Jump to content

Behind the Screen : March 2024

Recommended Posts

Behind the screen- March 2024.jpg


Behind the Screen : March 2024


On the 4th of February 2024, there was a Developer's conference in Montreal for X-Plane Simulator platform. Here the best and most prominent developers joined together to work out not only the future of the X-Plane Simulator, but also to share their friendship in meeting their fellow workers in arms.


Laminar Research was at the same conference as well. That should have been a huge advantage in working with the very people that do the core workings of the X-Plane Simulator, the setting was ripe for setting a future roadmap and an agenda for X-Plane from both sides of the Simulator...  but the conference didn't end to that satisfaction.


At the height of the conference, Laminar Research announced that they were going to create a product store within the X-Plane Simulator, a reflection of the same arrangement that is part of the MSFS 2020 (Microsoft Simulator) platform.


This sudden announcement did not unite the developers to the Laminar cause, in fact it divided the conference, and in itself created a rolling discontent among the the attendees, certainly when the news hit the forums, all sorts of comments came out.


Initially most users were very supportive of the internal store idea, yes another store, and one built directly into the Simulator, this aspect is a major plus....  but X-Plane is not at all structured like Microsoft's Simulator, it is not a large single central entity, but a Universe with many different revolving planets, and set at it's centre are two massive Jupiter sized planets called Laminar Research and the X-Plane.Org.


Initially Laminar Research never dealt with the user side of the Simulator, it was (still is) the founder and on going developer of the Simulator. The X-Plane.Org grew out of the need for users to interact, create and support the X-Plane Simulator. In the early day's it was a sort of clubby meeting place to share and communicate all things X-Plane. I'm not saying that MSFS also has this same network of user sites and forums set around it and in giving support and communication to the platform, in fact every platform has it's own network. But the central core of development and selling product at MSFS is embedded directly into the system, it is even hosted and run as an online game.


But X-Plane's in it's arrangement was more focused and generalised than the others. Someone noted that the X-Plane.Org is not the centre of the X-Plane universe, as other sites contribute to the platform, and yes I agree with that aspect in file sharing and product sales, like the Fly Away Simulation sites, but most are only sales sites (Orbx, Just Flight & SimMarket). But the X-Plane.Org is different in that it supports the Developers directly or even indirectly in the support of creating the products to use in the Simulator.


Early days of X-Plane were mostly based around the PlaneMaker tool provided with the Simulator, mostly aircraft were then generic, but clever in a customised way. So the clubby .Org supported these products as they were mostly freeware based. But even in these early years, the X-Plane.Org struggled for support.


Sites and platforms cost money to host and maintain. Free is all very nice, but it doesn't buy you servers and software to run it all, and very quickly the site required money to support the ever expanding user base. Donations was an early trial, but failed as they were not very consistent and worse in not really giving enough financial support to the .Org site. The solution came with Nicolas Taureau, and he set up a store to sell the now more quality based "Payware" products, but the funds also supported the .Org in succession and allowed it to thrive and grow into the big utility it is today. Most of this important support is not aggrandised or visually translated, as is Taureau's personality, understated is more to the point, but important is the support of the .Org system to the X-Plane platform, of which X-PlaneReviews is also a benefactor.


So now you have the X-Plane Universe, with Laminar Research and the X-Plane.Org running in parallel or in orbits around each other, Laminar in not wanting the commercial side of the Simulator, bar of selling a few cups and T-Shirts. And the X-Plane.Org system supporting the developer and user base. So what happens if you move the financial base of developers and sales of the X-Plane Simulator directly to the new store? in reality, you are blowing the X-Plane universe apart, and I really don't think that a lot of users realised that the amount of the support funding of the X-Plane.Org, developer support and loads of other auxiliary items that was generated by the X-Plane.OrgStore...   and neither did Austin Meyer's, head honcho of Laminar Research. All he saw was a store in MSFS and the money he could generate if he installed inside X-Plane the same system as Microsoft, a good idea financially, but structurally unsound for his own creation.


We have to understand, and oddly the original mission of X-Plane was for it to be a platform of experimentation of all things aviation. That is the core of PlaneMaker as well, although that aspect was left behind more than a decade ago. In wanting far better functionality and higher quality Simulation, it had move on pass the basic origins of PlaneMaker to plugin based custom products. This now is really the contention of the issue and where the money goes to. Obviously Laminar Research want to expand beyond being just the gatekeeper of X-Plane.


So there are currently a lot of issues created by the announcement of 4th February 2024. Certainly it has the promise to unstable a very balanced current system, and the ramifications are enormous if Laminar Research get this idea wrong, and creates questions...  but what of a store with very few products to sell?  Would they in the future also financially support the user base...  they made a very big message over the decades of not getting or even involved at all in this aspect, but they would be either the demise of it, or even damaging it beyond repair... if that scenerio was possible, could it also damage the X-Plane model as a simulator entirely? Kill the very goose that lays the golden eggs... I'm doomsaying again, but this time not without reason. 


So we are at a threshold, not a runway one were X-Plane gets to land safely beyond the fence and onto the hard solid runway. Since the 4th of February announcement, there has been no forth coming new announcements or details from Laminar Research, except for a few flashy images on the X-Plane website and social media. Obviously the next announcement will be the launch of the store, and it's insertion into the X-Plane Simulator. It will be very good, as Laminar are very good at these sort of things. But there is far more required than opening a store, but of the quality of the stock inside of it.

Loyalty to Nicolas Taureau is also extremely strong, and why not. He has supported and cultivated the core product of the Simulator for more than over a decade, and make no mistake here in not doing it selfishly for just for the product to sell, but to give talented developers the resources and support they needed to acquire the skills we take for granted, and with the excellent products we all use.


How this current store scenario plays out will be important to the future of the Simulator, hopefully we will have an answer by Q3 as announced for the opening of the LR Store in the 3rd quarter of the year...   one thing is very sure, the X-Plane Simulator we used only last year, will be a very different to the one we will be using at the end of 2024.


There was no edition of BtheS in February 2024, as I went of a well earned holiday, break..  or a cruise around the South Pacific. Obviously the 4th February announcement traveled with me, but I did get a well deserved change of scenery and a big sea refresh. But my demur was already more brighter before the departure, in fact since late 2023, when X-Plane through version 12.0.9, and behaved itself. A second South Pacific X-Plane related revisit to Tahiti in the same region was simply sheer coincidence, but translated the same to the X-Plane Simulator in how it mirrors the real world.


Now we are looking forward to X-Plane 12 v12.1.0...   the v12.1.0 update is expected to be a landmark release outside of a formal version change. Most of the focus is on graphics, including the nasty Anti-Aliasing (MSAA) Improvements, Water improvements, RCAS (Robust Contrast Adaptive Sharpening), Bloom effects and better particle effects. Systems include a better G1000 functionality, Stormscope, Traffic Map and Airport METAR flags... a new STEC ST-360 Autopilot is also included, new tools include better screenshot effects, which suits us really well... it is quite a list. With everything, then this post Easter holiday will be one of the most interesting yet, and the version v12.1.0 was highlighted with great reception at the FS Weekend in the Netherlands. Expect a beta release within weeks.


Importantly those on-going v12.1.0 is more better system refinements, in shifting the heavy workload from your Graphics card over to the Processor. We expected this aspect for the release of X-Plane 12, but it will come now about mid-term in the X-Plane 12 version run. The changes will not magically fix your framerate, as heavier graphics will equalise out the benefits of less load on the Graphic Card, but it will overall make the X-Plane Simulator more efficient. I was a little annoyed about this aspect as I invested heavily in the processor side in my last system upgrade with the earlier announcement, then finding that Laminar was leaning even more heavily than ever onto the Graphic card side, so more expense was required to beef up that hardware side, now they are going back to the original focus, it is annoying and expensive as well to cater for these changing whims.


Another change over the month was the upgrading of scenery for X-Plane 12. Finally the slow dribble has started to be a better flow from scenery developers, Aerosoft particularly was very active in releasing replacements and improvements to scenery that have been a long time dormant, and obviously we need more to come, a lot more. Although noted as an ever constant developing Simulator, X-Plane 12 will hopefully reach a mature point with the release of v12.1.0. Then that aspect bringing in even more resources for users to experience.


So Q2 has a lot of potential to be one of the best period of 2024 for some big quality releases, even if it dribbles into the Northern Summer. But developers need a better more mature Simulator to bring quality releases to the Users, that aspect was something quite lacking over the last few years...  it is time for X-Plane 12 to turn the corner...  and that is said on April Fools day!


See you all next month.


Stephen Dutton

1st April 2024

Copyright©2024 X-Plane Reviews


Logo Header X-PlaneReviews 200px.jpg


Link to comment
Share on other sites

While understanding the role the org store has played in the past Laminar does have an issue. The only revenue Laminar gets (unlike MSFS) is the sale of the base package. That has impacts beyond Laminar’s profitability including funds needed to develop the platform on an ongoing basis. While one imagines developer concerns about the charges to sell on the new store (any different to the org store?) the existence of the MSFS store does not seem to have blunted the development of add ons for that platform. License revenue on its own, and particularly over time as a product ages, is not a solution. What are the alternatives?  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...