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X-Plane : Year Review 2013 and Welcoming in 2014


Stephen
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X-Plane Year Review 2013 and Welcoming in 2014.

 

Years go by quickly. But 2013 was very quick moving year by all accounts. So what was the year past by our standards, good, bad or just more of the same. Most of you will say “More of the same” with a yawn, but it has been a good year really by all past years as at least the simulator moved forward and didn’t do anything too drastic to upset the hoards, but really how far did we move ahead and what does 2014 hold and that are questions posed in this final post of 2013.

 

Review 2013

From Laminar Research’s point of view then 2013 was very slow and very quiet. Austin Meyer was tied up all year in his court case, been very low profile and has barely been seen at all. He is more the X-Plane PR department nowadays anyway, But I am sure that he is still huddled over a computer somewhere making like Steve Jobs in  ‘Creating insanely great things”.

The main business however this year from LR was of course the changing over to 64bit. We came into the year with 64bit and the developers and plugin artists were trying to get it all to work. As the first few months rolled by and then bit by bit the aircraft and other add-ons came on line and we were all slowly becoming ‘64bit compatible”.

 

Just when we were all just 64bitted out, they all had to redo the whole thing again to fix the “Lua” memory issues that mostly affected Windows machines. But straight after with the final release of X-Plane version 10.22 it all came very stable and all very good.

10.22 was a revelation from the start as most of the 10 series bugs had also been fixed. In my review of 2012 (Xsim-Reviews) the one thing I noted for mostly in 2013 was stability. You shouldn’t ask for something that you can get. But after the chaos of v10.10 and the 64bit change over it was good just to cruise along for a while. But a while became a long while until 10.25 came out just last month (Nov), and that was really just a welcome texture upgrade.

 

So did 64bit live up to all the hype? Certainly yes it did although there was a lot of confusion of what it actually did. Anything in our simulation world that does not help the frame-rate is usually noted as worthless. But 64bit has transformed most of our computers in absorbing all that visual matter that fills up our screens. It depends of course on how much memory your computer holds, but every computer does not now block up against the old 32bit 3g memory wall. I only have 6g and it works very well and with some space to spare. 8g however is the recommended minimum.

Wesley Bard of Prepar3d noted that “v2 is 32-bit. We’ve put a lot of thought into a 64-bit v2, and will continue to do so, but I can’t promise you when it will be done or ready, or what all the hiccups with existing add-ons would be”. Well X-Plane has been there and done that and they are still only thinking about actually doing it.

 

It was hard for us to change something as intricately woven in to the simulator. But the Xplane way is very versatile and I was very proud of the way all the developers dipped in and shared the information and all worked together with Laminar in getting the transfer done. Can you see the FSX crowd doing that.

 

Not that everything was quiet from LM. Most of the years work was focused on WED (WorldEDitor) and turned a clunky 2d system into a really good application. The focus was to allow us to create airports and scenery that later could be automatically downloaded into Xplane to give you extra default scenery. It works mostly in the background and work very well it does. The whole system is clever when taken in context and will build to be a very good basic foundation for anyone in Xplane or coming into the simulator. And a finally saying to the naysayers that X-plane is poor in this area.

Even the 10.25 update from Albert has hidden gems. Fly very high now and you can see the difference. Cites look like cities and towns are towns. The Xplane urban graphics are now amazingly good. But sadly we  still don’t have any night textures. If you can spend 8 hours to download a tile, It will be worth the wait for Andras (alpilotx) HD sceneries are simply dazzling. Only 53gb of the stuff to download should keep you burning through your Internet allowance for years. And so put all the yearly items together and Xplane has stepped a step forward. That is the funny thing about Laminar Research as they look totally inactive. But open a version from last year and the differences between then and now are very apparent.

So slowly Xplane just gets better. Annoyances like the ATC, poor clouds (look great but totally useless otherwise and kill your frame-rate), night textures, no seasons and the poor 100nm restriction are what are now only holding the simulator back from being world class.

One area in 2013 which really was going really well are simulator add-ons. Xplane receives only a fraction of the output that FSX is lavished upon. Xplane add-ons however are first class. We lost a lot of time in early 2013 though with the 64bit changeover as developers spent the period adjusting current or past aircraft to the new system. 64bit went to the heart of aircraft and this caused here the most major changes to the simulator.

So all projects went on hold until the plugins were stable, Carenado wisely waited until the dust settled and then released the changed versions at only two at a time while at the same time updating the lighting and creating hi-def textures that were a dream with your frame-rate but still looked absolutely gorgeous in the air.

 

So because of 64bit the highlights early in the year was mostly restricted to scenery. LPMA - Madeira was the first great freeware scenery to hit our screens. Then Bucharest - LROP from DAI-Media was also very good. The long awaited Chicago - KORD from Butnaru was very good and so was his MPTO Panama. Chris K - ISDG followed their excellent Adelaide YPAD with Parrafield YPPF (and Adelaide City) and giant killing Toronto CYYZ Pearson later in the year (the ISDG hi-res Earth Orbit Textures are also well worth the download). Frede (Fred-E) said he would quit doing sceneries and we all went into total meltdown. But he had a change of heart and is still with us (again Fred lead the way in again creating very innovative sceneries with mostly default objects). Working with Fred was Brian Godwin. His work was also significant in 2013 in creating ATC ground routes and the excellent KDFW.

 

TruScenery really came into their own with the release of EFTP Tampere-Pirkkala, quite simply the best scenery ever created for Xplane. But their decision in late 2013 to only distribute only from their own web site (and to pull all products from the other sales sites) is (very) disturbing. Aerosoft had a strange year in 2013. Their ATR 72 is excellent but the updates (only one) were snail slow and still did not fix some basic items. In scenery their sceneries became more lackluster and really just FSX product transferred to Xplane with a little HDR lighting thrown in. The promise of BIKF - Keflavik and Lugano LSZA was fading fast. EDDL - Düsseldorf was not to bad and so was EDFH - Frankfurt-Hahn of which I really liked. PANC -Anchorage was pretty good as well. The promise of Mykonos Int. (LGMK) will be a hope back to form in 2014.

Tom Curtis powered his way through 2013 with some great scenery. SFO (Golden Gate + South Bay) was updated again and is an excellent huge scenery, KLAS (and Henderson) was also a welcome addition and KDEN is due any day. Some of Tom’s older scenery got a few touch up’s as well. WWII themes was in vogue as well with Khamsim (Pacific Islands Airfields) and Mr3d’s EGOD. Finally “Ultimate Glacier Pilot” was a fun diversion.

 

After the 64bit dust had settled then the aircraft started to arrive. First was Nemeth Design and DreamFoil Creations AS350 B3 plus which was simply just an amazing aircraft. The arrival of Dawson Design and Virtavia’s SH-3 Seaking later in the year was also a highlight. Notable was that both of these rotary machines were very accessible to novice fliers in moving into flying helicopters. I enjoyed them both immensely.

Even if Carenado was updating to 64bit slowly, their products still kept coming up with regularity. The A36 Bonanza had that amazing Aspen EFD1000 to keep you very happy, The CT210M Centurion II was also excellent. The C340 II and the C90B King Air were also outstanding aircraft. The range at the end of 2013 is now getting very comprehensive, and all are now v2 and 64bit compliant. Alabeo released the hugely enjoyable C188B AgTruck, WACO YMF5 and iconic Staggerwing.

 

Other notable releases in 2013 were the Sherpa K650T from STMA, The excellent DA-42 Twinstar by Harranssor, and a highly improved new aircraft in the Grumman American Traveler AA-5 from vFlyteAir.

The B25 Mitchell and the DHC-1 Chipmunk from Khamsin were both excellent (but I found the DHC-1 a little boring to fly?) and so was the really unusual and complex Antonov “Annie” An-2 from Redeyes.

 

Airliners will always hold the headlines, as so again they did in 2013. First off is the very late release in 2012 of the Boeing 727 series, in putting the series more into the frame as a 2013 aircraft than a 2012 machine. As simulations go these series aircraft from FlyJSim are one of the very best, but with a slight disappointment in the promised planned internal upgrades that never materialized. But the 727 easily dominated the early part of the year - it is simply so good. SSG Group’s Embraer E-190LR was excellent as well. In a head and shoulders level above their earlier E-170 the aircraft which is also a great simulation. SSG also updated the E-170 up to the E190LR standard by making both aircraft a great choice for medium distance hub to regional work. Leading Edge Simulations also released their SAAB 340A in September.

 

The JARDesign Airbus A320neo was not released in 2013. But its inclusion here is notable in the amount of upgrade work that has been carried out on the aircraft. JARDesign have broken the record for the amount of updates for one aircraft in one year in Xplane, but all to the good in design and features. This aircraft is now situated in the higher level of simulation and it is now a very good and very comprehensive aircraft. QPAC returned with a payware version of their A320-232 as well, It was FBW systems deep and had an excellent simulation of Airbus’s Fly-by-wire and hydro-mechanical systems . It was hampered slightly though by in not having a 3d cockpit (It is coming).

 

The big aircraft release of the year was always going to be the FlightFactor Boeing 757RR-200. Howls of protest abounded when the aircraft was delayed from its original August release. FF teased as well with videos and feature announcements, but in early November it was yours to get to work on. The FlightFactor Boeing 777 Series the previous year had set the standard high. However the B757 delivered...  in bucket loads. It is expensive but you certainly get your money’s worth, and those extra few months had made the aircraft bullet proof. FF also released updates to the B777 series in 2013 with a Cargo version and -300 stretch that kept us all happy going all over the world. If any designers dominated 2013 it was Roman and Phillipp.

The final big release of the year was from Supercritical Simulations Group (SSG) in their very ambitious Boeing 748i Advanced. first impressions were that it was buggy, but quickly the updated version became very good. To use the B748i you have to configure the system to it closely (certainly if you have a lower powered computer) but get it right and the aircraft becomes a very good and a very interesting machine to fly. Certainly one to watch closely in the early years of 2014.

 

In plugins it was again an interesting year. Greg Hofers (Classic Jet Simulations) WorldTraffic was an early release. Something this complex was not going to work straight out of the box. But the ideas and its deep integration into Xplane makes this an interesting application. Nearly one year on and it has moved forward with the Random Traffic Generator now working in there (32bit only). X-Plane Reviews are going to focus on WorldTraffic in the New Year when the next update (v2) becomes available.

 

The release of Xsquawkbox 64bit made more people happy than if you had mailed them out $100 dollar bills. Finally able to get back online and make love together at various airports around the world. The very happy VATSIM crowd were never seen again after the plugin release.

Very slow updates from Laminar Research with the Xplane10 simulator has started a wave of addons to cover the basic deficiencies. Like with the WorldTraffic and SkyMAXX pro weather applications, others came to fix the runways or taxi lines, powerlines and the sky colours. Foremost in this area is PierreLvx with his enhancement packs that cover items like the Moon, Taxi (Taxiway signage), Thunder, Skids and a new Aurora. WorldTraffic even tried to workaround the ATC in a way to get the  feature working into the simulator.

 

Jonathan Harris (Marginal) again in 2013 made a significant contribution. First with his enhanced working Jetways and then with "Ground Traffic". Airport developers use both to create action and movement around their sceneries and the plugins still have huge potential for Xplane in the future. He did a great update to the Overlay Editor as well to accept WED default buildings and objects. We also lost sadly a few great plugins with the 64bit changeover, and Sandy Barbour called it a day and walked away from plugin development.

 

For me personally it was the year of the FMC (Flight Management Computer), I spent more time programming and learning aircraft FMC applications than doing anything else in the simulator all the year round. I even needed to replace my printer because of them. In flying there was a lot to choose from... Highest mileage easily goes to the FF Boeing 777 Series, mainly because I used it to follow the Formula One series all around the world... but flying from Anchorage to Keflavik (En-route to start the first F1 route from EGNX) in the low never setting northern sun was certainly a highlight. The Boeing 727 Series was another highlight and so were many of the Carenado’s. Both the AS 350 B+ and the Seaking were both brilliant and the so was the first flying of the Boeing 757. Most wasted time of the year was constantly restarting the A320neo from cold, but usually worth the effort.

 

2014

X-Plane : In September 2013 I was getting a slightly apprehensive in the way X-Plane’s future was going. For months there was not a peep out of Laminar Research, ditto Aerosoft. Aircraft releases coming up were good, but nothing was really announced past that period. EADT was quiet and except for Tom Curtis and any other scenery announcements were slow as well. Worried, yes a little, and P3d was soon going into beta stage.

Now into December and with 2014 now just a week away and a lot has certainly changed. Laminar has now done the v10.25 update, but v10.30 was then held over to 2013. A lot is expected of v10.30. With now almost Noah type proportions in that Ben Supnik says it will be big and a long beta. Any guesses, Laminar is not telling and Mr Supnik can be a card player in putting out signs here but delivering that there. One thing is sure in that Laminar Research has had their heads down for a very long period and up to now an even longer period than when before X-Plane10 was in release mode. But a lot rests on v10.30 to clear finally up far many loose areas and if it even does that it will be a significant advance for the simulator. Guesses?

 

ATC has to be updated. Hints on this have also been noted here and there. The main reason is it was a main selling point Xplane10 feature and to date it has simply not delivered. It also creates a hole in the simulator in that a lot of other items like A.I. Aircraft are attached to it and they are a flying and taxiing mess as well. Fix the ATC and you fix a very big hole in the simulator. The 100nm restriction is another hint that really needs attention. Fly above 25,000ft and X-Plane turns into a joke, and a joke that the FSX crowd have been laughing at us with for years. fix that and again Xplane will fix a big another big hole. Clouds need attention as well in movement and getting rid of that nasty grey blackout zone, great for your frame-rate but in reality it is just a real lousy simulation. We want seasons but I don’t expect them, Seasons will need a fundamental change to the base of the simulator, but I do expect finally some decent night textures.

 

Ben might be in love with his HDR but the reality is we still can’t run the feature. Frame-rates are so dismal with HDR on we won’t go near the tickbox unless we have extreme conditions to do so, turn on HDR with any 3d cockpit and you are always looking at low-single frames in any conditions. If Ben wants us to share the love, then he needs for us to access it. To note that a lot of the above are connected to the 64bit performance, now we have that it is now the time to make the extra memory work for us.

 

No doubt there will be a large array of great special features for aircraft developers to utilize in 10.30, but better touch (low speed) braking is a special need, and so is the effect of banging down hard onto the runway when your trying to just slightly float the aircraft down. It looks horrible too. And an upgrade to the default Garmin 430 would be a really nice touch. Transparent water in shallow depths would make many users just cry - me too.

It will create howls of protest but Xplane9 will not be supported more and more as 2014 goes on. Many developers are simply not going to create three extra versions just for an old simulator with very poor sales. The problems may get to a head with 10.30’s release as only X-Plane10 features will be the only way to build aircraft like we do now with scenery. Many developers already saying that their last releases in 2012 will be the last for X-Plane9. The writing sadly for Xplane9 is now finally on the wall. Ditto 32bit...  Really 32bit was always going to be a transition format until  64bit was completely bug free. When did I last use 32bit?...  nine months ago. Dropping both XP9 and 32bit formats will make 64bit just the single format for the simulator and that has to be a good thing in every area as we now have 3 different formats to use (with three channels per format) to create for and that is just crazy. So we need it simplified not only for the developer, but also for the best use of the simulator for first time users.

 

Is 2014 a significant upgrade year? As more and more textures and heavier scenery consumes more and more of your precious frame-rate. Then are you heading for the bank in 2014 for a loan to upgrade your computer. Most aircraft files are also now demanding a minimum of 1gb VRAM to be effective, so how soon or how much longer will you be able to run your current machine effectively. For me one more chunk of basic required frame-rate means I am in the doghouse and finally under that 20frame margin. If you are only still running Xplane9 because your computer won't handle Xplane10 then your time time is running out as well (but how old is that computer now?).

 

Scenery : Scenery developers always keep their cards close to their chests. Tom Curtis has announced KDEN (Denver) for anyday now, so that should be first out of the rank in 2014. Aerosoft have also announced Aerosoft : Airport - Mykonos Int. (LGMK) which looks excellent. To note that 2014 will be a crucial year for Aerosoft for X-Plane. They state they are committed to the simulator but their actions are telling another story. Aerobridge are developing VHHH Chek Lap Kok, but a hard disk failure early in December will severely delay the project. There are two KEYW’s (Key West) in development and Frede is finishing off his huge PHNL (Honolulu).

 

Aircraft : There is a lot to look forward to in aircraft development in 2014. FlightFactor will certainly deliver in at least two releases during the year and have held a poll of which aircraft to develop next. Many said the Boeing 737ng and many others want the Boeing 787 (Including me). The decision has not yet been announced.

 

Peter Hager has announced his A320/A321 with the 3d virtual cockpit is coming in early 2014 as well. If it is as good as his A380 (with the Virtual Cockpit) then you will be very happy to add both to your hangar.

 

IXEG may even sometime in 2014 release their slow burning 737 Classic. Now reaching XPJet’s long term performance in how long you can do per-releases... and look what happened to them (cancelled Oct 2013).

 

FlyJsim has something unannounced coming in 2014 and Jack’s and Joe’s aircraft are certainly always worth investing in. Mid-year would be a good guess on release. SSG will also release their Freighter version of the Boeing 748.

PMDG have noted they are still working on an aircraft for an X-Plane10 release, but may pull it again if they choose to?...  Most FSX conversions to Xplane have been very successful as we get the best out of both worlds, so really it is not a big risk on their part - rumors it is their Boeing 747-400 and not the B737ng.

 

Dreamfoil has announced the Bell 406 as their next aircraft, but I doubt it will appear before the second half of the year.

In GA Carenado have a slew of aircraft to be released in 2014

 

(See for future releases)

3 years and counting... Carenado’s Current fleet Many are also coming with the Garmin G1000 add on, and no doubt all will be worth the investment. And Alabeo always have something surprising to offer.

 

The very best announcements for 2013 that all have me very excited is the Super MD-80 by parsec and the DC-9 by Icarus Development Team. Both of these aircraft are certainly a requirement for Xplane and we will be following the developments closely. JARDesign has also announced their next aircraft after the A320neo is the A330. The thought of the quality of the A320neo in an aircraft like A330 has to be one of the highlights of the coming year. Jetsim has also announced an A330-300 for release early in 2014.

 

The big release sometime in 2014 will certainly be the EADT’s x737 with a virtual cockpit. Latest pictures show an incredible amount of work and detail. It is rumored to have some very special cockpit innovations and ease of use in the virtual sphere. Worth the long wait - yes!

Of course any of the above can be correct and be released anytime during 2014, or simply disappear quickly into vaporware. But most should be in our hangars by 2015.

 

To wrap up this review of 2013 and the year, I will now list my Best of the Year 2013:

 

Best Aircraft : FlightFactor/VMAX Boeing 757RR-200

No brainer really!...  just magnificent in every department.

Honorable Mention : JARDesign A320neo

Not a 2013 release I admit, but certainly the most improved through 2013.

 

Best Classic Aircraft : Boeing 727 Series - FlyJSim

Yes, yes it of course it was a late 2012 release, But the B727 Series dominated the early part of 2013.

Honorable Mention : Antonov An-2 - Redeyes

Fly it once and you will understand the complexity of the aircraft.

 

Best General Aviation Aircraft : Carenado Beechcraft C90B King Air

The most complete Carenado yet... Superb....  Any other Carenado is good otherwise.

Honorable Mention : Diamond DA-42 Twinstar - Harranssor

A clever and very different aircraft in a GA.

 

Best Helicopter : Eurocopter AS350 B3+ - Dreamfoil Creations and Nemeth Designs

The best detailed helicopter in X-Plane yet.

Honorable Mention : Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King (S-61) - Virtavia and Dawson Design

The choice between the AS350 and the Seaking is simply wafer thin, both are brilliant.

 

Best Scenery : TruScenery - EFTP Tampere-Pirkkala

Just so good in detail and lighting, EFTP is standard setting scenery.

Honorable Mention : Tom Curtis

His work throughout 2013 was just excellent in scale and detail.

 

Person(s) of the Year 2013 : Roman Berezin and Philipp Münzel

The FlightFactor team dominated in everywhere in front and also behind the scenes in 2013. Roman even had time to also collect a doctorate and start a family. B777 upgrades where excellent and the Boeing 757 was the best aircraft of the year.

Honorable Mention : Daniel Klaue

Not only did Daniel do significant work to sort out 64bit issues, he also created very innovated textures and HDR lighting with low framerates. His help to other X-Plane users and developers is also legendary.

 

Best Plugin : Xsquawkbox 64bit - Wade Williams

X-Plane Pilot Client for VATSIM. Finally this release shut them all up asking constantly for a VATSIM client.

Honorable Mention : WorldTraffic - Greg Hofer

WorldTraffic should have been the best of the year, but it needs time to fulfill its huge potential.

 

Best Moment of the year 2013 : The release of the Boeing 757 from FlightFactor.

Worst Moment of the Year 2013 : TruScenery dropping all the sales sites.

Biggest distraction of 2013 : Austin Meyer’s Court Case.

Personal Favorites of 2013 : The Boeing 777 Series, Boeing 727 Series and the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King.

 

We all have our personal moments in 2013, and for myself I had an amazing year of flying. Will 2014 be better?  Well it is lining up to be a significant year for the simulator as 2013 added around 30,000 new users to the X-Plane family, many will of course drop out (known as churn) but still that is a significant number to join us in our simulation world. Can X-Plane do better in 2014?

 

Finally Myself, Wycliffe and Adrian thank you for joining us here at X-Plane Reviews. Only launched five months ago X-Plane Reviews has got off to an excellent start. Creating a site from zero is an immense task and I thank Nicolas Taureau from the Shop.Org on his excellent advice and in getting us the latest updates from the developers so you can get all the right current information on the reviews. To Wycliffe and Adrian they have given the site their precious time and talent, so that is certainly a big thank you to them.

 

And so going into 2014 only now days away we will of course bring you next year more of everything in X-Plane. Nothing can be more exciting than simulation when you have the moments of sheer pleasure in when you realise that what you are flying is a near replica of the real aircraft in almost every shape or form (without the expensive running costs!) and you can fly to almost any point on the globe. We must sit back and think of how far computer simulation has come in the last fifthteen years. It certainly has come a very long way - So think of what it will be like in another 10 years?  But it is the journey and not the destination that makes simulation one of the great interests that you can do. Ever changing and ever going forward, you will find X-Plane will give you the best experience in return for your investment. It is not perfect but to getting to the point of greatness is a long road.

 

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Stephen Dutton

©Copyright 2013 : X-Plane Reviews

 

Note: X-Plane Reviews is taking a break for a few days and be back 6th Jan 2014.  Have a Happy New Year 2014.

 

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Stephen - thanks for all the work you and the crew put in to your reviews. I've spent more on payware this last year because of the time you all put in to highlighting what's worth spending a few quid on to make XP even better. You really bring this stuff to life with your writing. Enjoy your New Year break on the Gold Coast and raise a cold lager for me in your local surf/sports club!

Cheers and Happy New Year!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Peter Tram

Keep me in the loop on which way they go....  Thanks Peter.

 

Its freeware! 

Heres ABSim's pipeline-

Freeware-LJPZ V2 for XP10

Freeware-KEYW For v9 and v10

Payware-MMPR For v9 and v10

Payware-VHHH For v9 and v10

Payware-KLAX For v9 and v10

 

Freeware-KJAC For v9 and v10

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