The Netherlands 2000 Scenery
By Peter Nauta (9 January 2001)
s you may know, the Netherlands is quite small and flat, lies largely under sea level and has a lot of lakes, rivers and canals. It has a large population of approximately 16 million people. Most villages and cities have rather old centers with narrow streets and multiple story houses with typical styles. Around that, more modern suburbs and industrial areas have developed to house everyone, especially while higher living standards have increased the demand for more space per inhabitant. Lots of highways and byways crisscross through the country and there's an extensive network of railways. There are also quite a lot of airports.
Up to FS5 Netherlands was indicated on the map merely by a crude shoreline. FS98 saw little change; while 3000 of all the world's airports were covered, Netherlands was largely neglected. In FS2000 all of the Jeppesen's database was included, which means that most of our 25 airports were actually mapped. Very little surrounding buildings were available though--no trees, gates, windsocks, taxiways, striping, light masts, radar installations, VOR beacons (as visual object). Not to mention everything outside the airports. VFR flying was virtually impossible.
All that has now changed. The NL2000 Team, with its members Arno Gerretsen, Bert Kuyper, Christian Bionda, Erwin Horjus, Graham P. Oxtoby, Guido van Wijngaarden, Jeroen Arends, Kees Sonneveld, Mark Arends, Rob de Vries, Robbin van Dijk, Steve Gryskiewicz, Thomas Diderich and Tom van Maastrigt have spent considerable time in developing the scenery, which covers our country from coast to coast, from the Wadden islands down to Maastricht.
Turning to final on Eindhoven: real and simulation
The scenery is freeware and can be downloaded in parts (large / small airports, manual) from http://www.nl2000.tmfweb.nl/ or from FlightSim.Com's file library. It totals 37 mb and will expand to 160 mb on your hard disk. Several mirror servers have been deployed, so download speed was good. For those deprived of adequate facilities (have to sneak in some time at work) the PC-zone Benelux magazine will have a CD version on their February 2001 cover.
The installation needs Visual Basic 6 runtime files, which can be downloaded here. I couldn't get it to work in the first place, so I followed the manual installation procedure, which is described in the manual, and a no-brainer at that. It's merely unpacking the BGL files and texture files into their respective folders, then adding some stuff to the Scenery.cfg file (cut and paste it from the document, that will save you lots of time). After that, I fired up FS2000 and adjusted display properties as described. Then I was ready for take off.
If you have been to some of the smaller airports like Lelystad, Rotterdam, Hilversum, Hoogeveen or Seppe you will really be amazed at the amount of detail that has been accomplished. One really feels at home. I took off from Seppe in a C172 for a flight to Rotterdam via OSCAR. You actually don't seem to need a map to find your way.
All roads are there. This is a major feat. It helps orientation enormously. This was done by importing a route software's database. Everything is there: on / off ramps, bridges, even service stations. City centers are mapped by a nice texture, industrial areas have different textures. Airports are all nicely done, with taxiways including markings, traffic signs indicating runways, beacons, buildings, markings on top of them, hangars. Schiphol's departure lounge is even detailed with people looking down on the planes through transparent glass.
There are a lot of trees (sometimes more than there really are?) which change foliage and coloring depending on the seasons.
I visited most airports / airfields since I started using this scenery. Hoogeveen (EHHO), which is seen above, is a grass strip primarily used for recreational flying, flight training, para jumping and glider towing, is very realistic. There are hangars with all the logos, caravan park and parked cars, and even the Grob Astir is lying on a wing awaiting to soar you over the flat countryside on a breeze. Several static aircraft have been designed, complete with paint job and markings, as well as real registration. The paved way in front of the para center hangar even has markings on it! I could remember the metal industrial buildings on the opposite side of the strip when we landed there in '97 in a motor glider during a glider camp at the nearby Salland Aero club. How about adding a piece of static scenery - the mobile tower used during summer to coordinate gliders? Well, the designer who did Hoogeveen was meticulous, and this is an outstanding piece of work. Frame rates are very reasonable at the strip too (15 fps), seemingly little affected by the many static objects and textures used.
There seem to be some Easter eggs hidden in the scenery. I haven't spent enough time looking for them, but then, it's only just been Christmas, so we have plenty of time. How about finding the Super Guppy which was crashed in a potato field just short of Hoogeveen by two Austrian lady pilots after running out of fuel during a para jump? It's in use now as a club house of some sort, I've been told. Or how about the Starfighter just off Soesterberg, as part of the static display at the air force museum? Couldn't find it either. Well, let's keep looking. Tell .firstname.lastname@example.org">me when you find some!
With such a massive project, there are bound to be some imperfections:
- Some bridges haven't been put in. This means that a highway is interrupted by a river or canal. These have been promised for the first update.
- Some runways need to be put in like Eelde's missing rwy 05/23 concrete, which was left out due to time limits to properly finish that airport.
- Some FBO's / fuel facilities are missing like Eindhoven. Some elevation data could be more accurate. Except for Terlet, all glider strips and VLA facilities have been left out. Some heliports need to be put in: Leiden's University hospital's rooftop heliport, Amsterdam's AMC; some ILS's have been left out, like 01L at Amsterdam Schiphol.
- There's a discrepancy in positioning of most runways with respect to FS2000. When using the Go To Airport function, you end up 50 feet next to the runway. The design team says that FS2000 is inaccurate, but then, they've used Jeppesen for their data. So, who's right?
- The runways are placed at 0 feet, while most runways are actually at below sea level. This is OK because some funny things happen in FS2000 at altitudes below sea level: weather is not consistent, gusts and level transitions have made planes crash just above the runway. This is different for some planes, as altitude is measured at cockpit level, so in a 747 / 777 one might not notice this, while landing a Mooney would get different results.
- Some airports in Belgium (like Brasschaat, Antwerp) have disappeared, probably caused by too liberal use of "exclude" rectangles. This will be corrected in the first update, expected to be released "within 3 months".
Nevertheless, this must be one of the best sceneries ever, purely because so much detail is now available for such a large area. Furthermore, this is clearly a beginning, not the end. There's a lively discussion going on between users and the design team (read this at http://pub12.ezboard.com/bthenetherlands2000scenery) on problems, shortcomings, design decisions, future developments and cooperation between developers who have done work on parts of Netherlands, outside of the NL2000 team, who are probably going to team up. Indeed, the design team has set a time frame of three months before the first update will be out. There will be fixes, additions where it has been left out because of lack of time, and dynamic scenery. There's been talk about other scenery designers who have done work on towns and cities not yet covered in NL2000, to join forces. So, you may see even greater coverage in the next update.
All this beauty must be paid for: frame rates. If one compares NL2000 to Chicago, it has to hit home that the frame rates for Chicago are quite acceptable, even if the scenery detail settings are set to the max. Amsterdam and Rotterdam only yield 6 fps or lower on a 600 MHz machine.
Comparing it to Swedflight2000, it's roughly on the spot. NL2000 has all the feeder roads and railways to render as well, which the Swedish counterpart doesn't have.
These low frame rates are caused by heavy use of textures, and the problem is compounded by the fact that Microsoft's default scenery is also rendered. This cannot be avoided. So, FS2000 does twice the work rendering a scene, compared to Chicago's default scenery.
Even when there's a good reason for the low frame rates, I suppose it will be addressed in the future - either by faster machines or smoothing out the problems software wise. Either way, I chose to keep flying at 6 fps instead of disabling this fabulous scenery.
It's amazing what a team of motivated and dedicated scenery designers can do. Even comparing it to other options (which are not available, other than Lago's Amsterdam 2000) makes clear that there are no fair comparisons available.
Some years ago, Mr. Alting designed a scenery package called Europe 1 / 2 / 3, along with Europe 1 Pro. He made a deal with Apollo software in Germany, who packaged it and took care of distribution. It cost a fair amount of money. It included more than only the Netherlands. But it was not close to the realism which has been achieved here. As it was designed for FS98, it became obsolete once FS2000 came out. Mr. Alting had developed some problems with Apollo, who didn't want to put in the effort, like giving support. So, an update for Europe 1 Pro is unlikely to ever appear. So much for commercial alternatives.
But this product poses a new problem: will any other publisher ever wander into a commercial effort for this country again? I think that this can be compared to the Linux development - a freeware Unix variant. Linux has done a very good job in opening Unix up as a serious alternative to Windows platforms. It has killed off some other variants too. All in all, the Unix world has benefited.
Is there commercial gain to be had from this? Yes, I think that the NL2000 team should consider trying to sell their work to developers of commercial simulator companies. There are quite a few out there, creating certified procedural trainers, which may benefit by having a good scenery available. This will stimulate further development.
|Athlon 600 MHz
Geforce256 video card
256 Mb PC100 RAM
Price: 10 out of 10 (after all, how can you beat
Fitness for use: 10 out of 10
Realism: 9 out of 10
Comments on this review? Let us know! Mail us at .email@example.com">Peter Nauta or Jos Nieswaag