Scenery - V8

What scenery is available for X-Plane V8?

The scenery format has been completely redesigned for X-Plane V8. It uses a variable elevation mesh that allows much more accurate modelling of hilly areas with greater space efficiency. It also allows much more flexible assignment of textures to the elevation mesh and will make the creation of photo-realistic scenery much easier.

Global scenery for latitudes from 54 degrees south to 60 degrees north is now available as a 7 DVD kit. The kit is available from either the X-Plane order page, or from the store. For details, see the global scenery page. The older single DVD X-Plane kit includes an earlier version of the generation 8 scenery for the continental US and the old generation 7 scenery for the entire world.

Note that while version 8 supports version 7 scenery, it does not support the autogen feature. This means that the generation 7 scenery looks a little barren. The gen 8 scenery uses a different method of representing structures. At present areas outside the continental US also have no buildings. Buildings are defined in the scenery, but the building objects are not yet complete.

How do I install the scenery?

Normally, installing X-Plane V8 off the DVD will automatically install the scenery. If you've already installed X-Plane without the scenery and now want to install it manually, see the Installation and Upgrade page for directions.

Is the scenery available for download?

The gen 8 scenery is not available for download. The gen 7 scenery is the same as the worldwide scenery that's been in use since X-Plane 6.70. It is available for download at the  Global Scenery Project. For download and installation information, see the V7 scenery page.

There is an alternate global scenery package available, the X-Plane SRTM scenery. It is a remake of the V7 global scenery, using elevation data from the Space Shuttle radar terrain mapping project.

Is there custom scenery available available?

There are many add-on scenery packages available for download at the X-Plane scenery registry. Caution! X-Plane scenery format has changed over time, and different versions tend to be incompatible. Check the version number in the description. X-Plane V8 accepts scenery in the V7 and V8 formats.

Can I use scenery packages from Microsoft Flight Simulator?

No. The formats are completely different.

But... There is a scenery plugin available that loads MSFS scenery objects and custom textures into X-Plane. This does not give you complete MSFS scenery in X-Plane, but it does populate the somewhat barren X-Plane default scenery with all the MSFS objects.

How do I install custom scenery?

Simply extract the custom scenery archive into your Custom Scenery folder. You should end up with a folder with the name of the custom scenery package inside the Custom Scenery folder. For more information on how a scenery package should be structured, read on...

The taxiways at my airport don't look at all right

The taxiways on many small airports are arbitrary. The problem is that while the runways come from US Government data (DAFIF), there is no data for taxiways in a usable encoding that anyone is aware of (or at least, available at a reasonable price for use in X-Plane). The major (and other) airports that have accurate taxiways are that way because someone sat down and entered them by hand.

If you're sufficiently motivated, you can fix it yourself. See the Building Scenery page for details.

How is scenery structured?

All X-Plane scenery (with the exception of the gen 7 default scenery) is organized into scenery packages. Each scenery package is contained in a single folder with the package's name. The package folder should contain the following folders:

Custom Terrain Textures
Custom Objects
Custom Object Textures
Earth Nav Data

These folders contain the obvious data. The Earth Nav Data folder may contain any of the nav data files (apt.dat, nav.dat, etc.) It also contains numbered folders with ENV (gen 7) or DSF (gen 8) terrain files. The DSF or ENV files control the appearance and loading of the scenery package. They contain references to the objects and textures that make up the rest of the scenery package.

You'll find a worked example in the Custom Scenery folder named X-Plane Default Demo Area. Note that the ENV or DSF files in the package supersede their counterparts in the default scenery. However, the apt.dat file is merged into the default version. This allows you to include small versions of these files containing just modified airports with custom taxiways, new navaids, etc., in the custom scenery package.

What do the numbers on the scenery files and folders mean, anyway?

Scenery files and folders are organized into a grid by latitude and longitude. Each scenery file covers one square degree of the earth and is named according to its coordinates. For example, the file +42-089.dsf covers the square degree that has 42 degrees North and 89 degrees West as its south-west corner. Each folder contains all the scenery files for a 10 degree square. So +42-089.dsf would be contained in the +40-090 folder. The numbered scenery folders are contained in the Earth Nav Data folder of the scenery package.

How does X-Plane choose which scenery to load?

X-Plane searches the custom and default scenery folders for DSF and ENV scenery files that correspond to the area in which you're flying. It needs 6 files corresponding to the 3x2 degree area of the current local region. To find these, it searches first the Custom Scenery folder and then the Resources/Default Scenery folder in alphabetical order for scenery packages. Each square degree is loaded with whatever DSF or ENV file is found first. (Within a scenery package X-Plane searches for DSF files before ENV files - this should normally not be important.) If this search doesn't turn up a matching scenery file, X-Plane searches the Resources/Earth Nav Data folder, which is where the default gen 7 ENVs are.

Note: The use of the Resources/Earth Nav Data folder is deprecated; only the gen 7 default scenery should be put here.

I have noticed that when I am running X-Plane every once in a while X-Plane freezes for several seconds.

X-Plane is loading new scenery. The scenery is organized into one degree squares. The Local Maps window contains a 3x2 degree patch of the terrain and X-Plane keeps you more or less in the center of that window by loading whole degrees of scenery as you move. Scenery loads take more time than just reading the scenery in; all the scenery textures have to scaled according to the rendering options. X-Plane makes multiple copies of the textures at varying precomputed resolutions to optimize graphics performance.

I see only water when I move out of southern California.

You haven't installed the remaining scenery, or you have't installed it correctly. For details, see the Upgrade/Install page.

There's one other gotcha which seems really dumb but happens surprisingly often: If you have multiple X-Plane folders on your system (i.e., multiple versions of X-Plane), make sure you're installed the scenery to the right folder!

Why am I getting "missing scenery" messages when my scenery is correctly installed?

This is new behavior in 8.60. Scenery is packaged in one file per square degree of the earth's surface, but there are no files where there is open ocean. X-Plane's local map always shows a 3x2 degree area. If you are located at, say, a coastal airport, then part of the local map may be open ocean and there will be no corresponding scenery file. X-Plane reports this as a missing scenery file since it has no inherent way of knowing whether there should be a file there or not. You can turn the warning message off in the Settings->Operations and Warnings menu.

After I've flown a short distance in the San Francisco area, X-Plane crashes,  or

Parts of the San Francisco area are water.

The same problem applies to a couple of other areas as well.

There are a couple of corrupt scenery files for this area on the original 8.01 DVD. (DVDs with later versions of X-Plane do not have this problem.) Replacement files are available at the scenery development beta page. Early 8.x versions crash with the bad scenery files; versions after about 8.04 should be more graceful and simply not load the corrupt scenery files. The following is the complete list of corrected scenery files:
+27-082, +28-082, +29-085, +29-090, +29-091, +30-090, +41-125
+42-090, +43-088, +44-104, +45-102, +45-119, +45-120, +48-101

Why is there water at the US border?

Even though I have both the US and worldwide scenery installed correctly, when I fly just outside the US (examples: Toronto, south of San Diego) there is no land.

This is a problem with the transition between the generation 8 and generation 7 scenery; it's been seen elsewhere as well. The generation 8 scenery is limited quite literally to the continental US. However, the X-Plane scenery (both old and new) is packaged in 1 square degree units. Those that run along the US border are only partially filled (with US territory) and omit terrain outside the US borders. However, their presence overrides the use of the corresponding generation 7 scenery folder.

For Toronto in particular, you'll notice that the gen 8 file +43-080.dsf is only 311KB, indicating that it contains a snip of western New York and nothing else. (Other DSFs are typically several MB, depending on the terrain.)

Until the global gen 8 render is available, you can eliminate the gaps by removing or renaming just the border DSFs. (For the US/Canadian border, the highest latitude available for each degree of longitude; for example, in the Toronto area, +44-077.dsf, +43-078.dsf, +43-079.dsf, +43-080.dsf, +42-081.dsf, etc.) This is a trade-off. The gen 8 scenery has better detail, in particular, much better road detail. So you get your choice between good road detail out to the US borders or complete terrain into Canada and Mexico.

What happened to all the autogen structures??

The autogen scenery feature that was present in versions 6 and 7 of X-Plane has been dropped. Version 8 incorporates buildings as part of the scenery creation process, rather than having the sim populate the scenery with buildings "on the fly", as it were.

So where are all the buildings outside the continental US?

Building styles vary by region, and the building libraries for other parts of the world are not finished yet. They will be released in future X-Plane updates.

How does X-Plane decide whether an area is land or water?

In some scenery, some areas that look like land act like water (i.e., you sink if you try to land on them.)

The answer depends on whether you're using gen 7 (.env) or gen 8 (.dsf) scenery.

Gen 8 scenery is straightforward. It is divided into triangles, and each triangle is either land or water, and has a corresponding appearance.

Gen 7 scenery is divided into squarish patches; each patch is either wet or dry. However, the appearance doesn't completely match because terrain texture boundaries run down the middle of the patches. Here's the complete dope from Ben:
Regarding this second-to-last point, X-Plane cannot "see" the alpha channel, so it cannot know the precise land/water changeover point.

How do I edit terrain in the V8 scenery format?

You can't (yet). New open source scenery editing tools are under development but are not yet available.

Where can I learn more about the new scenery format?

See Ben Supnik's scenery design home page.

Is there anything I can do to customize V8 scenery now?

For some preliminary tools, tutorials, and examples, see Jonathan Harris's scenery web site.

Don Ferree provides the following explanation of how you can add custom objects to the V8 scenery:

It is not simple and you need to convert the DSF file to text with DSF2Text:

Open the text file with a text editor with a line numbering capability. Scroll down and find the first OBJECT_DEF. This is the first object in the default scenery. They are not numbered in the file but copy the first to the last one and paste into your text editor and let your editor assign line numbers. Scroll further down the DSF text file and you will see OBJECT 1 followed by its lat/lon and heading for each instance of that object. Scroll down until you see the last OBJECT line followed by a number which should correspond to the number of the last default object.

Your first custom object will use the next number in sequence. List all your custom objects below the last default OBJECT_DEF and list each instance of that object below the default OBJECT (#).

If you have an env file with the objects in them use "env2CSV" to convert it to text and copy the lat/lon and headings to use in the DSF. env2CSV in included in xptools;

In order to force x-plane to display custom objects even if "insane number" of objects is not selected, add the following line above the first Property line in the file: PROPERTY sim/require_object 1/73The 1 is the priority and the 73 is the index of the first object you
want always displayed. I don't remember the other priorities and can not find them now.

When done editing the text file drop it on DSF2text again to convert it to DSF.


How are the Navaids defined?

Airport and navaid data is contained in three files located in Resources\Earth Nav Data: apt.dat, nav.dat, and fix.dat. Robin Peel maintains this data; current copies are available at Robin's page. All corrections to navaids and updates to airports (e.g., custom taxiways) should be coordinated with Robin.

Back to the main scenery page

Back to the main page