Vacation Guide? Well,
almost. This shot is a temptation many can't refuse. Take a helo
tour around nestled harbors complete with sailboats, seaplanes and
warm breezes. The Bell 206 is a must for exploring!
Chris Wilkes' Virgin Island Scenery
for FS2000 has been getting lots of attention lately. As the
new group of sceneries start coming out for FS2000, I can tell you
based on my experience with the Virgin Islands, we're all in for a
real treat. However, all is not perfect in paradise. I will go out
on a limb here and say that this shareware available from the 4CDs
Download Store is worth the $19.00, but just barely so.
Upon seeing screenshots on the Virgin Islands I knew
this is a "must have" or at least "must try" scenery. I have never
installed any new scenery for FS2000 as of yet, being previously so
happy with the default. Until now, nothing had tempted me. Past
experiences with scenery glitches, frame rate requirements and
scenery layer management has somewhat soured my zeal for any add-on
sceneries of the past. My very favorite add-on scenery of all time
has to be Wilco Publishing's
Tahiti for FS98. The detailed tropical paradise was one that
gave you that "I am really there" feeling like none other. So I
couldn't resist hoping to compare that commercial scenery with this
one. My expectations would be based to some extent on the Wilco
The Extra 300 is another
great way to get around. Here, I was flying just under the tropical
skies. The real weather in FS2K does a great job of creating those
tropical buildups and "chaotic sky" that is typical of the region.
The entire effect is beautiful in all directions.
Upon first arriving at the St. Thomas
International airport via 777-200, I was greeted by high frame
rates on the descent all the way into the landing. On my PIII500
frame rates remained around 12 to 15 all the way in on the landing
rollout, despite the details that began to unfold. My taxi back to
the gate was most enjoyable with the feel of the tropics all around
me. I could see cruise ships in the harbor to my north, smaller
sailboats around as well as lush tropical vegetation. The trees are
great! Then I passed by the general aviation ramp, complete with
Exxon station, fuel trucks and baggage carts. The main terminal has
no jetway but lighted parking hardstands. There was easily enough
room for the big 777 as I nuzzled in to the big T stripe. As my
engines wound down and the flight attendants opened up the doors, a
sweet semi-humid air mass rushed into the flightdeck. Out my perch
I saw the fuel truck moving toward me! There was so much to see and
gawk at! I really liked what I saw so far. All the custom buildings
and stuff made me realize I have not spent enough time looking at
the great scenery everyone out there has been developing.
Passenger view of the
taxi-in towards the gate. The GA ramp is filled with nice
FLYING THE REGION
After staying the night in St. Thomas, the next
day I toured around using the Bell 206 which I can hardly attest to
being able to fly! I crashed once onshore, once in the water and
once into a hillside. I basically destroyed all the islands'
helicopters and have a huge multi-million dollar rental bill
awaiting me when I get home. It's a good thing that when on an
assignment like this, Nels will pay for any damage that occurs. I
discovered nice harbors, inlets, animated boats, and airport
details. The overall scenery is very well done with great coloring
and texturing. However, as you'll find out, most of the details are
limited to the big jetports or the smaller Beef Island airport. In
between airports, there is not too much to see. I was sorry that
areas that tempted me to fly in lower or closer, revealed only
blurry textures and no structures or objects to investigate. In
fact the blurriness of the scenery was the major detraction to the
What a sky! On final in the
777-200 to St. Thomas International.
At night time the islands do come alive with
pretty lighting at the airports. Runway lighting is excellent as
well as parking areas, light polls that shine on the ground,
terminal buildings and some residential areas. There are cars on
roads per FS2000. As I went to fly out of the St. Croix airport I
was hit with fatal lockups after dark. There is something wrong
with taxiing eastbound at night at this airport. There is a nice
animated 182 taxiing toward you, but as soon as he gets near enough
to go around you, whammo. Reboot is necessary. During the day this
is not a problem. After 3 attempts at this, I had to depart under
sunset or earlier in order to avoid this crash bug. Turning off
dynamic didn't solve the problem. I asked Chris Wilkes about this,
and he can not recreate the error.
Another fatal error is departing St. Thomas
southward. There are two places where I got fatal exception errors
due to missing ground texture files. Win98 gave me no choice but to
ignore or cancel the message, or something like that. Whatever I
chose blew FS2000 to desktop. Having this happen twice during a
flight is unacceptable and evidence of either poor beta testing or
a non-complete scenery. I don't know about you, but when you're on
a serious flight and something like this happens, it's mentally
devastating! This really upset me, and is a problem I would hope
not to find on a commercial product. Now, I fly in fear it will
happen in other places. In my testing I had this scenery glitch
ruin two flights in two different areas - so I believe there could
be more incomplete zones.
On the ramp at St. Thomas
with ground crew buzzing around the ummm, 777.
There are areas where the scenery doesn't seem
level or on the surface. Trying to land the helicopter on the
ground was useless as I sank underground. My layer was correct
according to the readme files, so I suspect another error. Much of
the mountainous areas are "see-thru" with some flashing and distant
scenery appearing thru. In addition all night lighting such as
parking zone lights, taxiways and runway edge lights can be seen
thru your aircraft's tires, wings or other solid parts.
I asked Chris Wilkes about these errors, and I
learned it's a scenery designer's enigma. Chris was kind enough to
report "... you are referring to the fact that the elevated mesh
terrain is transparent to other 3D objects. This is a known problem
and inherent with sceneries using the scasm "TexRelief" command
that this scenery uses. All 3D objects have been coded with minimal
visibility ranges to reduce this effect. No solution, except to
re-code the scenery completely, or if MS would issue a scenery SDK,
scenery designers should be able to re-create FS2000 type terrain
without this effect. Similar to above, this is inherent with
"TexRelief". Bear in mind that we are no longer working with a flat
world. Most everywhere now has elevation and to place a scenery of
this type over default scenery requires that the default be
completely flattened and covered. It is not possible to utilise the
default "hard" terrain. To prevent floating runways the elevated
mesh terrain must reflect airport elevation and where this is close
to coastlines there is some "over spill" of that elevation creating
small areas of beach and ocean above sea level." I then asked
him why lighting shows through the airplane or objects and he
responded "This is beyond my control. This problem has been
documented by several scenery and aircraft designers and is IMO a
bug in FS2000. Until an SDK is available, our present design tools
and compilers provide no solution that I am aware of."
I really am glad Chris explained some of the problems
to me. I feel better knowing that limitations do exist, rather than
thinking anything was left out. I guess FS2000's advancement can
bring some added problems we didn't have with FS98.
Obtaining the scenery was rather cumbersome. From the
Store there are at least 10 files to download and each and
every time I tried, I would get disconnected or downloads would
just stop. Sometimes the file would stop downloading about 80% of
the way. I can't blame my ISP for this, everything else I get off
the net goes much faster. It took me about 12 hours to get all of
the files, having to download each file two or three times. I could
not leave the computer alone to download. Installation is not
completely automatic either, you must edit your fs2000.cfg file to
activate the region.
The lockups and terrain errors knock down the
higher score I'd like to give. At the same time I know Chris will
work on any problems reported and that he's dedicated to the end
product. Until MS releases an SDK for scenery and all new releases
take advantage of that, we may have to be wary that there will be
some problems with sceneries as complex or as detailed as this one.
The scenery is sold at $19 and I'd value it at that price. Often
I'll review products that I'd be willing to pay four times the
going cost because they are so good. The value in this scenery is
worth the $19 but sadly I don't feel I'd want to pay more. You'll
no doubt have a great time flying around the Virgin Islands but
after a few hours there seems to be no more desire to explore.
There just isn't much to see. I classify it as a good jet stopover,
but not as great a "low and slow" place to visit as I had
I'll give the Virgin Islands Scenery for FS2000 a
79 out of a possible 100 points.
Beating the air into
submission is a great way to look all about.
Coptering around one of the
many inlets, thinking of where to set down, or at least I'll
attempt to if my skills allow. I spied one of the several dynamic
Beaver seaplanes below.
Mooney high over the island
chain to the northeast.
Beef Island is a great
getaway. This shows the friendly parking area at the end of the
runway, allowing easy access to the beaches. Notice the fine
details just from ground level!
747-400 receives servicing
from the ramp crew. The 7000 foot runway allows for low fuel
takeoffs only, and this flight will proceed to Guadaloupe before
continuing to further destinations. The 747-400 is an outstanding
model from Abacus Publishing's Instant Airplane Maker for
On climbout passing Beef
Island around 12,000 feet. I don't know about you, but this picture
will end up on my desktop!
Visit Abacus Publishing for the
747-400s featured (Instant Airplane Maker): Click Here
The 777-200 is a Camsim ProMax 2001
model, available in our