New REX Environment Force
As most will already know, the new REX Environment Force add-on was released a few weeks ago. Over the course of this article I’m going to share some opinions, show some evidence and basically discuss how I moved from the Envtex/Envshade products to REX and what my overall impressions are. Spoiler: I’m happy as a pig in mud!
If anyone tries to tell you the industry built around and supporting the flight simulation hobby is dead, dying or even stagnant…..they are wrong. In addition, if anyone tries to tell you the industry supporting Prepar3D is dead, dying or stagnant….They too are WRONG! The level of creativity coming from our 3rd party developers is very much alive and kicking. The proof is certainly in the pudding and boy does this pudding taste good.
I’m Getting Old
I can’t remember much about the selection of add-ons available for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9) nor my direct involvement with them. When FS9 was the sim of choice, I was super busy traveling and had many irons in the fire. But I do know (at least for me) with Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX) and certainly through each of the iterations of Prepar3D I’ve owned (P3D 2.x, 3.x and 4.x) I’ve literally poured hundreds of dollars down the ole proverbial rat hole in an attempt to achieve maximum eye-candy. It’s truly a constant struggle and balancing act as I explained in a recent writing titled “Flight Simulation – The Struggle for Balance”.
Choices & Decisions
In the area of visual add-ons to help stimulate your visual senses, there’s a lot of choice out there. This is certainly the case for Prepar3d version 4.4/4.5, slightly less for earlier versions of P3D and FSX. But still a lot of choice in this category of visual enhancing add-ons.
There was a time (not too long ago) where I pretty much believed they all did just about the same thing. Of course, each camp will have their fanboys and each will have their haters. Remember, “haters gonna hate”, right?
I’ve honestly tried them all…well, most of them. For the record, as I pointed out in a recent article titled, “Shaders – What’s the big deal?”, I haven’t tried Tomatoshade. While there are plenty of Tomatoshade fanboys singing its praises…there are many others who are sitting in the corner crying because something catastrophic happened to the their sim. I discuss some of these pitfalls here. Yes, yes…ABSOLUTELY YES…I agree that most who are sitting in the corner crying either didn’t read the “destructions” or have/had some other issue going on which became a bigger issue when they attempted to implement a product they didn’t understand in the first place. Bottom line for me, I just don’t like Tomatoes LOL and I guess I’ve never taken the time to fully understand and embrace its use and full potential. Anyway….I digress.
Should I Stay or Should I Go…
You know how I like to intermix popular 80’s music lyrics into my writings…I had my own decisions to make and I spent about a week reading the accounts from others and literally drooling over the images I was seeing as a result of this new REX Environment Force add-on. However, I kept flying with my previous setup using Envtex/Envshade along with ASCA/ASP4 and closely comparing what I saw on my own screens versus what others were showing in their screenshots. The results/comparisons were almost night and day differences. I couldn’t resist and I shelled out my hard-earned money and purchased both the new REX Environment Force and also REX Sky Force 3D. These were on sale in a bundled deal direct from the REX store.
Out With The Old…
and in with the new. While REX Environment Force states it supports and will work along side all add-ons, there’s always a risk. I also truly wanted to see exactly what my sim would look like with only the REX products installed and without Envtex/Envshade etc. So the task I set out to accomplish was to remove Envtex/Envshade from my sim without blowing a hole in P3D as a result. I said a quick little prayer and got to work.
Step 1. Removing Envtex/Envshade
I had done my research and had read accounts from others who had done the same thing I wanted to accomplish. The first step was to restore the original P3D textures. This is easily done from the Envdir program by clicking the Restore button. This process re-installs your old textures from the backup made when you first installed/configured the Envdir/Envtex/Envshade programs.
Step 2. Delete P3D Shader Folder and start P3D
After restoring the P3D textures in the above step, I located my P3D shader folder (located under Users\YourUserName\AppData\Local\Lockheed Martin\Prepar3D. Just delete the entire folder. Launch P3D and in the process P3D will add a new shader folder and will reset shaders.
Step 3. Install REX Products
I installed and activated both my new REX Sky Force 3D and Environment Force products. While REX Sky Force has a built in weather engine, I wanted to continue to use Active Sky. So once Sky Force was installed, I simply deactivated the real-time weather function in Sky Force.
Step 4. Reinstall ASCA
If you’re using ASCA (Active Sky Cloud Art) with Envdir, you’ll want to reinstall it as it will error when it can’t locate certain files related to Envdir.
Step 5. Read, Read and Read
Both the REX products have comprehensive documentation found in the .pdf files which accompany both products. If you’re anything like me, you want to get going as soon as possible. But I would encourage you just the same to do some reading about these products, their settings and how to use them. But hey…I get it.
Step 6. Launch REX products before P3D
I know there are various schools of thought on this. But it’s just a habit I’ve been doing for many years. I first launch REX Sky Force, then REX Environment Force, then ActiveSky (ASP4)/ASCA and then finally P3D v4.
Step 7. Fly and enjoy….
Obviously some configuration is required with the REX products. But the real beauty of REX Environment Force (EF) is these tweaks and changes can be made while P3D is running. So you can choose if you want to run EF in auto mode or in manual mode and tweak to your heart is content. I’ll be honest, I’ve done a bit of both and will play around more in the manual mode. But here’s a series of screenshots I captured on a recent flight from Miami down to St. Maarten.
Taxing out to the active runway (08R) while watching a company 738 land on runway 12.
Blasting out of Miami. The weather is perfect for testing the new REX products.
Beautiful clouds and water textures.
The PMDG Boeing 737-800 decked out in the American Airlines livery. This is my favorite add-on aircraft.
Getting ready to punch through the clouds.
One of my favorites.
Just another minute before we fly over Maho Beach and land safely at Princess Juliana International Airport. I love this approach and landing.
Well there you have it. I’m truly pleased with the experience I’m getting from the new REX Environment Force and REX Sky Force products. I’ve used REX products in the past. Specifically REX Soft Clouds and the older REX Texture Direct. While I moved away from these older products for something better, I believe the best at this time is these new REX products and I’m happy to be a REX Customer once again.
Until next time…
May 31, 2019 - 7:18 am
I read somewhere that there is no need to launch both REX Sky Force and REX Environment Force.
The REX Environment Force should be enough.
I may be wrong so please do correct me if that is the case.
May 31, 2019 - 7:20 am
I too was under that impression until someone shared the following with me on Facebook. The below is the question a fellow flight simmer posted in the REX Forums and the answer he received back from Josh Mendoza with REX
I require clarification with using Environment Force and Skyforce. Will real-time 3D Cloud Modelling be generated when using Environment Force with SkyForce closed (ActiveSky weather engine)………………….
Josh Mendoza (REX Game Studios, LLC.)
May 18, 22:37 MST
3D Cloud modeling requires Sky Force to be opened in order for that functionality to work. Hope this helps!
May 31, 2019 - 7:24 am
OK. As I said, I might be wrong. Thank you for clarifying that for me.
May 31, 2019 - 1:10 pm
So, I have asked REX via Facebook message. The official answer is:
If you use Sky Force for its weather engine then you will need to start up Sky Force with Environment Force.
Otherwise, you do not need to start up Sky Force as Environment Force will pull from Sky Force textures and cloud models.
Hope this info is useful.
May 31, 2019 - 1:46 pm
Thank you Ovidiu for this update.