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Behind the Screen : November 2018 Edition

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Behind the Screen : November 2018

 

It is almost a decade now since I discovered and joined X-Plane. And over the course of that time I have come to know many developers through their work, and obviously the impact of their work on the simulator.

 

Ten years ago the X-Plane scene was very different (X-Plane9®) than the familiar feel and look we use today. For developers it was even a more arcane age. Back then 95% of X-Plane aircraft were "PlaneMaker" based with 2d flat panels. but don't get me wrong as developers were very inventive and clever, and the aircraft were actually very good. X-Plane developers back in that age were mostly friends or groups of buddies developing their love of aircraft for their hobby, and the word "hobby" was or is significant.

 

X-Plane is a hobbyist playground and that aspect is still very highly encouraged today. The areas to be explored and created are boundless, and all have the one single aim in creating an interaction to create one of the best simulators in existence outside of the professional aviation arena, and even then those boundaries can be crossed as well. But for a commercial product or simulator to survive it has to grow beyond the hobbyist realm, this area is probably caused the biggest conflict of all aspects of X-Plane. For FlightSim users it was not an option, it is a commercial industry based on business more than the hobbyist angle that X-Plane created, and to a point these forces have almost created a war between them inside of the simulator, this area has become more apparent no more than in this 2018 year in the "free" aspect to the "pay" position of enhancing the simulator.

 

My point is taken here. The one major fundamental highlight of this 2018 X-Plane year have been aircraft. With the shear leap in detail and design and features that have been created and delivered. As X-Plane11 and its more advanced effects and features have moved on to a more mature stage then the developers have used these elements to create some of the almost outstanding work and deliver some of the most excellent aircraft in any simulator.

 

But here is the significance of the point I want to make. All the developers that delivered this outstanding work, are all original early or foundation developers of X-Plane and all of them came out from that original hobbyist era. You could say it is because of their early induction of being X-Plane developers that they have an advantage, but in reality the opposite is the case.

 

Most current forces should in fact reduce the potential of these developers from delivering the product they do. For mostly they are all disadvantaged by the fact they are mostly all still single entities. Most developers in the business market are now teams, mostly between three to five specialists that come together under one studio to create a product. Their gain is that the work can be parceled out to each specialist area, either in the modeling, coding, art or special effects, and recombining to create the product and test it. The huge advantage here is time, as most projects can be completed as a team within a 12 month cycle and in scenery project even on a 4 month cycle, were as for a single developer it is usually 16 months or longer to create an aircraft. I will note that of course single entity developers do have external input of work on their projects, but they are not teams as such as they and they alone create all the main aspects of the project's creation from the modeling to the coding and art.

 

But right from the get go, 2018 in X--Plane it has been a seminal year. First off the rank was Jack Skieczius's (FlyJSim) Boeing 732 TwinJet, and admittedly an update, but the aircraft was very far removed form just being an update, it was and still is in reality a completely different aircraft than the original.

 

At this point the TwinJet is still the front runner for aircraft (airliner) of the year by our calculations, but the 2018 year is still not over. The really odd thing is that the aircraft is known more for it's cabin than anything else, but the flying and system features are up there as well. Developers as a rule see cabins as "left-over" items on a project's grand list of agendas. But here it shows that if you deliver a supremely developed cabin as it was delivered here (with independent cabin lighting, airstair control, overhead lockers and window blinds) it creates a totally complete immersive airliner, and in what should be an addon, then becomes it's major feature... yes the rest of the aircraft is sublime as well and the quality is off the planet, but it was the TwinJet's completeness as an all round machine is what totally resonates with you, and that it delivered a complete new level of simulation involvement, not only on the flying practical level, but also on the sub-conscious emotional level as well. 

 

Second developer noted is Daniel Klaue. His work has been mostly the developer in creating the Carenado brand in X-Plane, all excellent machines. But Klaue is restricted to the Carenado design boundaries in that the X-Plane version has to be almost a replica of the FlightSim version, but Dan does in a few areas throw in a few notable ideas and features that are X-Plane specific. But lately through his own Thranda Design, Dan Klaue has released his own projects but also now does conversion aircraft for Just Flight. Just Flight give Klaue more flexibility in the designs, with their excellent GA aircraft in the Arrows, Tobagos/Trinidads have all been high-quality, but it was the seminal Hawk Trainer T.1a that showed us all the skill and sheer design that takes X-Plane to another complete level of realism and high-quality of aircraft available now in X-Plane. The aircraft is breathtaking in design and has a curved glass (canopy) in absolute brilliance, yes it is a copy of the FlightSim, version... but in reality they couldn't be more different.

 

Torsten Leisk is another legacy developer. More for his Airbus systems than modeling. His release this year of the Airbus A319 brought a new high in extremes of the way an airliner handles in the simulator, and also brought to X-Plane new and clever features we only dreamed of a few years ago. The aircraft gives you real world airliner handling that you could only dream of a few years ago. It is an astounding feeling that was very present from the very first landing I had in the aircraft. Again that moment was one of my flying highlights of the year.

 

Walker Guthrie is vFlyteAir. All projects coming out of vFlyteAir are personal, or the actual developers know or own the aircraft they simulate. True to a point vFlyteAir are a small team. But it is the modeling skill and work of Walker Guthrie here that elevates the aircraft to higher heights of quality and design. This year it was the VLC Comco - Ikarus C42 C. Here is another breathtaking advancement of design, with material and complex modeling (Internal aircraft frame) that delivered another advancement of X-Plane design and quality. Again it was an aircraft that the more you looked closer then the exploring brought out the sheer advances the aircraft was making to realism in modeling and feel... the C42 C flew very nicely as well.

 

Just when I really thought that X-Plane in design and the already delivered sheer detail was at it's peak.... then along comes Javier Rollon and the SIAI-Marchetti SF.-260 trainer. This release was even more breathless than anything I have seen before in the X-Plane simulator. On the surface it looks very good, but dig deep and it is an almost mind-blowing experience on detail and and quality... and yes the level was raised another higher extreme level again, so you can't say anything or see anything that puts a line of how high X-Plane can go in depth and quality.

 

I am not going to absolutely discount the brilliance and work of Rotate, Aerobask, Dreamfoil Creations (no releases this year, but my guess he would have easily joined the above elites) and X-Trident.

 

The point of this month's Behind the Screen is that all of the above developers are original and still are single project developers. They come from the period I joined X-Plane in nearly ten years ago. Not only has their work been totally outstanding this year, but they between them brought an absolute new and even extreme level of quality, new features and a higher breathtaking depth of realism to the X-Plane simulator.

 

In reality they should all have been easily consigned to history to the reality of advancement and high-quality (well funded) development studios, they "should" be relics of a past era... but as 2018 has shown, they are all very far from that position and even showing that their craft is of a certainly very, very high standard.

 

From my point of view (besides being totally in amazement of their achievements) was that I was also very proud of them all, for their devotion to their craft, their skills and the supreme quality of their work. They are as they say "still hitting the balls out of the park" in delivering outstanding product and even could be the very best overall developers in simulation... above all they are our developers and we should support them.

 

Which brings us back the same "free" aspect to the "pay" position of the simulator...  free was very good for X-Plane, it was back then all mateship and buddies and all focusing and delivering on delivering great designs for the simulator. But as all of the above elite developers started out in the same arena, they had to move forward as well. Not only just to personally to make a living to carry on doing what they do. But because like everything, X-Plane has to move forward as well, if the free economy worked a decade ago, it doesn't today as X-Plane has grown up, it is now a serious tool.

As if these developers don't make any returns on their work, they will simply have no other option but to go elsewhere to use their talents and craft. So take 2018 and delete all the projects from the above developers and what would you have left, certainly a stagnation of quality and design...  but also that missing vital element of forward progression and advancement for the X-Plane simulator.

 

So it is vital to support their work and craft, and also be very proud of their achievements... because simply and more so is that they are our own developers as well.

 

Notes

I noted back in October that I was doing a full update on the X-Plane 11.30 version release. Yes I started the assignment, but then the v11.30 at around b4 went backwards, as betas do. It seems more stable now and with more features delivered as well... the indepth coverage will still be released for when X-Plane11.30 goes final...  unless it goes backwards again. December in the X-Plane year is a short month, and the yearly round up of the simulator and "best of..." awards will be soon released before the Christmas/New Year break...  so happy flying to all till then

 

Stephen Dutton

1st December 2018

Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews

 

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Dear Stephen, thank you for the great article, but I was left very surprised with you totally ignoring Hotstart’s TBM900, which to my humble opinion stood out this year with its innovation and total design. I don’t know if there is some “bad blood” between .ORG users to X-Aviation products that causes this treatment to the above product, but as an unbiased reader (and real world pilot) I’m expecting a true journalism integrity when reading professional reviews. Again thank you for the great (and rare) website.

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Great read, Stephen. As a relative newcomer (since mid-2016) I really appreciate the evolution to payware that has taken place. It is a just reward (and I hope profitable) for those who paid their dues in the early days, giving so much to the XP community, in which we all have a role to play. Mine may not be to create content, but to happily help support those who do as the products just keep getting better and better.

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