Yesterday I posted a story on x-plane and mostly commented on it’s superior scenery engine as opposed to the lack of content that uses it. Later that same evening I installed google earth, a new software package that downloads satellite imagery and annotates it with roads, places, hotels, restaurants etc.
What a brilliant program. It looks awesome (well some places do, mostly inside the US). For example, you can zoom in to about 500 feet altitude, hover a bit over phoenix arizona (and drag it around) and find back the very same pool I swam in six years ago. Mind you, all I had was a vague recollection of what the surroundings looked like and the name of the hotel chain (holiday inn, has many hotels in phoenix). So I zoomed to Scottsdale looked for some green areas. Found a label called holiday inn, with a building that I recalled was similarly shaped to the one I spent about five days and had a correctly shaped pool besides it. Impressive.
My point: why don’t these guys from google spent some time talking to Austin Meyer (the guy who makes x-plane). Google earth beats x-plane in displaying realistic scenery (and any other simulator) hands down, all it lacks is a flightsimulator. It now streams data over the internet. Stream it from harddisk and you stream terrain faster than you can fly.
Of course the engine is not optimized for flightsimulation. It might require a bit more elevation info, some more accurate texture positioning. The quality of the textures however is excellent and better than any satellite based scenery for any flightsimulator I have ever seen. It looks excellent at low altitudes (300 feet).