues, as seen below. I’m not sure why these issues exist. They seem relatively easy to fix.

night-3

night-4

Some issues with the scenery.

 

As you can see, even though it’s night, it seems like there is no night texture for some areas. In the overview shot below you can see all effected areas. Fortunately, it’s not too much, but I do have some doubts about those fields. Do they really look like that at night…?

night-5

Overview shot. Are those agricultural fields displayed correctly?

All in all, I’m more than happy that there even exists night lighting for this photoscenery. On approach to KBUF runway 5, this night lighting looks great, and that’s the most important part (for me, anyway).

 

Price

The price is €17,84 or €5,00, depending on where you purchase the scenery. While the former might be a bit high, looking at the terrain covered, the resolution and some of the mistakes and discoloration in this scenery, €5,00 is a more than worthwhile price.

 

Summary

Here’s where it all comes together. Are the products worth their price? Let’s recap (prices mentioned are at the time of writing!):

Coverage area Big
Quality of textures Good
Day/Night, Seasons? Day/Night, summer only
Price € 5,00 or €17,84

Overall, it seems to me that for the price of €5,00 (purchase at Newport’s webshop), this is a very good deal! I will therefor use Newport’s Photoreal Buffalo/Niagara X for the photoreal scenery. This will be the base on which I will build the rest of the city.

 

Getting the skyline

Getting the skyline isn’t very difficult. We can do two things:

-       Use the default buildings;

-       Use Aerosoft’s US Cities X: Niagara Falls/Buffalo: http://secure.simmarket.com/aerosoft-online-us-cities-x-niagara-fallsbuffalo.phtml

Of the two, I prefer the latter option. Aerosoft is known for its highly detailed scenery packages, and for the small price of 15 Euros, I think it’s worth it to take this chance. You won’t have to take it: simply read on and decide for yourself what you want to do. There are ample screenshots to make up your mind!

As you saw from the “default Buffalo” screenshots, the Buffalo skyline in default FSX is almost non-existent. Aerosoft manages to remedy that situation very nicely by adding some very nice and detailed buildings. Plus, you don’t only get downtown Buffalo with autogen for a small surrounding area, you also get updated photoreal terrain for three airports (including KBUF) and Niagara Falls. The latter also includes some detailed buildings (Note: the airports are only upgraded with photoscenery. For the rest they are completely default!). The screenshots below should be self-explanatory.

Note: Some shots show a photoscenery that under Aerosoft’s Buffalo/Niagara that is a bit blurry. Let it be known that I only later realized that the photoscenery accompanying Aerosoft’s US City can be much more in focus if you set your texture resolution higher. When I had set it to 7cm, I got a stunning-looking ground scenery that is clearly higher in resolution than Newport’s photoscenery, as can be seen here:

quality-difference-1

quality-difference-2

 

Nevertheless, I was too lazy to make all screenshots again, so you will still see some shots that sport the lower resolution of my sim (which is actually the resolution that I use by default).

down-buffalo-coverage

An overview of the terrain covered by US Cities X: Buffalo.

downtown-buffalo-1

downtown-buffalo-2

downtown-buffalo-3

downtown-buffalo-4

downtown-buffalo-5

Some shots showing downtown Buffalo and some of the suburbs.

Above you see first of all the coverage of Buffalo’s photoscenery for the town of Buffalo. It’s not too big, but covers the most important parts. The buildings look pretty good, although they often have rather blurry texturing as you can see for example on the tallest building of all. From a distance it’s no problem, but when you start getting close it can be annoying. The same can be said about all the other buildings. I don’t know about you, but I will probably be seeing most of these buildings only when passing by when approaching KBUF runway 5, so for me it’s not a big deal, but for those that intend to do real VFR flight, it could be problematic.

falls-coverage

Coverage of the Niagara Falls photoscenery and nearby airport.

falls-1

falls-2

falls-3

falls-4

falls-5

Shots showing the Niagara Falls scenery.

Niagara Falls is a natural monument that most people will be familiar with. I remember walking down a narrow path down to the falls, and as we got closer the noise of falling water would become louder and louder. When standing next to the falls, we really had to talk louder in order to remain audible. When I look at Aerosoft’s rendition of Niagara Falls, that sensation comes back partly. The buildings are accurate and well placed and the photoscenery complements it wonderfully. I’m a little concerned about some of the mesh/photoscenery combinations, though. If you look at the closest by of the two falls, you’ll see that it’s left most edge is weirdly sloped, not in a falls-way at all. When looking at photographs, you’ll see that this is, in fact, accurate! However, in the scenery it looks like water is “simply” flowing down as if it were a calm stream while we should be seeing water coloured white by foam. If you now look at the surrounding water, you’ll see that other bits and pieces of foam are also light blue. Because of this, I’m positive that the faulty colour is because of the water “laid over” the photoscenery, thus giving it a light blue tint while it should have been white. Oh well, can’t have it all I guess.

As an aside, the building in the last shot has weird textures. I can’t make out if this is how it actually looks, whether there is another building reflected in the windows of this building, or whether something strange happened to the texture, but long story short: it looks strange.

niagara-intl

Niagara Falls intl. airport.

airstrip

A lonely airstrip between downtown Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

another-airstrip

Another airstrip, this one with a hardened, asphalt surface.

Above shots show three other airports/airstrips for your flying pleasure covered with photoscenery. The big airport is Niagara Falls international airport and is a joint civil/military airport, so expect to see B52 bombers and jet fighters. From this airport there are mostly direct connections to Florida and the Caribbean (Spirit Airlines to Fort Lauderdale KFLL for instance).

Now you might be in for a surprise. I’ll show you some screenshots of Aerosoft’s Buffalo together with Newport’s photoreal scenery. As you’ll see, Aerosoft’s Buffalo blends in perfectly with the photoscenery! I couldn’t detect any discrepancy, not even minor ones. As a bonus, buildings that didn’t stand on photoscenery before will not be somewhat accurately placed on Newport’s photoreal scenery. It seems to me that Aerosoft and Newport use the same source for their photoscenery.

downtown-buffalo-and-photoscenery-1

downtown-buffalo-and-photoscenery-2

falls-and-photoscenery

niagara-intl-and-photoscenery

airstrip-and-photoscenery

Finally, night lighting. There’s no doubt: US Cities X: Buffalo is no scenery designed for VFR night flying, as you can see here:

downtown-buffalo-night

falls-night

 

While the photoscenery has nice night lighting (exactly the same as Newport’s, as a matter of fact), the buildings don’t have any night lighting. As a result, the town is rather dark. You’d think the power plant was blown up.

Now that I’ve shown you everything, let’s summarize my findings:

Pros Cons
Lots of detailed buildings. No night lighting.
Good photoscenery. Sometimes blurry building textures
Blends in perfectly with Newport’s photoreal scenery.
FPS hit not too big (unlike Chicago!).
Reasonable price.

So, is it worth adding in my opinion? Short answer: Yes. Niagara Falls/Buffalo X will therefor be part of Ultimate City: Buffalo!

Adding the airports

I say airports, but to be honest, we have only one airport to add: Buffalo Niagara international airport (KBUF). There is no payware scenery for the other airports for as far as I could see. FlyTampa, however, has replicated KBUF, and this is the airport that I will add to our Ultimate City: Buffalo.

FlyTampa’s Buffalo Niagara International airport

Before I start, please note that this is not a full review of FlyTampa’s KBUF. I only highlight it briefly in the context of this article. A full review can be read here:

http://simflight.com/2010/09/27/review-flytampas-buffalo-niagara-falls-intl-kbuf/

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at what we get. First of all, the area covered by this scenery is much bigger than I thought. It extends well beyond the perimeter fence, unlike, for example, their Chicago Midway scenery. This is great news for us in the light of the error in Newport’s photoscenery (I should again note that Tyler did not have this fault in his own installation. To this day we’re not sure why I get this error. Chances are great that you will not have it, though), since FlyTampa’s KBUF covers up a big part of it. Phew!

Something that I ought to mention is that, upon installation, the installer gives an option for compatibility with Aerosoft’s US Cities X: Buffalo/Niagara. This is of course of the utmost important for what I’m trying to do here, and I selected this option upon installation.

error-coverup

The error is covered up for a great part.

This error cover-up can be seen in the above shot. I’m still able to see it when approaching runway 5, but it isn’t as disturbing as it was before. Now, I can simply look at the other direction and not even have a clue that the error existed. Previously, this other direction had to be the sky and the sky only, because otherwise I would have been able to see it whatever direction I look in.

approach-photoscenery

Approaching runway 5.

We fly into KBUF and as we do so, we transition from Newport’s photoscenery to the actual FlyTampa scenery. The moment you do so is easily seen because suddenly, there is autogen. As a result, you can see where the FlyTampa scenery ends along the edges of the above screenshot. How pronounced is this edge in the photoscenery? Let’s have a look:

photoscenery-blend-1

photoscenery-blend-2

Newport’s and FlyTampa’s scenery blend relatively well.

In the above shots you can see that the two do not blend perfectly like with Aerosoft’s Buffalo. In the area where the transition happens between the two sceneries you can see a sort of blurriness, caused by the two overlapping sceneries not being perfectly aligned. Secondly, FlyTampa’s photoscenery is more vividly green than Newport’s. It detracts a bit from the experience I think, but not too much to be a big disturbance.

surroundings-1

surroundings-2

Some of the surrounding scenery.

As we come closer and closer to the runway threshold, we take a good look at the neighbourhoods beneath our extended gear. By all means, it looks very nice. The autogen and custom buildings complement the photoscenery very nicely. What’s more, the lower you get, the more the autogen detracts your view from the flat, autogen-less Newport scenery. I think this is ideal, because you get autogen where you probably most want it without getting the additional FPS hit of autogen covering the entire area. If you don’t like seeing a “clump” of autogen covering the KBUF region and having emptiness in the rest of Buffalo, you can simply turn of autogen altogether.

control-tower

The control tower.

We touch down and ATC tells us to clear the runway. As we roll onto the taxiway, we get handed off to ground control. At this point, we take a good look at the control tower. It’s a relatively standard structure, but it’s very nicely modelled and textured.

terminal-overview

Overview of the terminal.

terminal-apron

Terminal apron.

terminal-pax-side

Terminal entrance.

To the right of us we see the terminal where we’ll be docking our aircraft at one of the gates. It’s a very nice building, and especially the entrance looks modern and beautiful. FlyTampa did a very good job modelling the place. The detail is everywhere, and especially those jetways look magnificent. There could have been a bit more ground clutter perhaps, but it’s all right for as far as I’m concerned. The FPS hit is smaller and that’s an important consideration.

hangars

parking

warehouses

Some miscellaneous airport structures and aprons.

Finally, there are some locations that I will not spend too much time on but certainly deserve to be shown. Above screenshots show them. These are some aprons and hangars and warehouses, all perfectly modelled and textured, looking brilliant as always. What can I say? FlyTampa did it again. This is definitely a must buy for all those wanting to get the Ultimate City: Buffalo!

 

And out of the land arises a city…

We have now combined three addons to make a new Buffalo. Photoscenery by Newport, downtown Buffalo by Aerosoft and Buffalo international by FlyTampa. Together, they make for a new and interesting place to fly. If you combine these addons just to get the best experience possible for flying into KBUF or whether you want to fly around the region low and slow, I’m positive that you’ll always have a nice flight. I know that for me, this is the perfect stopover between New York City and Chicago and whether I fly by day or night doesn’t make a difference. It will always look good. I hope this article has given you some new ideas and was able to inspire you to do the same for the places you care about, be it Buffalo, Chicago, Madrid or Singapore. I hope to see you soon with another installation of Ultimate Cities X!

Final notes

Before I conclude this review, there are some things you ought to know:

1)   I did not look at winter texturing and such. Why not? Simple: FlyTamapa’s KBUF is the only scenery mentioned here that supports multiple seasons. It therefor didn’t make sense to look at more than one season.

2)   I will again mention this: the error I found in Newport’s scenery is something that he had not heard about ever, and so this seems to be an isolated problem. I cannot be certain of this of course, and it’s a pity that it should happen. Chances are great however that you will not see it.

3)   I should apologize for some of the low-res textures in the screenshots. Since my computer is not that fast, I had to do some compromising on the texture resolution department. I suggest going to the Aerosoft website for some more screenshots: http://www.aerosoft.de/_php_projekte/_php_screenshots/screenshots.php?sp=fsx&p=niagarafalls

 

To summarize, here are the addons used, where to purchase them, and their price (at the time of writing!):

Addon used Place to get Price
Newport’s Photoreal Niagara Falls/Buffalo http://www.newportscenery.com/catalog/ About €5,00
Aerosoft’s US Cities X Niagara Falls/Buffalo http://secure.simmarket.com/aerosoft-online-us-cities-x-niagara-fallsbuffalo.phtml €14,95
FlyTampa Buffalo http://secure.simmarket.com/flytampa-buffalo-kbuf.phtml €23,80

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