Revolution-X uses ground-breaking new technological processes to inject a comprehensive autogen layer into FSX, placing millions of houses, buildings, churches, trees and hedgerows in their real-world locations across England, Scotland, and Wales. So, for the first time in FSX, every village, town and city is fully formed with its real-life streets and estates, with woods and hedgerows tracing the edges of real world fields and the contours of the land.
Revolution-X also includes its own 3D Night Lighting system, developed from scratch, using a revolutionary new design technique for optimised performance, which provides breathtaking illumination effects across the whole terrain. For the first time, sequenced traffic lights change from red to amber to green at junctions and roundabouts and millions of 3D light objects appear, not only along major roads, but also mapped to individual houses and buildings, wherever they may be. On the horizon, cities, towns, and villages sparkle into view with hundreds of lamps and streetlights. Along the coast and deep in the countryside, the outdoor lamps of isolated farm houses and hilltop cottages twinkle through the trees as you pass overhead, all rendered in a variety of shades to reproduce the many different types of fluorescent and electric lights in the real world.
The result is a complete and realistic recreation of England, Scotland, and Wales at any time of day or night and at any altitude from ground level up.
Availability and Installation
Revolution-X is available from Just Flight and Just Flight re-sellers as a 'download only' product (some re-sellers offer a master back-up DVD service for a minor additional cost). It is priced at £24.99, or the equivalent on currency cross rates. The file size of 533MB is reasonable considering the detail of the add-on and the download took about 5 minutes.
The installer asks you to sign into your Just Flight account and then asks for the location you would like to install to. When it runs, Revolution-X looks at your scenery.cfg file for certain elements of the default folder structure that products install to and gives you a dialog box showing what it has found. The developer has provided options to install to VFR Real Scenery, VFR GenerationX, as well as Tileproxy. The expected Scenery titles button opens a text file with helpful information about how to install to customised installations of VFR sceneries and 'All-in-One' modifications.
First of all, I attempted to do a full install over the top of my existing scenery, which includes volumes of Treescapes on top of GenerationX photoscenery. While the install appeared to go correctly, when I started FSX I saw virtually no autogen buildings. I looked at the photoscenery in the autogen annotator and it was obvious only a very few autogen tiles had buildings. The reason was the Revolution-X installer will not overwrite any existing autogen files, so had only installed tiles where there was no current autogen information courtesy of Treescapes. This was simple to correct though by manually deleting all the existing autogen files. Revolution-X then installed all the autogen tiles completely.
I also tested the 'All-in-One' installation option. This was not quite as successful. I set up my scenery library entries as per the manual, but found the final entry in the scenery.cfg file was not recognised for some reason by the Revolution-X installer. When the Revolution-X entry was at number one in the scenery library, it failed to install, but when I moved another unrelated scenery entry to the top Revolution-X 'All-in-One' install seemed to go OK. I would strongly advise you to read the manual very carefully if you intend to install Revolution-X in an 'All-in-One' fashion and be prepared to work around any problems.
Finally, I reinstalled all my GenerationX volumes in separate locations as per their installers. Revolution-X installed flawlessly in this scenario.
Key Point Note 1: Install into default locations if you can. If you are running an 'All-in-One' setup, be prepared to tweak!
We will get into some of the technical stuff later, but first I want to take you on a short flight from Liverpool (EGGP). This is where I live and did my flight training, so we will follow a very short VFR flight out of the control zone and back again. This was the same flight I did for my second solo so it has some nostalgia for me! The aircraft in the screenshots is the Piper PA-38 'Tomahawk' in Liverpool Flying School’s GLFSA livery, the aircraft I first flew.
Shot one is looking towards the Wirral, from above the Mersey, having taken off from Runway 27 and climbed to 1,000 ft. Normally, the clearance here would be not above 1,500 ft, but under real world weather conditions here, we would be in cloud. As we are VFR, we will stay beneath it. In the haze, we can see a good amount of building and vegetation autogen, certainly enough to give a good feeling of immersion. So far, so good!
Shot two finds us a few seconds later parallel with Garston Docks, looking north through South Liverpool. Looking into the distance from an oblique angle, it conveys a feeling of a large built up area quite well, and we can start to see issues if we look closely. More on that later! However, Revolution-X is giving us loads of buildings which, at this altitude, do make a difference.
We fly up along the Mersey towards Seacombe VRP, passing the bottom of Brunswick Dock in shot three. We have still got a good amount of autogen buildings.
Shot four finds us abeam the Liverpool waterfront and we have to suspend belief for a second. I did not expect to find the Three Graces but a cursory examination of the waterfront buildings shows there are distinct errors in building footprints and types here. Spot the Albert Dock. I will look at the base data later but for now, let us fly on.
Shots six shows us approaching Seacombe Docks and our VRP. We are looking north out of the cockpit over Bootle here. In shot seven we are looking back over the right wing as we pass over the VRP. Revolution-X is again doing a good job of giving us that feeling of immersion and of flying over a large built up area.
Here we will do a quick orbit and climb a little to get a slightly different perspective. In shot nine, we have climbed to 1,500 ft and hit the cloud base. We can see building and vegetation autogen far out almost to our visual horizon. You have probably noticed by now though, there is not much vegetation in built up areas.
Now we follow the A565 up the coast, leaving Crosby behind, and approaching Hightown, Formby and Ainsdale. Shots eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen give us an opportunity to do a little bit of slow flight with one notch of flap and lazily perform a few orbits over these villages. In the main the type of building autogen shown here is reasonably reflective of the low intensity urban environment. It is possible to see trees aplenty though in these leafy villages on the ground imagery but unfortunately not much in the way of vegetation in Revolution-X.
Now we take an easterly leg across rural farmland between Southport and Maghull, heading for the Kirkby VRP, which is our entry point back into the Liverpool control zone. Buildings are more scarce here but we are looking for accurate vegetation in shots fifteen, sixteen and seventeen. In fifteen and sixteen we can make out the south end of Ormskirk and the north side of Maghull respectively. Vegetation autogen appears to be quite scarce even in the rural environment. It certainly does not show me "…every wood and hedgerow tracing the edges of real-life fields…". I will examine this in a bit more detail later as well.
Shot eighteen finds us overhead Kirkby VRP heading south back towards the field.
In shot nineteen we are tracking down the M57, looking across Stockbridge Village and Huyton. In the distance, we can just see Helsby Hill through the haze, and if you know what you’re looking for here, you could just about call "field in sight". We have descended a little to keep us under the 1,500 ft restriction and the current cloud base again. Just as on the outbound leg, Revolution-X is doing a pretty good job of providing a feeling of buildings for us.
Finally, we take one more look outside at the Croxteth Park estate, with Seacombe VRP away at the centre top, where you can just make out the large wind turbines. Accuracy and immersion take a hit here though, as this is only a very vague approximation of what Croxteth Park estate looks like.
Now we have taken a short flight around Liverpool, it is obvious Revolution-X adds loads of building and vegetation autogen to our flat photoscenery. From inside the cockpit it does give a fairly good impression of large and small built up areas, although vegetation autogen seems quite sparse and almost non-existent in built up areas. I found it added to my general feeling of immersion. However, I did notice some issues as I flew around, and you may have done as well.
A Closer Look
Now we will go a bit closer and examine some of these issues. Some of them may not matter to you and indeed, depending on how much you know about an area, you might not even realise some problems. Only you can tell if any of these are a deal breaker for you. So, here goes with some high visibility, low altitude shots of Liverpool’s urban makeup.
Here are some visual examples of issues I found in a random look over parts of Liverpool.
Towards the bottom left, you can see two large buildings where there should be smaller semi-detached houses. Near them are areas of photoscenery showing buildings which are not represented. Towards the top centre, there is a church in the middle of the end of the M62 motorway.
In the centre of the image there is again a church in the middle of a main road. A lot of the buildings are, again, oversized, but towards the centre right, just above the park you can see an area of very tiny buildings. Uniform terraced streets in built up areas is not one of Revolution-X’s strong points.
This shows Liverpool’s famous Catholic cathedral, represented by a church out of position and some buildings that do not reflect its ground footprint. The bottom and right parts of the picture show the university area and are not great at illustrating the major buildings accurately.
Here is the Liverpool women’s hospital. Clearly, I do not need to say much about the accuracy of the building footprint here!
Just for fun, here is the Anglican cathedral. It shows a church in roughly the right place, and while it does look funny, the building footprint is not too inaccurate. This is probably because it is mostly 90 degree angles, whereas the Catholic cathedral we saw earlier has a much more complicated shape. Clearly the Revolution-X algorithms used to generate the autogen buildings are less effective with more complicated buildings. Again this shot shows large square buildings in the top half of the image which do not really correspond to the buildings actually there. Notice in the top left the single row of ludicrously small houses!
This image shows the Brunswick Dock area. The warehouse buildings themselves are not particularly well represented, even though they are very uniform. Note the giant church on the gas storage tower in the foreground. In the centre left, there are, again, small thin rows of tiny houses where smaller terraced housing is located.
A similar area from a different angle. Right in the centre, there are square buildings on top of round gas towers. Just above them, right in front of some much larger buildings, is another row of what must be portaloos they are that small!
Again, this shows an area of terraced housing not represented well. See the giant church cutting through all those people’s homes. In the centre top, there is another feature of the tiniest buildings known to man. You can see the buildings at the top are not properly reflective of the ground due to overly large and square buildings, unfortunately a common feature of Revolution-X.
The band of buildings across the centre of the image is supposed to be rows and rows of terraced houses – fail.
You can clearly see areas of photoscenery with buildings missing and another giant misplaced church (another common Revolution-X feature I am afraid.)
Towards the top right, see the church placed directly over a dual carriageway. The five large rectangular buildings in the centre left should all be semi-detached houses. To be fair, in some places Revolution-X does get houses like these right. The problem is, it is just not consistent. Again, there are significant parts of the scenery simply missing buildings.
Just down the road from where I live. I do not recall the church in the middle of the road though! Its actual position is just up and to the right, on the corner. In Revolution-X, I found that virtually all churches were too large and displaced by about the same distance leaving many in the middle of roads.
This illustrates again, the way in which Revolution-X can treat areas of the same type of housing completely differently. In the centre are large rectangular buildings and rows of small tiny ones. They are all exactly similarly shaped and oriented rows of terraced houses. Something in the Revolution-X algorithms has treated them differently - but why?
Here we have missing areas of buildings and large square buildings where there should be semi-detached houses.
This shot shows missing buildings, the overly large and wrong square buildings in the centre right next to tiny buildings, and numerous areas of overlapping buildings. Overlapping buildings could happen because Revolution-X is trying to represent a more complex building shape, but in these cases it is just buildings being wrong, or too large.
Again, this image shows how more complex building patterns are not represented with very well. More missing buildings.
More examples of overlapping buildings and autogen just not matching the ground image. In some cases, the data used to generate Revolution-X may be based on newer and more accurate information than the GenerationX photoscenery. This is certainly the case for limited parts of these images but a very large percentage of inaccuracies are errors.
In this shot, Revolution-X has done a pretty good job of the terraces in the top left, while other buildings are a big fail though. The buildings representing the semi-detached houses are much too large and square, there is another misplaced church, and further examples ridiculously small buildings.
Buildings are broadly, in the right places, but are simply too big. Looking at the size of buildings on the photoscenery compared with the autogen, Revolution-X generates buildings that are approximately four times larger than they should be. Right in the centre, a building sits in the road.
Another complex building hideously misrepresented!
You can clearly see lots of buildings (and urban vegetation) are missing and the buildings are too large by a significant factor.
● Some buildings are ok, but a significant proportion range from far too small to far too large. This is probably a function of the base GIS
data and algorithms used to determine the autogen footprints. In some cases smaller buildings are overlapped and made invisible by
much larger buildings, which does cause some noticeable flickering.
● Where much larger buildings are shown, this can give a misleading impression as to the environment. There are numerous examples
of terraced and semi-detached houses being represented by large rectangular warehouses. When flying over an area I know, this can
be disorienting because I do not see the type of building I am expecting to be there. In the worst cases, buildings just look plain wrong
or they are placed halfway or fully over roads.
● Sometimes, when larger buildings are placed right next to small buildings, the sense of perspective is destroyed and the autogen just
looks plain wrong. The algorithms used sometimes produce ridiculously small buildings which just look out of place.
● Only the default autogen textures seem to be used. I think Revolution-X would have been much improved if some custom building textures
had been included. Consequently, industrial and commercial buildings therefore look too repetitive.
● Smaller buildings tend to be represented as houses, even if they are in an industrial area.
● Placement of specific building types, such as churches, is questionable. They are in the right general location (i.e. within 100 m) but
just looking through Liverpool, I can see they are not in their exact locations and sometimes are in the middle of roads. My observations
were, a majority of the point placed objects like this had some displacement which affected the accuracy of their placing on the
● The vegetation autogen is not exceptionally detailed. Within built up areas it clearly does not cover everything and appears to be
significantly less detailed than other products.
Key Point Note 2: There are imperfections and inaccuracies with the Revolution-X autogen. Whether they are a deal breaker for you is something you need to consider.
I found the night lighting to be fairly effective. Here is a shot at fairly low level from the Majestic Q400 cockpit doing a lazy left turn over Leicester.
I think it is a really quite effective impression which is created and easily gives you a sense of what is, and is not a built up area at night. A downside is, all lights appear to be created equal, so if you were hoping for some colour or intensity variation you will end up disappointed.
However, this lighting does come with a severe downside. It only seems to work perfectly in DX9 mode. When operating in DX10 mode, an area of lighting around your aircraft seems to be suppressed and you cannot see it. This area moves with your aircraft and, even worse, it appears to me that FSX tries to redraw the lights regularly. This leads to a ‘wave’ effect of lights appearing and disappearing constantly. It killed the immersion for me stone dead. I even bought Steve’s DX10 Fixer to see if that would cure the problem, but no matter what options I set, I could not improve the DX10 lighting situation at all.
The following sequence of shots was taken from the Q400 cockpit in DX10 mode at very short (approximately one second) intervals. You can see clearly sections of lights which progressively are there in one shot and then vanish.
I did submit a support ticket to Just Flight about the night lights in DX10 mode, however, at the time of writing, a reply had yet to be received.
One other point which must be addressed is the traffic lights. Dotted around the landscape, there are animated lights which do change colour. They are not located at correct points for actual traffic lights in the real world, which is not terribly surprising, but if they were, I would have been very impressed. Also, your view of them is always from the same angle, which would not be the case. Despite this, they certainly convey a sense of traffic lights.
Key Point Note 3: Lighting in DX10 mode did not work for me. The product page at Just Flight does not make any mention of DX10, nor does the manual. With Steve’s fixer resolving more and more DX10 problems, this may be sorted in time, but there are no guarantees.
Autogen Data and Methodology
Building and vegetation autogen can be created from any available GIS data. My understanding is, the developers of Revolution-X used Ordnance Survey information as the base data they worked from. Now, Ordnance Survey do not just give away highly detailed vector GIS data for free unfortunately. They expect you to pay for the most highly detailed dataset, and it costs - a lot. We are talking multiple tens of thousands of pounds here, which is way over and above what would make any flight simulator add-on commercially viable. So, how did they do it? Well, Ordnance Survey also provide less detailed vector data, for free. The problem is, that data is not 100% accurate.
I acquired my own copy of the same datasets so that we can compare them. See the screenshot below which illustrates the part of Liverpool I live in.
Now, some of the buildings are accurate, but not many. For example, it does not show individual building outlines like the expensive dataset. It only shows indicative building footprints in the main. The area covered by each of the building footprints in this data is not always correct either. Some areas of terraced housing are either not shown at all, or are illustrated by very, very thin polygons. Now this matters a lot, because of the way the developers of Revolution-X have produced their autogen.
It looks like they have used algorithms to break down the building polygons in the Ordnance Survey GIS data into smaller elements. These have then been run through scenery utility tool in order to produce the autogen buildings for FSX. The key part of this process is how the algorithms have broken down the building areas into smaller components. Let’s be honest, to have produced what they have is no mean feat. I do not know the algorithmic rules through which this has been done, but it is an incredibly difficult task to get right, and it is not surprising, in some places it has not produced exactly the right results.
However, this analysis does explain a lot of the observed phenomena, such as overlarge buildings, minute buildings, overlapping buildings, and buildings overlapping roads.
Nonetheless, I do blame the developers for a misleading product description, because it simply is not what "…it says on the tin…", to paraphrase a well known timber treatment product advert.
Compatibility With Other Add-Ons
Revolution-X appears to make some changes to your autogen default.xml file because after installation I found a new file called default.rxback in my FSX autogen folder. Support at Just Flight was unable to confirm or deny that though.
I use the Earth Simulations compatibility files as described in the paragraph below so I did not notice any conflicts between sceneries in the UK during my flights. One problem I did identify was with UK2000 add-on airports. The airport photo real background suppresses autogen for some areas around the airports. This is not a unique problem to Revolution-X, as Earth Simulations' Treescapes suffered exactly the same at first.
Thankfully, there is a technically easy solution as, in most cases, the relevant autogen files can simply be copied to the airport scenery folder. Having the appropriate autogen files in the uppermost scenery folder allows them to be displayed properly. The only difficulty is in determining which actual autogen files are the ones you need. Revolution-X offers no assistance for this, so it may be a case of having to go back to any particular airport developer to get help on finding this information.
No doubt, it would have eliminated a lot of heartache for users if the developers of Revolution-X could have anticipated this problem and, at least, for already developed airports in the UK, provided a list of relevant autogen files in a simple text file.
Key Point Note 4: You will need to either accept you will lose some autogen around third party add-on airports which are in scenery layers above your photoscenery, or spend some considerable time working round the problem by identifying the relevant autogen files and copying them into add-on airport scenery folders.
The product blurb on Just Flight’s website simply says it is compatible with FSX. Now even though it does not say it is compatible with Prepar3D V1 or V2, it would be remiss of me not to test it! To do so, I simply enabled my photoscenery folders in Prepar3D’s scenery library and copied my autogen files to Prepar3D’s autogen folder (after backing up the originals of course!). I did not test it extensively to determine any minor performance differences. Although I do own the Estonia Migration Tool, I did not use it to try and install Revolution-X into P3D2.1. In my opinion, it is easier, once installed into FSX, to copy the autogen files. The Revolution-X folder also contains a number of scenery files which are placed in FSX/Scenery/Global/Scenery. The all have ‘lux’ in the title so I assume they are light related. I copied these over to the same folder in P3D2.1.
In the daytime I saw trees and building autogen, but at night there was no street or traffic lighting at all. The lack of night lighting in P3D2 for other sceneries has been put down to the use of legacy BGL_LIGHTS, as gleaned from discussions on FSDeveloper.com. I do not know how the lights in Revolution-X are done, so this may or may not be correct for this product.
I attempted to install Revolution-X into P3D using the installer for one volume of GenerationX. The installer only gives you the option of referencing an FSX installation and, though it seemed happy enough to point itself at my Prepar3d.exe, the install process did not give me any night lighting. As it is not sold as P3D compatible I did not seek any technical support over this issue.
Whilst you can install the autogen files into P3D, it is clearly not marketed as compatible, and it does not appear to be, certainly not at night.
Key Point Note 5: Mess around with core files at your own risk. I simply downloaded the files from Earth Simulations posted here. These autogen files should allow a number of different developers’ sceneries to work without conflict on your FSX installation, but they also seem to work adequately for me with Revolution-X in P3D2.1 during the daytime only.
During the day, Revolution-X conveys a reasonable impression of buildings in the right locations. There are issues with default textures, building sizes, churches and other anomalies which may or may not be acceptable to you. Night lighting seems to work perfectly in DX9 mode but has a terrible flaw in DX10 which made it unusable for me and I was unable to get it working. The coverage is impressive, being the full mainland UK. If you want to enhance your UK photoscenery at a relatively low price, this may well fit the bill, but be aware of where it falls short so you are not left disappointed.
Scenery Coverage - 10 / 10
Revolution-X covers the whole of the mainland UK with buildings and vegetation. The extent of the coverage would be difficult to extend.
Level of Detail - 6.0 / 10
The building data is based on free Ordnance Survey data which is not 100% accurate and the vegetation data seems quite sparse. The base GIS data used to create it was not as accurate as it could have been, although this is somewhat understandable given the cost implications.
Quality of Buildings - 6.0 / 10
Revolution-X uses default autogen textures, and variations of these for different parts of the country would have been a big improvement. Churches are depicted but the models are not accurate, are too large, and suffer from positional displacement, i.e. they are not in exactly the right places! Including a more clever use of textures could possibly have been very worthwhile for the developer to look at as it would have improved the visuals and perhaps masked some of the other issues highlighted.
Performance - 8.0 / 10
This score is based on DX9 mode. Revolution-X did not appear to slow my system down much at all in either DX9 or DX10 (daytime). Even with the autogen sliders maxed out, I barely noticed much of a performance drop in terms of fps. However, during the flight around Liverpool, I did experience graphic artefacts after approximately 15 minutes at maximum autogen levels and this necessitated an FSX restart. The likelihood of you experiencing something similar will most likely vary depending on your hardware and settings choices. Unfortunately, the lighting bug in DX10 mode is a massive problem and I was unable to find a fix for it. In DX10 mode, this score is reduced to 5.0 / 10.
Documentation - 9.0 / 10
The manual is fairly short and covers how to install Revolution-X, what display settings are recommended, and what order items should be in your scenery library. There is also an explanation of the kind of scenery Revolution-X is. It is concise and tells you what you need to know, nothing more.
Value for Money - 7.0 / 10
Despite its shortcomings, Revolution-X offers something for which there is no current competition (although there are some alternatives being developed). If you are happy with what it offers the price is reasonable, given the coverage, as long as the issues with accuracy and DX10 are not a killer for you.
|• Scenery Coverage:||10/10|
|• Level of Detail:||6.0/10|
|• Quality of Buildings:||6.0/10|
|• Value for Money:||7.0/10|
|Mutley’s Hangar score of 7.7 / 10, with a "Recommended" and a Mutley's Hangar Bronze Award.|