• On An Older System - Aerofly FS 2

    On An Older System - Aerofly FS 2

    "On An Older System" - Aerofly FS 2

    By Kenneth J. Kerr

    Hello there folks, this is Kenneth J. Kerr (a.k.a. "KJKSimmer") once again, and welcome to another article in my series on an older system.

    While many of my articles will be based firmly in the world of FSX, today I want to branch off in a totally different direction, and it might surprise the heck out of you. Today, instead of looking at an older "legacy" sim platform, we're going to consider a "new generation" program that actually runs on my old computer. We're going to "teleport" over to the world of Aerofly FS2. Say what? O yes, I can hear the muffled expressions of shock and horror coming from some readers even now... "That thing? Are you serious?" Well, yes, I am serious, and we're going to talk about it very openly, warts and all.

    Before we jump in however, I should let you know that this article naturally splits into two sections. The first part is the narrative, and I've chosen not to add screen shots into that section as it might disturb the flow of thought. The second section is photographic, and that's where you'll find over 50 fullsize (1920 x 1080) screen shots from AFS2. These are not edited in any way, what you see is what I saw on my large monitor, although there might be some image degradation in saving them as jpegs. Where add-ons are shown in those images, I will try to acknowledge them in the commentaries. I will also add a brief article conclusion and summary after the image gallery.

    So buckle up, and let's fly into a brave new world!

    Is It A Real Sim?

    Aerofly FS2 is in many ways a very beautiful simulator. However, many of our flight simming brethren don't even think of it as a real flight simulator at all. Now, I get that, because I've been around this genre for more than 30 years. These days we have very high expectations in the industry, and with the impending arrival of Microsoft Flight Simulator (FS2020 colloquially), the bar is being raised even higher. And so, we expect a modern sim to at least have things like real weather, AI traffic in the air and on the ground, Air Traffic Control, detailed global scenery, complex GPS navigation even in the Cessna, immersive aircraft systems, and so on. Let's face it, after years of add-on development for the legacy sims, we have become accustomed to such things as almost the starting point of our experience.

    Perhaps that's why many simmers dismiss AFS2 without even giving it a try. At the very best, AFS2 is a "light" sim in comparison with this shopping list of features. It does not have real weather, it does not have AI traffic, it does not have ATC. There are vast areas of the world undeveloped, and autogen is sporadic even in some of the areas that are developed. I must also point out the absence of street lights at night in many of the core areas, and the fact that there is nothing even close to real water. Unfortunately, in the eyes of many people, these startling omissions relegate the title to the status of a joke.

    However, after two years of using AFS2, I must voice the following opinion. If you leave AFS2 untried because you think it's a joke, the joke might just be on you. No matter how incomplete it may arguably be, I see more and more experienced and discerning simmers giving AFS2 a go every month. The numbers are growing in the user base, the community is expanding in the forum, and maybe the best way to answer why this is, is to simply tell you my own AFS2 story.

    My AFS2 Story

    Like many of you, I have decades of time (and thousands of dollars) invested in the Microsoft Flight Simulator ecosystem. I've grown very used to how that world looks, feels, sounds, and acts. It really has become like a second home, a home where I slip on some kind of alter-ego avatar, and jump back into familiar territory that fits like a glove. But, every now and again, the familiar becomes boring. Of course, we can always buy another add-on, and that's what we typically do. It's a constant balance of the known versus the new, but it's still the same world. Well, for many people the answer is to try another sim. And so they have bought and loaded up DCS World, or X-Plane, or the latest Prepar3D. And, of course these new worlds have replaced the old world of FSX for many hobbyists. And truth be told, I'd like to do that too! BUT..._ you guessed it... My old system will NOT run these newer programs. And so, I have stayed back in planet FSX while many have moved on.

    And then, two years ago, I started hearing stories about AFS2. People with newer systems were being blown away with 150+ FPS, no stutters, no blurries in photoscenery, and the thrill of a totally new approach. I was curious. If AFS2 could run that fast on a new computer, was there a possibility that (unlike the other new sims), it might at least run on my old rig to some acceptable level? I plucked up the courage to download Steam, then I bought Aerofly FS2 with very few expectations. "This might end up being a one-flight-and-erase experience" I thought. But I was wrong. Two years on, I have logged over 980 hours in AFS2, and instead of using it less, I'm actually using it more often.

    So What Did I Like?

    To begin with, you simply cannot downplay my sheer delight in the fact that AFS2 even runs on my system. A few moments ago I went back onto Steam and reviewed again the so-called minimum required specs for the program. Frankly, my old rig shouldn't even run AFS2, but it does! Do I get those lightning speeds with super smoothness? No, I don't. BUT it does run just about as well on my old computer as FSX does, and for me that has been the passport into a new world, and a new experience.

    And, there is so much to love about the new experience. The first time I ran AFS2, I remember being totally shocked that I could be up and flying in less than a minute. I have become so used to launching FSX and literally having time to go and put on a pot of coffee before the sim has even got me to the loading screen! Wow... How many times had I felt like flying for just five minutes and been unable to accomplish that with the loading times of the old technology? Now it was possible.

    There was more to love. Want to gain altitude and fly around at say 5,000 feet in a Cessna? No need to piddle around climbing. Just press the "U" key a few times and you are there. I've used that a lot in AFS2 when I had limited time to fly. Or what if I feel like a change of time? Who needs menus when you just hit the "T" key and instantly watch the sun move around the sky, complete with appropriate changes in shadow, shade, and light. These are seemingly small items in the overall scheme of things, and yet I have grown to really appreciate them. Still talking about light and shadow, I used to watch YouTube videos from X-Plane and Prepar3D and feel very envious as I practically drooled over the way the sunlight and shadows moved across the instrument panels in the VCs. FSX could never match that advance, and my system could not run the sims that had it. My first few days of flying AFS2 brought smile after smile to my face because I could finally enjoy something as simple as that on my dinosaur computer!

    And then something else hit me. I flew the F-18 low and fast, and... Where were the famous FSX blurries? There were none. What about the annoying "popping in" of the distant trees? No, they were visible for miles! I took it higher. How does the photoscenery look in the distance now? Stay within the AFS2 default scenery areas and it displays far clearer than add-on photoscenery does in FSX. OK, let's add mist and see how that looks. Weather menu perchance? No. Just press the "V" key a few times (or Shift+V) and change the visibility on the fly. Looks pretty good with a hint of fog on the horizon. These were some of the lasting first impressions of AFS2 for me. I also liked the map screen for changing location, the fact that I could hit the "L" key and have place names displayed on the screen in flight, and the sheer beauty of the VC interiors, surpassing the aesthetics of almost everything I had seen in FSX add-ons over the years. Yes, there was so much to love about AFS2 right from the start.

    And Then The Boredom Set In

    And so, for several months, I simply put FSX aside and spent all my time exploring AFS2. I went back into Steam and added some free DLC packages put out by IPACS (the makers of AFS2). Now I could also enjoy Utah and Colorado, and higher definition textures for the more western US states. Many of the airports in those IPACS sceneries (and some of the cities) are very nicely done, so I added more months to my flying, exploring this new world with a passion. It was addictive and stimulating, until the first little hints of boredom began to show up.

    It was lonely to fly out of an airport with not as much as another Cessna on the frequency. Indeed there was only silence and an empty world. I started to miss using ATC, started to long for the sight of another aircraft taking off or landing in front of me, and even missed the road traffic on those terribly empty highways. Was I the last person left alive in the virtual world?

    I went back to FSX, and flew it for a few weeks. BUT I was so frustrated at the long loading times, the return of the blurries, and all the deficiencies I had forgotten about there. Sometimes, I'd fly a short flight in AFS2 to get the real scenery, then I'd repeat the same route in FSX to get the missing immersion. Each simulator had its strength, and each had its weaknesses. There was truly no such thing as perfection in any one simulator. The funny thing was this, despite the limitations of AFS2, I did not abandon it, just as I had not abandoned FSX even in spite of its old architecture. That simple action speaks volumes about the inherent appeal of both AFS2 and FSX.

    But Behold The Turning Point Cometh

    Well, that was two years ago, and now it is the second week of 2020, and I'm flying AFS2 more than ever. Sure, I am still aware of the perceived negatives, the idiosyncrasies, and the limitations. However, as we advance into the new year, an interesting turning point has been reached. It's a crossing of the Rubicon sort of a moment, a paradigm shift if you will! In a nutshell, the third party ecosystem for AFS2 has come alive!

    Why is this important? Just look at industry history to find the answer. Microsoft Flight Simulator would have been buried decades ago without the development of the add-on ecosystem that supported it. Same can be said for X-Plane. This is why these two platforms continued when many other contenders disappeared. And now, the third party world has finally started to explode for AFS2. In fact, there's hardly a day goes by without something new coming from the third party developers.

    In the last three months we have seen the entire UK being transformed from something unusable into something completely flyable, with freeware photoscenery, hundreds of basic airports, autogen, night lighting, and hi-res topographic coverage. We're seeing the same thing happening for areas as diverse as France, Argentina, Norway, the Czech Republic, Italy, and parts of western Canada. We have also seen the release of a magnificent freeware Tecnam P2008 to fly, and it is easily up to commercial standards. In addition, there are hints of further development of the free airport-adding program that was launched almost two years ago, and a newer photoscenery creation program has taken the place of older approaches that were the norm even a year ago. All of this is coming freely to the AFS2 world at the hands of hobbyists. They even have their own web site (http://www.flight-sim.org).

    And the commercial world is taking note too. Orbx has several highly-detailed airport packages on the market, as well as the AFS2 version of TrueEarth Netherlands. While they pulled back from their original plans to give us a lot more in 2019, we are still hopeful that 2020 may see a revival of their AFS2 interest. Aerosoft also has a few smaller scenery packages out.

    But it's not just scenery. Just Flight has ported four of their popular General Aviation aircraft into AFS2. While they do not have the systems depth of their legacy-sim versions, they have all the looks and sheer fly-ability in them! And you know something? I cannot even run the FSX versions of those same aircraft on my old rig without it becoming a slideshow. Yet in AFS2, I can finally enjoy the Just Flight Cessna 152, PA-28 Arrows, Duchess, and Tomahawk. There are also new mesh offerings for AFS2 from Taburet, a new commercial version of Boston from a new development team, and a somewhat complex (and so-far limited) ATC program as the starting point of development in that area. These are commercial offerings.

    This change augurs very well for the future of AFS2 from the user's point of view.

    Let's get to the screen shots! (Clickable to expand in size.)

    1. zswobbie1's Avatar
      zswobbie1 -
      Wow, thanks for a great review. Far too many of us or 'stuck' on the MS products, with blinkers, and are not prepared to even look at anything else.

      I've just installed the free FlightGear, & it's very good for what it is.

      Kenneth, you've opened my eyes to Aerofly, thanks again.
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by zswobbie1 View Post
      Wow, thanks for a great review. Far too many of us or 'stuck' on the MS products, with blinkers, and are not prepared to even look at anything else.

      I've just installed the free FlightGear, & it's very good for what it is.

      Kenneth, you've opened my eyes to Aerofly, thanks again.

      Hello, and thank you for commenting. It did surprise me how much I enjoy AFS2 after all these decades of MS products. But then, it is a really nice sim in so many ways. Since writing the article I have been testing an upcoming freeware scenery release for AFS2, and it is super-detailed even down to streetlights and street signs! Now, that specific addon will bring my old sim to its knees, even with AFS2. Of course, I can never guarantee that other people will run AFS2 well on their particular rig, but it is keeping me happy on my old i5.

      - Kenneth
    1. lala's Avatar
      lala -
      Excellent review Kenneth :-)
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Quote Originally Posted by lala View Post
      Excellent review Kenneth :-)
      Thank you. It was a fun one to do, just getting the screenshots! - Kenneth
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