ADX FirstLook: LatinVFR Luis Muñoz Marín

FSX/P3D. In 2014, its official: The airport is no longer enough. If it's one of the many ways developers are improving on the products they deliver, it's the inclusion of the areas that exist beyond the airport perimeter fence. I recall a statement by Umberto Colapicchioni some time ago in reference to the legacy Cloud9 Amsterdam. When asked if the inclusion of the city of Geneva would be included with the airport given it's proximity to the city, the response was to the effect of users not really being interested in cities. I remember the city of Amsterdam being included with the C9 AMS airport complete with accurately modeled buildings, canals, etc. Supposedly, there was not much point in including cities in airport products according to Virtuali and with the disappointing sales of the Aerosoft Florence (a Virtuali product), this marked the end of city modeling for all future products he would produce. Needless to say, FSDT has not bothered venturing into this area with any of their products.

[Note: For format purposes, images are cropped.  Click each image for full size resolution preview.]

At the time, I felt Umberto was wrong in making this decision have always felt this way. Can you imagine how much more awesome FSDT airports would be if they choose to include the Las Vegas Strip with KLAS? At the time, there were no 3rd party addons for the Vegas Strip besides a 5 year old outdated freeware version, or how about the coastal beach luxury towers and hotels in Ft. Lauderdale? The many high rise buildings on Rockaway Beach below final approach to JFK? And let's not mention LAX, the version they did for Cloud9 actually included far more of the surrounding buildings than the current FSDT version. Need I go on? Indeed, FSDT airports could have been much better and far more immersive had they choose to follow the philosophy that the approach is half the experience and the more realistic the surroundings, the better. 

Clearly, many other developers understand the improtance to expand beyond that airport fence and have done so in some very impressive ways. FlyTampa Dubai, FSDG Thessaloniki, the recently released JetStream Little Rock, and just about every airport released by Orbx and Taxi2Gate. Several more developers are now realizing there is much more to an airport scenery besides the airport. 

In the case of LatinVFR's San Juan, the airport we are on our way to visit today, here is a clear example of just how the surrounding environment enhances a scenery. But not just enhances, it creates an entire experience the airport alone could never achieve on it's own. Join me as we explore Jan Juan Puerto Rico! 

For this edition of ADX FirstLook we start out in mid flight from Miami as we approach top of decent. As I am sure, many of you will recall LatinVFR released their second edition of Miami marking the team's largest scale development to date. Given the amount of time I typically get to fly between, real work, family, and running this site you all love, the ETE duration is about average for a single point to point flight for me.

These days, after a new destination install, I really try to avoid the typical slewing and make an effort to fly into an airport with a fresh and open mind. As I get so many developer friends leaking me previews I cant show you all, this is the best way to still get a surprise from a product. Needless to say, once I began preparations for approach, I was mighty impressed as the city began to come into view.

Once on the ground, I began to take in the atmosphere as I maneuver this old fat thing to the gate. A highly realistic feel the surrounds have created I must say. Beyond the airport itself, the city objects and buildings seemed to stretch all the way to the horizon. This is exactly what I mean about the importance of stretching the confines of the scenery beyond the airport boundary. Many of the buildings have a sort of custom generic appearance and others are actual representations of their real life counterparts. Overall, while on approach and from the airport grounds, as you can clearly see, everything looks almost perfect. I was also impressed with the quality of vegetation. 

I did find some issues with user aircraft ground shadows. Supposedly this was fixed with the latest update. 

Hmm... a little seam with the taxi bridges. I was glad to see the bridges in place. Something many developers used to get super lazy with like Simwings CDG, and FSDT JFK just to name a couple. We are seeing more and more of real taxi bridges lately which is a very good thing. A perfect example is Dallas by FSDT and Munich and Leipzig by the German Airports Team. But note: you may need to adjust and play with your mesh settings a bit in order for the bridges to appear properly connected with the taxiway. 

Now at the gate, lets disembark and check out the airport! 

One of the first things I noticed is one I like to call, cheap & lazy. And no! I am not referring to our scenery developer here. I am talking about the airport authority. Notice those differently textured ground textures? This comes from different mixes of concrete and tarmac pavement. Now realistically, you want a good mixture grade of concrete for every airport tarmac. Why? Because those airplanes are damn heavy and can really wreak havoc on the ground. The issue is, good quality concrete is very expensive. The alternative? Go with cheap concrete, or tarmac. The issue with tarmac is, whereas it's cheaper, it can only handle so much for so long till your aircraft start sinking and you get potholes etc. So you have to repave it like every two years or so depending on the airport. I know this because for the longest time, LAX was doing it this way and it really pissed off the airlines every time the taxiways had to be shut down. Operations have to be moved to remote gates, it's a freaking nightmare.

Concrete takes longer to apply also.

Looking at LatinVFR's tarmac vs the real thing and it's really easy to see just how bad the situation is at TFFJ. Just look at all that patch work. Bloody awful.


Now getting to the actual airport itself, I found myself overall happy. But not without a bit of feeling displaced in my feelings. Looking at the terminal and window textures, I felt the work was not sharp enough. The textures seemingly lacking depth. Besides this, I also found I was not entirely not like the photoreal glass application. 

Don't get me wrong, I do like photoreal application and developers like Drzewiecki Design, LHSimulations, and the team that recently released Aerosoft Dublin all got it right. If you are going to go that route, it must be bloody high resolution source imagery. Here though, a lot of those glass textures were not high-res enough and looked a bit blurry in some areas. 

Alternatively, I would like to see LatinVFR get into the interior modeling trend. The team did play with it a bit in San Diego and I felt they did an amazing job with it. I think it would have went very well here as well. That said that was my only real gripe and where the terminal buildings lack in texture depth, the product more than makes up for in the representation with the included city. 

Now one area I have noticed major improvements with LatinVFR is in the non airside terminal entrance areas. I had gotten on LatinVFR's case in the past about slacking off in this area. I am happy to see the level of detail included here in San Juan. From the road signs to the billboards, I was quite impressed. LatinVFR is showing a much greater level of attention to detail here. 

Okay, lets move away from the airport and start exploring the city. I am amazed at just how big the coverage area is. All the custom handgen (it's not autogen as they are handplaced custom objects) blends quite well into Orbx FTX Global + Vector. Lots and lots of objects! 

Looking at the above shot really shows just how much expanding the coverage area enhances the overall experience. 

The photo coverage could not have been cheap. Kudos on the watermasking skills as well. When approaching from the East, the area is much more sparse and even when not surrounded by those city buildings, the approach is still scenic. Let's head into town! 

Now at the time I prepared this overview, the update was not yet released, But it does exclude some default objects such as the double bridge objects. I really liked the inclusion of the flags of Puerto Rico and the United States placed on the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge connecting San Juan with Isla Verde. Something you would never notice breezing down on final approach. So be sure to explore the city when you visit. Lots of little details like this to see. 

A nice shot showing all the custom objects developed for the scenery. All were hand placed and when looking at the big picture, they show just how they all come together. If I were to add anything to this, I would perhaps like to see more trees in there but I'll count my blessings. Better than counting all those buildings anyway... 

The marinas and port also included. Lot of work!

Besides this, the old Jan Juan airport is also included. It's a lite version, but includes all you need should you choose to land here instead of TJSJ. 

Lets take a look at the photo image. Indeed, very nice work and watermasking. You are sure to enjoy the approach on both ends of the airfield.

By the way, I realize some of you may not know what watermasking is or what the process of watermasking entails. Basically, when a developer purchases a photo image, the areas where there are bodies of water also appear as a 2D overhead photo. When this happens, a developer can either choose to be lazy and simply place the photo water image into the scenery and let you use your imagination, or go the grueling process of editing out the water imagery and code flight simulator to know to fill in these areas with real water. But who are we kidding, there is no water. Lick your screen all you want. You are just going to have to get up and go to the fridge.

Again, very impressed with the photo image and object placement.

Say goodbye to the Sun and things really light up nicely!

What an athmosphere!

City street lights included.

I felt the airport lighting was perhaps a bit dark. But not too dark that you won't find your way around. 

Overall, TJSJ is a terrific product. I really have enjoyed flying in and out of this airport and I have no doubt you will as well. Including the entire city of San Juan is purely the icing on the cake in this scenery and can only hope more developers will follow suit. besides, all this inclusion really makes the scenery. The only real area I would have liked to have seen done better is the terminal and glass textures. If you are a fan of LatinVFR's KMIA, then you will love TJSJ. The quality of texturing is about the same which is why I am griping on this. It's not that the textures are bad. They are not bad at all. But I would have liked to have seen more of an improvement over MIA. Besides this, there is not much negative to say about the work which really shows the direction this team is going in. After your first arrival, I highly recommend grabbing a helicopter and taking a little tour. There is really so much st see.

These days, many developers are stepping up their game in many various facets and in this latest work by LatinVFR, it's very clear where this team is stepping up their game as well. No US or Caribbean collection of airports is complete without San Juan.

Hmm... I wonder what airport & city destination LatinVFR will deliver next? I have no clue but wherever it will be, I already want it. 

Here is the link:

Grab your copy today!

Happy Flighting!

D'Andre Newman