Stephen Posted September 17, 2015 Report Share Posted September 17, 2015 X-Plane Version 10.40 X-Plane has passed another milestone in the release of X-Plane Version 10.40 from Laminar Research. In this article we are going to explore what was part of the release and the changes that are relevant to the simulator. First Impressions As with any new X-Plane Version release, there are usually a swirl of rumors and favorite items that users aspire to be incorporated in the simulator and v10.40 was of no exception. So first impressions are not to be the start and end all of the items that made the list. Nothing is concrete till the final version is actually released, but in v10.40's case it was a little more on the actual surface but a lot was actually done deeper down, so in that case with v10.40 the so called "Banner" items were quite small and noted as "just a few". But didn't mean that v10.40 was just an average upgrade because it isn't, as it is quite significant and certainly has made a decent change to X-Plane. We may get with current version releases the less dramatic in your face changes and features, but that does come with an actual upside of the fact that the version releases are more polished and have had more backroom testing and fine tuning than the past releases of putting it out there and sailing into usually a storm of bugs, user torment and computer crashes. If v10.40 was noteworthy it was in the fact it is very well refined (v10.30 was very smooth as well) and certainly in its most biggest change in the introduction of extended visual viewpoints. No matter what changes where completed or mostly the ones that were not actively incorporated into this version, my general reasoning is that they were simply not good enough or refined enough to make the cut, and there is still more work needed to refine them to the expected quality we expect, these items will also need to be addressed before X-Plane10 has done its run and before X-Plane11 will see any light of day. In other words the features noted on the X-Plane10 release will all have to be completed to the standard required before there is any chance of a new X-Plane version serial change and that will still have to include the ATC and Weather (clouds) that are still in need of more development to achieve the original set goals of X-Plane10. So a few more Beta X-Plane versions are still going to be required to meet those goals, but I always noted that X-Plane10 will be a long development phase anyway, so I still doubt any new serial version before at least 2017. Banner Changes. The headline acts in v10.40 are: Digital Download; Now you can purchase a key from Laminar Research to do a digital download "X-Plane 10 Global" of the simulator which is the same price (currently US59.95) as is the still continued boxed DVD set. The release price covers the current v10.XX run. The digital download sounds like a better deal, but in reality it can come out a bit more expensive and time consuming than the current DVD installing system. That depends on your internet connection and download speeds, because if you want the full scenery install it means you will have to do a download cost of the 60GB+ in scenery mesh over your modem, you however don't have to download all the scenery in one go, but on an as need to install basis. But you will need to download a basic starter set of scenery to fly in X-Plane. But that is still a heavy download unless you have a cheap, fast and wide broadband pipe. Certainly this is the future of X-Plane in how you access the simulator and so boards well for updates including scenery mesh as that was in the past only accessible via the DVD disk loading system that was then restricted to only serial X-Plane version changes. Extended DSF; This is the most visual change to X-Plane in that X-Plane can now load more 4x3 DSF (distribution scenery format) tiles than before. It is known as "Extended DSF Scenery" and you can select the feature by selecting the tickbox in your "Render Options" menu panel. The visual line in scenery was around 12,500ft, and under that altitude you could be within the older DSF tile visual range (with the horizon haze switched on), go higher and it was not very nice if quite average and certainly from altitudes of 35,000ft it became down right ugly. 12,500ft Non-Extended Scenery haze off (original) 12,500ft Non-Extended Scenery haze on (original) 35,000ft Non-Extended Scenery haze off (original) 35,000ft Non-Extended Scenery haze on (original) The boundary line between the high-resolution texture mesh tiles and the more weaker Earth Orbit Textures were highly noticeable, jaggy and the haze had to cover a significant area to cover the joins, in other words it wasn't very pretty. The tile size of the area is now expanded out significantly from the original loading and here it is expanded to such an extent, it easily now covers the whole width of the Florida peninsula. From the air it looks significantly different. At 12,500ft with the haze off you cannot see the boundary line (only just if you want to really be really picky) Put the haze selection on and the difference is small, so the feature has little work or any to blur the textures to the sky. In other words for General Aviation flying the "extended Scenery" feature, is absolutely perfect, with horizon to horizon high-resolution textures. At 35,000ft with the haze off (left image) you can still see the boundary join, but it is much further away in the distance, not quite perfect. But with the haze switched on, then it is at least very much more acceptable a view for this altitude, and remember this is in totally clear conditions and any slight cloud cover will make the view authentic, and also the fog line on the horizon has also had a little refining and that is noticeable. You can't really stretch the high-resolution mesh tiles any more than this without getting a significant hit on your frame-rate. So any more enhancements on this area would have to come from the Orbital Textures. So what did this enhancement cost to your frame-rate, personally to my system it was very little and with only 9gb of memory I use an average of 5gb of memory in normal conditions with no Hi-Res textures loaded. So turning off the "extended Scenery" does not not give me a significant boost in performance like I expected it would and my frame-rate numbers are not that much different than my original 10.36 settings. So that shows how much time and effort has gone into this feature to make it perform extremely well across the board. One change to help in this efficiency is that the loading of the tile mesh in your computer is now "multicore". No doubt different machines will interpret the feature (and on how many cores you have available) in slightly different ways, but overall the "extended Scenery" is a huge step forward for the simulator and in my mind one of the very real turnoffs for new users was X-Plane in not delivering quality viewpoints from the aircraft, and certainly for the long route-high flyers they will finally have the quality vista scenery well worth looking at from behind the controls. Video; Video is back! Yes you can again record all your bad flying habits again. Quicktime is out and that has been replaced by a AVI system. As a mac user I don't like avi but the windows users will accept it better than me, personally I don't care if only it is far more efficient than the old system and any video is nice to have... I missed it badly, but it is also 32 or 64-bit and multi-core which sounds promising. Sound is still missing though so a third party application is needed for that. You can set the seconds per frame, a time lapse, resolution of the video in pixels and quality. There is also a choice to select background recording. Laminar Research note that if you have a slow computer or are near (or under) the frame-rate threshold. Then the best way to record clean video is via the replay option, in this way when you record from the replay the actual playback is in the correct frame-rate speed and the video capture will be much better and have no or very little effect on recording a clean video (note the playback bar and controls will not show in the recorded video replay). The video and screenshot creations have been moved over to the "Output" folder and out of the mainstream X-Plane (root) folder. As I can create 250 or more images a review, it is great to see the images not overwhelming out the main X-Plane folder, and then finding it hard to look for even the basic X-Plane folders and applications. Preset Rendering options; You now have new five preset rendering options on the Rendering Options menu, replacing the old "Set all rendering options for maximum speed!" Settings include - Set to Extreme, High, Medium, Low and Minimum. Certainly aimed at new users and for a quick change in settings... But it is really totally useless for everyone else. I checked them all and they don't come even close to my most efficient settings? I would have personally liked a saver preference system were you can save certain snapshot render settings for certain circumstances for a quick change, wasted opportunity really. Startup changes; If you crash to the desktop (CTD), you will not now get that alert box that asks you if you want to reset your rendering settings (you can hold down the "Shift" key if you want the Alert box back) so the safe mode is now an option. It certainly speeds up getting back up to speed after a crash. In reality this change is because the safe mode is out of date now, and not really required. Because "multicore" mesh loading now starts from early startup, the loading times are quicker (but not by a noticeable amount for the full load procedure) but it is still quicker. The startup menu has been speeded up, so loading and selection is faster. And the ICAO list is not pre-typed into the airport list in the selection box which gives you a large list of airport selection available. The lettering on the definition of the position of the aircraft's state on startup has changed from "start each flight with engines running" to "start each flight cold and dark" just a name change really, but I asked for this option on the "Startup Menu" but it was declined. Another item has also been changed to the "Startup" page is the rewording of your "saving" of preferences, from the simple "Save Preferences" to "discard changes to preferences". Isn't that the same thing... but the other way round?. But the idea is that if have your perfect settings and X-Plane is running like a humming bird, you don't want it changed and to keep those settings every time you start up. With saving your preferences there is always the chance you could overwrite your perfect settings just for the sake of it. Of course any changes you make are not recorded. It would be a nice option that you can have a choice in what Preferences you can save like the "X-Plane Keys" or "X-Plane Screen Res" without overwriting the well set main "X-Plane.prf". ATC; We were expecting a total overhaul of the ATC in X-Plane in 10.40, but that didn't come out in this version. But there has been a few good if certainly positive refinements. There is a new ATC controllers pop-up window which is located in the "X-Plane/Special Menu. It shows you your nearest Air Traffic Controllers and their Com frequency, if you click on the frequency it will be auto-tuned into the aircraft, which is extremely handy when juggling frequencies when being prompted by the controller. The significance of this is not the actual pop-up window or what it does, but in the new X-Plane interface which is very different from the usual panels of X-Plane past. It looks a little out of place at this point, but it points to a newer more modern style of XP interface in the future and as announced at FSConn this (northern summer) a totally new Menu system is noted as "top priority" by Laminar Research. You can now turn off those taxiway guide arrows if you don't want them in the settings menu panel. I didn't mind them actually, but it was when they didn't work that drove me crazy... One major change that can significantly make the ATC more user friendly is the "reply" mode in which you can now just double click (the return key) to reply to the ATC instruction. This before was a major distraction when you had to manoeuvre your mouse over the reply to activate it, once is fine, but over many replies it became a logistical problem (and a bad distraction) when flying the aircraft. Fixed, and a welcome relief. If you use your arrow keys in the ATC window no they will now no longer move camera (view). The "you are still off course" is still in there to still drive you to mental distraction, but I found it less unforgiving and more relaxing than in the past, but certainly the ATC in v10.40 is far more user-friendly than it was in the past Windshear - Winds Aloft!; X-Plane METAR downloads will now read winds aloft data for high altitude wind data... but only if you are flying over the United States, it doesn't work anywhere else. But I found this actually worked high over Australia at 35,000ft and I suddenly had 80knt headwinds that stood the A330 almost to a stop in a moment, unnerving. You can now regenerate the weather from a "keyboard/Joystick" command, and the “sim/operation/regen_weather” action is now available to re-generate all weather. Windshear can give pilot's shivers, and that function is now also available. METAR now sets clear layers lower when the weather is all-clear, and this improves your upper level visibility when using real weather. The "Winds-Aloft" has been added to the main startup window. Throttle Beta; The PT-6 Beta throttle idle function is now activated and has created some strange results around the different aircraft, It works in the actions of pull back from idle (prop pitch decreasing, engine still at idle) then pull back again to another selection to get into the REVERSE mode (prop pitch decreasing more, engine power increasing) for reverse thrust. This system can and does mess up the "Reverse Thrust" and "Full Reverse Thrust' actions. If the developer has taken the beta idle function into account it works very well, and that notch on your add-on throttle now has the correct function, but the throttle up area is reduced. But in many cases I found myself toggling between the "Reverse Thrust" and "Full Reverse Thrust' selections to find one that works correctly if the aircraft has not been updated or adjusted, in the FlyJSim Q400 there is no action at all or reverse thrust. The backup manual throttle control does also now not over-ride the governor. X-Plane usage information; X-Plane can now collect anonymous X-Plane usage information. There is a new checkbox in Operations & Warnings window to allow Laminar Research to collect anonymous usage data on your system configuration and X-Plane usage patterns. You can opt out of course, but collectively it may be interesting to see how and why we use the simulator. Rescan; There is now a new button the "Aircraft" selection menu, that will rescan an aircraft file. This function allows you to modify an aircraft while the simulator is running and reset the aircraft to restart the updated file. A great function, and handy for developers. It would be nice to have the same function for scenery, so if you drop in a new scenery into the custom scenery folder you don't have to shutdown to the desktop and restart the simulator again to access it... Global Airports; The global Airport folder is still growing at a massive rate. In 10.40 another 776 total more airports are available as default, that comes to a total of 1730 new batches of scenery (well done everyone) overall. As noted X-Plane is now getting a solid user base of scenery. But I have found that I am pulling the "Global Airports" out of the custom scenery folder more and more as they interfere with the heavier payware and larger freeware airports. If I am going from point to point between two large payware airports then I want to arrive at the quality airport and not one with double airbridges and two control towers. Although Laminar Research note it is the responsibility of the Payware/Freeware developer to make sure it does not happen, but I have found more and more lately it is not doing so, and so devaluing the idea in v10.40. Swapping art assets; A small but again significant change in v10.40 is that Library art assets can now be swapped based on datarefs. This can be used to make seasonal texture add-ons change in the sim. In other words you can now have winter textures change to summer textures without actually going into the resources folders and changing them physically over. The results from this change is not noticeable yet, but the code to do so is now in the simulator for third party developers to use... it will be very interesting of where it will go. GPS Improvements; There has been a few more refinements with the GNS 430/530 innards. GNS 430/530 now allows disabling the automatic ILS CDI switching and now by default, the CDI will blend in the ILS signal smoothly beginning 2nm downwind of the final approach fix when the cross track error is 1.2nm or less. When the ILS signal gain is maximal, the CDI indication will change to VLOC and the changeover can now always be over-ridden by manually selecting the CDI to VLOC. There is an automated changeover that can be configured off for training operations in the NAV menu, along with the map options and the settings are remembered in the per-airplane settings file, like the map settings. Aircraft Improvements and changes; Overall there has not been a huge amount of changes in aircraft systems in this v10.40. Mostly they have been over forgotten items (some even over a decade!) and mostly the items are refinements. Items include the bus voltages that now ignite properly at flight start, This will keep systems from reporting a no-volt for the first frame. Hobbs time is now tracked with an aircraft that has a working Hobbs meter that notes the total hours flown. Most Hobbs meters shown in X-Plane are usually fake, now they will work. In Plane-Maker If the type of file (airfoil, aircraft, etc) is the same as the last time you did a file-open, the path and folder to that file is left in place. This means that if you are selecting 50 afl files for your airplane, you do not have to navigate right through UI every time down to the same folder, which is real time saver. And Plane Maker no longer crashes if you zero-out wing chord multipliers. A new feature is that 2-d windshield effects can be disabled in the rendering options screen, checking this box causes all 2-d window effects, like rain and bird-strikes can now be bypassed. For people with projector screens, collumated displays or any displays for which the 2-d effects are annoying, they can now be turned off. Thermometer and fuel indicator failure now functional! These failures were initially designed for the g1000 only, but now I have them working for all instruments And better compressor-stall modeling. This is based on observation of compressor stall dynamics in a level-D sim. The new “automagic” rudder code was tried but then removed. This code tried to manage the rudder for you if (and only if) you don’t have a rudder axis installed. Instead Laminar Research tightened up the ground steering. Glider tow; The glider-tow feature has had a few changes in being re-organized internally, Were as the glider tow had a bug in it where the forces for the first frame of the glider tow were wrong, due to the towplane location not being ready. The tow cable is now black instead of grey to make it easier to see, and for hoist users, the slung load code also had a bug in it where any cable length less than 1 meter did not compute the loads properly, due to a /0 protection… It has been lowered now to a 1-centimeter minimum cable length. And not forgetting the feature that we all wanted in.... there is now the "animated" feet to the birds! Frame-Rate and simulator rendering efficiency; With every new X-Plane version the main focus is always on how the changes will effect your computer and its frame-rate processing. There has actually been a lot of refinements in v10.40 and considering the amount of changes the overall efficiency compared to v10.36 is very good. As noted the extended mesh scenery did not cause any major drop in frame-rate, which was forecasted to be quite hard on your memory and processing power, but that turned out to be only a whimper and not a loud bang of pain. The first beta's were amazingly good and fast in efficiency, but it all went a little sad and rough around beta 4. and continued like that till it all came back to greatness around beta 11, which shows you have to wait until the beta run is completed before making your strong assumptions. Although the actual default/autogen scenery has not had any attention in v10.40, the way they are laid out has certainly been refined. The "Rendering Options" panel settings for "Texture Resolutions", "Stuff to draw" positions have been moved significantly upwards, in that a lesser setting will now draw more out on your screen. But I found my usual default settings moved in reverse in the in v10.36. There I could run out a lot of "Stuff to Draw" but very little of the expanded "World detail distance". Now I have a reverse situation in that I can set my "World detail distance" to almost maximum (very nice) but the "Stuff to Draw" to no more than "a lot", and in good conditions maybe one more setting upwards. My antialiasing setting is now halved from x8 to x4 with the same quality. 10.36 settings are on the left and 10.40 settings are on the right, but my frame-rate is very close at 22frames each... and that is with the extended scenery switched on, so that is a good refined performance from the new version. There is no doubt with these changes that the difference in between HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode on and HDR off is now significantly narrowed in using up your frame-rate quota. HDR on is now highly usable even with an average processing computer, but it comes with a bit of a hidden bite. In the HDR settings, then "none" is now quite jaggy on the antialiasing, but that should be its real setting anyway. In FXAA mode, you still get a lot of jaggies, however still it is quite an average antialiasing resolution... the next is 2 x SSAA+FAAA and that is perfect basic antialiasing, but the gap between FXAA and 2 x SSAA+FAAA is wider than the Grand Canyon and that cancels out any benefits you have gained, so in reality "None" and FXAA are too low and poor visually and the 2 x SSAA+FAAA and lower settings are all too high to be of a real visual benefit? So the only gain is that you can have your HDR on with better frame-rate, but only at night or have poor visuals. If a better HDR mode setting was set between FXAA and 2 x SSAA+FAAA or one or the other of the settings were refined better to fill in the gap then you could have your HDR rendering and eat it as well with a better visual antialiasing. A side note on the HDR is that the lighting (aircraft lights, airfield lighting) have been made brighter and larger in v10.40. Earlier beta versions were horrible glops of light, but in the final beta's the lighting was much better and refined. Overall though the simulator rendering efficiency is improved and refined in v10.40, and only area that can create a significant frame-rate pull down is still the weather and the clouds, dark clouds can still be a real frame-rate killer, for anything but for users that have powerful computers to over-ride the sheer number crunching required. One area in clouds that was however refined in v10.40 was the grey out transparency, in that in the lighter shades the grey out is more realistic and viewable. I do highly recommend to do a bit of housekeeping and clean out your preferences and start v10.40 clean and reset, it can make a difference to your frame-rate and to the overall smoother running of your simulator. Steam users will be able to update to v10.40 via Steam (Steam users can not participate in X-Plane beta development) You can't cover every single aspect of a serial X-Plane version release as the changes and bug fixing are far too many to list. So you can only cover the highlights and the changes. For the full complete list of the beta run then go to the X-Plane 10.40 Release Notes provided by Laminar Research. To keep up to date on any developments of the X-Plane Simulator then go to Laminar Research's "X-Plane Development" blog that can usually explain significant areas and future changes to the X-Plane Simulator. Stephen Dutton 18th September 2015 Copyright©2015:X-PlaneReviews Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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