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Mutleys Hangar Joe Lawford 2006 - 2009 All Rights Reserved.


Alderney For FSX
Developed & Published by Earth Simulations
Reviewed by Joe (Mutley) Lawford
April 2009

Introduction.
Alderney, for those not familiar with the name, is a country 9 miles due West of Cap de la Hague in Normandy, France. It is part of the Channel Islands group governed by the Baliwick of Guernsey and a British Crown dependency, it’s the closest island to “mainland” Britain being only 60 miles away from the Isle of Wight.

Alderney is the third largest of the Channel Islands, it is roughly 3 miles long by 1 at its widest, about 2,000 acres in extent and is situated in the mouth of the Channel, 9 miles due West of Cap de la Hague in Normandy. It has high cliffs along its Southern coastline, with the main plateau area, about 80m high, having most of the agricultural land and sloping steeply down to the North and East. Along the Northern coastline you will find beaches in three small coves and a protected harbour in Braye Bay that has a breakwater 870m long. Originally the breakwater was 1430m but was lost in a severe storm in the 1840’s.

Alderney can also be closely associated with it’s own airline, Aurigny (The Norman name for Alderney) and their 8 Britten Norman BN2A Mk III Tri-landers, themselves built on the nearby Isle of Wight. The airline also operates 3 French built ATR 72-300’s.

About the developer
Earth Simulations is the brainchild of its joint owner and developer Darren Vincent and his wife Vikki. Anyone familiar with the movers and shakers in the British VFR scenery market will recognise Darren as the lead developer for 3d modelling and water masking for Horizon Simulation.

Darren and Vikki now have a mission to develop the highest quality, most innovative, scenery there is possible for flight simulation with attention to detail and performance often overlooked by others

This scenery is the first in a series of three, to be followed up by Guernsey, Herm & Sark and finally the jewel in the crown, Jersey.

About the software.
Included is the island of Alderney and outlying rocks, most notably the
Casquets that also feature a landable lighthouse. Also included is custom EGJA airport scenery, photoscenery and autogen. The data is provided by Digimap and officially licensed from the Guernsey and Jersey governments

The scenery is basically in two layers:

Topography layer

30 cm photographic textures.
5 seasonal texture variations
Hand created night lighting
High detail water masking
Hand edited 5m terrain mesh

Click for full size image

Click for full size image

Environment layer

Detailed local landmarks in 3D
Extremely dense advanced 3d autogen
Detailed renditions of local airport
Moving animated scenery

Click for full size image

Click for full size image


Installation
After purchase from their own online store a link and unlock code is provided by email.

When running the installer, the user is asked to input their unlock code before the program will move on. The installer offers a choice of disc location; the ES scenery folders are located within their own ES subset of folders and a backup taken of essential FSX files taken at the same time, this is quite reassuring.

Entries into the scenery.cfg file and activation of the scenery layer are automatically done. So within around 5 minutes you are ready to go.

Performance and use.
The supplied manual offers a lot of common sense advice on the display options. To see the full detail you will need to run the complexity and density at max.  Having said this, stepping it back a notch won’t affect your enjoyment by any means. Surprisingly, without tweaking, I had a really smooth flight. Even in tight turns, which for me are the worst culprit, I still enjoyed a respectable frame rate.  Looking through their user forums appears to substantiate this fact with little or no mention of performance problems.
 
It is worth taking the time to play with the display settings as there will be a setting that works for you.  This is VFR eye candy at its best so really you should only be flying at a leisurely pace, otherwise you will miss some of the finer touches!

The base photoscenery and mesh is very detailed,
this can be born out in the cragginess of the cliff faces and other little facets that would just be a round lump in the default scenery. Even without autogen, you would still have a product that is very usable and detailed in its own right. 

The scenery, both topography and environmental, is seasonally aware;  this is a feature I have not seen anywhere else to this extent. In spring you will notice blossoming trees, yellow fields of Rape Seed and tractors spraying the fields.  In Summer, a paraglider can be seen off the coast riding the thermals.

The Autumn brings in slightly darker textures and ploughed fields. A combine harvester can be seen ejecting bails of hay for a waiting lorry and a JCB dumps scoops full of soil into a lorry. 

Hard winter is one of the most breathtaking transformations of the scenery. In January the ground is covered in a layer of snow. As you would expect a snowman appears to delight the viewer, a vast majority of the trees are white and it feels really cold!

Click for full size image

Click for full size image

Click for full size image

Click for full size image


I mentioned earlier about the 3d autogen, there really is too much included and to list them all would only spoil your enjoyment of discovering them.  The objects are totally custom made, there are very fine models of both the Mannez Lighthouse (situated on the East of the island) and out to sea on The Casquets rocks, to the northwest of Alderney. 

Other landmarks are modelled too, St Anne’s Church (Complete with congregation), forts, the breakwater, which has now become a popular landing place in the flight sim for light aircraft  and must really annoy the locals!

Alderney airport is also included in great detail. There are 2 grass runways and one tarmac, great for practicing your touch and goes.  Runway 08/26 at 2887ft is the longest so that helps to keep out the bigger commercial rif-raf!

The control tower features an animated ATC taking his direction from the VAIO monitors!  Yes, it is that thorough, I wonder if that's reality or just wishful thinking on the developers behalf?

When night falls the scenery does not stop performing, the transformation to a night scene is stunning and being a relatively small island the sea is always going to give you a good sunset.  When the night textures kick in the level of detail is equally impressive.

Individual street lights, windows in the houses and the stained glass in St Anne’s comes to life. Of course, as you would expect with scenery of this quality, the lighthouse lamp rotates and can be seen from all over the island if you are high enough.

You wouldn’t really expect to find so many interesting features in such a small island. This is one of my most flown to and from destinations recently and will remain so for a long time. I am honestly still finding little features and details I had not noticed before!

There are a few minor problems with the water mask around the craggy coastline, it can be seen on very close inspection but is really just nit-picking, you may find that the default AI boat traffic will try to scupper itself on the rocks near the lighthouse, the trouble is the AI really needs tweaking to fix this.  A visit to the user forum will tell you how.

Summary
The combination of HD scenery and excellent performance is going to keep you coming back for more. The painstaking attention to detail did not go unnoticed, this has to be the very best in its genre, well done Darren & Vikki.

The good news is the other two scenery packages are not that far over the horizon! (Pun intended)

Oh and how much? 14.99 + VAT that’s just a bargain!


Joe Lawford

LINKS
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