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Behind the Screen : November 2016

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Behind the Screen : November 2016


X-Plane11 Release

It happened and yes the world around you did actually change! Right on cue X-Plane11 debuted on the U.S. Thanksgiving Holiday as predicted and it was also as noted a “beta” version, that is not the full release version folks but a beta and that gets Laminar Research out of the “well it is not finished yet…  but it is coming” excuse, which in other words means yes it is not finished, and secondly we can now see how many bugs we really have to sort out before it actually is.


But it was always going to be a beta anyway…


As with X-Plane10 the visual feel is totally different as was the feel back to X-Plane9 was different again, but considering the size of the project and the wide variety of versions required the first beta (quickly followed by 11.01b) was actually quite good and stable, but wait for the next version to get a really good base to work from as most of the outstanding bugs would have been addressed.


You can download the X-Plane11 demo for free…  at 6.90gb for the full download and that gets you the full X-Plane11 application, the default Seattle (tile) area and 15min flying time. To get the full “Global” version it will cost you US$59.95 and you get a key that accesses both X-Plane11 and the older X-Plane10 versions. But there is more to consider?


Once you have that full version installed, you then have to redownload all the areas in the world at around 60+gb, and like me that is going to a hard one as I am only limited to 50gb downloads a month and a pipe so small that even a mouse can’t crawl through it, so the only answer may be only load a small area and to then wait till the DVD’s come out? I am testing the theory of using the XP10 tiles as a stop gap, but you won’t get the updated data in the new tiles until you fully update the new XP11 package.


My first impression was the very light gamma and how many of the adjustments have been taken away on the “Graphics” page, this new X-Plane version is none adjustable in lighting, so you have to adjust your monitor to the lighting and not the usual X-Plane to your monitor, but that adjustment then makes my monitor to dark too work from?  Laminar Research have noted the lighting is not yet locked in and that may change, hopefully yes, but when users are changing the basic datarefs to make it darker then obviously it is too light.


On the “Graphic” page adjustments the horror of losing control of the “twiddlers” or as I call it “refining” like me is going to be hard, but there is a good light to this idea. Ben Supnic is try to make this version the best yet with a really good efficient processing as the end game, and that is just not possible with so many different areas conflicting with each other. So many areas are going locked off at their best (most efficient) settings and then refining the rest to that engine, and the first running of the simulator seems to confirm that that is the best way to go, although I will miss that fine tuning to my system it will allow more users to find that optimum setting far more quickly and easier.


So the power has been taken away from the power users for the sake of efficiency and a more ease of use for new users and those that don’t have the in depth skill at running X-Plane. So is that dumbing down the simulator? No not really as if you still end up with the best running simulator in the end no matter the interface then it doesn’t matter, and it may also take away some of the frustration in trying to adjust to get the very last frame out of your processing with a situation that if it runs well here then you will have a better benchmark on how your computer is actually running at the definitive settings and not with the constant adjustment of robbing peter to run paul, and then have to readjust to get peter back or what you had in the first place…  It will be interesting once X-Plane11 is sorted and how good it really can be, my first impressions are that it is going to be very good indeed.


Visibility has become the number one topic on X-Plane11, or the distance mist effect. My first thoughts were that it is a little too over wrought, yes you need mist in the distance but with no real clear air directly below and closer to the aircraft looked a little unrealistic, but fly in it and it is very realistic, again just a fine adjustment to this mist area with the gamma would make it close to perfect.


 Yes I like the X-Plane11 look with the excellent effects with the "Physically Based Rendering" or "PBR" now working, again PBR needs a little refining but the idea is very good, and the aircraft look brilliant. I also really love as the sharp light cuts across the panel as you turn onto the runway or bank away from the sun, very realistic and make you even more immersed into the simulator. The default aircraft are also excellent, certainly the Boeing 737NG is a huge addition to the simulator, the older Boeing 744 has scrubbed up nicely as well, but all aircraft are not what you would call in depth in systems and adjustments as you expected, but they are far better than anything Laminar have included in with the simulator the past. The Cessna Citation is currently a no show, so it is obviously not finished, but everything else from the B737, B744, MD-80 and the Sikorsky S-76 are great additions.

Many add-on aircraft don’t transfer over to X-Plane11 as easy as we thought they would, most if not all will need tweaking in some area or another, but give a thought to Carenado and the amount of aircraft that have to be adjusted, don’t expect them all soon or even in early 2017…  it is going to be months more like it.


 Last note on X-Plane11 is the new interface, and yes I really love it, huge advancement from the older original version in ease of use and more in the speed and smoothness of the operation. A lot of items look like they have been dropped, but are in fact in there if you look for them, like the replay mode that puts all the Situations, Replays, Flight Data and Xavion all on one panel and ease of use.  


So an early impression of X-Plane11 is very impressive, by Christmas a few updates will get you closer to a stable version, but out of the box (bright gamma aside) it is going to be a great 2017 for flying in the simulator, exciting yes.


I was in two minds about going away for three weeks to the UK (from Australia) in early November. Obviously X-Plane11 was coming out and November is always a very busy month with new releases and changes coming up to the holiday season. But in some ways it help close the gap from the X-Plane11 announcement and it’s actual release on thanksgiving day, so there was no sitting around for weeks fretting over what we will get and how good it it will be. There is simply no quiet time in X-Plane anymore to plan times to have a break and in fact the most busiest time this year in 2016 was in March and before and after Easter, overall after all the big releases in early November it was unusually quiet, or was that just the coming X-Plane11 effect?


Flying the routes… for real
So a bit of reality flying and nine hours in one seat and then follow that with thirteen hours in a smaller seat that can give you plenty to think about, but one thing is true…  Flying in X-Plane compared to the real world is a far, far better deal and not as time wasting?


For instance there is no…


- Dragging yourself to the airport with luggage (mostly by rail) and walking three miles from the rail station to the check-in (multiply that four times over the trip) and that takes half an hour plus an hour to recover per sector.


- Checking in and in Australia they make you do that twice, once electronically and again for the baggage, why I don’t know as you don’t get your boarding pass until you get to second check-in? Two hours per sector in queues to complete this process.


- Immigration! They take your photo, and match it with your current photo, but I have aged eight years since my passport has been issued, loss of half an hour verifying I am the same person in both photos?


- Security!  I didn’t know that bottled water and small can of shaving cream (below the required 100ml) was as dangerous as a fully loaded weapon and enough plastic explosive that can bring an airliner down, obviously they are, two strip searches (and some very intimate) and the upending of all your contents that are deemed a total threat to the aviation industry will take you two to three hours to queue and clear and you will feel far less safe when cleared through than when you started.


- Customs, yes another check of all the nasty things in your bags, but declare that you are insane and you will walk straight though, but older the generations of 70 years plus are deemed a real threat for terrorism or carrying fruit, an hour lost through here is fast, but Hong Kong customs is amazingly fast as they have order and if not then they create order out of chaos.


- Finally getting onto the aircraft…  but another security check and god help you if the person in front of you has left their passport in a coat that is buried in their luggage and can’t find it, loss of another fifteen minutes….


All of this drama and years off your life also costs you an arm and a leg and you are left with just mince pies for Christmas and no presents.


Now add all that up and in X-Plane all you have to do is turn on the computer, select your aircraft, livery, place and time of day and your ready to fly…  oh and you can look out of the front windows as well.


Another small benefit with X-Plane is that you don’t have queue then on the taxiways for half an hour to get your turn to take off or be put in a holding pattern for an hour to land at an overcrowded Chep Lok Airport in Hong Kong, twice! And landing at Heathrow at 3.45 am in the morning will mean a breeze (and not to mention the -2º cold either) through as you end up on the Piccadilly Line straight to your hotel to find it closed till 7.30 am.  


Certainly X-Plane beats the real thing…   You just fly!


X-PlaneReviews would like to wish you all and for all your great support in 2016, a Very Merry Christmas and a sensational New Year 2017.


Stephen Dutton

5th December 2016

Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2016


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