Friday, 24 May 2019

Ultra Weather XP V2.5: Storm Clouds

It has taken a while, but finally we can say that X-Plane clouds have reached a point where they are comparable to some of the fluffy formations found under the skies of the ESP platform with the likes of HiFi and REX!

Ultra Weather XP V2.5 has seemingly broken the boundaries of cloud depiction to bring you fabulously rendered clouds with a superior cloud passing effect thrown in.

For $35 you get a modest selection of cloud types to choose from, each with varying degrees of blue tint. You also receive lighting effects along with open water colours too.

You have to jump through one or two hoops in order to inject the textures into your active environment (reload textures), but this is clearly explained in the accompanying PDF.

I must say that it all looks fantastic, and even if it doesn't offer thunderous towering CB's, for a short exquisite moment, all was well with my X-Plane cloud surfing.

However, the immersion was broken when after a long flight I found myself descending on finals to the point where I expected the clouds to fade away leaving the airport smack bang in front of me...

...but the clouds on this particular day were stubborn. Instead of shrinking away, they stayed solid and unyielding. No problem I thought, some excellent variance in the cloud base is no bad thing, and really I should have listened to the updated ATIS.

No, I was to be disappointed because my clouds went right down to sea level instead of sitting obediently at the METAR indicated 2000'. Let me be clear that this was a two thousand foot discrepancy.

And history repeated itself on my next flight. In fact I wasn't alone because other users were reporting on the UWXP Facebook page that their clouds were often similarly at odds with the ground.

The developer is clear that there is no way around this problem, and that the essence of the issue is to do with 4K texturing and Laminar Research's terrain blending. You at least get a slider to add blending in case things don't appear as they should.

UWXP has a feature called "Avoid Cut-Off" which can be set to auto in an effort to determine where the cloud base should lie in the case of cloud vs. terrain issues. There is a manual option in the form of a slider to raise or lower the cloud base, but the trouble is that one doesn't know where to set the slider until literally breaking out of cloud. Auto in my case resulted in entirely wayward cloud bases which in my book is a no-no when flying VFR or IFR under IMC or VMC conditions. Sorry, but cloud base lottery isn't a game that I wish to play.

There are excellent things about this package such as it being VR ready, but I would say that it is better suited to VFR flight than IFR for IMC

Flight simulation: It's always going to be a bitter sweet blend of technical headaches and mind blowing experiences. In this case, it is both.

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