Four points about FSX and Blurries

First and before I forget - Happy New Year!


Next, this post is not meant to minimize, marginalize, or denigrate anyone who has the blurries. This post is meant to discuss the data I have in front of me as a result of investigations on this topic. Please do not take this information in the wrong way and see it as an attempt to minimize, marginalize or denigrate as I do not intend it as such.


I want to cover 4 topics:

1) History of Blurries

2) SP1 isnt the sole cause of all blurries

3) More Details on Type 1 Blurries and Photo-scenery

4) Some systems do, some systems dont


1) History of Blurries, or Blurries existed prior to FSX

Here are several blog posts ( P1, P2 ) by Steve Lacey from well before FSX.


Here is Adam's post on about blurries, again before FSX shipped.


Here is comment by JohnMu indicating that the Google Earth flight sim can get blurries.


So it is clear this has been an ongoing problem and is not specific to FSX.  


Part of the issue is the FS engine takes the approach to "run with what it’s got" instead of waiting until all resources are available. You see this with aircraft, with panels, and yes with terrain where world items render with gray/missing textures or blurry textures if the resource isn’t available within a certain time quantum. If the engine didn't take that approach, the simulation would pause which is unrealistic.


From the reports of blurries with GoogleSim, it appears they have made a similar design choice to favor flying and simulating the flight over rendering. That tends to validate our design choice.

2) SP1 isnt the sole cause of all blurries across the board

We need to distinguish amongst the types of blurries first.


I identified 4 types of blurries in this article.


Let’s recap them, 1 by 1:


Type 1) Blurries with photo-scenery.


As mentioned, photo-scenery is one add-on type that can be directly impacted by the multi-core changes. However, this is not "across the board" as not all users of all photo-scenery show this issue. More on this in a moment.


Type 2) Blurries that catch up.


These are usually the result from settings that are too high for a given config. Whether that is from the hardware itself or from some other local problem is hard to say. I do see quite a few people who,when they flatten their machines and start over, do not have blurries. Or who when update their hardware can run at the settings they desire without blurries. This all seems to indicate a local issue.


Type 3) Some tiles just a little bit blurry.


I believe this is from misunderstanding texture filtering and how it affects pixels, and besides developing a nomenclature for blurries explaining the relationship between texture filtering, scene filtering and AA, view angles, and zoom was the main purpose of the PDF I posted about the blurries months ago. There have been several threads on where knowledgeble developers ( thanks Luis! ) have pointed out similar details recently.


Type 4) Blurries all the time


This seems, again, to be some local problem where the hardware/software config is just badly set up. Otherwise, how does anyone fly without blurries? That existence proof is key.

3) More Details on Type 1 Blurries and Photo-scenery

SP1 did make changes to texture composition to achieve better multi-core usage. Photo-scenery can show a negative effect from this in a special case. More on that in a bit.


We did 2 things in Accel/SP2 to try to mitigate the effect:

1)strengthened the IO handling

2)created an article for the SDK that helps point out to photo-scenery authors what can trigger this, including

"If aerial photography is being used to replace a large area with detailed imagery, involving the division of the target area into a large number of bgl files, there can be a significant increase in scenery load times. This can be due to an excessive amount of transparency within cells at one or more LOD level. Use the tmfViewer tool to examine the bgl files produced by the Resample tool, and note that transparent areas are shown in medium gray (see the image below).


If there is transparency within a cell at any LOD level, the terrain system has to load in multiple files to piece together the terrain texture for each cell. With a large amount of transparency, and a large number of bgl files containing images, this piecing together can become very time consuming. Minimize transparency within each LOD cell by preparing .inf files that target specific LOD levels. The default Destination parameter LOD=Auto should be changed to provide a minimum and maximum level, or simply one level, that minimizes transparency for the particular LOD settings. This will involve having several .inf files for each section of source data.


The number of bgl files used to hold image data at one level of detail should be reduced by a factor of four for the next level of detail. So, for example, if 16 files are used to hold an area at LOD 14, then four should contain all the imagery at LOD 13, and one at LOD 12. From then on there is no need to have one file for each level of detail, all the lower levels of detail can be placed in one file.


So that’s the advice in the updated SDK.


What this means is that the work in SP1 can cause an issue with certain authoring styles of photo-scenery as a consequence of parallelizing the file IO in SP1 to make better use of cores.  Once the file IOs are handled in parallel and not serialized, it is easier for FSX to pound the file system into submission and get behind if there are an excessive number of file loads. RTM with its sequential loads did not have this issue with this style of photo-scenery but did suffer from slow performance and stutters and thus had a hard limit on how far performance could go. This does not mean the design is inherently bad, just that there is a special case where it isn’t a win. The special case is photo-scenery with a lot of file IO loads and a lot of transparency. The transparency can make the situation even worse because that increases the number of loads since a single cell no longer depends on itself but on its neighbors and this makes the situation go from bad to worse.


This thread on shows that SP2 did help. This thread on shows that some products do work, while some older products do not. These two threads show both that there is an existence proof it is not an across-the-board problem and that there is a special case where there is a problem.


With that covered, lets discuss 2 photo-scenery products: Horizon's Gen-X and TileProxy ( TP ) to get specific.


Horizon forums don’t seem to show the same level of pain we see in AVSim forums. This thread on the Horizon forums, for instance seems to indicate all is not so tragic as some would have us believe after SP1.


This thread seems to indicate that the approach TileProxy uses is so vastly different from what Gen-X uses that TP and its authoring style contributes to the blurry problem, I quote:

"Using TileProxy, you would end up with 144,979 files in the TileProxy UK folders on your local drive compared with 1855 files in Gen-X folder.


The fact that Gen-X seems to not suffer these to the same degree that TP does would indicate that the authoring time change suggested by the Accel/SP2 SDK is an important piece of information. I have had discussions with Horizon that confirms this.


Let’s face it, 144,979 files is a lot. An extreme amount by any metric. Using a 4x4 technique to group the textures together would reduce that by a factor of 16 to in the 9-10k range. That would probably work. So using a 1:1 style authoring technique where there is one result texture for each source texture just isn’t going to work anymore. Yes, that is a consequence of the changes in SP1, but those changes are not inherently bad. I would say that having 144,979 files is bad and FSX hid that before SP1.


Unfortunately for TP, given how the data it references is stored and given the EULA issues it faces - I suspect that a re-authoring pass is hard to accomplish.


Net-net the tradeoff we made for performance gains in SP1 means that a new authoring style is necessary. And this is backed by real-world data in that the new authoring style actually works and end-users see a performance gain from both SP1 and SP2.


I suspect that, for the users that get better photo-scenery behavior when going back to RTM what is happening is they sacrifice those performance gains and that masks the loading costs that TP style photo-scenery causes in that slower FPS and more stutters exist due to all the IO happening more sequentially on a single thread.

4) Some systems do, some systems dont

Almost identical systems with and without the blurries points to a system factor. Think about it. The fact that systems A,B,C dont have blurries;and systems A', B', and C' that are almost identical do have blurries points to something unique about those systems being a contributor.


Else wise no system would run without blurries. This "existence proof" on the same hardware is key.


And many users who had blurries do not experience them when they upgrade to new hardware. This is a further existence proof that the blurries were caused by something specific and unique to that hardware configuration.


Unfortunately we have yet to figure out what this "unique factor" is. If we could determine what that factor was, of course we would be interested to hear about that and would examine the details.

I hope this explanation helps clarify where we are with respect to the blurries in FSX.

Comments (19)

  1. Cartman says:


    thank you for this detailed blog entry and Happy New Year!

    Perhaps wrong FSX.cfg tweaks are causing also blurries (i think it’s better to not use any tweak instead of using a false tweak).

    And for the FS9 Photoscenery users: Try "FS Earth Tiles" instead of the great Tileproxy tool. It took over a month until i was able to create a small Photoscenery for FSX, but with "FS Earth tiles" ( [url=]click[/url] ), it takes 5 minutes to get the images and with the SbuilderX and autogen tutorials (Avsim library), it’s really easy for everybody to create FSX Photoscenery with blend and water masks and autogen.

    Tilproxy is really fantastic but i think it’s better to use photoscenery only for selected locations (e.g. mountains and cities) and not for the whole world.

  2. Aberforth says:

    i don’t have any blurries because i now have a 45nm penryn QX9650 processor coupled with 2 GTX’s, sometimes i wonder whether it’s really worth all the trouble 🙁

    anyway you should make this open-source next time so any issues can be resolved more quickly with confirmation.

  3. Phil Taylor says:


    there are no plans to make anything Aces does open-source. it isnt even worth talking about.

  4. marcin says:

    Phil …

    I don`t care about Fsx now, just tell us that Aces are going to build a new graphics engine from scratch in next version … yes or not ???

    brds and Happy New Year!!

  5. NickN says:

    Every system I have worked with, my own and others who have requested assistance, that has displayed some version of the blurries was fixed the same way. One/all or a combination(s) of the following 10 steps…

    1. If applicable, get the system OFF of RAID-0 unless it’s a professional RAID solution which allows 256K STRIP or higher and provides on-card memory that functions at a speed which is in sync with the system.

    2. Correct system layout of drives/partitions. Installing FSX to its own drive (RAID or not) has advantages over installing it into the OS. The drive fragments much less since the application is off the dynamic and constantly changed/updated Windows boot partition.

    3. Upgrade the system components to products that FSX require based on the desired visual results.

    4. Properly set up Windows for game and graphics performance. Verifying drivers are all updated and all patches and updates have been installed (eve the ones not presented at Windows Update)

    5. Going through the startup system of the computer and getting rid of all programs not needed at boot and optimizing the process startup list to about 32 or less. (Varies with Vista, XP 30 or less is optimal on 2GB of memory)

    This area is especially critical with OEM purchased computers because they load so much junk into a system at boot, the system is choked for high performance needs before FSX ever gets installed.

    6. If using a Nvidia adapter, get rid of the profiles and use Nhancer to override Nv with a specific list of settings which was posted at SimV in May-June of last year and remains the same today.

    7. Installing FSX correctly, allowing the program to boot and start a flight before applying SP’s and applying them correctly as well.

    8. The right defrag solution and its setup and use with the Windows tweaking mentioned above.

    9. The right FSX slider settings and config file changes for all of the above which can not be tweaked until everything else is in order.

    10. Proper monthly maintenance to preserve the performance of Windows and the drive system.

    What there is no cure for (as far as I can see) are blurries when a user switches tower locations during flight. (set tower view, hit the "A" key to cycle towers, then return to spot or cockpit view)

    The high res textures are dumped and must be re-rendered. My solid-state HDD rig with a clocked Quad and a next gen Ati card recovers in a matter of seconds (2-5) where my mechanical HDD system on first gen DX10 video hardware can take as long as 8-15 seconds to completely recover depending on the scenery involved, and those mechanical drives are on a 500 dollar professional RAID card solution too.

    Most of what I have seen is all hardware and system setup. I can not speak to photo scenery since I do not use it however what I have found it comes down to is that FSX is ahead of its time and like FS9 it will be a few years before all the gripes stop and the cheaper hardware catches up to the title.

    Its no different than the issues with FS9 were in 2003. It took 2 years for hardware to really catch up to the title and the heavy hitting add-ons to allow the gripes to stop. I do not see any difference with FSX.

    Although, and I must say this… a big thanks to Phil and the team for pulling what we had with RTM out of the fire and bringing it up to the standard it runs today. There are of course things about it that could have gone better but if I had to chose between the initial release RTM and SP2, the changes the team have made were well worth the effort.

    Thanks for hard/dedicated work Aces and I look forward to FS11.


  6. stevela says:

    Hiya Phil!

    Just a couple of things:

    1) It’s Steve Lacey, with an ‘e’ 🙂

    2) You know I love FS, but I take exception to your second point. Where in my post about Google Earth did I say that it suffered from blurries? Someone in the comments makes the assertion, but I certainly didn’t.



  7. polygonuk says:

    Quote, "I have had discussions with Horizon that confirms this."

    I think I speak for many people who, although frustrated the blurry issues have arisen in the first place, really appreciate your efforts in continuing to mitigate the problem. The fact you have actually spoken to a photoscenery vendor gives me great hope this problem can be solved through cooperation and communication.

    Happy new year!

    Paul Egan

  8. NickN says:

    I would like to comment directly about the last statement which refers to system A, B and C. This is a bit long but does make an important point.

    The term “identical” is not a good one to use when suggesting system A, B and C are the same. Unless a lab environment has verified the motherboard, memory, CPU, video card, hard drives, CD/DVD drives, monitors, have all come from the same production run(s) and all have the same specific design components (right down to the correct monitor cable) and all have been verified to produce the same results by running a battery of electronic and software tests to confirm, then we can say that system A, B and C are identical.

    Or can we?

    Let’s take that a step further.

    Assuming Windows installed without any glitches, the correct and needed updates were applied, those updates installed properly without any glitches, the installed 3rd party software, which everyone uses to some degree because that is why we buy computers, has not introduced issues at several possible levels, and, assuming FSX was installed correctly with its SP updates, then we can say that system A, B and C are identical.

    Or can we?

    Let’s take that a step further.

    Electronics function with variable results at different temperatures and vary with their power source/supply properties. As long as system A, B and C are in the same room under the same environmental conditions whereby the power feeding those systems and the output from their individual power supplies is confirmed to be clean and correctly regulated, and, the temperature in the room is the same allowing heat to be transferred from the components (which were confirmed to run the same) so all 3 towers follow the same performance curve based on the environment, then we can say that system A, B and C are identical.

    Or can we?

    Let’s take that a step further.

    The human factor comes into play next. Forget about setting up Windows and the system for optimal game performance and let’s assume everyone with the same complaint has identical systems as described above. How many people properly maintain their computer so the similarity in system achieved above is maintained? Since Windows is dynamic in the way it functions on a daily basis, caches fill up, updates get applied behind the scenes, software gets added or removed over time, drivers get upgraded and how well all that works over time is directly related to the experience of the person behind the keyboard. Then, how many people will in fact accept MSFS settings that restrict visual results when the sliders and checkboxes are there to allow more?

    It is impossible to call system A, B and C identical unless those 3 systems are lab verified. Therefore the number of combinations in systems which introduce variables is quite high, staggering as a matter of fact, and no one can ask another over the internet what hardware they are running and match it up to conclude the hardware or the title being run is or is not the cause of many issues.

    In my opinion the window of system performance is very much overestimated by MSFS development. Because the tile tends to be developed from the standpoint that it will still allow “more” after 2 years on the market without requiring a patch or upgrade makes the title itself one of the largest variables in the mentioned group, just behind the human factor which is #1.

    So the next time someone asks in a forum what hardware another is using with the thought that a common denominator can be found to system A and B which do not show the same problem as system C, etc, keep in mind that no matter what the response, system A, B and C are in fact not identical.

    It could be a simple as 2 identical video card models that came from 2 different production runs where by card A has one variant of Samsung memory chips running very fast sub-timings and Card B has another which runs slower even with identical clocks.

    The number of single/multiple variables involved when trying to isolate an issue like blurries make it close to impossible to pinpoint a component or the title. Therefore the title needs to take into better consideration its window of design so it is much better optimized for everyone.

    The enthusiast computer user is not the largest % of the market and although I understand the business desire to bolster hardware partners and place the title on the cutting edge with respect to that, in doing so it places the software in the line of fire as the cause for all the issues.

    All a typical user understands is “load and fly”. They do not understand the variables involved and rely on Aces or Microsoft to take those variables into consideration for them. That is what they paid for when they bought the product and that is what they should receive. A user with a slower system that meets the software specs should still see sharp ground textures even if they can not use any traffic, autogen or push the scenery detail slider up more than a notch or two. I really think the title needs to be rebuilt from the ground up and this time place priority in testing for the little guy as well as the computer enthusiast. In doing so it ensures tha larger part of the market (your typical customer) is covered and also ensures the enthusiast who spends thousands to upgrade gets all the goodies without the headaches, whis is why they spent thousands on their hardware.


  9. Phil Taylor says:


    sorry about the name misspelled, and I clarified who authored the comment.

  10. Phil Taylor says:


    Its just impossible for us to investigate every system configuration. I do not believe there is a way to accomodate that in the design except for "shooting lower" in terms of features and capabilities. That isnt our first choice :-).

  11. NickN says:

    Hi Phil,

    I very much understand your position. And I do understand the thought about "shoot lower" is not an option.

    I was not suggesting Aces "shoot lower", what I was suggesting is a design that always allows the ground around the aircraft, the clouds and sky and the dynamics of flight display clear and let the added load of autogen and scenery dictate the loss. That way the issues of lesser hardware become seen and the title is no longer placed in the line of fire for being defective or poorly designed.

    If I had a very fast and very slow systems in which both met the software requirements, and, both systems performed equally with respect to low scenery slider settings in which looking out the window of the aircraft or switching views always ensured I will be seeing sharp ground textures and a nice sky/clouds and both displayed flight dynamics equally, even though there is not a single autogen, airport or city building on the ground, then, as I raise the slider to add that scenery I can see the limits of my hardware and where I need to stop in order to maximize my experience with the hardware I can afford.

    At that point the user can see what they need to do in order to upgrade their experience.

    But when they go into forums and read that 5000 dollar machines show the same blurry ground textures and display similar issues, your current and future market suffers, greatly and it matters not if the issue is a hardware or software design issue to them because the bottom line is the title should be baseline designed to provide a certain level of visual performance for everyone and as elements are added by setttings the user should be able to evaluate where their hardware

    I do not see a huge cost in testing 5 different systems (from the lowest to the highest) to ensure the baseline product. Without all the scenery goodies they should function the same on all 5 and each system display a different level of experience based on each one allowing more and more to be seen. You can still design the software allow system X Y and Z (the future 2 years out) allow more by placing that ability in the software but none they less, all systems should be able to display rock bottom features equally.

    I know there are complexities involved, especially when comparing a game which uses local maps to a simulator which must calculate a large area, but I do not consider a design which allows a baseline in “quality” of certain features across the board with minimal settings and the ability to multiply what the user sees extrapolating/estimating a 2 year hardware upgrade, “Shooting Lower”.  

    None the less Phil, you guys did a great job getting FSX to where it is today. I am in no way belittling that dedicated effort. My comments were geared toward what may come over what has come to pass.


  12. marcin says:

    as you see … Phil didn`t answer to my question about new engine for fs11 so… expect "better version of

  13. marcin says:

    as you see Phil didn`t answer to my question .. so be sure that FS11 will be still on the same graphics engine like past versions…. oh my…

    or I`am wrong Phil ?? …


  14. Phil Taylor says:


    this isnt something we can talk about as plans for FS11 are not fully determined.

  15. Te_Vigo says:

    Limited testing…

    WIth nVidia 8800, I found there were no ‘blurries’ to be had on my machine.(Dx9/ 10)

    I switched over to ATI 3870 XFire I found no ‘blurries’ until I ran the Fighter jet (DX10) and then only some tiles would be blurry but with the float plane (flying much slower) I had no blurries.

    This was at low altitude

    Same machine, different graphics solution, same enviromental conditions

  16. Dojjan_pw says:

    Problems…. that´s all there is with FSX!! Uninstalling and installing this product for maybe a hundred times… FSX, SP1, ACCELERATON,,, I´m sick of It now,, I love Flight simulator,, can It really run normally,, all the latest upgrades from Direct X, Win Update,, Recommended updates or not,, everything!! I even bought a Intel Extreme processor for this,, beacause something said this Play to win with,, !!!

    //sorry for my non perfect english,, I´m not american or english

  17. Dojjan_pw says:

    Well to be more exact,, I formated my HD for a clean FSX,, Installed the latest DX and the latest drivers for my Video, Installed FSX-RTM then added: SP1 and Acceleration,, made some adjustments to the video driver and then reboot,, then everytime I start FSX and select flight or whatever,, I try to exit the simulator or go to the menys in it,, the only thing that happens is that I´ll get a big f—in black screen,, I have to press the computers On/Off – button,, nothing else works,, this is the first time with this problem,, otherwise it´s something else,, slow fps over tree areas,, the blurries is ok,, sick of this,, my computer specs isn´t bad at all,, well over minimum and some more with my quite new QX6850 Extreme processor 4GB of RAM Win Vista X64 and 7950gx2!!!!!!

  18. Phil Taylor says:


    this is not tech support.

  19. JimmiG says:

    This is one of the more informative post about the blurries. I’ve suffered from the so called ”type 2 blurries” since SP1.

    A few points…

    FSX RTM had no blurries on my system. The new 1m England photo scenery had no blurries in FSX, where as the old 5m scenery in FS2004 suffered from some blurries. A huge improvement as the storage requirement for the 1m scenery is massively increased over the 5m scenery. Normal scenery didn’t suffer from blurries, either, though autogen caused a big performance hit (FPS).

    With SP1 (and later SP2), it all went to pieces both with photo scenery, tile proxy and normal scenery. I’m still on a single-core CPU and an X800XT videocard.. But the FPS improvement with SP1 meant that I could fly with the same settings as RTM and maintain 20-30 FPS anywhere…but with blurries everywhere. I suppose I could just throw more hardware at the problem, which is what I’m planning in the end, but with framerates in the mid 30’s in rural areas (and still noticable type 2 blurries), it should be possible to re-balance the resources – I’d rather have 18 FPS and no blurries than 35 FPS and blurries. In cities, where framerate drops to 16-20, it’s all a blurry mess.

    Enter the ”fiber framerate fraction” tweak… in RTM, this had a huge impact, both on the framerate and on the blurries. With SP1 and SP2, the tweak does affect the framerate still, but it has a very small impact on blurries..

    I get about the same level of blurries with a framerate lock of 25 FPS and a fiber setting of 0.15, as I do with a lock at 15 FPS and the fiber at 0.75! I suppose the parallelizing of the IO has invalidated this tweak not only for multi-core machines, but also for single core machines. Increasing the fiber fraction just eats into the framerate, with only a small improvement with regards to the blurries. At some point, the framerate drop introduced by increasing the fraction actually causes blurries to *increase* rather than decrease. Same if you set a too low FPS lock, 20 – 25 seems to work best.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’ve pretty much shelved my copy of FSX until I can afford a quad-core machine, though I do use RTM with the photo scenery and TileProxy from time to time.

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