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Review/Article: The Ultimate City: Singapore

We take a long flight by aircraft. Yes, people, we have left the US. We are heading to Singapore, one of those cities that probably everybody knows. It is known for being a bustling metropolis, a place where Asia can show all of its grandeur. And above all, it’s a very clean city! It’s also home to Singapore’s Changi airport, and when approaching either of the two 02 runways, you will fly along the Singapore skyline: a beautiful sight to say the least! In FSX we are not without all of this, but as you might suspect, the default rendition isn’t really stellar. In this article I will combine two addons to try and make the ultimate Singapore. Will I succeed? Read on and thou shalt discover.

A general introduction to this almost-review

This article is not an ordinary review. Ultimate City: Singapore is part of a 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 tend 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. I now present to you the third instalment in the series: Ultimate City: Singapore.

 

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.

Ultimate City: Singapore is an exception to this rule, which I have so fanatically upheld in the previous two instalments of the series. There is no photoscenery to be found for Singapore, but fortunately, the coverage of the two addons mentioned here is enough to cover downtown Singapore, the beach that leads to Singapore’s Changi international and Changi international itself (henceforth referred to by its code: WSSS).

 

Default Singapore

It’s probably not much of a surprise, but default FSX Singapore is a bit sad compared to the real thing. The skyline of Singapore is present, but many buildings are missing. And as for WSSS, not only are the terminals default ones, but it’s also completely out-dated. A large part of the terminal is actually missing. Sure, it’s okay, and can be fun if you don’t expect too much, but in this article I set out to make Singapore the real thing. Default FSX Singapore is far from that, as you can see here:

Note that for this area I only have FSGenesis mesh installed. Some textures may be different due to the various GEX and REX installations I have, but otherwise everything is default in the above two screenshots.

 

Getting the skyline

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

–       Use the default buildings;

–       Use Samsoft’s The Very Singapore: http://secure.simmarket.com/samsoft-the-very-singapore-fsx.phtml

Of the two, I prefer the latter option. It is payware, and priced at 25 dollars it may be a bit steep, but we’ll soon see what it includes. Ample screenshots will be available for you to make up your mind.

The Samsoft package is actually a fully featured Singapore. You don’t only get the city with its harbour, island and bustling downtown area in both day and night renditions, you also get the entire beach that leads to WSSS (complete with flats) and WSSS itself. As such, you get all of the relevant parts of Singapore, with a fully custom ground layer. Let’s look at each of these parts separately, starting with the city, since that’s the most important part for this article.

Downtown Singapore. See the misplaced ship?

 

Looking at these shots, it seems very nice at first sight. All the skyscrapers seem to be present, and the photoscenery looks nice and sharp. It’s when we start looking more closely that problems crop up. Look especially at the photoscenery. We see varying levels of detail. The harbour is a good example. You’ll see how some parts of the docks are much more blurry than others. When flying over the dock itself, it is not that noticeable, however:

The docks of Singapore

 

The photoscenery here isn’t as sharp as in the city centre, but it’s good enough. I wish, however, that instead of the flat ships you see under the cranes, they had positioned ships there. Now, though, ships are spread all over the place, including in the forest/fields in front of the skyscrapers. This can be seen on the fourth Downtown Singapore screenshot.

Turning our attention back to the photoscenery at the city centre, it’s also pretty evident that “pieces” of photoscenery were just randomly plopped onto the ground. Here and there you see very sharp edges where terrain doesn’t match up. It looks sloppy and that’s a real pity, because the actual modelling of the various buildings looks rather nice. Note that many buildings are not aligned with their photoscenery, either. You can see this in the Downtown Singapore screenshots. Now let us looks at an area that’s a bit to the east:

House in water, among other things.

 

Here we see a stadium, a building that looks like a huge tent, and a house that seems misplaced. It is not misplaced however! It actually belongs in the water, but for some mysterious reason, Samsoft didn’t model the piers that connect the buildings to land. Bit strange, but oh well. The buildings are at least present. It’s also worth mentioning that the tent-like building isn’t really correct either. In Google maps you can clearly see that the shape isn’t okay, but that’s a more minor thing.

Let’s now go to the other side of the city. Here we find Singapore’s island: “Sentosa” island. You can get there by car, ferry, and more unusual, a cableway. All of these have been faithfully modelled, and the cableway is even animated! It’s a truly nice addition. Here are some shots of the island and cableway:

Golf course on Sentosa island.

 

The cableway to and from Sentosa island. It’s animated!

 

Now that we have looked at the downtown area, it’s time to move to the airport. We fly along the beach:

 

The beach running from downtown Singapore to the airport.

 

The photoscenery is blurry, but at least it looks okay from a greater height. The buildings don’t really match their location, and since there are so many flats like these in this scenery, it’s obvious that these flats are just generic flat that have been placed here in order to fill the void. I’m comfortable with that, but it’d be nice if they had been at least well placed, not in a sort of “out of the blue” fashion as seen here. The beach itself isn’t part of the photoscenery and doesn’t look very convincing, especially because the brown is rather dark.

The problems with the photoscenery being seemingly “plopped” into place without much attention to detail, together with the same problem regarding the buildings, can be very well seen in the below two shots:

Weird house placement.

 

It’s without a doubt that photoscenery here just doesn’t match the various photoscenery tiles. It looks terribly sloppy and the result is, for as far as I’m concerned, that it ends up being difficult to say which tile is correctly placed and which one isn’t. As such, I’m not at all sure if what we are seeing is in fact correct. Google maps hints that it is somewhat correct, but it’s not accurate at all. Pity…

As we move closer to the airport, we bump into golf courses, with some photoscenery problems:

Photoscenery problems.

 

As you can see, there is a strip of photoscenery missing here, and I’m not sure why. Additionally, there is no photoscenery on the actual approach path of runway 02C, which seems a little strange since that’s exactly where you’d want to have photoscenery. The quality of the photoscenery here is, however, quite good. In the second shot you’ll also see that no real care was taken to get the photoscenery and default water aligned, or at least conceal the default water in some way. The way it looks nice simply doesn’t really cut it… Now that we are anyway at the airport, let’s take a quick look:

Terminal overview

 

The airport looks quite nice, overall. All terminals seem to be present and modelling is quite okay, considering that this package spans such a huge area. It is not overly detailed, however, and it seems as if some buildings are missing. It’s also a pity that that there’s no photoscenery, and all the taxiways feature the default textures, as seen below. The taxiway bridges also aren’t really convincing.

The taxiways feature default textures.

 

The taxiway bridges don’t look very convincing.

 

The control tower, seen below, looks quite nice however. The modelling seems correct and the texturing is okay. Also its placement is faithful to the real world. It’s not the most beautiful piece of work I’ve seen, but it gets the job done.

The control tower.

 

All in all, WSSS in Samsoft’s scenery is better than the default. It’s more accurate and more up-to-date, but it’s also noticeable that it’s only a part of a bigger product. Details were mostly omitted and the texturing leaves stuff to be desired, such as the taxiways and runways being all default. While not bad, there are better sceneries available for WSSS, as you’ll soon see.

Finally, some screenshots of the night scenery. All of the scenery in the package has night lighting, excluding some of the photoscenery (sadly). But, seeing the skyline lit up like that still is very nice.

Night scenery.

 

Regarding the entire scenery package, I find this a mixed bag, and for $25, I find that a bit disappointing. FlyTampa, for example, has managed to do Hong Kong including Kai Tak airport at a much higher level of detail with also better performance. Indeed, the performance at Samsoft’s Singapore isn’t especially good. Not especially bad either, but the FPS hit was noticeable to me. The photoscenery is overall okay, but rarely is its placement logical, and all we see is, in fact, only an approximation of the real Singapore. The modelling of the buildings is generally okay, and it’s certainly a step up from the default. I should also mention an irritating “problem” with the photoscenery: When to far away it disappears, and when you are to close-by it disappears. So when you approach WSSS, first you’ll see mostly water at downtown Singapore, and only after some time will you see photoscenery appearing. It’s a pity that it’s like that, but I’ve seen this with some Aerosoft airport sceneries also. I assume it’s just the way the photoscenery works. Here’s what you should expect to be seeing when you approaching WSSS runway 02L or 02C:

Approaching WSSS 02C. Now going to turn right 90 degrees onto final.

 

From this distance, it does look very good, I must say. As I see it, the scenery is not for VFR low and slow flying – scenery design has come too long a way in the meantime and we have so many better sceneries, that Samsoft’s scenery doesn’t really cut it anymore in that respect. However, using it like this, just seeing it from some distance, then it looks really nice. It’s also very nice to see all the flats and such when taxying around the airport, as seen here:

 

767 at the gate. Notice all the flats in the distance. Looks pretty good.

 

My final list of pros and cons:

Pros Cons
Lots of detailed buildings. FPS hit
Extensive coverage of the city Strangely/incorrectly placed buildings
Includes WSSS Varying quality of photoscenery
Night scenery available Problems with object placement (ship!)
Photoscenery placement not very accurate and sometimes downright sloppy.

So, is it worth adding in my opinion? Well, do not expect to you use it for VFR flying. Contrary to what Samsoft claims, I do not think that it’s suitable for low and slow flying. However, it is pretty nice to have it when approaching WSSS. For the price I’m not sure it’s really worth it, however. You’ll have to ask yourself how much you want to have Singapore…

 

Adding the airport

The airport is, eventually, the main thing about all of this. Without a detailed airport, there really is no use making an “Ultimate City” for Singapore. Basically, we have two choices concerning Changi international. We can either use the WSSS that was delivered with Samsoft’s The Very Singapore (screenshots in the previous chapter), or we can use ImagineSim’s rendition of WSSS. Since we already looked at Samsoft’s rendition, we are now going to look at ImagineSim’s rendition.

 

ImagineSim’s Singapore Changi International airport

Before I start, please note that this is not a full review of ImagineSim’s WSSS. I only highlight it somewhat briefly in the context of this article.

Before looking at all the terminals and whatnot, let’s look at the surrounding area and the runways and taxiways. Quite some surface was covered with photoscenery, which is pretty nice. There are some problems however that I for the life of me don’t understand why ImagineSim didn’t clear it up. It concerns autogen and aligning the default coastlines with the photoscenery. Personally, I think that FSX Default’s rendition of Singapore is rather horrid. The terrain only marginally resembles the real world, and on top of that there are some weird errors like a river extending into sea (it looks like a sea dragon of sorts is trying to crawl onto the land) and coastlines being inverted (the waves are rolling over land). There are also problems with the default traffic, that seems not to want to drive over the actual roads, but I suspect this has more to do with Samsoft’s WSSS which places the roads slightly differently. The below shots show some of the problems I mentioned:

Problems with autogen.

 

As you can see, the autogen covers a large terrain. I really don’t know why this happens, and ImagineSim support was unable to assist me. I tried to implement an exclusion rectangle for autogen, and that got rid of the autogen, except that other problems appeared of which I have no idea how to get rid of them. Fortunately, Samsoft’s WSSS includes an exclusion rectangle, so if you combine the two, only very few autogen appears.

Problems with the default traffic.

 

You can see traffic driving over the grass. This is mostly due to Samsoft’s WSSS which places a road here.

Photoscenery problems

 

This is far and away my biggest problem with this scenery. Nothing was done to get the default scenery aligned with the photoscenery or vice versa. The result is that it simply does not look good, even sloppy. Parts of default terrain can be seen protruding from under the photoscenery, and canals are not aligned with photoscenery canals. I wish ImagineSim would have done some effort to get this worked out.

As an aside, I have found that flatten rectangles also haven’t always been introduced where necessary. There is some terrain bleed-through in the golf course that can only be there if there is no proper flatten rectangle in place.

Now that we have looked at the unpleasant bits, let’s go over to the better parts. First of all, the ground attracts our attention once more, where we give the taxiways, runways and photoscenery a quality check-up.

Ground detail.

 

One thing is obvious: the taxiways and runways are not discrete textures laid on top of the photoscenery. They are actually the photoscenery, with a ground detail layer and taxiway markings laid over them. As a result, places where asphalt and (probably) concrete sections of the taxiway come together have a blurry transition. I’m absolutely no fan of this approach. OrbX is also well know for using it, and also there I really don’t like it. FSDT also has it in at least one of their airports, namely KJFK. One will never have the detail one can get from discrete taxiway textures. But, to be honest, it doesn’t look too bad in WSSS, and the ground detail layer looks convincing. The taxiway markings look rather good, and I also like the taxiway signs scattered around the airport.

The taxiway bridges.

 

You’ll agree with me that the taxiway bridges in ImagineSim’s WSSS are miles ahead of those in Samsoft’s. They look good, but it’s a pity that they are flat. In recent times, we have seen an increase in 3D taxiway bridges. Aerosoft Munich, FlyTampa Tampa Rebooted and some others come to mind.

From the taxiway bridges we arrive at the terminals. There are several terminals, number 1 through 5, excluding the budget terminal. The budget terminal is just that: a separate terminal for budget airlines. It doesn’t have jetways and overall looks pretty sober.

The budget terminal.

 

I like how this looks. There is pretty much detail, without going completely overboard. There are baggage carts and trucks, pushback tugs, and the building itself sports some nice detail itself. 3D sunscreens over the windows, the nice palm trees and miscellaneous detail on the roof come to mind.

The terminal buildings.

 

Moving on from the smallish and sober budget terminal, we arrive at the “proper” terminals. Here’s where we find luxury: an enormous, well equipped terminal building, with multiple arms and multitudes of jetways, carts, pushback tugs and other service vehicle, all placed around a lush, tree-filled inner plaza where the control tower also stands. The modelling of the terminal building is pretty good. It includes quite some detail, and never looks dull or under-detailed. Also the texturing is pretty nice, although its hand-drawn character is painfully obvious in some locations, for example in the windows in the first picture. These are awfully black. Other than that, there isn’t much to complain about.

Jetways

 

Now zooming on the actual gates, we give the jetways and some of the ground equipment a closer inspection. I’m pleasantly surprised by the detail seen here. I own some of the older ImagineSim airports, like KIAD and KATL, and I can’t remember them being as detailed. If anything, these jetways looks very good indeed. Very nice modelling and texturing, and I especially like all the detail we see regarding poles and ground clutter that keep the jetway up in the air, so to speak. The cab does seem a little too broad; it probably should have been squarer. Alas, that’s a small thing. Overall the jetways look pretty nice. Let’s now look at the ground equipment we see spread around all of the gates.

Ground equipment.

 

Both on the lower screenshot of the jetways and the screenshot just above, you can see a variety of ground equipment. Carts, pushback tugs, all kinds of vans and cars – we see them all over the airport. Some of them sport blinking yellow warning lights, which in theory look nice, but might be a bit annoying when seen in large number. Anyway, most of them, if not all, are stationary, so these warning lights don’t seem very useful. Anyway, it’s a nice thing nonetheless.

Cargo area.

 

Moving on, the cargo area. This area is located not far from the passenger terminal, and is rather big. With WSSS being more or less an aviation hub in Asia, much like Hong Kong, it needs ample space to park not only the arriving passenger traffic, but also the cargo traffic. ImagineSim has captured the cargo area with the same kind of detail we saw in the passenger terminal, which is not bad at all. For as far as I could see from the photographs on Google and Google Earth, everything is pretty accurate. The modelling of buildings and the texturing is pretty well done, and everything is correctly positioned. Looking at the pax side of the cargo apron, we see a host of buildings placed on a rather blurry photoscenery, but it’s not that bad. You’ll anyway hardly see it when taxiing around the airport. The most important part is that the buildings are placed correctly and in correct numbers, which certainly seems to be the case. These buildings have also been nicely textured and modelled.

Photoscenery abruptly ends.

 

Now we have a problem. You see, the road you see pictured here is a coastal road! It’s again the same problem that I highlighted at the beginning of this chapter. ImagineSim didn’t take the trouble to align the default FSX terrain with the photoscenery. The result is a rather strange-looking, awkward mix of incorrect FSX terrain and photoscenery layers. I wish, really wish, that ImagineSim had taken the trouble to correct this. Whether it’d be hard to do or not is a bit of a non-issue: it simply looks bad, and I guess an addon developers would want his scenery to look good, right? The way it’s now it really doesn’t.

The control tower.

 

WSSS’s control tower is one of those control towers that people will remember. It’s iconic and has some resemblance with Amsterdam Schiphol’s tower, although it is for sure unique in its own right. ImagineSim did a nice job modelling it for their scenery, and I also like how they did the plaza between the terminal buildings.

Finally there are some miscellaneous areas that I won’t discuss in detail. Suffice to say that they look okay. Not overly detailed with all kinds of ground equipment scattered around, but the texturing and modelling of the buildings is okay. I’ll just show some screenshots:

Miscellaneous airport areas.

 

Finally, how does the airport perform? Fortunately, the use of LOD and the scenery complexity slider is clever in ImagineSim sceneries. Every tick to the left of the slider will result in a piece of the scenery not appearing. For example, the ground equipment as a whole might not appear, followed by gates and stuff at another tick to the left. Of course this means that for full detail you should set that slider to extremely dense. Your computer might not like that, but the scenery remained somewhat flyable. Of course, I have to make amends with what at the moment really isn’t the best computer for FSX. With the LDS767 I got around 15FPS, the PMDG 747 about 14.

Pros Cons
Nicely detailed gates. No photoscenery alignment with or fixes for default FSX terrain.
Nice modelling of buildings. Autogen trouble.
Good texturing of most buildings. Mesh trouble.
Good use of LOD and scenery complexity settings.
AES Support.

So, is it worth adding in my opinion? It is, but when you do buy it, it’d be best if you purchase it alongside other ImagineSim products. As it is, WSSS is good quality, but 25 Euros is a rather steep price I think that’s maybe better spent on FSDreamteam, FlyTampa or Aerosoft airports. Fortunately you can get a pretty hefty discount on ImagineSim airport if you buy at least three at one go. You will be able to buy them at €12,95 each! All in all, the airport has some nice modelling and texturing, but a very weak point is the terrible alignment with default FSX terrain. ImagineSim should have aligned wit with the photoscenery and maybe even increase the photoscenery coverage in some areas. They also should have added autogen exclude and flatten rectangles to eliminate mesh and autogen problems. I regard these things as some very sloppy errors, and I’m somewhat amazed that they haven’t been cleared up yet. That said, the rest of the scenery is pretty good and is quite faithful to real-world WSSS.

 

And out of the land arises a city…

So there you have it. We turned the few lonely flats of default Singapore into a bustling Metropolis that even features some really nice night lighting. I’m quite happy with how it turned out, although it’s not perfect and performance can be rather bad here and there. The prices of the addons are rather steep though, so you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it to you.

 

Final notes

Now for some final things I ought to mention:

1)   Samsoft’s Singapore and ImagineSim’s Singapore are not perfectly compatible. I have noticed a chunk of photoscenery disappearing from the gold course on the approach path of runway 02L, but I didn’t find that it’s too big a deal.

2)   Important: When I started writing this article, Samsoft’s sceneries where purchasable at Simmarket. When I finished the article, they were not for some reason, and Samsoft mysteriously disappeared from the manufacturers list. As such, I provided a link to the FSPilotshop, but you can only get the FSX version here! FS2004 flyers, you might be out in the cold on this one…

3)   There is a freeware Singapore available. Search the Avsim library. I didn’t include it in this article because Samsoft is so much more comprehensive in its coverage, but you might want to check it out.

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
Samsoft’s The Very Singapore http://secure.simmarket.com/samsoft-the-very-singapore-fsx.phtml €19.95 (FSX)
ImagineSim’s WSSS http://secure.simmarket.com/imagine-sim-singapore-changi-wsss-fsx.phtml €24,99 (FSX)
http://secure.simmarket.com/imagine-sim-singapore-changi-wsss-fs2004.phtml €24,99 (FS2004)

 

Test machine details

27” Apple iMac:

i5 processor @ 2,8gHz

ATI HD Radeon 5750

4GB DDR3 RAM

Windows 7 SP1 64-bit

3 comments to Review/Article: The Ultimate City: Singapore