Saturday, June 21, 2008

WILCO's TowerSim

I had the opportunity of trying out TowerSim, and have to say I was pretty disappointed. I had a longer list of things I didn't like, but here's the major stuff:

  • Graphics are sub par - For today's standards, the graphics are really not very good. Some interesting things, such as shadows that fade into transparency as they get away from the object casting them, and point lights for runways and taxiway lights that do get very small at a distance (unlike the light "gobs" that MSFS has) are good ideas, but the texture resolution, aircraft models, terrain resolution, weather conditions (rain and snow) are not very good.
  • No tower cab - the view from the controller's perspective is simply a point in space, without control panels, monitors, glass or anything else to represent the inside of a tower. It is as if you were floating in space.
  • Aircraft motion - This is a soar point for me. I think part of a realistic and fun Tower Simulator is aircraft moving as they do in the real world. The aircraft I watched tended to fly a precise approach path, without a single foot of variation, hit the runway exactly at the same point, perform no flare whatsoever, and have unrealistic angles of pitch.
  • Controller's interface - The radar scope is very similar to the one I am designing, but the text window that allows the user to control aircraft is cumbersome and slow. It could also have been a bit smarter, such as recognizing "cleared for takeoff runway 9" instead of forcing you to type "cleared for takeoff runway 09".
  • No voice recognition - Controllers don't control via text, they do it via voice. ATCsimulator does a good job at that, so there's no reason these guys couldn't get it right.
  • Robot-like pilot voices - They used about 8 people to record different pilot voices and accents, but the stitching together of words sounds pretty mechanical and unnatural. I have not cracked the nut on this yet, although I have found a couple of expensive text-to-voice engines that can do a great job. I just have to discover how to do it cheaply.
  • Performance issues - I left Chicago O'Hare run without controlling aircraft, and the performance quickly dipped below single-digit frame rates. More and more aircraft showed up, and the simulator had no way of deleting older aircraft, or any other means of stopping it from affecting performance.

All in all, it is not a bad effort, but I expected more. I guess this is good news in the sense that the field is still very much wide open for a good Tower Sim, but I could have been a bit more encouraged by stiffer competition ;).


Jetliner said...

I just started with Tower Simulator a few days ago. In a nutshell, it appears to be a slightly souped up version of BAO Tower - slightly in that it has 3D graphics whereas BAO Tower had primitive 3D aircraft against a bitmap airport panorama.

In terms of audio, I've been playing with the raw files and found them to be very mechanical - I wonder if they are even live people or computer synthesized. With BAO, the audios were all preset which gave them better overall sound but lacked flexibility.

I too opened up KORD and was very quickly overwhelmed - mostly due to the very slow audio. By the time I got one call out of the way, three more were queued up! Very soon, I had dozens of aircraft performing go-arounds and the taxiways were a cluttered mess.

I do like the concept but, there needs to be MUCH more work done on this and I haven't even gotten into the poor textures, 6 sided polygon wheels, aircraft half sunken into the ramp (KSNA) and the ugly aircraft flight performance.

As a developer of FS addons, I would have expected much more from Feelthere and Wilco. Maybe in a later version or update.

Anonymous said...

I too have just purchased TowerSimulator mainly because of BAO Tower. The improvements are astounding. Like you say the Tower could have been created to includ some surroundings ie window frames, desk etc etc. The airplanes and graphics are below what I would have expected seeing as we are now at very capable graphics cards. Speed of voice and text is slow and delays use. Overall a good game which needs more work and advanced designing. For the £40 I paid i am a little dissapointed but look forward to future releases and updates (hopefully). I have waited a long time for this so lets hope Feelthere and Wilco continue to advance with this ATC