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Plugin Updated : xEnviro v1.16 (v1.15) by Dark Space


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xEnviro v116_header.jpg

 

Plugin Updated : xEnviro v1.16 (v1.15) by Dark Space

 

It is back! Yeah...   Well it never really went away, but it did for me. This Environmental Engine is in context the only weather application to have if you want totally realistic weather (sort of) in the X-Plane Simulator, but after nine boring months of X-Plane11's dull bland weather system, I will take anything that xEnviro will deliver.

 

I was already bouncing between the buggy v1.13 and the very old v1.07 versions of xEnviro before, but with Vulkan unsupported by the xEnviro plugin application, and as I entered the beta phase of the X-Plane11.50 (Vulkan/Metal) update, then I lost the tool completely.

 

11 months in development and finally out came the next update in v1.14...  but only for OpenGL, yes I went a bit bonkers in the fact that X-Plane 11.50 had already gone final (Sept) and now this was the 23rd November 2020, and I was still locked out of this application...   use OpenGL...  not on your nellie.

 

Christmas Eve and I was away on a Christmas break, then when out of nowhere came v1.15, so xEnviro was finally now also Vulkan compatible,

 

Yeah! Merry Christmas, the best Christmas present ever...  and thank god for all that, only that when I installed it, it was that v1.15 still didn't work in the current (beta) Vulkan, but only on the final version of X-Plane v11.50, so I had to dial everything back to the last final update and kill the beta version...  but, but I had both xEnviro AND Vulkan together and finally working.

 

Laminar were also close to the end of the v11.51 development and then it also went final in the last throws of 2020, and because it was a final, we then got another quick (fix) update to xEnviro v1.16. The motto of this story really means on how much we have to persevere to use this application, but for once Dark Space did update (twice) and quickly to Vulkan.

 

Let us be totally frank and up front... xEnviro is still very buggy, and a massive framerate killer...  but also totally invaluable to your simulation needs.

 

xEnviro v116_head 1.jpgxEnviro v116_head 2.jpg

xEnviro v116_head 3.jpgxEnviro v116_head 4.jpg

 

Suddenly everything is alive again as these first images show when running in v1.15. The light flows around you and you can actually see everything again in the cockpit... so the view difference to the standard X-Plane feel below are quite significant. You also had to work twice as hard (or sometimes four times as hard) to get the same feel and light into the images in the X-Plane default lighting...

 

xEnviro v116_head 5.jpgxEnviro v116_head 6.jpg

 

...  and in creating the reviews it just creates a lot of extra work, and they STILL feel ordinary. xEnviro however when installed then explodes onto your screen and its images break into beautiful lighting.

 

xEnviro v116_head 7.jpg

xEnviro v116_head 8.jpgxEnviro v116_head 9.jpg

 

Terminator times are obviously the best lighting periods, as seen here...

 

xEnviro v116_head 10.jpg

 

...  and the effect is or can be totally mesmerising.

 

xEnviro v116_head 12.jpgxEnviro v116_head 13.jpg

 

v1.16

There has been a huge amount of development work done on this application, and that aspect can be seen from the changes between the v1.13 and v1.16 settings panels....  again!

 

xEnviro v116_Panel v113.jpgxEnviro v116_Panel v116.jpg

 

I have totally lost the plot on what the settings panel actually was laid out with since the start of using xEnviro, every update brings in a new and completely different settings panel layout? and again in v1.15 has changed quite significantly.

 

Most of these slider changes came in with the v1.14 update...  including : Clouds static quality slider, Clouds dynamic quality slider, Clouds detail range slider and the Clouds blur level slider of which all were added, two checkboxes were also added including the aerial perspective checkbox and night perspective checkbox. The surface snow drift effect was also a part of the v1.14, but the seasonal effects (meaning that brilliant snow coverage) won't now work in Vulkan (damn). Removed also in v1.14 was the Full Clouds coverage checkbox.

 

Results are complicated, but it does give you a huge amount of control. The Brightness, Contrast, Vibrance and Gamma sliders under the "Effects Settings" allow you a lot of control over your visual lighting and colour feel. Before you had to do this aspect mostly via your Graphic Card settings panel (NVIDA in my case), but these settings override them and you can now adjust on the fly, and visually to get the right look and feel you want, and it is a powerful tool in this aspect. Yes these setting sliders were in the earlier xEnviro versions, but I had forgotten on how really good and how powerful these tools actually were. I love the METAR data download feature as well, god I missed that one as well.

 

In v1.15 more setting changes focused on the "Tone" areas...   as a Post processing tone mapping system with a Tone mapping selector slider and a Tone mapping mixing level slider were all added in. The Maximum ozone level slider was removed and replaced with a single "Realistic ozone level" checkbox instead.

 

xEnviro v116_Panel v116 settings now.jpg

 

Tonemapping is usually understood as the process of mapping color values from HDR (high dynamic range) to LDR (low dynamic range), so if a room is too dark you can lighten the room to see more detail...   so mostly it would used in say inside the cockpit.

 

The settings in Tonemapping are in six selections: Off, Luma, Photo, Flimic, Lottes and Aces... these examples are all at 100% slider.

 

xEnviro v116_Tone Cockpit Off.jpgxEnviro v116_Tone Cockpit Luma.jpgxEnviro v116_Tone Cockpit Photo.jpg

xEnviro v116_Tone Cockpit Flimic.jpgxEnviro v116_Tone Cockpit Lottes.jpgxEnviro v116_Tone Cockpit Aces.jpg

 

Can't see the differences, well they are there, but showing the same six settings in an exterior shot does show you the extremes...

 

xEnviro v116_Tone Off.jpgxEnviro v116_Tone Luma.jpgxEnviro v116_Tone Photo.jpg

xEnviro v116_Tone Flimic.jpgxEnviro v116_Tone Lottes.jpgxEnviro v116_Tone Aces.jpg

 

...  of the range of the tone available, however this is the full setting (Aces) and 50% tone level which gives you this...

 

xEnviro v116_Tone 50%.jpg

 

Tonemapping off (below), and I still think it is the best look visually.

 

xEnviro v116_Tone off full.jpg

 

Main focus is on the cloud quality. The dramas of the long and wound out development of v1.14 was to try to get some efficiency out of those clunky 3d volumetric clouds. The results are half and half, but the point is you can at least adjust the sliders to get more performance now (or at least be able to find that best setting for your use), than be trapped by what settings Dark Space only gave you before.

 

I lose about on average 10fr at the settings set below in the cloud settings with mostly all set on the "Medium" setting, but this at least in Vulkan is thankfully a workable environment...

 

xEnviro v116_Panel v116 settings now.jpg

 

...  there are four settings: Low, Medium, High and Ultra and Cloud blur from 1% to 100%, Ultra is the most extreme...

 

xEnviro v116_Panel v116_Ultra.jpg

 

...  but in reality using Ultra is a total waste of computer power, and the differences are marginal visually.

 

Clouds

Overall the clouds are really good, here are some overcast cumulus on the base and on the top....

 

xEnviro v116_Cloud 1.jpgxEnviro v116_Cloud 2.jpgxEnviro v116_Cloud 3.jpg

 

...  the effect is very good, but pan or tilt your view and you get a load of minute crosses as the clouds are replaced by artifacts...

 

xEnviro v116_Cloud 4.jpg

 

...   ditto in the cockpit, as if you pan or tilt your view in the cockpit you get this stutter. And it is slightly annoying if you are adjusting the knobs and controls a lot. The cloud static quality and dynamic quality adjustment does affect this stutter, and adjusting the sliders does help, but does not totally eliminate the stutter either. Another issue of a rolling wave of clouds as it builds, this effect can also be adjusted lower by having the cloud settings set in the low or medium positions.

 

xEnviro v116_Cloud 5.jpgxEnviro v116_Cloud 6.jpg

 

That bad squaring or blocking of the clouds has also been hidden, the flat sides can hstill owever be seen now and then, but overall the cloud edges are far better. The volumetric clouds are also softer (without using the slider) and feel and look more puffy, the larger artifact feel of the earlier versions have been reduced, so in reality you are getting more volume for better detail.

 

xEnviro v116_Cloud 7.jpgxEnviro v116_Cloud 8.jpgxEnviro v116_Cloud 9.jpg

 

X-Plane is still regulated to three layers of cloud, something that Dark Space rallies against, but it still works well at altitude...

 

xEnviro v116_Cloud 10.jpgxEnviro v116_Cloud 11.jpgxEnviro v116_Cloud 14.jpg

 

Dark Space have worked hard on getting the right ozone feel correct, to the point as mentioned to even removing the ozone slider from the settings panel, but you can still add in the "Camera blue filter" (to be used sparingly) if you want a more deeper ozone blue, but personally, a touch more is all you really need.

 

Cloud shading is also very good, and highly realistic and the machines come really alive in many instances with the right conditions.

 

xEnviro v116_Cloud 12.jpgxEnviro v116_Cloud 13.jpg

 

Fog or minimum visibility is still highly and realistically impressive. The snow effect is good as well (rain and snow have been improved for v1.15), but you miss the ground coverage snow blanket effects in Vulkan, another quirk is the the wipers don't clear the snow away from the windshield either. Added in v1.15 are also new and better Windshield fogging and freezing effects.

 

xEnviro v116_Fog 3.jpgxEnviro v116_Fog 4.jpg

xEnviro v116_Fog 1.jpgxEnviro v116_Fog 2.jpg

xEnviro v116_Snow 1.jpgxEnviro v116_Snow 2.jpg

 

Another big favorite is cloud transparency, the visual feel through the cloud is very, very good, but you don't have the cloud shade slider anymore to adjust the cloud effect (shadow) onto the landscape, it is the one setting I would like back.

 

xEnviro v116_Cloud Trans 1.jpgxEnviro v116_Cloud Trans 2.jpg

 

And so overall this is what xEnviro finally comes down to...   the lighting and the lighting effects of X-Plane the simulator. From the musty dawn...

 

xEnviro v116_Lighting 6.jpgxEnviro v116_Lighting 7.jpg

 

...  to the bright mid-afternoon sun, then dusk.

 

xEnviro v116_Lighting 1.jpgxEnviro v116_Lighting 2.jpgxEnviro v116_Lighting 3.jpgxEnviro v116_Lighting 4.jpg

 

The application transforms the visual impact of the simulator, the aircraft are pin sharp and very realistic in these great atmospheric lighting effects, if the best in X-Plane, xEnviro wraps you in the weather and better lighting conditions, and in that aspect alone it is a worthy tool.

 

xEnviro v116_Lighting 5.jpg

______________________

 

Summary

Still the outstanding Environmental application for the X-Plane Simulator. Still not perfect by any imagination, with a high framerate use and visual artifact and stuttering, but now being Vulkan v11.51 compatible it does go a long way in helping out the efficiency of this extraordinary tool.

 

11 months of development has refined a lot of the old quirks and dialed out a lot of the volumetric clouds issues, it is certainly better, but not at all perfect. More changes to the settings panel means a lot of sliders and options have been removed and replaced with better lighting sliders and tonemapping sliders, ozone sliders have been removed and replaced with a single option choice. With the use of Vulkan the excellent season (snow) feature has also been removed (hopefully temporary). Important features like a version for MAC OS and History (saved weather conditions), which are highly important are still very much buried at the bottom of Dark Space's to do list, in that aspect it is a very direful show from the developers.

 

Most of the update changes in v1.16 (v1.15) are hidden well under the skin here, but you certainly feel the massive difference with this exceptional plugin working visually than being relegated to the average X-Plane default weather system of which I was for nine (long) months, the application creates a totally far better and vibrant environment all around you, and makes the X-Plane Simulator a far, far more realistic simulator.

 

XEnviro is expensive, but also invaluable if you want an realistic simulator experience, you will need a lot of computer power as well, but overall the positives easily and overwhelmingly outweigh the negatives....  Highly Recommended!

___________________________________________


X-Plane Store logo sm.jpg

 

Yes! the xEnviro Environment Engine v1.16 by Dark Space FZE is Available from the X-Plane.Org Store here :


xEnviro

Price is US$69.90

Sorry this plugin is Windows only at this point, But Mac will come eventually!

 

xEnviro Features: 
  • The only addon featuring volume rendered clouds and volume rendered atmosphere.
  • Real time meteorological data with a smooth refresh interval from 5 up to 60 minutes.
  • Atmosphere condition based on dynamic air parcel prediction model used for real aviation research and training.
  • Atmosphere quality includes humidity, pollution and fine particle amount.
  • Unlimited variability of cloud formations generated dynamically by the atmosphere engine.
  • Advanced hurricane model based on actual data tracking and live feeds.
  • Precise thunderstorm cell locations based on real time radar and satellite data.
  • New physics based realistic sky coloring rendered using real time ray tracing and light scattering.
  • Actual wind direction and speed for all levels as well as for the temperature, turbulence and windshear.
  • Volumetric effects for different types of precipitation like drizzle, rain and snow.
  • Reflective raindrops on windshield for any aircraft with virtual cockpit.
  • Realistic cloud passing visual effects.
  • Visual effects of aircraft lighting in clouds (strobe lights, beacon lights, navigation lights, landing lights).
  • Landing lights effect during in-cloud and foggy flight.
  • Volumetric external aircraft lights for selected set of aircraft.
  • Light reflections by cloud surface from urban lights at variable intensities.
  • Physics based light scattering for clouds.
  • High quality real time cloud shading.
  • Flexible settings for atmosphere, visual and sound effects.
  • Surface crosswind component can be reduced during ground roll for users with no rudder pedals.
  • Realistic braking action and braking degradation based on actual reports.
  • Atmosphere and cloud light scattering and color depend on atmosphere quality, weather conditions and time of day.
  • Environmental sound engine with ambient sounds and capability to add custom sounds to X-Plane scenery.
 
  • xEnviro is the most technologically advanced tool that uses the most progressive technologies.
  • xEnviro has a user-friendly interface with flexible settings for each component.
  • xEnviro uses its own art assets along with its own sound library.
  • xEnviro does not alter X-Plane shaders, textures or any other files.
  • xEnviro does not require installations of any additional products or libraries and is fully ready to use out of the box.
  • xEnviro software is constantly being updated.
  • xEnviro has been designed by simmers for simmers!

 

Requirements

Minimum Requirements
X-Plane 11+
Windows 7/Vista/ 8/8.1/ 10 - Not Mac compatible at this time
8 GB+ VRAM 
A quality and powerful Graphic Card and System is recommended
Current and Review version : 1.16 (January 4th 2021)
_____________________________________________________________________________________
 
Plugin Update by Stephen Dutton 
11th January 2021
Copyright©2021: X-PlaneReviews
 
(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
 
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You are right, $10 and importantly 10fps less. I am sure that it has its fans but the complexity of the interface for me suggests too much fiddling around and not enough flying. However the developer deserves credit for trying to resolve some of the current Xplane issues.

 

Vulkan has given me a pleasant but not huge increase in frame rates. Not sure that I want to give that back or add stutters. 

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I will gladly take that 10fr, for what I get in return, I think there is certainly more efficiency to come yet. There are preset conditions to set the settings page that work really well, and tuning is actually not that hard to get what you want, again the trick is not to be too greedy in the sliders, here less is more.

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It is true that the 10 fps is an individual user decision. But it is always trade offs. For example the latest generation of commercial airliners for Xplane like the Inbuilds A300 or the SSG 748 are often heavier on frame rates than the generation before. Then add in other plugs in that people use and performance can be impacted pretty quickly. In your reviews you don’t list what plug ins and other sceneries that you are using. Looking at the screenshots you post it looks as if you used Zibo and one of the Toliss Airbuses. But other than that its difficult to judge how complex your set up is.

Perhaps, at least for me, this might be useful for general aviation but the idea of stutters is a little worrying. I also use Activesky, not available in the org.store I know, and I’ve generally been pretty happy with the weather in that. However your review is food for thought.

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Yes I do list all computer specifications, plugins and used sceneries (or aircraft if it is a scenery review) at the bottom of the review unless it is an update or news item? BTW You missed the FlightFactor A320U, massive hit is that one...

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  • 5 weeks later...

I am teetering on the brink of deciding to have a look at this. Thanks for the in-depth ongoing review process. Your opinions and input have been a great help to me over the recent months with regard to a number of purchases.

 

Stephen, would it be possible for you to add your system specs to all your pieces? I did find a spec list on a different review, but I have to assume that that is the same system used when you reviewed/updated here. That way, the reader has a direct benchmark so to speak, relating directly to the review and its conditions. I know system heterogeneity is a real confounder and that all FPS reports have to be taken with varying pinch sizes of salt, but a ballpark is always good to have directly related to a hardware spec. 

I have been fortunate enough recently to finish a longtime build of a new pc centred on an io-9900K that is running at 5GHz on a Noctua NH-D15 with two fans, 32Gb 3600 RAM, two M2 SSDs and two SATA SSDs (750-1Tb each). Graphics are powered by an Aorus Master RTX 3090, which is perhaps the most monstrous piece of hardware I have ever dared to purchase. I absolutely love it, even when I hear some saying that it is complete overkill...

 

I would like to add here that I am comparatively new to the x-plane community and love the way everyone interacts with each other, in comparison with others, in which fanboyism and vitriol seem to rule...

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  • 5 months later...

xEnviro misses out on a very significant aspect i.e. high altitude clouds during a thunderstorm. At high altitudes, I only see a pixelated watery layer (i don't even know what that layer is trying to represent) instead of towering cumulus/ cumulonimbus that i would expect. I don't know why this fact doesn't get stressed enough. Think before putting in your $70.  It's way better than default weather but not a complete solution.

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