Orbx Landmarks : Brisbane City and YBBN for X-Plane 12
In August of last year, X-Plained.com provided a comprehensive review of the then newest release from Orbx for X-Plane 11. That release was the Brisbane Airport which was billed as Orbx’s most detailed work for X-Plane 11 to date. This year, their first release for X-Plane 12 is that very same airport, modified, repaired, and updated for X-Plane 12. Along with the Brisbane airport, Orbx is introducing the Landmarks concept to X-Plane with the release of Landmarks Brisbane.
For this review, we’ll take a quick tour of the updates to the airport and then fly around the landmarks of Brisbane to see what this new concept is all about.
Installation of the dual package is a little different than other Orbx product installations. First off is the consideration that you are installing two separate packages so the process needs to be done for the airport and the landmarks. The order in which you install them is insignificant. In any case, the installation is done using the Orbx Central application that allows you to install the items in either the X-Plane Custom Scenery folder or a library folder you specify within the Orbx Central settings.
When you install to the library folder, Orbx Central creates links in the Custom Scenery folder to the items in the library. Normally, this is a flawless procedure that allows you some flexibility in managing your available free disk space.
Orbx informs us at the end of the description of the Brisbane city pack of the need to follow some additional detailed instructions that come with that pack if you are using it with YBBN. Those instructions explain how to delete the mesh files that come with each pack and replace them with a mesh that combines both.
If you install these packages to the library folder, you will need to manually create the link in the Custom Scenery folder for this replacement folder since it is not done as part of the installation and there is no automatic method for doing this. Interestingly, if you install the product to your Custom Scenery folder and then move it to your library, Orbx Central will move the combined mesh folder and create a shortcut for it in you Custom Scenery folder.
If you do not know how to create a link with your operating system, you would be well advised to install the scenery directly to the Custom Scenery folder and leave it there or use Orbx Central to move it to the library. You also need to be aware that if you use the verify files function of Orbx Central, the deleted mesh folders will be replaced and require deletion once again. Lastly, make sure to check your scenery_packs.ini file to make sure everything is listed in the proper order as per the instructions.
Lastly, with regards to installation, you will need to install the Living Scenery Technology plug-in to take advantage of the animated boats on the Brisbane River. The latest version of X-Codr Designs plug-in can be found here, but you may need to download the legacy 1.07 version since the 1.08.1 version kept crashing my sim. You will also need to install the SAM plugin that is available through Orbx Central.
YBBN Update Version 1.2
Let’s take a brief look at YBBN updates for X-Plane 12. For the comprehensive review of YBBN for X-Plane 11, please visit this link.
Some of the changes to Brisbane Airport are significant while many are minor. The significant changes to the airport include changed (and corrected) ground markings and compatibility with the new weather effects of XP12.
The ground markings from the orthophoto texture used for the airport tarmac have all been eliminated from those areas where they had bled through to intermix with the markings created by Orbx. Markings also tend to appear clearer and corrections to any errors have been made.
The weather effects for Brisbane will be limited to various states of wetness and these have been implemented quite well from light to heavy standing water on the aprons, taxiways, and runways. Repairs to Brisbane Airport include mesh improvements where some items that were buried half in the ground no longer are and the massively difficult dip attempting to taxi to the closed airport using D1 is now a manageable bump.
In my last review, I commented upon the reflectivity of the glass in the newer building of the International Terminal. The developers at Orbx have turned their attention to that glass and it, along with other locations, seem to possess a higher level of reflectivity.
As with everything in the X-Plane universe, the Brisbane Airport scenery benefits immensely from the new environment created by X-Plane 12. This, along with the changes made by Orbx, keep YBBN at the top of the list as one of the best modeled airports available for X-Plane.
Brisbane Landmarks and Skyline
One of the things about product reviews is they always show you pictures that make everything look spectacular and tout how much better they make your experience in the sim. Have you ever gone to look at an area you’re not familiar with before buying a product for that area?
Well, given that this package is all about improving a small area of your flight experience and charging you money to do that, I thought it might be worth looking at what things look like that don’t cost you money. Why look at a slew of details if the overall effect from the air is insignificant?
So, here are some screenshots that make that comparison for you (all versions shown with identical X-Plane 12 graphics settings). The early results say the Brisbane scenery is worth the money if you fly regularly in the area.
Here is the default X-Plane 12 version of Brisbane.
The next quick example is the freely available SimHeaven X-World Australia Oceania. What I’ve seen I can tell you that the frame rate hit for this configuration is the same, if not even a little more, than the hit for the Orbx package.
And now …. what if you purchase Orbx Landmarks: Brisbane City Pack.
Our initial view shows us a more detailed, varied, and colorful skyline as well as an orthophoto terrain that vastly improves the river shoreline. Trees, and other greenery, placement is customized and more accurate.
Most importantly, landmark buildings are custom models that duplicate the real-world appearance of those structures. What we can’t see in this view are the number of smaller landmark buildings and other structures that Orbx has included in this package.
Buildings and Structures
I have mentioned in other reviews that Orbx frequently sends me off on a learning adventure with their scenery. Brisbane is no different. Some of the buildings are so fascinating in their detail and unique in their appearance that I had to go and find out what they were. This made for a very time-consuming review process, but it turns out to be well worth it. I only wish Orbx would include a map of highlights with their projects because I know I haven’t seen all of them.
However, with my own map in hand and helicopter in the air, here is a glimpse at some of the highlights that demonstrate the quality of the Orbx developer’s work in assembling this scenery package.
This model of Brisbane’s tallest building is a demonstration of accurate modeling with highlights and shadows defining breaks, both large and small, in the smooth glass surface. Reflectivity properties are well defined. The one drawback is the building floats above the ground.
The One (300 George St. Residential Tower)
An 81-floor residential building with glass and sculptured features.
1 William St.
A 49 (3 below ground) story building demonstrating a very high reflectivity quotient while utilizing a photographic skin over the accurately modeled structure. The photos do not have a seamless blend.
One of the older buildings in the scenery showing off a nice use of varying textures. The green copper roof is showing its age.
One of two former government buildings on the heritage site list is home to the Treasury Brisbane Casino. Features custom night lighting and makes use of photography and modeling to provide the exterior wall covering which appears to be missing an entrance. Otherwise, the modeling of this building is very well done with a myriad of surface textures and varying reflective properties.
Land Administration Building
The second former government building from the late 1800’s on the heritage site list is home to the Treasury Brisbane Hotel. This building features a bit more modeling for the exterior walls but also does not feature an entryway to the building.
Next door to the Treasury Building is an architecturally accurate representation of a uniquely styled building featuring multiple combined elements of varying textures and design. The building is skillfully rendered and features its own custom night lighting.
You will find a number of these along the Brisbane River where the City Cat ferry boats dock. These structures are small but complex models with various textures and reflective properties that are expertly presented. Animated ferry boats service them.
South Bank: The Wheel of Brisbane and Others
This representation of the famous tourist attraction is an animated object. It will run for a time then stop and restart. It seems to be missing a few gondolas, but the ones present are accurately closed as opposed to open seats. Posessing its own custom night lighting, you will find it in front of the also custom lit Queensland Performing Arts Centre and Griffin University buildings. Also here along the south bank is the South Bank Plaza.
Another ferry stop with a big difference and some fancy modelling of some intricate structures found along the City Beach Boardwalk which you will find partially rendered a little upriver from here.
Brisbane City Hall
Identified most readily from the air by its predominant clock tower, this is a nicely crafted piece of modeling that combines structure with photographic skin. This building does feature an entryway and is easily missed from the air given its location amongst the taller buildings.
Old Museum Brisbane
Constructed in 1891, this building has been seen as both a concert performance hall and a museum. The model here is very close to being identical to the actual building with the brick texture providing a very realistic look to the piece.
One of the two stadiums that is located within the scenery package area. Very nicely done but the night lighting seems a bit dim for a venue such as this. Be forewarned if you are a helicopter pilot: do not try and land on the field, you will go through it!
The second stadium that falls within Landmarks Brisbane is also well modeled. The night lighting for this stadium is more satisfactory than the Hyundai Center. The helicopter pilot warning applies here also.
There are many other places of interest that you can spend much time exploring and examining. I will leave those for you to discover.
The Brisbane landmarks buildings add several helipads to the area. Each helipad is located at a hospital, so it is a good time to take out those med evac units to shuttle patients around.
YRBH Royal Brisbane and Women’s (Brisbane) Hospital
Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital is comprised of several buildings. The helipad that serves as one you can designate to start a flight is located on the parking structure outside the cancer research unit. The challenge here is to make sure you know where the crosswinds are coming from to avoid getting pushed into the building since there is no windsock to indicate the direction or strength. YBBN ATIS can be tuned but is difficult to hear.
The hospital also features an inaccurately modeled second pad on top of the older building that is usable once you are in flight and is referred to as YRBH (Alpha) by OZrunways. According to OZrunways, this is the primary helipad for the hospital with the parking structure (Charlie) only being used for multiple helicopter use.
The pads are well lit for night flights and the default helipad is under YRBH Charlie so the rotating beacon is still functioning.
YPRI Princess Alexandra (Mater) Hospital
One of the more interesting, architecturally, buildings in the scenery package is also a very interesting helipad. This one is located at the end of the building and has a suspended walkway that connects it to the elevator entrance in a tower a distance away from the shaft. It is a large green pad correctly identified. According to OZrunways, the challenge here is to “Ensure landing is in centre of pad to prevent activation of sprinkler IR sensors”.
The pad can be easily found at night due to its lighting as well as the beacon from the default pad remaining under the building.
YMAT Queensland Childrens Hospital (Alexandra)
This is a large, hulking building that is masterfully created. The building houses four hospitals: the captioned hospital, the Mater Children’s Private Hospital, Mater Mother’s Private Brisbane Hospital, and Mater Hospital. The starting helipad is designated for Children’s Hospital. It is an incorrectly placed and inaccurately rendered helipad.
The real pad (YXQC) is located on the opposite side of the building and is identical to the large green one at the other end of the building. It is designed as YXLC Childrens. All three helipads are functional once you have begun a flight although the middle one, in real life, has been shut down and marked with a large white “X”. YMAT is the pad at the opposite end of the building. (source: Google Maps and OZrunways)
The autogen utilized by Orbx does a lot to enhance the overall look of the project. The buildings use a variety of appropriate photographic textures to wrap the structures in a way that creates a convincing panorama of a bustling city environment. The autogen, for the very greatest part, generates what seem to be the proper type of structure for the spot it is occupying.
There are exceptions but these are not noticeable from flight level. The colors and style seem to be regionally appropriate, and the models are well defined and provide a significant variance in shapes and sizes to keep things interesting.
Where the autogen becomes problematic is when it plows into custom models, stacks on top of each other, and interferes with the scenery. Fortunately, most of this is not noticed unless you are flying very low, very slow, and, on top of that, looking for it. A couple of instances jumped out pretty well, though, when engaging in VFR flight. The first example is at the transportation hub where the old train station nestles between the platform canopies and the new, much larger building. The old station is a heritage site building and everything around it has been custom modeled. The use of the autogen building in that spot is very distracting and disruptive to the scene and draws attention to that building not being part of the custom model.
Another rather noticeable instance, mostly because it sits between the two helipads, is at the Brisbane Hospital. Here, the building that connects the two modeled buildings is replaced by autogen and the pedestrian bridge that connects the whole network of buildings is missing.
And, of all places, this is where three types of autogen buildings decide to merge together to replicate a single building. It would be nice to add the missing building and clean up the autogen If the developers return to this scenery.
One cannot complete a review of this landmark package without at least a glance at the night lighting of the area since Orbx touts the custom lighting as one of the features of the scenery package.
Brisbane is not only a highlight of custom lighting, it is also greatly impacted by the new lighting model of X-Plane 12. The depth of the structures really comes to life as the shadows and highlights dance around the rooftops and the streets darken between the tall buildings. Everything is in a clear relief that enhances the flight experience.
We’ve seen a couple examples of the night lighting specific to the structures we discussed. There are many that were not covered that feature some very creative lighting that Orbx has brought into the simulation. When all this lighting is taken together, the impact is very delightful right down to it telling two different stories on either side of the river.
There is not a lot to say about this subject, but some people would like to know the impact. In the X-Plane generic world with the settings I use, it is not uncommon for me to be flying with a frame rate of 60 fps or sometimes higher. Heavy cloud cover can bring this down as I’m sure you’ve all experienced.
When I take the same aircraft into the Orbx vicinity, that frame rate has dropped to as low as 20fps when facing a specific direction. Other than that, it is running mostly in the neighbourhood of 25 – 30 fps. It is a big hit and I believe most of this is due to the custom texture and the use of orthophotos.
Without a doubt, the first Landmarks package from Orbx adds a very distinctive touch to the area of the X-Plane world it addresses. Let’s review what we have seen.
The well-done category is extensive. Orbx tells us we can expect to see over 100 custom-made objects. I have not done the count and I know I have not seen them all. The ones I have seen are impressive with their accurate modeling and fine details bringing a real-life sensibility into the sim environment.
Add in the bridges, ferry docks with moving ferries, and the other animated boats on the river and Brisbane really comes to life. The autogen is sufficiently detailed and regionally specific to add to the overall impact of realism to the area. It is not an extensive area in terms of square mileage so running into the boundary with the default autogen is easy to do and clearly demonstrates the impact of the Orbx work. The included orthoimagery and mesh increase the depth and realness of the scenery.
The few glitches I have seen appear to be limited to autogen issues including the wrong type of building placed in an area and custom model incursions. Very few of these will make their presence known unless you are engaging in a thorough scrutiny of the scenery package so should be considered as fairly insignificant.
VFR and helicopter pilots familiar with the area may find a little disappointment here and there where Orbx chose to model part of a facility rather than the entire complex. Just as a note : it would be great to see some improvements to the helicopter pads that are included in the scenery. More attention to the accuracy and detail of these pads would be greatly appreciated. For now, the pads are functional, and each provides its own challenge especially if you don’t know the wind conditions at the pad. Given X-Plane 12’s detailed flight model, airflow bouncing off a structure can make a difference.
Considering all aspects of this scenery package leads to the conclusion that it is well worth the asking price especially if you own, or plan to purchase Brisbane Airport. The two complement each other very well, especially if you consider the detailed surroundings of the airport included in that package. It is very likely that the value increases for VFR pilots and using landmarks for flight and helicopter pilots doing the same as well as looking for more realistic places to conduct missions to and from.
As always, corrections and helpful criticism is always welcome. Feel free to comment in the section below.
Until next time, cheers and blue skies!
|Payware Orbx YBBN Airport and Landmarks: City of Brisbane X-Plane 12
|Publisher | Developer:
|Orbx X-Plane 12 Oceania | Orbx
|Orbx YBBN Airport and Landmarks: City of Brisbane X-Plane 12
|Software Source / Size:
|Download / Approximately 7GB (download)
|June 4th 2023
|- Ryzen 9 5950X CPU @ 3.40GHz
- 64 GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 10 GB GDDR6X
- Honeycomb Alpha Yoke
- Honeycomb Bravo Quadrant
- CH Products Pedals
|- Windows 11
- X-Plane 12.05