Stephen

Behind the Screen : February 2017

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Behind the Screen : February 2017

 

"It was the best of times and the worst of times" lamented Charles Dickens in his novel the  "A Tale of Two Cities". And February in X-Plane certainly lived up to that quote.

 

As the X-Plane11 beta quest kept on grinding on, you had it, then lost it, then got it back and then...  totally lost it. But will possibly get it back again working soon.

 

It is of course just the building process but this one has been very...  well grinding. It reminds me in a way of the move to 64bit a few years ago, because it goes directly to the heart of the simulator, in very deep changes that completely messes it up.

 

X-Plane11

As a reviewer your job is too probably just ignore all the mess and just stick to items released for X-Plane10 and that is a fair comment. But that is also putting your hands over your eyes and saying" I can't hear you!" because looking straight at you and towering over you is just that...  X-Plane11.

 

Once X-Plane11 goes to v1.0 release you will want it, use it and believe me you will really absolutely love it! As already going back to X-Plane10 is like going back to the middle-ages of simulation as it is boring and flat, just as X-Plane10® was the quantum leap over X-Plane9® then is X-Plane11 over its predesessor, and yes there are a few (okay a lot) of fine tuning still to be done, but the grit and basics built in here are astounding when it all comes together. There is however one item that lifts and work along side with X-Plane11 that is in my eyes essential in getting this quantum leap and that is also running as part of the deal is the xEnviro environment engine. That is tough at the moment because only windows users can access xEnviro and in parts it is also buggy, but the effects with the environmental engine working together with Laminar's new version are simply out of this world.

 

No doubt in the last month I have had simulation highs I could only dream of a few years ago, and the lowest frustration when aircraft just don't work, hence the title sentence. But that is also the process of progress. As we will see as the situation settles down is that X-Plane11's new features do amazing things to our already great aircraft, and the effects on scenery will be just as pronounced but they will take longer to thread into the simulator as updates are not as forthcoming or as regular as with aircraft.

 

But as you will get a lot of new high's there are few items in X-Plane11 that will cause a few heartaches. Ben Supnic is on a massive crusade with X-Plane11 to make it as good, lean and as efficient as possible. We have already seen that he took away our twiddling tools, a few users have cheated and put them back with Lua scripts? But the biggest change is that there will be very little backward compatibility with earlier parameters with earlier aircraft, and that means a lot of aircraft you have savoured and loved over the years are going to the great hard drive in the sky. In other words there is another big clean out is on the horizon like we did with the 64bit transfer, and this one will be worse, and it is going to hurt folks.

 

And that brings us to the pain, or developers pain. You wouldn't want to be a developer lately as it hasn't been much fun. And I am a part of their pain. I want their products to be what I call "Flyable" or "Usable" in X-Plane11, because of the great differences that X-Plane11 brings to them and to fly them in their new exciting world, so I want something that is just in something usable, and so does almost everyone else that is running the X-Plane11beta version.

But X-Plane11 is just a beta and with that comes constant changes and most developers don't want to over work and keep on constantly changing their work to fit a beta. A lot of the top notch machines are now extremely complex and require a lot of very task full set of algorithms to do the calculations to recreate an authentic engine representation for that particular aircraft. You don't want to mess with that too often as it may send you down a road you may not get back from, or requires a restart or complete blank page scenario.

 

But with X-Plane11 Austin Meyer has this time decided to go a little, or okay a lot deeper in the way that turbine or jet engines operate on a more realistic model, you could call it his sort of "Blade-element theory" for engines. And for a more realistic simulation of engine power and thrust outputs that is certainly great from a users point of view, but it also changes a few parameters that was the deal before X-Plane11 into a wide set of parameters to addressed now in the new simulator, and worse it goes right to the core (no pun intended) of the basis of engine operation. The developers job is now to interpret those huge amount of changes on their products and create the realistic operation and thrust outputs for their aircraft...  so you see the problems.

 

A lot of the changes were introduced in the earlier beta's, but as the beta numbers got higher they came more and more comprehensive, until beta 12 were they came with a really big set of changes, and killed virtually every aircraft that used the old system, there will be a step back of course as there was a few bugs in the system and came with the beta13 update. But one thing that is very clear is that their is no compromise on the parameters to cover older aircraft in older X-Plane versions.

 

A small compromises will be made of course, but Ben Supnic and Austin Meyer have made it clear it is only this way or no way in the future. So those aircraft that can be updated and adjusted to the new parameters will be, but the rest are quite now really...  history. Unless you run them in your older X-Plane10 version.

 

This doesn't mean that every single aircraft will be compromised, but a lot will...  all in the name of progress.

 

But get an even "usable" running aircraft in X-Plane11 and you will be glad to embrace the future. As I said for the few that did claw their way into the air it was a great experience, and hence my wanting more of these aircraft available so users can enjoy their impressive delights, as the point is X-Plane10 is now almost dead, and long live X-Plane11.

 

But you do need a lot of patience in the process of making the aircraft X-Plane11 ready, and it is not the big in your face changes but the hidden easter egg ones, that are buried in a hidden closet. Take brakes as an example. They were once very simple in 50% regular (braking action) or 100% full (locked brakes) but now that is all changed and you have to adjust your aircraft to the changes, and that is just one single item.

 

For most developers it is just a wait and see, a few have gone half way and given us usable aircraft in X-Plane11, but there is still a way to go before we will be fully X-Plane11 compliant...  and it may be awhile before we finally get there. But one big thing is that the beta12 changes maybe the final parameters or a final lock down of the engine thrust changes, and so that a forward momentum may be finally available from now on, if not then expect a few developers to take up another occupation altogether.

 

Framerate inanity

Another factor during this beta phase that got really annoying this month was the constant notes on the forums in "My framerate is up!" or "my framerate is stuffed!" or "Running in single digits!". Every beta release brought loads of these comments and I know they have been coming out since the start of the new millennium.

Most experienced users usually ignore such inanity, but I really feel for the newer and more inexperienced users to the X-Plane simulator in thinking it is a normal process, it is not.

Unless Laminar make a real stuff up as they did with beta12 they will note it, and quickly correct it like they have in beta13, and yes there are common major changes that will effect your simulator through the beta process. But major framerate changes are usually not one of them.

Most framerate fluctuation causes are usually your X-Plane preferences, as the new (beta) update is still interpreting the older settings on the new changes, which makes perfect sense. So first rebuild your main X-Plane preferences.

Secondly is that where you start up in X-Plane and what aircraft you start up in can have a big impact on your framerate as does your weather settings. I always use KLAL - Lakeland Linder Regional as my base setting. It is an interesting position because it has a lot of autogen on one side and just countryside on the other and that allows you to gauge the framerate impact on both areas, of course the weather is set to CAVOK (Ceiling and Visibility OK) and you use the same aircraft on loading.

In most cases Laminar Research don't touch or fiddle with framerates until the RC (Release Candidate) or Alpha or a final tuning of the completed version that is then ready for release, only then will you usually see an improvement with the overall simulator as well as the framerates. So noting constant framerate fluctuations during a beta run just shows your cluelessness and gives out the wrong impressions and worse on the fact of where we actually are in the beta process (which is usually to the very good and not the very bad).

 

But the high's over February were very high. I certainly had my most memorable (if sometimes frustrating) flying in X-Plane that I can ever remember. The simulator is moving into another golden era of almost a pure realistic simulation of flying aircraft, not perfect as X-Plane still does have a few limitations, but certainly a completely new level of experience of flying aircraft on a computer. It is a very exciting future that is coming soon.

 

To reflect the coming of X-Plane11, we here at X-PlaneReviews have done a little twiddling of the site. The masthead menu now has an "X-Plane11" forum for X-Plane11 related articles, and that will be filling up soon, we also took the chance to add in a direct menu connection to the "News" forum and added in a place for these "Behind The Screen" posts as there are now quite a few of them and a resource of what is going on in X-Plane away from the direct review aspect of content and the mast image which is a little bigger because it looks very nice. We would also like to note the X-PlaneReview site is laid out and has full functionality on your smartphone and iPad, for mobile access on the move.

 

Thank You

 

See you all next month

 

Stephen Dutton

1st March 2017

Copyright©2017: X-Plane Reviews

 

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