Stephen

Laminar Research : X-Plane 11 and future new simulator features

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flightsimcom-2016.jpg
 

Laminar Research : X-Plane 11 and future new simulator features

 

Every year at the FlightSimCon in the New England Air Museum at Windsor Locks, CT. Laminar Research gives out a demonstration of the coming beta (10.50) and shows off the new developments that are coming (soon) to the X-Plane simulator.

Every year you check in and bite your nails and wonder what goodies are soon to come and what the future holds in store of the changes to the simulator, as promises are made and the swirling rumors are put to rest.

 

A lot we already know about of course but until you see the ideas actually delivered or in development then anything is just that in free talk or as they say in this business it is all just "vaporware" or a lot of hot air.

So what did FlightSimCon deliver in the show this year, well a lot actually and all of it is very good stuff, and even maybe a glimpse of X-Plane 11. Is that an official announcement of X-Plane 11? I don't actually think it is, but then Laminar Research is like that, it could be or it could be just new stuff for later beta's of X-Plane 10.

 

I put my past bet's on X-Plane 11 coming next year in 2017 folks, but these developments showing up here at FlightSimCon are too far down the road and too complete for another full year and a half of development, so I will note that X-Plane 11 will be maybe coming at the end of 2016, or around thanksgiving this year, unless there is far more to do in other added features for the next release version of the simulator.

At first glance the new features (X-Plane 11?) are exceptional, really good and will certainly keep X-Plane at the forefront of being one of the best simulators available today...

 

So what are the highlights...

 

New X-Plane Interface

We all know that Austin and Company wanted to badly change the Startup and Menu interface to get away from the old fashioned top dropdown menu system. The biggest criticism of most new adopters of X-Plane was the interface was hard to use and out of date. (it isn't when you understand it) but in this world of visual graphics to denote aspects of selection then the startup and menu interface has been totally redone.

And yes it has the wow factor.

(Note all images come from the video and so they are a little blurry, but you will get the overall idea).

 

X-Plane 11 Startup 1.jpg

 

You will soon get four options on restarting X-Plane... 

 

  • Resume Last Flight 
  • Start New Flight
  • Load Saved Flight
  • Flightschool

 

This is a huge jump from the original setup in that when restarting you can actually now go straight back to where you left off after the last shutdown and just not to only a set up of a new flight. Yes you can use the "save situation" but who actually uses that? I love this option, you will be also able to go straight to a replay as well, so a great start there.

 

X-Plane 11 Menu 2.jpgX-Plane 11 Menu 5.jpg

 

Aircraft selection is going to be really good, but as we know it also does depend now on if the aircraft files have the correct aircraft icon attached, by the images shown here it looks like a different arrangement and very much like a planemaker image....  interesting.

Note the "Favorite" star on the top right to create a favorite aircraft list!

Weight and Balance can be set directly from the menu as well, It would be a nice feature if the settings are set and saved with that particular aircraft selected as well.

 

Side panels on the right show you your airport selection, weather and (exact) time of day, which is excellent. I don't know what is under the "Advanced" tab top right , but I hope finally the "hot" or "cold" start is included, an HDR "on" or "off" would be very nice as well.

 

X-Plane 11 Menu 3.jpgX-Plane 11 Menu 4.jpg

 

Airport selection panel is all new and really great, showing the airport selected in a layout diagram and all the possible gates and stands,. You would note you can select the gate or stand you want now, but the great new feature is that you can select the actual gate you want via pointing to it!  No more going back and forth to the airport menu to find that stand or gate you actually need is situated or having to zoom in on the airport visually to note the gate or stand number, a great advance there.

 

X-Plane 11 Menu 6.jpgX-Plane 11 Menu 7.jpg

 

The weather settings panel has also been completely redone. The right side of "Atmospheric Conditions" seems to stay static, but the left changes from basic settings to more advanced weather settings as required. You can set the cloud cover by actually grabbing the cloud layer and moving it to the altitudes required from the bottom and the top, clever and easy. Two display pages for both cloud or wind layers are also available.

 

X-Plane 11 Menu 8.jpgX-Plane 11 Menu 9.jpg

 

Current "Operations and Warnings" have been changed to "General" and are just laid out better, the highlight is the "Flight Model" per frame is more precise and a now in a slider. The "show Clickable regions" and "instrument instructions" are both back in the simulator.

There was no showing here of the most important panel in "Render Settings" which is the most interesting and the most (overly) used by all users.

 

The "Joystick" set up panel is very different and well done, interesting is that it allows you to see your buttons and top-hats on the screen than just currently now as a number, which will speed up setting up the sim, a great interface and it will be interesting to see how it all works in real time.

 

Here is a very small sneak preview of our future X-Plane interface, and it looks extremely good and well thought out...  a great step forward.

 

New Rendering Feature

Second big new feature coming is what Laminar Research call "Physically Based Rendering" or "PBR" 

Another big gripe is that X-Plane does not have any shinyness, say like chrome. Or does not look like those armour plated games in realism. First you need to point out that X-Plane will never achieve the sort of heavy realism of "Call of Duty", "Mirror's Edge" or "Gran Turismo" et all or any other highly specialized visual heavy game. The simulator is too global, and has too many elements of addon's and plugins. X-Plane is not a local controlled environment that can focus on certain textures and 3d modeling.

A few designers have created the "Shiny" look in X-Plane and to a point they have been successful, but it is not a global solution to the issue. Physically Based Rendering is. 

 

Like with the introduction of HDR or high-dynamic-range lighting, PBR takes that idea a few more steps forward.

The idea is that any surface can have different reflection properties. Ben Supnik uses a brick to note that even if the brick's surface (or texture) is not shiny or even that reflective. It can however in certain lighting conditions look shiny and reflect light, so a runway that can close up look rough and have a flat matt surface reflection, at a distance though the runway can also then look actually like a reflective surface and like water. And this is the idea behind Physically Based Rendering and the way that light follows the rules of Physics.

 

X-Plane 11 Reflections.jpgX-Plane 11 Reflections 2.jpg

 

So what does this mean for X-Plane. Well it means that the reflective light can be just that in reflective, but have different properties with different conditions. Most X-Plane aircraft do to a point look quite dull, or flat in the simulator. But with the active use of PBR then they come very much more alive and look far more realistic, so note the shinyness of the fuselage of the above B737, and most notably down the side around the windows...

 

X-Plane 11 Reflections 3.jpgX-Plane 11 Reflections 4.jpg

 

And here on the reflective reflections on the lower part of the fuselage of the C172SP, The hull in PBR is far more distinctive and reflects the lines on the runway below it. It looks extremely realistic, and certainly PBR will give the simulator a very different look and feel, as did HDR when that was introduced with X-Plane v10

 

The PBR and other GPU based effects are not restricted just to aircraft but every element of X-Plane, from all surfaces to airports, buildings and street scenarios and they a great bonus for addon developers as well and PBR will actually make their work easier while delivering great effects. It is certainly a big step forward and a great one at that and will close that reality gap between the simulation based visual graphics and game based ones, the only concern is like HDR is then how much power or frame-rate will be required to process it all. Ben Supnik notes that the system is very efficient, and so we will see.

 

New Sound Engine

As we have noted lately is that really good sound is becoming a big deal in simulation. Brilliant new sound packs have no doubt really changed the way we absorb the simulation through not only with manipulation of the aircraft but also on how it feels via sounds.

Laminar Research have completely redesigned the X-plane sound engine to be not only completely 3d surround sound, and with high quality samples. But have also now include many of the great sound ideas that have advanced over the years since the simulator's last major release.

To a point many of the things or effects included in the new sound engine we have had for a few years now, as if you have used the excellent DreamEngine sounds or Carenado's great sounds. Most of the these ideas are already out there, but the difference is the sounds are X-Plane global and that means every aircraft or object can have great sound. The new engine also allows developers to have a far better access to the default X-Plane sound base and allowing for even more extensions on the way X-Plane uses and plays sound in the simulation.

 

X-Plane 11 Sound .jpg

 

Laminar Research is also providing new tools to edit and create new sounds for the simulator, and like the rest of the features noted here, will lift the simulator up to another higher all round level of realism.

If you want to watch the full set of ideas then watch the recorded video below of FlightConSim 2016...  The new features start around 40.00min mark.

 

 

The video also includes the soon coming release of beta 10.50!   And the main changes and features noted are...

 

  • New City Autogen (very good)
  • Improved default aircraft Kingair and Baron B58
  • Global Winds aloft from the internet
  • Static Aircraft and .apt changes
  • Better ATC
  •  

X-PlaneReviews will give a full review and rundown on the release of X-Plane version 10.50 when it is released and that release is noted as very, very soon, so watch this space :)

Did anyone see the mistake on the video with the coming Scenery Gateway airports? It is 30.36min into the video... 

 

____________________________________________________________

 

Stephen Dutton
 
13th June 2016
 
Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
 

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Great News-Flash Stephen! And so quick. I really like that about xplanereviews.com

I really do hope that new interface design finds it's way into X-Plane 10 first. Laminar could could use it for a beta run and then transfer it into XP11. On the other hand XP11 needs alluring features to make people switch to the new version. And those visual features are not to be underestimated. I heard that the design of modern automobiles makes up for 50% of the decision to buy a new car. So a fresh new interface might attract more of those P3D/FSX simmers.

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Good news!

But we still wait LR to iron the "runway follows contours" since the feature is released ! And the seasons feature is a must to have too.

Those are mandatory (like smooth weather engine) to complete a flight simulator in 2016.

In the mean time, they do a great work BTW.

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I think the new graphical features in XP11 will support your move to Windows as your simming platform Stephen. Hope the meagre 4GB card in iMac-zilla will hold out for a few more years...

EDIT - PS: the mistake was relocation of some aussie airports to Canada!

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Very much looking forward to X-Plane 11, any idea on a release time frame ?, I've always been a FSX/P3D guy, but have grown weary of the putting lipstick on a pig approach of Steam & Lockheed Martin, and now Dove Tail Games, however they have improved it, especially LM but they are working with 2006 technology, it's 2016, time to advance, I will have a serious look at XP 11.

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29 minutes ago, Guest Jymp said:

Very much looking forward to X-Plane 11, any idea on a release time frame ?, I've always been a FSX/P3D guy, but have grown weary of the putting lipstick on a pig approach of Steam & Lockheed Martin, and now Dove Tail Games, however they have improved it, especially LM but they are working with 2006 technology, it's 2016, time to advance, I will have a serious look at XP 11.

 

Traditionally Laminar Research usually releases a new version around the American Thanksgiving holiday, or late November. Those first views show the features very well advanced, so yes even later this year can be be in the time frame. Don't hold me to that as anything can go wrong with a large release, and note that even if the version is released it can be noted as really a public beta version with a few bugs in it. Mostly by the New Year it is pretty solid and Laminar Research have been far better with their releases in being much more refined than in the past...   SD

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Hi there,

First of all, great stuff here, sounds realy good :)

But just to know, are there a lot of "visual tricks" in XP that won't be compatible with a VR rendering ?

Wil it be seasy to enable / disable "incompatible" tricks when using a VR headset ?

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3 hours ago, Guest vince said:

Hi there,

First of all, great stuff here, sounds realy good :)

But just to know, are there a lot of "visual tricks" in XP that won't be compatible with a VR rendering ?

Wil it be seasy to enable / disable "incompatible" tricks when using a VR headset ?

 

Ben Supnik noted that the X-Plane VR will be refined for VR, the X-Plane we have now will not be the VR version. I have tried a VR headset with X-Plane and it is very good visually, but the challenge is with the VR to the real interface of interacting with the aircraft, but you feel very removed from the instruments and doing any movements within the aircraft like just turning a switch on. SD

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It looks promising...

Anyway, I really hope they will concentrate more on the weather than on the shiny surfaces of an aircraft. If I pilot an aircraft, I will not see my aircraft from outside :P but instead I will see the clouds and the weather conditions around me.

What I think in xplane is missing is for example a iper realistic wheather engine so that if you take off in foggy conditions, once you climb you will still see the fog layer underneath while the sky above you is clear and sunny (if that is the case) and if you fly towards a foggy area you see the fog layer covering the ground even if you are at 30000ft... :) so that when you approach that area, you won't see the runway and the ground until few feet before touchdown...
The realism of a FLIGHT simulator is more in the realism of the weather than in the realism of the textures of the objects (at least in my opinion!) Of course if we can have both, that is more than welcome :P

LR keep up the good work!!!

 

 

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is google-earth (or equivalent) coming?  it would be nice to be able to fly around one's neighborhood and do sightseeing...

 

/iaw

 

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