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Behind the Screen : April 2024

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Behind the Screen : April 2024


By of Easters past... it was a very quiet month this April 2024. X-Plane again played the game of each other waiting for the other. The worst was the extended X-Plane 12 development period, until the beta release in September 2022. Then things moved forward, if in only dribs and drabs. In fact X-Plane 12 wasn't actually of what you would call completely "usable" until v12.0.8 (rc-3).


Here we are again... in waiting. This time it is the newly numbered or categorised v12.1.0. This version was publicly given a performance at the FS Weekend in Lelystad, the Netherlands, then a week ago another windowshop was done at the "Fun and Sun Aerospace Expo" in Florida. All very nice. Of course the current simulator is usable, you can still fly your beloved dream machine anytime you want to, so what is the problem you ask?


The problem is that this latest v12.1.0 version is the most important since the release of X-Plane 12. In some ways more important in that it will finally bring all the threads together, and FINALLY fix problems that have gone on too long. Remember X-Plane 12 was 16 months late, v12.1.0 will be to date over five months late...   and yes I am going on about this again.


Easter is the big release month of the year. You would think Christmas was the biggie, but it's not from a sales perspective, not counting Black Friday (does X-Plane count as cyber Monday?). But the problem for Christmas is that if you have some saved cash to spend in this holiday period, it is not going selfishly to you now is it? You may get away with a great sale purchase on Black Friday, but honestly that spare cash is going to have to go towards lavishing presents on your loved ones and covering the costs of a thanksgiving turkey, or Christmas dinner. Worse is that any available free time is also in being wanted to be with your loved ones, extended family loved ones or stuck at the airport in waiting for the snow to clear.


Christmas is like that, as you simply have no time and absolutely no money for yourself.


Now Easter is perfect...  You have already worked your guts out hard for over three months, so are wanting a little reward for all your hard earned efforts. There is usually a nice sale on at the Store, but more importantly is that after Easter there are two perfectly clear weeks with no commitments, plus besides opening an Easter egg, you can selfishly hide away and fly to your heart's content, no commitments, pure unabated freedom...  two whole weeks of flying, and no guilt!


Although you will find something nice on the Store for this unconfined period, the really nice, nice thing to have is something new, even better is something really special to learn and fly. You can then spend all that time delving through manuals and learning those complex cockpit tasks to your heart's content, the most committed will even do a really long haul, a 12 hour crusade from one part of the world to the other...


So where is the problem?


Snazzy developers know this. So they are in wanting to put their bright shiny (usually expensive) new project right there on the Store for you to absorb, usually make it wanting in those precious few weeks leading up to the Easter holiday period. The only annoying thing is you are faced with is usually which of the biggest of the glittering projects are you going to purchase for those available spacious two weeks.


So what could go wrong? Top level developers usually get an advanced Alpha copy of the latest X-Plane version from Laminar Research. This is a two way talkfest to find mostly the hidden bugs and if the newly inserted simulator features will work correctly on the current aircraft. Here is a hint in the rain feature on aircraft windows. Originally it was Librain, then the rain was internally converted into the actual X-Plane Simulator. Laminar should do more of these outsourcing of ideas, for two reasons, it speeds up development and a lot of these third-party gizmos are very clever. To their credit Laminar have finally absorbed a few of the better ones with X-Plane 12.


So in the Alpha, you can see or test if the new feature works as required, the bonus is that the developer can then also incorporate the same feature on their incoming latest release. v12.1.0 has a lot of lighting changes, so it is a lot of work to refine all those lights to match the newer requirements of the coming version release.


But from the developers point of view, you can't release the new project with all the latest wizz-bang features built in, if the Version release is not released to the general user public.


You have a choice, put out the current model, then update later with the official release when finally out there. But that is releasing two different projects within weeks of each other, plus you can't take advantage in your marketing of those new features that will all be bright and sparkle on your aircraft (even scenery has a load of lighting effects)...  second choice is hold off for the v12.1.0 release, then put the project up for sale.


The ongoing delayed release then creates another problem? If every developer holds off for the imminent release, then they are all piling up together behind the V12.1.0 intergration...  so once that is implemented, then you get a rush too the store.


For most users you only have a set allowance of disposable funds, yes you might buy one top level aircraft ($70-$90) range, maybe even a lighter release ($30-$40) range, but if you have four or five big releases coming at you at the same time, your not going to, or be able to purchase them all.

In most cases releases are staggered, usually two to three weeks apart so the market can absorb these disposable income funds. So the release date for a developer is extremely important to get right, for a maximum return on their work.


Even if Laminar Research release v12.1.0 in the next few weeks, then the developers have spread out their wares as well. We saw this with the over long X-Plane 12 release itself, and it took ages to sort out, mostly six months... but that was a different time and story.


So there is a queue building out there, but it does give developers a little more time to fine tune their project, make them better, and when they do arrive they will also have the latest X-Plane 12 v12.1.0 features available as well. And they are certainly worth waiting for.

But that queue is a problem, go with the others put up the product on the store and compete hard for your disposable dollar, but in this aspect you will lose, certainly if FlightFactor releases the Boeing 777v2, everyone will want that. Your other choice is to wait, spread out the release date, and it is a better deal for you...  in the end. So at this point you have nothing, then you will be faced with everything all at once?


In looking at the now X-Plane 12 defined aircraft. You do get this highlighted quality that is head and shoulders above the last X-Plane versions, users have had some excellent and quality releases over the years, but nothing can even come close to what X-Plane 12 can really deliver to Simulation...  both the maturing of the X-Plane 12 Simulator, and the ever advancing quality from developers is colliding together to create amazing experiences, and many of those incredible experiences will be released in the next few months and over the Northern Summer.


It is a very exciting time to be in Simulation, but everything also depends totally on Laminar Research delivering the next step in v12.1.0, and soon? To drag on the release slowly again will cause a lot of headaches, even a few getting out of the simulation business, and you can't blame them at all. So as Astronaut Alan Shepard remarked...I'm cooler than you are,” he barked. “Why don't you fix your little problem and light this candle?”.


See you all next Month


Stephen Dutton

3rd May 2024

Copyright©2024 X-Plane Reviews


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The elephant in the room is MSFS 2024. If Asobo get that right X-Plane is going to have a big problem. If nothing else Laminar need to get this next release out before MS suck all of the air out of the room. 

Of course MSFS fans might be unhappy in having to shell out for a new game. Perhaps the new release will be heavy on game and not flight simulation. But then again some big performance improvements might start making MSFS 2024 look very attractive against Xplane.

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