Fanboy Friday: Addonpalooza

The crickets are back from Jamaica, and they brought suitcases stuffed full of FS news. It may be fall, but the add-ons are popping up like spring daisies all of a sudden. So, what happened this past week?

Team From Down Under Goes Up & Over

tuscany1Perhaps craving a break from the great south land, OZx released another in their line of freeware FS scenery add-ons recently—oddly enough, covering Italy this time. “Tuscany Complete” is a photo-real terrain patch that drapes a large block of the coastal Italian region of Tuscany with aerial photography. tuscany3Also included are the islands of Elba, Pianosa and Capraia, and all underpinned with high-detail terrain mesh courtesy of the meshmeister himself, Holger Sandmann.

So far, I’ve only had a chance to sample Pisa and its immediate surrounds, but this looks to be a definite winner. You definitely can’t beat the price!

Lightning Strikes Twice

Given its popularity, I’m surprised there haven’t been more P-38 Lightnings done for FSX. David Copley did a brace of them back in the FS9 days, and they were very nicely done. Finally, not one but two teams have turned their attention to the legendary “fork-tailed devil”, giving it the full treatment.

First out of the blocks was Sky Unlimited’s “Legacy of the Sky” package, which includes the P-38J, P-38K, and P-38L variants, with a P-38E photo recon plane thrown in to round things out. The detailing looks good, there are a number of paints included, and for the next couple of days the introductory price is a surprisingly low $17.95. For Lightning lovers, that’s pretty hard to pass up.

In the opposite corner is Milviz/Flight Sim Developers’ P-38J model, whose release is imminent. While it doesn’t cover as many variants as the Sky Unlimited version, the Milviz/FSD model seems aimed at more hardcore detail fanatics (possibly with more hardcore computers as well). The screenshots they’ve shown are astoundingly well done, with excellent detailing and carefully crafted textures. I’m a fan of baked-in shadowing, and their ‘pit really caught my eye. Another feature they’re including is both wartime and modern civilian VC configurations, something I wish more warbird makers would do.

Sibwings Bird Dog Beta Updated

birddogAmong the handful of people who even know they’re working on it, the Sibwings Cessna L-19 Bird Dog is one of the more anticipated releases in a long while. You’ll remember them as the team behind the gorgeous SAAB Safir, an under-appreciated masterpiece if you ask me. I’m fortunate to be on the Bird Dog beta team, and was delighted to get word of a new beta version release this week. After downloading it and tearing around Tuscany, all I can say is wow. These guys are devs after my own heart. Look at this artwork!

birddog-panelThe newest beta includes three versions; standard wheeled, one with skis, and a floatplane. Each has a distinctly different cockpit layout, and all are equally stunning. Sibwings aren’t the most communicative bunch with the greater FS community, but it looks like the project is steaming ahead. I predict this little beauty will definitely make waves when it’s released.

Say Again, Please

This week also brought news from Robert Cezar, the developer of the “It’s Your Plane” audio expansion. This time, he’s tackling one of the biggest pet peeves I have about sim flying: the immersion-killing keyboard interactions with ATC. Microsoft did a pretty good job of simulating radio communications between pilots and controllers, in my opinion. But no matter how good the phraseology is or how natural the voices sound, having to respond to ATC by pressing a keyboard number just isn’t very real.

SuperATC aims to change that. It’s a speech recognition program that attempts to parse your voice replies to the FSX controllers and makes the ATC menu selection for you based on what you said. For instance, when ATC clears you for takeoff, you can just say “Cleared for takeoff” instead of pressing the “1” key. In addition to the default ATC, SuperATC purports to work with the popular Radar Contact add-on as well. Robert’s work in voice recognition for FS deserves more attention than it gets. Did I mention that SuperATC is free? That’s reason enough to trot over to his site and give it a go, I think.

Albatros Reviewed

l39_banner_01

If you’re not already a fan of Nick Churchill’s site, Screenshot Artist, get yer butt over there and check it out. Nick is one of the most talented virtual photographers around (his work is seen in almost every high-end add-on’s publicity these days), and staff writer Ian Pearson is a thoughful and thorough reviewer. The latest article takes a critical look at Lotus Simulation’s groundbreaking L-39 Albatros. Gee, wonder if they liked it?

Breaking News! A2A’s Cub Update 1.1 Released

As I was typing this, I got word that A2A Simulations’ Piper Cub version 1.1 expansion (you read about it here last week) has just been released. I challenge you to a Cub race this weekend. Paddles only!

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