FSX

Review: Elite-Air Studios Shanghai Pudong intl. Airport

Naming big cities in Asia isn’t hard. Cities like Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo and Hong Kong instantly spring to mind. But, these probably aren’t even the first cities you will be mentioning, for there is an even more famous city: Shanghai. Shanghai is one of those cities that everybody knows. Maybe it’s because of the name, which sounds, at least to Europeans, like a typically Chinese name, even more so then Beijing. Perhaps it’s because of the landmarks and its rich history. Whatever it is, the city is huge and famous, and so is its airport.

Shanghai has two airports. The first and oldest is ZSSS: Shanghai Hongqiao international airport. This airport lies in the middle of urban districts, so when the city started growing all around the airport and the airport had to expand, they faced problems: there was no space at all to expand the airport. And so, they built a sparkling new one: ZSPD, Shanghai Pudong international airport, so called because of it lying in Shanghai’s Pudong districts. Not only is it centrally located in East Asia, it’s also one of the biggest airports in East Asia. As such, it’s perfect for a flight across East Asia: Lots of other airports are within a two to three hour flight, it is visited by tons of airlines flying to the most exotic places imaginable, and it’s also a marvel of Chinese architecture. Elite-Air Studio, a rather unknown developer has made both ZSPD and ZSSS for our flying pleasure. ZSPD (Pudong) will be reviewed here and now.

 

Installation and documentation

After buying the scenery through Simmarket, you are presented with two files for download, one roughly 900MB in size, the other roughly 800MB in size. I was rather surprised at the huge filesize. Such filesize usually either means that the included textures are if very high quality, or the coverage of photoscenery is very big. This could be good news then, but it doesn’t mean that having to download two of such files isn’t a bit annoying.

After downloading, you unzip the two downloaded zipfiles, and merge them. One of the files contains the executable and a bin file, the other contains just a bin file. You can only get the executable to work by making sure all three files are in the same directory. Exactly what directory this is, doesn’t matter.

Installation itself was easy and mostly hassle free. It’s the normal routine of entering the serial number, choosing the install directory and waiting for the installer to finish. The installer is one that is made by Simmarket. As such, you can expect the product to be installed into a newly created “Simmarket” folder in your FSX root folder. The scenery was afterwards added to the FSX scenery library, although I deleted the entry, moved the scenery to the Addon Scenery folder (into a special “China” folder), and then manually re-added the scenery to the library.

Documentation is non-existent, so there’s not too much to tell about that…

 

Terminal area

There are two terminals at Shanhgai Pudong (ZSPD): Terminal 1, opened in 1991, and terminal 2, opened in 2008. Around the terminals and on some of the more remote areas there is a total of 218 parking positions, with 70 of those equipped with jetways. On the whole, terminal 2 is where most airlines operate from, terminal 1 being almost solely used by Chinese airlines, such as China Eastern Airlines and Spring Airlines. Noteable exceptions are Air France, KLM and Korean Air.

A cursory inspection of the terminal area (see the introductory screenshot at the top of the review) gives us a nice view of the impressive, metal and glass passenger terminals. Terminal 2 is in the foreground, while terminal 1 is in the background, recognizable by the main hall’s “wavy” roof. A seemingly nicely modeled ATC tower can be seen in the bottom right of the screenshot. We’ll move a bit closer now.

 

Terminal 1

 

Terminal 2

 

Gate close-up

 

We’re now looking at one of terminal 1’s many gates, including jetways. The jetways will be given an even closer inspection later on. Now I want to focus on the parking position, the terminal’s modeling and the used ground textures. See, none of it is truly awe inspiring. The modeling of the terminal, while nice, isn’t that detailed. On the other hand, with an airport of this size, we can’t really ecpect every detail to be fleshed out of course, and a quick inspection of the jetways does give the idea that the modeling of the jetways is very good.

 

Close-up of the terminal apron.

 

There are problems to be found in various other areas of this parking position though. First of all, the ground textures (seen in the Gate close-up shot, but can be seen even better in the screenshot above). The apron texture seems very bland, lacking detail, and is rather blurry too. Because if you look closely, you’ll see some varying hues of white here and there, that for as far as I understand are probably meant to give the apron texture some notion of detail. The lack of a top detail layer as seems standard with many sceneries to date, including sceneries by for example of Aerosoft, FlyTampa and FSDreamteam, makes that the apron looks rather mediocre and reminds me a bit of early FS2004 sceneries by Aerosoft, released in the years 2003-2004. Finally, the apron really is too white. A light grey, coupled with a concrete slab motif would have looked better and would have been more realistic.

The apron texture itself is a bit of a letdown, but the ground markings themselves sadly are victim of the same kind of blandness. Many of the taxiway lines are without any frills and seem too thick to me. The parking markings at the gate, showing ground personnel where specific aircraft types ought to stop is readable and looks good, which is a rarity these days. I don’t particularly like those gate numbers on the apron though… The black squares stand out a bit too much and look “stuck on”.

Finally, there’s one last thing I have to mention: note the positions at which the aircraft park. They are completely off the taxiway lines. This is evidence that something isn’t quite okay with the AFCAD of the airport. I won’t go as far as saying that there are problems at all parking positions, but it’s sloppy that there even are parking positions where AI aircraft manage to park such a way off their supposed parking position.

The addition of some ground equipment is nice and welcome, and they themselves look nice. It remains problematic, however, that they stand on this bland apron texture. The lack of detail hurts not only the apron texture itself, but also the objects that stand on it.

 

Jetway closeup.

 

The jetways looks surprisingly good. Their modeling is rather detailed and the texturing is very nice. It’s without a doubt one of the better parts of this airport scenery. Also the ground equipment, sene from this close, looks really nice. The problem though is, again, the apron textures. Due to the total lack detail, the jetways seem like an oasis of fine texturing and good modeling in a desert lacking any detail. The rather thick, white markings, also don’t do it good service, sadly. They seem to crude, and should be made thinner. The white texture used for the lines themselves are actually rather nice, they just need to be made a bit thinner.

As an aside, something which is a little annoying but doesn’t cause any trouble, is the orientation of the jetways. While they look okay at first, after looking at some photographs and Google maps, I can safely say that the angle of the jetways in the scenery isn’t completely right. More often than not, the jetways are oriented in a way that they are roughly aligned with the terminal building. In other words, they ought to be turned to the right (counter clockwise) 90 degrees.

 

Drop-off points.

 

Between the two terminals is a large driveway that leads the cars to roads along the terminals entrances, where the passengers can be picked up and dropped off. At the center of it all, are some large hotels.

 

Overview of center structures.

 

Moving a bit closer, we get a better look at the hotels and the walking bridges that connect them to the terminals. In principal the modeling here is quite okay. The texturing also looks quite nice, and the ground textures are a satellite photo, which adds realism. All in all it looks quite okay. It’s however the details which are sadly missing. The glass roofs on the walking bridges look like they should have been protruding from the roof. There are no cars at all on any of these large roads running in between the terminals. It seem to me like a lot of missed opportunities to make the airport a truly special scenery.

 

Close-up of the drop-off point for terminal 2.

 

We move somewhat closer, until we hoever above one of the roads leading up to the drop-off point of terminal 2. We see some road signs which appear to be real ones, even though they are unreadable (even if they wouldn’t have been blurry, I can’t read a word of Chinese anyway). The drop-off point itself looks somewhat nicely modeled, even if it is void of any activity whatsoever due to the lack of cars. Granted, you can’t see them anyway when flying in and out of ZSPD, so it’s not much of a loss, but at least moving traffic going to and away from the drop-off point would have been a big plus.

 

Roads

 

Some of the roads are elevated. These are interchange roads, bringing cars to and from the drop-off points of the terminals. While this is a very nice addition, I would have really wanted to see that the roads of the satellite image would have been removed. We now see “double” roads: one is flat on the ground, the other is 3D model hovering above it. Not only does this look somewhat sloppy, it adds a new issue: it’s easy to see now that some of the elevated roads aren’t correctly modeled and placed. If you look closely, you’ll see 3D roads only barely connecting to their 2D counterparts, often being a few meters too much to the left or right.

 

Parkings without jetways.

 

As was said in the short introduction to this chapter, not all parking positions have jetways. The screenshot above shows a series of them. Basically they are all the same, but I want to specifically highlight them due to the nice modeling of the objects scattered around them. The little stairs, carts, the lamps and the parking signaling system was modeled rather nicely. It’s therefor a pity that the apron textures look so bland.

 

Cargo area

Besides a huge passenger terminal, an extensive cargo apron with big cargo facilities is also in use at ZSPD. A multitude of cargo operators fly in and out of ZSPD, giving it the status of a major cargo airport of the likes of Anchorage, by many hailed as one of the biggest cargo hubs of the world. A home for China Cargo Airlines, it sees its cargo distributed over just about the entire world, with known operators like UPS, FedEx, Cargolux and Atlas Air flying in and out. Also somewhat more uncommon guests can be found, such as Finnair cargo, SAS cargo, Volga-Dnepr and Cargo garuda Indonesia, but also Aeroflot-Cargo, Saudi Arabian Airline cargo and Etihad Crystal Cargo.

 

Cargo apron

 

Above shots give an overview and a close-up of a cargo apron. As you can see, it’s chock full of cargo aircraft. The modeling of the parking positions themselves is about the same as the non-jetway parking positions mentioned earlier, so there’s nothing new there. Also the ground textures for the apron and ground markings are the same as seen before, so the only thing truly new is the warehouses and other cargo related buildings. While at first sight these looks good and seem to mimic their real-world counterparts rather well, there are some texturing problems. Some of the sides of the buildings appear pitch-black, instead of bearing a texture, for example. Also, the buildings haven’t been positioned correctly on the photoreal ground. Finally, it seems that some buildings are missing, as such giving an incomplete rendition of the cargo area.

 

Miscelaneous areas

Besides the usual areas, EAS has included some buildings just outside of the airport grounds. In this chapter we’ll look at those, at the textures used for taxiways and runways, and at the control tower.

Miscellaneous buildings.

 

To be honest, if all of the rest of the airport would sport the detail and quality of texturing that these buildings feature, this would be a really good scenery addon. Some buildings in particular look really. The modeling is very nice, some of them featuring even smaller details. The texturing on most buildings is crisp and truly beautiful. The only negative comment I’d have to make is the positioning, which is clearly not entire correct. This can be easily deduced from the satellite imagine on which it all stands.

The control tower.

 

The control tower has much the same fate as the previously looked at buildings: modeling is very nice, texturing is equally good, but the positioning isn’t entirely correct. Furthermore, it might have been a good idea if some of the ground textures here would have been adapted a bit so that you don’t get a flat ATC tower on the ground, with the actual 3D model sticking out of it. It looks a little strange. With Photoshop it wouldn’t have been very hard to alter the satellite imagery a bit to get this corrected.

Taxiway textures.

 

The taxiway textures are much the same as the apron textures. Logical, because they flow seamlessly into each other. The taxiways do offer a bit more detail than the apron, but it’s still quite far from what I would have probably wanted to see. There’s also some patches which are differently colored. This isn’t bad, it’s how it should be, were it not for the fact that these differently colored patches don’t look too good. They offer more detail then the white taxiways, but the textures that form these details are rather blurry.

For all taxiways, the ground markings are very basic. Overall it’s not much more than a yellow line without any added detail.  The lines are furthermore often too thick and look rather blocky instead of being smooth, as we’d want it to be. In all honesty, it probably would have ben better to use default ground markings, as these would have looked better, especially for those that use REX to enhance their simulator.

Runway textures.

 

The runway textures are fortunately a lot better than the taxiway textures. They are much more detailed and less blurry, because the texturing is finer, as opposed to the rather crude detailing of the taxiway textures. In the above screenshot you can see this pretty well. At the same time I’d like to point out the black taxiway texture, which is an example of what I said earlier: it is more detailed than the white taxiway texture, but due its rather blurry due to crude detailing. Furthermore, with the white strips surrounding it, it looks out of place which drags down the entire look of these black taxiways. Finally, the taxiway textures here appear strangely grey. I’m not sure why that is, but it doesn’t look right…

 

Night scenery

Of course EAS’s ZSPD includes a night version. The result is a colorful mix of blue windows, orange tarmac. It looks quite nice, and it definitely grew on me the more I looked at it. There are tow problems here though. First of all, the lighting of taxiways doesn’t extend beyond a certain range of vision. When you get closer you’ll notice blue taxiway edge lights popping up, but this is definitely something that could have been done better. Secondly, the performance is rather bad. In the Trike Ultralight, facing the terminals with its jetways, the FPS rarely got over 10FPS. See the below shots.

Night shots.

 

Performance

ZSPD is a truly big airport, probably one of the biggest in the world. With many daily operations, big terminals and all that ground traffic, hoping for good performance is wishful thinking.  However, when you look at what the scenery actually entails, good performance is more within reach, because let’s be frank: the detail of the buildings isn’t of such magnitude that it’s not possible to get good performance at all! In comparison to, for example, Aerosoft Amsterdam Schiphol, ZSPD really isn’t that detailed. While the jetways look rather nice, the terminal buildings don’t offer the kind of detail we see at other developers’ offerings. As such, you’d expect it to perform better than those offerings. The opposite is the truth.

From my testing, ZSPD was found to perform below average, compared to similar airports of different developers and vendors that boast more detail. In some cases, such as FSDT KLAX< ZSPD ran at half the FPS of the airport compared to, even though a relatively low amount of AI traffic (10% commercial traffic, 0% GA traffic) was activated.

At day, in the Trike Ultralight, FPS rarely got 12, at night they didn’t get over 10, measuring out at 8 or 9 most of the time. The problem seems to be with the jetways. Once at least one of the terminals is out of sight, FPS starts to rise. What the problem is, I don’t know, but perhaps it can be helped it the future.

 

Conclusion

China really is an empty space in FSX, which is a pity. China contains some large and very important airport. EAS has done effort in covering at least two important Chinese airports, completing thereby Shanghai as a center of commercial aviation. Sadly, the scenery they did for Shanghai Puyding is not as good as the price warrants. For a 30 Euro scenery (price at the time of writing), you expect a lot, and not many developers are able to deliver. FSDreamTeam, with their equally expensive scenery for Los Angeles did manage it: a beautiful, highly detailed mekka of aviation with great performance. EAS’s ZSPD manages neither of these important points. The buildings, while often looking rather good and textures well, are rarely very detailed, and the aprons miss much of the ground equipment one hopes to see at such a huge aviation hub. Even though this lack of detail is present, the performance is very bad, even with a simple aircraft such as the default Trike Ultralight. Finally, the apron textures are bland at best.

Concluyding, the airport is way overpriced. It pains me to say it, but EAS should lower the airport’s price by half, or release a huge, free update that at least adds more detail and increases the airport’s performance. It saddens me to say it, but in its current state, I cannot recommend it.

 

Product info

Developer: Elite-Air Studios

Platform: FSX Only

Medium: Download

Price: 30.88 Eur.

 

My system

Apple iMac 27” conainting:

–       Intel i5 Quad Core

–       4GB DDR3 RAM

–       1TB hard disk @ 7200RPM

–       ATI 5750HD Radeon

–       Screen resolution of 2560×1440

–       Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit

–       FSX + Acceleration

–       Addons used: REX, MyTrafficX, Ground Environment X.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012 13:22

@Benjamin van Soldt Hi, I’m not the developer, but I have know them well and we have contact. A big update for the ZSPD is coming, ETA is March, but not guaranteed. There’s also an significant upgrade for ZSSS coming to add the new Terminal 2. I have forward your ideas to the developers as they seldom come here. If there’s anything I can do, please leave a reply here or visit http://www.simflight.cn (Yeah I work for simFlight China)

Benjamin van Soldt
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 12:20

Thanks all for the positive comments! @Cai Zicheng: in case you are the developer; I’m truly sorry if I offended you. That was of course not what I aimed to do. I’m very happy to hear that there’s a big update coming. All in all, if you were to add more detail, fix some of the AFCAD problems and much improve the performance, I’m sure this would be a very good scenery. From what I’ve seen, you certainly know how to make nice sceneries (look at ZSSS!), soI’m sure you’ll be able to make ZSPD just a s good. Whenever… Read more »

altstiff
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 04:43

Excellent and honest review Ben. Thanks for putting this together for those wanting to know.

Tom Gu
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 02:36

I do think it is too expensive. You need to look around Simmarket when you make a quote.There’re more scenery products with more details(like Aerosoft,Imaging Simulator etc) but lower price.

Anyway, It’s a great beginning. Awesome job and we hope more addon airport of China.

Alex
Monday, February 13, 2012 23:50

Its honest criticism that is most useful in pointing in the right direction. I’m sure these issues can be adressed to make a good looking project in an exotic destination (in FS) into an even better one.