Stephen

Behind the Screen : Fireside chat or Seaside dialog : July 2015

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Behind the Screen : Fireside chat or Seaside dialog : July 2015

 

As we have now past the halfway mark in 2015, I thought it would be the best time to have another look behind the screen and a sort of fireside chitchat...  Well in Australia we are in the throws of mid-winter, but most of you are sitting on a beach, fishing, cycling and doing all those wonderful hot summer activities that gets rid of the working cobwebs or for many of you a time to find a few hours to finally finish that X-Plane scenery, plugin idea or long forgotten aircraft sitting on your storage disk-drive.

 

X-Plane can become all consuming. In the off time while not reviewing or testing you are still installing airports (and fixing them), cleaning out old scenery and aircraft and a hundred and one tasks that the simulator demands, I even had a T-Shirt made over at the local Shopping centre (can print on anything) and this one is one I like in it says "X-Plane (logo), Building the world one airport at a time!" and another T-Shirt I created is "File a bug!, Ben Supnik Fan Club" I am sure they would sell in their thousands...

 

One thing I found was that you tend to select somewhere (a place) and then stay there for a certain period of time in the simulator. In my case it has been LMML or Malta. I first flew there for the C-17 Globemaster III Review and then stayed there on and off for about a month, odd business certainly but there is a reason to the madness. I wanted to get on top of Classic Jets Simulations "World Traffic" Plugin that I had seen to great effect in the "Aerosoft-Simwings Heathrow" scenery. I assume that most users that have tried to use WorldTraffic have either made it work or dabbled with it and found it too complex? I did at first and this was why I was back for a second shot at it.

There was a second reason as well to understand the plugin well, as Version two (v2) is due soon and has a lot of new really great features. So I wanted it running and running well.

 

Yes WorldTraffic is complex, but you can make it far more complex than it needs to be. There is no doubt that this plugin can be one of the really great addons to X-Plane, when running it is mind bogglingly great and the really biggest ever time-waster in watching the various aircraft fly in and fly out of your selected airports, you can watch the aircraft enroute as well. Once captured I was fascinated by the whole system. Then you have to interact with the plugin as well in waiting for aircraft to takeoff or land (It is amazing how much extra workload you have to do with this sort of simulation) but the biggest advantage is that the plugin is excellent in being in the background. I for one thought the plugin would interfere badly, but no as the interface and menu system is very clever, its there but you interact only when you want to or need too. The trick to WorldTraffic is to keep it simple.

 

I went back to basics and created just one airport in LMML (ground routes) and then connected it to another airport in DTTA (ground routes, route) and then had my commuter aircraft (ATR72) run ragged between them. I not saying that WorldTraffic is not completely bug free, because it is mind-blowingly complex but most of those small bugs are to be cleared up in v2.

Once I had two airports running it is then easy like a web of connections to add in more and more... like everything else in X-Plane it is highly addictive. I will cover World Traffic extensively when WorldTraffic v2 is released. (small side note in the commitment to WT is from Bluebell and Massimo68 in their contributions to providing aircraft and tools to make the plugin work)

But the last few months were really stop-start. X-Plane is known for its periods of slow traffic, then a frenzy of releases. But time was slow and then as usual all came out at once then went back to slow again.

 

You can get caught out on this as you can't review all releases at the same time or in one week. As I note that aircraft are increasingly complex and you need time to dig deep and understand all the ideas and features, This is to be fair not only to the designers but give an accurate review, you just can't rush the process.

 

So you had the lovely DHC-2 Beaver which has been years in the development, and what a great design the aircraft is. So I was deep into the review and then pops up from nowhere the EMB -110 Bandeirante by Dreamfoil Creations. Another instant classic but as noted in the review, I or the EMB 110 did not see eye to eye straight off. My aim in any review is to go more deeper than the aircraft's systems, features and design quality. I want to find the soul of the machine, find it or what makes the design really feel like to translate that to the user.

 

Do these computer created designs have a soul? It is a great question isn't it, but certainly the aircraft and some really great sceneries have a certain feel that translates over. Does the Boeing 777 or Boeing 757 feel like the real aircraft or the Airbus A320 feels like the real Airbus, certainly as the developers get closer to the design and give us more and more real time systems and almost reproduced realistic textures the lines between realistic and reality are starting to be crossed. As when you look closely as do in the reviews you see the almost perfect environment and you can get lost in there as it is as real is it gets.

 

In the excellent Carenado PC12 the cockpit reflections and design was almost so impossibly good, the EMB-110 was another that you really lose yourself in there, so real and so good.

 

Certainly the aim of simulation is to mirror the real world, but how far we have come from the earlier designs were your imagination had to fill in more than a few blanks, that sort of thought is now being replaced by these so real cockpits and almost perfect environments in which you fly.

So it does come down to the point of crossing that believability line, and as I noted you can get lost in there and feel the real thing for what it is. So I have found that my reviews have changed to try to mimic the feeling of seeing and flying the aircraft as you would either for the first time or in a realistic way as you would behave in the real world. And its hard to do and cover the same ground over and over to create a new and different review so there is no photocopier effect between all the reviews and they all look or sound the same.

 

The Carenado PC12 is an aircraft I really like, but many users don't like it? I can't seem to work out why not, and yet the EMB-110 is a very tricky aircraft to get right at low speeds and yet users are bowling themselves over to embrace it like they have found the Holy Grail. As to one's own, but to my mind there is not much between the same aircraft as they both fit in the same category. That is not to say I don't like to fly the EMB-110 as it is one of the most challenging and quality aircraft in that category released this year but it certainly requires your patience or will at least test it.

 

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One aircraft that I have spent a lot of time flying lately is the Andreas Much's Avroliner (The Avroliner Project) If anyone can have a totally dedicated approach to one aircraft then Andreas is it. If you have the Avro or are thinking of purchasing it then you are really joining a cult more than just adding another aircraft to your X-Plane hangar. First point to make is that the Avroliner is a work in progress, "it is not finished" and I doubt it ever will be. But that is part of the fun, you really don't know were you are actually going to end up or what sort of aircraft you will actually end up with? But it is a lot of fun getting there.

 

So the Avroliner project is of more a crowdfunding project than an X-Plane designer project, but how many designers will in mid-stream totally rip out the inside of the 3d cockpit and then totally rebuild it, far better of course but that is still a dramatic thing to do. And then give you a progress "nightlybuild" as everything comes along every month or so. No doubt the Avroliner project is unique, but in some sort of strange way you feel you are all in this deal together.

 

So why not a review?  Well until the aircraft goes into a released version (it is noted as v7.6) then it is still a work-in-progress. I am building up flights and well "doing a lot of flying" so is that an excuse? well yes it is but "it's a great excuse", and the Avroliner is a great simulation, and quite tricky to fly really well (STOL) but certainly very entertaining.

 

Laminar Research's 10.40 beta is still rolling out. It may be slow but certainly I am very impressed. The extended scenery visuals are amazingly good, and fills out a huge hole (black card) in the overall look and feel of the simulator...  It took Laminar Research a long time to get around to doing this, but like with everything else they do it was done right when it came, for that you have to give them credit. My biggest fear (and the swirling rumors) was that it was a frame-rate killer and you had to have huge amounts of ram to cover for it, but nothing is far from the truth really (Although the HD textures can soak up a lot of your space) I found the computer absorbed the extra depth without a murmur and even runs better than with rather than without it. Yes I love it, yes it is about time as well, but well worth the wait. More features to come yet from the 10.40 beta, but Laminar are holding the cards close, but that poker face can't hold out for much longer.

 

One thing that is really obvious is that the site is a bit of a mess. As anyone does to change or upgrade to new software it is always going to cause chaos and send the perfect posts to do strange things. But like with all change then the site also has to evolve and merge into something better. X-Plane Reviews has moved over to the Invision IP.Board v4 and that means a lot of improvements that comes with the new software, it is still far from finished but we are closer to the end than the start, but the site is still fully workable and navigation is still intact, hopefully the transfer will be completed before our 2nd birthday in mid August, at least then I will have a party all by myself...

 

Happy Flying...

Stephen Dutton

X-Plane Reviews©: X-Plane Reviews2015

 

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