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Behind the Screen : May 2024

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Behind the Screen : May 2024


I've got to admit I am enjoying X-Plane at the moment, in that the X-Plane 12 experience is now cutting and creating a higher level of immersion you could never believe could ever have existed before. Certainly the long awaited X-Plane v12.1.0 update pushes the Simulator further down the road with a very realistic experience, missing however is still a more naturalistic scenery, its now eleven years old and more, so it's showing it's age.


You always had to have a very vivid imagination when flying the X-Plane Simulator, as when I came in it was in the middle of the X-Plane 9 run, you had to have a VERY vivid imagination back then. But that gap has now become very small.


The v12.1.0 update does however do something in closing the illusionary line between imaginary and realism. It could be a lot of things, but overall I think it is the lighting effects, the shadows and everything in between. But it has taken a long time to get here...  the refinement process of X-Plane 12 has been too long and even a bit painful. And that may be the point, as before it wasn't noticeable, but it is now in the age of photorealistic gaming.


But as I have several times over that long decade or so, I saw a jump, a movement forward in April. This aspect started actually last year with the release of X-Craft's excellent E-Jet Series. The realism factor and depth of the Simulation was a credit to the developer. But it was the X-Trident AW-109SP that really changed the goal posts. In doing so it also brings up a few questions on with which way Simulation is going?


Over the years in Simulation Reviewing I have had a technological journey as much as a simulated one. In that time through learning I was able to keep pace with the changes and the new features presented. But mostly at the very sharp pointy end of Simulation, in the need, even in the wanting for aircraft to be as close to being the same as a real aircraft in it's functions and systems. The level of detail is now getting down to a profusion of characteristic levels that can start to be overwhelming. Notably anything can be learnt or studied, but in doing so it takes longer and more to absorb, as the hidden depth and detail is revealed. Time, is against you in this aspect.


As a reviewer, the time from a release to having the review visible is paramount, in days, if possible. A few years ago, you could post a review three to four days after receiving the product, mostly a day for looking into and first flying the aircraft, a day to do the details, and a day to do the flying segment...   that aspect has significantly grown over the last few years, in most cases now it takes a week to cover the review, but a few and more and more newer simulations are now stretching you even further.


Your researching more, testing more, working your way through the complicated 500 or so page manuals...  getting down into the nitty gritty of the core of the simulation before you.

In the same is acronym hell. This is where the AW-109SP comes in. It was a marvel of developer detail in recreating the Genesys Aerosystems IDU-450 EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrument System). The realism and use of that feature was simply (out-of-this-world) stuff, brilliant. And Simulation beyond the realm of the usual believability. But learning it, then trying to explain the complicated systems was reviewer hell. There was so many different aspects and arms coming out of the system, that it took days to work out and understand, then transferring those insights into a review was a daunting job. Don't get me wrong, I loved single every second of it all, and in reality would have loved to have kept on doing the review for another week or so. I was in there and soaking it all up, the incredible experience that I was immersed in every day. But that aspect of a ticking clock, to wrap the review and get it out there was also a very daunting experience.


So here is the problem? As these Simulations now go so humungous even for an experienced reviewer, then think of the humble simulator user? 


The complexity and acronym hell could thwart, even create a boundary between the user and the simulation. I thought about this aspect a lot when reviewing the AW-109SP. And was even worried that the review would create a systematic line that many couldn't cross. Thankfully the review was very well received, and that showed the highlighted awareness of X-Plane user in being able to absorb complexity of this scale.


Well folks, you "haven't seen anything yet". FlightFactor's coming Boeing 777 v2 will expand that concept beyond anything you could imagine, but thankfully the developers have provided a quick setup and quick flight options, making it accessible to most, it is even beyond a "Study" simulation, as I call it an "Airline Study" simulation. As the aircraft is so deep into the real world experience with clever interaction at the core of the aircraft, it also comes with loads of 500 page manuals to study and adsorb. But all credit to the developers in what they have created in a very deep and very detailed simulation.


It will be interesting on how the B777 will be received, as it is a new era in simulation. We are used to "Study" aircraft were as the simulation is in the need of mirroring the real Manuals and Crew Operations of the aircraft. That every item that is noted in the manual has also the same action in the simulation, and that is ultimately the aim of Simulation, in replicating that complex environment on a computer. 


But I grew with the decade or so of the changes in the detail and these new features as they were implemented along that long journey. Every new idea and feature could be absorbed, dissected and learnt on the same journey, as simulation grew, then so did myself.


So the question I am asking here is a what if. What if I was just starting my Simulation journey and was being faced with the current complexity of the developers deep designs. We know that starting out in Simulation, you do go for the more simple aircraft, but what of me, as right back then at the start of my Simulation journey and the reason I wanted to do Simulation, was to fly the Boeing 747. This was a time of 2d panels and basic controls, there is no way to compare the B777v2 to this earlier minimal simulation. I learnt and could say I'm now a bit of an 747 expert, so has been my journey. But could I have flown a B747 today of the B777v2's complexity? Deep dive there.


To be fair Flightfactor do provide a simplified setup, so the aircraft can be flown from a novice's point of view, but when alerts keep popping up and have to be dealt with on the flightdeck, then this still is not as a simple Simulation as it was back then. I do know that new users are very adaptable and have the skills to adapt to these very complex simulations, as they do astound me with their knowledge. The point is that, if I am head down, with the occasional help from A.I. in working out the myriad of acronyms and how they work, then what of someone new to all this new level of complexity?


It's good, so don't get me wrong on the level of detail and complexity we now have in Simulation. We can all learn to understand how it works and better our flying skills. It is the absolute goal in Simulation to achieve this level being presented to us. So we certainly can't to be seen complaining about that aspect.


It is just will that continuing drive for deeper, more complex systems and features, then start to create different levels of the way you use and access simulators, the trick is not like the real world, you only have to learn the aircraft and fly it. But in Simulation there is another dimension as well, the knowledge and use of the computer and Simulation software as well. That is just as complex and bug ridden as you could ever imagine... obviously that is in time the ultimate challenge, not only to learn and fly the aircraft, but to house-keep and keep in order the simulator correctly to do so, this is to bring both the experiences together.


Like said at the head of this BtheS. I'm deeper into Simulation now more than ever, and yes also totally enjoying the onward journey. The tools provided in this day and age, not only in the power of the computing, but also with the 3 party addons. gives you an almost unlimited experience that you never thought of existing in the past...  however we must not also lose the sight of why we fly in the mist of all this technology, flying is still at the core of what we do, and at the end of the day, there is nothing more soul satisfying than just cruising along at a flight level and wondering on how you got here, with all this.


Notable in June 21-23, 2024 is the FlightExpo 2024 in Las Vegas. After the last few years Laminar Research will be there in force this year, with X-Plane 12.1.0 under their arms, and the FlightFactor Boeing 777ER v2 in their arsenal. It is a considerable combination, plus all the other X-Plane developers wanting to claim ground back from MSFS. This is after MSFS dominating the last two Expos, it will be interesting to see how this year's event eventuates. Time to strike back against the Empire! We will soon find out.


See you all next Month


Stephen Dutton

6th June 2024

Copyright©2024 X-Plane Reviews


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