In the last few weeks, we’ve seen two high resolution terrain mesh addons for New Zealand released. Firstly Orbx’s payware 10m resolution NZ Mesh, followed by @mikeaat9612’s free Interpolated 10m DEM over on flightsim.to.
As a kiwi aviator who is pretty familiar with seeing my country’s landscapes from above, I have naturally downloaded both of these and conducted some test flying to see is there are any pros and cons I could pick between the two addons. The route I chose was from Wellington (NZWN) to Wanaka (NZWF), along the spine of the mountainous South Island using the Carenado PA34 as my performance benchmark.
I started off with the Orbx mesh loaded, flying with real world weather, in the middle of the day. Whilst the screenshots might look as amazing as the promo screenshots on OrbxDirect, performance was fantastic, with FPS sitting between 40 and 50 the whole way and no stutters to speak of, however low cloud did roll in over the terrain towards the last part of the flight defeating the purpose of the comparison somewhat.
After landing, I closed the sim, swapped out the Orbx mesh for the freeware DEM in my community folder, rebooted the computer and flew the reverse leg. This time I set the cloud base to above mountain tops, and feel like the screenshots came out looking a little more cinematic- mainly due to the fact that flying north towards the sun added dramatic backlighting to the landscape.
Whilst the terrain below did look very impressive, the sim seemed to have a little stutter approximately every minute and a half (I started timing the intervals after a while) from 40FPS down to single digits momentarily. My guess was loading of the next area of mesh I was flying towards, with the total unzipped freeware mesh folder sitting at 9.72GB compared to Orbx’s 523MB! This may not be the case for everyone- but this was a bit of an immersion killer whilst flying a light twin at a groundspeed of 170 knots on a dedicated MSFS rig with a solid state hard drive. I’d be interested to hear if others report the same?
I also noticed some fairly major glitches present in the freeware mesh, with two huge artificial ravines running east/west across the span of the South Island between Christchurch and Wellington. On another flight, I also observed D’Urville Island (a 150km square mountainous island located in the Marlborough Sounds) textured with water tiles rather than land.
Based on these observation, Orbx’s payware gets my vote as the one to keep installed. Thier website blurb says future updates will see the DEM get increased in res to 1 metre in some locations from LIDAR data.
That being said, I absolutely love the fact that freeware mesh’s are being released by the community for MSFS and Mikeatt’s has done an amazing job, better than any freeware mesh release I think I’ve seen in my 15+ years of simming. His other releases for the Canary Islands, Balearics and Scandinavia are smaller in filesize and run flawlessly. This thread is just one persons humble opinion and I’d be interested to hear what other simmers are thinking!