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Review of FlightSim Development Group – DEUTSCHLAND X NORTH COMPLETE for FSX

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According to the developers, Deutschland X is intended to provide the best rendering of Germany ever done for FSX. For the purposes of this product, Germany was divided into four distinct areas; north, south, east and west. As the name implies this first installment of four covers the northern area. They’ve included new terrain textures, mesh and vector data. VFR landmarks are a big part of this product as they include all of the features marked in ICAO charts. These include more than 150 lighthouses in NorthernGermany, close to 300 towers and thousands of wind generators. The area covered is interesting and very scenic with something for both the VFR and IFR pilot.  The scenery coverage map taken from the manual illustrates in vivid colour how the country has been divided into the four distinct areas.

DEX coverage area

The file size is fairly large at just over 3Gbs however it is split into 3 files making it very manageable even for those with limited bandwidth connections.

Installation

Installation is very simple. You start the executable which connects you to the SimMarket website, here you input your email address and serial key which was given to you at the time of purchase. This generates an authorization code that you need to enter in order to complete the installation. All of this is detailed on the SimMarket website with a link provided on the product page.

Once the process has been completed you will have six new entries in the FSX scenery library. The beauty of having the entries done this way is that you have the flexibility to disable individual elements if required.

It also creates a program group and sub group – SimMarket – FSDG – Deutschland X – Full. Within this group you have easy access to: DEX Config Tool, English Manual, German Manual, Repair FSDG – Deutschland X – Full and Uninstall Deutschland X – Full.

Configuration

The scenery includes a configuration utility where you can easily manage different categories of scenery objects, very user friendly.

DEX Config

They also provide several tweaks that can be added to your fsx.cfg file; these are explained in the manual.

Finally, if you have any 3rd party airports that happen to be located within the DEX N area of coverage you may need to rearrange some of your scenery entries in the FSX scenery library. Again all of this is explained clearly in the manual.

Documentation

This scenery addon includes a German and an English PDF manual that I highly recommend you take the time to read before you start flying. The manual has a wealth of information that I know you will find helpful and will end up referencing at some point, and that will likely be sooner than later especially if you have any German airport sceneries. Some of the sections you’ll find are: scenery library entries, an explanation of the configuration options that are available in the DEX Config utility, FSX graphics settings, tips for advanced users and compatibility. To give you a complete listing I’ve included a screenshot of the Table of Contents for the manual.

table of contents

I thought that the pages devoted to compatibility with other products was great. How often do we buy a product and then are faced with wondering whether or not there will be conflicts and then if there are, what can be done to resolve them? They deal with this subject quite well.

Scenery

Let me begin with some information taken directly from page seven of the product manual. It describes the features of the Complete package this way.

DEX Features

- Complete coverage of Germany (divided in 4 areas)

- Photorealistic textures and terrain

- More than 1.000.000 terrain features (roads, railways, power lines,  rivers,…) using up-to-date OSM data

- Up to 500 different custom buildings/objects per area, plus more than15.000 wind generators

- Authentic airport buildings for all airports/airfields *

- Complete coverage of all ICAO charts features (airports, towers,lighthouses, obstructions,…)

- Typical German terrain features

- Custom seasonal and night textures

- Dynamic seasonal changes and precipitation coverage, based onmeteorological data

- New realistic scenery effects

- Custom auto generated scenery objects

- Time-triggered sound effects (church bells, emergency vehicles,…)

- Compatible with any other addon including VFR Germany

- Performance-friendly, ideal to combine with addon airport sceneries

* No detailed airport sceneries included, combination with German Airports /  German Airfields possible.

As you can see in the features list this package adds a whole host of improvements to make your flying experiences in Germany that much better. DEX N has components that are similar to a number of other well-known products that look at enhancing mesh and ground textures but instead of trying to do it for a much larger area it is focused entirely on Germany and more specifically the northern portion with this installment.

This product is also available in two other configurations; the Terrain pack and the Landmarks and Airports Pack.

Features of the Terrain Pack are:

Complete coverage of Germany (divided in 4 areas North, West, East, South)

Photorealistic textures and terrain

More than 1.000.000 terrain features (roads, railways, power lines, rivers,…)using up-to-date OSM data

Typical german terrain features

Custom seasonal and night textures

Dynamic seasonal changes and precipitation coverage, based on meteorological data

New realistic scenery effects

Spectacular 3D-lights technology

Custom autogenerated scenery objects

Compatible with any other addon including VFR Germany, UTX, GEX, FTX Global,…

Performance-friendly, ideal to combine with addon airport sceneries

Features of the Landmarks and Airports Pack are:

Complete coverage of Germany (divided in 4 areas North, West, East, South)

Up to 500 different custom buildings/objects per area, plus more than 15.000 wind generators

Authentic airport buildings for all airports/airfields (more than 150 per area)

Complete coverage of all ICAO charts features (airports, towers, lighthouses, obstructions,…)

New realistic scenery effects

Perfect to combine with DEX Terrain or any other addon including VFR Germany, UTX, GEX, FTX Global,…

Performance-friendly, ideal to combine with addon airport sceneries

To explore this product for my review I utilized the included flights as jumping off points as well as making a concerted effort to fly over a large cross section of DEX N to get a good look at what was done to improve the ground visuals for Germany. The 13 free flights are a wonderful tool that will help you familiarize yourself with the area. If you select one of them you will quickly discover that their descriptions are written in German only which really isn’t a big deal and it is mentioned in the manual. These flights use different types of aircraft, at different airports, at different times of the day in all types of weather. Even with the language problem for those of you like me who don’t read German, I thought that they were an excellent addition to the package.

Supplied flights

The scenery consists of mostly photorealistic ground textures plus some photo imagery textures placed over a base of custom mesh and then the entire scenery coverage areais populated with custom objects, region specific objects and generic objects. The environment overall is much improved over what we get by default in FSX or with some other 3rd party products. It is much more representative of what you should see, however it is not going to give you an exact reproduction such as you would get from a product that uses photo imagery. The DEX N region is a mix of rural, industrial and urban landscapes. By arranging the specialized high resolution photo real textures or tiles in specific ways they were able to visually represent these different types of areas. Placed over top of these textures or tiles are the roads and rail lines and then we have all of the other objects such as commercial buildings, houses, churches, etc. Here is where we run into a problem in some areas; because these aren’t photo images the network of roads and rail lines often don’t exactly match with what we see in the ground textures. The problems I just mentioned become less of an issue as you gain altitude. The results regardless of altitude are still better than what we see with other products.

Another view of Hamburg Flying over Hamburg Forests and farmlands Great example of how some roads don't match texture tiles Looking down over Hannover Some problems here with objects and roads not lining up with textures Typical rural area Urban landscape

Custom objects are a big part of this addon and you won’t have to fly for very long or far to see what I mean. All parts of the landscape are populated with the many different types. Forests are populated with trees, rural areas with farm buildings, there are large buildings that look like factories, different types of power generation plants, churches, multi-level office and residential buildings, small houses, airport structures, light houses, ships, cars, trains, power distribution towers, wind generators and on and on.  There is definitely no shortage and no matter where you fly you will see something that tweaks your interest.

A popular style of church seen throughout the area Different style of lighthouse Farm buildings Industrial and power generation structures Lighthouse Marina Power generation plant Several local landmarks in Hannover Trains and transmission towers near Hannover Transmission tower

Germany’s increased reliance on renewable energy is clearly seen by the proliferation of both wind generators and large solar panel farms. Once you start flying around this part of Germany you will soon find out that you can’t fly for very far without coming across a wind farm.

Wind turbines

This is a good place to interject with an interesting aspect of this product that may serve to broaden its appeal. If you currently use VFR Germany which utilizes photo imagery you can still use this product for its multitude of objects. You would simply disable the terrain portions of DEX N in the FSX scenery library. This is the type of good info that they provide in the manual.

I’d like to make special mention of the northern coastal areas as this was for me the most interesting area and it also showcases every visual element in the package.

Taking numerous flights in this part of the scenery it quickly became apparent that the intricate coastlines were much more accurate than those I was seeing before the installation of DEX N. The series of islands located just east of the border with the Netherlands offer some of the best examples of how they utilized photo imagery within the scenery. This type of imagery provided the most accurate base for placing the numerous custom objects. This area is not as congested with large cities like the interior so objects such as lighthouses stood out making them fairly easy to spot. The whole coastline region was ideal for great VFR flying. This was the ideal way to check out the miles and miles of beaches. In a scenery as large as this there are bound to be a few problems and I noticed on some of the beaches that there were trees showing up where they clearly weren’t meant to be.

Along the northern coast there were some large ports with gantry cranes along with cruise ships and naval vessels. That is one of the great things about this scenery. No matter how many times you fly around there is always going to be something new to see.  

Cruise ships in port Flensburg in DEX N Flensburg in FSX Flying past lighthouse Norderney and EDWY Nordernay Flying westward over Norderney in DEX N Flying westward over Norderney in FSX One of several north coast islands

Besides appreciating the area in the context of VFR flights their efforts made high altitude flights seem more realistic. It was now easier to differentiate between rural and urban areas. Something that was not always possible before. The coastal areas, because of the contrast between land and water was a wonderful area to show off the now accurate coastlines. The improved ground textures and landclass together made for a very noticeable positive difference. 

Coastline view approaching from the north with DEX N Coastline view approaching from the north with FSX Differences in ground textures between DEX N and FSX The view at 27,000ft

Airports

The features list indicates that they include “Authentic airport buildings for all airports/airfields” however “there are no detailed airport sceneries included”. They leave the detailed airports to third party developers.

I found that the overall quality of the airports was good. The style of buildings used were absolutely more realistic than those native to FSX and they appeared to be representative of the size and use of the airports. At some airports they use photo ground textures while at others they use generic style ground textures. In those non-photo scenery areas the quality of the airports was very similar to what I saw before installing the product. If you are looking for 3rd party quality you will be disappointed as that isn’t what this product is about; they are leaving that to others.

Custom airfield structures at EDWU Emden EDVU Uelzen EDXF Flensburg Typical small airfield

EDHI Finkenwerder Airport

DEX N is designed to allow 3rd party addon airports to co-exist seamlessly by following a few simple steps that are provided in the manual. Aerosoft’s German Airports 2 which includes Hannover is one example of how well this works.

Hannover blending in with the surrounding landscape

Seasons

All four seasons, five if you want to include hard winter, are experienced within the coverage area of DEX N and we see that quite convincingly through vivid changes in the colours of both the ground textures and the vegetation. I took a number of flights at different times of the year to see how well these differences were implemented. For the most part they did a really good job. There was no mistaking the time of year. In addition to just changing the colours they also vary the degree of change in those seasonal textures based on where you are.

springsummerfallwinter

Of all the seasons I find that winter is the most difficult when it comes to creating a good realistic look. Although you traditionally think of winter as being all white because of the snow cover, in reality snow is not just white, it comes in a variety of different shades. There are a number of reasons for this; age of the snow pack, dirt and how shadows and light play on the surface to name just a few. Unfortunately when viewed at low altitudes most large areas of snow cover looked unrealistic. The repetitive pattern of the textures was clearly visible and then there is the other matter of roadways or airport runways often having perfectly straight edges which is very rarely the case in the real world. It is for these reasons I felt winter was not their best.

Perfectly straight lines around helipad Snow textures at low altitude

Fortunately the problems I noted became less obvious as altitude increased. Looking at the ground from those higher levels the problems I mentioned basically disappeared.

Snow at higher altitudes

Something they did add to make those cold winter months look a little more convincing was the option of enabling “Hard Winter” using the DEX Config utility. Enabling it made the inland lakes and rivers appear frozen. This is a nice option but you will need to remember to disable it when flying during other times of the year as these bodies of water will remain “frozen” no matter what season you choose in FSX.

Winter with frozen lakes

Night

Night time flying within the DEX N area turned out to be a very enjoyable experience. The best part of night flying was the 3D lighting. You have the option to add these 3D lights when you select the 3D lights “Dense”. The resulting night time landscapes are amazing. I was blown away by just how immersive night time flying became, it was as if I was drawn into the scenery. Flying directly over areas that had these lights you had a much better sense of depth, it was like I was looking at actual street lights. Areas further away were just as spectacular. To see what appears to be the twinkling lights of a city in the distance is so much better than the traditional flat night time ground illumination technique of bright spots on ground bitmaps.    

The difference between night time in DEX N and FSX because of these 3D lights is dramatic and I don’t think I would ever fly the scenery without this option enabled.

Another view of the scenery with the 3D Lights enabled Night time with 3D lights enabled Night time without 3D lights enabled Spectacular night lights

Night time approaches

Performance

I wasn’t really sure how the product would affect performance. When I was trying out the product I did so with all options selected. With the exception of some slight stuttering in the more densely populated areas, when  I was flying at low altitudes, I never noticed any appreciable impact on frame rates during any of my flights.

Final Thoughts

I was impressed with the visual enhancements that this product introduced into northern Deutschland. The ease with which it can be configured to work in conjunction with other popular addons is also to be commended. If you are someone who currently spends lots of time flying around Germany or are considering it as a destination you will want to give this product a try as it will definitely make a positive impact on any flying adventure. 

My Ratings

Installer: Simple to use, also adds the entries into FSX scenery library.   

Documentation: Very good, well written and informative.  

Modelling: Very good. Lots of variety.

Extras: Very good configuration utility. Lots of custom objects.

Download Size: FSX 3.21GB split in 3 files

Price: EUR 25.20 without VAT

Developer Homepage: http://flightsimdevelopmentgroup.com

Link: http://secure.simmarket.com/fsdg-deutschland-x-north-complete.phtml

Test System:

Intel i7 960 OC @ 4.2 Ghz, 6 Gb RAM, EVGA GTX560 Ti w/1.2 Gb video, Win 7 Ultimate 64, FSX w/acceleration, Ultimate traffic 2, REX Overdrive, GEXn, UTX, AES, GSX, FSUIPC.

Richard Desjardins

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