I’ve been giving X-Plane a miss for a while recently as I had grown a bit frustrated with my world tour as I was discovering that so much of the X-Plane scenery was quite drab and my performance was just not at a level that I wanted to see it at either. But the draw to fly some general aviation aircraft was gnawing at me and with a little extra time as I have these days… I decided to give it another go and to the rescue comes Orbx and their TrueEarth Series. Oh… and some mods!
Flying the Pacific North West
I started my X-Plane journey in the Pacific North West near Seattle. In-fact, the X-Plane demo starts you off there anyways so when I went to start my cross country journey I ended up going for that area too and ultimately flew my way up into Canada and then across country stopping in Saskatoon and Winnipeg before flying to Chicago and then to Toronto. Finally I made it to New York and then stopped.
It was fun but I had stopped enjoying the experience so I put my touring on hiatus.
Some folks love to fly the airliners including the Zibo 737 which seems to be a combination of the cheapest (it’s free) and seemingly most detailed airliner in X-Plane as well. Here a little Ortho imagery and lots of cloud cover will obscure most of the lack of detail in most of the X-Plane world. For folks who want a little more or primarily like to fly the more General Aviation minded aircraft or who just want a little more there are some options. One of the best known is Orbx and their TrueEarth series that seem to be coming to the rescue with the most complete package.
Taking advantage of their up to 50% off sale, I downloaded the 38.3GB file (this is the HD version) for TE Washington and the few hundred megabytes for Skagit and I was on my way in my trusty Aerobask Robin Dr401.
Scenery and plug-ins required
I waffled on which scenery package to buy but I ended up going with Orbx TrueEarth Washington State with its connection to my early X-Plane flying as well as the beautiful scenery of the Pacific North West. Along my journey over the last few days I also downloaded ReShade for X-Plane 11 and UniqueClouds Variety pack. The other cloud mods I’d tried ended up with all kinds of weird and ultimately unpleasant issues (default X-Plane clouds are actually not the worst… just boring).
Put Orbx’s TrueEarth together with these modifications and a little tweaking and I think I’m finally a point where I’m happy with general aviation flying in X-Plane taking the washed out colour pallet and giving it some punch (thanks to ReShade) and adding in a ton of scenery and detail.
Before I was done with this venture I also purchased KBVS Skagit Regional Airport giving me a hub to fly out of with long enough runways to handle the types of aircraft I like to fly and an ideal position to fly to lots of different places along the way. Before I’m done I may end up with another airport too as they add so much flavour and character – but only if it’s something I want to regularly fly in and out of.
The results are magnificent
I’m pretty happy with how things look. Compare these two scenes taken in roughly the same place at the same time of day with the same weather conditions (or as close as I could make it).
While the first image is somewhat dull and undetailed, the second image is punchy with lots of contrast, details in the water and all kinds of landmarks to look at. Some of you may like the first image in some ways and that’s fine but for me I prefer lots of colour (it may come with being a photographer in one of my other lives, I’m not sure) and contrast.
Although loading times were a couple of minutes, once running, TrueEarth Washington seems to run fine on my system. This is X-Plane mind you so fine is a consistent 30fps but I was managing to do that just fine despite the massive increase in object count and the satellite photo imagery all on display.
Why bother when MSFS is coming?
That is the question I’m now seeking to answer. Although I am very excited about Microsoft Flight Simulator, it’s also true that it’s still many months away likely. When it does arrive it’s going to be an interesting time for the flight sim community and for X-Plane fans. Does everyone jump ship to the new title, will the new title have some growing pains, and will X-Plane still be relevant after?
Even more interesting for me will be comparing the details and the overall experience from one to another. Will MSFS be able to match Orbx TrueEarth series when all is said and done? It might and it may even exceed but now I have the opportunity to really compare and contrast and see for myself up close.
More exploring to come
I’m looking forward to doing a lot more exploring in the days and weeks ahead and I’ll be sure to report back as I do. For now, I hope you enjoy some screenshots.