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Behind the Screen : May 2022


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Behind the Screen : May 2022

 

On 19th May 2022, Laminar Research did another "Development Update" for the upcoming X-Plane12, and a new version of the X-Plane Simulator.

 

"drip, drip, drip", and that is the way you usually get the formation of the new version. You take a bit here, and a bit from there and sort of build a picture of what to expect of what the build of X-Plane12 will be when released. Notable is that from Laminar Research's viewpoint is that the release is when X-Plane12 goes final, but that release, and which becomes final is usually months and months after you are using the new version is actually a bit odd, but normal for X-Plane users.

 

First then will come a public "Beta", as X-Plane12 is currently in a "Alpha" release, which is a limited working release for developers and qualified testers (i.e. pilots). Any current view of an Alpha will include only a piecemeal running simulator, so it is not the best version or even a realistic version for the public release.

 

But the Alpha can be used for testing the various components including scenery, aircraft and of course plugins. Last week we had the first release of the SASL 3.14.5 which is X-Plane12 compliant.

 

SASL is the major component that gives developers the tools to bring the aircraft alive and create custom commands from everything like animations or the reproduction of aircraft systems, it is THE major important connection between the fully systematic custom aircraft to the basic X-Plane commands (PlaneMaker), it brings the life to the simulator.

So with SASL now being X-Plane12 compliant it is a huge step forward in bringing X-Plane12 to your desktop, and there will a huge amount of updates/upgrades between now and Christmas 2022 to intergrate all the aircraft (or to intergrate SASL 3.14.5) to the new simulator and that includes changes to the SASL tool itself until the final release.

 

Developers are already deep into the intergration process, and even a few SASL 3.14.5 aircraft have even been already upgraded and released, like the MagKnight Boeing 787 -8 and -9, and the AOA F-22 Raptor. These aircraft are already X-Plane12 compatible, but still expect another update or so even before X-Plane12 is exposed to the public. Obviously the X-Plane12 features can't be used or can even be seen? or can they...  the Magknight B787 PFD and MFD are already quite different from their earlier default based ones, the B787 "feels" ready for X-Plane12 and that is exciting.

 

It will be update hell for a few months after the X-Plane12 Beta release, as I am expecting a lot of aircraft to be sent to the boneyard, and some previously very personal loved simulations included. So X-Plane12 will be a very pared back simulator in this case, you will lose a lot of your past world, but that is not a bad thing, as some collections are already really outdated. And that aspect also opens the door for a more modern version of an old favorite.

 

The "Beta" release is the first "Public" exposure of the new simulator, so is this the actual release version? To most X-Plane users, even myself this IS the release version, officially it isn't, but in reality it is, if you can accept that there is still developmental work to be done... but in reality X-Plane is ALWAYS an ongoing development, so what is the difference there anyway.

 

Many users won't fly in a new simulator version until it goes final, they want the bugs and problems all fixed before they will do a deep dive, fair enough, I can see that perspective, but why wait months and months to get all those new features and tools in your simulation environment, and then you will miss out the learning process, as there is nothing like a buggy simulator to learn on how it all works.

 

Buy one simulator and get one free...  Laminar has already noted that if you buy X-Plane12 you will get X-Plane11 free of charge, that is if you don't like the new version then you can use the older one, or take your fun both ways.

And if X-Plane12 is too buggy and annoying, then go fly in X-Plane11. Obviously there will not be a many takers on this, and why?

Well for most hard users they already have X-Plane11, so why would we want it again. All it does in reality is support two simulators under the one authorisation key, it makes it easy of course, but I have usually never wanted to go backwards again once a new version is out, it is old outmoded by the way, and not new, clean and shiny like X-Plane12.

 

There has been a huge amount of debate about the price, from (the usual free) to US$100, of which many actually thought was a worthwhile price. But in the end X-Plane12 will cost the nominal US$59.95 or 60 bucks, which cheaper than most quality X-Plane aircraft, or as I said "Buy the Airbus A330, and get a simulator for free!". It feels like that sort of deal. DVD's will still be available, and so will there be the early Steam access.

 

Personally I think Laminar have under cut themselves here, $79.95 would have put more value in their bank account. But for the rest of us it is a brilliant deal, and certainly the price is focused on gamers to which would even try a "real" simulator for that price. Laminar are price wise more focused on having a "less price, more sales" scenario than delivering to the converted.

 

Hopefully the extra sales will come, if not Laminar will be stuck with a lower income which translates to less resources and no future expansion of personnel. They are already very long and overdue in the new simulator's delivery and the still the list of still to-do items before release shows already the serious lack of resources, no matter how committed or how talented the current Laminar team of developers are.

 

There was no subscription model, or even a new "era" name change either, just X-Plane12 with a "60 buck price". That should at least keep the hoards happy, but for me it signals more of the same in that Laminar Research whom are not moving forward very much in a very fast paced industry. How this plays out over the next few years will be interesting and if Laminar got it right or wrong. I always thought Laminar Research was a more forward looking company than that, but overall this feels of "playing it safe".

 

Although there are a lot of features in X-Plane12, there is actually really nothing new? Most items known as features are really what the hoards note at the weaknesses of the current simulator in that needed (seriously) upgrading. Notable is that Laminar always do when updating is giving far more than your bucks worth in ideas. But the focus here is just ramping everything thing up that we complained about for years.

 

Better Weather, better ATC, better Water, Seasons (finally), better Effects, better Lighting, better Trees, better autogen, but there is nothing really new in a dominant overriding feature like there was in every past new X-Plane version releases.

 

I am not saying that is actually a bad thing, because it will deliver a "Better Simulator", but don't expect a knockout idea or monster feature to send you into a serious "wow" moment, even if the Laminar PR spokesperson noted it as "yeah Cool", not "Brilliantly Cool" or "Knocked Out Cool", just "yeah Cool"...  but then again every answer to any question from him was "Yeah, Cool!"

 

So will X-Plane12 be received as lukewarm, without that "Killer Feature", that is a big, big question. Personally I think it will be somewhere in the middle, a very good modern update, but not that much of a massive landslide of change or a really significant move forward. The good news there is also now there is a clean and empty Laminar desk top as all of those decade old niggling problems are finally cleared away. And with that Laminar can now also focus more on the "Big Picture" items. Hopefully yes.

 

I have totally given up on the speculatation of a release date, but even Austin Meyer noted he needed the income coming in sooner than later. The latest public beta release date rumor is noted as EAA AirVenture Oshkosh week of Monday 25th July and that ends on Sunday 31st July, with a Final release noted around Thankgiving 2022, that looks like a very nice timetable, and in reality it is only seven weeks or so away.

 

Notable is that the 747, Blackbird, KC10 and Space Shuttle have all been dropped from X-Plane12 and so won't be upgraded to X-Plane12 spec either, but expect a very highly updated fleet to replace them, so they weren't dropped for a reason.

 

Coming in are; SR22, R22 (skids/mariner versions), Citation X, RV-10, PA-18 and the F-14. The A330 banner aircraft had the news that it is to get a custom Airbus FMS, which is a huge surprise, but a very welcome one.

 

Two interesting X-Plane12 areas now reaching completion is the Water, or specifically the water edges. Images shown in the last week, displays, is that yes you can have your water flowing onto a beach as the fluid to mass shows, and implementing geographically-aware water colors (tropical) are also now being finalised. The results are stunning and fixing that is a huge step forward towards a public release. Another area that has rumors is that to cover over extensively the remaining (boring) default textures, the degree, depth of detail has been extremely maximized, mostly by using the more modern OSM (Open Street Map) data, in other words "cram in as much as you can to hide the shit". I don't think this aspect was on the original X-Plane12 release radar, but pushed through to counter the MSFS graphical onslaught, hence more of the public release delay.

Problem is with code is, "push more in here and it pushes more problems out there", more density will create far more processing, requiring far more framerate to you the loser. So you can see why Laminar hesitated in bringing it forward to X-Plane12 than tackling it at a later update, but MSFS visual demands have changed the picture, Laminar "had to do something". Personally It could be a surprise element of X-Plane12 that has not yet been shown, the "wow" factor could depend on this aspect.

 

Mr "Yeah Cool" PR spokesperson noted that X-Plane12 does not require much more processing power than X-Plane11, but I have still spent heavily in upgrading my computer anyway as all these new features are extremely processor heavy. Noting that you should too, and not expect to get through with X-Plane12 with what you already have, it is also a simulation security for the future as well.

 

Hopefully Laminar will give us an announcement on the X-Plane12 Beta release in June, or at least early July, we have waited long enough, and a lot of the remaining refinement and performance tuning can actually be done under the "Beta" banner. My note is to "Light this candle", and get X-Plane12 out to it's very patient audience, a lot will complain anyway, as they usually do, but I think it is time to take the covers off a shiny new updated version of the X-Plane Simulator.

 

The site is slow at the moment, sorry about that but there are (again) a few factors. In March it was Hardware, In April it was Software, In the past May it was medical, or I had the Flu badly. But I am now recovering. But also May brought in a few new factors in that X-PlaneReviews now have a few new reviewers with Dominic Smith and Paul Mort also doing reviews for the site and a few more are coming to join us as well.

 

Overall though the 2Q brings a dearth of not much to actually review, or the opposite of Black Friday, you could call it "Black Quarter". We had hoped that an X-Plane12 release would have filled in the gap this year, but that now has not happened either. And that means developers are also getting themselves ready for the same X-Plane12 release, but you know like the sun shines the next day, it will go again from nothing to full manic in a few days...

 

Cheers, See you all next month

 

Stephen Dutton

1st June 2022

Copyright©2022 X-Plane Reviews

 

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the Sparky team hopefully bring the Boeing 744 to XP12 !  they are doing a great job at the moment.  also the C90 EVO has a very nice mod which could survive the transition.

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One thing I find frustrating is the lack of feedback from the development community about who is and who isn’t making sure their aircraft wares are XP12 compliant. While I believe that generally products will be just fine it only needs one or two elements to be buggy in the transition to either break immersion or make aircraft basically unusable. So what in your fleet will make the transition without issues? 
There’s some guess work of course. Currently active developers like Thandra should of course work out issues, but Carenado who have had no recent Xplane releases and have a poor record in fixing issues already? I have begun looking at replacing some of my old fleet with newer wares, the Airfoillabs 172NG and the vFlyteAir Arrow III to prepare for the change. 
Add in the issue of whether vendors are going to charge upgrade fees for any work they do to make aircraft complaint and for the consumer its all rather frustrating given how close we are to the change. Even for the Org store it must be difficult. When will they be able to guarantee sales as XP12 compliant?
An article detailing the situation developer by developer would be nice, but perhaps the information just isn’t available?

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I agree but the current problem is that all developers and testers would be under a Laminar NDA Non Disclosure Agreement, so that would make it very tricky to talk about details...  having said that, I do think a lot more developers should put their hands on the table...  the really big question that you touched upon is reference to Carenado and JustFlight, there are a lot aircraft released under both banners, but no forward details on if or when they will be updated to the new X-Plane12. There are a lot of great aircraft that can be lost in the transition.

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Does telling customers they are working on the transition break any NDA? If Laminar wrote a NDA in that fashion they were not thinking clearly. One rationale for people not moving to 12 would be that some of their purchases would no longer work. Where is the downside for Laminar?

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Hi,

@Medellinexpat, You can check Laminar Facebook page, there are some references to planes and sceneries that will be compatible with XP12, but I guess we won't see the full list since they seem to gradually release this kind of information until publishing XP12 to the public.
I also think it is worth to check the X-Plane org forums and see if there is any compatibility topic for your preferred plane maker.

One thing regarding compatibility between version, I think it is a double edge sword for the studios, on one hand it is great that your plane can fly on the new version of XP12, but expecting a full fleet of planes to be updated to the latest version for free is not an easy thing to swallow,  my opinion is that a symbolic tag price should be added to an updated model.

 

Regarding Carenado and JustFlight, I think they have a passion for aviation (and money) and XP12 is a potential growth market, they will probably want to invest in it, the question if they will do it through new planes or as you stated before, updating the plane to the new simulator and charge money for that (not an easy decision).

 

@Stephen, I think you nailed most of the issues of the new XP version in this article, especially:

Problem is with code is, "push more in here and it pushes more problems out there" - spot on.

 

Regarding the payment, I think that 60$ is also under payed, but after listening to Austin in the interview with FSElite, I think that once they will be transitioning to "always online" mode, there might be subscription change, but that is probably in 2-3 years from now.

 

Saar

 

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On charging for updates to XP12 there are two sides to that. If developers do not update their product then they will have nothing to sell going forward. Sales of XP11 only product once XP12 is released will likely plummet There’s a balance between providing a service for existing customers in providing the update and using your existing client base to fund making your product sale able  to new customers. If developers do charge a fee will they be transparent about the work that was needed to justify the charge?
My view is the developers with older product, say the IXEG 733 (I know its not in the Org store) would have a case to charge a fee. Something newer, lets say the Inibuilds A300 or the Toliss A340 are so recent (XP12 was already on the horizon) then them charging would be less justifiable. 
If developers do charge a fee then they will also have to make some development choices. Going forward only the XP12 versions will get updates and bug fixes? Will they need to maintain two code sources for the Org store, the XP11 only version and the XP12 version for new customers and those who have paid for the upgrade? Messy. And then there’s the whole issue of protecting their product. Product key verification becomes more complex when there is the key for the original purchase and presumably a key for the upgrade (or some other sort of workaround).

 

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