Development diary: comparing X-plane and Prepar3d

One of the non-technical factors which will determine whether there's ever a 'Real New Zealand' scenery for X-plane is simply whether or not X-plane can represent the 'real' New Zealand. Since I've only been using X-plane for a few days, I am a real beginner regarding what X-plane can actually achieve. To help with this, I've decided on a quick test of both sims, using the same photo scenery, as a similar aircraft.

Not a fair fight, though, I will say upfront. The X-plane scenery is a definite trial-run, with a number of issues which may or may not be my fault:) There are gaps in the photo coverage, simply because I haven't yet figured how to handle large areas of photo coverage. And there's no water-masking in the X-plane scenery, I haven't even begun to look at that.

Some observations:

The Prepar3d aircraft is the Alabeo Cutlass II, and the X-plane version is the default C172. The Cutlass is one of my favourites, simply because of the type, and ease of use. However I'm very impressed by the X-plane aircraft, as it works very well, and comes free with X-plane.

My Prepar3d has a number of bells and whistles, including Active Sky, with real weather shown here. The camera is EZCA, with preset views. My X-plane is plain vanilla, default everything really. My Prepar3d also has the VLC 20 metre elevation mesh, while the X-plane mesh is default, and low resolution.

Yes, I did almost hit a mountain a couple of times in the X-plane flight, this is simply because of my lack of any knowledge about how X-plane works, too much time trying to remember how things work, and not enough watching where I'm going....

The flight is up the Murchison Glacier and down the Godley River to Lake Tekapo. I took off at Mount Cook airport, but as the X-plane photoscenery coverage doesn't include this yet, I left out the take-off to keep things fair.

Here are the videos. Note that the reduced video quality is intentional, otherwise it would take all day to upload via my rural DSL connection. First up is Prepar3d:

And here's the X-plane video:

Conclusion:

Well, there is a lot to consider apart from the ability of X-plane to display nice New Zealand scenery, but initially I am very pleased with X-plane -- this flight was a good example of perception of scale, and immersion -- X-plane handles these well, and even the lack of 'atmosphere' compared to Prepar3d doesn't really detract from the realism as much as I thought it would. Sure, even with HDR turned on, the X-plane visuals are not very punchy, but the way the light and shade works is very effective. Still some frustrating bits which mean that I need to go back to learning a sim from the beginning. For example, there is sometimes a white line which obviously delineates the photoscenery tiles, whereas in Prepar3d, there are no tiles. I took off 'blind' at Mount Cook, as the runway suddenly broke into weird graphic anomalies, which disappeared when I lifted off.

So, what do you think of X-plane photoscenery?

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