It’s all about immersion…
As most flight simmers do, I always try to create the best illusion of flying. And there are a lot of parameters controlling this illusion like flight model, sound, graphics, weather, surroundings controlled by scenery and so on. One level of illusion we were missing so far was seasonal representation for all seasons. The world just looks different from above when everything is covered with snow. And yeah, flying in Alaska in January seeing green fields and woods… nahhh.
To enter a next stage of immersion in X-Plane, Maxx-XP in co-operation with Sundog Software brought TerraMaxx to us. Now, let’s see what TerraMaxx can do.
After purchasing and downloading TerraMaxx from the X-Aviation store here I started the installation. First of all, you need to have an X-Aviation account which is needed for the purchase and later for the DRM authentication. Everything else is straight forward. You start the installer, do the DRM authentication and choose your X-Plane root directory for installation. The installer will download TerraMaxx, which takes quite a while, and installs everything on its own. That’s all.
One word about X-Aviation and their DRM system: I’ve heard a lot of negative feedback on the web about X-Aviation and especially their copyright protection. I have to say, despite the fact that I’m not a fan of such an online DRM mechanism (what happens if I’m offline or even worse, the DRM server goes offline?), I have had no issues with it so far and I’m using SkyMaxx Pro now for about 6 months or so. Also support worked fine for me. This is just my personal experience and I hope this will not change in the future.
After finishing the installation I and starting X-Plane the first thing I noticed was… nothing changed. This is because you have to activate TerraMaxx in the plug-in menu. Per default it is switched off. So I went to the menu, and switched TerraMax to Auto Mode first (I’ll get back to the settings soon). And indeed, after loading the new, changed scenery files, I was just in the middle of a Winter Wonderland. Everything was covered with snow. Nice!
A Closer Look
Time to have a closer look at the product, what it is and of course, what it is not.
TerraMaxx basically is just some set of textures replacing the default X-Plane scenery files and a plug-in that takes control of the replacement. Sounds quite easy but with X-Plane behind, such a process may become complex.
There are currently four sets of seasonal textures: Summer, which also covers Spring, Autumn and two sets of Winter, mild and deep Winter. In the deep Winter scenery everything is covered with snow while the mild Winter is a bit more moderate. The plug-in controls the loading of the scenery either manually where you can choose a season or automatically. In Auto Mode, TerraMaxx tries to determine which season should be loaded by your current position, date and temperature.
This automatic mode is nice, but also somewhat complicated, since you need to load your flight before TerraMaxx is able to determine which set of textures should be loaded. This causes some extra loading time which is indicated by a small pop-up window in the lower left corner of the sim. Unfortunately this isn’t a background process and therefore X-Plane is blocked as long as TerraMaxx is loading the new textures. This will be even worse if it happens during flight time because especially on long range flights position and temperature may change dramatically (imagine a flight from PANC to PHNL during Winter). On my system the sim just stop for about 3 minutes whenever TerraMaxx had to load new textures. I don’t know exactly what is happening behind the scenes, but it would definitely be a big improvement for the product if it would be possible to do this in the background, so X-Plane is not going to be blocked during this loading process.
Another important point to mention is that TerraMaxx will not work with ortho scenery. This is by design, though. TerraMaxx is based on the same concept as the default scenery. So we have some different scenery textures for each season. Doing something similar with orthophotos would mean either to modify the ortho imagery on the fly during loading times or modifying the orthophotos in advance. The first option would cause a heavy CPU/GPU load and an increasing load time, the second option would increase the needed disk space. There might be a third option by using some kind of shaders to create seasoned ground textures on the fly, but I’m in doubt regarding the visual quality of such a solution.
Lastly TerraMaxx does not work with most custom airport scenery as usually they don’t utilize stock X-Plane textures. This is also somewhat a basic X-Plane design issue. Nevertheless, TerraMaxx provides an interface for scenery builders which enables them to make their scenery compatible with TerraMaxx. A TerraMaxx compatible third-party scenery will therefor support automatic season change.
And of to answer the most obvious question: Does it have any impact on my framerate? No, as far as I noticed it doesn’t!
Shortly after the release of TerraMaxx, the developer also released UrbanMaxx v3 TerraMaxx Edition for free. Maxx-XP plan to release several of these “modules” (as they call them) for free. According to the developer there are no solid plans to share at the moment but there are ideas floating around:
One thing people keep asking for are bare trees as an example…… this is definitely something I can create in the “module” format. GlacierMaxx, already available at X-Pilot, is a module I haven’t added to my site yet
- TerraMaxx is fully compatible with alpilotx HD-Mesh 4
- TerraMax is not compatible with MisterX6 HD Forests. Instead it provides its own set of HD tree textures
The Plug-in Control
As already mentioned, you can control TerraMaxx’ settings using the plug-in menu. There you will find the following options:
- Auto: In automatic mode TerraMaxx tries to determine the correct season based on your position, simulated date and temperature
- Off: This switches TerraMaxx off. No more seasonal representation then
- Summer: Manual selection of the Summer textures
- Autumn: Manual selection of the Autumn textures
- Mild Winter: Manual selection of the Mild Winter textures
- Deep Winter: Manual selection of the Deep Winter textures
- Deep Winter Temp: Determines the maximum temperature at which the Deep Winter textures are loaded in automatic mode.
- Post FX: Switches on some shading when Winter scenery is enabled to provide a more realistic representation of a cold and dry atmospherical setting. If you are using a post-shader tool like ReShade or Maxx-FX you won’t need this.
Summer textures seem to look as usual. It just looks like it always did which isn’t a surprise at all, because it is what we always had in X-Plane: Endless Summer (… somehow this reminds me of a Beach Boys album).
Whoo… something happened! Trees and fields have changed colors to a more reddish style. It definitely looks like Autumn and it definitely looks nice.
Yeah… Winter will of course be the most obvious visual change in the scenery. Everything is covered by snow. The ground, trees and buildings are white. This looks really great. You may notice that at some areas the snow looks like it’s not covering the ground completely – yes, it’s a mild Winter. You should note that you need to use X-Plane’s stock scenery if you want to have the buildings covered in white. In case you use third-party scenery like X-Europe, this won’t be the case.
One word about Mild Winter: I don’t know where the TerraMax developers live and how a Mild-Winter looks like over there. But I live in the middle of Germany, Central Europe, and let me tell you, Mild Winter over here looks quite different. If we have snow, than it’s just for one or two hours in the morning until sun rises and melts it away. Mild Winter here is almost grey with bald trees without foliage and nothing covered with snow. Starting during Mild Winter at EDKB in X-Plane where everything is white and taking a look out of my Window in real where I can see EDKB and there’s no snow at all is somewhat strange and kills immersion a bit.
Here we go. Alaska feeling! I think I have to mount Ski’s to my Beaver and take a ride from Talkeetna to the Mt. Denali National Park. Everything is covered with thick white snow. Really, really nice. I like it!
In my personal opinion I believe TerraMaxx is a good product which can, and hopefully will, be improved over time. My main issues with TerraMaxx are first, the loading times for textures. Not exactly the amount of time needed to load the scenery but the fact that X-Plane is blocked during that time. And second, the missing Winter setting for a situations without snow (read above what I said about mild winter in Germany). There’s also a bit of room for improvement with the tree textures for Autumn and Winter (trees don’t have foliage in Winter – at least not where I live).
The textures themselves do look really great and convincing in my opinion and they definitely improve immersion on a quite high level.
I also believe, TerraMaxx is kind of a niche product. It is not for fans of ortho scenery and due to the interruptions whenever TerraMaxx loads new textures, at the current stage, probably also not for airliner pilots and definitely not for PilotEdge, VATSIM or IVAO pilots. This may change if Maxx-XP find a way to get rid of this load time blocking. At least I hope they can.
I do believe TerraMaxx is a good add-on for General Aviation pilots, like me, who do not use ortho scenery. Those pilots who typically do 1-2 hour flights and stay within a single geographical region will get really nice seasonal representation without being annoyed by mid-flight interruptions. If you are such a pilot, I would say TerraMax is worth a try.
My recommendation to the Maxx-XP: Go ahead! Please keep up the good work and improve this product! I’m sure once you find a solution for the scenery loading times, you’ll find even more customers in the range of airliner fans.
TerraMaxx is available exclusively via X-Aviation for $39.95 USD here.
- System: email@example.comGHz, 16GB RAM, NVIDIA GTX 1080-Ti, 2x 1TB SSD
- X-Plane: Version 11.11r2 on a dedicated SSD
- Plug-ins: NOAA Weather, SkyMaxx Pro with RealWeather Connector
- Scenery: HD Mesh v4
- Aircraft: Blackshape Prime by dmax3d (Link)