Scenery add-on for Microsoft FS2004


Canada is a sweeping and diverse country and while it has the distinction of being the second largest country in the world, it has a surprisingly small population which for the most part is nestled near the United States border. Our east and west coasts are connected by the Trans-Canada Highway which is 7,821 km in length and is the longest highway in the world. Canada is divided into 10 provinces and three territories, with its western-most province being British Columbia. The capital of British Columbia is Victoria which is located on Vancouver Island and just 69 kilometres to the northeast on the mainland, lays the beautiful city of Vancouver. Until recently Canada has not been high on the list of most add-on developers. Thankfully this is beginning to change and as a Canadian, I am pleased to see that a number of developers have decided to use Canada as a viable area for add-on development, not just from a personal point of view, but as our west coast is home to the majestic Coast Mountains, this is an ideal area for VFR and bush flying since it provides the virtual flyer with some of the most breathtakingly difficult and rugged flying conditions one can experience in FS9.

British Columbia has everything for the VFR or bush pilot in that he or she can fly its many lakes, rivers, streams, rolling hills, valleys and mountains in an almost un-ending variety of natural scenic beauty. One can use a GA aircraft, switch to a helicopter or floatplane, or you can even use one of the freely available boats or cars that can be downloaded from the Internet. Basically the only limit to what can be done in such a vast and diversified area is your own imagination. British Columbia shares its southern border with the state of Washington. This is an area already rich in add-ons for FS9 comprising both freeware and payware. Washington State is the home of Emma Field and many other popular add-ons. In addition the popular whale spotting location ‘Orcas Island’ is located just south of Vancouver. If you venture north of Vancouver you'll find other payware programs such as Misty Fjords, Tongass Fjords, and of course Alaska Cinematic.





This brings us to Vancouver+ and how it transforms a vast and varied part of Western Canada into a virtual flight experience. Vancouver+ re-creates 30,000 km² of British Columbia. To put such a large number into perspective, that’s slightly larger than the State of Maryland! You can literally fly for hours and still remain within the coverage area. Vancouver+ is one of a growing number of add-ons that immerse the simmer by transporting him or her into a completely self-contained virtual world. Gone are the stark boundaries that demarcate most scenery programs where you quickly leave the built-up areas and return to the repetitious default landscape and textures of FS9.

Vancouver+ is a collaborative effort between two scenery designers, notably Jon Patch and Holger Sandmann and the program is published by FSAddon. It has its own dedicated web site and a quick perusal of that site revealed that both authors have taken it upon themselves to ensure that customers are fully satisfied with their purchase. Questions or concerns about Vancouver+ are answered in a friendly and timely fashion. Both Jon and Holger have gone beyond just the usual ‘question and answer’ type of forum and have provided what can only be described as a ‘home’ or perhaps better stated, a ‘community’ for owners of Vancouver+. Speaking of communities, Vancouver+ has an additional web site, ‘Vancouver Landings’ where you can find downloads; which will enhance your enjoyment of Vancouver+, information, the latest news pertaining to the program and various other items which are freely shared by members of the Vancouver+ community. In addition, if you're a cargo pilot and have FSAddon’s FSCargo, you can freely download a file that will allow you to use FSCargo with Vancouver+.

A short note about mesh

The program comes with its own LOD10 mesh, plus buffer mesh and LOD11 mesh for selected areas. If you happen to have your own mesh installed this high-detail mesh will automatically override it. The manual explains mesh priority so I won't go into an explanation here except to state that it will seamlessly integrate with whatever mesh you happen to have, even if you're currently using LOD10 mesh.

LOD or Level of Detail, followed by a number indicates the degree of complexity of the mesh with a higher number indicating more detail and therefore better quality mesh. As a rule of thumb, FS9 comes with LOD5 mesh (there are exceptions to this however) and this level of detail results in a ‘soft and rounded’ look when flying over hills, valleys and mountains. LOD10 mesh gives FS9 a realistic look with mountains showing sharp edges and their inherent ruggedness now being displayed; valleys now take on a more realistic looking appearance and hills roll in harmony with the landscape. The result is that FS9 is transformed to more closely match the real world. Using highly-detailed mesh adds greatly to the immersion factor.




The Manual

Quite simply put, the manual was a pleasure to read. It naturally provides everything that you need to know to get the most out of Vancouver+, but in addition to that, it's written in such a friendly manner that it gives you the feeling of being welcomed into a community of like-minded individuals who are sharing the experience of using Vancouver+. Within its many pages are tips, tweaks and even a story which made for interesting reading. It's freely available as a download from SimMarket. As an aside, the general layout and design of this kind of manual should be the de facto standard for all FS9 scenery programs. Too often an excellent scenery program is let-down by a poorly and quickly written manual. The manual also details (on pages 23 and 24) how to properly adjust scenery layers. This is an area of confusion to many in the flight sim community. The manual explains where and how to place scenery and mesh files. This much misunderstood area of FS9 is clearly explained. Vancouver+ requires that its files are placed in the correct order in the scenery config file. This ensures that it will co-exist with other add-ons and that Vancouver+ will be displayed correctly in FS9. This may sound complicated, but in reality, it's a very easy process and is clearly explained in the manual.


As with any professional program installation requires nothing more than clicking on an executable file and entering your serial number. Once the files have been added to your hard drive, the installer will automatically bring-up the configuration utility. You'll be presented with what appears to be a bewildering array of choices. For now (if you wish), you can just accept the defaults, except for the top-most entry. This is where you'll be asked if you have either of Flight1’s "North America" Ultimate Terrain programs installed. Just check the appropriate boxes (if you have either or both of them installed) and click OK. The configuration utility can be re-run at any time from the start menu if you'd like to customize Vancouver+ at a later time once you're more familiar with the program.

Compatability with other add-ons

Vancouver+ is a complete, stand-alone product. In addition, it’s been designed to seamlessly integrate itself with a large number of freeware and payware programs, most notable being the Ultimate Terrain series produced by Flight1. The manual contains a complete compatibility list, so please download the manual if you have any concerns about the payware programs you are currently using. It's a well-known fact that FS9 is not 100% accurate when it comes to placing coastlines, bodies of water, airports and landmass areas. Unfortunately, freeware developers using the default FS9 coordinates as a guide will also have to incorrectly position their scenery files in order for them to be displayed correctly in FS9. This is a fair trade-off since in giving up real-world accuracy; they're giving the end-user a functional program. Vancouver+ corrects all of these FS9 anomalies and repositions all water bodies, coastlines and airports; and places them into their correct geographical locations. The manual covers a number of freeware programs (a thoughtful inclusion by the designers) and explains which freeware programs will work, which ones are incompatible and others which can be made compatible by the removal or by renaming a few files. The end result is that your freeware and payware programs that lie within the Vancouver+ coverage area will all work in harmony together and they will all now be accurately displayed in their correct real-world locations.




A few words about Vancouver+ before flying

Vancouver+ is a recreation of the city of Vancouver, its environs and much of the surrounding countryside which extends north and east for hundreds of kilometres. At its most southern boundary it extends for a short distance into the state of Washington. Vancouver International Airport (CYVR) isn't included in this release, but is planned as an upgrade at a later date. Pitt Meadows (CYPK), located just 18 miles east of Vancouver has been re-created in great detail and is an ideal starting location or you can use one of the 40 flight files that have been included with the program. Vancouver is a hub of activity; most notable and interesting are the ships and various types of boats which traverse its many waterways. To get a quick overview of the program, I planned a short flight from CYPK with the intention of over-flying the city of Vancouver and landing at CYVR. I say ‘intention’ because in actual fact, I never did land there, but more about that later. Prior to actually flying Vancouver+ I armed myself with a series of real-world maps. First and foremost, a detailed map of the city of Vancouver and then road maps for the remaining coverage area. I also used Google Earth so I would gain a familiarity with the area. Vancouver City has an extensive network of roads, traffic bridges, railway bridges, waterways and even an underground tunnel. The Fraser River itself is peppered with numerous small and large islands. Add to that rolling hills, a harbour, a beautiful mountain skyline in the distance and you have a city that sits like a jewel in the crown of the Pacific Northwest.