Jump to content

Search the Community

Showing results for tags 'behind the screen'.

  • Search By Tags

    Type tags separated by commas.
  • Search By Author

Content Type


Forums

  • Airplane Reviews
    • Airliners Reviews
    • General Aviation Aircraft Reviews
    • Classic Aircraft Reviews
    • Freeware Aircraft Reviews and Developments
    • Military Aircraft Reviews
  • Helicopter Reviews
    • Helicopter Reviews
  • Scenery Reviews
    • Payware Airports and Scenery Reviews
    • Freeware Airport and Scenery Reviews
  • Designers News
    • News! The latest developments in X-Plane
    • Interviews
    • Aircraft and Scenery Releases and Developer Annoucements
  • Plugin and Simulator addons
    • X-Plane Plugins and Simulator Addons
  • Laminar Research
    • Laminar Research
    • X-Plane Version and Beta Releases
    • X-Plane11
  • Comments and Announcements
    • Comments and Announcements
    • Behind The Screen
  • Images
    • Images

Find results in...

Find results that contain...


Date Created

  • Start

    End


Last Updated

  • Start

    End


Filter by number of...

Joined

  • Start

    End


Group


AIM


MSN


Website URL


ICQ


Yahoo


Jabber


Skype


Location


Interests

  1. 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
  2. Behind the Screen : April 2022 "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry" (Robert Burns) and he goes on to say "No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it". This saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,”. April was like that... In my last March "Behind the Screen" edition I documented the overhaul of my main X-Plane Windows computer to a new (faster) processor, and in readiness for X-Plane12, and the upgrade OS move to Windows11. The whole process was worked out, costed and put into operation with a military zeal, it came out as a perfectly executed plan in the transition from the old to the new, perfect and done well in time before X-Plane12 could hit the downloads. We only had to do a little (overclocking) tuning to hit the sweet-spot a week later, and I was as "Happy as Larry" as the system was operational ready and totally perfect in it's timing. My set up comprises however of not one computer but two. The Brutal Windows runs X-Plane uncompromisingly, that is all it has to do, a sort of pure Simulator engine. My second computer does all the rest, the site editing, image editing,downloading, filing, storing, email, and general browser work, and the two computers are connected together by an ethernet cable. Press in the Simulator for an X-Plane screenshot and it pops right up Adobe's Bridge Application for editing in Photoshop on the other one, I am very proud of the idea and the system. It is also extremely and highly efficient when you are editing between 300 to 500 images a review. The machine that does all this background work is a trusty workhorse in a decade old (2009) Apple Imac 27" the one in the Behind the Screen header above... and you now have probably already guessed where this article is going. It is not like the Windows upgrade had broken the bank account, but it was designed not to put much financial pressure on the ongoing year, as the problem with 2022 is summed up in one word "Chaotic". What with currently in that we have just come out of a pandemic (sort of), Mr Putin has decided to invade Europe, and almost everything is going up in price as you watch the prices change as dramatically as you watch the change of the prices on a daily occurrence, with the petrol prices... well just don't go there. So again I was feeling smug in that I had done a perfect upgrade to a very good value price, and with not a lot of over due credit sitting on the system. When you have a 12 year old computer they are like a 12 year old car, they still run very well, but they have their odd moments of idiosyncrasies, in the IMac's case it is the dropping out of the WiFi (at the wrong moments), slow, won't connect to your bluetooth mouse all the time, dropping out the connection to the bluetooth mouse all the time, dropping out of keyboards, even if the keyboard is connected by a wire and not airy fairy bluetooth, and so on. I know the IMac is getting old and yes it was getting tired in it's own way, but for the day to day work it was perfect and believe it or not very reliable. To believe that how much better value you got 12 years ago from Apple, it had even for back then a 2560x1440 display which was impressive, certainly not in today's 8K era, but the quality is still very good. Apple Computer in their extinction ethics however had written the machine off years ago, So I was stuck on 10.11.5 or El Capitan, with no further upgrades. If you have used a computer for years, you keep them because the applications will still work with that same era OS System, I have some old (2000 era) FCP (Final Cut Pro) software that works fine on the same computer (with the older but far better timeline version), which is far more efficient for editing on... as sometimes the newer software will mean a worse workflow because they add in far to many helpers or duplicate too many of the same actions that counteract each other out. So sometimes a clean and simple interface is faster in the busy work place, and not have a load of "bells and whistles" that you would barely use any. Okay I admit it is old school, but a lot of the modern software could learn from some of the great software ideas of the past, newer is not always better, certainly in Software. Feeling my age... in the old days you bought the software which even today was seriously expensive, but you owned it lock, stock and barrel. Once purchased it was yours to use, and for as long as you wished, which again is good for computers with old OS Systems. The subscription model has been around since the 1600s by newspaper and book publishers, so nothing new there, but in the computer age software companies want to make more money by selling you more software. As noted the purchase of good quality software is (or was) extremely expensive, so the subscription model actually sells you the same software, but monthly in subscriptions, which is good as it is in affordable chunks, but they also throw in any new upgrade free (back then you had an upgrade price). It is a good model, but it also has one very serious cache, they also own and control the software and not you, and bit like Spotify. I have a bundle deal with Adobe, mostly for Photoshop (with Lightroom) and the free Bridge, I used to have the full Creative Cloud series of tools, but the prices went stupidly expensive, and for to have all the tools I mostly didn't use. Adobe force you to take (for greedy more money of course) to have only all of the applications (Creative Cloud) or just very expensive separate packages of their software, which means you can't bundle the only applications you actually want to use and subscribe only for them alone, it is a totally unfair system, and it is designed to pull the most money out of their customers. Before you say, "there are free cheaper versions out there". I have used Photoshop since CS was commercially released in October 2003 (version 8). The tools are my trade so to speak, but Photoshop does have one tool that is extremely important to processing 300 to 500 images in a review session. The "Actions" tools. This is a tool that can set up a set of actions, say crop, lighten, resize, brighten or darken an image with just one press of a button, so that means not doing the excessive repetitive single actions for each image... it is an indispensable tool. Without the Photoshop Application and the action tool the X-PlaneReviews site just can't function... end of. If you wanted bad timing, then this was the "Almighty god" of bad timing, on the 30th March Adobe pulled the subscriptions on Photoshop (my version was CC 2018) from older computers, Adobe were not going to support the software any more, even though I was still paying for the software that I now couldn't actually use... worse was the software still worked perfectly on my IMac, but no I was out. I actually got in an extra weeks activity by using a "Trial" of Photoshop (on four year old software?), but once the 7 Day trial was up, my software died or then became extinct, and in reality so was the time of the usefulness of my trusty IMac. The only (expensive) option was to upgrade my Mac System, I Iooked at the new Mac Studio, but hey at AUS$3,000 that idea died on the spot, and at this point the site was not operating, sorry about that... but my perfect system was now half-broken in two. Yes I can use the Photoshop software on the Windows, it is installed on there, but it also required flipping screens around consistently to process images. No the fix had to be long term and not a short band-aid solution with X-Plane12 sitting on the immediate horizon (no pun intended). Option was a Mac Mini. I had already had one a decade ago, and actually it was the first computer I ran X-Plane9 on when I first started in X-Plane. Second hand iMacs also were the same price as a new Mac Mini but were already five years old, so I didn't want to get clobbered by the same out-of-date problem again, and "ew" someone else had already pored their horribleness all over that computer. The Mac Mini it was, but I would also need a monitor as well, I found one for AUS$200, the same model as I had on Windows, brilliant, but I was faced with a financial blowout of AUS $1200, on top of all my Windows expenses. The Adobe timing had stank, truly at the worst time. I got the Mac Mini... but it took two weeks to sort, as it wouldn't work well with the monitor? The problem is that it is a 1920 x 1080 monitor, yes it worked on the Mac Mini, but everything was like a child's toy set, Photoshop was scaled huge! and totally unworkable, my older iMac had the screen resolution fixed in, no problems. So that monitor was sold (more time) to buy a 4K monitor to get back the correct 2560x1440 display scale I had before, the cost? you don't want to go there... but it really hurt the bank balance no end. The system was thankfully now up and running again, I had Photoshop "yeh!", so I was back in business or reviewing. But ten years of working on the older Mac also mean't I had built up a large number of tools (font's and so on) and settings like my preset .psd actions and other Photoshop presets to move over, plus there was the huge amount of work of just setting up the Mac Mini to be a working computer with all the required applications with new really annoying Photoshop features (so everything had to set back to "Legacy Settings"), and their internet settings... worse problem was recalibrating the monitors to work with both computers. I had refined the settings on the Windows for X-Plane over years of twiddling. There are two settings. Nvidia is a global adjustment, but xEnviro can be also adjusted for just the lighting with-in the Simulator, so you really have two sets of settings fighting each other for the same output. The balance between the two applications has to be totally correct or you can get really shitty images coming out of the Simulator. Again there are apologies.... sorry, but the problem was that the images coming out of the Simulator were almost black or darkened contrasty out, and you can feel the problem with the Thranda Caravan review, my skills dialed out most of the nasty lighting issues, but it was again a very drawn out process to make the images look even half-way realistic, and the all wasted time in between spent in twiddling settings to get better images out of the Simulator. I'm still twiddling, but I feel I have got the settings now closer to the earlier look and feel before the complex changing over the computers. Overall I now have a complete new computer system(s), not only the flying Simulator machine (Windows), but the new not planned site and editing computer as well (Mac Mini). Nice to have but I still yearn for my old IMac, as the screen colouring is far better than the new starker 4K Monitors, and they really are harder to gauge the colour and brightness (I still check the images coming out on the old IMac via WiFi, wonderful thing is WiFi), but don't ask me about the total blowout of it all, once everything was finally under control, to myself to now be totally and absolutely burnt out by the past months events. It was a wild ride, as April 2022 is simply a month I don't want to relive again. Life is like that... everything is at once "Hunky Dory" then it is not, but it affected the X-PlaneReviews site no end for the whole month, it is nearly two months with the Windows upgrade thrown in as well, but life happens and you have to deal with it. See you all again next month. Stephen Dutton 1st May 2022 Copyright©2022 X-Plane Reviews
  3. Behind the Screen : March 2022 Back in my Behind the Screen January 2022 edition, I talked about upgrading my main X-Plane workhorse computer ready for X-Plane12. Now I am on the other side of the upgrade and the process has been very interesting. Everyone at sometime or the other are faced with this nasty dilemma, unless you are still flying X-Plane9 on a Windows 7 OS (and you would be surprised how many out there still are) the problem is you are going to be looking secretly at your bank balance account. Mostly the upgrade situation is created at a new X-Plane version release or realistically about every four years, however most of my changes have been forced upon me, for the late X-plane 10 and forthcoming X-Plane 11, I literally melted my Mac's graphic card (yes X-Plane can melt or burn out graphic cards). But I needed to also move up to a Windows based system anyway, because I could then access more (mostly plugins) applications that are created only for WIN based machines and that aspect was required for reviews. In being a decades old Apple acolyte. It was a significant moment to move to the opposition's or over to the medieval Microsoft system... I loathe WIN 7, still do compared to the elegant Mac OS. But since the messiah of Steve Job's moved on and died. I feel that Apple, although still makes great products, has moved away from the Job's "insanely great" products to Mr Cook's inventory leading leadership in replicating more of the same and adding on even more money in asking for the same glossed up products. In saying that I think the new line of M series processors are very good, but paying Aus$3,000 just to get one in a computer is criminal. Windows does give you one major advantage, separate or separated components. Buy a Mac and it is a locked box, even upgrading the memory is a major exercise, and even mostly all the memory is soldered directly on to the motherboard, a new graphic card... forget about that. So Windows does give you immense flexibility in upgrading components, and that saves you money. With a Mac, upgrading means usually a completely new computer, meaning expensive (now far more expensive). I have even come to love the Windows interface, in many areas it is now even better than the Mac OS, far better since Microsoft got rid of Steve Ballmer, and became a far more progressive company. It was a big deal for me not only to move to the Win OS, but also buy a Windows Surface laptop (No touch screen on any Apple laptops is another deal breaker). As noted in BtheS in January. The flexibility of components in a Windows box means I started my "Tick, Tock" system. Buying both major components in both a chip/motherboard, then also a graphic card is seriously expensive. You just can't afford both at the same time. I did my Graphic Card (Tick) update about three years ago to a Asus 8Gb VRAM board, to be honest it still runs very well, so it is not really ready for a overhaul (maybe next year when the prices are even closer to back in being some sort of realistic)... but my chip and board (Tock) was now getting seriously outdated and it showed via my mid-20s framerates. In reality I had put myself into a corner with the chip a Intel i7-6700K CPU, good in it's time, but coupled to a very budget Gigabyte motherboard, you felt the slowness and it's lack of features and slow buses. I also came to really hate that board (Gigabyte Z170-HD3). The Gigabyte board was another issue in that to upgrade to a new processor, you also have to replace the motherboard. So with not only with the daily dynamic realism of fighting low framerates, Microsoft also deemed my chip now too old for Windows 11, then add in then the coming requirements of X-Plane12, in that coming change a lot of the processing is moved from the graphic card over to main processor. I was faced with the inevitable, a major surgery of my computer if I wanted to gain the best from the coming (exciting) X-Plane12. The process was interesting and hopefully very helpful to other users facing the same situation. My system is totally X-Plane focused, I don't do anything else on the computer (not even games) on the Windows (site image and editing work is still all done on a 12 year old Mac). There is an immense (insane) amount of choice for users in upgrading their main components, but basically it all comes down to easy choices. I think actually the pandemic actually did me a favour, by making me wait longer to do this upgrade, and in that aspect I found myself at the front of a release of a step generation of new powerful processors (Intel 12th Gen). I did consider at first a AMD processor, but I found too many performance issues and stutters. I am sure AMD devotees will put me right on that matter, but I just was not comfortable with changing to AMD, but the 12th Gen Intel chips are a serious step up in power anyway. As you know I earlier went mad and only wanted only a top of the line Intel 12900KF, but installing this nuclear power station created a lot of problems and at a far higher cost (availability is also problem here as well). I do really thank a lot of users for their advice in comments, and yes I actually in the end used their advice, but overall the item that changed my mind was the video by Michael Brown on XForcePC, if you watch this video it will explain the differences between all the 12th Gen processors, and why the i7 is the pick of the bunch price wise to performance for X-Plane users. The Intel 12900KF is nearly a grand in X-Plane money (all prices here are in Aussie $), but the blowout was the things required to go with the chip to actually run it. I settled for a Intel S1700 Core i7 12700K 12 Core 3.60 GHz CPU (That can be overclocked to 5.0 GHz), it is the top processor of the i7 12th Gen range, it saved me $300 over the i9 12900K. The motherboard I selected was a ASUS S1700 ATX PRIME Z690-P WiFi DDR4. Debatable is the fact I didn't move up to DDR5 memory, but cost would have blown me out to an extra $500 for the DDR5 memory which not only currently expensive but also hard to get here. As a chip and board combination I think it is about perfect on features and price. I spent a bit more on the board for the features it provided, as the spectre of the budget Gigabyte board still looms badly over why I did that choice. In selecting any 12th Generation Intel chip, you hit what became the biggest debate of them all... cooling. Picking the chip/board was the really easy part, the hard part was picking a good cooler. I spent countless videos and going through tons of spec details for weeks in trying to choose anything to fix the cooling issue, it can get seriously expensive as well, even more than a motherboard. But the trick is to find the right cooler for your processor, in the end it came down to two, a Noctua or a Be Quiet! The Noctuas are expensive, but oddly it also looked horribly old fashioned (brown?) as well, but the cost as which was astronomical was the real deal breaker here, even if it was the best. My choice was the Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4, still not cheap, but very good for the 12th Gen chips. That cooler choice then created another problem, it is such a huge massive cooler, a real monster of a thing? that when if installed in my case it would stick out right of the door with the glass panel also needed to be off to fit it inside. So I would need a new case or another extra expense above my carefully considered budget to accommodate just that XXXL cooler. My choice again was another Be Quite!, a Pure Base 500DX case, WIDE but it also came with modern ports including USB-C inputs, and some nice RGB fancy lighting effects, the only thing it was short of was USB ports? X-Plane uses a LOT of USB ports, three for the Saitek joystick, throttle and rudder pedal combo, then your keyboard, mouse and external storage? with only five USBs on the Pure Base case were simply not going to cut it, so I installed a Orico 7 Port USB 3.0 PCIe card as you can do that with a Windows box, and that fixed another issue, I also upgraded my power supply from a 750w to a 1000w pack, not really needed but a nice to have (it is second hand). The rebuild took a day, but a second day was required to reinstall and rebuild my Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD 2TB - M.2 NVMe storage with X-Plane and all the other software required, including now a OS upgrade to Windows 11. And that completes my Windows system rebuild. My original self created quote for the upgraded system was around Aus$1,700 or US$1,300 ($1,271) with the (Tock) rebuild and choosing the i7 and not the i9 it came in at Aus$1,350 or nearly US$1000, even including the case and USB port extras, it was all up not bad for a load of extra performance, and a nice fancy case. So what did I get for my money. I was always jealous of users having 70fr to 100fr X-Plane power, but realistically I never expected that sort of headroom, 50fr, with hopefully 60fr was to me a good upgrade result. Realistically I gained 20fr, what was 25fr is now 45fr, 30fr is now 50fr. But that is not the whole story power wise. xEnviro is simply a major excessive power sapping application, the more power you seem to give it, the more it takes, and I have a lot of the settings set currently to be very economical, but still it is guzzling up 20fr... yes "twenty bloody frames" and also gives me slight stutters. In light weather it is not too bad, but in cloudy conditions it just sucks down the frame rate like no tomorrow, it is not a very efficient application? Switch it off and I have 60fr-70fr, but then looking at a very bland panorama. But if you want to, you can currently average it out at 45fr, X-Plane is still very snappy and with headroom to easily absorb even the heaviest aircraft (Felis B747-200) and heavy scenery (Barcelona). But other benefits are also very welcome, 60% faster X-Plane loading times are a really big boon to me in that I do a lot of restarts per review, and the computer in dealing with mundane tasks is extremely quick and far easier to use. Far quicker also are buses than with the Gigabyte board means that now big files can be moved around far, far more quicker (rebuilding X-Plane with 1Tb of data to move only took a hour, not hours). The processor and board upgrade was done with X-Plane12 in mind, and the main reason to upgrade at all. If X-Plane12 will take say an extra 10fr (by my estimation), then using it's default environmental benefits, I can then remove xEnviro, I should see a balance of 55fr to 60fr, with that I would be extremely happy to have done the upgrade. Certainly a (Tick) upgrade of the Graphic Card would give me more framerate and power, but that was not a consideration of this upgrade. When after running several flights, and pushing the new system we found it was not even breaking into a sweat. CPU numbers were around only 40ºC, motherboard temps around 31ºC while still running a flight at full throttle. I'm not usually a big fan of overclocking, but in this case it may be actually warranted to make the chip work a bit harder, so we are going to do a slight overclock and hopefully gain around another 10% performance. limits are 5.4 MHz for some P-cores and 5.1 MHz for all active P-cores. I am certainly not ever going to do that, but I think I want it to get itself off it's 2.6 MHz backside and do some more work. Those numbers also vindicated our cooling choice, the system has five fans (three in the cabinet and two on the Dark Rock Pro), but the system does not get even close to hot (or even warm) at all, not even feel any heat if you put your hand over the rear fans. Overall it was in this aspect a sensational upgrade. Simulation is one of the absolute most ferocious users of processor power, it demands far more than most games on the market. To make gains within a budget is very hard, but still a necessity to keep up with the constant changing demands of even more realism and complex aircraft. This was my upgrade story, I hope it helps in your decisions and choices in getting the best out of not only the current X-Plane version (11) but to be also ready for the next step in X-Plane12. See you all next month. Stephen Dutton 1st April 2022 Copyright©2022 X-Plane Reviews
  4. Behind the Screen : February 2022 The current feeling is of being a mountaineer. You climb one difficult mountain only to find yourself facing another massive challenge in another cliff face to climb and digest. This is the life of a Simulation reviewer today. The forward expansion of deep systems and Simulation detail is now getting seriously complex, and it was never quite like this. You always enjoyed the challenge of a new aircraft, delving into it's systems and features with glee. But now you need a University Aviation degree to work through it all, this is now total real world stuff, and you are earning your grades by one book and manuscript at a time. Usually even a couple of years ago. You most did an extreme airliner review in about three days, four at the very most. That spread to six days, but now I am finding I am working through 14 days or TWO WEEKS in just doing one review? That is crazy stuff, and it leaves the site with not much turnover to note what other releases or changes are going on in the world (a lot apparently), we would never abandon the front page news, but for your reviewing pleasure it is not coming out as fast as we would like. But what do you do... these incredible Simulations also deserve their full attention as well. Our X-PlaneReviews philosophy is just to not only show or review a new aircraft, but to do an intergrated tutorial as part of the review. In other words we do the hard stuff and find all the intricate details (tips in other words) so you can get down and deep quickly to enjoy the aircraft, than spending the time and frustration wading through all the ditty stuff. But that is where it is now getting seriously complicated, because these aircraft are now also seriously complicated, as they are in real life. Developers lately have been working on these complicated beasts for three and even over four years in development. That is a very long leadout time, we seemingly now have to wait and we wait for a release, but to get this sort of extreme development takes time, bucket loads of time, then it is our job to sort all out that complexity when it does arrive, and quickly to get the review up. It is all about the developer pushing the boundaries of what they can achieve, lately over the last few years it seems nothing if the ceiling is even yet visible. It is the same for the user. Once a release is out there, you are now faced with a choice... Fly short and happy, or devote yourself to the deeper more engrossing project. I have found over these last few years that the wide broad choice of aircraft that I fly, is slowly being condensed down to only six or seven focus aircraft. Yes I get a lot of review aircraft as choices, but my core flying is being converged down to now only a few. I have a notebook to detail a certain aircraft's attributes. So when I fly that aircraft I can go back over those notes to remember the details I need to know, a lot of the notes and data came from the original or updated reviews. But a also lot comes from manuals or taking notes of real life cockpit videos. That small A5 book and it's page notes is now being set into Folders per aircraft, I now need a filing system to cover the modern releases in their aircraft details and flying oddities. The reviews are also getting extensively long... MEGA we call them, but there is just so much ground in features and system detail to now cover... I tried to do a shortened review version of one aircraft, but felt it was so underwhelming of not only the aircraft, but on what it represented to the user... problem is I hate giving you pages and pages AND pages of review to work through, are we boring you, is it all starting to blur in front of your eyes, it is in the need of going back to a simpler time of just publishing the basics? All big questions, but after four years of hard yakka by a devoted developer, they certainly deserve to have their dedication rewarded as well. Modern aircraft are quite easy to cover, because they have a lot of automated systems. But still developers are drilling down to the smaller details hidden behind the automation. Pressures and pumps deep within aircraft systems are now being simulated, an aircraft's idiosyncrasies are being also developed as are the increasing amount of failures, showing the complexity behind the automation. The most difficult to review are the late analog aircraft, were systems have one foot in one era and are progressing into another. These are the most and complex aircraft to learn and fly in Simulation. The Felis Boeing 747-200 is a benchmark, and it fits right into this category. Another is the regional turboprops like the FlyJSim Dash Q400, again a very analog aircraft in a modern era. Both are exceptional Simulations, but they have learning curves like no other. The Felis Boeing 742 is a particular interesting review... It took FOUR weeks to review the aircraft, admittedly while doing other reviews around it. No manuals and a buggy beta(s) caused everything (computers) and human to be pushed to their absolute limits. It was an absolute nightmare to review, but still a fascinating journey into the soul of these iconic aircraft. Look... I wouldn't do this unless I totally enjoy it, which I do... but sometimes it can very much overwhelm you... or with the external bugs that can cause days (or weeks) of pain, as did the Global Traffic bug that hit during the vFlyteAir Piper PA28R Arrow III G5-E1000 review, a magnificent aircraft ruined by an external issue.... it is all simulation. But the steepest slopes to conquer, are the complex systems. You have to Download/Google tons of information to work it all out, pages and pages of notes are now required, not so much in the moment of writing the review, but for later when you come back to the aircraft, as you need the mental switches in the notes to unlock all that was learnt and to go back through the procedures. "Triggers" for the brain I call them, and so you can see why I culled my fleet down to just a handful to operate these aircraft at the top of my ability. Truth be told, that is what real world pilot's actually do.... they don't fly 40 or odd aircraft in the real world like you can do in Simulation, but progress usually through only four or five types in their flying career. Another thing I learnt over the last few years, also mirroring the real world is flying the aircraft again after even a short (say a few months) break. The first flight back is absolute shit!, the second one better... then by the third flight your back into the groove again. It was never like that a few years ago, as you usually slipped straight back into the seat and flew it perfectly... but now it just does not seem to work out that way. It does keep the brain sharp though. The one thing I have learnt is that flying an aircraft is devastatingly tiring. I can now easily see why airlines or the aviation industry has severe hour protocols on how many hours a pilot can fly before the fatigue sets in. Current simulation is just as fatiguing, certainly if you do everything by the book, and block to block. I set myself a challenge. I followed a real world (Jetstar JQ) aircraft on it's one day roster, four flights around Australia, and I wanted to fly the A320 aircraft by the book, in full departure times and turnaround times (you have 23 min to refuel, reset the route and deplane/board), real takeoff and landing times and to follow the real aircraft (FlightAware) on it's real time route. You think it is easy... it isn't. I was totally buggered by the fourth sector, seriously tired. It was also seriously good fun, but hey "Respect" for the crews who do this day in and day out. Another fun challenge if you are up for it, is to simulate in flying from one point or airport to another point or aircraft using real world aircraft and timetables, not short hops but as a ticket holder to get from point A to point B and to a remote destination (add up the cost it would cost you as well in real world tickets) and across several types of aircraft... it is fun, but again surprisingly harder than you think it is. The context of all this is that Simulation is now reaching a completely whole new level of complexity and detail. Worse it is not going to stop here, it may as we reach the limits of systems slightly level off, but the detail with more computer power is still going to evolve. There is much more also coming in that the Rotate's MD-11 is due soon, and is said to be the most deep and complex simulation for X-Plane yet... then the FlightFactor Boeing 777, which will be another deep and complex aircraft that again is noted to be (oh god) another level of systems complexity again... and FlightFactor still have their Boeing 787-9 in development. It all never ends in the quest of Simulation perfection, obviously there is no endgame or even a final goal here, the ante just gets set slightly higher and higher as the years progress. It is exciting of course as in the last decade's journey has been an unbelievable one, and one I could not simply dream of ten years ago when I got into the genre. But are we hitting the point of splitting Simulation into those that want simple aircraft to fly, or these complex deep system creature simulations... I think it splits the same into those two camps of "Gaming" and "Simulation", and developers will obviously cater for both.... but for me it is the consistent challenge and the mastering of the real life duplication and no matter how hard it gets, that is the attraction to what the core of Simulation really is, the progress towards an ideal replication of a real pilot's work, that is why (and I) got into Simulation in the first place... so the journey continues. Enjoy your flying, and we will be back at the end of next month. Stephen Dutton 1st March 2022 Copyright©2022 X-Plane Reviews
  5. Behind the Screen : January 2022 I came into the X-Plane Simulator in the last few months of X-Plane9, so the next version of the Simulator was only a step away in X-Plane10, the next update was X-Plane11 (the current version), and then like now, in just over a decade ago the next edition in X-Plane12 is now due. In reality in that intermediate decade I have only been introduced to two new complete X-Plane versions. It actually doesn't sound like a lot of change, but there has been also huge landmark changes during each X-Plane version run in HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Vulkan/Metal API (Application Programming Interface), which are actually more significant revolutions than the new release versions themselves, they also both came to the fore with X-Plane11. The change from X-Plane9 to X-Plane10 was the most significant period ever for the Simulator. The changes were quite extensive in mostly the environment additions in new mapping ground textures and "Plausable world" autogen, that in reality changed the whole face and feel of the simulator. Back then XP10 came in a metal box (Aerosoft) of nine CDs and took up around 80Gb of space on your limited hard drive. Another indirect change was the movement from 2D to 3D cockpit environments and different if early ideas on non-art clouds (Austin's little "Puffs"). A lot of users at the time stayed devoted to X-Plane9, mostly for it's very extremely light framerate use, X-Plane10 was at the time framerate heavy with it's now far more advanced scenery aspects and that demand took it's toll on the sort of graphic and processing limits of the period. In hindsight X-Plane9 was the mid-point between the early basic 2D stick drawing simulation, and the more complex 3D world simulators coming after. I still check it out... mostly for nostalgic reasons, but to mostly see those 100% framerates (they are a beautiful thing). X-Plane11 feels like it has been here forever, in reality the change to X-Plane12 is also a year late, so half a decade with one version feels like an eternity and it is no wonder we are all biting at the bit for something new. Noted that X-Plane11 could have been in reality two versions, before Vulkan/Metal and after the API upgrade, so the timeline there is also a bit screwed up in context. That brings to mind the changes the new version will create. Most find that a new X-Plane version is also not a just a software update. Your hardware is also a consideration for an upgrade as well as X-Plane10 changed that aspect. A lot of users year in and year out change their computer configurations with the seasons, to them X-Plane12 will be just another simple upgrade. I use the Tick-Tock system... in one year a Graphic Card (Tick) update, the next a Board and Processor update (Tock). But that aspect went awry with the prices of Graphic Card prices going through the stratosphere with the move to real-time ray tracing and bit-coin mining. Three times the price currently of my old card means I will have to stick with my current one for still a while yet, but it is still very good. The "Tock" aspect however is a problem. Far older (five years) since the last update means I am in trouble. In reality I should have updated my board and processor three years ago, but like with everything Covid got in the way... to be honest until recently I was not really bothered as the system coped really well, helped along the journey with the mid-release Vulkan upgrade. But now I am seriously feeling the pressure, in that most of last year it was getting to be an ongoing struggle to keep my stutters at bay. So you were always in dialing your graphic preferences back, but I was never greedy there in the first place. But the pressures now required of X-Plane means I am feeling the growing wall of it all getting closer and the requirements getting higher, and everything is now also closing in on me every day to X-Plane's 12 release. I am already in trouble as I can't upgrade with my current processor to Windows 11 either (boo to Microsoft), which seems a dumb scenario as my current chips are not actually THAT old... but no. (Most users will say "stick with Win 10 as Win 11 is shit anyway), but I like to be current in system areas like that. The last time I did my "Tock" it was quite a simple choice of board (Gigabyte) and Intel i7-6700K CPU, not the most powerful at the time, but very efficient (and not too hard on the bank account), and they have performed well over the years. I have already fixed one other pressure of the last year in Storage. One of the statements of the last version upgrade was to an SSD drive... back then it was a 500Gb Samsung, that quickly turned in to an upgrade of a 1Tb Samsung, only months later... The growing size of files soon found me again in fast diminishing space, cascading past my 300Gb marker with only 250Gb of space left. You think that 250Gb of space is a lot, but it isn't in today's storage terms with consistent 3Gb to 5Gb scenery files and even now big files with some aircraft, and I don't have or use the large ortho sceneries either. Around Cyber Monday or with the Christmas sales there were deals, and a Samsung 970 EVO Plus SSD 2TB - M.2 NVMe was secured and installed on my board. "Is that it?" It is weird at the minute sized board compared to some of my older 12GB (yes only 12GB) drives I use to prop up my monitor, and for the minute size it is a little powerhouse of M.2 NVMe storage... so is the advances of computer hardware. Installing was the easy part... recompiling X-Plane and every required windows application to the new drive is a BIG job. It is amazing on how or much or how many applications work in the background to make X-Plane function correctly. Every aircraft (and even now sceneries) have to be also reauthorised back in one by one... it was a huge job that took weeks to get to a refined running situation of a transferred, if slimmed down clean X-Plane install. Bonus is that I now have a spare 1.3TB space to fill, that alone feels good... or last at least I'm safe for another 12 months. But my main dilemma remains, a new board and processor. The earlier mentioned Intel i7-6700K CPU was good but not the top of the range in power, so I never had "Tons of Power" at my disposal. I was always okay with that as it was a good benchmark for reviews. But sometimes you really missed that grunt, I also have what I call a few "Bleeders", the worst is xEnviro at around 10 fr to 15fr, which really is at the current core of my problems, bigger problem is that I can't switch it off for the bonus environment it creates against to almost everything it ruins, it is a real love-hate application. Being slow or late updating my processor has oddly brought me a significant benefit. 12th Generation Intel processors. Super powerful and heavily multi-core, they are Intel's reaction last year to the decades dominance of AMD Ryzen in huge power and speed. The desirability factor goes through the roof "POWER" all that power, but a 12900KF comes with a significant cost, many in fact. The problem is not just buying a new expensive board (you need a new motherboard to run the new 12th Generation chips in a LGA 1700 socket), but other factors as well. The i9-12900KF chip requires more power (It sucks down power like running a small country in electricity), secondly the i9-12900KF is like having a mini nuclear reactor sitting in your desktop computer... it runs seriously HOT, Cray computer hot!, this makes my current processor arrangement look benign. So it is not just as simple as installing the new board and chip, but giving it more power and keeping it some how cool (or cooler) is going to cost... a lot. So what was just a simple upgrade is turning into a megalomaniac scenario, but just the thought of X-Plane running with all it's bells and whistles flowing can only bring anyone to dream of well.... megalomania. Your answer is maybe then just buy a cheaper but less demanding processor like last time, but I have been down that road for the last four or more years, jealous of others having it all, plus there is the actual practical side of having power to do what I want for reviewing, I am also tired of compromises, fighting applications and stuttering framerate to just do simple jobs, I just want the tools to do my work. Thankfully I have time... try to buy an Intel i9-12900KF and you are faced with "Not in Stock" or the currently high blackmarket prices. There is a computer chip shortage going on out there as well, again thanks to Covid. Here starts the mind games. Will dropping xEnviro and a few other power hungry applications cancel out the extra power requirements of X-Plane12, in other words "come out even". Tricky one isn't it. If not I'm in trouble as I have nowhere else to currently go. Laminar Research did note that X-Plane12 will run fine on current computers, they themselves have not bought any new hardware for the new X-plane version, but the requirement specifications released early in the month puts me on the side of the lower and not the "Recommended" requirements required to pass the banner. X-Plane12 will obviously run on my current system, but how well I don't know, or I'm in the dark. X-Plane 12 is also an unusual Simulator update version. Most numbered updates have had very significant banner features to get you to upgrade to the next version... X-Plane12 is nothing like that at all. Basically it is a fix it all up upgrade, more of the same but just done far better, and in the fixing all the things we have wanted (or should have been) fixed for years. It would have interesting what sort of different Simulator upgrade it would have been if Microsoft had not brought back their original Simulator last year. There are a lot of changes in X-Plane12 relating directly to MSFS 2020, the non-fixed abandoned elements, that suddenly got attention because MSFS 2020 highlighted them. Environmental, ATC, Lighting, landscapes, Seasons... even down to the newer and better ground service vehicles that all reflect on the highlights of MSFS 2020... and the very areas we have all moaned about for years. Did Laminar's roadmap get highjacked? or how different would have X-Plane12 been if Laminar had in fact just been their usual selves. No doubt MSFS 2020 was a serious wakeup call in the X-Plane Simulator's weaknesses, is that to our final benefit or to the loss of other innovative ideas. Personally I think the changes are to our benefit. My coda is that if the basics are running right then the rest will follow, and the basics to be honest are currently a mess... left there languishing far too long in the "To hard to do basket". So the release of X-Plane12 may on the surface look like more an update than an upgrade, deep down though it will be a significant change to the Simulator... another benefit is that now that crowded list of problematic issues have been finally addressed and fixed, the table has been finally and thankfully cleared up. So Is X-Plane12 the upgrade we all had to have. This also then allows Laminar to get back to what it does do very well in innovate again. X-Plane12's single aim however no matter which way you seriously look at the release is just to counter the effects MSFS 2020. This is not for the Gamers out there (but that would be nice). But with the hard core Simulator Users. These are the ones that spend and build up their collections. And where the money goes, then follows success and activity producing for that platform. X-Plane has a serious advantage in the high quality of it's aircraft and tools, it is in the experience that MSFS 2020 gets to do better. Balance that effect better and X-Plane will become the more serious (even competitive) Simulation platform. For years I have noted that core city areas, followed by autogen surrounding areas is the most effective way to run a Simulator. In reality X-Plane12 again misses this aspect, and that is where our biggest concern is... A few token city objects was always going to fail in context. Over the last six weeks or so Laminar have been tempting us with X-Plane12 previews in images, videos and even waterbottles. The focus has been mostly on the Airbus A330 that will be the leading new default aircraft, but it is in the smaller revels that we get a glimpse of what X-Plane12 will be. Because there are no extravagant tentpole features coming in X-Plane12. Then our expectations are not extremely high this time around either, but that may also be why X-Plane12 may will be the most interesting release for a long time. It will change the way we will do Simulation again, but not in the usual way, but in the nuance of the changes it may change our Simulator to the far, far better simulator, and in that aspect it is very exciting, and getting more exciting day by day to the release of the beta. When will that release be? Most say Easter, but I think still it will be way before then... hopefully soon, very soon. Stephen Dutton 1st February 2022 Copyright©2022 X-Plane Reviews
  6. Behind the Screen : November 2021 I am amazed really on how much knowledge I have accumulated with flying X-Plane in over more than a decade. Laughable was the fact that I was doing reviews at the turn of the decade without really any flying abilities at all. That is not totally true. As I always had an extremely good eye for detail and what makes something good, even brilliant from what is basically crap. So it is not the difference in something in being actually good than crap in every aspect, as it is what is in the lines between that sometimes can be very fine. I could quite well fly an aircraft, that is take off, fly around and sorta land... In most cases back then I still cheated by using the ILS to bring me back to the ground. But it is in the lower contexts that you learn to "Really Fly an Aircraft". The art of aviation and the point that everyone has to learn... first the basics (If going straight into flying a Boeing 747 is notable as basic aviation, but then you could do that in a Simulator), then the real learning the complexities of moving around in a 3d space. This was the motivation for doing simulation in the very beginning as I wanted (still do) in the learning, mastering, and achieving the skills to fly an aircraft. Which brings you back to the old simulation adage, that could a "simulator user actually fly a real aircraft". In most cases this scenario has been disproved, mostly by a clown called Richard Russell after he stole a Horizon Air Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 airliner from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) and then died after crashing it on Ketron Island in Puget Sound. If you would put me in an aircraft a decade ago, and said "Go Fly", there is an extremely good chance I would not be writing this article right now. Same could be said of most gamers, who think they can fly, but would really only end up in Puget Sound like Mr Russell. But what about now, could I fly an aircraft (and survive). My gut says "Absolutely", that is not being obnoxious or macho posturing. But having faith in my learned abilities and refined skills. I mean if you watch Austin Meyer's simulator skills, then certainly I could do far better than that and he flies and owns a plane. So what does make the differences between then and now. As I have admitted, I really didn't know how to fly an aircraft back then, but I took each separate component and learned and refined the skills to acquire the knowledge to master them. My interest was picked up via a real world transfer flight from Proserpine Airport (ICAO: YBPN) in Queensland, Australia to Great Barrier Reef Airport (ICAO: YBHM), also known as Hamilton Island Airport in a Cessna 172. In typical laid-back (She'll be sweet) Aussie Style in the barefoot only shorts wearing pilot (nice sharktooth necklace though), bundled me and my two cases into the very tired Cessna for the short hop over to the Whitsundays Paradise resort. Simple. The pilot took off from Runway 11 and headed east towards the Conway National Park. No I am not at all a nervous flier, I understand aircraft, but this pilot set up the Cessna 172 at around 3,000ft and as we trundled towards Hamilton Island at around 90 knots, and I was scared beyond death that I was going to die... The reason was the pilot wasn't at all flying the aircraft, in fact he was leaning back over the seat trying to get at his lunch sitting on the back seat, worse the Cessna was NOT on automatic pilot either, he retrieved his lunch and then proceeded to eat a variety of fruit and a cold meat pie, swigged it all down by water in a bottle. Any interaction with the little Cessna was only via the slight movements of the rudder pedals, otherwise we both serenely motored on. On arrival at the Hamilton Island Airport, he did a wide masterful curve around the airport and went directly into Runway 14 absolutely flat (no nose down pitch) and into very nice three-point landing. It was thrilling and terrifying in the same instance... no doubt he was an excellent aviator (If with a casual attitude). And the point of the story? Well how did he do that, in fly the aircraft without actually holding of any of the controls, and with no autopilot functioning as well. "was it "Magic", but it served to fire my mind on how and why he did that, as there is no way I could take my hands of my car's steering wheel in the same way without ruining my very lovely car and me ending up in hospital... how did he do that, and the answer is how you fly aircraft correctly. That small flight has always been in the background of my memory when learning to fly correctly. The trick or tricks he used are obvious, first as I was too obsessed at looking at the instruments as he had adjusted the trim, but not only had he finely adjusted the trim of the aircraft for pitch, but used (most of the time) slight touches to the rudder to trim the aircraft to go directly forward, even in a slightly angled flight to compensate for the wind direction. Set up correctly like this the little Cessna was perfectly balanced, to note he also loaded my cases behind us in the front seats and not in the rear baggage hold, but to keep their 30 kg weight centred, a small but clever loading idea. So first if I wanted to be really good at the "Flying thingy", I needed to learn how to trim, but trim well. Not only in pitch only trimming the aircraft (like in the 172), but how to balance a big airliner correctly with no auto servos doing the job for me. Watch any good landing of a DHC-8 Q400, one a very, very tricky aircraft to land nicely (I have watched loads of YouTubes Q400 lately on flying the Q4XP better), and watch the pilot's left thumb on the electric trim buttons on the yoke, they are constantly moving the trim on the descent into the approach, adjusting and adjusting consistently to keep the aircraft balanced and which could be fatal if you get it wrong, but this is how the Pro's do it. The Q4XP is a very interesting aircraft to fly well, a simple bugger to land well, so you have to know the tricks to master it, trimming is one, and certainly getting the balance right on approach and landing. As a side point I have been moved seats quite a few times on a Qantas Q400 to set up the balance of the aircraft. Once I learnt to trim better or master it, it totally changed the way I fly aircraft. Secondly is not using pitch in landing (unless for a slight final flare). The trick again that I missed on the fateful Hamilton Island flight, was that the pilot was using his throttle (power) to go up or down and not the yoke. Less power and you descend, more power and you go upwards. It is a total feel thing between you and the aircraft, and you have feel the lift to keep the aircraft airborne and land it correctly... I personally don't think you can fly in X-Plane via key input (up and down throttle power), I think the inputs have to be more minute than that, and you need that touchy feel to get it absolutely right. I also cheated with landings... Back then I usually set my weather wind settings at below 5 knts or mostly zero to make perfect landings. That is another area I explored to master, severe crosswind landings are always a challenge, but I can now pull off a realistic landing in any conditions, to a point you have to with xEnviro as you can't turn off the wind direction or strength. Another area I had to master was taking off with heavy weights on board. X-Plane is very good in creating aircraft at different weights, and how aircraft react in different loads, so I fly consistently at both ends of the spectrum of flying very heavily loaded aircraft to very light to understand the feel between the two conditions. A point is that it is good to fly older aircraft. 1960's machines are very good with no or basic automation and have under powered engines, so you have to work harder to fly them well in trimming and navigation. I once spent days trying to get a fully loaded Boeing 747-200F off the runway and into the air, or grabbing the air, then getting the aircraft up to altitude with a consistently falling speed. It was a challenge. But I learnt well in how to fly heavies really well, and how they respond to marginal limits. I was quite proud of the way I mastered (finally) that challenge. Another target was to understand my 3d space. I spent a lot of time adding in and using correctly the course pointers on the Rose Dial. The HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator) is a very valuable tool when used correctly. If flying off a flightplan, or General Aviation, these tools are essential to understanding where you are in relation to the airport and the runway angle. Important in getting your approach position in height and distance right. The tools are there with the Navigation pointer arrows and the revolving Course pointer, and that is why I rally even rant quite high when a developer does not include Nav Pointers on the HSI, as they are essential tools. I wrote in Behind the Screen : April 2021 of the challenge of arriving at your destination airport at the right speed and altitude. It is still the one area that can still bug me from time to time, in being too high at the arrival point having to do a dreaded "Go Around". And yes I did that annoyance just the other day on approach to London, worse I did the Go Around three times as it was in very poor conditions... Epic Fail. Watching videopilots is interesting. They are exceptional at throwing all the right switches and finding their way around cockpits, but a fair share of them have very poor piloting skills (which probably killed Richard Russell). The real life pilots are certainly far better to watch, but you won't learn a lot of good aviation skills by following most deskbound videopilots. Real world videos are a far better learning tool, just keep to the ones that show the instrument panel numbers to learn what they do and when. In fact you would be shocked on how violently they control the aircraft on approaches for a smooth touchdown. I am forever shouting out errors to the videopilots of what they are not doing or of what not to do in flying aircraft... They do have a responsibility to show you the right way, and not get off on their own"Jollies". I understand I say or describe things in over detail or repeat points review after review in X-Plane-Reviews. But everything described has a reason to be there. From a new layout of a FMS (Flight Management System) to a new addon tool you can now use. We provide a tutorial and review in one, to get you very quickly up to speed on that aircraft without all the head desk bashing I have gone through in trying to work it all out. (The Felis Boeing 747-200 was a NIGHTMARE). But overall it ups my own skill set in working through it all. That above point was worn in a decade ago... you were back then pretty well on your own to work it all out, no videopilots, no tutorials and everything was page by page manual learning, but you learnt it well, and and I will make the point the aircraft were quite simple to learn back then... not today. This year 2021 has been a complex level raising year for simulation complexity, good in one way, but far harder to work though in another. But the exceptional level of releases has certainly raised the standards of both developers and pilot's alike. So here is the big question, could a good experienced simulator pilot fly a real world aircraft, I personally think yes, if they are of a certain grade of experience. There is only really only one way to find out, fly a real world aircraft and find out... in 2022. There will be as usual no Behind the Screen December 2021 issue, but our full yearly round up of the year review to be published on 17th December 2021, so watch out for that. Stephen Dutton 2nd December 2021 Copyright©2021 X-Plane Reviews
  7. Behind the Screen : September 2021 It is very hard to ignore the announcement of the next version of X-Plane12... at least the name is now official, so we can move forward on that aspect. But what of the announcement itself. FlightSimExpo 2021 in San Diego (24th-26th Sept) as it was forecast to be a huge affair with the massive fanfare the new simulator version deserved. Laminar Research had an open goal as well as the big MSFS (Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020) in the developer (Asobo Studio) and 3rd party developers (PMDG... et all) all staying away from the Expo. Covid of course created an environment of chance, but I think that the MSFS crowd stayed away for the more personal reasons, no doubt they will be back there in full force next year. So Laminar had nothing to lose, and absolutely everything to gain... but it all went so wrong. A rushed presentation, a particularly poor new branding... was it all Covid created in hindsight, personally I think not, worse was the fact that under it's skin X-Plane12 when put into it's full context is very good, it will be very good as well... but that aspect didn't show through, so haphazard was the presentation... at the core here is that simply the new simulator wasn't finished, there was a running version at the Expo, but nobody except a chosen few saw it, not even images or a video emerged to show it off, because quite simply is that X-Plane12 is not ready in context to show off. The hard Expo date and the announcement coming at Oshkosh created a monster problem for Laminar Research, it had no time nor the resources available to get that Alpha version running for that due date, I really think they tried, mercilessly so to meet the deadline, it showed on every face in that video, but it will be now just weeks late, it will come together, and very soon and X-Plane12 will finally come to light. What was the core of what was really going on here. X-Plane users and all people closely involved in the Simulator are usually very used to all of this, to the most older X-Plane sim users this is all actually nothing new, in fact it is all so normal that we shouldn't have been surprised at all of the eccentric release show... it was at it's core Laminar Research at it's most buccaneer moments, only this time we just didn't get the joke or feel the fun. Overall we know Laminar and it's motley crew will deliver an exceptional simulator as they have repeatably in the past, and this time in coming with all the areas we have moaned about for years in now actually fixed. So why are we feeling the opposite than what we should be feeling... the problem is, this in 2021 and not 2011 (early X-Plane10 era). The world of Simulators are at a critical stage and now out there on the world stage in full view, X-Plane doesn't have it's own cosy little world anymore, it is up there and is noted as one as the "Premier" simulators, because deep down it is a Premier Simulator, and this next evolutionary step was a very crucial one, in fact the most crucial step for X-Plane in it's 25 year anniversary life. So in the full glare of publicity did X-Plane actually blew it? and do we know that X-Plane blew it... the effects of that will be felt maybe like Covid for many years to come. For many X-Plane users they will simply in private rejoice, they never wanted the limelight in the first place, it will to them in their minds, return the simulator to the good olde days of clubby nonsense... and they can reclaim the Simulator to their particular paradise. They hated the intrusion of the Flight Simulator thinking, the monetary aspect of the Simulator... the numbers and the spending to 3rd party developers is not their vision of a Flight Simulator, but in a complete selfish reversal... put a good product out there and they squeal with delight, ethos be damned. For most of us we dream the dream, and over the last decade that dream has soared beyond and higher (pun intended) than we ever expected, that of course put even more focus and illumination on the next version of the Simulator, and not to forget the MSFS aspect that now "expects" yes the word "Expected" to compete with Microsoft... you could even say that this is "what this is all about?" Unfortunately it is far more than that... Punters deep down will rally the point that they don't want X-Plane to change, they don't want X-Plane to become a MSFS clone, but that is really missing the point entirely. X-Plane does not have to sell out it's soul to move forward, but it has to be also a business to survive. MSFS opened up simulation to a world that didn't know that such depth of flying aircraft and realism in airports actually existed, they watch the simulation videos with awe, and they simply can't believe the depth of the systems we are used to... but to do simulation on this level is not a game, it isn't just tootling around the sky, as it requires years of learning and study to perfect the perfect flight service. Flying is and will always be complex, but that is the ultimate attraction and the challenges to overcome. So X-Plane12 is the next evolution, it covers most of all the areas that we need to be covered to take the Simulator up to that next level and in most areas be even better than MSFS or any other simulator out there. But part of the disappointment was to at least address the area of the visual component. You are never going to complete with all that MSFS bing mapping and come off better, you can't even try. But the Laminar direction is to fix the areas that can be fixed and no doubt Laminar have done that, but you are also seeing the other critical area being totally ignored. Mostly this is about internal Laminar resources, worse is that since Alpilotx moved on a few years ago, there was no replacement, and a huge hole in the scenery aspect has been created in that Laminar in it's own wisdom didn't feel it needed filling to their own detriment. Remember in the early days the core of Laminar did the central work, and most of the other areas were dialed out to talented enthusiasts, again in that clubby innovation... but if a Simulator has to grow, compete and be a business, then soon you need talented people to cover the various critical areas... you could try cloning Ben Supnic, but my guess they would just argue amongst each other, but it is a great idea... Certainly Laminar are aware of the problem, you would be an idiot not to, but the comment here is to let us fix the most obvious and return to the scenery later, in reality their should have been a person put into place to do that aspect actually earlier. My personal view on this is that a rejuvenated scenery component in X-Plane12 would have attracted back FlightSim developers to bring their products with them... the current scenery textures are a decade old, and scenery developers struggle to make their scenery (and cityscapes) look authentic in the current environment, the look of X-Plane just does not help, but I will admit the new lighting model will go a long way in creating a far better environmental feel... but that aspect may now be lost, at least for a few critical years. The current mesh tools are horrible and difficult to use (hence only Alpilotx was the only one skilled enough to do it), and Laminar won't give access to them anyway, unfortunately Ben Supnic would need to rebuild the system from the ground up to do it justice... you can see why it was a project shelved in another current too hard basket... fix what you can and visit the other problem later, but to attract back those scenery developers in this critical area, then updated scenery mesh should have been a major part of the X-Plane12 feature list. Most of all X-Plane12 didn't feel different this time around, I called it initially X-Plane11+ and it felt like that, but studying all the new components together and it does deserve the X-Plane12+ moniker, however Laminar Research at least should have rebranded it, "At least make it feel new(er)", and the better new, and they started off really well with the "Next Generation" feel, they just didn't follow the branding through on to the actual product itself. Again was that not to look like X-Plane was feeling the MSFS promotional onslaught and "we better rebrand" to compensate towards MSFS... "Sail steady and true" was always Laminar's motto in the past, but like I said at the beginning of this article, this is 2021, not safe 2011 anymore, the one thing above all else was that Laminar really needed to do this time was to refresh the branding to say "This is a Premier Simulator" and "Come and see how great it is", but in reality it will now just be seen as the same X-Plane brand it has always been in either X-Plane11 or even X-Plane12, ditto in the fact that X-Plane will still be viewed the same old X-Plane as well... just at the very point it could have made it's real impact felt in the wider context. The lost missed open goal... I should and will always support the best Simulator out there, the one that has brought me over a long decade a lot of immense pleasure, and that is X-Plane. Covid has without doubt created a lot of confusion, ruined markets and businesses... In time the moment will be forgotten, in a year X-Plane12 will be part of our lives as much as X-Plane11 is now... "who cares" will be the memory, but you have to record the moment for what it is, and in what it actually could have been. See you all again next month. Stephen Dutton 4th October 2021 Copyright©2021 X-Plane Reviews
  8. Behind the Screen : August 2021 There was another anniversary in August (Besides our own X-PlaneReviews 9 Years), and this was one for the X-Plane Simulator itself, for it's 25th anniversary since version 1.0, released in August 1996... a user posted some early X-Plane images here A Quarter Century of X-Plane. There obviously has been a lot of simulators released in the intermediate years, the Microsoft Flight Simulator is the most obvious and popular one, but X-Plane had one very distinct advantage from the start, actually a hidden advantage in the inclusion of "PlaneMaker", and looking at the earlier designs it was very, very basic back then... but that is not the point. As most simulators were sealed, in the point that you could only fly aircraft created by their own artists and developers, it sort of created a boxed environment, in that if they didn't upgrade or release any new aircraft, then you were restricted by what you could actually fly. The inclusion of "PlaneMaker" changed those dynamics, that is that anyone in fact (if talented) could create aircraft for the Simulator and distribute the aircraft though portals like the early X-Plane.Org. Yes MFS had the same sort of loaded content and portals, but X-Plane attracted the more technical or real world pilot aspect, the far better real world (Blade Element Theory) dynamics also helped a huge amount as well. It was these interaction elements that really allowed both MFS and X-Plane to thrive and still be extremely active today, were as most of the other Simulator platforms are marginal at best, or simply now extinct, sad as some like iFly were very good. The user participation is an important aspect here, if the most important area of everything. In early X-Plane development it was the single user, but also later the clubby joining of a few talented people that got together to create mostly all back then freeware aircraft, to a point they created and built the X-Plane Simulator, or were the founding members on what we have today. MFS went in the other direction in going commercial almost from the start, in other words you paid for absolutely everything. Both dynamics have their positives and negatives. Certainly the commercial angle attracted more developers to MFS, it created more addon product earlier as well, but it later became a curse, because it locked in the development to a lost and very poor basic application. it was a curse that ultimately faulted to the point of being a ridiculousness, even now with the newer Microsoft Flight Simulator MSFS, the old guard are trying to (and badly failing) to redevelop their products to fit a more modern dynamic engine, they complained feverishly that X-Plane was too hard to convert to, but they are now having to do just that, and to a far worse platform. X-Plane created their own curse... "Freeware" and a sort of hippy leftover that the love should be free and available to everyone. The mechanisms come from the right place, of giving and sharing, all very noble... but it has also it's own drawbacks. The biggest drawback would be that "Free" does not drive innovation and ideas... a few however do stand out, like Zibo's Boeing 738, but even here it was based on an original default aircraft... if you want to attract the very best then they have to make a living from the work. That is not to say that X-Plane is not innovative, because it is... and hugely, but in a small code capacity... if you want the big and better stuff, in reality you have to pay for it... the distraction I hate is that why you would put up with an average simulation in both aircraft and certainly in scenery, just because it is free, in a way that is a serious backward thinking, but about 60% or more of X-Plane users are seriously devoted to the cause, and it feels in many ways that not much has changed in those 25 years. But what is the core of a simulator... certainly the original developers of the Simulator in Laminar Research are extremely important in keeping the Simulator relevant, and considering their very small development team, have produced miracles in creating the tools we have today, but certainly now with the mega MSFS onslaught, currently X-Plane is feeling it's age, but in context it is also at the end of it's last version cycle. But a decade ago a small gang of freelancers decided to go commercial in X-Plane, stalwarts like Danial Klaue, Jack Skieczius (FlyJSim) Khamsin and JRollon created the first commercial X-Plane product, others from the period soon joined and the commercial side of X-Plane was created. Later the single developer was joined by teams, with FlightFactor Aero being the first developer to create product with more than one or two people doing the work... or a team effort. The problems facing single person developers is simply time, with two to three years the leading time to create their aircraft (Scenery is a bit quicker at say twelve months). With a team split mostly into three people, then you can or should turn out an aircraft a year, or at least every 18 months, it is now a business... but that is not the biggest aspect of the single developer to the team angle. A decade ago simulated aircraft were actually quite simple in their construction, mostly a hybrid and still based in the PlaneMaker" environment. But "PlaneMaker" basically is still a restricted medium, so to get around it's restrictions, then we introduced the "Plugin" format, mostly SASL (Scriptable Aviation Simulation Library) with the LUA code as it's foundation. Others are Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF) and the latest in Xjet. These plugins changed the whole concept on what developers could do in creating a specific areas in say animations, avionics, but mostly in replicating real world aircraft systems... they also created the "Authorisation" system to stop blackmarketing (or the stealing) of commercial product. In doing reviews there is an issue facing single headed developers. Basically there are three areas in creating product. Modeling, Texturing and Systems. the problem is that a brilliant modeler can create an almighty and excellent visual aircraft, but is hopeless in the coding aspect and this creates a weak area, or the opposite is true, were as the aircraft systems are first rate and the modeling a bit or really average. There are a very few (mostly the really older developers) that can cover the full triangle. This aspect makes it very hard to review, because the product is brilliant in many areas, but quite basic in one or others, it isn't actually the developer's fault, it is just a personality weakness as the three areas demand the very different skills to achieve a whole goal. Obviously being a team can easily overcome this critical aspect, as the perfect team has a member that covers a certain significant area, plus they have the huge advantage of each member working just within their own field alone, then combining their efforts at the end. And speed is the key here, so where as a single developer has to switch in each period to each state of separate development, that development can then go on for years. The biggest deceiving area is when or if you follow an aircraft's development on the forums... almost magically it is created very quickly before your eyes, but in reality it is only the pinnacle of an iceberg, in that the system coding can take three times as long as the quick reveal of the modeling... most observers just don't understand this aspect, with the full modeling completed, they simply can't understand why it is taking or going on so long to release their personal favorite aircraft. Abandonware is usually big as well at this stage... what looked very easy early on, then becomes a nightmare when faced with the coding and animation reality. If the product does get through this stage then most of the observers are well gone and have abandoned the product, worse then usually two aircraft of the same design are released at the same time... or even worse another aircraft of the same design comes along and whizzes past you to be released first and is far, far better than your own development, that is simply heartbreaking, and the worse of the worst is the never to be released but always in development aircraft... a Comet 4 anyone. The coming through of plugin architecture also created a major shift in development. The clever "PlaneMaker" developers (mostly single headed people) were then left very quickly behind as development accelerated massively and very quickly past them, and sadly they could not adapt to the new aspects of creating ultra professional products, as in their hearts they were only clubby amateurs, their hearts were big, but their skills were not, and one by one they fell aside of progress. One other interesting aspect of development is a cruel one... on the purchasers. You put your money down for a product and it is indeed extremely good (for it's time) and lot's of times it is a crossover product from Flight Sim, very rare the other way around. In that an X-Plane developer has ripped the guts out of an FS product and recreated it in "PlaneMaker" to work or fly in X-Plane... and it is very, very good, and you love it, purchase it. Then the developer either gets bored, wants to move on with their life and we are left with a very good but now quickly aging product. The original host FS house won't or can't update the aircraft, so it gradually ages and soon won't work at all. This happened to me lately with an odd situation on the last update from Laminar (v11.53) that in the background the aircraft systems in the original X-Plane FMS was discontinued as were a few very old aerofoil profiles. This had the effect of simply shutting down a huge amount of well loved product in my "Aircraft" folder, mostly the Virtavia products (C-17, Seaking, B-29A), Peters A380 and the unsupported PMDG DC-6, which was not very supported from the beginning... all broken and now unflyable. Is that fair? do we expect products to be supported over a longer period? (as a note I did get the C-17 flying again, but my beloved Seaking is now very sadly broken as is the DC-6. Should their be a system were if a developer wants or has to leave (or in some actual cases die), then why can't other developers support the products, which in a lot of cases only need updating? Yes we would pay for the updates (or upgrades) and just to have our machine workable again, but it is a real shame that they leave the simulator broken? Obviously not everything can or should be saved, but is it possible to save the better ones, and are we owed that aspect at least in purchasing it in the first place. Copyright is one of the biggest hurdles, as is the ownership of the rights. When Microsoft released MSFS last year. Most current X-Plane developers noted that they were not going to switch over to the Wunderkind Simulator, Surprisingly JRollon did display his SIAI-Marchetti SF-260 in MSFS (a sort of traitor to the cause feeling), but overall most developers did not want or actually want to move over. It is an interesting aspect, and the one very important element to X-Plane going forward. The on year situation is that X-Plane has delivered already some pretty astounding product this year... and like they say "You haven't seen nothing yet". As the coming Fall/Autumn releases are simply spectacular, if also going to be very hard on your bank account. X-Plane developers will deliver another level if not "levels" of detail and system intergration. But let us be clear, if they go, we all go with them... so it is very important to support these brilliant products... with the developers staying here in X-Plane, it is one of the most important points X-Plane of how will survive moving forward, certainly if Laminar increases their quality with the next revolution of X-Plane (12/Whatever). One, let us be clear that the underlying engine to MSFS is still not great, but getting there, but the loss of this monetary aspect, in that could you make far much more money in MSFS, than here in the tightwad X-Plane environment. Current noise coming out of MSFS is also interesting to developers, is that most of the current products are being priced well below value and more importantly only generating very slim or even low profit margins, to increase the Flight Sims awareness. Notable is that a lot of this cheap product is actually reworked product from the original Flight Sim FSX or Prepar3D, so they are getting payment for old stock (again). But even new product is being priced extremely low at 40% below other platforms, in fact PMDG priced their NewGeneration 737 at the (absurd price) $140, have now realised that the market will not support such greed, in fact any above US$100 products will not get the sales expected, except for a few, most X-Plane top product is better priced in the more realistic US$60-$80 range. But still a lot are not happy, remember they expected a bonanza of profits, worse is that they don't at all like the new changed format to focus the simulator platform more to the (gamer) Playstation/Xbox crowd. To a point X-Plane is a pure Simulation platform, with an option to play the handheld mobile app... the problem is you can't have it both ways... in being a simulator and a game, it has to focused as one or the other, worrying for the big FS developers is that Microsoft is picking the other and bugger their profits and roadmaps... could you fly a deep simulation aircraft on a games console? probably, but will that also bring a lot of dumbed-down product. This edition of BtheS is focused on developers. Why because they are the most essential aspect of the Simulator... if they walk as mentioned, then basically X-Plane will simply fade away. And why would you want that to happen, with the product slated to arrive soon and now being announced for 2022 is the reason you would want them here and not walking away, hopefully the same product will enhance even the old school FS simmers to come back to X-Plane because of the excellent product, and the FS developers they want the support from (do I hear "Kicking and Screaming") One other aspect to finally note is the sheer complexity now of X-Plane. Reviews are getting ridiculously long, you may wonder why reviews are getting more sporadic, but actually we are working harder than ever, and in context one review currently is three times longer than one of say three years ago, and that one was the largest review ever done in that particular year... so much is the complexity and detail of the systems. Quality is also off the charts and so are the feature lists. I went back to a few aircraft of a decade ago, and it is like going back to the prehistoric era, you want it, well people you are getting it... simulation on steroids, and these people and teams make it all happen, so you don't want these vital developers to disappear like a dinosaur now do you... as they are a very special species. See you all next month And watch out for the X-PlaneReviews indepth coverage of the FlightSimExpo September 24-26, 2021 Stephen Dutton 7th September 2021 Copyright©2021 X-Plane Reviews
  9. Behind the Screen : June 2021 Boom! and we are already half way through 2021, that is a full six full months... gone already. So what are the patterns, the feel and the flow of the year. First off it has been a real stop-start year, great highs with some really great product coming out, and seriously low, slow lows when everything just grinds to a stop. June 2021 was like that, it was if the aircraft had pulled into the gate, shut all the systems down, and locked the doors and walked away from an inert machine... it was as they say "deady dead". The missing June Expo, in being moved to September 24-26, 2021, didn't really help at all either, most the users just then turned off their computers and headed for the beach or the mountains, and can you really blame them, as with their vaccinations done, they were now free in not spreading the deadly Covid virus, or either being infected... freedom. Laminar released a video teaser in compensation of the non Expo. The coming new HDR effects for the (We are not announcing X-Plane12) announcement. An odd situation, but I think a big welcome relief from South Carolina as they were granted even more time to work on their pet project, so the Expo in September is going now be it (again), so put it on your calender, right next to the already notable crossed out past dates, that Laminar may have already missed on announcing X-Plane12 or whatever they will call it. Yes I am again going over old news, but in case you missed the memo, it is a very big deal, hence the excitement over just this a single video called X-Plane Technology Preview One. If you use already the xEnviro environmental application, it isn't as a big deal as you would think it is, as xEnviro does most of this clever HDR stuff now, for a high cost of course, but the revelation, is that X-Plane will do the same HDR effects at the default level and thus saving you the frame rate hit of xEnviro on your system, and probably do it better than the exclusive application, so it is all a coming bonus there... I had xEnviro sidelined for a few months last year because Dark Space had not upgraded the application to the Vulkan/Metal 10.50 level... and yes I seriously missed the exceptional effect generation the plugin creates, in fact I really hated, but had to accept the bland vistas of the basic X-Plane application for months on end, and I also had to work twice as hard to get the same level of quality into the reviews. So yes the coming HDR effects are certainly going to have a huge and even massive impact on the look of the simulator (and even lighten up those cockpits, no bad thing there), so what looks as even a small announcement from Laminar is a really a very big deal, and I am not saying this factor, just because I am trying to make something as small as the HDR effects announcement to say a lot to compensate for so little or even the trickle of news coming out of South Carolina, but that it is actually IS an important step forward, that said, as the announcement was noted as "Preview One', then expect more of these trickles or drips of news from Laminar over the northern summer. That said, there was (another) announcement from the hosts of the 2021 FlightSimExpo of the main exhibitors coming to the Expo in Sept... This is of course only the initial list, but it was a big surprise in any shakes. For one the list is very one-sided towards X-Plane... Laminar Research (of course), Orbx, Navigraph, Thrustmaster, virtual hosts and surprisingly even our own X-Plane.Org are going to have a booth. But what of Fiight Simulator, the only presenter here currently is Lockheed Martins Prepar3D and that is the older FS standard platform, not the wizz-bang new one... so do you notice something really odd here? There are no MSFS or Microsoft Flight Simulation or partners on the list... no Microsoft, PMDG, QualityWings Simulations, AEROSOFT GmbH (not really expected at 2021), but remember on how at Orlando back in 2019, in how the FS crowd dominated everything, including prep talks from Robert S. Randazzo of PMDG with his strutting around, and Laminar were reduced to the bottom of the list in appointees, but still however stole the whole show with their landing competition. Yes it is very days early yet, and anything can change between now and September... but for now it looks like Expo 2021 in being a one sided X-Plane dominated show. I am not going to hide the reality check of this same time last year for X-Plane. There was some serious worried faces behind the scenes on how much disruption the MSFS release and to a point the ongoing Covid effects on the X-Plane Simulator would have been. Yes Laminar had (and still does have) X-Plane12 up it's sleeve to pull out that new defining extra level on the simulation platforms. But even yours truly spent some time reflecting the worst case or of even the best case scenarios and what they would be (collated into one important post "X-Plane and in the future the new world order") of which I thought was an important statement. But now one year on and mid-year 2021 the pattern has somewhat evened out, so you can see a much more realistic visible future for the X-Plane simulator as the year continues to pan out. For one the simulator didn't at all lose momentum, the X-Plane.Org is as busy as ever, if slightly busier, so no change there or even a significant drift to MSFS. Aircraft releases and their updates have not been affected either, a few are being released a bit later than expected (mostly Covid releated), but all the same they are still rolling out periodically and all great in-depth releases they are to. The only odd pattern is that in the first six months of 2021 it has been full of Helicopter releases, in the past one or even two releases of a helicopter was a lot, but this year it has already been a gut of vertical flight or related to it. After two or even three years of almost nothing, it appears they are all making up for lost time... but it is odd. Scenery as noted last month in BtheS is where it was a noticeable drawdown. A lot of the FS scenery developers decamped back MSFS and that certainly showed a slow down of converting FS scenery to X-Plane and moved on to converting the same scenery for MSFS. But here again there has been some good scenery still released, and also soom great custom freeware and Global Airport scenery as well, so it is again not all bad news, in perspective X-Plane as a simulator has been tootling along quite nicely thank you, so the huge significant threat we all feared this time last year has not yet initially appeared, certainly the doom and gloom clouds have moved away, but we are however still in the transition era of Simulation. But as earlier noted, June was deathly quiet and oddly so was MSFS, I was out of action as well with a bad head cold, so reviews were a little slower this month than usual, but I suppose the timing couldn't be better, maybe we all need a breather from our addiction some time or the other anyway... but overall as the land lies it is far better mid-year than everyone actually expected. Developers are the significant key to simulation, and I will be doing a future BtheS post totally designated on that aspect soon, but the biggest fear last year was the movement of key developers over to the new MSFS platform, a few dipped their toes in and few unexpected developers at that, but most stayed very loyal to the X-Plane platform, and the ongoing key of why X-Plane is in the brighter situation that it is expected to be... but let us not forget. That the X-Plane simulator's past long history is also a significant part of that particular factor, from a developers point of view, X-Plane does deliver and provides the tools they need to create their creations, only the market doesn't live up to the size of the returns they truly deserve, I am hoping that the coming changes brought through X-Plane12 will also change that aspect. But I also think that as a simulator X-Plane and its community also needs to do better marketing to get the message out there of what simulation is and the depth of flying these machines (and what we) can do... one thing Microsoft is very good at is marketing, so the next twelve months and once X-Plane12 has been settled in, then let us get us more serious in attracting more committed souls to the brethren, we can't keep our little intimate world to ourselves forever, one thing MSFS has put out there is that simulation is out there and brilliant entertainment for those who want it, the only issue is, most don't know in what or in how we spend our time... so as we now live in the 2020s, we are also to understand that are also not still in the older dark ages, but competing with other larger forms of entertainment and that is even the pivotal point of MSFS, as they know that aspect and I am not just talking of gamers here (as they make lousy pilots) but for everyone who wants to learn about aviation and fly,and about in depth aviation and flying. In that vital aspect X-Plane is a world leader, when X-Plane12 is released, it should also be a world class leader in that forum... we just need to tell everyone else out there about our little world as well, Laminar can only do so much with their resources, the rest is up to the X-Plane community and it connected services to market simulation and show off the best simulator to the world. See you all next month Stephen Dutton 1st July 2021 Copyright©2021 X-Plane Reviews
  10. Behind the Screen : May 2021 Noted it is already 1st June... 5 months of the year 2021 have already passed, and where are we? Non-Covid then later this week the FlightSimExpo on the 4th June to the 6th June would have been running in San Diego, but that date has now been moved to September 24-26, 2021. The FlightSimExpo 2021 this time around after the no-go of 2020, was a huge focus on the state of play in simulation and of the whirlwind of the changes surrounding simulation, a sort of "touch base" scenario or to see where we are all relative to all the significant changes of late. But mostly the focus would have been on Laminar Research... would have they released or at least previewed X-Plane12 (or what ever XP12 would be called) this weekend? My gut says they would have certainly previewed or announced the new up and coming simulator version with a razzmatazz do-da at the Expo, right under the noses of Microsoft and their full on desire to show off their own do-da Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS). In other words a head to head battle for users for a certain specific platform or for the cash they deliver, but that extreme clash of the simulation titans will now not happen, or not yet anyway. So the obvious question is? Will Laminar Research still announce the new X-Plane version as per the old SimExpo dates (this weekend), or now wait until the rescheduled Sept SimExpo. It gives Laminar even more time to refine the details and make even more of a announcement splash further on up the road. It is a big question. Laminar has a few options, because historically the northern summer is a very quiet time in Simulation, users are more interested in the beach or fishing than sitting behind a computer, oddly I am in the Southern Winter, but the weather here is just as pleasant as the Northern Summer (If not as perfect) so you want to be outside more than inside with the glorious weather... so would an announcement now from Laminar go simply nowhere? Or if Laminar did announce the new X-Plane version, then they would still have months to refine it and get a beta release under way for the same Sept Expo date, announcing does not mean delivering, but it does start the countdown clock to a reveal or beta release. I left my calendar clear for next week either way, and why? The first five months of 2021 (Covid-19 restrictions aside) it has been in Simulation terms very quiet, they all bubble along nicely, but not certainly with the extreme vigour of the past few years. Again has the Covid aspects been a factor in that, and not in just the health aspects but the actual monetary characteristics as well, personally I don't think so, but much is so out of whack with the virus. But there are aspects that need exploring, and in reality the main players in both MSFS and X-Plane are actually still in a state of transition phase. In the case of MSFS, it has certainly lost a lot of it's release thrill. No doubt the scenery developers are still bowing to the great god for financial salvation, but look closer and the releases are still mostly well rehashed versions of the earlier released FS/P3D product, nothing new to see there, but earlier the volume was absolutely overwhelming and all or mostly it was released at bucket low prices. In X-Plane quality scenery has also gone through the floor, with very little released and mostly only the small regional or just basic airfields to purchase (the quality however is really, really good), certainly there are no mega ports or cityscapes... we are now certainly being punished heavily for our lack of investment in quality scenery... all the big boys have certainly gone, the question is will they come back, and I told you so, mostly in every monthly BtheS edition I did last year. But is the forecasted deal actually or really working out? No doubt the MSFS developers are in it for the really long haul, but will MSFS actually really deliver the bonanza they are expecting or the high returns they expect to build a long term business model on, personally I am already thinking they might already have realised, that the cash cow they were expecting is not actually going to be there or even materialize, gamers are still a very different breed than Simulation users in that they hop-in and hop-out at will, they are certainly not going to spend money to build up long term portfolios of aircraft, scenery or addons like the dedicated Simulator users do. Lately the early year's absolutely full on MSFS release stream of scenery has already dropped to down to a trickle? On aircraft MSFS is still very much in nowheresville. The release of Aerosoft's big bang and expensive CRJ 550/700, was of actually burst balloon proportions, reviews are horrible, but JustFlight have just released their (in X-Plane excellent) PA-28R Turbo Arrow III IV, so there might be finally a decent machine to fly in the MSFS Simulator, but overall the deeper MSFS architecture is just not there for deep grade simulation, as with the original Flight Simulator series it will depend on if the developers can work around this crucial aspect in a 3rd party design, rather than depending on the actual simulator itself. To a point most important X-Plane aircraft are now also independent of the core Plane Maker tools to operate and a few with CEF (Chrome) and xjet are standalone plugins from PM. But I still think the MSFS architecture is again far to different to workaround as it is again based on gaming engines, more than a flight modeling engine to achieve the required depth and dynamics. Yes I actually have MSFS, but I rarely fly it? I have also not even bought a single product in the platform, and that is not because I am being an X-Plane devotee. I am very much in wanting to experience the best in simulation, but to be honest (except for the visual aspects) it leaves me stone cold, I find the flight model very artificial (what is with the bouncing?) and the visual controls are simply impossible, and I certainly don't feel comfortable in the aircraft, but get the feeling of being set removed or distanced from the dynamics... and it has crashed in one form or the other almost every time I have used it, would that overall experience make you want to actually invest in it? I found Q1 2021 frustratingly slow in X-Plane. There was a few nice and very good helicopter releases, but at times I was actually looking for things to review which was very rare activity in the last few dynamic years, I expected the year to bounce off hard, but it never happened, it just stumbled and groaned. In Q2 2021 X-Plane suddenly felt normal again, with three exceptional aircraft releases, Aerobask with their excellent Embraer EMB-505 Phenom 300, followed by the very much anticipated JustFlight BAe 146 Pro, and finally the mind-blowing X-Trident CH47-D Chinook. The really odd thing about those last few X-Plane releases, was the actual sheer depth of their systems and the flight dynamics. Again another level of Simulation, that to be honest pushed my reviewing skills to the absolute limits. So much to learn and so much to operate in the way you fly each of these aircraft, and personally, I know and is still flying all three consistently to trying to get up to each of the aircraft's extreme level of study and skill bases. That is of course great and the aspect of the Simulator still pushing you upwards in your skill base, but it is also highly fulfilling, satisfaction wise. But here is the point. Without those extreme aircraft simulations you don't have a Simulator, and you don't even have a viable Simulator if the developers didn't develop these amazing products, and overall that is the huge chasm between MSFS and X-Plane right now, if you are a serious sim-user then where do you have to be to do deep immersion simulation, the answer is simply of course X-Plane. So the question to Laminar Research is that, can you afford to waste the time to wait till September 21 to get the next version of X-Plane out to an eager audience. Their answer maybe in that "well X-Plane11 is moving along quite nicely", but that is not the point here, push your luck too far and you could lose the overall game, and money. To those MSFS developers in the fact that if X-Plane12 (or whatever) is really, really good, then where should your talents go to. "Look the deal is guys, give us the same quality and scenery as you are giving to MSFS, and we will buy it" but don't try to screw us, were as currently you are giving MSFS better quality and diversity, and at a far cheaper price" That is not fair... if like X-Plane or not, the Simulator delivers where it really counts in Simulation, but the X-Plane12 aspect and Laminar's fancy long-winded roadmap can change the game (so to speak) significantly, because the point is if Sim users can get the realism in aircraft and plugins they require, then the only thing missing is the visuals (and the weather), that is what X-Plane12 in context should finally put right... do you see where I am going! Again I am not going into bat for just for X-Plane, but for the full overall experience of Simulation. If Laminar Research want to face off the might of Microsoft and their wonderkind product in Sept, then build up the momentum before you get to San Diego, than then just trying to overwhelm them (or announce) on the day will not work, because MSFS have a lot to lose, and work the MSFS developers to say that X-Plane IS worthy of your attention, because believe it or not, we do as users actually buy portfolios of your product. After the last August release of MSFS, we are in an interesting place, but actually it will be this coming Northern Summer that will be a setting to the future of Simulation as we know it. Yes FlightSimExpo 2021 in September will still be the epicentre to the clash titans of Simulation, but most significant battles have always been won not on the field, but before and well away from the day itself... it is your call Laminar Research. See you all again next month... Stephen Dutton 1st June 2021 Copyright©2021 X-Plane Reviews
  11. Behind the Screen : April 2021 What do you consider the hardest thing in a procedure to fly in the X-Plane Simulator... put your hands up! Most will say the landing, and that would be a good answer, as getting the landing right will give you a huge satisfaction and a smile on your face, get it wrong and your faced with a huge X-Plane particle fire and usually a broken aircraft. But the landing procedure is not the one thing that can totally ruin in a simulation... in let us say a perfection "block to block", absolute "Nailed it" getting it all right scenario. On landings they can range from the very tricky (i.e. windy), to bouncy wouncy... "lucky there" and then getting away with it jumpy or hoppity hop landings, but those sort of flight elements are natural as well in the real world as the loads of YouTube video's show. The hardest procedure I think and the one that can totally ruin a simulation as per a reflection on real world flying, is the descent from your cruise altitude to the circuit phase... tricky, that "you must be joking". But it can be a horror if you don't get it right and it also can make an absolute and total fool of you, and even worse, actually make you have to do the dreaded "Call off" and circuit back around to a landing. Here is the problem. Get the descent wrong too early and you will spend an eternity at a low cruise altitude and flying at a slow speed before you (finally) enter your landing circuit, the opposite and the worse is the about face situation, is coming into the last tight turn too high and you are simply "up there" and the runway is "way down there", so you are faced with that dreaded go-around, and having to accept a very embarrassed about face of having poor piloting and judgement skills. Most will be shaking their little know-all heads and saying things like "Know the 30 nautical mile, to 10,000ft rule" for the correct descent, or use the Altitude Target Marker in the Primary Flight Display. But both those aspects are quite and actually still ambiguous when deciding your descent profile. First the Altitude Target Marker. the ATM is a brilliant tool to set your altitude right at the entrance marker of starting your approach circuit, and usually correct of being correct at the point of altitude. But annoyingly a lot of the ATM's will consistently move or mostly stretch as you descend if your speed changes, so you are required to readjust to the marker, there is a change in speed to still reach the correct height at the right time... above all though it is the perfect descent tool.... but the ATM tool is only available on certain aircraft to use. The 30nm by 10,000ft rule is however correct if you get your descent speed precise, but there are many other factors. Wind and the type of landing circuit you are entering... the best is a full complete landing circuit that mostly allows you to fly past the airport in a parallel course with two 90º turns into the final approach. So your aim is to get to the correct altitude, either 8,000ft or 6,000ft along the start of the parallel circuit. These approaches are also good for flattening out the altitude corrections and speed changes, because you have the time and space to adjust the aircraft (flaps and speed) to enter the final approach, so they are always my pick if possible on any airport approach phase. The hard ones are the direct in approach were as you don't have the time to do these procedures, and sort the aircraft out. Obviously most users would prefer the direct in and land approach pattern because it shows off their flight jockey skills, but they are seriously hard work in a busy cockpit, and worse you have no backdoor if you get your descent calculations wrong. On most approaches you can't trust the flightplans or STAR (Standard Terminal Arrivals) approaches either. A lot of STAR approaches put you in far to close in the final turn to the start of the ILS beams to make a decent connect, plus your altitude BETTER be absolutely spot on or you will simply miss, flyover or not connect to the beams... a trick that I do is go well below the beam at say a 1800ft height into the start at the usual 3,000ft height at the start of the beam and this will give you time (and space) to readjust the aircraft's heading after the tight turn-in to the ILS cone, and then connect later to the beam more than usual down the slope. Also to make that last tight turn in, then reduce your speed to at least the most second last or even the full flap settings, this reduces the going out too wide on the turn with a tighter and slower turn. Another trick is to use the RNAV approach charts to readjust your approach. If you look at RNAV approaches they usually start the approach phase further out than the tighter STAR approach, and then add in a few more extended waypoints to the flightplan, to make the final turn (to the runway) and put you a bit further out from the ILS approach cone. I don't think this is actually cheating, because if you are doing the RNAV approach, then you would follow these waypoint procedures anyway. In most cases I do "always" edit these final approach waypoints to get my approach totally correct, certainly when there are two tight parallel runways that are set too close together, as again get the final turn wrong and you are flying down the wrong chute (oddly Johannesburg OR Tambo approaches always do this). But the calculations from TOD or "Top Of Descent" to the start of the approach phase are critical in getting that absolute perfect "Block to Block" experience. First, I never use the noted flightplan TOD marker, it is usually wrong if you want a real life profile landing... most would say "what, what... and what!". But following, I found most marker TODs required a very steep descent of excess way of 2,000fpm, plus the express speed that steep descent causes. I accept that my TOD is usually about 20nm before that official descent point, but I will wear that aspect to get it totally right in coming down realistically at the right descent rate and hitting my altitude marker. Another trick is using the Airport VOR effectively. If you reach your TOD point and check your flightplan distance it may show something like 93nm to the runway, but check the airports actual VOR distance position and it may say a completely different story in say the airport is in being only 50nm away, in other words you can actually see the airport out of the window (usually at night) and you are flying at a speed that is far higher and you are closer to your runway than you actually think you are. Get it wrong and you will certainly reach the airport sitting too high or go too long. Then comes the difficult descent speed... remember the speed in any long approach is absolutely critical to get right, and again I veer to the safe side. When changing to a descent speed I usually set the Mach down to m.63, which should translate to 250knts when at the transition altitude. The aircraft should hold the mach number until you switch it over to the knots at the correct speed you want, although a lot of Airbuses switch from m. to knts as high as 30,000ft... but most of the numbers of say m.70 will cross around 25,000ft. Okay it does look like I am a total control freak, and real life pilots may totally abhor these sort of flying skills. But you are looking at a changeover position speed of around .70, or slightly higher depending on the size and weight of the aircraft. Obviously I abhor using Airbrakes, but they are sometimes required to meet the required altitude and at the correct speed. You know if you are on the right altitude and speed if you start the STAR entrance point at around 12,000ft-10,000ft (officially it is 10,000ft in the US),If you get your calculations right, and you should hit the numbers spot on to get that perfect set target of position and speed at the right place at the start of the approach phase, once there, I then reduce the speed and then start another 500fpm descent down usually to 5,000ft to 4,000ft before the last two final slow turns or follow the approach charts just on the money, if it says 8,000ft then be at 8,000ft, but change height the moment you leave that sector and get down to the next official altitude. Most of the notes here would say that I fly slow, certainly you could hold a 300knt speed on the start of landing circuit phase, and even stevens and go for 280knts, of which is the initial approach speed I use quite regularly, but slower also means more time to react, and more time to get your procedures correctly, and more importantly if something goes wrong you then have the time and space to fix it. Oddly when I compare my gate to landing times with real world times, I am usually within a very close margin, even only around 3-5 min each side of the real service times (so I must be doing something right), Once I flew LON-HKG and landed just 2 min ahead of the real BA service, something I still let everyone know about... The tricky ones can be the turbo-props, you set a slower speed and then the descent rate, but then the aircraft simply won't descend past say 500fpm, so you are simply not going down to the plan, in most cases you override the automation and set a negative trim pitch to "get that nose down", but in the time you have been wasting or wrestling with the aircraft, you are now too far past your descent point and now have to take a steeper dive to meet the altitude target (way)point. I hate that, I really do. So I am not afraid of flying slow or say 250knts or even as slow at around 200kts (say a B737/A320) along the parallel circuit, it gives me time to adjust speed and height to get into the position of the final approach perfectly. A lot of this descent planning goes on even before I even leave the departure airport, I check the approach charts and my assigned approach (STAR or RNAV) and make sure every waypoint is covered and correct. You would be surprised how messy (I.e. Rome) the approach waypoints are situated and following them can not guarantee a perfect approach path, and even if flying a manual approach circuit. So any FMS flightplan that can't be checked at the final approach phase can cause havoc when you get there... this is why I rile so much against the poor Laminar FMS tool, because it is so out of date and too hard to check or fix your flightplan at "that end" of the flight. Obviously the calculations are Distance x Altitude x Speed x Current Weight x Wind Direction, you can adjust (Speed and Vertical Speed) on the descent phase to keep yourself on the numbers, but the vital point in the flightplan is the TOD, and of when to descend in making sure you don't go to long or too short... it is a very tricky procedure and even an art form, but totally fulfilling to get absolutely perfectly right and the need to do your homework before you depart to make it perfect the other end. This months Behind the Screen is a few days late, sorry about that, but the exceptional JustFlight BAe146 review was a huge one to cover and complete for the review. There was a lot of ground to cover, not only working out all the systems, but on how they actually work, then put that into actual flying practise. There is no doubt on how really complex simulation is today, or the real depth of the systems. I will be very open and say I doubt I could actually cover everything on this or any these high grade study aircraft in the very short period (say a week) on from a release, the 146 will take actually a few months to get my full ticket on the aircraft, but that is part of the deal, and part of why simulation is so very appealing and gives you the huge satisfaction when you master it... it was like cramming in for an exam, did I pass? See you all next month. Stephen Dutton 5th May 2021 Copyright©2021 X-Plane Reviews
  12. Behind the Screen : March 2021 On the Laminar Research Facebook page in early March the announcement suddenly came up in... "Something BIG is coming". Immediately the one BIG thought that flashed into your mind was X-PLANE12 or whateveritwillbecalled in X-Planesomething. Now we know or very quickly some sleuths worked it all out, that it was not anything to do with X-Plane12 or even with Laminar Research, but the formation of the Flight Simulation Association, that was formed by the same people Reiter and Coyle that brings you the yearly FlightSimExpo. The association was to bring in all the diverse elements of the main Simulation platform creators, third party hardware and software suppliers and all the different aspects of simulation together into one hub for Simulation flight Sim Enthusiasts, and to get access to all that you paid a membership fee that cost US $30 per year, although a 30-day free trial was then available. Well that went down in a firestorm of hate and bile and the chair throwing, and even so was the full dinner set was thrown against the wall... "oh why pay for something we can get for FREE", they bawled... the poor guys from the FlightSimExpo, just ducked and dived and were naturally horrified at their misconception of what a terrible, terrible thing they had all done, into to try and get the FlightSim community to come together and have a association to represent the niche (meaning very small) segment of what we call our simulation world. Let us be clear, the membership fee was obviously for cover the administration and site costs, and yes even a little profit for the work required to run the site and do the work of running an association. But hey, you HAD to PAY for it! I seriously doubt the project will survive, as the FSA will linger on for a while, but with no income, then for how long can you do a volunteer volume of work before throwing in the towel. My perspective was it showed the real nasty side of simulation users, even if the FSA was a bit inept at the start, and was filled only with some average deals and products, didn't we really miss the whole point of why we desperately need something like the FSA. In the long run the nasty rebuff could also sink the FlightSimExpo (already suffering badly with last years virus cancellation, and the same virus could even could still sink this years event, of which actually is extremely important to the FlightSim community. So would you expect two guys in just trying to "have a go" and then to walkaway from a community that does not really want anything but for anything that will only satisfy their own selfish needs. There was something very nasty about it all. Maybe it is the pent up frustration, created certainly by Laminar Research in announcing "something" in the New Year and here we are months later with no details on any future roadmap or not even a sweet/candy wrapper to show for our devotion. Yes Laminar will always be Laminar and will walk to their own time and space continuum that even Einstein would have not been able to work out. That frustration was and still is out there, still bubbling away and building, so the announcement of the FSA was certainly badly timed, the FlightSimExpo in early June would or should have certainly been the better timed event for the announcement. Instead of solving a lot of the FlightSim community issues, it overall just showed us all the real problems within it. In a culture were everything is free, Music, News, Entertainment and Simulation, many people don't realise that behind every keyboard is a person, creating the product and the abundent information. It is a shock to anyone that we actually have to pay rent, buy food and clothes... just like you do, worse is the fact that with no income to attract talented people, then the services and product is now getting more and more second rate... so why bother with Simulation when an App can make you millions, even a video game can make you rich, and "hey", Microsoft has also now a great income stream started, so why not go there, and they have in their hundreds... but the one thing that can be harder to create is an income by doing something that is not going to bring you in any rewards for your talent and hard work, and why, because it has to be eternally and always free. Yes this is becoming a constant theme in these monthly utterings, because again what has happened with the FSA, and it shows that if you "have a go", but then rock the boat on the free gravy train... you will be lambasted and ruined back into extinction. The events have worried me in that the reaction to the FSA was the most nasty I have seen in a long time, and believe me there has been a lot of this nasty venom stuff thrown around in the past. The point of Flight Simulation Association, was to bring the community together, to give us a bigger voice out there in the bigger world, to expose the ideas and fun associated with Simulation as a serious hobby, to even give us a chance to survive as a community and as a cohesive one. FSA certainly was not perfect, but it was certainly a starting point in going in the right direction. And to survive and have clout, it needs real funding, not venom... I did note in the announcement news post that; "so (here is) a body to do serious promotions is seriously welcomed, the point is will or can they actually promote Simulation other than say a jazzy website and yearly Expos, that for me is the big question, but if you invest in the body, then you would also expect results... on that aspect we will see if FSA will deliver, as I want to see Simulation promoted to people that don't know it exists". We will now certainly never know if the FSA would have or could have made a difference, most would shout that aspect down anyway... the truth is we will now never get the chance to find out unless the partners get together and save the FSA. Certainly they will have a lot to talk about at the FlightSimExpo in early June, and that is if that event now actually happens again or if forever in the future. The WIP debate Over the last year there is the comment that no aircraft (or scenery to that matter) is ever finished in X-Plane, and there is a lot of truth in that statement. Everything is a so called WIP, or Work In Progress, and I totally respect that aspect. But the declaration of Work in Progress has taken on over the last few years a much more very broader spectrum. The traditional developer approach was that the developer worked on the product until a release candidate, it should at this point be about 95% complete with a lot of feedback from qualified betatesters, in other words it should be a pretty refined product that you buy. Yes there will always be a few post-release updates to cover small glitches and bugs to cover the users wide variety of systems out there, plus that users are actually a finicky lot and want certain other aspects covered. Then from then on, there is only the odd yearly update would cover the aircraft to keep it up to current standards and X-Plane version changes. But the overall point is that when you buy that product it is a quality product. X-PlaneReviews will do a review of the release product and the summation of the value of what you get and what you are actually paying for in quality. But developers have been sort of fiddling the system in the last few years, or even manipulating it to suit themselves. The aspect of Work in Progress is still a very wide range that could be assumed still to be anywhere within the original framework. The question is "what is not" finished or completed when the product itself will never ever be a completed entity? A developer noted to me that my review is unfair because the product is still a "WIP" or work in progress, but that is the whole point... it is not ACTUALLY finished is it? The debate is the line the product reaches a quality release point, not what is going to added in later over the next year, or so. There is always the price point line were as a product is made to that price and that is a developer's choice. But I personally see product released basically half-baked, were as only a few months of development can not only clear up the final errors, bugs and refinement, but can grade the product into the quality product it can actually be. The one thing that makes me simply mad is that the work and the talent is all in there, but the product is shortfalling itself on not only the quality, but also the price returns for the developer in reward for all their hard work... "Why do that", literally sabotage your precious work and good returns, for the sake of just a few more weeks or a couple of months of development. The attitude is simply "put it out" and I'll fix it up later. Many other developers do what I call "cash up front" developing, as you pay now to access into the development, and enjoy the experience of being involved into the full development process... personally my thinking is that the developers get early cash up front to to fund their development, and in that aspect it is good idea, and a sort of Go-Fund me. Because an aircraft can take up to two years or even three with a large project, before they get any remuneration for their work. Certainly not fair to the developer, but is that also not fair to the purchaser? Yes you get access to the product, but this is also a pretty early representation of the product, and mostly with a lot of systems missing and even early average textures and no detailing... things can change a lot as well, engine modeling might change two or three times before a final decision is made on the correct profile or design... yes you do get to input and even have a say in what you think is the correct profile and have an involvement in the entire development process, and many users relish that aspect. So is there a right or wrong way with the "Work in Progress" debate. Certainly the early access is a great thing to many users, but that development can drag on for years and years. The Magknight Boeing 787 is a good example of that early access system, and to be extremely fair in that to date Magknight has certainly delivered of what was promised, but there is however still a huge WIP feel of the project, or will it ever be actually finished or ever be a fully rounded simulation. To counter that project, currently FlightFactor are already beavering away on their own Boeing 787 project that you can assume that will be mostly fully 95% or more completed on release later in the year, so which one would I like to fly, certainly a fully formed and system ready aircraft, and undoubtably far more so than an inconsistent WIP aircraft, even if I did have a personal involvement in the earlier development process. I have also noted a trend in developers lately in using just plain modeling items with colour, rather than texturing the item. Done cleverly the developer can get away with this aspect, but too much of this practise and the aircraft or scenery can suddenly look incomplete or not very realistic... I can be very discerning about this area, but to the developer they could just be trying to keep the product under a certain price point which is a fair point, or just plainly shortcutting in detail to get the product out more quickly, however I tend to always say it is in the second aspect, in simply cutting corners to get product out quicker... And the one red flag that comes up very obvious, is that if a developer is putting out a lot of product very quickly, then they will certainly have to cut corners to do so... myself I would rather have a far more quality (finished) product at a higher price, than a lot of products at a WIP low cost price, because at the end of the day, quality is the key to making money, and not releasing a lot of average product. But far too many developers lately are doing more the secondary approach than the first. Worse is if the developer pushes out a lot of average product they will be then also be labeled on being an average developer, or as I note a "B Grade" developer, and once the stigma sticks, it is very hard to remove. You could call me "Old-Fashioned", or even an "Old Bugger" if you want to. But my motivations are in being realistic is in that if X-Plane is to attract money to developers and more users to the Simulation platform, then only quality and fully rounded products can do that... yes X-Plane itself was founded on the hobbiest approach to aviation simulation and yes experimental aircraft and ideas are it's foundation. X-Plane is now however now a far more highly graded simulator, but it is only as good as the products you install into it. So yes we admit, we will be even ruthless in accessing new product that is introduced into the simulation system, and with half-baked releases, that just don't cut the grade will be called out, and for more than one reason, but overall you do deserve a quality product for your money, but helping the developer to achieve their goals is a great thing as well. This month showed the quality system at work. Early work by Aerobask was very good, but the developers still had a long and steep learning curve to climb. They did so and the results now show of what is a product, that is both on release is of a very high quality product with excellent features, but above all a great investment and also gives you a high return in maximum enjoyment for your simulation... that is the constant goal, for everyone, for the developer, the reviewers and also the users of the X-Plane Simulator. See you all next month, and a very Happy Easter Stephen Dutton 1st April 2021 Copyright©2021 X-Plane Reviews
  13. Behind the Screen : February 2021 In most past years X-Plane has come out of the box at the start of a New Year, in 2020 for instance I was already doing big reviews, even before I had restarted after the Christmas/NewYear break, head down... a New Year and a time to get on. Easter has now become the bigger purchasing period for X-Plane add-ons... the maths are simple, as with even Black Friday sales, most cash is focused on loved ones or spending up big over the holidays, not on simulation. Easter though is different, except for a few Easter Eggs, then you have the spare holiday break and more importantly a few free weeks to do nothing but fly in your favorite simulator, so why not buy yourself something new and shiny to fly or get a few new destinations to fly to. So over the last few years developers have not tried to crush in their last minute releases in to the Thanksgiving/Christmas period, but to now aim for the lucrative Easter sales, where you can ask full price and still get the sales, still do a discount after Easter and pick up more sales, but more importantly take your time refining the aircraft/scenery in the space of the New Year ready for Easter But in early 2021, the state of the X-Plane union is very quiet, very quiet. Yes there has been a few nice releases like Banff National Park, and Manchu Picchu, and a very nice RJAA Narita from Drzewiecki Design, but most of the 2021 new year has been focused on strangely helicopters, mostly you get one a year, but there has been almost none for a couple of years lately. I admit the JRX Design Gazelle is a 2020 mid-year release, but a slow period allowed me to cover the aircraft with a worthy review, same with the newly released and popular CowanSim B222, another interesting new developer for the helicopter genre. As you could guess my helicopter skills have improved enormously already this year, but I am ready to move on. There was a lot of serious indicators that the start of 2021 would be a blockbuster period of big releases for X-Plane, but in reality nothing actually happened? Now two months into the year and it is all still deadly silent? There are maybe a lot of external reasons, Covid 19, Weather (Northern Winter), No Money, or your life is messy because 2020 was a messy and unpredictable year throughout... Could Microsoft's new 2020 Simulator be having a major effect and taking the developers focus to the land of milk and honey and eternal riches. Not by the comments on the forums, the hard core users are still not buying the sales pitch, because the MS2020 is still feeling like a bad beta version, a few aircraft have popped up, but a fully functioning aircraft are not yet even close to being the sort of quality simulation that was advertised... but still the overwhelming majority of releases in 2021 has been the bucket loads of existing scenery for MS2020, Sour grapes! Well a little bit... if scenery developers had delivered the same sort of detailed cityscapes they are delivering currently for MS2020, for the X-Plane simulator, then how different would our world be, obviously the returns are not there with X-Plane, but it is a chicken and egg scenario, overall we obviously only got the scraps that they can actually deliver, FS developers never wanted to get behind the X-Plane simulator in the first place anyway, but still stole wholeheartedly from it's ideas. Laminar Research noted in their 2020 Christmas email, something about sharing all the new features coming to X-Plane early in the New Year, in other words... X-Plane12. Well two months into 2021 and the sim house is still quieter than a closed up Disneyland. Ziltch! Laminar even advertised for a new coding developer to join the team... great, but still no announcements. One thing I have always found is that when Laminar are deathly quiet, then they are working hard, being impatient is certainly not going to help any situation, but I still think we need to know where our simulator is going, in the face of the MS2020 onslaught, and then currently more so for the sake of X-Plane and Simulation in general. My guess is on the 2021 FlightSim Expo in San Diego in early June that is going to be a focus, but still I think an announcement is required before hand to see the balance between the Microsoft marketing overwhelming the picture well before the middle of the year comes around, people need to see choices, and currently Laminar is not even currently in the game (so to speak). In reviewing you need space to cover a large release, mostly four days with the current sort of extensive menus and feature lists, that will sometimes take up almost a week, so there are only a few very large releases you can cover in a month, the list out there are imminent large scale releases is now getting large, the secondary issue is that most simulation purchasers only have a certain budget to buy these big feature and expensive releases, they may absorb one, or even two $70-$80 products, but that would be the limit for most punters, no matter what other great projects are put on the table, so most users would have to choose between one or the other. Most certainly with time they will purchase the other releases, but once the immediate "Gotta Have" moment wears off, then they are then willing to wait for the sales, and that means then the developers lose that immediate release sales punch. So you will have to choose. and what will soon be on offer. The biggest attraction is certainly Just Flight and their Bae 146 Series (with refining by Thranda), it is not going to be a cheap package as the P3D version is priced at US$85.99, but you will get eight, yes 8 variants, plus a feature list you can dream of, there is a lot of functionality and detail to be had here, and in my mind this aircraft goes straight to the top of the list in desirability. Just Flight also announced last year their Vickers VC10, for X-Plane, but the trail has gone cold for a while, mostly because the Bae 146 is the priority release. This is another US$70 ($69.99 P3D) aircraft, but does not have the attraction of the Bae 146, as it is in reality a nostalgia aircraft, nice to have, but certainly not a high seller. There has been a lot of noises around X-Trident's Chinook CH-47F, as a lot of testing and refining has been going on lately, so the aircraft has to be close to release, and a big feature list does this aircraft have. The testing has shown what a brilliant aircraft this will be if it is up to the standard of their excellent AB412, the AB412 is priced at US$35.95, but expect the Chinook at around the US$50-$60 dollar mark, but it will be well worth the high investment. Q4XP, or the new Dash8 Q400 for X-Plane. This is from FlyJsim, whom created the original Q400 now called the "legacy" version, this aircraft is now actually 10 years old (how time flies). This completely new Q400 version is certainly going to be of a very high quality and detailed aircraft, and thankfully the FMC is a custom version modeled on the aircraft's OME Universal UNS-1e v1000, again it won't be cheap at around the Mid-60s dollar mark, but will be well worth the investment. Time has gone on a long way since any announcement with the aircraft, with the trail again going cold around August 2020. The Q4XP has to certainly be close to a beta or release phase after a nearly a three year development. Another aircraft that has had a very long lead development is the McDonnell Douglas MD-11, coming from Rotate. Development spoilers and videos pop-up every few months, but again the extensive lead time (May 2017) now has to be showing benefits. If the quality is as good as their MD-80, then this will be an exceptional simulation from Rotate. It won't be cheap either, with my estimation in the Mid-$70's to $90's price range, but again you will get great value, no information if the aircraft will be a package of the two variants of Passenger and Cargo together or as separate purchases. Aerobask are known for small modern composite aircraft. So the announcement of Dassault Aviation's Falcon 8X was a surprise. It is an official product, but also a very different type and scale aircraft than what Aerobask have done before, and a step up in the type of aircraft than they usually deliver. The price will be higher as well around the US$50 mark, but you will get quality detailing and authentic systems (FMS is custom), and Synthetic Vision for a good deal. The Falcon 8X was initially proposed for Q4 2020, so that release timeline has now certainly slipped, and the recent announcement of the release of the Embraer Phenom 300 - EMB-505 from Aerobask, will certainly push the Falcon 8X back down the list again, but for how long? Felis, Boeing 747-200 Classic is another project coming to fruition. Felis is know for his classic Russian aircraft, so a big American Boeing 747 is certainly a big departure from the past for him, but a Classic B747-200 has to be an interesting aircraft to relive the Jumbo's classic years when it was changing the airways and also the airlines in a significant way. Felis notes "I want to do a variant with fully analogue gauges with LTN72 or LTN92 INS. Probably will do AF1 variant also, as it was in 1970's", Engines modeled will be the P&W JT9D-7J version, the early ones that blew up, the -7J had a power output 48,650 lbf (216.4 kN) and was installed in the B742 from 1976. Price? The TU-144 was priced at US$45, so the Boeing 747-200 should be around the same price. Note that Just Sim has also announced a Boeing 747 Classic version for X-Plane in the 747-100 and -200 passenger variants and the 747-200F cargo variant. VFlyteAir have also been deathly quiet, which is not like them, as they usually release two aircraft a year, but one that is slipping way off the radar is Carenado, once highly prolific, their output has dropped to a trickle since the departure of Thranda, with nothing at all announced, or even updated for months. Looking further and into the second half of 2021, there are several projects also worth mentioning. The ToLiSS A340, is a great expectation of genuine long haul flying and another dimension to flying ToLiSS aircraft (Although the A321 NEO LR/XLR are medium range aircraft), the A340 is more of a real long range machine, I hope ToLiSS do a A330 as well. The biggest announcement for X-Plane in 2021 in a significant release is certainly the FlightFactor Boeing 787-9. Noted under the FF "Professional" series like their B757/B767, the Boeing 787 will be levels again in detail and of course deep systems, slated for Q3/Q4 later this year, it will be certainly the release of the year for X-Plane. A final note for 2021 goes to X-Crafts. They announced an all new remodel and design of their E-JETS Family, which will include all variants of the E170, E175, E190, E195, and Lineage 1000. Significant will be the inclusion of (finally) a real authentic Flight Management System (FMS), however X-Craft's mentions three FMS units. A new "authentic" FMS (yet to be named more specifically), the Tekton FMS, or the X-Plane default FMS. The same custom FMS will also be transferred into their current ERJ Family, and in so making that aircraft also much more authentic. Overall a lot of the above projects are already quite overdue, you can blame a lot of reasons why, and mostly on the Covid-19 situation, but there is no doubt that most of these projects in one form or another will be released in the late Q1, Q2 period, so there is a lot to look forward to and fly in all these high quality aircraft. Going Nowhere Time to "fess" up. Embarrassed but X-Plane can do that to you sometimes. I decided to do a service from BNE (Brisbane) to CNS (Cairns), Australia, in the updated FlightFactor/Airbus A320-214 Ultimate, to checkout if the nasty framerate issue has be fixed (It has). Restrictions of using both the FF A320 Ultimate and xEnviro both together means a big even huge downpull of your framerate, and no matter how light the rest of your simulation set is in the scenery. I manged to fly both earlier in the v1.14 xEnviro and A320 Ultimate settings, but it was a close call on the numbers before I slid down into the slideshow situation, overall I could use the aircraft if I picked the right airports that didn't put too much strain on the framerate. First up the new 1.1.19 version of the FF320 Ultimate and it felt like the old days and thankfully now with a lot more usable headroom. But here is the funny point... I set up the aircraft and pushed the Airbus back with the "BetterPushBack" tool, and everything was normal, until I rereleased the park brake and lifted the throttles a bit to move forward into a taxi speed. Nothing moved... more power and the Airbus was solid, and no matter how much power I applied to the engines, this Bus was going absolutely nowhere? I started checking out problems.... Flightfactor have a very sensitive fault system on the A320, so that was my first call, no it was turned off, then the X-Plane fault system and again it was clean? Brakes are also sensitive on the FF A320, so I rechecked them, about 30 times? nothing as the A320 was still solid as a rock? I was now seriously confused and was resetting everything and searching everywhere, but nothing worked? Time was clicking on and I was going nowhere, 20 minutes of head scratching and now even with a load of swear words, nothing was not making this Bus move. My earlier review had been of the Cessna 140, a sensitive little thing that required this taildragger steering by using your rudder pedals as toebrakes, I don't have rudder pedals yet (expensive in Australia), but tried to steer the C140 via a set toggle switch (C) on my X56 Rhino joystick (That was not very successful either), but the point was the braking response setting affected the A320 Ultimate to a big degree... I reset the settings both to "None" and the Bus finally moved, and with applause from the passengers as we were finally all going to Cairns Obviously you can set a "Profile" for a particular aircraft in X-Plane, but I never really use that as I go through with reviewing a lot of aircraft and need the basic default settings, the FFA320 Ultimate also uses the hands off CEF (Chromium Embedded Framework) system anyway so it is not reliable, but overall it was a fluke I found the problem, the real problem is that X-Plane requires a lot of very different settings to fly some very different aircraft (Taildragger to an Airbus A320), but for about thirty frustrating minutes I was simply going nowhere! See you all next month. Stephen Dutton 1st March 2021 Copyright©2021 X-Plane Reviews
  14. Behind the Screen : January 2021 Another year in 2021, after 2020 it has to be better, change and a whole lot of it dominated the year, even in our little virtual corner of the world in Simulation. Did we mention Microsoft's new flight simulator release of last year, of course we did. The reality was that X-Plane didn't actually get atomised by MSFS on it's release, or anything else, in fact something interesting happened. According to the Navigraph Flightsim Community Survey which is always interesting reading, is that the mostly rejected FSX/FS9 and Prepar3D users didn't jump ship directly to MSFS 2020, but to X-Plane11 instead? in fact 41% came from FSX/FS9 and 24% came from P3D, that is only actually 4.8% of actual simulator platform switching in context, but still they chose to come to X-Plane11 and not over to the newer simulator of which 11% MSFS new users switched over to X-Plane as well, rather than going to another Simulator. The answer there is quite simple in the fact that MSFS actually still does not support study grade aircraft, certainly if you want to VFR (Visual Flight Rules) your way around the landscape then MSFS is the way to go, but for heavy operations and even with still the very light choices of even good and detailed General Aviation aircraft (no fighters or Helicopters either), then X-Plane is currently only your simulator of choice if you want to do some serious procedural flying. Overall it is difference between real simulation flying and playing a game. No doubt MSFS will throw off that tag as it develops more better SDK's, or will it, does it want to? That aspect is in the fact that in simulation there actually is not any money to be made, the customer focus is overall on the huge gaming market. And this is were it gets interesting in the target market. If MSFS wants the big massive gaming market, then how can it also be a deep level simulator? Yes MSFS will develop and add in deep study aircraft, but the reality is will the average gamer "Actually" want that style of aircraft? and the total current perception that these loaded up gamers will buy up or hoover up anything or everything placed in front of them... these are gameboys with attentions spans of minutes (unless they are deep in the gaming market to make money) and they are only going to be really interested in that for the entertainment factor or to make money. I admit there will be a crossover factor, but in reality Simulation Users and Gamers are really very, very different animals, as they approach simulation in their own very different ways as well. First what is Simulation and it's main objective. Mostly it is to learn to fly aircraft, even now any serious simulator is based on reaching out to flying schools as a teaching aid to learner pilots, for professional pilots to learn their own skills and systems. Then there is the airmanship aspect. This is learning the flying skills to do the procedures and navigation in an aviation capacity, besides the professional fliers, the rest of us in Users are people that love aviation and want to be a part (or older pilots that want to continue flying) of that environment, but don't have the resources or in most cases the health to be part of the real world aviation business. To cover all this then you are required to study. Not only the aircraft and it's systems, but also the aviation system itself and all it's procedures, do you see where this is all going... I personally have been in Simulation for Eleven years, eight and half years writing about it. But still I am learning the intimate details of aviation. Take for example last week... I didn't know until I studied the procedure of doing a Cat IIIa dual-channel approach and autoland. Yes I usually pressed the twin left and right AP1 and AP2 autopilot channels on landing an Airbus A3 something, but not on how you actually do the procedure on a non-fully automated aircraft. You would be either thrilled about this (being a devout Simulator User) or find it really boring to even nonsense because all you want to do is get your jollies by divebombing your house. As I said a lot of gamers will love this new aspect and start to take this Simulation lark quite seriously, and that is a great thing as it builds simulation with a whole new group of newly converted Users. But how many are actually willing to under go a decade of learning and actually do the consistent practising of their skills in a controlled aviation environment, because that is in reality of what Simulation really is. And this were it gets even more interesting. In Simulation we like to build our Aviation environment around us. We select the aircraft we want to fly, add in the effects we want to experience and collect scenery to reflect our personal destinations. To do that aspect we have to spend money, but the money spent is worthwhile because of the experiences that we want to acquire. It also requires dedication and the building up of a skill base. Can MSFS deliver all this, well in time absolutely, but not totally because it's foremost aim is still in entertainment and not in skills... If MSFS does go too far or get too complicated it will lose it's most important gamer market, as in reality Microsoft really doesn't want serious Simulation Users or obviously us, and certainly not with them messing around within the guts of the coding. Another factor of the Navigraph survey points this out as well. Although the user use of MSFS is approaching 60%, and X-Plane11(50) is 45%, however the main points of dedicated users is almost neck and neck, in that the difference between the 60% and 45% (or 15%) are just "Infrequent" users or "Never" used, so the core users between the two platforms are only 3% of each other, what the survey does not ask, is what is your "preferred" Simulator, or on how many actually switch between the two, or what are the casual (gamer) users or the dedicated Simulator users as that could very much change the numbers around. At no time do I want any article in X-PlaneReviews to become the "Our Simulator is better than your Simulator" argument, but the need to put into perspective the real and current Simulation world. This brings us to the ludicrous situation now going on with Scenery Developers. Barely an hour goes by without another scenery being released for MSFS in the gigantic Gold Rush of 2020/2021 for as much real estate by per virtual runway meter that we can achieve. If you do look closely, most releases (not all, but most) are just a revamped and retextured version of their current scenery, in either any platform (ie FSX or X-Plane) to MSFS. You can almost feel the rubbing of their grubby little hands in making money from already produced scenery and wanting to quickly fill up their coffers. Most of it does look good, but it is still mostly already released work that is just tarted up. My own annoyance is that if these same developers had given X-Plane the same volume and discounts as they are doing for MSFS, I am quite sure that the platform would have attracted many more users, and would have created a better sales market, but then again X-Plane does have a particular problem with that aspect, but the point is if they had have done or have had the same greedy exuberance then it could have made a difference, certainly in the cityscapes and landscape sceneries for them and for the whole of the X-Plane platform. Which brings us to the biggest and consistent issue in X-Plane, payware scenery. Again back to Navigraph survey in that the sections of (3.8.4) notes that Payware scenery is finally catching up to Freeware, in fact the freeware in "Equal" and "Mostly" are finally lower than the overall Payware useage... not noted is the difference in simulator platforms in these grades, of which I would expect X-Plane to still lean far more heavily to Freeware, but it is finally getting better. So the chicken and the egg situation still abounds.... would X-Plane users buy more scenery if it was of a high quality? But the line between Payware and Freeware in a lot of cases is still only really quite a fine line in the context of Laminar's Global Airport tools. Where as the FlightSim world depends more on the Payware and no matter the quality model... so has Laminar hindered the progress of it's own simulator in a commercial aspect? The problem for scenery developers is the worst in commercial angles of anything in the X-Plane simulator, basically they can't sell rubbish, which is a very good thing... but the extremely high line of the quality they have to deliver to get over the Freeware barrier to sell can only restrict the quality to a few and very experienced developers. As a review site I can and will admit to being quite harsh in my reviews on many aspects on scenery. Why?, because the only way a scenery developer will survive and compete is too deliver extremely high quality product... I admit that is not at all fair, but it is also the reality of creating Payware product. The days of waltzing in and doing some cheap 3d modeling and throwing under the objects a badly tinted orthophoto layer is just not going to get you any sales any more... again noted in the Survey is that (3.14) "Detailed Airports" are 67% of importance of creating a sale. A lot of my comments are actually based on the basics being missed. Fencing is a really big annoyance to me, or the lack of. In any commercial field fencing is mandatory and mostly for security and safety reasons. But for some reason many developers just don't seem to understand this. Any scenery missing vital fencing looks and actually is only half completed, and I have rolled my eyes far too many times while opening a scenery to find just wide open spaces between the carparks and aircraft aprons... or Landside to Airside, and in the real world that just does not happen. The biggest issue are our old friends "Orthophotos" images or ground textures, or "patchworkers" as I call them. Most are ugly and either far too light (washed out) or far too dark, and in all cases actually don't matchup to anything around them either, so the scenery sticks out like a sore bum. I except two facts, in that one is that consistent orthophotos are hard to find, and two X-Plane's default textures are totally out of date. The one thing that MSFS has in a big way over X-Plane is the consistency of it's landscape, so the inserted custom scenery fits in very well to its default surroundings. For X-Plane I have never really liked the texture model Laminar uses, it was a step up for X-Plane10 from X-Plane9, but the feel was not quite right either, it looks overall artificial, certainly from an altitude or at ground level. That said, using good lighting and environmental system like xEnviro can make the landscape look quite realistic. But in context to the ground they are dated and in fact slightly the wrong bright tint. I have (grudgingly) come to accept the Lo-Res photo textures beloved by FS developers on the landside, mostly because they get the rest right, but they give out overall too many ground burnt in aircraft, vehicles and you can see that flatness in what that flat photo plate actually is. The problem is that were is the solution between overpowering photo textures and standard gradient textures, is there one version that can or could actually blend in all? But overall you can see why scenery developers have such a hard time getting it right, and with that aspect X-Plane can come across like a patchwork quilt more than a complete landscape and fixing that aspect is the biggest question and the biggest challenge facing X-Plane12. And for X-Plane12 taking the ball back from MSFS as a primary simulator (note I say Simulator not gaming). To date no release information on X-Plane12 has been announced by Laminar Research That important aspect is the underlying point in bringing back the majors in scenery, and their customers. Overall I don't think that Laminar understood this area in their simulator, their aim is always at the hobbyist angle, the point of giving you the tools to build your own world. But in fact X-Plane has come a long way with that coda, but you can't also cut out the important commercial side, and this aspect is really showing currently in X-Plane as a lot free does not mean completely brilliant and detailed. So if you want that totally realist world, then you have no choice but to bring in the experts and high quality detail... that is what the punters also want, and also what they are willing to buy. Catch up again next month Stephen Dutton 1st February 2021 Copyright©2021 X-Plane Reviews
  15. Behind the Screen : Year in Review 2020 Even coming into the year 2020, you knew it was going to be confronting, and certainly the year did not let anyone down in that regard. But from a simulation aspect it was the introduction of the Microsoft Simulator in a completely different form and this time from game developers Asobo Studio's that was the major significant impact of the year, released on time August 18, 2020 it certainly got everyone's attention. You can argue about the new simulator's ramifications for years, but one thing was for sure was that the MSFS release was certainly not the exaggerated death-knell for X-Plane and the Laminar Research simulator, in quite a contrast it brought a lot of perspective into our coveted world, and a genuine needed perspective, of course those FlighSim devotees didn't see it that way, until they were faced with reality and then they were confronted with far more than the X-Plane context. In an odd interpretation, the X-Plane simulator had an extremely good year, not it's very best as the COVID 19 and MSFS effects certainly affected the simulator, but it was still highly productive and had some major advancements, so it wasn't all that bad in the current circumstances. Laminar Research For Laminar Research it was a particularly quiet year, more so without the exposure of the San Diego Simulation Expo which was Covid cancelled, at least that thankfully allowed Laminar not to be constantly bombarded about the coming MSFS and the "What are you going to do about MSFS" questions", in fact Laminar in Austin Meyer only appeared once in a podcast in June, in only noting a few ideas, but was still very relaxed about the mega new flightsim sitting on his doorstep. No Q&A chat from Laminar later in the year was also unusual, but expected after the messy drunken videocast of 2019 and of course the still rampant Virus in the States, the expected X-Plane12 announcement on America's Thanksgiving (almost a given event in the past), was also non-grata either. One other item to note was that Laminar also created a forum to post ideas of what you wanted in a forthcoming X-Plane release, this was an especially interesting development, because Laminar in the past rarely ever asked it's devotes what the time of the day it was, never mind what they "Actually" wanted in the X-Plane simulator... the forum could be seen in two ways, short of ideas (I doubt that), or just to confirm that what they were doing in development was this time what the hoards actually wanted. 2020 was really just about one Laminar Research X-Plane release, v11.50 or the Vulkan/Metal API update. It was a long, lengthy, and up and down release, that even in it's final incarnation in mid-September was still not a complete final solution, mostly because the Vulkan/Metal internal changes still require more development, including multi-core and multi-threading processing. But it is in it's new elements now installed of what now is left of the olde world X-Plane that will bring in the true change in the future for the simulator of the power in the Vulkan/Metal API. But there was the significant new v11.50 benefits, smoother running, higher object count, better shaders and the option to run the long forgotten reflection feature were all great steps forward, but the development process did take a very long time and at the end was even then four months overdue, this affecting the future of X-Plane in also deferring X-Plane12's longer time in development. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 We have to address the impact of the return of "Flight Simulator" in it's new 2020 incarnation on X-Plane or overall in simulation as a whole. The problem was the huge hype surrounding the release, but earlier reports even under a strict NDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement it was noted as incomplete and was also dialed in firmly into a deadline release date. From X-PlaneReviews and note the "X-Plane" in our title is the fact that any response to the MSFS release would come across as in a "our simulator is far better than your simulator" context, or just plain resentments. One thing I am proud of is that I have never been a black or white person, but could always see the grey in the middle or that everything has two sides of every story. I was lucky I also had a few days off when the MSFS release actually happened August 18, 2020, and spent time to understand the ramifications, and I came back to do a though research and analysis of the changes, the result was I think one of the very best descriptions of current simulation and it's future in that X-PlaneReviews have ever done, I am immensely proud of that article "X-Plane and the future in the new world order" and believe the analysis is certainly correct, certainly even now looking back five months hence. But overall the results also shocked me in what could happen in the future of simulation in the context of the MSFS release. There will always be multiple platforms in simulation, but the current four will be quickly reduced to two in MSFS and X-Plane, more so was the surprise that how similar unlike before the main current popular platforms now are actually almost a mirror in design and features, more important is that product for either can be easily ported to either simulator unlike the wide gulf there was before in the FSX/P3D to X-Plane chasm, in fact most of the large (scenery) product that has already been ported to MSFS is already mostly the X-Plane versions. The truth when finally seen was that currently MSFS is really only a game, and I called it "Hollow", not out of spite but out of fact. MSFS is immensely pretty visually, but hollow in the fact that as a simulation you have in reality no aircraft of any depth of which you can currently fly in, so if you want to fly a really quality aircraft with a huge depth of systems on multiple operating systems then X-Plane currently is the only platform to do so. Yes in depth simulation will come to MSFS, but I currently see years of development before it can reach the intimate detail of X-Plane and if ever in aerodynamics and it's in-built system depth, this aspect simply can't be done overnight, as so it has been developed in X-Plane over decades. Another point is simply the quality of X-Plane developers, most on the MSFS release put their hands up and swore on oath that they had no desire to swap platforms. For the current MSFS developers they are sitting in a waiting game, some note it could take twelve months (PMDG) before releasing product worthy to fly, Aerosoft have been reduced to show images of empty content aircraft to keep the punters interested, it will be a long twelve months. For X-Plane we are in our own waiting game. That is for the release of X-Plane12, and no matter which way you want to position the release, it will always be Laminar Research's response to Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2020. Does it matter for it to be viewed in that context, certainly it does, if for the platform's survival, not that the simulator would die overnight, but would certainly start a long slow decline... strong words, maybe, so for once Laminar cannot be their usual laid-back selves, it is in a very different context this time than within the FSX/P3D era, but the details are also quite clear on what has to be delivered in X-Plane12 to compete with MSFS, surely they in Laminar couldn't mess this one up? Aircraft Overall it was a quieter year for the release in aircraft for X-Plane in 2020. v11.50 (Vulkan/Metal kept most updates or releases in limbo, so what was supposed to be released never happened in the usual Q3/Q4 quarters. The big developers were also overall very quiet anyway with FlightFactor, Rotate, FlyJSIm even SSG was quiet except for a few updates to their now exceptional Boeing 748 v2.0, the first was really the updated release of the aircraft in early January, the second update later in the year added in the exceptional cargo version, and the final act of a full passenger cabin has now also been shown. ToLiSS was really the only new release with X-Craft's ERJ Family that were the only notable releases in aircraft in the whole of 2020. The ToLiSS A321 built up on the reputation of the excellent earlier A319, before Christmas 2020 we got an early Christmas present of an NEO engine upgrade for the same aircraft. For X-Craft's the ERJ 135/140 series Family was a huge step up in quality than their earlier E-Jet 170 and 190 LR aircraft, but still had the default instruments and custom FMC, but you got a lot of variants for your money. FlightFactor did update their Airbus A350, but not to a full and complete expected v2.0, but it did finally have an excellent working MCDU, and some nice updates, not perfect but certainly far better, as noted the v2 of the A350 and expected total redesign of the Boeing 777 series never materialised, but FlightFactor did announce a coming Boeing 787 Dreamliner with the works. Again the promised MD-11 from Rotate was not released either, and information was scant, ditto FlyJSim and their coming Q4XP (Dash Q400). iniBuilds Released a A300-600R(F) with now both a passenger and cargo versions, "Expensive" it needed a mortgage to buy, it is indeed however very good, but X-PlaneReviews will never know as any review version(s) was simply "verboten" and what we can't analyse, then we can't recommend or include in our yearly lists, sadly.... Both Magknight and Colimata continued their long development time lines with the Boeing 787-9 and Concorde, both had a load of significant updates throughout the year and can be both safely said to becoming (finally) quality simulations, but the MagKnight B789 is still weighed down by it's basics in instruments and FMC, both a requirement at this level, the Concorde is forever on my list for a decent review, but I felt it just was not developed enough to warrant one, but with the latest update to finally fill in the engineers station, may finally get it past the post. IXEG did also do some very nice updates to the venerable Boeing 733 Classic, and was more visible throughout the year, still an amazing simulation, and that pretty well summed up airliners in 2020. General Aviation The biggest influence on the General Aviation market was the separation between Thranda (Dan Klaue) and Carenado in the middle of 2019, but the changes didn't come into effect until the start of 2020. Problem is Thranda is Carenado in X-Plane and the effects were all to see once that aspect was removed, and you felt the reverberations all throughout of 2020, there was only a few updates and G1000 conversions (SR22 GTSX Turbo) and for the few aircraft that was released they felt buggy and feeling old fashioned, the brand is not the scaling premier development house it once was, could Carenado withdraw from X-Plane? that is now not an impossible thought, but what about all those updates, 38+ at the last count. But the reality is Carenado feels old and tired and maybe Thranda got tired of fighting into wanting to make the brand more modern and relevant... I can see only MSFS calling. With the Carenado shackles released Thranda went full throttle on finally working on their own aircraft, with just only JustFlight as a partner. The results were the two masterpieces of the year in the Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter with an added in extra "Adventure Pack" released later, second was another paragon in the DHC-2 Beaver, and it was easily the best release of the year in quality and features. In the same theme of bush aircraft VflyteAir took over the development of the departing MilViz aircraft of the DHC-3T Turbo Otter, otherwise VflyteAir was also in 2020 unusually quiet after the bonanza of 2019. JustFlight only added in one GA in the year and even then it was another PA-28, this time in an Archer TX/LX with another G1000 avionic conversion. Aerobask did two releases, and again both were, yes you guessed it, both G1000 avionics, one was a prop in the Lancair Legacy RG and the other in a jet with the Epic Victory, again the high quality shone with amazing detail, but the big expected release of the year still didn't happen with their still coming Dassault Aviation Falcon 8X. The AirFoilLab's Kingair 350i had a few and even one major updates in the year, but it is an aircraft that is hard to warm to, even with it's huge feature list, the new plugin is still quite not getting the X-Plane feel right and the flying performance feels lackluster and even arcade in feel. Digital Replica's VAN's RV-10 was the only real GA revelation of the year, a small but high quality machine that was nice to chuck about the sky, Nimbus brought us (finally) a BN-2 Islander, first the aircraft on release was far too underdeveloped, but constant updates did get the aircraft back on track, but still not perfect by the end of the year. The inclusion of the "Shortest scheduled flight" scenery from Westary to Papa Westary was certainly a bonus feature, and TorqueSim also released a BN-2 not reviewed here. Military Like helicopters military aircraft are not high volume releases, but we had a few interesting ones this year, highlight just had to be JustFlight's complex and totally overwhelming Avro Vulcan B Mk.2, K.2 and MRR, and the warbird Lockheed P-38L Lightning from Flying Iron Simulation's was also very well done, the T-7A Red Hawk v1.1 by AOA Simulation's was an really interesting aircraft, and nice to fly as well. In the classic category the DC-3/C47 from VSkyLabs Flying Lab Project went to v3.0 with finally a cargo cabin, but it was a strange mix of modern and old, and a loss of that DC3 vintage feel that oddly changed the focus of the aircraft away from why you wanted it to be in the first place, i.e. a vintage classic airliner... Helicopters The vertical flight machines were kept to just three in 2020 and the two from VSkyLabs, were both lightweight machines in the Dynali H3 and Robinson R44. The only decent aircraft was the excellent SA 341B and SA 342J Gazelle by JRXDesign. We were finding the helicopters becoming quite outdated through the year, with mostly in being of Dreamfoil MIA, but at the end of the year he did update the Bell 407 to Vulkan standard, X-Trident were also very quiet, but their Chinook CH-47F is looking finished and in beta testing, certainly now ready for an early 2021 release. In decent freeware, the the Zibo B748 was quite quiet considering the barrage of updates in the past few years, the Ultimate Boeing 737-900 and other variants went discontinued, but was picked up by LevelUp 737, and promised (the word here is "promised") five variants in the -900, -900ER, -600, -700 and -800 (which is the zibo) version. The default Laminar Boeing 747-400 got picked up for the same Zibo treatment by "Sparky", and is now adding in some custom features on top of the basic vanilla B744, but it is early days yet. Like most, aircraft activity was pretty low in 2020, but there are a few gems in there. Scenery Overall scenery in X-Plane passed a threshold this year, and not in the huge number now of built in Global Airports (14,451 at last count). Finally we could fly from one quality scenery to another and not step out of that quality realm, in quality scenery it is has been a great few years... that said it was annoying that MSFS scenery developers released so much content for the new simulator in the last few months, the same content created for X-Plane would have certainly helped in making the simulator more attractive to new fliers, and certainly the city packs that we desperately needed, maybe a cross flow with X-Plane12 may eventually change that. I had a huge list of required scenery for X-Plane as long as twelve years ago, but these last few years is that many in the list that was finally being ticked off. We kicked off the year with a nice update from SFD with their excellent KSLC-Salt Lake City and SFD also updated his KLAX later in August (an EDDM update is noted as coming in the New Year), KATL-Atlanta (nimbus) and KDEN-Denver by X-Codr Designs both had a very good updates, and EBBR Brussels by JustSim also got a sensational upgrade. LFSB - EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg also by JustSim was completely mindblowing with their night textures. In February we kicked with with probably the biggest scenery project in X-Plane, maybe the biggest ever for the simulator, Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini released five, yes l to V Dolomite sceneries that all interconnected (except the Benta Dolomites, but that was still situated close by), the scale is simply enormous, and it is a very significant area to explore. Not content with that they still had time to again visit South America and the Torres del Paine National Park, but also released the excellent K2-Karakorum scenery... my god it was all so much mountainous area to cover in one year. Seychelles XP by Maps2XPlane was another wide area scenery, that captured in the Indian Ocean feel (but not quite as good as their Faroe Islands winner last year), in the same area we had three African airports HKJK - Nairobi Airport by FSDG, FALE - Durban XP by FSDG and another African airport in the northwest in Casablanca XP by FSDG, and all three are worthy destinations, and also welcome was VNKT - Kathmandu Tribhuvan Intl Airport by Cami De Bellis which was another exotic scenery released. I was extremely excited for the release of EKCH-Copenhagen XP by FlyTampa, and it certainly didn't disappoint, the dynamics were absolutely jaw-dropping in it's metal and glass detail, then the added on Copenhagen vista and THAT bridge was also excellent. FlyTampa also released KLAS - LasVegas later in the year and again in doing a great sceneraio of the bright lights of that Nevada city.... but FlyTampa noted that for now that was that for their X-Plane sceneries as their focus was now all on MSFS, I cried... a lot on that announcement. Also was the (very heavy) CYVR - Vancouver International Airport by GloballArt, brilliantly done, but hard on your frame rate as GloballArt sceneries are, and there was a nice KTPA Tampa International Airport by VerticalSim, another airport that filled out a big hole in Florida. Then came a real feature rich scenery with even a working airshow from Rising Dawn Studio's in KRAL-Riverside Municipal, it took years to compile and detail, it was a really great scenery, that was only let down by X-Plane's very poor surrounding default textures (why are the LA basin textures so bad?), but I still love using it, if only for the flying birds. LXGB - Gibraltar International Airport by Skyline Simulations was well done but let down by the average mountain side textures (I was in the middle of doing brilliant Dainese and Bellini sceneries as a comparison) but the rest of Gibraltar was in detail very good including the extreme short landing challenges. Two sceneries by Gaya Simulations are noteable but not reviewed on this site, EGPH Edinburgh Airport, and LOWW Vienna International Airport are not cheap, but are excellent sceneries. Two sceneries in CZST Stewart and CYBD Bella Coola created originally by Beti-x were acquired by the X-Plane.Org, CZST-Stewart was updated to current standards and both are still highly realistic and not at all dated, still both are very worthy additions to any scenery folder. There was a significant drop in scenery releases after the MSFS release for a few months, then in November there was a load of really great scenery flowing again... YPPH Perth International by renamed Axonos, was simply sensational and ticked off a huge hole in my network, then came another with EFHK - Helsinki Vantaa International by JustSim, another huge hole filled, and then recently a surprise superb scenery of EGGP Liverpool John Lennon Airport by DigitalDesign, a very good quality effort that deserves attention... A side note for a freeware release from MisterX6/SFD, with a payware quality was RJCH Hakodate Airport for nothing, everyone downloaded it. With a large amount of scenery holes filled in, I certainly felt that noted difference within the simulator, I was now living in a completely object based quality world within a quality scenery to fly between, there will always be another hole to fill... that is a given, but I was very content with my lot this year, a point is you don't have to have a low-res simulator full of Global airports, as when even for a slight investment you can live in another more higher detailed and realistic world. In the scenery aspect then 2021 will be interesting in if the more bigger development houses abandon X-Plane (remember we are not profitable to them) or we double up the same scenery with MSFS. Plugins I will state upfront that I am not a huge plugin connoisseur, so I only run what I call essential plugins in my simulator, running the new VRAM profiler (Menu/Developer) can give you the horrors of how much these little monstrous tools can gobble up your framerate and overall efficiency, I took to taking out as many of these laggards as possible. If your favorite plugin is not included in this list, then there are a huge amount of choices, some very clever, but most a replica of each other. Most will note FlywithLua as indispensable, but I found it just intruded into the aircraft systems too much (crashes), but then again that is part of what FlywithLua is for, messing around where it shouldn't be, so FWL is not represented here. A side note of a wrist slap in that "please leave the shaders alone" They are not to be messed with, then complain your simulator doesn't work anymore. The most interesting and most expensive was JustFlight's release of Traffic Global in 2020, a traffic (aircraft) simulation filler. It is very good, but buggy at release and twice the price of the outstanding favorite WorldTraffic 3. But Global Traffic did have two huge advantages over WT3, for one it didn't need a refresh every time you started up the simulator, and two it's framerate footprint was or is extremely low, and in laying out traffic in airports without set layouts it is excellent, but I do hate the steep takeoff and landing angles and the very fast taxiing speeds, in reality WT3 is far better overall (and far cheaper) but not as the better background tool, stutters are still a major problem, and so is the slow setup is another, but framerate has been refined. JustFlight also released AirHauler2 for X-Plane, but time constraints didn't allow me to test it out or review the application because of it's complexity, I'll try again in a quieter time. XPRealistic Pro v2.0 by rk Apps for Realism effects (shakes and sounds) was back, but this time in new code and not using the FlywithLua as a host. I had to abandon this plugin because of it's association with FWL, but thankfully it is back and very welcome, as it does add in a very dynamic effect to your flying. Another essential tool is the WebFMC Pro, a remote FMC that uses browsers for input, plugin was updated twice in the year in adding in more aircraft and even the default Laminar FMC, dual FMCs are also now available. A clever plugin very similar to the WebFMC system was SkyScout, a web based EFIS - PFD/MFD/EICAS by XPlane Aviator, it was very clever and a very interesting tool, certainly for training, but I found the release version a little too complex and buggy, but interesting. SimBrief is of course still a valuable tool as is the Navigraph subscription, but I had a lot of issues with the Simlink app after Vulkan was released, stutters and disconnection is now very common, it needs an update. BetterPushBack had a few updates, as did AviTab, SAM added to Seasons, with WorldJetways (brings Global Airports to life), Global Trees, Airport Vehicles (payware) and Follow Me car (Payware) and everything is now controlled via the SAM2 Suite, an invaluable tool that is a requirement if you use payware airports. ApSoft Airplane Toolbox was updated to calculate either the Takeoff or Landing Performance of many aircraft, as is SimToolkitPro that brings a lot of different aspects of flying under one single tool, there is a basic freeware and Pro version, but the April 2020 update was huge in new features. XPUIPC the equivalent to FSUIPC for FSX/P3D, is for creating internal datarefs has also had a few updates and only really for the nerds. xEnviro was basically sidelined all year, first with a poor heavy application in v1.13, that I returned (again) to the only viable version in 1.07, but once I had to run Vulkan, even in beta form then xEnviro became persona non grata. Very late after again another personal event and eleven tedious months of development the application came out in v1.14 form, but still only for OpenGL, and then the announcement was "Vulkan! next", seriously, I felt like just going "awwh what, so why bother"... A brilliant concept ruined continuously by bad management and no updating, expensive and not reliable, then Dark Space is just simply becoming a lot of empty space. The odd plugin of the year was librain(rain) by skiselkov. Vulkan rendered it non-viable, but was it fixed? or what has happened to this valuable tool... an odd business. In hardware, Thrustmaster TCA Officer Pack Airbus Edition brought a credible Airbus feel without the price to your desktop, for what you get it is good value, but Covid19 made stock scarce. To sum up 2020 it was most aircraft delayed by an API release with only a few notable releases, then Covid19. With scenery in releases it was huge early in the year then collapsed after MSFS release, then recovered again at the end of the year, MSFS went global mid-year and then just whimpered along. _________________________ 2020 marked the anniversary of X-PlaneReviews 7th year in producing content for the X-Plane simulator, and it was another year even a third larger in content than the year before and X-PlaneReviews passed the 1800 milestone of published reviews and 300 posts coming in this last year alone, and that shows the sheer amount of quality add-ons that was again added to the simulator. In September we did a site refresh and added in some animated banners, you have to find the balance between not ruining a clean interface with creating a more modern look and feel, and I think we achieved that aspect. Again this review site cannot function without all the great and exciting work by the tireless developers that give us all this exciting and incredible product to fly and use, as they and X-Plane has come a long way and created leaps in quality in the last few years, and to a point I was very proud of the work they produced, it is world class if not the very best in simulation product, and they are all top notch and very clever. To the X-Plane.OrgStore who supports this site with review products, service and updates, a really big thanks, this site just would just not function without that outstanding support. To our reviewers this year in Casa and from Jude, they have both added in a different dimension to the site, and we are always looking for reviewers to show off their skills and devotion to the X-Plane simulation platform. In a tropical storm you get a lot of turbulence from the howling winds of force, then suddenly in the central eye it gets super quiet and you can even see the stars in the calm sky, but you know that soon those huge forces of the the outer swirl will return with their destructive force. To a point that it is like that right now in X-Plane, we have had a huge disruptive year in 2020, and not only in simulation but all over the world, the fallout from all that energy will be as bad as the actual event itself. For simulation it is the Microsoft Flight Simulator that has been the biggest disrupter of all, but sitting here in the middle of the eye, then 2021 will bring back those destructive forces of change, so enjoy it while you can. In 2021 Laminar Research will present their response to MSFS in the form of X-Plane12, when is a release coming is very good question? as we have already passed one thanksgiving announcement milestone, Easter, maybe, or even at the FlightSimExpo 2021 currently scheduled for early June, that event is my guess currently, unless cancelled (again)... but we should have a beta version running earlier. To a point the June Expo is going to be an interesting event not-withstanding, Asobo will certainly want to dominate the show, so Laminar has to be expected to have something to counter the onslaught. More short term then the start of 2021 should be very exciting in Q1 and Q2. There are a load of aircraft currently reaching their beta states and almost ready for release. The biggest events will be from JustFlight with two products, A Vickers VC10 and a very exciting Bae 146, Dassault Aviation Falcon 8X, Chinook CH-47F, FlyJSim Q4XP (Dash Q400) and even at a long bet the Rotate MD11, all quality aircraft and most overdue for release. _________________________ We will finish off with X-PlaneReviews famous best of the year awards… So I will now list my Best of the Year 2020🏅 (note the awards are given to only products I have seen and tested and I can only vouch for) Best Aircraft : Airbus A321 NEO by ToLiSS 🏅 Certainly the best flying Airbus in X-Plane and now in NEO form, and all from a master Airbus systems craftsman. Honorable Mention : INIDesigns A300-600R(F), debatable if it was the best of the year, but we will give it a mention of the quality of a first release. Best General Aviation Aircraft : Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter by Thranda Design 🏅 Simply a huge feature set, and clever tools in creating your own instrument layouts and liveries, extra "Adventure Pack" brought Floats and Skydivers! Honorable Mentions : Both Aerobask's Lancair Legacy RG and Epic Victory in both have huge detail quality and instrument features Overall a really dismal year for such an competitive category, but TorqueSim did also produce a nice SR22 and SR20 Best Classic Aircraft : DHC-2 Beaver - DGS Series v1.1 by Thranda Design 🏅 Actually a no brainer, probably the best overall aircraft released in X-Plane in 2020, again it comes with the same clever tools in creating your own instrument layouts and liveries, and a float option thrown in as well... awesome machine! Honorable Mention : Lockheed P-38L Lightning by Flying Iron Simulations, Flying Iron do these warbirds very well, and this was another stunner. Best Business Aircraft : Vacant Award Zero, nothing in particular, the Carenado Cessna 208 Grand Caravan EX XP11 was executive by nature, but a bit to lackluster for an award. Best Military : Avro Vulcan B Mk.2, K.2 and MRR by JustFlight 🏅 Easy choice, but complex and hard to fly... but highly rewarding Best Helicopter : SA 341B and SA 342J Gazelle by JRXDesign 🏅 There was the only one notable releases for Helicopters in 2020 and that was the SA 341B and SA 342J Gazelle by JRXDesign, as the only releases other were from vSkyLabs, and both were very light (and on features) helicopters. No review was done at the time of the Gazelle because it required an update (coming in August), but I did fly the machine(s) and so it can be nominated here. Best Landscape Scenery : Dolomite Series l to V by Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini mountain group 🏅 Just a huge landscape of a significant Italian Mountain area, you can explore the valleys for months and not cover it all Honorable Mention : K2-Karakorum scenery, again by Dainese and Bellini, another extraordinary area to explore Best Airport Scenery : EKCH-Copenhagen XP by FlyTampa 🏅 We award on the technical as well as the overall vista, and the metal and glass detail in FlyTampa's EKCH is extraordinary, and of course THAT bridge, and all done very well here Honorable Mention : KLAS-LasVegas was also very good, with the Las Vegas vista lighting up the desert Special Mentions : For all the ballyhoo, there was still some outstanding new entrants in scenery, Axonos... YPPH Perth International was a brilliant debut scenery, and FSDG widened out the world with some great exotic airports Worst of the year : KOAK-Oakland International by Departure Designs, was just plain awful, a bit too much ambition and no talent. Best Plugin(s) : Stairport's SAM2 🏅 Clever ideas and great tools, the whole concept was this year now gathered together under one application. Special Mention(s) : Traffic Global, XPRealistic, WebFMC Pro and Navigraph Charts All noted applications were highly used throughout the year and in Navigraph Charts/SimBrief both are simply invaluable tools for route creation. Person(s) of the Year : Ben Supnic, Chris Serio and Tyler Young 🏅 We do forget what brings the simulator to our computers, worse this year was the shear complexity of porting the new API's to X-Plane, it was a long and drawn out project, and fraught with considerable obstacles. So you didn't hear much of any of them in 2020, but quietly the coders at Laminar are changing the face of the simulator into a new era product, now they are faced with the monumental challenge of creating X-Plane12. Best Moment of the year 2020 : First run of Vulkan, sliders went up and so did the framerate... winner, winner chicken dinner Worst Moment of the Year 2020 : FlyTampa telling me they are not going to do any more scenery for X-Plane for the foreseeable future Biggest distractions of 2020 : ... Covid19, oh and the still never ending constant updating! Personal Favorites of 2020 : Updated IXEG B737 Classic (my favorite aircraft overall this year), ToLiSS A321 NEO (Brilliant), FlightFactor Airbus Ultimate (Yes it is now the ultimate simulation), SSG B748F (SSG finally got there), Bonanza F33A (Even better in XP11)... notable was the X-Trident AB412 Helio, it was a godsend this year for all the mountain scenery reviews : Routes... Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Barcelona, Roma, Helsinki, Munich, Malta, Perth, Atlanta and Denver That is X-PlaneReviews for 2020, and we will be back after a very much needed recovery and the review site returns again early into the New Year on the 6th January 2021. So Merry Christmas, a Happy (virus free) New Year 2021 Stephen Dutton 22nd December 2020 Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2020 (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)
  16. Behind the Screen : November 2020 Here at X-PlaneReviews we do the reviews as we see them and in the moment. The idea is that what we see, you see warts and all, in other words "being honest" and overall the results are usually pretty close to what the product or addon on really is. That is important to you in making decisions on the product and how it will fit into your simulation aspect. I will admit I don't like ongoing development products, yes we know that most released aircraft (or even scenery for that matter) are not completely 100% completed (except maybe for Aerobask), because the sheer variable nature of the X-Plane simulator does not allow for that, and then throw in major simulator update like Vulkan/Metal and it can really put you out of context. But I mean aircraft development, that is always ongoing, like the Magknight Boeing 787-9, Colimate's Concorde FXP and most of VSkyLab's "Test Pilot" Series. Yes you get early access, but also a very disjointed simulation, as a rule I don't review them unless I feel they are quite stable and are ready to deliver your value for money. But I did something in November that I rarely do, I went back and re-edited an original review, and that was of the MagKnight Boeing 787-9. At the time I did the original update review for the B787-9 it was a hellish update month. For some reason September has become "Hell" month for a tsunami of updates, computer updates, simulator updates and product updates... then add in the before mentioned Vulkan/Metal 11.50 final release... another update. It does something to computers and your workflow, plus you have to sort out all the nasty little issues they create, like this works, but now that does not, and then add in a few odd weird failures from the actual computers themselves, it slowly burns you out. I note that everything noted here had nothing to do with the issues with the B787-9, but it didn't help in your mindset either. The update review of Boeing 787-900 v1.6.0 by Magknight didn't really get off to a good start, as I got more confused in trying to sort out the significant changes to the EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) and totally missed a major nose-wheel feature change, or got completely confused by it. But it was that nature and in reality the very reason I don't review ongoing development aircraft in that I missed a vital setting. When I came to flying the Dreamliner from Brisbane (BNE) to Melbourne (MEL) in the review it was quite a frustrating disaster, but I was willing to show the mess for what it was, but in that aspect it was not good for any readers of the review and certainly not good for the developers either, but a nagging aspect was that if the B787-9 flew as badly as I had covered it to be (odd wing angles and terrible takeoff performance) then why wasn't the X-Plane forums not lighting up with loads of aggravated pilots... it didn't make sense, I did post my findings on the forum, but no one answered? but the point was if there was no other complaints, then it had to be me... and that point nagged at me for weeks. More oddly was that I had already flown the MagKnight B787 from Hong Kong to Melbourne, it was quite a passive flight, but there was still a few odd, no a lot of under developed areas, but in that case I was able to fly around them, but not in the v1.6.0 review, the aircraft was simply terrible to fly. So when an expected product was late and needed more development, I suddenly had a free day to re-fly the Boeing 787-9 from Melbourne (MEL) to that very nice new Perth (PER). Maybe there was less pressure or my mood was better with no corroding computer issues, or simply whatever. Anyway I went through the Magknight systems this time in far more detail... first fixed was the odd nose-wheel steering feature. It is a first that you can use your joystick in a "Roll" and also a "Yaw" setting, and going between the two settings of "Use Roll for the NWS" and "Use Tiller Axis", all great features, but complex in understanding the right combination to get the nose-wheel steering you wanted, but once you understood the idea and the use of the Roll in taxiing the aircraft the more I liked it... but I could also see why I got so lost in the first review (it also didn't help that setting for the Roll is reversed). But the handling aspect of the Magknight B787-9 was not really my fault, but still made me look like an idiot or in being very incompetent in being a Pro reviewer. The Magknight B787 aircraft is still basically two aircraft in one, it's roots stem from it being a completely X-Plane Plane-Maker design, so the PFD, MAP and even the FMS is all still basic Laminar designed and default installs, but part of the ongoing development allows for a custom plugin interaction and mostly by that now very good EFP. But the two worlds are not yet connected, because Magknight are still developing a custom FMS and primary flight display system to install into the aircraft, FMS or Boeing's FMC - Flight Management Computer are very complicated beasts that are quite hard to design and use. The problem was simply setting the aircraft's Takeoff trim or setting the Centre of Gravity to balance the aircraft on takeoff. The Boeing 787 is a heavy aircraft, not a General Aviation aircraft were the trim is set manually, and In most cases you set the Takeoff trim in the FMC, usually on the performance page in a Boeing, or the INIT page in an Airbus (mostly the INIT 2 page). But the issue with the Magknight aircraft is that it is still stuck in a twin hybrid world of a basic FMS and no auto trim adjustment via the electronics. The way Magknight gets around this discrepancy is to put the TO (Takeoff) Trim setting in the MAP/NAV window, and you set the TO Trim manually, by the CoG percentage computed in EFP ("CALC") settings, it is however not done in the usual fashion via FMS... so I completely missed it. Once the correct TO Trim and CoG was set, the Dreamliner flew... well like a dream. Still not perfect though, because the aircraft still had a slight leaning roll, this was also corrected via using the keyboard X-Plane setting "Rudder Trim Centre" to over-ride it, and fix it, or still using another basic X-Plane command. So you can see the dilemma, I flew the aircraft like the Pro I am, but it's systems are still quite basic and workaround. That is the downside of these so called transitional aircraft, they are neither one thing or another, and in simulation you want authenticity, because you are flying the aircraft in a professional manner. It may suit the "wanna be" pilots because they love their eye candy first and even at the expense of quality and authenticity. There is no doubt that the Magknight Boeing 787-9 will soon have full custom systems, and probably very good it will be, because even now you can see that in the ideas and features in the aircraft, but in reality, they have developed the aircraft the wrong way around as many developers going after a market share have a habit of doing, it is all features and at the cost of the basics first, were as the FMC and correct Flight displays should have been the first priority... the problem for Magknight is that FlightFactor will certainly not make that mistake in their version of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Which brings us to xEnviro created by Dark Space. In November Dark Space finally released another update in v1.14 for X-Plane of the xEnviro environmental weather engine. First don't get me wrong, but I am a devoted user of xEnviro and do promote the plugin, because at it's heart it is a very good (if a very buggy) replacement of the now quite dated and boring weather engine that comes with X-Plane11. The history of Dark Space's development of xEnviro could be best served as a series for a comedy show, it's roadmaps are quite bizarre and it's development paths are as weird, and even the results in the different versions can be a bit hit and miss, in a good one, then an average one and then a whatever version, in reality the only really good version was v1.07, the rest were a bit wonky in one form or the other, but xEnviro when it worked in the right conditions was awe inspiring, so you held the faith (our family motto). Again the development path of bringing consistent new features, but never really getting the basic engine right has cost Dark Space years of development and users just a load of frustration, yes this sort of program is hard to do, yes it it is an intensive tool to create, but somehow their mindsets create more confusion than what they could help themselves with, in most cases instead of fixing the obvious they have a habit of completely changing around the features that already worked very well, and they wonder about why users kept on arcing up at them. They say it is hard and even impossible to do, yes it is, but Microsoft with the new MS FlightSimulator have done just that in the impossible, and in half the time that Dark Space have been banging away on this. But here we are now in another of their bizarre mindspaces. In with the release of v1.14, xEnviro will currently only still work in OpenGL, or not with the new Vulkan/Metal v11.50 dynamics... who wants to use OpenGL in v11.50? it is only a fallback situation if Vulcan fails, and too a point who wants to actually use X-Plane only in the older OpenGL mode, I think I have only about twice used OpenGL, and that was to test an older plugin situation. So all the advantages of using Vulkan/Metal are all lost on the plugin, and here is the thing, if any plugin has huge advantages in Vulkan/Metal it is a complex environmental engine like xEnviro. Dark Space has or had a lot of reasons to delay the start of change over to Vulkan/Metal, and note from now on it is "Vulkan, Vulkan, Vulkan", but... I think it is too late this time. Why on earth in that the moment Vulkan went final, didn't Dark Space start Vulkan development, or even a month or so before, so there has now been already three or four months wasted. They do note a major personal issue (again) also affected the v1.14 development, fine you accept that, but still development was started far too late and again the canvas has to now be totally redone from scratch. V1.14 took a long eleven months to do, for what is actually nothing or for something the majority of users can't actually use, Dark Space note that v1.15 (Vulkan) won't take as long, but to be honest I think we have already dialed out of these idiosyncratic development cycles of this product, I know I have. If Laminar deliver the expected new environmental engine to rival MDFS's version in X-Plane12, there will be only the need to put the cross on the grave of what was once a wanted great tool and even the loss of the enormous promise an exceptional plugin in the name of xEnviro. In several ways, both Magknight and Dark Space are very similar in the way they approach their development with their products, but both also are guilty of chasing features over making their products perform in a basic and credible way, both are in their ways incredible products, but have been let down by not doing the important boring areas, unfortunately, it is boring bits that make them a brilliant product when using them in the simulator. X-PlaneReviews will deliver a final 2020 "Behind the Screen - Year in Review" with a roundup of 2020 in the next few weeks, until then... Stephen Dutton 1st December 2020 Copyright©2020 X-Plane Reviews
  17. Behind the Screen : September 2020 First up that happened in September is the X-PlaneReviews site refresh, after four years you needed a new paintjob for the site and that with Invision then released more tools to allow you to do more ideas and add in more more features, then gave us the opportunity to bring out the ladders and paintbrushes. The old look was actually still quite good, but we felt we needed a more dynamic look and interaction. The results are nice on the eye, and easier for reading the reviews. I have always liked a clean if simple design (less is more) attraction (the graphic design training in me), and we think we have achieved that goal. We also felt it was too static as a site, but the problem with adding in flashy adverts and big banner images is that they can distract more than help, worse is that they come with huge image download times that will make most click on through the site. We did add in an animation banner, that was badly needed to highlight current reviews and news items, as one single banner in a way was not enough, and that works nicely... Another new feature is the addition to add in your own images at the bottom of the main page, this again gives users a more visual interaction with the site. All ideas are tested on not only all desktop browsers (Mac and Win), iPads, tablets (I test by going to my local store and downloading the site on to their numerous display units!) and iPhone/Android... so the site works for everyone. Again banners are nice, but not when they don't work. We may tweak it more yet, but for now it works, a note is that when we do certain image sizes and layouts it may look simple to the eye, but it has to work now across a multitude of browsers and gadgets, and has to be effective in all situations and not just on the usual wide desktop application (a big mistake in site creation). X-Plane 11.50 Final September was also the month that X-Plane v11.50 went final. So we are now in the era of Vulkan/Metal... modern times. Certainly processing speeds have been highly refined and you can now run far more features than before. But I am not completely happy with the transition. In most cases Laminar always usually over-delivered in features and ideas, and this is actually the first time I think they just didn't quite get there. I see a few areas the performance that are not as great as everyone expected, and in fact I am back running at my same numbers that I was using in the OpenGL environment... so is that progress? Don't get me wrong v11.50 is a big if massive huge step forward, smooth and far faster than anything we had previously, and like noted I can now use features that were off limits before like reflections, but I do sometimes get stutters (not the previous type, but processing stutters) and in the various areas it feels still a bit unrefined like with the slow texture processing. A lot of comments noted, say that it should be better, but the issues here are various, complex and users are not known for their patience. Number one thing to understand is that the process conversion to be fully Vulkanised or Metalised is really only about half completed. The changes already done only complete the shader changes and processing channels, but a lot of the older OpenGL areas are in there and still present... The beta process showed this up and it was an odd one, the process bounced from one side to the other in that one set of users ran far better at some settings, but others got worse results in the same version, swap the numbers around and you got the opposite effect in that another set of users got the advantage were as the others went completely the other way, it was like a Forrest Gump moment it that you "didn't know what version was the good one" for you until it actually came out. At in the end Laminar settled for a midway "sort of pleasing" everyone, but a pleasing no one either sort of situation. So that left the final edition of v11.50 in a bit of a mid-ground quandary Core of the problems are the textures, or the global tiles that makes up X-Plane, they are very old as is the ideas around the weather (a really big framerate killer) and other various left overs that came with X-Plane10, yes the Vulkan processing is fast, but these older elements are not, and so until X-plane has a rework to the modern elements and methods on having better more efficient global (high and low) textures and a complete rework of the weather engine, add in using not the current single pipe of process, but multi-core and multi-threading processing then the nirvana we are seeking and then and only then will the full effects of using Vulkan/Metal will come to the fore... in truth is we are only about halfway through the transition, and it may even take another few years to totally get there. From Laminar's point of view it was getting nowhere trying to please everyone, but the pressure to deliver X-Plane12 was also growing louder in the background. So this puts again so much importance on the next X-Plane release... no pressure there, and why try to fix something that is going to be changed again soon anyway, and so in the end we were left with a compromised release.... not certainly a failure in any context, but we have to consider the actual context we are sitting in. On saying that I still think that Laminar will twiddle with it in the background and find more performance for everyone before the year is out. One tool that has caused a lot of issues over the beta and currently with the final of v11.50 is Navigraph's "Simlink" tool. Loading times are horrendous (as it connects to the Navigraph servers), and now it is causing serious stutters in v11.50, it had to come out obviously, but it is a brilliant tool that is seriously missed, but it is also highly inefficient as a plugin and has been for awhile and has got seriously worse with v11.50... the concept needs a rethink, and very unlike Navigraph. The above is comment is interesting because all stutters outwardly look the same, in this case it was a plugin created stutter and not a simulator created stutter, but you can actually see or feel the differences between them, you can also switch off the offending plugins to see the differences (in the case of SimLink it was quite significant), but it shows how complex and interwoven the simulator really is, and how good your Sherlock Holmes detective work has to be in finding out and resolving conflicting issues, again the most simple one is to reset with a clean (or vanilla) X-Plane setup and work yourself upwards from there for the really big issues. Once we have the final done and completed, then came all the updates, to be fair most aircraft and plugin updates have mostly been already done, but still developers put out final, final updates... I found that September is turning into update month, not only for simulators but browsers, iPhones, operating systems, even my fridge got an update! But with the Vulkan/Metal transfer a few plugins have not returned... one is the Librain "Rain" plugin, and the usual xEnviro, who noted even when (or if) they do an update in v14 then it will still only be for OpenGL only, I mean who wants an OpenGL version?... I am going to die before they get something out that works with the current X-plane version, worse it that the xEnviro plugin is the one most significant plugin for the simulator, in creating at least some realistic weather. Oldies are still goodies A few blasts from the past appeared over the last few months and it was very welcoming to have them back. A lot of the scenery and certainly aircraft date horribly in the simulator, but many that were really advanced for their time can still also be very relevant today. A lot of life has been returned to the IXEG with thankfully a few updates for the Boeing 733 this year, it was still quite flyable before the changes, but the updates have certainly given the aircraft a lot more years service in the simulator, a "Classic" act with no pun intended. Second aircraft was the JRollon CRJ-200. For it's time it still really delivers an excellent simulation, even in X-Plane v11.50. Yes in areas in the cockpit and the cabin it feels dated, but it still performs outstandingly well. The amazing BSS soundpack that was added in a few years ago, that really totally changed the aircraft into something else, and nothing internally seems to have been affected. The v1.6 of the excellent WebFMC plugin now adds in the CRJ-200 (the reason it was pulled out from the back of the virtual hangar) and allowed me to revisit the aircraft again, and a return to service for the foreseeable future. Both of these aircraft were very, very well advanced on their releases and showed how sometimes we get the future delivered in front of you without actually understanding it, and the accolades have to go to the developers on the foresight they saw back then, and to survive two complete X-Plane versions is really an outstanding effort. Even though we have some outstanding current aircraft to fly in, they still totally deliver the goods in satisfaction. A v2 of the CRJ-200 was being developed, but the project went quiet (mainly because co-developer Philipp Münzel nee Ringler is not available) and if at anytime the aircraft will now be produced, but if it it ever did that would be something else. Another blast and totally unrelated to the update I did this week was the excellent Beti-x CZST Stewart and Bella Coola. I used Stewart as a basis for a review of Thranda's Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter a few months back, and to also mainly see how it lived up to its status as an award winning (2014) scenery, it was a sheer total coincidence that the scenery has been picked up by the X-Plane.Org and updated, but even in it's original form it showed the future of X-Plane in scenery development, with brilliant realistic ground textures, great if perfect modeling, and the VFR replication of a complete township that is still unrivaled today, yes we get completely replicated walkaround airport sceneries, but not of a whole settlement. The update filled in a few missing new features that were not available six years ago, but otherwise this outstanding scenery is as per original, and it is a scenery every user should savour in their custom scenery collection. It was a waltz through the X-Plane past, but these amazing products are still also totally relevant to today's simulator as well, they all still perform well and deliver brilliant simulation, so you have to be very careful in not to throw them out, there are certainly far more gems out there and most all of them are sitting in your aircraft folder and custom scenery folder, so seek them out and give them a visit, if they have dated or or not relevant, then yes the time has come to delete them. but you would be surprised how many do hold up to the current stands of still giving and delivering an extremely good simulation experience. See you all next month Stephen Dutton 1st October 2020 Copyright©2020 X-Plane Reviews
  18. Behind the Screen : August 2020 Well the sky didn't fall in! X-Plane is still here and actual still flies, burrrr dom. The Hype of MS2020 or is it MSFS came to a crescendo as the release date of 18th August 2020 got near (in fact it was available on the 17th here in Australia), and then everyone hit the download button, and most crashed at the same time as the herd mentality kicked in. In fact a lot of users had serious problems in not only getting MSFS downloaded and working and trying to keep it working through crash after crash and a fix is coming soon (3rd Sept). So did I do the download the "Wonderkind Simulator"? no... I never (thanks to Apple) will never ever, ever now download a release versions of any software, I usually wait until the bugs and first updates are installed and the running is solid before now using any software... I always wanted to be first, but my hand has now been bitten far to many times to answer and I will not be a guinea pig tester for any business, I will wait thank you and considering the launch details coming in it was a wise choice. But I have seen and looked at the new "wonderkind" simulator and like everything brand new it has a lot of great new features, but also it is also seriously buggy and actually quite basic in what you would call "simulation depth", so a game is currently the right moniker to label MSFS, I will be doing a roundup review of the X-Plane v11.50 and the current situation of the effects of MSFS on the X-Plane simulator soon, so watch out for that. The MSFS release did however give me a lot to reflect on in the advancement of simulators. That you think that the forward progress is slow, but go back even only six years and the changes are simply staggering, as we have now so, so much more for only a step up or two of computer power. One thing to keep in mind though is like any industry it is the tick/tock effect of progress, for years Microsoft's Flight Simulator was the total upper commander "tick", but then X-Plane bounced ahead with it's far better dynamics and brilliant HDR lighting "tock", then FSX and together with P3D they bounced back with clever work around the old core disability "tick", then FS finally went bust and most users finally took the X-Plane plunge "tock". The effects of that final movement was very, very perceptible on the X-Plane simulator, and it finally not only got the users to "give it a try" but brought the developers over as well... They hated it of course, because it was not their platform and financially to their perspective then X-Plane was not a viable business proposition, but the effects of them finally creating X-Plane product did have a very significant impact on X-Plane, quality airports did get the "crossover" treatment as well as a lot of their old FS junk that they couldn't sell any more either also arrived, but X-Plane users were not going to buy that game, so thankfully (except for Aerosoft) most went away again. Would they try the same old charade trick again with the new MSFS, I very much doubt it this time. But now X-Plane is in the "Tick" situation were as a new from the ground up built simulator has certainly a few advantages. But looking back over the years at X-plane as I did a lot in August, the worry is that some of the significant aspects that were very prominent back then are the same aspects that are the main deficiencies now and that aspect is very worrying, and it is these same aspects that puts X-Plane in this "Tick" situation. I am not noting the extraordinary world modeling capabilities of MSFS either, but the areas that should have been easily addressed by now. Don't get me wrong, in many images in doing reviews this month then the visual aspect of X-Plane are actually quite stupendous... take for example this image of the SSG 747-8F leaving EDDF. But MSFS even in it's early stages does give a big spotlight on were Laminar has dropped the ball in either under resourcing critical areas of it's simulator, to a point I would say that Laminar have been a bit lazy over the X-Plane11 version (that will cause Ben Supnic to spit out his coffee), that is not Supnic's fault if again it just reinforces Laminar's biggest weaknesses in financing or out sourcing areas critical to the simulator, the "In House" philosophy is great to a point... but it also shows how they can't cover all their resources to create a competitive modern product. To a point X-Plane users have lived with this philosophy as part as X-Plane's DNA, but has time come for Laminar to become more professional in the world of the big boys. I don't mean financially either as that is not fair against a company with resources like Microsoft, and X-Plane/Laminar has always punched well above it's weight. But even if MSFS had not come back to the game, then would have Laminar just gone on it's merry way as it has done over the last few "golden" years, if MSFS will do more than anything else it will be to finally get Laminar to address the inescapable gaps in their simulator. And this is were competition is good, as it makes for changes that in most cases would never happen or to be constantly be put in the "Too hard to fix" basket, now with a very competitive competitor as then will have to face the critical issues and (finally) fix them. I saying all of this, when we looked at the new wonderking MSFS, and then switched over to X-Plane, the differences are not as glaring as we thought they would be, in fact X-Plane as noted has come a significantly long way over the last run of X-Plane11, and you have to put it into perspective of that we have world of two very high class simulators more than he early factor of one being very highly advanced and the other a secondary product. Both are up there, both are giving us an amazing experience and each have their pluses and minuses. As noted in my last BtheS (July) in that it will not be X-Plane that will suffer the most with the reintroduction of the Microsoft Simulator but the old legacy FS (FSX) and Prepar3D, both are basically finished as simulation platforms as MSFS gathers speed (Mathis Kok from Aerosoft has already announced that all FSX development has already ceased). More on MSFS and X-Plane future aspects in the v11.50 roundup review. Obviously there was a lot of talk amongst the (aircraft) developers on if they are going to abandon X-Plane for the goldfields of MSFS. Overall the consensus is to not abandon the platform, as the earlier reasons they chose X-Plane for their skills is still the same now for staying, but it would not be impossible to lose a "biggie", for once having now sampled such products as FlightFactor's A320U, Rotate's MD-80 and ToLiSS Airbuses, Aerobask's quality, Thranda's ingenuity and even the coming FLyJSim Dash Q400 would be now very, very much appreciated in the other world simulator. In fact missing such deep immersion simulations is a big attraction in staying currently on the X-Plane platform, after all simulation is about actually flying the aircraft and not what happens around them, in fact the FS world has suffered with poor product over the years in this significant bracket, yes PMDG are brilliant, but since when have they released a new aircraft series, that is not going happen anytime in the future as well, Carenados are also feeling a bit dated... but X-Plane still pushes them out, with higher quality and better features, we don't have the scale of Flight Sim, but X-Plane produces excellent product. Money is going to be the interesting aspect of going forward. Most MSFS developers are rubbing their hands at the revenue they are hoping the MSFS will deliver, but these Covid 19 times are very different from say even last year, money will not be as freely available and how many users out there will want to spend up again big on product (like I mentioned again last month in BtheS) that they have already purchased twice or even three times before and for the same product. Most products are being put out on a crossover price, but many stubborn (if greedy) developers are asking a full price replacement (again). I really don't think that the punters will have the deep pockets of last year going into the future, and looking at the expensive collections in FSX and P3D they are very unlikely to do the same all over again... an interesting note is the Carenado CT182T Skylane in the MSFS "Marketplace" was noted as US$44.95... the X-Plane version is US$34.95, that is a US$10 hike for the same aircraft? A mis-spelling mistake or Microsoft Marketplace markup, I don't know which. If anything as expected the release of Microsoft's new version of it's "Flight Simulator" series has like most things in 2020 has changed all aspects of our on-line simulator and real lives. Is such disruption good? to a point yes, but as with everything there are winners and losers in these huge changes. Has there been just too much change lately, certainly yes and a lot not to the good, but change is inevitable one way or another and the winners are the ones that accept change and readjust to the new situations that are the survivors, in other words turn a negative into a positive. One thing is really important to note, is that in the next few years is going to be the most interesting that Simulation has gone through for years, or even decades. See you all next month, and a promise that no mention of MSFS will grace the next edition. Stephen Dutton 1st September 2020 Copyright©2020 X-Plane Reviews
  19. Behind the Screen : July 2020 All is lost! The day is coming, note that Microsoft has announced the release day and prices for their wonderkind FS2020 Flight Simulator and the momentous day is 18th August, barely three weeks away and the cost is set out in three packages: Standard Edition $59.99, Deluxe Edition $89.99 and the full monty package is Premium Deluxe Edition $119.99, in my currency that is Australian AUS$150 big ones... gulp! But there are also a few sort of demo options that is available through the Xbox Game Pass channel and there will also be a physical disc release by Aerosoft at stores throughout Europe. For the rest of us that would be a rumored 120gb download for the full monty, yes that is a 120 big and slow gigabytes of download! So all is gone, X-Plane will be ruined and thrown on the trash heap of bygone simulators, the heavens will fall in and we will be cast out, be brave my friends. Only haven't we been here before? Yes it was the last huge hyped out release of a FlightSim by the name of Flight Sim World or FSW, by Dovetail Games and yes within a year the simulator had gone and crashed under the weight of its own hype and expectations. I am not certainly saying that FS2020 will go to the same over hyped and little reward scenario because FS2020 has the might of Microsoft behind it, but we should however though become a little more realistic on what the wonderkind simulator will actually deliver. No doubt in time it will take on the original FlightSim mantle of a huge user base, and FlightSim and X-Plane will probably resume their original culture clashes and boundaries. Most early reports were under a NDA or non-disclosure agreement and everyone could only say really nice things about the coming FS2020, one user went and made a load of videos on the real reality, but he had a visit from the men in the black suits and ties and was shut down very quickly, quickly cast out broadcast stream land and told to be a very good boy in the future. That NDA with the release of a beta of FS2020 has now been lifted and some of the reality is now available for all to see. First off the developers in comments are not as overly excited as you would want them to be... don't get me wrong the new simulator is very strong and well done in the areas of creating a totally realistic flying environment and there are significant notes that the weather engine is excellent, so it is very nice to fly in, but like X-Plane there are well covered areas and the not so well covered areas. I saw a video that gave me a lot to think about, but the nightscapes are like flying over the moon like Neil Armstrong and in trying to find somewhere to land the LEM, X-Plane may not be a lot of things but it has come along way in this aspect. The developers also complained that the SDK's are awful, these are tools to create the innards, and like the X-Plane WED and PlaneMaker tools, obviously they will be fixed, but not in the short term. These should have been priority and not a last minute fix as they are the guts of the engine that makes it all work, also notes that low down it is what FS2020 is in ortho-photos being just what they are in flat ortho-photos and in a few videos that aspect is also quite visual. Overall the developers were at the time under the restrictions of the NDA, but their comments were interesting, one even admitted to sneaking back over to X-Plane to get some serious flying time, but why would you do that with this over hyped wonderkind, changing the face of the earth simulator? They admit it is good, but as usual the devil is in the details. The biggest factor in the comments is the framerate, yes our biggest heinous factor is again the biggest issue in the room. With Vulcan and v11.50 X-Plane users have at least a little relief from simulation's biggest headache and money costing exercise, but early reports and you can see the serious stutters on the videos is that FS2020 has a major framerate issue if you want to use all that eye-candy to its full advantage, then you will need a machine that is as good and as powerful as for mining bitcoin as it is for flying aircraft. I am certainly not going to get into the argument of my simulator is better than yours. X-Plane has a load of disadvantages that Laminar has been a bit complacent about in the last few years with it's total focus on Vulkan/Metal, as good as X-Plane 11.50 is, but the extremely late new ATC, weather and the better textures are getting a bit long in the tooth even for their laid back attitude. And the release or announcement of Microsoft's new wonderkind has certainly shook them out of their contented selves to at least broaden the team to include more bodies that should have been placed there years ago... no this is not a new simulator war, certainly with FS2020 being noted from observers as being not really ready for the August 2020 release... most are calling it FS2021 (some even FS2022!) in before the simulator will be refined enough to be.. well a simulator. Even PMDG, who announced their 737 NDG product, in that it will not be available on the simulator's release but available in early 2021. As the developers rush over to recreate their products for the new simulator, as they can make a fortune in reselling the stuff they have sold the poor buggers already twice (three times if you include X-Plane) for FSX, then Prepar3D and now all over again for FS2020, and that is at a full price for exactly the same thing "Thank you very much", in most cases all that gigabytes of spent money in their scenery and aircraft folders are simply worth zero again. No wonder the developers are on their jollys, it is Christmas all over again and it all comes with the big rewards with little development. In the end it will not be X-Plane that will suffer, but the real loser here in the FS2020 release has to be Prepar3D, they have nowhere to go as it tries to compete with the same but only a far better simulator above it, at least X-Plane is different in feel and choice. The first videos also showed were the market really is... Gamers. Most early post NDA videos are awful in gamers showing off their gaming skills, but pilots they certainly are not, in fact the real test is the depth of detail we all heavily expect from our simulations and the pros are not liking in what they are seeing, there is a wide gulf between the users/fliers that the few that spin the aircraft around and the deadly serious gate to gate procedure nerds (hands in the air) of wanting simulation to reward you with that high immersion of fleet or military flying. Shown FS2020 A320 is quite basic and even X-Plane default aircraft have far more simulation depth than this, yes it is easy to fly and yes a lot of users/gamers will love that, but simulation is not about just flying an aircraft in the space above your head. To an outsider simulation is about as exciting as watching paint dry... there is no instant adrenaline rush of boarding an airliner and taking out loads of innocent passengers, blood splattering on the roof, bodies falling panicking in the aisles as you turn to take out the crew, bom, bom... bom, no levels to go up as the bloody excitement is usually all over in about 3 minutes, if that is what gets their jollys, then 20min to just set out the Flight Management System and input the full flightplan is going to get everyone getting glazed over eyes and in need of a gun, simulation is not for everyone, and patience is a tool in our toolbox, I have never met a gamer yet with a lot of patience, anxiety yes, but never patience. So what does get our Jollys, and why do we commit ourselves to the continuous torment of simulation. To get to a level, you have to study, and practise, and in my case for years to get to a high level of competence, just like you have to do in real aviation. You are deadly serious in replicating a skill of completing a highly regarded capability of moving a complicated machine from one point on the earth to another, the trick and why we do it is for just one word... satisfaction. That word is an every longing goal, but do the right procedures and complete that nearly perfect flight and you will gloat for days, high as a kite on satisfaction and will bore everyone around you with the details of how you pulled it all off. Get it wrong or mess up, and you will punish yourself with low esteem for days, thankfully I get the more of the first than the second, and yes I do fly for actual fun and with no pressure to perform over every little detail... but satisfaction and pride in your skills is the end goal. X-Plane as a simulator would never survive unless the satisfaction aspect was strong, it is in that area it has to deliver, deep immersion and deep systems in a realistic world, and it is a never ending road and yes in some areas the coming FS2020 has seriously upped the ante, it is now for Laminar to match it. In satisfaction an aircraft came back onto my flightline that has been missing for months. FlightFactor's Airbus A320 Ultimate was sidelined because it was not Vulkan compatible, and yes I admit I really missed the aircraft because I flew it a lot early in the year before the beta run had started. Now under a beta (test) release it is Vulkan flyable and yes I am extremely happy to be sitting in the left seat again. I really got into it around Christmas and New Year, and coming back to it I realised even though yes it is very expensive, and yes quite complicated in system depth. The A320U does reward you in one aspect that makes it so good. The aircraft does what you actually tell it to do, your actions are perfectly transferred into the simulation and you may think that is not a very big deal but it is... the aircraft rewards you for flying it really well, your actions are inputted and how the aircraft responds, so you don't have to fly around the aircraft's foibles. How many times have you selected a flap selection and the position to the speed is wrong, this will give you a pitch up (not enough speed) or a pitch down (too much lift), but get your speeds right in the FF A32U and the changes are perfectly smooth, so you don't have to fly around the wrong speeds or flap drag even if you are flying the aircraft absolutely correctly, that is going to create a perfect feedback and then a perfect flight, and yes that gives you a lot of satisfaction... it is very nice to have the FF A320U back. Tomorrow 2nd August is another anniversary date for the site. In August 2013 X-PlaneReviews started doing reviews for the X-Plane simulator, that is seven years and now X-PlaneReviews is now going into our eighth year of providing experiences, tutorials, reviews, news and opinion for the simulator and altogether there is about 1800 reviews and notes on this site. Some notably are now old, but still have valuable information. We thought of culling a few of the very early posts, but we are still undecided in that matter, but the biggest impact is really mostly the visual aspects in how much in detail and quality the simulator has changed over the years, images can't lie, but even to a few years ago the flatness of the simulations were still quite pronounced. Advances and changes are never ending, and the changes coming in the next twelve months are going to be fascinating on a completely new level. I say mostly every year that the next twelve months are going to create the biggest changes yet, but seriously there is no doubt that this next twelve months are going to be really huge and different, and how in like the virus, in that how it will affect us is still up for future debate, but interesting it will be to follow that journey. The one thing that we pride on is that X-PlaneReviews is the will to look at both sides, the good and the bad and even the grey areas in between. In any debate that is always a plus as every perspective can be different. Many only have a blinded side in their views, but good editorial will look at every aspect and not judge, the only common thread through the years of X-PlaneReviews has been to make the simulator and the products better, in that aspect I think we have achieved a certain goal. See you all next month Stephen Dutton 1st August 2020 Copyright©2020 X-Plane Reviews
  20. Behind the Screen : May 2020 The month of May had a bit of everything, but the biggest overwhelming point was that how far we have really come in simulation. This aspect comes in, in various ways, but the march into the future just continues. One aspect that I loved in May was actually an old X-Plane feature, this was reflections. Reflections got sidelined for me about five years ago as the processing pressure built and the complexity came in... framerate rules! You couldn't have this processor intensive feature running as it sucked too much computing power away from the simulator, was it really a significant requirement in the simulator, no not really compared to the other required default effects you wanted running, so the slider went to zero and stayed there. Vulkan changed all that. Suddenly you had all this extra processing power and it turned into an absolute field day of options, nice options. Notably I have never been a greedy user, more than willing to accept a more benign simulation than a slideshow, but there are some options or features that I can not have running, hence the above acceptance of a certain loss of what the Americans call "Eye Candy", and that is okay. So when Vulkan gave your graphics a huge new working space, then the sliders went up and the results are really good, the only compromise has been the shadows on scenery feature, that option was just one expense too far, a very much a nice to have, but the framerate loss is just not worth it.... but back to reflections. I was doodling about in the Italian Dolomites for the ever expanding "Dolomite 3D" series from Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini, all are worth visiting and the concept is now with this third installment and now covering a significantly huge area, but the Belluno pack had something else I didn't have in the earlier two packages and that was reflections. It felt so much more different, at first I couldn't understand what was actually different as the Belluno pack is not that much in context any different from the first two Dolomite packages, but then I realised the mountains were reflecting into or onto the lakes and rivers. The extra effect now is mesmerising and much more highly realistic as that just this one extra feature could produce such a significant change to the visual look of the simulator... flying low over the lakes the mountains reflected below, then moving to the newly released (excellent) Copenhagen XP scenery you also got a lot of bonuses, mostly from the Øresund Bridge of which at dusk created some really amazing images, and brought back to me such earlier X-Plane scenes of lights set around harbours and reflecting into the water. It was at this point I suddenly really realised how much I missed the feature, a small thing no doubt, but an important one to create that full visual aspect of realism, and yes I know that I over use the words "Realism" and "Realistic", but that is the constant goal in recreating the real world on a computer screen. I marveled at the port reflections last month in Barcelona, and now most coasts have a reflection boundary that just nicely smooths out the edges, so if you can go that extra processing mile then put the slider up and you won't be disappointed. Notably Vulkan will change that realism aspect, and give you more power for less. But it is in the dynamic areas it will have a bigger impact, how much so is to wonder if the changes we have seen since X-Plane9, that in five years you can't even compare the visual dynamics of a fully featured X-Plane 11 visual scene, not only in the cockpit with its extraordinary light and shadows, but the complexity of light shading on scenery. Again the FlyTampa Copenhagen's use of metal and glass was simply awe-inspiring and the same excellent visuals are replicated in many a review. Not all shading works though, notably are some trees that come across as one dimensional, light on one side but dark on the other you don't get any realism but the cardboard cutout effect. Obviously a hard one to fix because trees with their sheer numbers have to have a very minute footprint, so they can't be complex. However I still think it is worth investigating why some work extremely well in the light and shadow effect but others trees look simply awful, worse is when the scenery developer is too lazy to match them up. To a point Vulkan has given us some breathing space. The "Turing" Raytracing graphic cards are out of most but for only the hardcore users in cost, and so is the Radeon RX 5700 series which a little cheaper... the coming Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 is said to be also thankfully cheaper. So the question is what is the next step, or with the extreme changes we have already been through put us into a position were we are already at a high point. Don't send me comments on how games are going to be more extreme, more detailed and come with more lighting effects... because simulation is a very different engine than the boxed in world of a game, anyway the word around is that even gaming is reaching a point that you must not soon expect the same huge leaps in graphic power that has been done over the last ten years, as it is like running the four minute mile the closer you get to line then the harder it is to make a bigger difference on the clock. Yes there will be advancement, but the changes will be slower and longer. Again in Vulkan the Graphic Card is now not the be and end all of your computer visual power either. As you used to have spent months dissecting graphic card specifications in relation to your hardware, there now comes the issue of having the right processing chips as well, because in Vulkan they now both count big time, and finding the perfect running mates will bring you benefits, and so having odd processor combinations will of course mean one is working far harder than the other. I think there needs to be some guidance here in that aspect, as even my eyes blur at the specifications and overwhelming details of processors and the fastest set up for "Tour of Duty" is very different for the current single piping of X-Plane. But what of the future now with Vulkan almost in vogue... all Laminar's focus has been on this one absolute goal, sadly the Vegas Expo has been called off, so there will be now no announcements from Nevada. My guess is that Laminar will give a huge sigh of relief on that one, as time is not in their pocket, but I do think they have a few things interesting in coming. On that note it is surprising in the comments is that how many users are running their X-Plane simulations (mostly with the sliders at max) at or in a lot of cases below the 19 frame threshold, some are even doing their simulations in single digits, just so they can have the full visual impact! Now that is just simply crazy, worse is the grind on your graphic card, as it will burn out if you continue with that high cost of grinding through frame after frame and that is an expensive fix, what are they doing? The new VRAM Profiler (Menu/Developer/Show VRAM profiler) gives you now a view into this processing world, and how much processing is taken up on items that have absolutely nothing to do with your current simulation? In mine I have the B777 taking up 1.35mb of processing power by just sitting in my aircraft folder? you work that out, so that came out, as did five other aircraft using up processing power for doing absolutely nothing either? go on look at your own profiler, you will be really shocked at what you are non-running? It is going to be interesting on how developers are going to have to make their products more compliant to the simulator in this aspect. On the Vulkan Beta it is now getting there and even close to a RC or Release Candidate. Most of the aircraft and plugins have also been adjusted including the ToLiSS A319/A321 series, I personally really missed the Airbuses and was very excited to get them back, the FlightFactor A320 Ultimate is still MIA and waiting for the final v11.50 release of which I makes me want it more. As is for the most missing aspect of my simulation package and that is xEnviro, I can't even use my usual fallback v1.07 in Vulkan and that is a real pain as the default weather look is very bland (meaning boring) no matter which way you look at it, but I am not holding my breath for xEnviro to update either, but I really miss it... a lot. A note that June is X-Plane birthday month, not the actual simulator itself but for the X-Plane.Org, which was started 20 years ago, yes you read that right in twenty years ago. Would X-Plane as a simulator still be a going concern without the .Org? Personally I don't think so, as one without the community behind it would not have expanded or been so involving without the huge contributions the .Org contributes, one large star revolves around the other in creating a total X-Plane universe. Another milestone was that the X-Plane simulator itself past 100.000 files as it's basic installation, when I started 10 years ago that number was 28,000 files, but I will note a few of those files are Global Airport files, but it is still a huge growing number of files to update the simulator. So sitting here at the end of May it seems we have come through a storm, but seem to be better for it on the other side (a bit like the coronavirus in passing)... like everything around us June will be interesting, but I will take for once boring, even normal and just to have a non-eventful month. Stephen Dutton 1st June 2020 Copyright©2020 X-Plane Reviews
  21. Behind the Screen : April 2020 April was Vulkan month, and Vulcan month as well. You had to believe that the extraordinary Avro Vulcan cold war bomber could come out the same month as the Vulkan (that of Star Trek fame) API in the actual same month, sheer coincidence but still mind-boggling in get the spelling right for either, and how many times I spelt Vulkan instead of Vulcan in the review and then had to change it.... the brain is wired in a certain way to do the daft way. Well Vulkan finally hit the simulator. In a way we didn't know what to expect except for Vulkan to be good... right. It is as I covered in my Analysis Review, I was pretty impressed, but this was still an early beta, so the show got on the road as a beta and the usual theatrics. A good one, a crash one, a brilliant one, a withdrawn one and so on, we are currently just worked up past the withdrawn one in beta 5, now fixed and beta 6 is now also with us. Beta 5 although it failed initially was the big one. It is the update that goes to the heart of the beta, and not because it was a large update, but because it it dealt with the core issues... It should be now more relatively easier from beta 5 onward in Laminar now just refining and fixing the minor bugs. In relation and to the complexity of the changes then the Vulkan switchover has gone very well, like the coronavirus, it came quickly and our simulation life will never be the same after it's impact. The final bottom line was that Vulkan is quite brilliant, but as telegraphed by Laminar before release it was not to be the Holy Grail of everything, in fact my framerate is now pretty much the same as before Vulkan was released, but my settings are now mostly at a full throttle notch, I now have as noted in the analysis in that I now have shadows and reflections and a far higher texture resolution for the same framerate hit, but then switch back to OpenGL in same settings and the computer hammers on down to single framerate digits, so that is showing a huge improvement in reality. Add in then the supreme smoothness, no stutters at all... and with every simulation is clean and totally smooth. The quality is shown in the reviews with crystal clear images that are sharp and quite beautiful. So Vulkan is certainly a huge step forward. I had more issues loading in Aircraft (mostly in restarting with the authorisation done) that resulted in a Vulkan crash or screen blackouts, yes some plugins crashed, but overall most are now working absolutely fine with developers (except xEnviro as usual) doing fixes to get their products running in Vulkan, and already WorldTraffic3, Traffic Global, SAM, BetterPushBack... etc are all working fine, so at this point the transition is working out very well, and if in the final refinement Laminar can give me back some framerate as well then that for me is a total Vulkan win-win. But it is the sheer smoothness of the simulator in Vulkan that really gets my googles going, in that every flight is now so good, but you do still however feel the unrefined elements that still need attention, so Vulkan at this point is not perfect and there is still a fair way to go. Problems with beta's are that they take one step forward, then a step backwards, step two forward and then take another a step back again, you feel the movement and then something that worked, suddenly does not work anymore. One tool I really love is the new "Plugin Performance" tool. This was made for Laminar and developers, but it is now an essential tool for your own use in seeing what plugins are doing you the most damage, or worse even running while they have no actual use and using up a lot of your valuable framerate (and yes we now know who you are?) Your choice is quite simple, pull theses nasties out unless you are actually using them, but how was this allowed to happen in the first place? The tool will reform your plugin folder as developers will now have to face you if their plugin is not at all efficient, and so they should, as you can't simply have these monstrosities doing this much damage to your simulation while hidden away. Well they are now all lit up in the glaring bright light of exposure and there is now nowhere to hide. I have always been aware of very bad performing plugins and mostly with their badly written code, now you can now see the actual results, but some do surprise you as well. Take Rotate's MD-88, which by all context is a very complex and detailed aircraft, but it's plugin is one of the most lightest and refined plugins in your system... "who would have thought?". Mostly you would have thought it would have been one of the heaviest and draggy on the system, but in fact it is as light as a feather, kudo's to Rotate. And there is surprisingly a lot of surprises still waiting to be found but buried in that performance tool, and a few more to still on to make you aware of on how your system is really operating, and also now rather differently than you thought it was. Except for those blackouts and a few related crashes then v11.50 Vulkan has been for me has been pretty smooth as Beta's go. But what silly users there really are out there. There was the do-dah about "reshade" last week in that idiots were complaining that the "reshade" was not working anymore and threw their rattles out of the Bassinets when told not to use it... babies. The core of Vulcan is actually the new shaders, or new Vulkan is in the fact that the complete shader system has been completely redone for Vulkan, it had to be for the new memory allocation. But still they insisted on using the old shader system... why, because the new shader system is far better now anyway, in fact it is really, really good, certainly not as good as xEnviro's shaders as they are brilliant, but as a default you can't really fault them, and our skies at dawn or dusk are now magnificent, clean and very efficient. You really do wonder were their heads are and the damage they caused as the crashes caused by Reshade sent the Laminar reporting system into meltdown, Laminar had to come out tough and say "Stop this nonsense" but also shows the difference between on how to do a Beta run and how not to do it. As noted my v11.50 Vulkan app is basic, that is BASIC in what I have in there and what I put currently into the Vulkan world. Each aircraft and plugin is carefully tested and installed one by one, I certainly don't throw in the toybox of everything and then wonder why the App goes crazy and crashes all the time, but you would be really surprised on how users did just that... the worst effect on doing that is that you have simply now idea of what or if in what area is causing the constant crashes, or even why either and it totally confuses the Laminar bug reporting system, yes we would love (and to a point after Beta 6 we are now getting there) to have a fully functioning v11.41 as v11.50, but this is again like that nasty virus out there in sorting it all out will be a "one step at a time". Another strange debate in April was between the Flightfactor Airbus A350 and their Boeing 777. I got daily (sometimes hourly) comments and messages on which aircraft was the better to buy. Well basically neither at this point because both are ancient in X-Plane terms, neither are good simulations that reflect the state of the current simulator, but still users wanted to know. There sounded like a desperation out there for some decent long-haulers to fly and I really share that pain, but both aircraft are (well overdue) for updates and both should happen this year, with the A350 very soon and the Boeing 777 hopefully towards the end of the year... but it was a weird debate that went on and on. X-PlaneReviews has a new reviewer on board by the name of Bernardo Pierdona Casa or Casa so look out for his reviews. He took up the challenge to do a comparison review on the above A350 and B777 debate so check it out: Aircraft Comparison : Boeing 777 vs Airbus A350. Overall I love other peoples point of view on a review. No matter how many years you have done this reviewing palaver, another point of view on any area of the simulator is welcome and not as one sighted or from one perspective and yes you learn something when it is pointed out from another total point of view, we welcome that new vision. See you all in a post-virus world next month Stephen Dutton 1st May 2020 Copyright©2020 X-Plane Reviews
  22. Behind the Screen : March 2020 Are you coping? Do you need help? How are you doing in Self-Isolation? How do you want to get through this? Do you need tips to help you get through this? This is how to get through your day? These are messages that I get every day, I am thankful that people care, I really am... but. Well a month back in what was then looking like normal life and pretty well for a long time before this virus event unfolded this was my average day. Get up and have a cereal breakfast, go out and buy a newspaper, have a coffee and read the newspaper, come home and have more breakfast, then do six hours with a break on X-Plane in doing the site and reviews. Now today inside the virus event then here is my same day. Get up and have a cereal breakfast, go out and buy a newspaper, get a takeaway coffee, come home and read the newspaper, have more breakfast, then do six hours with a break on X-Plane in doing the site and reviews. You see the major difference, yes I now pick up a takeaway coffee and bring it home than rather drink it at my local coffee shop.... that is it, and yet people are telling me daily that I simply can't cope with all that significant change. Funny enough I have been doing this (now labeled WFH - Work From Home) do dah for over a decade? for myself nothing really has changed basically in my day to day structure and yet here I have loads of people telling me on how to cope and get through all of this event? I am lucky really that I found a medium to translate the way I want to live my life. And yes X-Plane can be seriously isolating, but funny enough it also opened up my world far, far more than it actually closed it down. I am still a 63 year old child that moved with the world, I am thankful (or just smart enough) to change with the world around me through the decades as I have always been right at the front in one form of the other in technological changes, and obviously when the internet and computers collided I used this new technology to live a more easier and less forceful life, although I will admit you do work far more harder from home than you will ever do than on the outside, as there is reality no boundaries and the work is right there waiting 24/7 to be done, but again self discipline can help in you controlling the monster than rather the monster in controlling you. But the overall moniker is simple, when it becomes work then it is time to walk away from it, so the X-Plane experience is fun and exciting with a lot of learning thrown in, and if that aspect can last ten years then being involved in simulation can not be a totally bad thing. That is the point to all these other people who really are struggling in their isolation. Don't tell me on how you are coping, because I am quite fine thank you very much because in reality very much in my life right now is actually that not very different, or even try tell me ways of on how to cope either. I hated the fact when people noted they had to adjust to WFH and are try to understand that, because I have doing this thingy WFH do dah for a decade, so is that a bit condescending their part. People are weird... But the X-Plane community is also a seriously modern and interconnected one, and we all share the same information, the same upward path to simulation nirvana and the same goals in just trying to get that landing as perfect as the next one, Isolation is certain not a word we use or even recognise because we are connected altogether through our computers and our networks (some users that fly together take this aspect even further), but we are singularly all spaced out but still also highly connected together with one focus and aim, and in that there is a lot of friendship as well. That is the incredible aspect of living in the current period of our technologically advanced world, we are all connected together with no boundaries or even walls around us... in our world there is no such words like Self-Isolation, that is unless you don't pay your internet account! Vulkan/Metal API I really didn't think it would have been three months into the new 2020 decade for Laminar to release the next update in v11.50 with the Vulkan/Metal update. My first guess was about two to three weeks into January, but here we are and it is still taking that long to sort out and refine... I don't doubt for a moment that Laminar Research have not been working very hard on this and for a very good reason, that the new API HAS to be right, HAS to work well straight out of the box. So overall the wait will be been worth it.... but on release of this goodwill message then we still don't have any Vulkan/Metal API's So confine people, promise them that in two weeks or so that the beta release will finally be active and you are asking for trouble, yes if you haven't noticed it is April Fools Day today, so releasing today would be seen as a joke, but many are starting to laugh anyway, and not in a practical joker sort of mad laugh way either, but more of a "this is turning into a big joke" sort of way. The worry is FS2020 and X-Plane needs to retain users faith now more than ever before, but in reality Laminar is caught on that question in that release a buggy beta and it all goes down badly, don't release the beta update and it still all goes down badly, either way Laminar can't win.... but then again how long can you really stretch the elastic before it breaks. But the signs are there as already many plugin updates are already noting to be updated and are 11.50 compliant, so yes it is now very close. On those 11.50 updates then be ready for a lot of them, in fact most plugins and fair amount of aircraft will need updating to be totally Vulkan/Metal compliant. On install you WILL find a lot of areas that won't work although Laminar has reassured us that the Open GL failsafe should cover most of the issues. Personally I don't like that, I would rather let things fail and fix them than sort of cover them over and generally hiding them away in the code that is going to be disconnected soon anyway. There will be a lot of complaining, there will be a lot of anguish... but like with the 64bit transfer it will all settle down quite quickly, which on situation sounds like a certain virus pandemic we are also having to deal with, which is funny on how X-Plane and life can parallel in the same circumstances. Certainly you can't compare the lives of thousands of innocent people to a simulator, but I think you sort of get the same conditions. The one thing we will be confronted with though will be a lot of updates, loads in fact, so maybe it is time like I wrote in last month's "Behind the Screen - February 2020" in doing a totally reassessment of your simulator, a fresh clean start, a more refined simulator... if one thing that does come out out of the Coronvirus is the fact that for a few weeks we have created a cleaner and better world around us and have finally given the planet a breather from our dirty habits... we may even finally learn something to make our surrounds actually better and not worse everyday... so again a mirror to our simulation life is that you can change, be better, throw away bad habits and choose to restart in a more cleaner and more environmental environment, will we learn anything, probably not but it is still a nice thought. See you all out of isolation next month Stephen Dutton 1st April 2020 Copyright©2020 X-Plane Reviews
  23. Behind the Screen : February 2020 Anticipating the release of Laminar Research's v11.50 or the Vulkan/Metal Apl in the last few days of the last decade 2019, I did what I usually do in creating a completely new and clean X-Plane application, now already into the first days of March and with still no v11.50 release, I now realise that I shouldn't have wasted those last few precious days of 2019 of having a restful break than in hunched over a computer. But creating a new and clean X-Plane application is not something I do only when things go wrong, but it is also usually a regular maintenance update anyway and usually at six month intervals.... so why do I do this. First and foremost you would be seriously amazed on how much clutter and debris is accumulated over that six month period, and on how your simulator application has the sucking power to hoover up so much unwanted and mostly framerate destroying items. This is in a way demonstrated in this aspect is that X-Plane is a content sucker that is on par with a Kansas Tornado alley blockbuster and leaves behind a mess as big as the sway through the American Mid-West. Fixing it is easy as you will never ever clean up all this used code, as once the stuff that gets in there it is mostly hidden, so the only way is to simply get rid of all this debris is to just clear out the lot. Thankfully X-Plane has the option on the "X-Plane 11 Installer" to "Install a Second Copy of X-Plane", but you need to switch-out on the installer in downloading all of the "Global Scenery" or Earth Tiles in the "Select Scenery" phase, if not you will spend the next few days in downloading all of X-Plane and the full 60gb of it. Download size of the basic X-Plane application is only 4.2gb, which with any good internet connection should not take very long or in my case 20 odd minutes downloading after Laminar checking out my authorisation code. This is what I call a clean copy of the simulator, brand new and very efficient, but remember to give the new version a different name than the older one, in this case I called it "X-Plane11-Vulkan" or XPVulkan. The trick is then to move your "Global Scenery" folder over from your old X-Plane App to the fresh version so X-Plane will now work correctly... You also have to reset all your settings which sometimes is not a bad thing, but complex saves like the X-Plane Joystick and X-Plane Key settings are better copied and pasted into the new Output/Preferences folder, on that one or two cut and paste selections it will save you hours of resetting all the various joystick and keyboard selections. On startup you will now have a very basic X-Plane simulator running... and look at the framerate as mine was blisteringly fast at over the 100fr and with all the graphic sliders to the right, brilliant, and so the simulator in it's basic form is very fast and extremely efficient... it is actually a shame to mess with it. Move your Global Scenery folder back into your original X-Plane App folder and the grind comes back in, and the churn is back, and the difference is totally shocking, remember I'm not even running the new Vulkan (in my windows case) ApI yet, so god knows what the basic simulator will be like when it gets that transformation! In it's basic X-Plane form I flew a few routes in my "XPVulkan" App, and believe me it was simply amazing what with your computer running at 100+fr can do for your soul, even the startup was extremely fast, stutters and loading was basically eliminated, it really is a Beautiful Thing. But, but and but... this is not my X-Plane either, and it IS very basic and you sort of miss all the items that go together to create the X-Plane experience I love, but as a note in this edition they also come with a serious penalties. So can you have both worlds? To a point you can, but you have to sacrifice some items to get close to that nirvana, but also the differences can also highlight what areas and items are also causing the biggest grief and the heavy pulling on to your X-Plane processors. As I was expecting a Vulkan release very early in January, I also wanted to compare the basic current X-Plane App with the new Vulcan App, but as the month or months dragged on I really wanted to move on from the older very poor original drag slow X-Plane App. It is still in there, but this was a good time to rebuild X-Plane into a more efficient simulator and try to have the best of both worlds. First to go over to XPVulkan was the "Custom Scenery" Folder, so yes I now had all my lovely and realistic scenery back (yes it also really helps to go through the Custom Scenery folder and take out any scenery you don't actually use or will never fly to). Second was my "Aircraft Folder". A pared back Aircraft Folder is a really beautiful thing, X-Plane will load far, far faster if it doesn't have go though hundreds of aircraft. To be honest I don't usually have a lot of aircraft in the folder anyway, but my Carenado folder is simply outrageous. Again you can keep a separate folder (or hangar) outside of X-Plane to do this and it makes a huge difference to the simulator, I found that I stick with one or a few types of aircraft over a period of time anyway, and except for a few non-debatable aircraft that I will always want available, but then most can really easily rotated in and out of the simulator as required, the downside is that when putting them back in again you have to redo the authorisation key, which is a bit annoying, but otherwise not a hard thing to do for all the benefits it gives you. Review aircraft go one or two ways, if it is very good it goes into secondary hangar, if not it goes into storage on a backup hard drive With both of these items back in XPVulkan and depending on your aircraft and scenery selections then X-Plane will drop down by about a third in framerate clout, it hurts, but you should still see 50fr to 60fr and that is still a pretty smooth simulation. Plugins... are the devil is in the detail, and plugins are the real nasty buggers of simulation. The problem with plugins is that they are all not created equal, and they are also created by 3rd parties and not intergrated by Laminar into the basic simulator and that is the main part of issue as in some they are a sheer elegance in their concept and code and have a featherweight effect on your simulation, but others can be also be badly written, buggy and are highly inefficient or worse in causing major conflicts within the simulator. But remember that even with a load of these featherweights it can also all add up to a very heavy pull on your processors, so use only as many you really need and not really want... my plugin folder has always been as light as I can get away with and even then if you don't use that effect or tool very often, then the plugin can simply come out... 90% of all simulator problems can come from plugins. Part of the trick is finding the good ones from the nasties, and even if that plugin is invaluable, if it is pulling down your simulator to the point of using too much framerate, then it has to go, no matter how hard it is, it has to come out, the JARDesign GndHanding plugin is sadly in this category, heavy, slow, it even gives up completely sometimes. FlywithLua is another serious nasty, it conflicts with everything, mostly because all aircraft use the same Lua plugins to run. We now also have the latest trend of scenery developers now inserting plugins into your plugin folder. This a trend that has to stop... for one they take up a lot memory and in only to be used very infrequently, for me if a scenery uses a plugin in the plugin folder, then out it comes in both the plugin and the scenery as well, no matter how good... sorry developer, but it is simply only your own fault for doing that. Loading in and testing your various plugins can give you great results, so much so that you may have to pull out a significant favorite that is just too much pull on your simulation... which brings us to the two biggest offenders. I seriously love WorldTraffic3, but efficient it isn't, and the pull on your simulation is maybe sometimes as high as 10fr, Global Traffic is however a dream to use with virtually no framerate hit, but GT is not even close to a perfect animation in the realism as WT3 gives you. But that almost zero framerate clout can also make a serious difference to the overall simulation as well. Environmental effects or the weather is the most biggest offender in killing your frame rate and giving you a sluggish simulation. Refinements in the X-Plane built in weather generator has brought it a long way since the early days of those single digit framerate black storm clouds. But as a realistic representation of our weather the default system it is still pretty poor in both look and efficiency, but as a fall back it can actually currently gain you in your framerate hit compared to the others addon plugins and effects. xEnviro is currently the main plugin offender of reducing your framerate to a slugfest of a slideshow. This is version v1.13. So why use it if it is causing so much framerate pain? Well nothing generates a rendition of of real world weather and that sublime feel of the atmosphere than xEnviro, as some moments can actually make you gasp on how incredible of what it does, and credible is the word here... it changes X-Plane into a world like no other plugin in X-Plane and yes the app should be the environmental default for the simulator. But and it is a really big but, it is still also very inefficient, not to bad if the clouds bases are light, but sometimes it just grinds you right down. Obviously xEnviro are working very hard to fix this aspect, but they can also be slow in bringing the updates to you, but they have got seriously better than in the old days. When really bad the fallback is v1.07 with it's 2d clouds is at least a get out, that version still at least gives you some realism. But in switching between the two you can also see the huge benefits of the current v1.13 and its 3d aspects, the atmosphere effects are far superior as well, but that framerate crunch is still a real absolute killer. In reality the XPVulkan Apl is still my fallback option (waiting for v11.50), but it is night and day better than the main original X-Plane app in being very clean, extremely more efficient and fast, as it is very hard to believe it is still EXACTLY the same simulator as my earlier version. As a test I used XPVulkan for a review (SSG - Boeing 748i) and with the pared back version and set up also with the older v1.07 xEnviro version, Global Traffic and limiting the aircraft to just the Laminar defaults and the host aircraft, my only full detailed folder was the Custom Scenery folder, but again it had been revised and refined. Plugins were highly limited to just what I needed and not what are the nice to have, or to the very basic tools I could get away with. The reason is that the SSG Boeing 748i could be a very heavy load on the processors, it still is, but with this custom lite version of X-Plane and some moderation of the Graphic settings I got a very efficient running simulator of around 60fr, and the result was a perfect simulation, a very long one at that from SIN - Singapore to FRA -Frankfurt and 11 hours flying time. Better still it all ran smoothly without any stutters, annoyances and distractions and was an extremely rewarding flight and simulation, more so in that I relaxed more than anticipating the next thing that could ruin the simulation in motion or that perfect flight. The above simulation was not everything that X-Plane could deliver and yes I really missed all my toys to play with, but the compromises were also well worth the efficiency, and over the last few months the toys have gradually seeped back into the XPVulkan. And yes XPVulkan is now being used more and more as my default simulator version, and yes I am also feeling the effects of all those extra goodies going back in there. But the moral from this post is that it shows that all X-Plane applications as a simulator are not created equally, the same application can be as good or as bad as you make it, but the basic application is sound and very fast. It is in reality what you add in or clutter it up with that will make for the best or worse of the simulator, and it is certainly well worth your time and effort to refresh the simulator on a regular basis, to go through and refine your folders on what only you do actually use and not the clutter it up with too much waste, and seriously check and weigh your plugins, they may give you a lot of tools and fun, but they can also be seriously ruining the consistency of your simulator's efficiency and the resulting experience. The new Vulkan/Metal Apl's with do miracles for your processing, but the real culprit is actually you in allowing the simulator to run badly in the first place and allowing it to be cluttered it up with just too much clutter and debris.... and so it maybe a time for some simulator housecleaning. See you all next month. Stephen Dutton 1st March 2020 Copyright©2020 X-Plane Reviews
  24. Behind the Screen : Year in Review 2019 In many ways simulation in 2019 was transmogrified from one situation to another. In early 2018 Laminar Research's X-Plane11 was seen as the saviour of simulation, as Microsoft's long winded, long dead and bankrupt "Flight Simulator" series finally died at the hands of another saviour in Dovetail Games in the form of Flight Sim World (FSW) but was still based on the original code based in Flight Simulator X... so finally FS was dead... dead and gone, buried on May 15, 2018. So they finally came to X-Plane, the users and dragging their feet also the developer's, some didn't want to come like PMDG, Quality Wings and Majestic... but for many then survival was the key and many actually realised that X-Plane was a pretty good simulator for their money. But most Ex-FS brought in tired old product and hoping we would want to buy a decade or older add-ons, and then complained loudly when nobody actually bought their crap... I wonder why. For Laminar Research the X-Plane sales went through the roof, everyone got a new Tesla and not just the boss and the focus went on the development of the next big thing in new API's Vulkan and Metal for X-Plane. For as starting 2019 then X-Plane was the finally the prominent simulator in simulation, and to be fair Laminar deserved the coveted title, they had been innovative, worked hard and delivered some excellent ideas and product to make X-Plane a very good simulator, a few areas were notable in ATC and weather which are still quite average but in most areas it delivers a very realistic aviation simulation. Moving to the end of the year you couldn't believe the changes that have taken place within that same 12 month period. The crucial date is June 9 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles in that the French Asobo Studio game company announced the new coming Flight Simulator 2020 or FS2020, the beast had again risen from the dead... and with a huge investment again from Microsoft, and if you look at the trailers it makes X-Plane look dated and clunky, even if the new simulator stole most of the X-Plane ideas along the way. Laminar literally laughed off FS2020 at the last Q&A of the year, and that went down like a lead balloon to the point that the video was pulled off line very quickly. So from being the leader of the pack and huge numbers coming into the simulator then the tide suddenly went out again as they all pledged allegiance to the brave new world, in just the last few weeks four Ex-FS developers have already quit X-Plane to go back and find the golden riches again in FS2020 and more will soon follow, in fact the slow flow will turn into a torrent as the FS2020 release date comes near. This was the simulation story of the year 2019, and right at the end of the decade of the teen's. Laminar Research From Laminar Research's perspective it was all on about just one thing in converting those API's. So from a users perspective it was one of the most quietest development years in the simulator. You started off the 2019 development year in the beta of X-Plane v11.30, it was a long one of seven betas and the usual RC's and mostly focused on the Particles editor, ATC voices, Oxygen and De-Icing systems and a rebuild shader system with a load of autopilot options as part of the package. Overall it was a great beta, but in reality that was it for the year except for a few crumbs that came out of the FlightSimExpo in June. One final beta v11.40 release was a solo effort by Austin to update the X-Plane flow dynamics, it was so boring X-PlaneReviews didn't even bother to cover it, but in reality it was an important part of the hidden forces that makes your simulator so realistic so you shouldn't discount it, missing the whole year was the expected new ATC, and weather updates, instead Laminar seems to want to lavish more attention on to their mobile global airports app than the desktop version. But that was hiding all the work and the resources going into Vulkan/Metal. A progress report was shown at the summer FlightSimExpo and again at the UK Cosford Expo, and as exciting as it all was, we just all fell asleep again as the numbers were noted as just very good, but not exactly life transforming. A moment was that Laminar was very quiet around their usual annual surprise thanksgiving date, in well nothing happened this year was very unsual, and it is still all very quiet to date, and after the Q&A debacle they had seemingly left the building completely... Merry Christmas for 2019 from Laminar. Aircraft From a user perspective it was actually a very good year, but it also came with a very few of the really big releases. No new releases from FlightFactor, FlyJSim, Rotate, Dreamfoil and even JARDesign. In most cases it was updates and upgrades to existing aircraft, with many finally filling out their project status. FlightFactor finally got their A320 Ultimate to v1.0 status and overall it is now a sensational deep simulation, and update to the "FPDS" or "Flat Panel Display System" for the Boeing 757/767 series was however a nice compromise, but nothing in a new A350 or Boeing 777 that is really required, both are said to be in development. The ToliSS A319 went official Airbus and is again all round a sensational simulation, the surprise announcement is that ToLiSS is releasing a A321 early into 2020, was one of the big exciting announcements of the year. FlyJSim was working on their new Q400 "Q4XP" and moved the older now tired version to Legacy status, the B727/738 got the "Rainman" packs but that was about it. Rotate and the MD11 was another no show, three years now and it goes on. Dreamfoil went AWOL then recently came back to development, so a lot of helicopter releases and upgrades were put on hold, and no news on the Embraer 120 in development, means we hope it is still in development. JARDesign once a front runner in airbus designs is in a quandary. With such highly developed A320/A319/A321 now out there, it is the JAR A330 that is now the frontline aircraft from JAR and the various updates are bringing this aircraft forward, the promised A340 is still a WIP. SSG - Supercritical Simulations Group put their v1 Boeing 748 also into legacy, and released their brand new v2 Boeing 748 Inter late October to a lamentable lack of enthusiasm and criticism. It was far better, but the cockpit was almost exactly the same as before and there was a noticeable lack of beta development... annoying as well, because the systems and their detail were all very good. X-Craft's were really the only notable developer to get out a full new series of aircraft in 2019 with the release of the ERJ Series with five E135/E140 series of different variants, the aircraft was also a serious step up in design with only the hybrid FMC still being a missing step to it all being a full quality simulation. Different developing methods also appeared this year, or "how to make a lot of cash from a half developed project" Colimata and his Concorde, MagKnight and the B787 Dreamliner were the leaders in the cash crowdfunding before you buy brigade, at least they delivered as the Concorde has now gone v1.0 and the Dreamliner has also went v1.4.0 with an updated fuselage/cabin and more systems, so the incoming cash is spurring great development, however the extra cash grab for the "Aviator" edition was a very fine line for the devoted, it split the crowdfunding, holding your hand out idea maybe too far... time will tell if these tactics will wash in the future, likewise FlightFactor's canny ways in getting more cash for their addon extras, are all testing the proven model of paying for addons. One event was the MilViz crowdfunding episode (or gun to your head) "pay me US$27,000 dollars and I will do an ATR for you!" was a disaster from the start, but the $8,000 rake showed the idea had actual promise, at the end of the year MilViz was gone, back to his safe haven of FS2020, which actually was a shame and again mostly towards the developer as his (with vFlyteAir) DHC-3T Turbo Otter was simply sensational, sadly I think the real loser here is MilViz, as more of the same as the DHC-3T would have cemented a reputation of a great developer for the simulator, deep down though I think he will be back. If anything 2019 was the year of the "Regional" aircraft, as noted the X-Crafts E135/140 Series were a big regional flying filler, but it was Carenado that released the very best in this genre this year. Their incredible Saab 340 XP11 was and is one of the most compelling releases for a long time, the follow on Fokker 50 XP11 was just as good. But the recent announcement that Carenado has split with Thranda Design is one to seriously mull over. Thranda with Danial Klaue is the builder of Carenado's huge status in X-Plane and one of the great partnerships ever in the simulator, so this announcement has huge repercussions for both entities, I have found and have noted frequently that certain elements of Carenado are now feeling very dated, in many areas like dynamics and quality they are well ahead of the pack, but in others with Menus, Options and Weight&Balance features they are also now way behind (Weight&Balance is available on all Carenado aircraft as an afterthought, through the "manifest.json"). In general aviation the showboat just rolled on, it was a bumper year again in this category with almost every developer house putting out some sensational aircraft, but with a lot focused on the installing of the Laminar Research G1000 avionics system in their aircraft, so you got a lot of G1000 based aircraft. JustFlight although expensive had some great aircraft and the every expanding PA-28 universe, so yes we start off the year with a... PA-28 in the Archer lll variant, then the lovely Duchess Model 76 and finally the PA-38 Tomahawk trainer, and towards the end the year a... another PA28 in the Archer TX/LX but in G1000 avionic guise. We are back to Carenado with a smorgasbord of GA releases, but mostly many were disguised as XP11 upgrades, brilliant they were. First off the rank was the Cessna 172SP SkyHawk XP11 and I adored this aircraft with G1000 avionics, it was brilliant simulation. The PA-31T Cheyenne ll was a grunt of a machine, again really good, and at the end of the year the CT206H - StationAir in both G1000 and Analog versions. But most Carenado releases this year were private jets with the 390 Premier 1A XP11 and the excellent Falcon 50EX that both carried over the same quality and detail as their exceptional Cessna Citation ll S550 from late 2018. VFlyteAir joined the level of masters this year. All their releases were exceptional with the Cherokee PA140C Original, then the amazing Cherokee PA140C Modern with an Aspen E1000 Evolution avionics suite, vFlyteAir also spread some magic out on the already noted DHC-3T Turbo Otter and topped out the year with the amazing tiddler trainer Cessna 150 Commuter... so overall a brilliant year for vFlyteAir. Aerobask by definition had a quiet year with only an upgrade to their Diamond DA62 XP11 mid-year, however that all masks their development of the official version of the Dassault Aviation Falcon 8X, of which is a change of genre and aircraft type for the development house, but one to get really excited about in 2020. AirFoilLabs released their over featured King Air 350, no doubt a brilliant aircraft, but when is too much too much that it gets in the way of the flying and ease of use, very buggy early on, I have yet to revisit to see the aircraft to see the progress. Every year has it's oddballs, but the Spectr-Aero SP-30 by Mad Flight took out the trophy on oddness. The SP-30 was a very interesting and exceedingly deep and a highly realistic simulation that made this all a very unique aircraft, I simply loved it, but the developers odd interpretation of some features made it all maddeningly very hard to access the aircraft. And update fixed most of the most maddening of idiosyncrasies but not all of them, but an aircraft to savour and understand to get the best out of this exceptional machine. Most users passed over the Aerostar 601P by Avia 71, which was a huge shame because it is a brilliant aircraft with a load of great features, I loved it... you should as well. VskyLabs brought out a huge cannon of experimental aircraft that defines oddness with a new design or a new model every few months, but the way these aircraft are released and updated (basically on the fly) makes it all very hard to follow and lot of the releases and versions got lost in the confusion, however VskyLabs have a serious devoted following and the aircraft designs are very clever and experimental. In military we had a few gems. The Supermarine Spitfire Mk IXc by FlyingIron was a great homage to the famous WW2 fighter, a more modern British aircraft in the McDonnell Douglas Harrier AV-8B by X-Trident (it is a British developed aircraft not America even in the translation) was the training curve of the year, yes you sorted the hover out at the end, but the great machine but required a lot of patience. FlyingIron also did the interesting Grob G109B/Vigilant T1 motor-glider, again an interesting machine. Helicopters were again in a few minority, but at least in 2019 there was a few signs of life. Biggest release of the year was the exceptional Bell UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" by Nimbus Simulations, a very good reproduction for the veterans, because they mostly created it and refined the UH-1. An update covered the AB512 (again very nice) but Dreamfoil as note went AWOL all year so any updates from his large cannon went missing, as did the non-appearance of the Hughes MD500D. Other choppers that I love became mostly now obsolete with the dated AS350, the Virtavia Sea King breaking my heart, and the BK-177 now hopelessly grounded and seriously out of date. VskyLab's did however do three great very light helicopters in the Cicaré-8, Guimbal Cabri G2 and the Revolution Mini-500 Overall it was a very quiet 2019 release year with most of the big development studios not releasing new aircraft. Scenery X-Plane scenery output this year was huge, massive in context to the past and the quality was through the roof as well. Releases are coming almost weekly, so you had to pick and choose the best of the best to suit your simulation needs. The Laminar default Global Airport package is now enormous with at last count at 11,661 of 3d sceneries. Many are exceedingly good, but personally I still use set payware work for realism. Overall scenery had a bit of everything from landscapes to cityscapes, monuments to the quality airports. Quality was the word this year in many airports embracing the high dynamics of PBR to give you rainy/wet runways, reflective glass and even reflective buildings with high object counts. The biggest advance came from Stairport sceneries with their amazing SAM - Scenery Animation Manager (yes SAM should be in the plugin section, but it is in the scenery it made it's biggest impression) and the plugin was adopted with virtuoso by most scenery developers and has dynamically changed your airport experience and best SAM implementation of the plugin was Misterx6's EDDM. Another plugin by Misterx6 that effected scenery was his amazing SFD Global, that introduced local autogen and better textures by just popping the folders into your custom scenery folder... brilliant. Both plugins totally changed the scenery landscape in 2019 for the better. In landscapes then Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini had a huge impact with their amazing mountain range sceneries and you got three areas all in one year... with the latest Mont Blanc Group joining Eiger Park 3D, and then the earlier Cerro Torre 3D "Los Glaciares". Map2XPlane also gave us the sensational Faroe Islands in the same scenic visualization experience, which very quickly became my personal favorite. Expat flightSim developers FlyTampa brought X-Plane a swath of Greek sceneries with LGTS - Thessaloniki, LGAV - Athens, LGIR - Heraklion and all were sensational. The Greek theme continued with LGSR - Santorini Greece by Logo Projects with some of the best nightlighting I have seen in X-Plane. European airports were in big demand with newcomers Vidan design with their excellent EKYT - Aalborg XP and EKBI Billund XP that covers Denmark's second and third largest airports, both are excellent. JustSim had a load of new and upgraded sceneries, the new was the excellent LMML - Malta International but most of their main sceneries got major dynamic upgrades including ELLX Luxembourg V2, LEBL - Barcelona XP11 and EDDL - Düsseldorf International v2. Aerosoft were very busy (or their partners were). Berlin-Brandenburg XP was a great release, but still half a dead airport. the release of LSZH - Zurich v2 saw the introduction of the SAM plugin, the airport upgrade was good as well. LIMC - Milano Malpensa XP was very welcome as was the upgraded LIRF - Roma-Fiumicino, but neither is what you would call high quality sceneries. Aerosoft released some serious clunkers as well with the very dated LIME - Bergamo and simply awful remodeled EGCC - Manchester. Drzewiecki Design had a huge year but were more were more content in 2019 in doing airport upgrades than city vistas, the only city vista was an Upgrade to Miami City XP which was ho-hum and a bit pathetic. Their upgrade to UBBB Baku and City XP was far better and an vastly underused scenery and UUEE Sheremetyevo Airport XP is a sensational upgrade to their Moscow City vista. Nimbus was busy (besides doing the Heuy) with a new KORD - Chicago O'Hare v3 and the sensational upgrade to ATL- Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta Intl Airport v2, both are quality sceneries to use. Mexico got a huge look-in with the brilliant MMMX - Mexico City by DreamFlight Studios, but the MMUM - Cancún International Airport by FSimstudios on close inspection was a bit of a disappointment, but still usable. China finally got a look in with the new ZBAD - Beijing Daxing International by Star-Atlas, but the surrounding infrastructure in China does still not make a scenery work well in X-Plane, but it is a start. A best new entry is LPPR - Porto Airport Portugal by Area77 Simulations and Skyline's KCVG - Cincinnati International and KCMH - John Glenn Columbus International were nice additions (note, I never got around to a review of KCVG, because of early ground texture issues, but will do a review in the new year). With mister6x ShortFinal commited to his SDG global project for most of the year, he still created a masterpiece with EDDM - Munich, an upgraded Salt KSLC - Lake City is also due before the end of the year. Pilot+Plus did his definitive new EGGD - Bristol and an old X-Plane developer in TruScenery came back into the family fold. Orbix released the their TrueEarth Series for the UK (North, Central and South) and Northern California and Oregon. Cardiff, Southampton, Leeds Bradford, East Midlands, London City and Edinburgh all were major releases, but you will need serious storage (and a bank account to match) to use them, but make no doubt that Orbix has delivered a lot of scenery content for X-Plane in 2019 and are soaking up also a lot of serious developer talent in the same context. So scenery was a huge market this 2019 year, the biggest ever, obviously the question is will it continue for X-Plane in 2020 with the FS2020 now attracting back the developers and the content suppliers. Plugins The plugin market in 2019 was very vibrant, with some major releases to cover the missing aspects of what Laminar Research are not developing. In the weather wars xEnviro brought out a significant version in v1.10. This release added volume rendered clouds which is the Holy Grail of cloud formations, but the release was not refined, slow and slightly buggy, so v1.11 flowed very quickly. One great feature of v1.10 was snow coverage which is excellent, but there was a lot of features is this version. v1.12 and also v1.13 also quickly followed, which was very unusual for xEnviro, but steep progress for the second half of the year with v1.14 due early 202, finally sees major progress to the app being made. Yes I am still a big fan of this complex component, but it does test you sometimes, however it does really deliver where it counts. The sudden change in updates by xEnviro were no doubt caused by the release of Active Sky XP (ASXP) from the FS developers Hi-Fi. Active Sky however has not come in and dominated the market, mainly because it still uses the default visual cloud rendering system, yes it adjusts the default bitmaps and shaders, but is still not a complete environmental engine per-se like xEnviro, however both engines will be looking to the new API's for quicker forward progress.. again 2020 will be an interesting year in this context. Skymaxx Pro merged with FS Global Real Weather to create another environmental leader in weather and that project is still currently ongoing, and so currently SkyMaxx and ASXP are locked into similar parallel war, but soon a three way race will be on with xEnviro, ASXP and SkyMaxx all after your weather dollars. As for the freeloaders there was a trillion new packaged versions of shaders and cloud adjustments, but overall they were mostly all the same with the same average results. Traffic has also had a major change in 2019 with new competition. The traffic plugin for X-Plane is dominated by WorldTraffic3 by Classic Jet Simulations, but this year Just Flight have released their own traffic plugin called Traffic Global, so the war begins here as well. But Traffic Global has a mountain to climb to match WT3, it has currently 7, 900 versions of A.I. aircraft in all up to date current form to real world air traffic data, and that for Traffic Global is a lot to catch up on... WT3 is still currently wrapped up in a long, long beta phase currently 3.2 0b7, but the new features including enroute traffic is very good, personally I haven't yet tried Traffic Global so expect a comparison review early in 2020. Stairport's SAM and mister6x's ShortFinal Global have already been mentioned here in this review, but both were very significant. Another two plugins that were highly valuable and highly useful was WebFMC Pro by Green Arc Studios and Navigraph's subscription Charts v7.0, this brilliant addition can cross reference both X-Plane (aircraft placement on maps), SimBrief and show all SID and STAR arrivals on the charts, a totally invaluable tool. The librain (Rain) application by skiselkov was picked up by every developer, and it is a clever application, not every one managed to get the effcts perfect (even the pro's) but it was an exceptional addition to your weather bound flying. The Github downloading page however may be fine for the coders, but confused everyone else of which was the correct download of the app. I really liked X-ATC-Chatter by Stick and Rudder Studios, but ultimately it didn't work for the job it needed to do, mostly in Europe with the different dailects all mashed into one large area (you got Russian's on London ATC?), but the plugin has huge promise if dissected into the correct ATC zones, America or Australia worked better and showed you how good this application could really be. VATSIM finally got Audio in "Audio For VATSIM" (AFV) that gives you a high fidelity radio simulation encompassing Very High Frequency (VHF) and High Frequency (HF) communications, and it all came with realistic audio effects. The AFV is a brand new voice system, that was built from the ground up with the aims of improving the clarity and intelligibility of VATSIM voice communications. Audio for VATSIM also removed the concept of ‘Voice Rooms’ where a controller hosts a specific channel on a specific server which all pilots tuned to their frequency automatically connected to the online community. ___________________________________________ 2019 marked the anniversary of X-PlaneReviews 6th year in producing content for the X-Plane simulator, and it was a huge year even a third larger in content than the year before and X-PlaneReviews pased the 1500 milestone of published reviews and 500 posts coming in the last year and a half alone, that shows the sheer amount of quality add-ons that was added to the simulator, and that is again a huge growth year and again everything came higher levels of quality and dynamic simulation. The 2019 year was not without it's hiccups either for X-PlaneReviews... in March we had a software update that rendered all the sites images out of proportion, and we had to shut down for a week to find a fix, still a lot of reviews from that event have not been manually re-edited, but we redo as many as possible on the fly. A personal situation in having to move house took me away from the computer as well, and at the busiest time of the year for releases, then a another personal situation for a family matter took us off line again at the start of December... it was just one of those years, and I don't think no one went into 2019, will come out the same at the end of it, but sometimes the real world can create situations you just can't deal with online. To all those new users that have joined the X-Plane universe over the past year, significantly they are more users that are also contributing to the simulation only means they are giving up their valuable time to contribute and that does mean that X-Plane as a community is a gift that keeps on giving all year round. Without them, then the software is nothing, X-Plane is not only a great piece of software, but more importantly X-Plane is in the end of the only about the people that contribute and use the software. Overall the users are X-Plane, and they represent everything about the simulator. A last word on the FS2020 and the X-Plane Simulator changes going into the new decade. Yes the huge growth of X-Plane of the last year will slow down in 2020 as users will gyrate back to the FlightSimulator series. But there will also be a significant differences between the two platforms and there are notes to be made on that; for one we haven't flown or used the FS2020 simulator yet for all the lush hype, yes it will be good, but so was the expectations of FlightSimWorld. But one point to make is that FS2020 is being created and marketed as a game (Introduction of Microsoft's new Project xCloud game streaming service) and set up like Google's Stadia in games content and also for the new XBox gaming console XBox one X. They say it is an open content simulation but how open and acccessable we haven't seen yet. In the defence of X-Plane it is still a very open source and experimental simulator, it is called X-Plane for a reason, so yes many will be initially very attracted to the new simulator, but even the hardcore users of FlightSimulator will still be highly attracted to the X-Plane platform for the very reason that they can and be interactive with it and change and adjust the simulator to their personal wishes and preferences... if the same can be said of FS2020, is one of the biggest questions still out there. Again this review site cannot function without all the great and exciting work by the tireless developers that give us all this exciting and incredible product to fly and use, as they and X-Plane has come a long way and created leaps in quality in the last few years, and to a point I was very proud of the work they produced, it is world class if not the very best in simulation product, and they are all top notch and very clever. To the X-Plane.OrgStore who supports this site with review products, service and updates, a really big thanks, this site just would just not function without that outstanding support. We will finish off with X-PlaneReviews best of the year awards… So I will now list my Best of the Year 2019: (note the awards are given to only products I have seen and tested and can vouch for) Best Aircraft : Carenado Saab 340 XP11 Carenado threw everything at the SAAB and most of it stuck, will it be Daniel Klaue's swansong for Carenado? Honorable Mentions : Carenado's Excellent Fokker 50, X-Crafts ERJ Series with five E135/E140 series aircraft There was really nothing between them in every area, but one.. but the SAAB 340 had an extra system over the Fokker 50. Best General Aviation Aircraft : Cherokee PA140C Modern by vFlyteAir VflyteAir achieved the perfect simulation in feel and quality and all with an Aspen E1000 Evolution avionics suite as well. Honorable Mentions : Cessna 150 Commuter again by vFlyteAir and the great to fly DHC-3T Turbo Otter by MilViz Anything vFlyteAir touched was golden this year and here again they both had the vFlyteAir magic touch. A mention of the King Air 350 by AirFoilLabs is a feature packed machine that is far too good for it's own good. Best Classic Aircraft : The Supermarine Spitfire Mk IXc by FlyingIron FlyingIron wins for two years in a row, but there was not much competition in this category. Best Business Aircraft : Carenado Falcon 50EX A new category for business jets as they have exploded in releases over the last few years, 50EX is sensational and wins, but only because the Carenado Cessna Citation ll S550 was released the year before, a lot more to come in this category. Best Military : McDonnell Douglas Harrier AV-8B by X-Trident always a quiet category, but the Harrier was very good Best Helicopter : Bell UH-1 Iroquois "Huey" by Nimbus Only a few helicopters again this year, but with Dreamfoil back in development that will give you hope for 2020, but the Huey was very, very good and it should be with the testing the aircraft had. Best Landscape Scenery : Faroe Islands Map2XPlane & any Frank Dainese and Fabio Bellini mountain group It was really hard to pick as either landscape sceneries as all were excellent, but my heart goes to Faroe Islands and the sensational season changes and hard testing approaches that in the end my scenery of the year and one place that just kept on bringing me back there Best Airport Scenery : EDDM - Munich by ShortFinal Mister6x's genius pulled every rabbit and special effect out of the hat, EDDM was a tour de force of dynamics. Honorable Mention : Orbix TrueEarth Series Brilliant photo textures are what X-Plane detail is missing, but they require a lot of computer storage and power, and way beyond my 1Tb SSD capaciity. Special Mentions : JustSim Sceneries again for consistent quality and value and MMMX -Mexico City Worst of the year was Aerosoft's awful remodeled EGCC - Manchester Person(s) of the Year : ysfsim (WorldTraffic) It is not the big names that contribute the most to the everyday genius of X-Plane but the ones that work tirelessly in the background. ysfsim has compiled and constructed with helpers the enormous package of A.I. aircraft for WorldTraffic, highly detailed and now has an extensive inventory, WT3 is a huge task to keep abreast of all the changes... huge thanks from everyone. Best Plugin(s) : Stairport's SAM and mister6x's ShortFinal Global Both made huge contributions to airport scenery and worldwide autogen Honorable Mention : librain (rain) by skiselkov Just brilliant, clever and very X-Plane (again) Special Mention : WebFMC Pro and Navigraph Charts Both applications were highly used throughout the year and in Navigraph Charts/SimBrief both are simply invaluable Best Moment of the year 2019 : Restarting the computers after moving house Worst Moment of the Year 2019 : Software update that crashed the site with every image broken and still ongoing nine months later fixing it Biggest distractions of 2019 : ... MS2020 and moving house (150 ft away from the old one), oh and the constant updating! Personal Favorites of 2019 : ToLiSS A319 (Brilliant), FlightFactor Airbus Ultimate (Yes it is now the ultimate simulation), Cessna Citation ll (Uber Flying), Bonanza F33A (Even better in XP11), Native X-Plane11 B737-800 its basic but still great to fly and now with a cabin. Scenery : Dusseldorf, Barcelona, Oslo, Laranca, Malta, Manchester (old version), Gatwick, Dubin, Zurich and Mexico City. That is X-PlaneReviews for 2019, and we will be back after a very much needed recovery and the review site returns again early into the New Year on the 6th January 2020. So Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and also a completely new decade in 2020 Stephen Dutton 23rd December 2019 Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2019 (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)
  25. Behind the Screen : November 2019 It is great and even a relief to be back behind the computer after a very demanding house move, actually we moved just 150 meters, but it was a difficult transition. So thanks for all your patience. And then we hit the keys hard in trying to catch up the lost ground, and covering the new releases, and boy what a big month it was in November, and so much going on and even a few mis-steps as well. In another note is that we will again be missing again a few weeks in December also as with the move holding everything up a family situation was put on hold, now we have to travel to sort that out as well, so the dates 3rd Dec to 14th Dec will again mean the site will be quiet, but we will try to fill in everything happening before and after those dates. And a big end of 2019 it is. Obviously the release of X-Plane 11.50 is the BIG one and ditto the Q&A session from Laminar Research on Tues 19th Nov (or 20th Nov here in Australia). A trainwreck dosen't even come close to the session... I watched it live (the broadcast timezone actually for once worked for me) and it wasn't pretty. It was nothing that really Laminar have not done in the past, but this one was more of a group get together at the bar after work sort of affair, a lot of fun for them and not for anyone else... the video was pulled for the obvious reasons. The problem is Laminar are still actually just a very small group of developers, highly talented mind you, but still an extremely small team. So any development and certainly a very extensive change like with the API (Vulkan/Metal) can mean very few resources are available for anything else. Vulkan/Metal has been a total complete year worklog, everything in resources at Laminar has gone into translating these API's, and the benefits are huge like with the 64bit changeover... but the overriding situation now is of course Microsoft's new 2020 version of "Flight Simulator". In most cases Laminar could have just gone on in their own merry way, but the explosion of MS2020 has totally changed all of that, and that is why the Q&A session was such a debacle and why it didn't look good on Laminar Research. Overall they are trapped, as noted everything is focused on those API's but the discussion is showing all the other fatalistic areas of X-Plane that have not been covered, or have been simply left to long on the "Too Hard" development hell list for too long, devotees wanted answers and what they got was hi-jinks and waffle, but overall it just looked like Laminar are simply not prepared for the coming onslaught. Personally I will disagree with that aspect to a point. First no simulator developers have been as forward looking than Laminar, in fact most of the main features being promoted by MS2020 are the very things that X-Plane users have used happily for years, and even years, including flight modeling and dynamic PBR/HDR, but in areas like the ATC and weather Microsoft has had it far better than X-Plane. That is why over the last few years X-Plane has soared with crossover MS devotees in suddenly finding a far better simulator, now most will go back to their favorite home and X-Plane will again feel and look like the hobby outfit they all labelled us all in the first place, there is simply no loyalty in today's market. Most X-Plane leaders including Laminar are noting that "This is really good for X-Plane" but in the way of attracting more gamers or users to simulation, and yes they have a major point there as Microsoft will spend a fortune promoting their new simulator to the world, so yes X-Plane will also get a nice slice of the new action. MS users are of course all wide-eyed and fist pumping the ceiling as all their desperate prayers and that their frantic rose bead rubbing has actually paid off. But their confrontation with the new MS2020 simulator will actually be more confronting than their begrudgingly move was to X-Plane, and probably even more expensive. For one in that only a small part of their huge legacy systems will actually work in MS2020, certainly all the aircraft will not work until they are updated to MS2020 standards, and no doubt the money desperate MS developers want serious payback in delivering the new (if same) products to the users... in time yes a lot of the 3rd party MS machine will move to MS2020, but a lot if not mostly will also be totally discarded if MS want to keep to a more gamer style environment, so if you want that total experimentation and huge add-on experience then actually X-Plane would actually still be for the hard-core users the better versatile option... Hype is also everything. I will note that yes the MS2020 promo's of MS2020 are simply outstanding and yes I am seriously impressed. Calls of "hundreds" of developers are working on MS2020 and millions and millions of dollars are being spent to create it, so you can stop there in believing the truth... the team is realistically about 100 (110 was mentioned) but I would even say it is far less than that (still a huge number against three or four developers at Laminar) and not halve of the Vancouver population as recorded, but the team has had the huge advantage of creating the simulator from scratch (and stealing all the best ideas at the same time). But if you understand simulation that in reality it is one of the most complex multilayered coding than most computer programs, even if the code only runs on one type of operating system. What MS2020 will be out of the box is still covered in hype, yes the few that have access are claiming it is outstanding, but the only test is the one were we make the ultimate choice of use and not the view of a corralled few. I still think it will be subscription based, and again that will still keep many of the one payment and fly for years in X-Plane devotees stay the course, a big percentage of simulation users are also the meanest with their cash. Which brings us back to X-Plane and realistically X-Plane12, due this time next year. Ben Supnic noted that the beta 11.50 will be a long and never ending rollout, well Ben I don't think that can really happen now, in reality Laminar need to have the API beta wrapped up and done by even March, all hands on deck, move the API off the table as it has already has spent out too much time and held the focus at Laminar. I have noted over the last few BtheS about X-Plane's shortcomings, but now the points are now more obvious. Weather, that damn ATC, traffic, water and terrain are all very tired or simply out date by two versions of the simulator.... actually all can be easily fixed. Chris Serio and Tyler Young have been banging away on the ATC for years now, so there has to light at the end of this painful tunnel. Weather needs actually xEnviro? The actual X-Plane cloud formations are not too bad, but need more types of formations... xEnviro's trick is to create the highly realistic weather feel and environments, the conditions created are exceptional, but their heavy 3d cloud system is simply a mess... you can see the idea here, both systems need each other to fix both their weaknesses and to take on the MS2020 system. Realistic water has also been on the cards for years, and shown in demos. Another area to be finally fixed and released and that leaves the outdated terrain textures, certainly the orbital textures need to be seriously updated... and with the loss of alpilotx and no updated mesh for a few years now, and so that is another critical area with a need to be filled. Can all that be done in a year... personally yes I think so, certainly if Laminar bring on board a dedicated person for the terrain and mesh revamp, do that and the the differences between MS2020 and X-Plane12 will actually be quite small with X-plane actually having the advantage of the current large range of current aircraft, plugins and scenery. A lot of the forward movement currently is from Laminar's point of view restricted by the API itself, all or any new features require a lot more better and efficient processing power and the now completed API X-Plane will be finally be able to breath again and run these very heavy processor intensive features, perhaps that was the overall feel at the end of the year Q&A party, but it again came across the wrong way, either way... 2020 is shaking up already to be a huge and very interesting year for simulation, exciting as well. The release of SSG's v2 Boeing 747-8 Inter was one of the most perplexing of the year. I am always totally in full support of any developer, and certainly developers that wear their hearts on their sleeves and are simply trying their very best. But their B748 release in version 2 was simply an odd one all round. Over the years I have had my run ins with a few very inflexible developers, they have a single vision of the way things should be and will give not one knot of space to changing anything, ego is a very big part of this stonewalling inflexibility.. they are always absolutely correct and that is simply the last word on the matter.... the problem with this attitude is that some say 80,000 users see it another way, and a lot if not most of them are quite vocal with that. My job is to warn the victims in the case of the developer before they do a lot of damage to their brand and reputation, most obviously they ignore the comments and usually end up in going to into oblivion anyway, but the greatest developers are the ones that listen, tune in and fix the issues, they go on to usually being the greats and survivors in simulation and SSG have always done this. The original release of the Boeing 747-8 was a very ambitious project from the start and maybe it was a bit too ambitious for a new and fledging developer crew, but they did sort the aircraft out through the numerous updates through the years, the last (legacy) version is not actually that bad overall. But a clean page and a completely new design from the ground up was promised to be all round the things the older version wasn't. The oddness of SSG is that they have been around X-Plane for years now, so they are not an inexperienced crew, and they have been there before. The aircraft however didn't feel like a completely new design from the ground up. It was heavy frameweight wise (I found it to be 4K heavy), visually externally it didn't have the dynamic impact of more current X-Plane large aircraft releases and the most bewildering factor of all was the 3d (virtual) cockpit. All through the original versions of the B748 the virtual cockpit was the most biggest issue. It is an odd place in there, dark, no light dynamics and very dull textures. You got used to it, but it wasn't one of the most nicest of places to do 10 or 12 hours of flying. So everyone wanted a better 3d cockpit... SSG did redevelop that cockpit, but it came out exactly like the old version... you looked around you and it didn't feel or actually look any different in there... very odd. The truly sad thing thing is this factor hides all the really great work done on the systems and features, but again a 3d upper deck and no lower deck was another odd matter as well, and then considering that the doors opened out onto a missing deck? but my thoughts were that with another full 3d deck that would have put the frameweight over 6K, so it was actually a good job it was missing... final note was that all the manipulators touch zones were totally out by miles, so you were operating buttons in areas that didn't have the actual switches or buttons and the new tablet menu wasn't finished or again actually touch zone usable... no doubt SSG will fix up this Boeing 747-8 and they already have released the first v2.1 (or service pack 1) that covers a lot of the issues including the touch zones, but after years of users noting the issues, then why ignore them? And yes it maybe all new, but the aircraft didn't actually feel new, or the more forward modern design we have probably been overindulged with (or expect), and certainly not in it's complex design and weight. Like Apple with their iPhones, every year we just expect more and more from developers, but there has to be a ceiling (no pun intended). But that has also been a constant issue all year really, developers releasing aircraft as a sort of (Early Access) or beta version, in reality it is money grab and selling you an unfinished project disguised as a "enjoy the ride of development" or to beta test the hell out of it, and Colimata's lovely Concorde is a case in point, it has now finally gone to the full release version v1.10. Personally the aircraft was unfinished to fly in it's "early access" incarnation, and problems are getting worse with more and more aircraft now being released unfinished in this fashion, and if I can't fly it, then how are the new users going to be expected to sort it all out. But this sort of business deal can also seriously ruin your brand. If you read BtheS often you will know I have my beefs, mostly I repeat them often and again here I go again... the one overriding annoyance this year and was particularly bad in November is in scenery or there is actually two of them, or first in particular the "Ground Routes" or those ATC route thingys that most scenery developers have absolutely still no idea on how to do them correctly? I have had countless new sceneries this year and last year, and with most they were delivered with very poorly inserted ATC routes in WED. Yes the developers insert the ATC routes, but don't actually a) connect them up to the gates (or even b) label the gates most times) and certainly never ever complete the route flows and AirportOperation files. Yes I know they can be a) hard, b) extremely laborious to do all of these ATC points, but the scenery is crap without these items sorted correctly. A few developers have done a brilliant job with the ATC routes and their work comes alive directly out of the box, but most are downright feeble in traffic action (meaning WT3 and now Global Traffic), and of all the features this one is THE most IMPORTANT.... I hope 2020 is far better in this department, and don't get me even started on poor mismatched brightly coloured photo mesh textures... aggggh! As usual there will be no Behind the Screen December 2019, but the usual 2019 total round up of the year including our best picks of 2019 in the week before Christmas, so look out for the years grand finale post then Bye for now Stephen Stephen Dutton 1st December 2019 Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews
×
×
  • Create New...