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Behind the Screen : March 2023


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Behind the screen- March 2023.jpg


Behind the Screen : March 2023


After the chaos of the first two months of the year 2023, X-Plane 12 with the release of version Beta v12.04r3, then as a release v12.04r3, everything suddenly went normal, or you had a working simulator. I was skeptical at first, we have been here before and many times. But no this time it was for real, I could fly without a load of CTD (Crash to Desktop) moments, and also at the upper reaches of the stratosphere I wasn't being bundled around violently up there like I was in a dingy. Aircraft now flew straight and true, the weather (after losing the Gribb Files for a few days) came good as well...  all too good to be true?


To find out I had to push the Simulator hard, and there is nothing harder than doing a lot of flights. Short VFR (Visual Flight Rules) was not going to cut it, as you needed height and distance...  time to go for a big challenging machine and Rotate's monster MD-11.


So began a criss-cross of the Mediterranean. Flying hard between Barcelona to Tel Aviv, then back to Rome, then back to Cypress...  then back to Barcelona, tons of fuel were used as I built up the flight mileage. The results were outstanding, no CTD's, great weather formations, and even realistic bad weather at some destinations.


Then when I had flown over Greece for the third time, and was passing landfall over Southern Italy, I realised something...  I was enjoying it, the flying, the whole X-Plane 12 experience. To a point it was a shock, in not waiting for something to come and usually ruin the moment, the day, to go back to ZERO, again...  it really did actually did work.


Obviously I have been through X-Plane version releases before and countless Betas. But I had a niggling that this 12th version of X-Plane maybe a bit too complicated, to much of too many diverse elements, plus the fact of also a total core reconfiguration of the simulator could actually be made to behave altogether and correctly...  before you start calling me out, I admit, that there are still a few elements that need work, replays are one with it's crazy zooming clouds, lighting is still a bit off (but still far better than the release murk)...  but thankfully a large percentage of it works.


So for the month of March (this edition) then Reviewing went back to something called "Normal". Remember that...  Normal.


Moving on from the MD-11, it was a review of the ToLiSS A320 NEO, again "Normal", I was able to do the review without something crashing down around me, problem was I was enjoying the flying so much, I just wanted more. Again I could criss-cross Greece, even landed there once to refuel at Athens, fun, the most fun I have had in ages. The ToLiSS made it easier.


I've mentioned this feature before, and yes I am going to go on about it again. The ToLiSS "save" feature. It allowed me to do things in the review that were impossible before, the time saved was enormous. This aspect was highlighted by the next aircraft I had to review (in a beta), sorry I can't mention it, but suddenly I was back to reality. I didn't have that ToLiSS feature as a backup. It is not that the beta crashed a lot, as the aircraft flew very well in the v12.04r3 X-Plane version. But it was the consistent resetting of everything to get the aircraft to fly, twice, sometimes three times a day. Setting the aircraft up ready, does mean you will not "actually" flying in it, the active aircraft has to be correct for the review in the testing and the visual aspect, if you use the Replay, you are coming back to another reset, then another, and another.


With the ToLiss you just clicked on the correct setup "save" that you had you set ready earlier, and you are instantly ready to continue, with other aircraft, you are completely back at square one, only then you can start your reviewing twenty or thirty minutes later, do that as I mentioned three times a day, and there is an hour and a half gone on just doing the same thing over and over.


I don't mind the resetting aspect, but it is seriously time consuming... so please developers, try harder with "save" features, because I doubt Laminar can do a "Global" save feature with the current specialized aircraft plugin architecture, certainly not with the PlaneMaker default settings that the X-Plane "save" and "situation" aspects can only do, honestly over the years it has very rarely worked either. I did wonder however if a third party plugin could do what ToLiSS does, if it could be done then enlighten me, it is to be a quality tool, but please no cheap FlyWITHLua scripts.


Sometimes the biggest features that come into the Simulator are the ones that do the basics better, or are needed to make the Simulator a better place to be. A lot of default features haven't been touched for a decade, hence the poor "save" features, the replay is pretty basic as well..


Because I had to use the default pushback tool because the "BetterPushBack" app didn't work with the MD-11, you realise how bad the default pushback really is, slow, unrealistic. Thank God Rotate fixed the problem quickly, but it highlights the problem.


I always pointed out that Laminar should use these better tools from third-parties than spend time or wait for years to do their own. The Librain app was a great example on why it works. Created by a master coder Saso Kiselkov, Librain added rain effects to aircraft windows. Originally developers had to add in the effects directly into their aircraft, so a lot used them, but a lot were also too lazy to do so. To a point in X-Plane 12 the developer still has to add in the effects, but in now being a generic built in system, it is easier to do and is more effective as part of the X-Plane application.


But it is the time aspect that counts here for Laminar, why not have BetterPushBack as part of the Simulator, or other great tools like Dr Gluck's "TerrainRadar", yes you can download the plugins and have these tools available...  but where they do a better job than the poor dated original tools it is a very quick update or be a replacement to make the X-Plane Simulator more modern and relevant.


The Chudoba Design Announcement for "Project People" for X-Plane is a great example again on how to expand X-Plane more quickly with better features than for Laminar to try to keep all the development in house, in house with limited resources is just TOO slow.


Bringing the application in house also has other benefits. If the original coder leaves the X-Plane universe that the plugin tool is left hanging. A good example of this is "Marginal's" Autogate system. A decade ago it was excellent with consistent updated attention, and X-Plane built it's eco-system around the plugin's architecture. But coder Marginal dropped out of X-Plane around 2016, and no further supplemental updates never then came along. So you are left currently with a broken system, that works sometimes at your arrival destination or at most times in it doesn't. The SAM (Scenery Animation Manager) system has mostly replaced the original Autogate plugin, but that is also a cumbersome and bloated application for just moving jetways and opening aircraft doors. The SAM "seasons" feature is now basically dead in X-Plane 12, but the SAM seasons didn't actually work that well before (burdened down with textures), an updated X-Plane 12 SAM needs to go back to basics.


Q2 period of 2023 should be interesting. Now that v12.04r3 is a more solid platform for developers, the products will start flowing again. Upgrades to X-Plane 12 will come as well, although debatable, a lot of users are very vocal about paying for version upgrades, it is the X-Plane mantra that "Free" is good, but they are missing the whole point. What of say US$15 to upgrade to X-Plane 12 an old favorite with the modern features of X-Plane 12, it is amazing how many really get upset about this aspect. The developer has done the changes that X-Plane 12 requires, then will service and update that product for the next four years, in other words you will be able to enjoy your favorite aircraft for another four years, you are not repurchasing the complete aircraft, but just paying a upgrade fee. Yes I understand that to upgrade a lot of aircraft in your collection, in that the costs can add up. But my old mantra is important.


Value is in use, not in features. If you fly the aircraft three or times a month, then it has value to you, that aspect is certainly worth the upgrade fee of $15. But you are not going to get it for free, unless you have just bought the aircraft recently, say in the last twelve months.


There is the definition here that "Payware" is for quality, "Freeware" is a lower quality, but the lines can sometimes be blurred, poor average Payware can be over ridden by a quality freeware developer. But in reality the freeware developer is doing themselves a disservice, giving away their substantial skills and hard work for nothing...  but being the hero, users will just want more, more of you and for free, they will take and just take...  "thanks very much".


X-Plane is really a two-tier flight Simulator, the default cheap level, with no quality, but a lot of it. And the payware network of quality flying. Yes I understand that a lot of users don't have the money to create a quality network, but networks can be small, say ten quality sceneries that you use regularly, the "Value" aspect, if you use the scenery frequently it will have value, where as using a LOT of nothing means just that in you are flying a mediocre experience, but then again users don't like cabins on aircraft either, even if to watch your amazing landing skills!


But as we approach Easter, and it is a fine time with no commitments to indulge in a bit of flying. It will be a better experience this year around with a nice and stable X-Plane 12 to fly in, and then look around on how far we have all come in the last twelve months... 


See you all next month.


Stephen Dutton

5th April 2023

Copyright©2023 X-Plane Reviews


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