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Behind The Screen : April 2019


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Behind The Screen : April 2019


You sorta own them for their requirements that you need, yes someone else created it, yes you paid for it out of your hard earned money, so it is sort of yours, more so in the fact how for one in much you use it and secondly... on how much you like it. It gets personal as you know your away around it so well, the best areas, the best ways to approach it...  it actually becomes important to you. The only thing is that X-Plane is constantly evolving, changing morphing and even the very, very best in time starts to feel it's age after a few years, so when an updated version comes along you are going to get very excited, the brilliant same but now updated and it is going to be far better....  right? Wrong.


EGCC  Manchester by Aerosoft was a brilliant scenery, in certainly the very top ten of sceneries for detail and quality. It was created as part of a double act with EIDW in Dublin by Icarius Studios, yes it was a perfect match between two exceptional sceneries, and both were very much ahead of their time in quality and detail.


So the XP11 version comes along and like noted you couldn't wait to install the new bright SAM featured reflective hi-depth textured brilliance...  and on first glance it looked...  well okay, but then I noted that a lot of items were missing (I mean who could lose a whole radar tower), but slowly the horror dawned on my that this EGCC from Aerosoft is not my actual old EGCC from Aerosoft, this was a completely redone version of EGCC from Manchester, and totally worse it was a terribly redone version of EGCC Manchester....


But to understand the history, you can see why this ghastly mess evolved. Per se Aerosoft don't make or create sceneries, they pay or subsidise other developers or developer studios to create the work for them, then they brand it as their own. 

In one way it is a very good idea, it gives creative developers upfront money and then a return on their work, call it survival money to create the work in the first place, and from a developer's point of view you then have that huge marketing machine behind you to sell your completed work...  it is a brilliant concept, and it works, certainly from Aerosoft's point of view of making lots of money and creating a huge inventory of sellable product.


But the negatives from the concept are many. The biggest one is quality control, as not all developers are created equal in fact some are well quite questionable in their actual talents and only see the cash. When starting out in 1991, there was in no doubt that Aerosoft had a lot of talent to pick from the primordial pool of eager creative creatures, more so as at the time, you didn't need a lot of actual talent to create even of the very basic sceneries or aircraft for that matter. But because such creative people got in at the lower swamp, the level then they grew with the simulators as they developed and progressed, many obviously have all mostly moved on now, but the followers in the next and even next generation built on their foundations. But the talent pool was extremely good. If you are making a name for yourself, then why not cut out the middle man and go public, create your own developer studio and take all the cash and the talent for yourself.


This is were the strengths and weaknesses start to show in Aerosoft's concept. Yes you can garner exceptional talent, but you can't hold it...  you can however own their product because you funded it in the first place under the business agreement. But in today's development world you can start making a name or your own brand from the start, so the problem is that the creative good developers are going to the market themselves, and living and dying on their talents alone, a few do survive, but most are culled because now you require almost exceptional quality scenery even from the start of your career, as currently payware is extremely competitive an environment to survive in, so to a point Aerosoft's support was a good concept for these up and coming creatives.


But it is still Aerosoft's secondary hosting position that is it's real detrimental problem... they never created the work, they only own it. So if the original developer leaves, then they are sort of "left holding the baby"so to say, so the only way to update it is to find a new developer to do the work.


This is the major issue in why so much Aerosoft product is so extreme in their quality on release, then add in a completely different simulator platform from FSX/P3D to X-Plane and it can turn into a recipe for disaster, as even a even very highly talented FlightSim developer can be totally demented in trying understand X-Plane's highly dynamic features and weirdness. Many make a very good fist of it, and actually (almost) get it right, but when a lot of the old (win7 style) scenery that is planted in your hard drive then your job is a mountain to climb to make it even halfway acceptable to the fantatical users of "that" say those "weird" group of demanding Laminar thingy users...   a bigger idea is to use a dedicated X-Plane developer (mostly the Orbix approach) so they have hoovered up all the best X-Plane developers with the offer of a lot of work and a lot of payments, however Aerosoft are much more reluctant to use anything or anyone associated with X-Plane and hence most of the poor gradable scenery that passes your way. They have used X-Plane scenery developers but Orbix's offer now that they are in the X-Plane scenery business is more lucrative.

And don't get me wrong, as some of my most favorite scenery is Aerosoft branded (except for now I guess EGCC and maybe soon EIDW as well) and so that explains most of the sheer differences in the extreme quality grades of the output from Aerosoft...  but it doesn't do well when you are trying to create a new market that one day in the future is going to be very important contribution to your bottom line.


In EGCC - Manchester case then the original Icarius studio members split up over "personal directions of the company" but it also split up one of the very best developer studios as well, leaving Aerosoft holding a product it couldn't personally update... I don't know the contract details, but as the new EGCC in the hatchet job it is, would then mean that EGCC -Manchester had to be totally created from scratch to not infringe the older contract with Icarius... hence the EGCC disaster.


Vulkan and Metal is go!

Laminar Research have noted via their developer site that Vulkan and Metal is now running on the main X-Plane simulator itself, and now past the test vehicles of Airfoil Maker and Plane Maker apps. Laminar noted that the new API's are still very early in their development, but I would say you will get a pretty good idea and a demonstration of the new API at the coming FlightSim Expo on 7-9th June in Florida (USA) the seminar is noted at 4:30pm - 5:15pm local time. Like with the older switch of moving over to 64bit,  I doubt this time it will cause as big as an upheaval, certainly the aircraft developers are totally all over the constant changing and to and throwing at Laminar's digression over the last few years, the only effects could be that some very old processor systems out there would just not work anymore, but they live still on planet X-Plane9, so mostly they wouldn't know anyway.

If the June presentation is a success, then my guess is that 11.40 (the Vulkan/Metal) release will be late August or Early September with a few months to clean up the kinks... Laminar note late 2019 or early 2020 for the Vulkan/Metal release, but I think it will be well done and dusted before that.


So why the rush...


In reality Laminar Research can't dig into 2020 too much stuck in a long lasting beta, of which they have had a few over over the last few years, it needs a clear slate to make money. Yes Laminar can do a clean up beta of all the little bugs still left on the roadmap for X-Plane11, but otherwise the focus will soon be on to X-Plane12.


Yes X-Plane12, and it is due in 18 months time if Laminar keep to their usual roadmap of version releases. 18 months still may sound a long way off, but in development time it is just late next year, take away X-Plane11.40 and the Christmas Holidays and you will have only 10 months then to get it all done.


But here is the difficult trick... what can Laminar Research actually put into X-Plane12...  yes you maybe laughing and falling off your chair, but this is harder to do than you think. The point is Laminar has to have a few banner marque features to get you to part with US$80-$90 dollars, and this time around that is far harder to do than it looks.


Laminar's roadmap, feature item list has been going down and down over the runs of X-Plane10 and certainly with X-Plane11, this has been without doubt the most feature packed and most successful X-Plane version ever. And now almost every feature that was missing from the simulator has been either rectified or completed on that year on year list....   Laminar has been gobbling up new features like a demented monster.


Better weather, check, PBR effects, check, better avionics, check, better autogen, check, installed 3d airports, check, dynamic reflections, check, new interface, check, VR - Virtual Reality, check, new shaders, check, improved 3d cockpit interaction, check, new dynamic FMOD sound system, check, new particle effects, check, check, check...  and check.


It is quite a list, and certainly your going to counter with...  well what about the ATC?, well yes the ATC is still a work in progress, but that will still be completed before the end of the X-Plane11 run (my guess it will be the 11.50 beta), Weather is still crap... Weather will always be a beta to beta WIP, as will the autogen, what we are talking about here are the needed BIG features to get you to pay for the next bigger and better X-Plane12.


Raytracing... what about that one...  well no because Raytracing is a hardware dependent feature, at this point to few (cost wise) have the new Turing engines in their computers, it will be a few years before Raytracing will become a feature, but it will be introduced down the line in X-Plane12.


Only in a few areas can I see new features. One is efficiency. This will step on from the Vulkan/Metal revolution, the new X-Plane12 will be a lean machine, but to access that efficiency you will need modern hardware, or at least something that can mulit-thread, and what you see on the surface is not what it will under the hood in the engine department, so in reality the start point of X-Plane12 will start with the introduction of Vulkan/Metal, or to say Laminar are doing that right now. but what else? Personally I can only see one thing. The only area that has not had attention over the last few versions of X-Plane is the Global Orbit Textures and Water, even to the point that the main ground textures may even get an overhaul, and yes that would mean better extended lighting for night operations. Granted there are already a lot of add on extras that can cover these areas, but they are still a central core requirement on the basic simulator... with the far better efficiency of the new Vulkan/Metal API's then I think Laminar can finally go up a step on these resource hungry elements. We also now have the capability to download huge gigabyte files as well as that was not even possible even at the time of the release of X-Plane11 (yes you can finally ditch those DVD's for good).


So what are your thoughts on future features of the simulator? I would like to hear them.


The next Behind the Screen will only a week out from the FlightSim Expo, so we will see how we all are then.


See you all again next month


Stephen Dutton

1st May 2019

Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews


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The season thing wasn't bad. From what I remember Laminar has mentioned that IF they would do seasons, it wouldn't be texture-based, but they would have to develop a new way to do it with shaders. So this would be for sure new technology that people would be glad to pay for.

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