Dribs 'n Drabs
By Chip Barber (23 March 2009)
So go figure. I know, I've been a proponent of FS2004 for eons. I've spoken of my disdain for FSX. I've derogated those who even speak of it in terms other than derisive. I've inveighed against anyone who would even think about opening the software.
I'm really starting to like FSX.
This is not to say that I've begun treating FS2004 like a red-headed step-child, or perhaps a rented mule. I've invested far too much sweat, time and treasure into that sim to do anything other than hold it in the highest of esteem. But the thing is, I just can't help myself. Every time I find the need to do the delete/install cycle, I find a tremendous amount of joy and satisfaction in choosing which of my "gems" to add to it, which birds to fly, which scenery to grace my screen, which utility to enhance my virtual experience. And after a while, which happens to be getting smaller all the time, the damn thing collapses in on itself under the crushing weight of, I dunno, fuzzy little electrons whizzing around the motherboard and video card, happily creating my fantasy of flight.
Now, the thing is, with FSX, I'm sort of starting anew. Granted, I was forced to do a serious hardware upgrade, and Lord knows I'll be paying for that upgrade in a myriad of ways financial and otherwise, for quite some time (undoubtedly the debt will be paid in full just before the time comes for another serious upgrade). But, if for no other reason than I've developed a rash from all the "Grade Z" level groceries I've been forced to purchase and consume due to my spendthrift ways, I just don't have that much crap to add to my FSX.
Yet. I figure a little hydrocortisone creme and a Benadryl, and I'll be able to at least get some cool airports or something. Anybody know when the Aerosoft people are releasing the AES software for FSX?
I've discovered with the right combination of hardware, FSX can be (this is killing me) every bit as good as FS2004. No, wait. I take that back. It can be better (I think I just bit through my tongue) than FS2004. Once you have resolved the performance issues (and really, all it takes is the right machine costing, oh, the price of a small island along the lines of, say, Bermuda), and are able to push the sliders to the right and keep them there without a serious or even noticeable performance hit, even the default scenery is not offensive. And while it may seem silly, there is just something about seeing a reasonable facsimile of traffic bopping along down the highway that really just floats my boat.
Face it. When one is trying to convince oneself that said one is 1) a pilot; 2) a commercial pilot; 3) a fighter pilot; 4) a bush pilot; 5) actually flying; 6) actually landing; 7) somewhere other than parked on one's butt in front of the monitor attached to a PC, when one is trying to do all that, it is the little things that matter.
The little things. Moving traffic is nice. I was fiddling around with some stupid mission or other, and while I'm attempting to bluff my way through a pre-flight in the Goose, I happened to look up and, to my delight, there was traffic whizzing by on a road outside of the airport fence! How undeniably cool is that? Remember, I'm the one who is enraptured by the AES software, which does all manner of sincerely cool stuff while on the ground. Eye candy is my candy, no doubt about it. I guess you'd call it "the immersion effect". Anything that contributes to my harebrained fantasy of flight, and I am not discounting pharmaceuticals here, is A-OK in my book!
In the eye candy, fantasy enhancing category, I believe FSX has it all over on FS2004. Even with my King's Ransom in add ons, I'm coming to realize that rather than invest in FS2004, I could now be driving a Mercedes and making do with FSX and a couple of terrain enhancements. I dunno, there's just something about those dumb little crawly things that are supposed to represent road traffic, and the tres' cool moving wakes behind the water traffic, that must rub some type of cerebral gland or something inside my pea-sized brain. I sort of get all saliva-ish, rather like one of Pavlov's canine friends, I imagine. I actually have taken to looking out the window of whatever I happen to be flying, looking for the motion.
And the people! Holy crap! I wish I could recall which piece of scenery this was. Some airport or other, I'm sure. But when I pulled up and shut down, I wrenched the daylights out of my neck, as from the corner of my eye, I swear I saw some guy move. He may have been moving from one foot to the other, or perhaps picking his little digital nose, but he moved! Now, whenever I even consider picking up some kind of scenery enhancement for FSX, it damn well better have animated traffic and people!
This may be sort of old hat by now, but there are a few developers out there who do this. Have you seen or gotten a bird with a mobile pilot(s)? It may be Eaglesoft, but perhaps not, but man, I love it when the PIC is up there looking around in flight! I've even got one with two pilots! They will occasionally look at one another, and I swear they both look like they are laughing! This may or may not be the pharmaceuticals I was mentioning earlier, but it's still really cool to see. One guy even raises an arm to fiddle with something on the overhead panel.
Has anyone messed with X-Plane? I actually have the disks. Somehow, I just cannot bring myself to install them onto The Beast. It seems as though I'm being unfaithful doing so. But I must say, if FSX hadn't so thoroughly caught my fancy recently, I believe I would have done just that. Perhaps one of these days I'll give it a whirl and let you know how it goes. I admit I've seen a jump in the number of things available to download and add to it. Tis tempting, but I've just gotten the hang of using Wilco's Tilt Rotor bird.
Any rotor heads out there? I've dabbled in the "things without wings", and actually became more or less proficient at flying them. But then I stumbled upon this tilt-a-wing thing, and haven't stopped using it since! I believe there may be a freeware one out here somewhere. Do yourself a favor and try one! I've taken to using it during missions, and actually managed to land the booger on top of a building helipad. Fun!
Considering that Microsoft has elected to, at least temporarily, suspend work on future versions of our beloved flight simulator world, I am beginning to think that we may perhaps see a revival in developer interest in FS2004 as well as X. This is a good thing. Well, good for everyone who is not sufficiently fortunate to have hardware that brings out the best in FSX. With The Beast, I am lucky enough to enjoy the best of what the developers have to offer with what I am beginning to think is a superior flight sim product. And, with no future versions to worry about, it would seem the sky is the limit for each sim.
OK, it's been lovely speaking with each of you, but I really must get back to work. I'm trying to figure out why on Earth I cannot successfully fly this tilt-a-whirl love of mine successfully and not overheat the oil. It's probably a good thing there are limits to what FS can do for us, as I can't imagine how foul smelling burnt aviation oil can be.
Note to developers - no smell*a*vision products, please!