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Found 43 results

  1. Behind the Screen : September 2019 First of all the September edition of "Behind the Screen" is quite short, mainly because my personal interaction with X-Plane in September has been quite minimal. Real life sort of got in the way of my online life in that I had to secure a new home, but that aspect, plus the packing to move has now been completed. The actual move in the middle of October is still to be completed, so again the site will be quiet again for another week or so in that period. Certainly we are sorry in the lack of output from the site, but it is what it is. I was (on and off) able to review JustFlight's lovely PA-38 Tomahawk. And it did get me thinking in what was the main aspect of the review, in that what is the best aircraft for an introduction to simulation. For myself originally it was to fly a Boeing 747, which was really in hindsight is the worst type of aircraft to try to fly, or to learn to fly in... it is called a "Heavy" for a reason. To my benefit X-Plane9 and the evolution of the aircraft presented in that era in a way allowed me to sort of grasp the basics, but to confront say the same situation now in the current "Study" grade environment, I certainly would have been totally overwhelmed, or even try to factor in of where to start. You can and mostly do muddle through, but looking back after 10 years of simulation flying, there are so many different and complex factors now to learn and study. So unless you are a current flying pilot, I doubt you could could reach a high professional grade within two years, most will scoff at that statement, but I mean the total depth of every aspect of flying an aircraft, and there is the actual simulator running skills to learn as well. Flying aircraft is highly complex, but achieve a credible level of skill and you will have achieved a great goal in your life. One aspect was that I never even remotely considered early was in flying was a GA or General Aviation aircraft and to most of you punters that may seem to be quite a bizarre point of view, but I admit it was a mistake in trying to learn the basics of flying in a reverse order, and one aircraft in particular thankfully saved me. Before moving on I will recount one quite funny story that highlights your inability to understand the early details and the learning of flying a (heavy) aircraft, I was flying the XPFP (X-Plane Freeware Project) Boeing 747 from Singapore to London, I took off and did the whole procedure to get the B747 to 34.000ft and made sure it was following it's route, all done I settled in for the 11 hour flight to Heathrow... so obviously your not going to sit in the chair for the eleven or so hours, so I went and got something to eat. I checked the aircraft two hours later off the northern east coast of India, and noticed the B747 was actually flying around in long wide circles and was way off it's intended route... it was just lazily flying around and had been for about 20 minutes or so, so I noticed the autopilot had disconnected itself as that was the reason the aircraft was doing it's strange antics... so what caused the autopilot to disconnect? I couldn't at first actually work it out? but the cause was the simple change of the speed from IAS to .Mach, I had not done this, so when the aircraft went higher it went faster and then over it's maximum IAS speed and disconnected the autopilot... you learn, you get better, and as you would gather I was quite late arriving in London with very minimal fuel and irate passengers. But the core essential point is that I was putting my cart before the horse, in reality I should have learnt the very basics earlier and in a basic aircraft before putting myself through a lot of torture of things not going correctly.... at a certain point I had to stop and then return to do this critical aspect. I had always liked Carenado's F33A Bonanza and even it's very early form it was thankfully a fully rounded aircraft and the very first aircraft I prided myself in buying. I had to a point got here very lucky in the quality, dynamics but more so in the excellent avionics package that was set up for not only VFR flying but also for IFR (VOR) instrumentation... so I went back to the very basics. I started flying circuits, touch and goes, basic flying and handling techniques and then learning how to trim the aircraft correctly. Then I moved on to point to point flying, setting up a route and flying that route to the destination, then added in VOR to VOR navigation while learning how to follow maps and navigation... on and on, but the biggest interesting thing I did was to fly in learning only the F33A, and I flew that F33A week after week until I knew pretty well everything about that particular aircraft... I simply logged hours and hours on it, in all weathers, all airports and was building up skills that would last me years. When Carenado updated the F33A to X-Plane11 I was very critical on some of the aspects that had been changed, they were fixed, but the point there is how well I knew the aircraft to notice even the slight aspects of changes that had been done. I adjusted to the better X-Plane dynamics and still even now when wanting a base line not only to measure my own skills, or to update my flying skills then that F33A is still the benchmark that I work too. So everyone has their own particular or favorite aircraft they want to fly, but a high quality one here is important and not just a basic machine, as if the dynamics are off on your chosen machine then it can seriously mess and sometimes even damage badly with your basic skill base, and that is the word here... base. Because when I flew the Tomahawk, the first thing I did was to fly the F33A on the same (long) circuit for one to get me into the right headspace and then to translate to feel out the balance of the dynamics of the PA-38... that F33A is also my constant benchmark for any changes in X-Plane itself and always that F33A is my first flight to see the different changes and how they affect the simulator. And sometimes I fly that little damn machine for just total absolute fun. So I was very aware of promoting any aircraft to be a learners first, and obviously the F33A Bonanza is my absolute favorite, but there are a few out there that are simply excellent... VFlyteAir's PA-140C is excellent, as is the Cessna 172SP SkyHawk XP11 by Carenado (Glass) and the JustFlight's C152 and PA28R Piper Turbo Arrow III/lV (not the non-turbo Arrow as it is dog slow), and the one most will nominated will be the Cessna 172SP Skyhawk by AirfoilLabs which I acknowledge is extremely well liked and a very well completed aircraft, it's extensive features however would not make for a great if basic learning tool, it would just be a little too hard for a complete novice to learn on and master the aircraft with too many distractions. Strangely unlike the real world, X-Plane users have access to pretty much any aircraft they desire, were as in the real aviation most pilot's unless they have unusual jobs (like a ferry pilot) are mostly restricted to only a few models or ownership. So our skill base has to be quite wide to cover the huge range accessible to us, but I have found (reviews aside) that mostly I now fly only certain aircraft, but that still ranges from a heavy to a general aviation aircraft, the difference is I know them intimately. This aspect for me is important in the factor of what I called flying professionally, in the fact that in flying these few I do the full complete procedures that they require, and again they reflect a baseline to other aircraft (and reviews) for my judgements. Overall I have come a very long way in mastering my skills, you never ever stop learning, but that learning has also taken 10 years to master. My biggest yardstick is that in reality I have learnt more in the last three years than all of the seven years before, that is a combination of the changes and the ongoing depth of the simulator and also the sheer depth of the aircraft we now get to access, but overall it still comes simply down to doing the basics, in circuits and trimming the aircraft correctly as it is in the real world of aviation. See you all next month Stephen Dutton 1st October 2019 Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews
  2. Behind the Screen : August 2019 In reference to the first six months of 2019, August slowed down a little for us to all catch our breath. As the northern summer got hotter, the releases got slower, but that does not mean X-Plane per se is slowing down as we have a huge amount of releases now well into their development and expect a very big September and October for a lot of significant releases, with Carenado's Fokker 50 a great way to kick you up and into the next gear. FlightFactor are about to deliver their Flat Panel Display System avionics package for the FF Boeing 757, with the Boeing 767 version obviously coming soon after and making these the most comprehensive Boeing's yet for X-Plane. But I am going to be honest with these aircraft, sensational as they really are they never return the full satisfaction level I really want from them or what they can really deliver. The biggest boundary in connecting deeper with them is the mostly in the set up areas, and in the loading of the passenger, cargo and weights. Spending a lot of time in setting them up correctly, you mostly find that when you land at your arrival airport is that somewhere from the point of loading on your passengers and cargo to the point of unloading them, you have lost most of them enroute? Consistency are big issues with these aircraft, and it is all in the interface of setting up the aircraft, it is odd, even damn right frustrating to use, worse it keeps on reverting back to the default settings and the weights and preferences conflicting with the settings in the FMC setup and the A320 Ultimate can be the worst offender. In most cases I just give up, which is not the way I really want to do my simulation, because at the loading and at the end of the flight I want to have realistic numbers to reflect upon, okay even gloat that I got a pure realistic simulation out of my flying. So the point is are we in need of a 3rd party plugin driven loading master, a bit like SimBrief for loading aircraft, where as we get first a standard loading pattern that covers all aircraft and all developers, and don't get me wrong a lot of developers have done brilliant Weight & Balance systems, but do we need a standard and to cover a lot of the aircraft that don't have a highly detailed W&B sheet (like most of Laminar's default aircraft), personally I don't need another plugin to maintain like a hole in the head, but this one I would welcome. I had another so called moment mid-August in that I felt the simulator wasn't as healthy as it should be, framerates were dragging and down into the lower twenties, X-Plane ran, but again it didn't feel right, I have also had a lot of moments were I was getting odd wind forces throwing the aircraft around on strange vortices on a perfectly clear calm day, ultimately what it all felt like was that older preferences are getting mixed up with current ones. I have had my suspicions all year on this aspect and it seems to be a creeping in code mismatch. The problem I feel is in the complexity in many different parts or mostly plugins that are using or target the same areas. A weather plugin for say the weather radar is creating it's own data preferences that a weather environment plugin is doing the same, and both are loading in the slightly different data information (METAR) for X-Plane to absorb and remember the weather data can be updated as early as every ten minutes or so. So the simulator is taking the data from both and creating a hybrid situation, worse is that the reread preferences are being rewritten in this hybrid code so you get this sort of flu virus that is changing to it's own RNA (for the unwashed, Flu viruses will replicate badly because of each time they replicate the code is not perfect, so they can change shape because of the damaged replicated elements and that is what makes them so lethal) just waiting for you to reopen the simulator to a strange flying environment. It is also a gradual thing, not simply something that happens overnight but over months as the code get more and more confused. Obviously the fix is to dump those preferences and start with a clean sheet, and that always works, but again there are now a lot of preferences and even now the more dangerous hidden ones you have to cover to reset, each developer to their own is fine, but when you start to add them in all in there together it starts to get seriously complex, this "Data Bleed" as I call it maybe an area to be aware of in the future. I am already heavily juggling plugins that will work together and the ones that don't and my plugin folder is quite bare compared to many of yours out there, but a few aircraft in ToLiSS A319, IXEG B737 Classic and the FF A320 Ultimate will only work/fly cleanly with only certain plugins installed, so you have to swap them around beforehand to fit that required simulation, it is important that you have to make a list and follow the install perfectly to make them available. Messy, well yes but you really don't have any other choice, the worry is that as aircraft get more and more seriously complex, then the problems of complexity and conflict can get far more worse and not better, are you going to soon just get to want to get back to the older X-Plane9 simplicity, in other words... just load it up and fly. And complex it really is getting. The basic X-Plane simulator is fast approaching its 100,000 items to load, up from a 23,000 load items when I started, but that still is the basic system before anything else is added in there, to run X-Plane it is becoming like to keeping twenty spinning plates moving in the air at one time, if you are lucky they all will spin together, but have a bad day, and it can get seriously complicated just to find that odd wobbling plate and get it spinning again, so again like a mantra on these pages, you need to keep it simple to get the best out of the simulator. Microsoft put out their roadmap for the coming new Microsoft FlightSimulator 2020, and you can become an "Insider", and officially the development team expect a beta testing version out soon with "Build Programs" and a lot of "Program Updates" and it is all very professional. So do this and tick-off that... anyone who follows big developments, like our own Laminar development threads will tell you, that hitting project dates and ticking off targets will just be asking for trouble, at least Laminar are extremely open in setting targets, and mostly hitting them, but as they warn repeatably they can also miss targets just as easily as well and beta's can run sometimes a third of the year in bug fixes and changes. Simulators as noted above are extremely complicated bits of code to try to get it all to work seemlessly together. In a box or regional situation that is fine, but once you start adding in the addons and third party plugins then the real problems start. Try weather or environmental effects, has any one really pulled that one off yet in X-Plane, not really, ATC, no again, traffic, well we have a few and WorldTraffic3 is pretty good but complex, but Microsoft are promising all this and far more straight out of the box, I hope they achieve it, that would be golden for simulation, but my gut and head currently says otherwise, as one day Uber promises to make money, and so does Tesla... In the same theme Laminar hit a landmark just only this week. For the first time a 3rd party aircraft flew in the Vulkan API. The significance for the simulator is really like the first flight of a new aircraft design. The aircraft was the ToLiSS Airbus A319, which is a very complex coded aircraft and Laminar's response was "a buttery smooth landing with no stutters", now that is advancing the simulator and a real breakthrough for the rest of us. MilViz was again in the news in August and if you have been following the dramas of the developer and his absurd crowdfunding scheme that failed, the announcement was this time that he has now given up X-Plane as a simulator altogether. Yes we are not going to get anymore aircraft from MilViz. I have detailed and spent already far too much time on the MilViz saga in past Behind The Screen editions, but the full saga is one to be noted on how not to enter a credible market (X-Plane is actually a bad market according to MilViz) but the point is I gave him the benefit of the doubt and checked out his Cessna T310R. Many users love it, but I was underwhelmed, it felt old and in this light twin category you are up against the very best with Carenado, vFlyteAir and Just Flight and even Aerobask, and they are all exceptional developers, more odd is that MilViz actually collaborated with vFlyteAir, so how could it all go so wrong, personally again the old issue is true, you can't mask over old designs against the current X-Plane ultra quality aircraft, maybe it would have been accepted far better back in the X-Plane10 era, but X-Plane11 has now certainly lifted the game to a far higher standard and dynamics. So I think overall it was that like a lot of FlightSim developers, in that they just waited far too long to get into the X-Plane market and by the time they did... we had then significantly moved on. A site note, In the middle two weeks of September and then again in the middle of October the site will be slow with updates and I will be not posting as frequently as I have to move homes, so my attention will be required elsewhere, certainly if something significantly comes out I will make a big effort to cover it, but if I have no broadband or they are extremely slow in reconnecting (which they can be), I won't be able to post, my apologies but you simply can't avoid life. See you all again next month Stephen Dutton 1st September 2019 Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews
  3. Behind the Screen : July 2019 First of all I will state my credentials. I do like ultimate realism in simulation. I do start many a simulation flight right at the start with a cold and dark set up although I do prefer the turnaround starting point. I go through every procedure, load in the route, the aircraft's preferences (fuel & weights) for the flight and then do the full palaver of using the airport vehicles to load in the luggage, fuel and passengers, the whole shebang... clearance, pushback and finally leave the departure airport. Enroute I follow SimBrief and Navigraph data to see how the aircraft is performing and cover the flight as professinally as possible... on landing I do the reverse in unloading the passengers and their luggage and then secure the aircraft, I even do a walk up and down the aisle to make sure the aircraft is empty (note a plugin is required to create after flight passenger mess for realism!), in other words I do the full monty of the flight, and now with my matured flying skills I will also do some simulation crisis management, with say an engine fire or environmental issue, it all is very well considered to get the full experience of flying an aircraft as close to the real environment as possible. In the GA environment I am still as considered in walking around the aircraft, setting up the correct fuel and passenger load where applicable and doing every nut and bolt of the flight, so I am the real deal, right... absolutely. But there are areas that was brought home to me lately and it happens often were as realism 101 is sometimes a step to far. If the developer goes too far in this realism do da it sometimes then turns more into extreme frustration, frustration to "agggghhhh" that buries the realism factor deep into a world of pain. If you can't access the aircraft or are not in control of important elements then there is the case that the quite honourable aims of the developer can get lost in the idea. So total absolute realism is great but only to a point. Some times this effect can be you. I have struggled with bleed systems that have left me exasperated to the point of throwing things, but that is okay if the systems are built like that as I have to figure that aspect out, delve into the manuals, work your way through the systems and get it right. So usually on complicated machines I make a diagram or take an image for next time (note... it would be good to have a plugin that remembers notes for in the cockpit of that aircraft, to bring up notes of the quirks of flying or starting the machine that you may forget?" to note the IXEG B732 and Rotate MD-88). Then there is Jack's beloved FJS Q400, lovely aircraft but an total absolute pain to start with the mixture lever do-dah, it never kicks in until I do and I start in throwing things around the room and it mostly requires a full aircraft restart with engines running which sort of spoils the whole realism 101 thing, I hope the v2.0 Dashy fixes this issue, if not I won't be happy as I won't put up with it all over again. The point is that if you want the full total immersion of changing spark plugs, oil and the full maintenance palaver then fine, good for you, and I know that these airworthy machines require a lot of attention, and so does my 28 year old car. But the issue is how many times do you actually change those spark plugs, and even on a tired, oily and battered machine... certainly not as often as the developers tend to confront you with, which is mostly every other flight or each flight. They then send you down a twisted long set of issues to get the machine airworthy, fine now and again, but when then with almost every flight can really start to get you seriously frustrated, and then they give you no reset or a quick fix way out of the maze... yes it is realism, and I GET that. So if I am pretty good at this simulation caper and I struggle, then god help the newly formed flier as they haven't got a hope in hell, worse is the fact with these aircraft are these non-accessible faults can create a large barrier in using and enjoying the aircraft, this factor is then to the disadvantage to the developer themselves, because if the aircraft is not accessible the you are not going to buy it, or worse buy it, and then throw it away and never fly it and swear never to buy another one of those developers products again. But when you do get say a fuel feed blockage FIVE times in two flights and you can't remove or adjust the realism factor then consider how many fuel blockages do you really get on an aircraft, yes it happens and maybe often in the wilds of Alaska with fuel taken from dirty drums, but not FIVE damn times in two flights... two times to change the oil, air filter, water in the fuel... la de da. in the end the aircraft got binned, enough was simply enough... to get to actually fly this wonderful even precious little aircraft was just simply too hard, the fun factor was totally ruined in frustration. I am not for a moment suggesting to make aircraft realism feature lite, but just accessible. If the user doesn't want the full on realism factor and just wants to fly the damn aircraft, then that should be an option... most developers do, do this but many don't. Again on mostly the study grade aircraft the faults are accessible and can be set according to your preferences, mostly in the fault activating in a period of time or situation like at a certain altitude, but more so if you want to use the "never" option it there for you. I always like the failure on the "hours" factor of breakdown. So the realism is a major factor, but if the aircraft is totally inaccessible to fly, then you are just defeating yourself. In the end it is the developer that actually loses here in less sales, and you try to tell them, but if they won't listen? In the month I also got a lot of comments from users noting that some aircraft and I will note the Magknight Boeing 787 as a case in point in that as a purchase it was and I quote "unfinished and missing items"... in reality you have to laugh, and yes I understand that paying $45 you would expect a pretty completed aircraft, is the Magknight aircraft current worth $45, no not really and you only have to look at that freeware low-res nose as a point in reference and so the developer is also being a bit cheeky here I think, but you are told that you are buying into the project as it is and have access to all the future upgrades, and as I have noted before that there will come to a point (unless the developer again increases the price) the value that is delivered should or will crossover the price point where you are getting the value to the money paid. That is the idea and the commitment, and as Magknight has delivered already a lot of updates then that is the case if going to be a fair deal. (if the developer moves the price-point far higher again it will be shit deal). The point is the developer is getting payments while still doing the work, where as usually you get paid after the work is completed with a few updates to clear up any last minute bugs, Colimata's Concorde is the same "pay now get later" deal, and to the "I want now" crowd it does sort of keep them happy in asking the same repetitive boring question "when will it be out?" but getting the half developed aircraft can also be very confronting as well, so you then get their "not worth the money" flagging so you can't win either way. Personally I don't like half developed product, especially when money is on the line (I wonder how many would be as glowing if they had to earlier actually pay for the Zibo B738) but it is certainly in payware territory now. The Concorde was a disappointment, it is absolutely nowhere close to being finished, but we are getting too many forward payment projects. You still need a certain line to be crossed in the development process for users to get value, but I find far to many projects again and again are released far too early in the process in the race to put some money in the bank, but they use the users "I want" factor to get around this aspect, then they have to face the "I'm disappointed" factor after. These signals are not good overall because as they say "shit sticks" and overall, the sales factor can be curtailed, so early release developers gain in early cash, but lose in overall long term sales as Seinfeld says "once it's out there, it is out there". X-Plane11 went final on version v11.35, which overall was quite painless and unless you get turned on by better fuel and bleed systems and a Collins 65 autopilot, but at least it won't be as devastating as the next coming v11.40 with all the life changing Vulkan/Metal deep throat, gut the system churn, obviously we are looking forward to that, not the gutting of the simulator, but the ongoing forward changes the new APIs will bring. Prepare for simulator meltdown around the end of the year. FlightFactor made their A320 Ultimate to v0.10.8 or final from the beta as well, but one look at the half rendered cabin shows this area is still a work in progress, and so is an added Flight Attendant Panel (FAP) to EFB, but not on the actual cabin wall which is still fake?, but please don't get the aircraft wrong, as with a now working weather radar, it is one of the best simulations in X-Plane11... immersion heaven. Surprisingly xEnviro put out an update in v1.11(very rare for them) and added in some new slider features, very good, but the update didn't fix the main cloud visual artifacts, and in heavy cloud formations your framerate plummets, but the blocky cloud formations felt better. Another bug is probably the biggest issue in that the METAR data keeps the X-Plane weather setting on "Damp" all the time and creates a mass of spray even in clear skies and 39º heat (Europe in the summer, who would have thought) when the engines are running, and I can't use that view for reviews, but I'm still persevering, but overall the unpredictability of the application is now making reviews hard work and somehow it is losing a bit of it's original feel to a more harsher environment that was so realistic at the start, it certainly feels better in many areas, but somehow also losing something in the process... if no more updates are forthcoming then my guess I will be again retreating and be back on v1.07 by the end of the month. This edition of "Behind the Screen" coincides with X-PlaneReviews 6th year of publications, We have been reviewing now since August 2013, and start into our 7th year of delivering quality reviews for the X-Plane simulator, time has flown by, but so have the enormous changes that have been under taken to X-Plane since that start date.... so again thank you for your support of the site and to all the people and their enormous contributions that make the world of X-Plane simulation possible. See you all next month Stephen Dutton 1st August 2019 Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews
  4. Behind the Screen : June 2019 The June 7th/8th/9th FlightSimExpo in Florida was a great success, a lot of simmers showed up and had in house a lot to see and hear, for any simulation enthusiast that has to be a good thing. Again Laminar Research dominated with three seminars with one on the Friday covering WED 2.0 (WorldEDitor), The main Seminar on Saturday and a landing competition on Sunday. But the overwhelming announcement at the Expo was the new 2020 Microsoft Simulator, and a mind boggling video to go with the announcement. Yes it came out of nowhere and even the FSX stalwarts were taken aback and was then thanked god in all his mercy in saving them from a Laminar induced hell... more on that later. Obviously the focus X-Plane wise was on the development of Vulkan/Metal API's, but overall the seminar felt a bit short compared to past presentations, with a huge block devoted to X-Mobile and Austin Meyer's new pet project of a full scale electric drone aircraft, there wasn't much time or anything else left for announcements, in other words it all felt a bit short changed after the huge lists of features from the past, so are we now getting into the same situation as the Apple Seminars, good but nothing like the huge announcements and features of the past events. X-PlaneReviews did a full analysis of the seminar here: Laminar Research : FlightSimExpo 2019 My own interest was like most on the Vulkan/Metal API, but for the reason of future proofing my simulation needs. Most however thought of only one thing, in "will the new API's give me a faster computer". The answer as it always was is and still is no. As you will still need a pretty modern setup to benefit from the new API's and for the very reason they are going in there in the first place, these APIs have been created for a more different type of era computer chip in multi-threading and multiple cores. The interesting thing about the Laminar seminar was that how the new API's allow you change or allow you to assign certain functions to certain chips, in either the processor or the graphic card. Currently the OpenGL API really set these processing actions in stone which is inefficient as many processing actions that are really very low in the order of requirement when others like say the processing of many objects are in the wrong chip area to be processed. So the non-important functions are getting all the attention, where as the important ones are assigned to a function or chip area that really slows down your simulation, but the Vulkan API allows you to change that, so moving forward it will be very interesting on how that all layers out. Interesting as well was the note that Ben Supnic made was that in the first place he didn't see much real change, yes we will get 30% or so better processing, but in time these more assigned areas can be brought more on line (i.e.) multi-threading and multi-core functions plus the fact that any new features yet to be developed then the new APIs will or can also take advantage of those features. Overall though don't expect a pure Vulkan/Metal API based simulator until X-Plane12 as OpenGL is still part of system, but X-Plane12 will be the start of a totally new era, and X-Plane will certainly change a lot or be in transition over the next few years, if not on the surface, but in it's basic core functionality. Like I noted I put off upgrading my processor chips and new motherboard in march until I saw what would be the best options, I want to as I said future proof my computer, and to a point those specifications are still a bit of a muddle even after the expo of which I was expecting at least some ideas of what would be the best components, but that now is not going to happen until the time that X-Plane v11.40 is released in beta... hopefully as noted now by the end of the year by Laminar, it will however give us another year (to save up) and run the next generation of processing chips, in reality nothing really will move forward until those Vulkan/Metal v11.40 version is running fully on our computers, and it finally does look like another (again) complete change for all 3rd party addons, and for aircraft like with the 64bit transition... which means a lot of updates (again). Microsoft 2020 simulator The interesting point to make is that as X-Plane12 will gets closer to X-Plane's next version release will be the release of the now announced Microsoft 2020 simulator. My guess is that in many ways they will be very much alike. both extremely modern and use modern API's. Microsoft noted it was a "simulator", but the video showed a very highly complex simulation and very highly detailed visuals. As great as it was, I do doubt that such highly complex detailed scenery could be delivered worldwide by the MFS 2020, both the original Microsoft Flight Simulator (MFS) and X-Plane have had decades of development and also a huge contribution from both communities to get to their current situations we are now currently at. So a simple clean sheet start even with a lot of the available modern tools are not going to cover those decades of work in two years. I still see the MFS 2020 simulator as a area focused simulation and focused on bringing in gamers into the simulation world, the real money is still in gaming not in simulation. In time MFS 2020 might spread out and cover the whole planet in that great detail, but as X-Plane in computer power and resources is at this point, then I just can't see the MFS 2020 version matching it, as there has to weaknesses somewhere. Then there is the other factor of the flight model? will the new MFS simulator have a realistic flight model, maybe and I even hope so, but that would make the simulator more closer to X-Plane, but in the same breath it will also discount all the required current FS/P3D third party aircraft in one swipe, as noted in the same conversion currently from any FS/P3D aircraft to the X-Plane flight model, in my estimation then MFS 2020 will not go for a revolutionary flight model change if it wants to take advantage of all the current 3rd party FS/P3D aircraft, plugins and scenery addons available. If MFS 2020 just turns out to be another Flight Sim World (Dovetail Games) in another if far better reincarnation, then still it would not be in the same situation as X-Plane in its XP12 guise. The situation of which would be a better simulation platform is still mute until we see MFS 2020, but what if it is that good, that brilliant. Would X-Plane then return to it's secondary role for clubbies and hobbists. Myself I can't see that as X-Plane has progressed a long way since those eras, but two high quality simulators would actually thrive rather than start WW3 against each other. One point is that MFS 2020 would attract a lot of gamers over to simulation, and most (not all) would certainly like what they see. So the effects of MFS 2020 could be highly beneficial to X-Plane as much as MFS 2020, if MFS 2020 is limited in scope then X-Plane would certainly benefit from that, and it certainly won't be the "us" vs "them" factor of the past, it would be good for simulation as a whole if both simulators are level in their features and quality. For X-Plane and XP12 it would be then crucial to get a lot right. No doubt the Vulkan/Metal API factor is very important. In many areas the older OpenGL API situation has put some very heavy limitations on the simulator, take those limitations away and it gets very interesting, certainly if Laminar redo the whole planet with better mesh and ground/earth textures, better ATC and the elephant in the room factor of weather, another subject area wanted is better networking - Multiplayer/Multicrew of which there is now a very vocal community demanding it's insertion, but there are still a lot of very small areas that need to be cleaned up as well. But if X-Plane12 can deliver those factors, then certainly the differences between Microsoft's new simulator and X-Plane will not be as large as you may think so and more so that X-Plane12 is now coming due next year in November. And that will also explain the now limited feature list at the Expo 2019... as the newer features are now all going to be packaged into X-Plane12. xEnviro v1.1 I did a review on the release of xEnviro v1.10 and again it came with many major areas of issues, but there is a slight difference this time around in that at least you are able to finally store that old stalwart v1.7, well I have. Of anything in X-Plane then xEnviro is the most frustrating aspect. Limited in many ways of features, years of development and you are still not seeing the full development and other newer contenders are now coming along as well... the bottleneck though strangely seems to be Laminar, as even Active Sky XP from Hi-Fi was a compromised addition. xEnviro now called by the weird coder terms "Dark Space FZE" took up the situation with Austin Meyer at the Expo in Florida, and he promised to look at the issues and find solutions, the secondary side of the situation is just pure processing power. Weather engines with volumetric clouds, or 3D clouds are extremely hard on your machine, and even Laminar have not entirely been able to fix that and that is even with many valiant efforts over the years. Certainly the new revolutionary Vulkan/Metal APIs are extremely important here, for using them for efficient processing could maybe be finally the holy grail that we are looking for. But still the poor artifacts in xEnviro are the biggest challenging v1.10 visual issue, as you can sort of always fly around the framerate issue. Still the reviews here will always bare testament to the power of this environmental engine. You always get just those awesome jaw dropping views and that full immersion and currently or thankfully they still outweigh the negatives, again so close so near. I still advocate Laminar Research buying xEnviro up or to bring the studio under their wing to make xEnviro the default simulator weather engine, with the in-house experience the issues could be refined and it would jump X-Plane far forward and give MFS 2020 an even bigger run for it's money, a side note is that the snow feature in xEnviro v1.10 is up to now the main "whoa" moment of the 2019 year, it is breathtaking and extremely good, shame it is a hot summer. (I am in Australia but snow is rare here as I live in the tropical higher band), so I can't wait for the northern winter to come around this year to just fly in those conditions. Overall v1.10 xEnviro is still in there, we will see again if it stays or lives in operation in the long term. See you all next month Stephen Dutton 2nd July 2019 Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews
  5. Behind The Screen : May 2019 At the end of Behind the Screen in March we left you with the Military Visualizations Kickstarter donation of to create the ATR 72-600 and he wanted $27,000 CAD dollars before putting mouse to CAD software. The results are in and as expected they are not in or our favour, but that was always expected. The KIckstarter campaign achieved only 15.2% of its final target of CAD $27,000. And final donations came in at CAD $4,111.29 (approx. GBP £2,417, US $3,057, €2,742). Milviz, has obviously confirmed that development of the ATR for X-Plane has now been terminated.... surprise, surprise. I personally actually don't think it was the campaign that actually killed the project anyway, as the anniversary release of Carenado's FSX/P3D ATR 72-400 would mean very tough competition for your money as Carenado is giving hints that their ATR 72-400 will be X-Plane flyable before 2020, yes it is a different variant in the -400 to the -600, but an ATR is still an ATR and if it is anywhere close to Carenado's stupendous Saab 340 then it will be... well again stupendous! But there was always a lot of scepticism anyway from day one on this deal. The first and the most obvious was the figure required of CAD $27.000? It looked more like a insurance policy in case no one bought the aircraft when released, or a "Win - Win" scenerio for the developer. But CAD $27.000 to develop an aircraft? and by a single developer, maybe a team, then yes, but for one person who has been in simulation even for a few decades then I don't think so. If the developer had put the development costs of say around CAD $8500, then I think they would have had a very good chance of meeting their realistic target, he did achieve almost half of that, but I still think that number would have gotten MilViz over the line. And here is the point... overall this a great idea for a developer to get some development costs into the bank to deliver the projects we require, more so it keeps them on track to deliver and not do the usual... start hard then flake away as the project slowly progresses out to vaporware. But I think there is also something more deeper going on here than just developing for X-Plane, as personally now I don't think that developers that have been brought up in the FlightSim culture can actually develop well for X-Plane, and only a very, very few can do the crossover... but most actually don't as the differences in the development approach and the design are just too wide and different to be crossed, and the history of the story actually supports that aspect. Yes there are many great FSX based products in X-Plane with Carenado and JustFlight as notable, but both of those are converted by Thranda, which is a X-Plane developer... As Dan Klaue noted, "we have to totally gut the FSX version and then rebuild them again totally from the ground up" In reality there is not much to mirror between the two aircraft that look exactly the same. Then there are the biggies.... PMDG, Flight1 and Majestic, even Aerosoft are all not present in X-Plane and yes both PMDG (DC-6) and Aerosoft (ATR) have done aircraft in X-Plane but to only a) totally fail, or b) and walk away with only one average release each. Both PMDG and Aerosoft had the X-Plane golden eggs and bountiful profit returns in their pockets. PMDG with the Boeing 737 Series, B747 and B777 had the opportunity to make a killing, even Aerosoft had their Airbus A320 series to clean up the European flyers, but those opportunities are now simply long gone, with the ZiboMod B737 U/738/739 U cleaning up the PMDG version, the FlightFactor B777 is yes old but finally on the road to a XP11 upgrade, so that will counter out that, and the FlightFactor A320 Ultimate, is now just that in being miles ahead of the Aerosoft product with the ToLiss A319 also now a registered Airbus product, then it shows now of how high the quality and depth of the in house development of X-Plane aircraft have come to. The point is that the gate is now closed and the aircraft has departed for PMDG or any other FSX developer to get any significant ground swell of patrons in the Laminar Simulator, the point is we don't need them now either, we certainly did three to four years ago with the introduction of X-Plane11, but they all dilly-dallied around and ummed and ahhed us to death without really delivering anything, The above MilViz releases his Cessna 310 to... well nothing because it was very dated and so FSX in design (hence the forward cost of doing any business with us again). To a point it was MilViz's Cessna release that finally put the point out there that FSX developers just can't do X-Plane... period. So what got me thinking about all this? Well most of the year in my personal flying (my up time, as down time sounds odd in a flying simulator) has been with the FlightFactor A320 Ultimate, sometime around early February this year it all started to click together, add in the excellent BSS Sound pack (recently again updated) and it is now a glorious if hard in depth simulation... you now work in this aircraft, the details and checklists are huge and have to be covered, a 25 minute turnaround is very, very realistic as is every portion of the flight, nirvana... maybe and yes there will always be something in the need to be updated, but as a simulation it is now one of the very, very best... more so as the cabin is now being updated as well. For the Boeing bluffs to take their minds off the Boeing company's 737 MAX debacle, yes it is their fault and yes they deserve everything that is certainly coming to them (more below)... is the Zibo Boeing 737-800/700/900 series. Again once the ZiboMod hit it's stride I loved it, but it is a complicated bugger... But the announced and hyped release of the -900 Ultimate was for me a bit of if a huge disappointment (don't hit on your keys just yet!), so I left it in the hangar after only a flight or two... With the WebFMC Pro v1.4.0 release the newer ZiboMod -700 was added on to the list of aircraft that could use the plugin. I did expect it to be a bit like the -900 version, but was extremely surprised on how good the ZiboMods are now (hence the above bye bye notes to PMDG). Yes I loved it and shows how far again we have come lately in X-Plane, personally I see the ZiboMod as really a payware aircraft (howls of protest!), but in the same league of quality and depth. Colimata Concorde So where is the Colimata Concorde review, well its coming, but certainly not in the near future. One look and yes this is a decent development of one of the most iconic aircraft every to fly, but a lot of work on the aircraft certainly is still not completed, or refined. Concorde is a strange aircraft in that it is like no other aircraft out there, except for some military machines. Most users will light up and burn out those powerful RR Olympics to their full reheat thrust and head upwards towards flight level 400 and m2.2. Great but you won't get halfway across the Atlantic if you fly this bird like that and even with full tanks. This aircraft has to be very balanced and flight procedures have to be followed to the letter to get the maximum performance and range, so from a reviewing point of view there is a lot of detailed work to get through to get that all right, but overall it was the unsightly unfinished work that still had to be done that put me off, again just a few months more work and it would have been a perfectly acceptable aircraft to release... so overall I was disappointed. I certainly was not disappointed with X-Crafts excellent family series of the Embraer ERJ. Again like most current X-Plane developers then X-Crafts have gone up a few gears or higher levels, yes there are a few quirks, but overall it is an excellent regional jet and it comes with five variants as well... X-Crafts came into X-Plane very raw, great in the design department, but average pretty well everywhere else. But they were willing to learn, to update regularly and now after a few years you can see all of that hard graft finally paying off. There are no short cuts to being a quality developer, the only road is simply sheer hard work and persistence... and yes these products are priced to the depth of their development costs. And that is why I hate people that rip off projects (yes you Bit-Torrent) and put them out for free or steal off the work, they are the real losers in life. We are lucky that developers are willing to use their talents for our enjoyment, we can currently fly very authentic aircraft... live the dream so to speak because of their work and time, and the repayment for all that is the old simply way, in just repaying their costs and allow them to meet their real world demands. B737 MAX On the real world Boeing company's 737 MAX debacle I will say some comments. They as a company deserve everything they get in this case, but mostly for cowardice. This was the same company that took the barrel section of the Boeing Boeing 367-80, known simply as the Dash 80 and the forerunner of the B707 series and made a whole family of successful aircraft out of it. One of those aircraft is the same Boeing 737 that is now the centre of the MAX debate. What built Boeing is now going to bring then back down again. The design is nearly 60 years old, older than the Moon Landing, older than most of us on this planet... and what do Boeing do, they try to fit big engines situated forward under the low wings to make it efficient or mostly just to stop any sales going to Airbus with their more modern Airbus A320 in NEO guise, the point is even the A320 is now getting a bit long in the tooth, but the B737 is simply ancient, worse was the fact that this unbalanced aircraft now uses software to allow the machine to fly and fly around even the basic principles of flight... and worse the FAA certified the aircraft, or did they? or did they allow Boeing to certify their own unstable aircraft? In reality every one of those MAX's out there are clunkers. I was horrified that Boeing took this cowards route. Boeing had just refined whole new process of building airliners with the B787 Dreamliner? So shouldn't they have like in the past with the New B737 mid jet be a composite design of that future design proof development... but no and so they went and put engines under a 60 year old aircraft just for sales? The point is the new composite B737 would have sold far, far more than the MAX, and yes airlines would have waited if the new design delivered the same efficiency gains and modern systems to their fleets as has the B787, poor Joe Sutter must be rolling in his grave for what the company has become... but overall we lose in the chance to fly a modern efficient composite middle range airliner for years, instead of in the early 2020's (2024 was the original launch window). Now it will be late or very late 2030 before Boeing (if they survive this) will put the correct replacement for the MAX on the ramps, I bet Airbus is now two years ahead in now with their A320 replacement (cancelling the A380 was a big marker there), so who will get there first... certainly now not Boeing. It is a mess, the biggest in aviation, more so than the Comet or even Concorde.... but they deserve everything that is coming to them. FlightSimExpo The FlightSimExpo is now only next week in Orlando, Florida on the 7th/8th/9th June (Yeah!) and Laminar Research have been very, very quiet lately, which is usually a great sign that there will be a lot of nice goodies in there, obviously the Vulkan and Metal updates will take centre stage, and yes I will be very disappointed if there is not a demo, but we should get a timeline for the release and its effects.X-PlaneReviews will of course do a full analyse of the event... In a side fight the original FlightSimCon is shall we say "annoyed" at losing the title of representing the FS community in the States, they have declared the Expo "FS Greed and Piracy" as to lose the mantle... they are doing an online show here on the same dates... it will be seen on how all this plays out? Till next month Stephen Dutton 2nd June 2019 Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews
  6. Behind The Screen : April 2019 You sorta own them for their requirements that you need, yes someone else created it, yes you paid for it out of your hard earned money, so it is sort of yours, more so in the fact how for one in much you use it and secondly... on how much you like it. It gets personal as you know your away around it so well, the best areas, the best ways to approach it... it actually becomes important to you. The only thing is that X-Plane is constantly evolving, changing morphing and even the very, very best in time starts to feel it's age after a few years, so when an updated version comes along you are going to get very excited, the brilliant same but now updated and it is going to be far better.... right? Wrong. EGCC Manchester by Aerosoft was a brilliant scenery, in certainly the very top ten of sceneries for detail and quality. It was created as part of a double act with EIDW in Dublin by Icarius Studios, yes it was a perfect match between two exceptional sceneries, and both were very much ahead of their time in quality and detail. So the XP11 version comes along and like noted you couldn't wait to install the new bright SAM featured reflective hi-depth textured brilliance... and on first glance it looked... well okay, but then I noted that a lot of items were missing (I mean who could lose a whole radar tower), but slowly the horror dawned on my that this EGCC from Aerosoft is not my actual old EGCC from Aerosoft, this was a completely redone version of EGCC from Manchester, and totally worse it was a terribly redone version of EGCC Manchester.... But to understand the history, you can see why this ghastly mess evolved. Per se Aerosoft don't make or create sceneries, they pay or subsidise other developers or developer studios to create the work for them, then they brand it as their own. In one way it is a very good idea, it gives creative developers upfront money and then a return on their work, call it survival money to create the work in the first place, and from a developer's point of view you then have that huge marketing machine behind you to sell your completed work... it is a brilliant concept, and it works, certainly from Aerosoft's point of view of making lots of money and creating a huge inventory of sellable product. But the negatives from the concept are many. The biggest one is quality control, as not all developers are created equal in fact some are well quite questionable in their actual talents and only see the cash. When starting out in 1991, there was in no doubt that Aerosoft had a lot of talent to pick from the primordial pool of eager creative creatures, more so as at the time, you didn't need a lot of actual talent to create even of the very basic sceneries or aircraft for that matter. But because such creative people got in at the lower swamp, the level then they grew with the simulators as they developed and progressed, many obviously have all mostly moved on now, but the followers in the next and even next generation built on their foundations. But the talent pool was extremely good. If you are making a name for yourself, then why not cut out the middle man and go public, create your own developer studio and take all the cash and the talent for yourself. This is were the strengths and weaknesses start to show in Aerosoft's concept. Yes you can garner exceptional talent, but you can't hold it... you can however own their product because you funded it in the first place under the business agreement. But in today's development world you can start making a name or your own brand from the start, so the problem is that the creative good developers are going to the market themselves, and living and dying on their talents alone, a few do survive, but most are culled because now you require almost exceptional quality scenery even from the start of your career, as currently payware is extremely competitive an environment to survive in, so to a point Aerosoft's support was a good concept for these up and coming creatives. But it is still Aerosoft's secondary hosting position that is it's real detrimental problem... they never created the work, they only own it. So if the original developer leaves, then they are sort of "left holding the baby"so to say, so the only way to update it is to find a new developer to do the work. This is the major issue in why so much Aerosoft product is so extreme in their quality on release, then add in a completely different simulator platform from FSX/P3D to X-Plane and it can turn into a recipe for disaster, as even a even very highly talented FlightSim developer can be totally demented in trying understand X-Plane's highly dynamic features and weirdness. Many make a very good fist of it, and actually (almost) get it right, but when a lot of the old (win7 style) scenery that is planted in your hard drive then your job is a mountain to climb to make it even halfway acceptable to the fantatical users of "that" say those "weird" group of demanding Laminar thingy users... a bigger idea is to use a dedicated X-Plane developer (mostly the Orbix approach) so they have hoovered up all the best X-Plane developers with the offer of a lot of work and a lot of payments, however Aerosoft are much more reluctant to use anything or anyone associated with X-Plane and hence most of the poor gradable scenery that passes your way. They have used X-Plane scenery developers but Orbix's offer now that they are in the X-Plane scenery business is more lucrative. And don't get me wrong, as some of my most favorite scenery is Aerosoft branded (except for now I guess EGCC and maybe soon EIDW as well) and so that explains most of the sheer differences in the extreme quality grades of the output from Aerosoft... but it doesn't do well when you are trying to create a new market that one day in the future is going to be very important contribution to your bottom line. In EGCC - Manchester case then the original Icarius studio members split up over "personal directions of the company" but it also split up one of the very best developer studios as well, leaving Aerosoft holding a product it couldn't personally update... I don't know the contract details, but as the new EGCC in the hatchet job it is, would then mean that EGCC -Manchester had to be totally created from scratch to not infringe the older contract with Icarius... hence the EGCC disaster. Vulkan and Metal is go! Laminar Research have noted via their developer site that Vulkan and Metal is now running on the main X-Plane simulator itself, and now past the test vehicles of Airfoil Maker and Plane Maker apps. Laminar noted that the new API's are still very early in their development, but I would say you will get a pretty good idea and a demonstration of the new API at the coming FlightSim Expo on 7-9th June in Florida (USA) the seminar is noted at 4:30pm - 5:15pm local time. Like with the older switch of moving over to 64bit, I doubt this time it will cause as big as an upheaval, certainly the aircraft developers are totally all over the constant changing and to and throwing at Laminar's digression over the last few years, the only effects could be that some very old processor systems out there would just not work anymore, but they live still on planet X-Plane9, so mostly they wouldn't know anyway. If the June presentation is a success, then my guess is that 11.40 (the Vulkan/Metal) release will be late August or Early September with a few months to clean up the kinks... Laminar note late 2019 or early 2020 for the Vulkan/Metal release, but I think it will be well done and dusted before that. So why the rush... In reality Laminar Research can't dig into 2020 too much stuck in a long lasting beta, of which they have had a few over over the last few years, it needs a clear slate to make money. Yes Laminar can do a clean up beta of all the little bugs still left on the roadmap for X-Plane11, but otherwise the focus will soon be on to X-Plane12. Yes X-Plane12, and it is due in 18 months time if Laminar keep to their usual roadmap of version releases. 18 months still may sound a long way off, but in development time it is just late next year, take away X-Plane11.40 and the Christmas Holidays and you will have only 10 months then to get it all done. But here is the difficult trick... what can Laminar Research actually put into X-Plane12... yes you maybe laughing and falling off your chair, but this is harder to do than you think. The point is Laminar has to have a few banner marque features to get you to part with US$80-$90 dollars, and this time around that is far harder to do than it looks. Laminar's roadmap, feature item list has been going down and down over the runs of X-Plane10 and certainly with X-Plane11, this has been without doubt the most feature packed and most successful X-Plane version ever. And now almost every feature that was missing from the simulator has been either rectified or completed on that year on year list.... Laminar has been gobbling up new features like a demented monster. Better weather, check, PBR effects, check, better avionics, check, better autogen, check, installed 3d airports, check, dynamic reflections, check, new interface, check, VR - Virtual Reality, check, new shaders, check, improved 3d cockpit interaction, check, new dynamic FMOD sound system, check, new particle effects, check, check, check... and check. It is quite a list, and certainly your going to counter with... well what about the ATC?, well yes the ATC is still a work in progress, but that will still be completed before the end of the X-Plane11 run (my guess it will be the 11.50 beta), Weather is still crap... Weather will always be a beta to beta WIP, as will the autogen, what we are talking about here are the needed BIG features to get you to pay for the next bigger and better X-Plane12. Raytracing... what about that one... well no because Raytracing is a hardware dependent feature, at this point to few (cost wise) have the new Turing engines in their computers, it will be a few years before Raytracing will become a feature, but it will be introduced down the line in X-Plane12. Only in a few areas can I see new features. One is efficiency. This will step on from the Vulkan/Metal revolution, the new X-Plane12 will be a lean machine, but to access that efficiency you will need modern hardware, or at least something that can mulit-thread, and what you see on the surface is not what it will under the hood in the engine department, so in reality the start point of X-Plane12 will start with the introduction of Vulkan/Metal, or to say Laminar are doing that right now. but what else? Personally I can only see one thing. The only area that has not had attention over the last few versions of X-Plane is the Global Orbit Textures and Water, even to the point that the main ground textures may even get an overhaul, and yes that would mean better extended lighting for night operations. Granted there are already a lot of add on extras that can cover these areas, but they are still a central core requirement on the basic simulator... with the far better efficiency of the new Vulkan/Metal API's then I think Laminar can finally go up a step on these resource hungry elements. We also now have the capability to download huge gigabyte files as well as that was not even possible even at the time of the release of X-Plane11 (yes you can finally ditch those DVD's for good). So what are your thoughts on future features of the simulator? I would like to hear them. The next Behind the Screen will only a week out from the FlightSim Expo, so we will see how we all are then. See you all again next month Stephen Dutton 1st May 2019 Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews
  7. Behind The Screen : February 2019 The question is always going to be asked in why some products are reviewed on this site and not others and why does some very obvious releases don't get the exposure. The first point is that X-Plane is always very fast moving in this day and age, with a lot of products being released simultaneously, and sometimes even three to four releases a week. In the past years you could drop one this week and pick it up again in the next to cover the release period. but mostly you would still cover most if not all of them. But in those high release periods in say the noted start of the year, holiday periods of say Easter and the American Thanksgiving points then the releases can overwhelm even the best of us. So you have to pick and choose of which reviews you would want to read and want the information from to see if you want to purchase the aircraft or scenery (which is the reason why review sites like this exist), or in parlance say "check it out and it's features". Overall most of the significant releases are always covered. Reviews can take time as well because you have to check all those features and research the aircraft or the airport, if it is a plugin or an add-on, you also have to work it all out and make sure it works correctly and break it down so both pro and novice readers can see how it works or explain the certain features in detail. I see this site as a sort of translator in helping most users to use the aircraft, plugin or scenery to their uttermost highest level. An example of what I mean by that is say the starting procedure on the Supermarine Spitfire. Yes the procedures were noted in the manual, but the many items required in the starting procedure were also not totally defined or completed in the manual... for a novice or even an experienced reviewer like myself you have to work it all out... and that takes time, sometimes for the hours that you don't really have in completing the review. But it is a necessity as well, in that when the procedure is defined and can then be followed by users in a step by step basis and it is that can then get them past that blank area (saves you the hours of time) were they struggle to just get the aircraft to fly and enjoy the simulation. In other words it is a short cut, but that short cut took hours and hours to do and relate to the review, so I took all the pain out of the procedure and that aspect is not transferred on to you when you purchase the product. So hints and tips cut a long story short and a full flight should convey the reality of the simulation of the product. So if a plugin or product hits the download, your faced with a choice. Spend hours or even days trying to work it all out, and for most or a lot of cases you will pass because you don't have days and days to assemble the layout or set up and spend days working through manuals or talking to the developers on how it all works, so in a look over if the plugin is not a completely defined product (or messy in my parlance) then you are going to have the same issues and nightmares using it. Don't get me wrong, in that anything significant to simulator will not get a pass and the time will be spent in making the new idea or feature work as it should and the information then passed as quickly on to you. These gamechangers are important and X-PlaneReviews will cover them. But any products still have to be well set up or have the documentation to allow you set up correctly and use the product without pulling your hair out or screaming at the computer screen.. what works easily for the developer that assembled the idea and product, does not mean it translates easily to a new user in the same capacity.... or worse it is a github code in code to insert into your simulator. But most plugins fall into a really odd area. X-Plane is experimental by nature, we love to try great ideas and create brilliant new features... but plugins really are a world of their own, and many of these external tools can have some of the biggest impact on the simulator. But in this area I am extremely conservative and within good reason. Many plugins are by nature created from the same code as the core code of X-Plane and code in one plugin can affect another. So the result is what we call "Plugin conflict". In most cases the developer can resolve those conflicts, but there are many cases when the code has to live side by side and not affect the other in the conflict scenario. Certainly a really good coder can fix most if not all the conflicts, and when the plugin reaches that stage then it is noted as "clean" or safe to use consistently without it being a notable source of crashes or conflicts with the other plugins or even the X-Plane simulator itself. FlywithLua is a great example of this, on it's own it is quite brilliant, very clever and adaptable. But it was a plugin that was in and out of my plugin folder with more conflicts than any other plugin I can remember. The main reason is that the lua in Flywithlua is the also the main aircraft and now scenery code as well, as most payware aircraft fly or use the Lua code in their plugins (SASL). In the end the out of my plugin folder became final, even though I loved the XPRealistic plugin that used it... and FWL was just all too much of a headache and was costing me far too much fixing time to worth the insertion... Gizmo has legendary status in ruining most users lives, but to note it has been far milder since it's last full rewrite, but I avoid it like a plague. X-PlaneReviews usually also ignore plugins that are the current rage. Take the latest craze with the librain plugin. This is a plugin that creates rain effects on the windows of aircraft, and yes it is very good, but also no where near good enough to be noted as "clean" or "sorted" or even finished close enough to be a usable tool, as currently you can look around your cockpit to see raindrops running down your instrument displays, rear panels, windows you don't have visually and even suspended in mid-air around you and scaring you half to death... what it must be like in VR would amuse even Jamie Lee Curtis. librain is created by the same person that created the brilliant betterpushback,(BPB) which was a brilliant better push back that changed the way you departed the gate, so most certainly librain will also get to the same position of being as brilliant as the BPB tool. I promote BPB with a vengeance, but if you remember it didn't appear in the reviews until it was finally sorted and was an efficient clean plugin for your use. librain will get the same attention, I will test it regularly and use it regularly, but it won't be promoted or shown until I feel it is worthy of your attention (or the bad bugs has been addressed). I not being arrogant or restricting your use of the tool as you can download it anytime, but it has to reach a certain standard (mostly in the crashing of the simulator) to be useful to your overall simulation experience. I personally don't like compromises in my simulation flying as many will put up with waterfalls on their instruments, but that to me that is simply not realistic... and a lot of plugins will be binned for that very reason, even if they do bring a certain new idea or tool to the simulator, it still has to fit in and work cleanly and be fully authentic to the full simulation environment. In most cases users will bin it as well in time if it is buggy or not practical enough.... I usually do that within a hour if it does not fit in with my overall vision of the what the simulator can be. And yes your choices maybe quite different to mine, but I have a saying in that "the best always rise to the top and only use them", if they are consistent and bug free then the chances are they will quickly gain global acceptance. So in reality we at X-PlaneReviews only promote the tried and tested plugins that will not crash or conflict with the simulator and so in that case their appearance can be months or even longer before they appear regularly in the reviews or in the simulator, and yes they are simply months out of date by the "new great feature" factor, but at least they are sorted and safe to use. Some which work straight out of the box like the excellent WebFMC plugin went straight into a review, because it was a pro plugin, and it worked brilliantly and it was a huge advantage to you users. Another is the new SAM - Scenery Animation Manager plugin that is also very clean and now a major feature to any new scenery... if it is good it will be reviewed and promoted. Most usually end up the trash bin, a few crashes is all it takes to throw it out, and even if it contains the even the best ideas and if you can see down the line if the plugin is not going to reach any sort of reliability then it goes, gone. Another area X-PlaneReviews have noted consistently is any plugins or uses changes that affect the basic X-Plane (items and code) simulator itself. Not only for the overwriting every time X-Plane is updated, but also messing around in the central engine is just simply asking for trouble. You just don't need to, and then complain loudly when your framerate goes south. Other point on the choices of doing reviews is when a developer releases an aircraft and notes "this is a pre-release version', and the aircraft will be finished in a few updates. Yes great for you to get your mitts on to this great new product, but you can't review an aircraft that is only 85% finished? And in reality you are all being used as lab rats to fix up the issues that should have been completed on release. Yes I admit that with the wide variety of computer systems and operating systems then there will be bugs and issues to be refined... but the reality is the product is not "actually" finished, and in that case we also can't make a good assessment about it for you. So after four weeks or a month or so then the aircraft is noted as a "Final" current release. But by then in reviewland we are all looking at another or in the middle of a series of releases that is of a more current interest to the users, and that pre-release is now very old news. So the review is then put on hold of until a point of finding a break in the schedule to fit it in, and mostly we will wait until the next update is then issued to then finally review it. The X-Trident Harrier is a good example of this, as it is still on the ever growing list, as it was released as a "Pre-Release" around Christmas 2018 but when can we get actually around now to doing a review.... with a full release the review would have been done at that time of the release period as it was well worth of the attention for both the review site and the users wanting the release information and critical assessment. Personally I don't even know if the X-Trident Harrier is actually completed? or even in a full release situation, so these pre-release ideas do also muddle the waters in situ of what or where the real full release situation actually lies while sandwiched between lots of fixing updates, so if I don't know then how can the developer expect the user base and customers to know either, and is that overall a good business sense. That point also comes to developers that love to do multiple small updates. A four line feature update is not going to get an update review, the feature list is just too small to fly the aircraft and check out the small list of changes, especially if we know in a another week or so that another set of updates will also be quickly coming along. What we tend to do in these cases is to combine three or four small releases into one review and then covering those updated versions all in one go. This works well in the idea of getting a lot of combined information together in one update review and have a worthwhile look at the current release situation of the aircraft or product. Yes we love constant updates fixing our issues and it looks good for the developer, but unless it is a required major fix (like an update to a final of an X-Plane version) or a major feature that needs to be sorted or released quickly, then a lot of these updates can be bundled together to make a more significant update. But this aspect works very hard against very talented developers like VskyLabs that does loads of multiple quick updates, but also loads of releases of various different and new aircraft designs, we simply just can't cover that wide a spread of changes that these developers in their own working system on their weird patterns of release schedules, you would simply do or get lost in all the multiple version numbers of what version is which, and even we get confused on the current status of the developments and versions as we did with VskyLabs, so you will have no chance. This is not of course to be confused with the stream of updates that come out after a major release, in most cases when doing the review we will see the issues and mostly if the developer is already aware of them and that update is coming within days, the point is that the actual aircraft is complete in a sense to warrant the review. If there is a ghastly area that needs to be highlighted and to a point make a strong statement to the developer to fix it, then it will be included within the review... as some developers just won't simply budge on some really dumb or obvious ideas or even major mistakes. In most cases the forums will usually vocal the same point of view, but it can take a fair bit of persuading sometimes for the developer to see the shining light of the er er absolutely er "you know" obvious. You have to also pick through what is known as commonly "vaperware". Many review sites grab the news and megaphone that "this is sensational" or "wow" for the project to as quickly disappear as quickly as it appeared, there are the obvious signs, but in most cases the so called developer has zero talent to match their lorded ambitions. Developing is hard work, and mostly in the areas you don't see in the coding and animation... go and count the half finished 3D hulls of aircraft the X-Plane.Org Aircraft development forums to see the huge Games of Thrones CastleBlack giant ice wall of the problems building when confronted with the complex coding aspects of the aircraft. The coming Rotate MD11 is a classic case of the sheer detail and the hours and hours of work that goes into the detail and serious depth of the systems to be recreated and have it all to be perfectly realised to be authentic. But then again that is what you pay for. So what you see in the glittering news bursts will not be mostly what you will get in reality, many a really tempting idea or scenery is quite average when you are finally faced with the final product, and that can be a real letdown after months of bits of development leaked and some times from dubious sources. The gushing needs sometimes to be tampered with a bit of reality, but more than anyone I also love in being totally surprised... in say the extended development of the Zibo mod Boeing 738, and Magknight's amazing Boeing 787 and both projects started off in a very basic and underrated way to the major talent behind both aircraft. So overall we have to edit, filter and assess the new aircraft, scenery or any new addition to the simulator in it's own credibility factor, and that means not shouting banshee from rooftops until the project actually has some credibility and then usually vanish into vaperware, and that is why there is not the volume of announcements on this site that are lorded around on most of the others and in most cases we don't get too far from the truth... and don't get me wrong as when something really insanely great comes along you will still see it in here first, because our core mantra of this site is still that "If I really love this, then you will also" and I want you to enjoy simulation par excellence, that is and always was the main objective of this X-Plane site. See you all next month Stephen Dutton 1st March 2019 Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews
  8. Behind the Screen : January 2019 Welcome to the New Year and a new version of X-Plane in version 11.30 going final. The release didn't make Christmas 2018 (the original Laminar roadmap goal) but it was quickly through the Release Candidates once they restarted in 2019, sometimes it is great just to give up. That is the one thing I find really weird... a lot of developers try to make the Christmas deadline and then put out the product, and it is either in aircraft, scenery or mostly plugins and then just close it all down until the next year.. so most then say to the huge amount of bug comments "I'll look at it in the New Year", which is really dumb, in that you have this really very nice and shiny new X-Plane application, but you can't actually use it because it is usually very buggy to use and has to be sidelined anyway... for now the developer is away on his Hol's or Vacy and wishing the family well with a nice big turkey, meanwhile you are stuck with the other style of a Turkey... a none working application... so why not just wait until the New Year to release correctly and then be available to update the fixes to a wanting audience, at least Laminar had the good sense to do this. As sometimes a very nice early Christmas present, can just turn into a burnt out dud bird. It was an odd Christmas and New Year break... in the past X-Plane for the holiday break went to ground and was very quiet, but this year it was the opposite of that with the chattering classes telling us all about their coming wares or projects and announcing this or announcing that... but first we all still have to get over the 11.30 final mountain. And a big one it will be. Having their fingers burnt with the extended 11.00 release from the constant changes and the to and throwing from Laminar, the developers this time around are being doubly cautious and who can blame them. Plus there is the added learning curve of several new built in applications now inserted into the simulator... it was very surprising how long it took the devs to get their heads around the FMOD sound application, even months later they where still being trickled out if still very slowly. The Particle engine application is very similar to the FMOD application, but there are far, far more elements to consider, but it is a very impressive piece of kit, and something that drags you back to the older Adobe After Effects days, I am hoping it will be extendable as well for more effects and ideas in the future, as this is really a big hidden application that is build right into the simulator. And that is the huge advantage that X-Plane has over any other simulator, and very much in the old style of Apple's approach to computing, give them the brilliant applications to turn out outstanding brilliant work... but hey services today for Apple make more money than creativity... thankfully in X-Plane it is still the other way around. But now here comes the tsunami and the huge wall of 11.30 updates that will overwhelm you and swamp you to death, with update after update filling out your days (and nights)... and that is from just one or two developers. Certainly the new updaters with X-Updater and SkunkCrafts are helping out, and personally I prefer the Java version, but the lastest Shunkcraft's v2.2 is far better, in now not making you wait for long periods just to start up the simulator, I really never liked applications that took over your computer and worked away in the background installing items you don't know what are being installed. A small note in don't update to be new Java update SE 11.0.2 as it kills all the FlightFactor plugins, reload in the previous version to keep the plugin working... I found that one out the hard way. It just shows how much bigger X-Plane is now, the volume of updates on already released aircraft and scenery, but the release list for the next few months is simply huge, again with most waiting for 11.30 to go final. Even Carenado have noted that every aircraft that they released for X-Plane10, even updated to use for X-Plane11, then won't however get the full XP11 treatment, and so a few will now be left behind and that is really sad if one of your personal favorites is on that list, as most of the XP11 conversions from Carenado are exemplary. But maybe some really do needed retiring, as their design is ethics now getting a little if dated... or feeling very out of date to the newer more dynamic feel of the simulator. Overall X-Plane 11.30 is a huge jump forward, but as I noted in the overview review, then there is a lot buried deep in the code in there as well, and you don't see it or feel it yet, but it will transform the simulator to a far more efficient and better application. Currently you are like going forwards and backwards at the same time and simply ending up in the same place as you were in X-Plane11.28. Let me explain. You certainly have already received some nice Vulkan/Metal efficiencies, but they have been countered with the negative aspects of even more features and tools, overall you came out slightly ahead, with say between a 5 to 10 framerate gain, but mostly you have not seen that huge "oh wow" speed and framerate space factor. Don't despair however as for that aspect it will come later, but also don't expect your early Win7 era computer to suddenly act like a Win10, as the Vulcan/metal still needs those modern processors to do the higher efficiency scaling. Laminar have noted the basic Vulkan/Metal code is now actually completed, it just refining it and testing to get the best results from the new code. I even finally gave in and went and posted a note on the forums in the fact of the really annoying comments of the "Really Bad Framerate" with every update or version that Laminar released... I will say that yes the simulator can be overwhelmingly complex sometimes, with one thing here affecting something else over there, but right through the whole beta process my framerate was actually pretty steady, unless Laminar made a muddle, which was about twice, again I will stress it is sometimes extremely hard to keep everything running in alignment with one or another area of X-Plane going bonkers to keep it running all smoothly. But what did get seriously annoying was the fact that these idiots didn't even do the basics of updating 101... clean out your preferences is absolutely no.1 on the list. If you have older beta preferences and you add in an update then those old preferences will then go and merge with the new settings and in then creating a hybrid setting that you are trying to run and gauge the new updates though... in other words you are going to get a really mixed up running a simulator of crap code and yes the results are really bad framerate. You just have to redo the basics of the preferences and clean out the layouts, then even an X-Plane rebuild is also required to find the basics of X-Plane when the update goes final to clean out all that old waste, simple steps but a requirement when wanting efficiency, and house keeping is yes a chore, but an essential chore to keep everything very clean with no clutter within the system. Those comments just make everything totally worse, and it reflects on those users naivety on how they use the simulator with a sort of the blind leading the blind... and yes they are extremely distracting and annoying in their own total incompetence. Housekeeping is yes and a huge chore, and this year I went at it with gutso over the break. For once that backup of a backup went in the bin, I needed space on my drives as now with the 1gb to mostly 2gb average download files now it is amazing how quickly the available space is gobbled up, some sceneries are now averaging 6gb and the 14gb of TNCM - Princess of the Caribbean is nothing to the new mega loads of Orbix's UK FTX 100gb... even with my updated SSD drive I only still have 600gb of working space, so how long is that going to last, and no I will not ever go back to a platter drive as my erratic history with them are... well history. But a full on two day housekeeping trial shows how much work you have to do now to keep the simulator in top condition, and I could have easily spent another full day doing more. The new Stairport SAM plugin is already making it's huge presence felt in X-Plane, The updated Zurich was simply great, but it is the master's Misterx6 in ShortFinal's monster EDDM - Munich that really shows off on how brilliant the plugin is. This scenery was so complex and so huge it devoured a huge chunk of last week, but the feeling is that it is also a showcase of what X-Plane in features now is really delivering when all these different dynamics of the simulator come into play together, and the interaction is now becoming first rate... notable are two other plugins now in final upgrade betas, with xEnviro and WorldTraffic3 both coming soon very close to a computer near you. Both applications have been slow with updates and so both really require now a real step forward, certainly with the case of xEnviro. If you follow these comments on the end of the month rambles you will know I have not been exactly charitable towards the xEnviro developers and that they didn't take up my offer to beta test the new version shows that their feelings are were not exactly reciprocated. But the one area that I find really vexatious with developers is the fact that they don't do quick updates to fix immediate issues before continuing on with their highly profiled roadmap. Yes it looks brilliant to layout all these future exciting breathless roadmap features, but if the current version is complete version of buggy crap, then the developers are doing themselves absolutely no service what so ever... it is called "Ticking off" the very people that you are trying to sell to or to keep as a customer for future products... a year is too long without an update in any product, but with a buggy one that is an eternity... or even a miracle the plugin is well still in there and being used, it is only in the strength of the actual product and with no real replacement that xEnviro is still a major factor in the reviews and my general flying... and yes I have tried them all so don't send me environment combo's of this that will work with that... as I have already been there. I will most possibly still note the same xEnviro mantra again around next month, or even the month after that, but the point is developers need to start to heed the warnings, as we are only trying to protect them from their own devices. But there was some standouts in January that really showed where we are going... one is the Boeing 787-900 from Magnight. The aircraft is not even close to actually being even a beta at this point, but it is fused with genuine ideas and forward momentum that is added in day to day via the updater. I finally got a full flight out of it from Hong Kong to Melbourne and really enjoyed the experience, it will be amazing when finished. This was flight alone was also now available because finally X-Plane has a decent VHHH or Hong Kong via the extensive work of TOD, and the latest version v2.1 also comes with SAM interactivity... Asia in X-Plane, it is a Beautiful thing and finally we are moving around the world again to some decent scenery. WSSS - Changi is also part of TOD's packs, but I found it was not as updated as the VHHH version, but I haven't yet tested or used the updated the newer 1.2.1 Jan 19 version. WT3 work's exceptionally well on both airports and adding into the excitement, and for me there is a feeling around of going back to airports that were a big part of my earlier X-Plane experiences like VHHH, WSSS and the new LMML Malta, all but were abandoned because they all fell behind badly as X-Plane design moved forward, any ex-fsx converted scenery are thankfully now very much buried in the past. The other was another immersion experience up in the very distant Faroe Islands, this is brilliant scenery and yes it is expensive, but when coupled with the right aircraft or helicopter and even the weather aspect thrown in you are delivered an experience that you would never have even imagined a few years ago, most will count it like Misterx6's EDDM as another scenery, but between both of them as they deliver a really big step forward in immersion and realism, which is a really nice way to start a new year... And with all this in an updated new X-Plane11 version, with brilliant new clever sceneries and a new clever active element with the SAM plugin.. It was a big month in January, now we move into February and yes it is an exciting but still very demanding period for the simulator... "how many updates? that many?"..... Oh God! Stephen Dutton 5th February 2019 Copyright©2019: X-Plane Reviews
  9. Behind the Screen : Year in Review 2018 With a long reflection on the X-Plane year in 2018, it was certainly an interesting one. 2017 was a mega year, so could 2018 be bigger, better or just more of the same? In fact it all went slightly sideways in being different instead as more external factors came to bear on the simulator, but one fact was totally overwhelming in that as simulation goes it is still a very strong and growing market, there are no doomsday forecasts coming anytime soon as simulation is still very much in demand and new users are still overwhelmingly discovering this excellent online flying world. The year could be very easily split right down the middle, with extremely busy for the first six months and then a more mature quieter second half. Part of the reason of the bedlam of the first part of the year was the expected conversion or crossover of Ex-Flightsim users and developers... the FlightSim crowd (even the hard-core) users realised that X-Plane was a better product, a better simulator and to a point had better value per flying buck. So they came, and came in droves to the new and pleasant land seeking new experiences. And most liked and loved what they saw and flew. Obviously with the flock of users converting then came also the FlightSim developers, almost begrudgingly, in an almost a really "I don't really want to be here, but I have to if I want to keep my customers" way. The data supports the shift with X-Plane now reaching the 50% point of users compared to FlightSim (Primary Simulator Software - Navigraph 2018 Survey) and 19.8% of current FlightSim users are also considering X-Plane as their primary simulator in the future. To put those numbers into perspective, in the last survey X-Plane was listed as only 10% and that was only two years ago in 2016 (but the survey has to be noted as more FlightSim centric and focused). Some developers dabbled (Fly Tampa, Hi Fi) but most just tried to adjust their FlightSim model to fit X-Plane with various results. The FSX opportunists, tried to bring on already outdated and way past their used by date products and hoped to make more quick cash in X-Plane, they failed, we hated them and didn't buy any of the crap presented to us, and as a result more promised releases went deathly quiet as the year went on. But that is not to say all FlightSim developers didn't convert well over to the X-Plane model, as Just Flight produced some of the best aircraft of the year via the work of Thranda, which proves if you get the model right, then you can make an major impact in the simulator. But the trick is not to shoehorn your way in, but just to become part of the normal background scenery and produce excellent products. With the X-Plane11 version settling down and being stable around the middle of 2017, then early in 2018 the results of the work of developers started to appear and kept on coming in an avalanche of products in the first quarter of the year, then they barely broke for a breath in the 2nd quarter. And what emerged was was an excellent view of the future, and an excellence in the actual product with the new X-Plane 11 features being highlighted, and again with so many quality products it was a full time occupation just to keep up with it all. One very much the presented feature was two things, a seriously never ending packages of updating which was all consuming, and that developers became very creative of the making of upgrades and turning the ideas into revenue streams. To a point this not a bad thing as we shall see, as the bottom line sometimes was really just survival. Another distinction was between the established stars (developers) and everyone else. With the outstanding but now maturing features of X-Plane11 in their armoury, the developers simply came of out firing with all guns blazing, everything that was everything that was on the table, and boy did they use it. I wrote a detailed account of this in last month's Behind the Screen : Nov 2018. And the scale and detail was stupendous stuff. Realism 101 was the buzz word for me this year, but the quality was and is off the planet, another step higher and another huge advance forward for the simulator, but the scenery developers were just as good, with ultra detail and that word again "Realism 101", but everything was also slightly side swiped by the X-Plane's simulator's user data release June mid-year. If there was a horror moment for X-Plane then this was it. Basically it said "61% of all flights in the simulator are with still with and only includes the basic default X-Plane aircraft, and default and simple is the word to be noted here. Next down and by a long way at 4.5% is the Boeing 738x Zibo mod aircraft which is again free and a development of the same aircraft as the default Laminar Research B738 version, and the ToLiSS's A319 was not even registering on the list?" in other word's the aircraft's use was registered below the required 0.1% for activation... frightening stuff. In plain English it noted that the simulator is basically by the majority is only being used at a very basic level... with even the very most popular aircraft the Zibo 738x which was down there at 4.5% usage, worse was the activity of payware scenery, it was not just low... it was low, low, low? As most users just flew within the scope of the Global airports (default) provided by the simulator... worse again was that, no one wanted to even try to or want to get a better simulation experience for themselves. The point is that the simulation I am flying in, is quite different to the one most X-Plane users are flying in... in the same simulator? You could point out that X-PlaneReviews receives a lot of free payware as part of the reviewing process, but only part of that is true, in that I do invest in aircraft and scenery well beyond the test and review packages. X-PlaneReview's has always taken the point of view that what I use and feel, then you should do as well also to get the very best experience out of the simulator. And that is based not totally based on cost but totally for the best experience. I rarely fly the default aircraft, although the default Boeing 737 is very good, and I rarely use the global airports, but usually networking between a small selection of tried and true payware sceneries... In reviewing or out of it then my investment in X-Plane would be exactly the same, it is not the cost factor that drives that aspect, but in the return experience. Several scenery developers have come out this year to note that they are not surviving at these extreme low levels, no names or the quality of their work was revealed to discuss the validity of their work to returns they deserve... onward with this aspect, then it has or will create a significant impact on the simulator as it goes forward, because at it's core there are still a lot of people that are invested and their livelihoods are very dependent on the simulator. Ultimately if this altitude does not change then the consequences are very grave for the X-Plane simulator, you can only take for free for so long before things start to go the other way, another point on this is that if the growing PC crowd are the ones paying the money, then the business will obviously focus on them and that will be another negative for freeloaders... so 2019 will be an interesting if significant year on that aspect. Laminar Research X-Plane thankfully has always had a very solid base of development. Laminar Research is now a very different commercial operation, even from a few years ago, I mean they even have PR person (Jennifer Roberts) as their profile and firewall. The days of shooting off an email to Ben Supnic are closing fast, now you have find the right department and the right person to communicate with... that is all very un-Laminar. If the hobbyist element is being phased out at Laminar, then it also doesn't mean they are becoming more distant and are still highly innovative in response to trends and changes. Again Laminar Research really delivered with some great updates and features in 2018. As promised the VR (Virtual Reality) roll out started the year, obviously for most the high outlay on the VR technology is still a is major barrier into the promised land. But there slight benefits of the delaying of the VR purchase and the user numbers are growing quickly. Not only in the cost, but maturity of the technology, and not only from X-Plane's aspect, but from the VR industry as well. For Laminar it still a roadmap rollout... VR demands huge computer efficiency for it's use. So the roadmap that was set out in 2017 was reinforced at the mid-year simulation Expo in Vegas, which was a huge success for Laminar. And continuing that development vein in that a total rewriting of X-Plane from the inside out would secure it's future. Laminar is wanting the removal of the original elements and replace them with far more modern ones, and yes a lot of things may be lost in the transition, but this is classic Laminar (Supnic) thinking... "take the pain today, for a bigger better tomorrow". At the forefront of that is the new API changes of Vulkan and Metal, in the last beta 11.30. Already a lot of these new elements are already in place, and expect a lot more in the new 2019 year with the next major 11.40 update, and the changes will go on right through the X-Plane11 development cycle till the end, but note that X-Plane12 will be a very different internal engine from 11, and it's past original roots will all be finally buried or replaced. Two updates throughout the year with 11.20 and 11.30 were both excellent. v11.20 was a tweak and touch update to clear up the lasting bugs of the introduction of X-Plane11, you could call it a maturing version but mostly it will be remembered as the "VR version". v11.20 also brought in a new aircraft with the excellent Aerolite 103 a brand new ultralight aircraft, a lot of new LEGO elements for the global airport developers to access and use, and Sydney got the "Landmark" Treatment with the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. It was the v11.25 update that was the real surprise for being not a major update per se (a sort of Vegas giveaway special), but delivered some excellent elements, with a full Las Vegas and Chicago landmark packages and excellent European industrial autogen that was a real quality experience in excellence. v11.30 was to be the showstopper of the year and it didn't disappoint. Promised for early or mid September the update was six weeks late, in landing late October on the 25th, but deliver the version did. Particle Effects that were promised for years finally had arrived, and again were excellent, with fire, smoke, haze and god knows what else that brought your aircraft to life again. The shader system was completely overhauled (For Vulkan and Metal) in the first of the API changes. Autopilot (heavy and GA) systems were also highlighted with brand avionics, better anti-and de-ice systems, oxygen systems and propeller governors with vacuum gyro and caging are also included. A nice surprise was the new ATC voice system not announced earlier (only noted as a WIP) with realistic A.I. voices. More industrial autogen and this time covering the US, was also part of the update. Austin Meyer introduced a whole host of aircraft flight model improvements, from some very bizarre experiments with a Tesla car and sound looking aerodynamic boom out of it's fully automated-driving roof, obviously there is no expense spared for X-Plane development. All users noted a nice framerate improvement, but they were in areas neutralised by the particle effects generator, but overall the whole update was a significant step forward. Like with most updates and changes the effects of the release of v11.30 will not be felt until well into next year, as the developers take advantage of the new dynamics and deliver them, but they are all quite substantial. All round it was another very good, if brilliant year from Laminar Research with 2019 delivering more of the Vulkan/Metal efficiency, which is now only just waiting in the wings. Aircraft With X-Plane11 development, most developers lost half of most of 2017 waiting for the system to settle down, and this becoming a new pattern, in the version updates it brings on in the changes, then the lull before the effects of the changes on the simulator is released. Before most developers would have easily grabbed the best or the most dramatic features and update their products to get user reactions in an instant, but they seem to be taking now a more mature and longer approach to the whole simulator in the way of using the new features within their products. To highlight this was the very first release or "spectacular" bang of the year with the release of FJS (FlyJSim's) Boeing 737-200 TwinJet. Yes it was an update of an already released aircraft. But in reality the two releases were extremely very different. The release of the B737 TwinJet was a different approach in the fact it is a fully completed update to take advantage of all of X-Plane11's extraordinary effects and features... you simply got the whole lot here all in one go... better PBR, better Hi-Res 4K quality, photographic imagery, highlighted textures, reflections and shines (glass was excellent as was real life mirrors), updated menus and that... "Cabin"! Supremely detailed aircraft interiors are well known on GA aircraft, but are very rare on commercial, but this cabin was just beyond the imagination of detail and features. With details like opening overhead lockers, window blinds, adjustable full cabin and area lighting switches and animated switch controllable front and rear built in stairs. It was gob-smackingly overwhelming, it still is, but it was also a pointer to the year to come in the way that developers are now using new tools to create extremely authentic aircraft. FJS's other Boeing in the Boeing 727 Series Pro v3 was noted very early on that it was not going to get the same extensive cabin treatment, and it was missing on the release in August, very good as the v3 B727 Series is, but it could have been one of the greatest releases in X-Plane if it had come fully completed with it's internals. The point is that the B737 TwinJet is the most complete airliner in X-Plane history, because that word "complete" sums it all up... the complete perfect fully rounded aircraft you will ever use and fly... shame about the B727. One top notch release was a great start to 2018, but within weeks the slow grinding FlightFactor Airbus A320-214 Ultimate was also released from it's long and difficult birth and the countless betas. The reason was the unique separation from the X-Plane simulator itself, with a CEF (Chromium Embedded Framework) plugin doing the work and interfacing with X-Plane. The sheer depth of the simulation does take the aircraft well into a study grade simulation. The aircraft did require a different approach in flying in X-Plane though and it had a price to match, but once you felt the depth and the really excellent system's, then this Airbus really puts X-Plane up there as a quality simulator, an BSS Soundpack released for the same aircraft a month or so later was the total icing on the cake. In a reaction to the A320 Ultimate's release, the ToLiSS (the old QPAC A320) then their released their A319, so in a week you went from one good A320 to three aircraft all fighting for the same market. The ToLiSS319 was to a point not as highly developed at the time of it's release, but the systems were highly regraded and created by the best Airbus expert X-Plane has ever had, I flew like a dream, certainly the very best handling commercial jet aircraft in X-Plane, but the extensive development path continued right up the end of this Christmas period, and what a development path it is. Clever and highly detailed with great features, the ToLiSS319 deserves to be the most popular aircraft in X-Plane, and personally in time it will be a classic. The point must be taken that both either the FF A320 Ultimate and the ToLiSS319 are not direct competitors but in reality they really compliment each other depending on the route or network... it is like flying for an airline and you fly the required aircraft that is best suited for that service. Rotate's MD-88 also had some significant updates throughout the year in all areas, and to a point matured to another level of maturity, but the focus is now on the coming MD-11 that was expected in 2018, but certainly now it will be coming in 2019, hopefully in the first quarter. Both the FlightFactor Boeing Twins 757/767 both had significant upgrades with the B767 achieving "Extended" status with a -200 and a Freighter variant, joining the original -300 version. One aircraft that did standout in 2018 was Magnight's Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This started out a freeware project, that went payware, then professional payware with a step up in price to match, mostly to cover the move to a SASL plugin environment away from the basic restricting original PlaneMaker system. It will be again a very interesting aircraft to watch throughout 2019. Both SSG and X-Craft's updated their E-Jets, with the SSG now ahead with a more comprehensive, or sorted FMC, but both are certainly great aircraft. SSG's Boeing 747-8 was a surprise in how good it was, as any aircraft that has had a difficult birth it is the B748. The default Laminar Boeing 737-800 in it's Zibo disguise wasn't as active as in it's frenzied development as in 2017, yes a lot of updates went through the aircraft and it came with a new sound pack, but it was the Laminar's v11.30 update that added in an amazing cabin that sent the aircraft a few notches higher. The development of the Boeing 737-900 ultimate in my mind was a bit of fizzer, the release version was quite buggy and the cabin average... I haven't even bothered to check up on it's latest progress. General Aviation As usual the GA area was a rich one, with loads of releases and some really great aircraft. Carenado/Alabeo spent the year mostly updating it's huge fleet over to the higher X-Plane11 quality and dynamic standards, you feel like once the transition is completed, then they will have to start all over again for XP12. But there was also some fresh new releases, with the 690B Turbo Commander that was sensational as was the later C340 ll and the excellent S550 Citation ll. Alabeo produced the surprisingly excellent M20R Ovation and C177 Cardinal twin set. Thranda was also very busy with Just Flight aircraft as well. Their PA28R Piper Arrow IIl took out the top prize of the GA year in 2017, and early in 2018 it was followed up by the more faster and more powerful twinset PA28R Piper Turbo Arrow III/lV, then the French TB10 Tobago & TB20 Trinidad with the excellent Cessna 152 ll, the perfect trainer following.. then it all then went quiet at Just Flight with a change of genre. VflyteAir started off the year in grand style with an update to their PA-30 Twin-Comanche, The Cherokee PA-28 140C followed in March to rave reviews, again an in house design of an aircraft known to the developers. Mid-year vFlyteAir then delivered the unusual but highly innovative Comco - Ikarus C42 C VLA, with those amazing canvas wings and tubing fuselage. By their standards, Aerobask had a quiet year with just the sensational Diamond DA-62, with the rest of the year dedicated to updates of their fleet. They however did also a release a personal project in freeware with the quality of their payware aircraft in the Robin DR401 CDI 155 The most underrated aircraft of the year was the Piper Aerostar 601P by Avia71. It is a sensational aircraft but different from the normal, I think it was a approached in the wrong context, and as a pure and fast flying machine the Aerostar was very much like it's real life counterpart as it is a great machine to use. A FlightSim stalwart in MilViz debuted in X-Plane late in the year with the Cessna T310R, but the aircraft was up against a lot of the same sort of GA designs and choice, so the impact was minimal, it was also an odd choice for a mostly military aircraft developer. AeroSphere Simulation's lifted their quality and produced some nice GA's thoughtout the year, like their lovely Piper PA28-161 Warrior II, but they are no vFlyteAir... yet. Military and Classic vSkyLabs churned out every thing to every thing with updates coming on every thing to every thing in quick succession. The DC3 progressed well with VR capability, but the promised remodeled v3 cabin for passenger and freight variants didn't arrive in the year. The Rutan Model 61 Long - EZ pretty well summed up the output, quirky but interesting aircraft to kill country singers in (vale John Denver). The vSkyLab's system is clever one, but hard to follow update by update, so a lot gets lost in the constant transitions "which version or update is that?". For the bushies, Soul Made updated their DH-2 Beaver to X-Plane11 and AeroSim released their very nice Piper PA-18 SuperCub. Unlike 2017 the military aircraft was this year a collection of nice warbirds, and some interesting trainers and fighters. For the warbirds there was the Mustang P-51 from a new developer (one to watch) called Skunkcrafts, and another newbie was FlyingIron with their beast of an aircraft in the Republic P-47N Thunderbolt. Two very interesting trainers was the early conversion of the Cessna A-37 Dragonfly/Super Tweet, which was amazing to fly, and the overwhelming and incredible far late in the year release from JRollon with a partnership with SimCoders was the SIAI-Marchetti SF.-260. Outwardly the Marchetti looked normal even bland, but inwardly in systems, depth and quality wise it set a new higher ultra standard and level in X-Plane... it is an extraordinary aircraft! Just Flight/Thranda were back later in the year with their BAe Systems Hawk T1/A Trainer. And again a new higher level of quality and detail was released and devoured. The Hawk was quite late, as the initial announcement was early in the year, but when absorbing the aircraft when finally released you could see why it took a lot of that required development time. Watch out for the next update with the Hawk with the v11.30 effects fully realised, that aspect will take the aircraft another even higher level. No doubt JustFlight/Thranda made a big impact on 2018 with their high quality (and with the prices to match) aircraft. Helicopters As in 2017, then 2018 was again a very slow output of helicopters, even the ever reliable Dreamfoil Solutions was again absent, Dreamfoil did however update to X-Plane11 the excellent Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante fixed-wing, and announced the coming Embraer 120 for 2019. But the only rotary machine for the year was vFlyLab's Guimbal Cabri G2, a small two-seater machine that was nice to fly. Scenery If any area of X-Plane that has had a controversial year it has to be scenery, and to be honest it is an unfair label. To a point scenery has always been controversial, mostly because... well why pay for something that just sit's there. Scenery will always be the misunderstood area of X-Plane. Users would like nice fancy scenery, but really don't want to pay for it or if pushed to the limit on a really opportunistic moment then to try to buy it with a heavy unhealthy discount, or In most cases just use the excellent default Global Airports of which they do. There are some rules with scenery, don't waste your money on poor quality scenery, and why would you as the Global Airport version is better anyway. I personally totally hate photo textures, unless they have been professionally intergrated into the scenery for the total natural effect, oversaturated or burned in photo textures are always unrealistic and and totally crap to look at... but payware developers still insist on using them? But, but but.... Get your scenery portfolio set up correctly and it will lift the realism factor of X-Plane many levels higher... yes payware scenery is still FAR better than the Global stuff, far better if you are willing to pay for it. FlightSim Migration With the migration of FlightSim users escalating at the start of the year to X-Plane, then the FlightSim scenery developers (as noted begrudgingly) finally decided to develop X-Plane scenery, not the new fresh stuff, but just mostly quick dips into their huge back catalogues. Orbix and FlyTampa led the charge, but again you were left wondering how they ever became so successful in their FlightSim domain with their initial efforts in X-Plane, again the same mistakes came to the fore. First was the noted "I'll grab my old crap FSX scenery and try to make a few more bucks off it in X-Plane"... "are you serious?", a look at Montego Bay, Jamaica by LatinVFR/Skyline was enough to make even laugh out loud and the sheer nerve of the developers, it is outdated crap. Then there was Orbix. No doubt Orbix are finally serious about our X-Plane simulator, as they have announced that fact mostly monthly throughout the year, with a big splash at the Vegas Expo. But you were still left wondering where it really was going by the actual releases they presented. First was Meig's Field that actually does not exist anymore, Barton Airport by Manchester, that I never even visited even when I lived only a few miles from it?, The second release was their forte in Australia in Broome WA, as that place that is about as far from normal civilisation as you can get, Broome is nowheresville to absolute nowhere to connect to, more recent releases have started to get more serious, with Southampton and Cardiff UK, which are nice but are still minority airports? So where is their YMML - Melbourne, excellent YBBN Brisbane, ESSA Stockholm, Dubrovnik, Palm Springs, San Diego, Queenstown... you know "actual" scenery we really want and actually do want to purchase!". Fly Tampa released their excellent "Fly Corfu XP" then nothing.... And do you know what will create fit's of laughter in the fact that they will note in various media outlets and forums "well X-Plane is not a great simulator to invest in, because the returns are too small?" and yes, it will of course continue to be going on that way until you deliver scenery X-Plane users actually want to buy? Orbix did release at the end of the year for X-Plane11 their "TruEarth" Great Britain South and Central with obviously North that is coming soon... this is finally scenery X-Plane wants and is useful, but at 110gb per area it is a huge download and it comes at a high cost for the full UK experience, but at least it is starting to get somewhere. Quality scenery on the whole in X-Plane in 2018, was outstanding... even to the point of a creating a landmark shift in the way you used the simulator. It was the first year I could fly from one quality scenery to another and up to four to five sectors in a day and to different destinations and stay within the quality scenery boundaries, it now creates a seamless simulation of high quality, with not one global airport object in sight. This aspect is carefully created by planning and purchasing scenery to fit your network, with branches outward to the newer quality scenery as it is released. Certainly there are still major holes in the network... CPH - Copenhagen is one, CAI - Cairo is still very absent as is surprisingly there is still no quality MXP - Milano Malpensa either. But the network has filled up very nicely thank you in 2018. Asian airports are still very much non-existent, even with a few appearing in Singapore and Hong Kong getting the freeware treatment, but overall the long haul quality scenery network is still absolutely dire. Eastern Mediterranean One area that had a lot of attention and focus in 2018 was the eastern Mediterranean. First off was LCLK - Laranca International, Cypress by JustSim, then JustSim followed that up with LTAI - Antalya International Airport in Turkey, and then LGRP - Rhodes, all great budget but nicely detailed sceneries. Fly Corfu of course and Chios Island National Airport by Descent2View Simulations gave you a nice network around the Greek Islands. JustSim also delivered the excellent EBBR - Brussels and a jewel of a scenery in of all places Putin land, Moscow with UUWW - Moscow Vnukovo, that also seamlessly fitted in with Drzewiecki Design's Moscow City XP scenery, and then in creating a huge landscape of objects and a great destination. Frustration is in that users don't reward JustSim for their high value and quality work, picking up their work in sales is defeating the purpose, and heads of shame must hang low when you do so, because the scenery is still well priced and great value at recommended prices. Yes they deserve your support. The Big Ones Drzewiecki Design from Poland also had a very productive year. With New York City XP and their astounding Seattle XP extravaganzas and in finally creating real city landscapes that we had for years dreamed of. Matterhorn Park 3D and Everest Park 3D by Frank Dainese & Fabio Bellini was also quality scenery overload, Patagonia is next. Richard G Nunes & Nielsen (Global art) updated their SBRJ - Santos Dumont scenery in Rio, but also delivered CYYZ - Toronto Pearson International that I loved but my computer didn't with a framerate overload to single digits, so a review was never completed, but Global Art's CYUL Montreal was a little lighter but still heavy on the processors, but thankfully passing the post for a quality review. Florence - Firenza Italy by X-Urbi was a rarity in X-Plane as being a simple landscape city scenery, but get the scenery set in the right light and it was simply divine and shows off the power of the X-Plane simulator. For sheer size then the almost movie titled "TNCM - Princess of the Caribbean - Part 1- SXM by AWD" was an internet download backbreaking 14.71gb, and certainly a record in X-Plane downloads for scenery outside of the default Global textures. But the outer island scenic flying was astounding. Aerosoft Compared to earlier years Aerosoft was quite low key in 2018. As usual a lot of the Aerosoft sceneries released in 2018 are reworked Ex-FSX sceneries with miserly X-Plane11 features in dressing mutton up as lamb, and that they are still old with a capital O. LIRF - Roma XP was an absolute huge disappointment, Genoa XP the same, Friedrichshafen XP, Stuttgart XP, Dortmund XP was just passible and with just a few more I don't really care about. But there was some interesting sceneries packed in between the debris, and mostly these sceneries usually had X-Plane developer connections and all had great updates. KDFW - Dallas Fort-Worth was a huge update and is now the very good, LSZH - Zurich which had the SAM treatment, and again it is a highly polished scenery. And so there is always a severe frustration with Aerosoft sceneries, when good they are excellent, but when old they are poor and outdated, but don't get me wrong, as I use many of the good ones extensively thoughout my network. Newcomers There were a few new budding developers popping up throughout the year and generally they were all quite promising with a lot of talent. NorthernSkyStudio with their PAKT - Ketchikan International Alaska was clever and great scenery, with a few patches on the mainland side, Descent2View and the Chios Island National Airport was a brilliant effort as well. KDAB - Daytona Beach by Stairport Sceneries was a great effort as well, and one airport I use now use quite regularly. NKdesign's showed a lot of promise with Shoreham - Brighton City Airport, but there is still that gap to payware to be crossed. Turbulent Designs came and left with a deal with only Orbix, which was a shame as their work was very good, but still very heavily focused on FlightSim design, and didn't really embrace the dynamic X-Plane elements... but they had massive potential in X-Plane? The old hands The devoted X-Plane scenery developers also had a good year and like their aircraft developer counterparts also embraced the X-Plane11 dynamic features with gusto, and lifted scenery into another quality level, the "clutter" count is getting excellent and with very good quality. Leading the charge was ShortFinal Design (misterx6) with a biggie and LAX!, and brilliant it was even for the exceptional framerates it produced to object count and detail... FunnerFlight updated his LAX to v2.5, it is just as good, but it is still very heavy on the processors. The expected new scenery from ShortFinal in EDDM - Munich didn't get the expected release before the end of the year, but expect that mega facility very early in 2019, again it is brilliant with full SAM intergration as only misterx6 can do.. Pilot+Plus was quiet but updated his EGKK - Gatwick extensively and noted he was working on EGLC - London City Airport. Nimbus/Butanru released a very heavily updated KORD - Chicago O'Hare to v3, and it is quite spectacular. Cami de Bellis released VQPR - Paro International Airport late in 2017, and as a follow up this month released the NWWW La Tontouta Noumea scenery in New Caledonia. In quality and detail then La Tontouta was a huge step forward than the earlier payware work. tdg however didn't see the light in 2018 on the fact of installing WED ground routes in his sceneries... so I rarely now use his work, the point in X-Plane is that you can pick or overfly scenery that doesn't reflect the current status of what X-Plane can deliver as a simulation, no doubt tdg's airports are as good as ever, but unless they are active with WT3 traffic I don't really want to fly there so don't. Rim&Co and legal ramifications Rim&Company's first foray into X-Plane payware scenery was a spectacular one, for all the wrong reasons, and in their second release they shot themselves dead. YAYE - Ayres Rock (Uluru) - Connellan Airport in central Australia was a brilliant choice, and was in areas brilliant as well, with the ancient monolith and the distant Olgas looking sensational. But landing at YAYE was then suddenly problematic as there was simply nowhere to park the aircraft with the extreme number of objects that made Sydney airport at peak rush hour look quiet. I mean what scenery do you buy where you have to edit objects beforehand with the scenery down to park the aircraft? Their second release (the St Helena scenery was not full payware) was SWAH - Ushuaia Malvinas Airport was as expected again a full highly object orientated scenery, problem was those objects are not legal... in other words they stole them, which explains a lot of the over clutter... so it was "bye, bye Rim & Co". To a point this was for a X-PlaneReviews a big discussion in 2018 of just this subject. For all freeware developers they have a huge if obscene selection of quality libraries and objects to choose from to create their scenery projects with no legal ramifications. For payware developers they have to create everything in the scenery to be legal, and from scratch... and is that really fair? That aspect can be taken two ways in that the developer sells his work in the fact that everything is custom, which is fair enough as a selling point. But the other side of the issue is that a lot of the say "clutter" can be an after thought and ranging from excellent (ShortFinal) to totally dire, or mostly everyone else. So how can the paywares compete with the freeware juggernaut, the obvious answer is that they can't? plus you get very uneven quality between the different payware sceneries. Rim & Co thought the payware business was like the open freeware business.. it isn't, and you will get sued, and in this case in an German court. Plugins From a reviewers point of view then plugins are hard to review as there are zillions of them and every user then adapts their sets to match their systems and tastes, and to be honest I only run the hard and tested reliable plugins that don't screw up my workflow, so one's brilliant plugin may not match the desires of another. The main story of the year was that Laminar switched out the default shader system and effectively killed every single slide show of addon shader effect packages, not a bad thing as every one was really just a personal variation of the other. The Vulkan changes killed the coming payware xVision stone dead, so the developers put it out as a freeware... sad thing was, was that it was very good, but with the same internal messy installation, but most users loved it... until v11.30 came out. The new shader system can't not be manipulated like old one, so that means an entire shader industry is now dead as well. To which really it is not a bad thing. WorldTraffic3 My Plugin of the year in 2017 was WorldTraffic3 by Greg Hofer and in reality WT3 didn't get much developer attention thoughout the year (an update is finally coming), but that does not mean that WT3 didn't have an impact on 2018. Scenery developers (finally) included the ground routes and Parking prefs as part of their feature list, so it was a "open and drop" to a full WT3 experience. That feature saved monsters of time and gave you instant activity. But developer involvement in WT3 was also still very patchy as well... some developers still don't do the required ground routes? Others did, but mostly made a total hash out of it. The guardian angel was K-Man or Brian Navy, who has also in most cases single-handedly saved most from ruin, and a big thank you to ysfsim for his huge contribution as well. I am not saying to get these ground routes correct is easy, but more are presented messed up than correct. Scenery developers tried to get clever in supplying just internal generated (not modified) ground routes and prefs from a generate run as authentic WT3 routes, but they were usually totally crap, with the hidden mistakes highly noticeable... "do it right". That is not to devalue the huge impact that WT3 has had on the year, my point is no WT3 or if the plugin is badly set, then the scenery suffers, get it right and it is one of the best features of your scenery. Environmental Laminar Research plugged away at the default weather engine, but with mostly this time for bug fixes and fine-tuning, more than a major makeover, their focus is on other areas this year, but it did create see-though clouds and more improvements, the truth is now that the default weather system in X-Plane is now not half bad, but it still lacks that major something that say xEnviro does really well, the moody feel and immersion. Weather system plugins overall had a very interesting year. SkyMaxx Pro came out with update after update thoughout the year, with the release of a new addon called "TerraMaxx" that added in seasonal weather. Both are really great and are well priced, but not polished. xEnviro I am a devoted follower of xEnviro, and devoted is the word, because if the developers wanted to really push your limits of your devotion then they did a great job of it. Early in the new year out went v1.08... a buggy mess with v1.09 which was even worse. To define the situation though is that v1.09 was a reaction to a real life event that effected the main developer, as he and his family almost died. But the reality was if you wanted to run xEnviro (and it is still running xEnviro currently) is that you have to still use the original v1.07. More annoying was the fact that only a small update was required that would have fixed v1.09 and it's overcast greying out to save in waiting for the next big update that could have been fixed very early in the year.... "ta da", to a point we are still waiting... and waiting. With all the calls for a mob lynching at least mid-year xEnviro got their PR department up and running and at least gave you a running commentary of the ongoing development. Another ground up rewrite is supposed to be the fix to everything, and a new feature promoted will be snow! and it looks brilliant, but so did v1.08 this time last year, and look how that all turned out... v1.10 is in reality xEnviro's last chance saloon, if it dunks as bad as v1.08... the devotees will finally walk away or worse could even demand a class action to recover the expense of the extremely high entry cost. Hi-Fi and Active Sky xEnviro now also has another problem in competition from a FlightSim stalwart, in Hi-Fi. Active Sky is a very popular environmental engine for Flightsimmers, and early in 2018 they announced they were coming to X-Plane in September, that release point passed, but the Active Sky XP release did happen just a few weeks ago.I personally have not looked at the plugin yet as I ran out of time with deadlines. But a statement at the release point was that Active Sky XP uses the X-Plane default cloud system as part of the effects features, 3D custom clouds will come next year, and that is reflected in the lower pricing. My guessing is that Hi-Fi are waiting for X-Plane v11.30 to go final and even waiting the next Vulkan update to run the custom effects effectively. FlightFactor AVS Early in the year FlightFactor released the "Airport Visual System" to navigate around airports. It was very clever but of limited application, because the local map can do the same thing, but it is handy. WebFMC Pro Highlight plugin of the year was GreenArc's WebFMC Pro (there is a free demo version for the default B738). That allowed FMC programming via a web browser on another computer, tablet or even (if you had very small fingers) a mobile phone. Certainly my most used plugin of the year, as it is very handy for the speed loading of data and the use on aircraft that did not have 2d popup FMC units. And works very well with the SimBrief route builder. BetterPushBack The excellent BetterPushBack plugin received almost universal status in 2018, with aircraft developers even adding it into their systems as part of their feature sets, and that was even with their own custom trucks... such is the popularity, but it is brilliant. Plugin Updates Both SimCoders REP expansion packs and BSS (BlueSkyStar) sound packages produced numerous new packages with the BSS packs including the FF A320 Ultimate and the FF Boeing 777GE. the ToliSS319 has a similar built in package that can be purchased and activated internally. The XPRealistic plugin had a small (turbulence) update mid-year, and so did JARDesign;s Ground Handling Deluxe with a widget. But the GHD, now feels a bit dated and slow. A final note on plugins that affected the 2018 year. Scenery developers have started to install SASL plugins into the mail plugin menu, and mostly to control "Key Authorisation" or protection of their scenery. But this has had two side effects in one: Loads of plugins filling up your main plugin folder to do basically one activity? but it also triggered a bigger more substantial issue in two: I use very few and only then tested plugins with X-Plane, but very quickly hit the “error 1114” of plugins overloading the dlls... the culprits are the loads of "traffic" plugins in the installed custom sceneries. I hit the 40 dlls limit and it is not pretty... more on this issue next year. I complained of nonsense plugins clogging up your plugin folder last year, so in reality nothing has changed, but the situation is getting worse.... now we at the overloaded critical point. What 2018 will be remembered for would be for mostly two items... the word "Clutter" to represent the placement of (usually hundreds of scenery objects to fill the airport or buildings environments), and the profusion of the built in aircraft "Updaters", It is starting too feel like Apple is taking control of your computer by remote. ___________________________________________ 2018 marked mid-year the anniversary of X-PlaneReviews 5th year in producing content for the X-Plane simulator, and it was a big year, full of huge growth and again higher levels of quality and dynamic simulation. Yes there were points were we were even overwhelmed by the sheer number of releases and the changes going on around you, and a few reviews just didn't hit the site that they deserved to, but that is a very good place to be in having too much than rather too little... growth is certainly the buzzword that relates to X-Plane this year, and maturity is another, not only do I think and know so, then so do 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 represent the simulator. 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 service and updates, a really big thanks, this site just would 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 2018: Best Aircraft : FlyJSIm Boeing 737-200 TwinJet Simply superb inside and out and "that" cabin, outstanding Honorable Mentions : A320 Ultimate by FlightFactor/Steptosky : ToLiSS319 Both brilliant Airbus system aircraft, you need both and to fly both. Best Classic Aircraft : P-51D Mustang XP11 by Skunkcrafts A first class first effort, and skunkcraft's are a developer house to watch Honorable Mention : Republic P-47N Thunderbolt by Flyingiron Simulations Another new developer entrant, and it was hard to choose between the two classic warhorses Best General Aviation Aircraft : PA28R Piper Turbo Arrow III / lV by Just Flight/Thranda Takes GA flying to a completely higher level again for the second year running, but with a faster aircraft and two versions. Honorable Mention : Cessna 152 ll by JustFlight/Thranda The perfect trainer for any learner pilot taking his flying licence. 2nd Honorable Mention : Comco - Ikarus C42 C by vFlyteAir Just really clever in design realism 3rd Honorable Mention: Diamond DA-62 by Aerobask Highly underrated was: Piper Aerostar 601P by Avia71 Note the TBM 900 is not in the list because I couldn't access the aircraft. Best Military : BAe Systems Hawk T1/A Trainer by JustFlight/Thranda Design Not a lot of competition, but it would have won anyway... Brilliant! Honorable Mention : SIAI-Marchetti SF.-260 by JRollon and SimCoders Is the Marchetti a military aircraft? Well it is military trainer... totally gobsmacking in detail Best Helicopter : There was only one new Helicopter releases in 2018 vFlyLab's Guimbal Cabri G2... overall an absolute shocking year for X-Plane helicopters Will it get better in 2019 as the only way now is up. Best Scenery : Seattle Airports XP and Seattle City Scenery by Drzewiecki Design With both segments installed it was the most comprehensive city scenery area filled with quality yet Honorable Mention : KLAX HD Los Angeles International v1.1 by ShortFinal Designs If misterx6's sceneries was voted the most popular he would win easily... but with brilliant work. Special Mention: JustSim Sceneries for consistent quality and value Person(s) of the Year : K-Man, Brian Navy Made my X-Plane world active, by fixing poor ground routes and righting so many wrongs "I prayed to god for K-man all year and he always delivered". Honorable Mention(s) : Daniel Klaue, Jack Skieczius, JRollon and Torsten Liesk All developers par excellence Best Plugin : WebFMC Pro by Green Arc Studios Clever and highly usable to programme aircraft FMCs Honorable Mention : BetterPushBack by skiselkov Just brilliant, clever and very X-Plane Special Mention : SAM by Stairport Sceneries Will have a huge impact on 2019 Best Moment of the year 2018 : Starting up the PC, after installing a larger 1TB SSD... with consistent 1gb downloads and more, they fill up quickly. Worst Moment of the Year 2018 : The mid-year user data dump... the details sent shivers down my spine. Biggest distraction of 2018 : Updates, updates, updates.... updates, oh and more updates! Personal Favorites of 2018 : ToLiSS319 (Brilliant), FlightFactor Airbus Ultimate (Yes it is the ultimate simulation), Rotate MD-88 (still very good), BA Hawk (As real as it gets), 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, Manchester, Gatwick, Dubin, Zurich and Linate (Milan). That is X-PlaneReviews for 2018, and we will be back after a very much needed recovery and the review site returns early into the New Year on the 7th January 2019. So Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2019 Stephen Dutton 21st December 2018 Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2018 (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)
  10. Behind the Screen : November 2018 It is almost a decade now since I discovered and joined X-Plane. And over the course of that time I have come to know many developers through their work, and obviously the impact of their work on the simulator. Ten years ago the X-Plane scene was very different (X-Plane9®) than the familiar feel and look we use today. For developers it was even a more arcane age. Back then 95% of X-Plane aircraft were "PlaneMaker" based with 2d flat panels. but don't get me wrong as developers were very inventive and clever, and the aircraft were actually very good. X-Plane developers back in that age were mostly friends or groups of buddies developing their love of aircraft for their hobby, and the word "hobby" was or is significant. X-Plane is a hobbyist playground and that aspect is still very highly encouraged today. The areas to be explored and created are boundless, and all have the one single aim in creating an interaction to create one of the best simulators in existence outside of the professional aviation arena, and even then those boundaries can be crossed as well. But for a commercial product or simulator to survive it has to grow beyond the hobbyist realm, this area is probably caused the biggest conflict of all aspects of X-Plane. For FlightSim users it was not an option, it is a commercial industry based on business more than the hobbyist angle that X-Plane created, and to a point these forces have almost created a war between them inside of the simulator, this area has become more apparent no more than in this 2018 year in the "free" aspect to the "pay" position of enhancing the simulator. My point is taken here. The one major fundamental highlight of this 2018 X-Plane year have been aircraft. With the shear leap in detail and design and features that have been created and delivered. As X-Plane11 and its more advanced effects and features have moved on to a more mature stage then the developers have used these elements to create some of the almost outstanding work and deliver some of the most excellent aircraft in any simulator. But here is the significance of the point I want to make. All the developers that delivered this outstanding work, are all original early or foundation developers of X-Plane and all of them came out from that original hobbyist era. You could say it is because of their early induction of being X-Plane developers that they have an advantage, but in reality the opposite is the case. Most current forces should in fact reduce the potential of these developers from delivering the product they do. For mostly they are all disadvantaged by the fact they are mostly all still single entities. Most developers in the business market are now teams, mostly between three to five specialists that come together under one studio to create a product. Their gain is that the work can be parceled out to each specialist area, either in the modeling, coding, art or special effects, and recombining to create the product and test it. The huge advantage here is time, as most projects can be completed as a team within a 12 month cycle and in scenery project even on a 4 month cycle, were as for a single developer it is usually 16 months or longer to create an aircraft. I will note that of course single entity developers do have external input of work on their projects, but they are not teams as such as they and they alone create all the main aspects of the project's creation from the modeling to the coding and art. But right from the get go, 2018 in X--Plane it has been a seminal year. First off the rank was Jack Skieczius's (FlyJSim) Boeing 732 TwinJet, and admittedly an update, but the aircraft was very far removed form just being an update, it was and still is in reality a completely different aircraft than the original. At this point the TwinJet is still the front runner for aircraft (airliner) of the year by our calculations, but the 2018 year is still not over. The really odd thing is that the aircraft is known more for it's cabin than anything else, but the flying and system features are up there as well. Developers as a rule see cabins as "left-over" items on a project's grand list of agendas. But here it shows that if you deliver a supremely developed cabin as it was delivered here (with independent cabin lighting, airstair control, overhead lockers and window blinds) it creates a totally complete immersive airliner, and in what should be an addon, then becomes it's major feature... yes the rest of the aircraft is sublime as well and the quality is off the planet, but it was the TwinJet's completeness as an all round machine is what totally resonates with you, and that it delivered a complete new level of simulation involvement, not only on the flying practical level, but also on the sub-conscious emotional level as well. Second developer noted is Daniel Klaue. His work has been mostly the developer in creating the Carenado brand in X-Plane, all excellent machines. But Klaue is restricted to the Carenado design boundaries in that the X-Plane version has to be almost a replica of the FlightSim version, but Dan does in a few areas throw in a few notable ideas and features that are X-Plane specific. But lately through his own Thranda Design, Dan Klaue has released his own projects but also now does conversion aircraft for Just Flight. Just Flight give Klaue more flexibility in the designs, with their excellent GA aircraft in the Arrows, Tobagos/Trinidads have all been high-quality, but it was the seminal Hawk Trainer T.1a that showed us all the skill and sheer design that takes X-Plane to another complete level of realism and high-quality of aircraft available now in X-Plane. The aircraft is breathtaking in design and has a curved glass (canopy) in absolute brilliance, yes it is a copy of the FlightSim, version... but in reality they couldn't be more different. Torsten Leisk is another legacy developer. More for his Airbus systems than modeling. His release this year of the Airbus A319 brought a new high in extremes of the way an airliner handles in the simulator, and also brought to X-Plane new and clever features we only dreamed of a few years ago. The aircraft gives you real world airliner handling that you could only dream of a few years ago. It is an astounding feeling that was very present from the very first landing I had in the aircraft. Again that moment was one of my flying highlights of the year. Walker Guthrie is vFlyteAir. All projects coming out of vFlyteAir are personal, or the actual developers know or own the aircraft they simulate. True to a point vFlyteAir are a small team. But it is the modeling skill and work of Walker Guthrie here that elevates the aircraft to higher heights of quality and design. This year it was the VLC Comco - Ikarus C42 C. Here is another breathtaking advancement of design, with material and complex modeling (Internal aircraft frame) that delivered another advancement of X-Plane design and quality. Again it was an aircraft that the more you looked closer then the exploring brought out the sheer advances the aircraft was making to realism in modeling and feel... the C42 C flew very nicely as well. Just when I really thought that X-Plane in design and the already delivered sheer detail was at it's peak.... then along comes Javier Rollon and the SIAI-Marchetti SF.-260 trainer. This release was even more breathless than anything I have seen before in the X-Plane simulator. On the surface it looks very good, but dig deep and it is an almost mind-blowing experience on detail and and quality... and yes the level was raised another higher extreme level again, so you can't say anything or see anything that puts a line of how high X-Plane can go in depth and quality. I am not going to absolutely discount the brilliance and work of Rotate, Aerobask, Dreamfoil Creations (no releases this year, but my guess he would have easily joined the above elites) and X-Trident. The point of this month's Behind the Screen is that all of the above developers are original and still are single project developers. They come from the period I joined X-Plane in nearly ten years ago. Not only has their work been totally outstanding this year, but they between them brought an absolute new and even extreme level of quality, new features and a higher breathtaking depth of realism to the X-Plane simulator. In reality they should all have been easily consigned to history to the reality of advancement and high-quality (well funded) development studios, they "should" be relics of a past era... but as 2018 has shown, they are all very far from that position and even showing that their craft is of a certainly very, very high standard. From my point of view (besides being totally in amazement of their achievements) was that I was also very proud of them all, for their devotion to their craft, their skills and the supreme quality of their work. They are as they say "still hitting the balls out of the park" in delivering outstanding product and even could be the very best overall developers in simulation... above all they are our developers and we should support them. Which brings us back the same "free" aspect to the "pay" position of the simulator... free was very good for X-Plane, it was back then all mateship and buddies and all focusing and delivering on delivering great designs for the simulator. But as all of the above elite developers started out in the same arena, they had to move forward as well. Not only just to personally to make a living to carry on doing what they do. But because like everything, X-Plane has to move forward as well, if the free economy worked a decade ago, it doesn't today as X-Plane has grown up, it is now a serious tool. As if these developers don't make any returns on their work, they will simply have no other option but to go elsewhere to use their talents and craft. So take 2018 and delete all the projects from the above developers and what would you have left, certainly a stagnation of quality and design... but also that missing vital element of forward progression and advancement for the X-Plane simulator. So it is vital to support their work and craft, and also be very proud of their achievements... because simply and more so is that they are our own developers as well. Notes I noted back in October that I was doing a full update on the X-Plane 11.30 version release. Yes I started the assignment, but then the v11.30 at around b4 went backwards, as betas do. It seems more stable now and with more features delivered as well... the indepth coverage will still be released for when X-Plane11.30 goes final... unless it goes backwards again. December in the X-Plane year is a short month, and the yearly round up of the simulator and "best of..." awards will be soon released before the Christmas/New Year break... so happy flying to all till then Stephen Dutton 1st December 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  11. Behind the Screen : October 2018 It is not you, but it... what ever it is! In my early days of learning the X-Plane simulator, I took everything for granted that X-Plane was correct and any mistakes were solely your own fault. From this distance and experience that is known as "Going up totally the wrong road". But the point is you were not to know, you were learning and gathering experience. To say I was not just focused, as I almost laser like in wanting to be really, really good at this simulator, flying thingy. So when somthing went wrong I automatically assumed it was my fault, I was to blame, and I was totally hopeless absolutely at this simulator thingy. Yes I even beat myself up that mistakes are the result of my own inexperience and total ineptitude. To a point a lot of my poor flying was down to mistakes and inexperience, but I still remember significant points that I beat myself up badly and now realise that the issues and problems back then were simply not of my own doing. The X-Plane simulator is a fluid thing and it changes or morphs itself from month to month, and you have to adjust to it's certain idiosyncratic and eccentric behavior. I had one moment the last month that brought the past back into the present. I was doing my usually first flight check of a new aircraft file, and as I left the runway the aircraft felt horrible, really horrible as with the wings were flapping like angry birds and I was instantly fighting the aircraft at the controls, It was simply unflyable, but somehow I got it around a circuit and actually landed it again (big pat on the back and a victory lap around the room), if badly... as in the real world it would have been a walk away from the wreckage Neil Armstrong style. First reaction was to blame the developer on this piece of non-flyable crap... I tried it again and it was doing the same sort of aeronautical theatric's, so the aircraft was closed and my note's were not pretty. You would usually then send the report back to the developer, and it wouldn't have be of a lot of praise in this case, and worse it was a first time developer. He was lucky in that I had another review to do and so I loaded in the required scenery and took to flight again, and the same thing was happening to another aircraft, as it was totally unflyable as well... As to the head of this segment then where does the blame lie, my flying, my setup or something else? In the old days the blame would have been certainly on the first two areas and both related to me. But experience can change that perception and instead it was Sherlock Holmes mode, more than the usual self whipping of my own ineptitude. I loaded up my Carenado Bonanza F33A and took it down the runway, once airborne it was a total handful, this was not the the usual Bonanza dynamics, it was all over the place and was simply unflyable, it was a mess and was reacting badly to the airflow. An X-Plane restart or two and nothing changed, the F33A was still wanting to do itself in... Now the rule I know is that little Bonanza is correct, as an aircraft and in the way it flies, so the issue is not the aircraft, it is now X-Plane itself... The problem with X-Plane is that even if the base primary set of files are correct, there is still a lot of changes going on through the simulator on a day to day basis, plus the fact that you are putting a lot of stuff in there and trying also to form it into something that is someways not like the core of the simulator itself. This is mostly through scenery files and plugins, and even tinkering behind the scenes with the actual core files themselves. To be fair I never touch the main core files of X-Plane's inner workings, if anything I like the clockwork in that it all runs efficiently, so the core is left alone unless there is a major reason to do so. Plugins however are a major factor. The trick with plugins is not to have too many of them, and the ones that are in there are tried and tested. That way you can eliminate them when something goes weird. But here it did go weird... first point was to pull out all the plugins, but after a restart still I had the bad airflow? Next was a dump of all the preferences, and always a biggie when something goes wrong... still the airflow was crook? So it was my usual "Nuclear Option" in a complete re-download of the X-Plane from Laminar's servers to give me what I call a "Clean" version, and guess what the airflow was still bad..... agggh! I made one small mistake in that in the "clean" version I had reinstalled a few plugins that had in the past been tried and tested, and one of them was xEnviro. I pulled out all the plugins again, and it still had bad airflow... but once out I mistakenly looked at the standard X-Plane weather and the settings were really odd and off the scale (to a point in my defence xEnviro masks the default weather settings)... I reset the weather settings and it all went finally back to normal flight... put xEnviro back in and it all went seriously wonky again? The issue was that the METAR weather data from xEnviro had been totally wrong with extreme high winds at almost ground level, but here was the really odd thing, in that the METAR data should change every thirty minutes, so it should have corrected itself on the next upload report, but somehow it didn't. and strangely it infected the native X-Plane weather settings as well, so this one file was in there and it was duplicated itself over and over or got stuck in some preferences somewhere so even though I had completely cleaned out the system and even when there was now installed a completely new "Clean" version, then that METAR report had mistakenly reinfected the whole thing again when I rerun it... It is very easy to say the data had may have been stuck in xEnviro preferences, or as I think it was just a server error that re-downloaded the same wonky data again when I started up xEnviro, personally I feel it was still the original bad weather data that came back again (again), and xEnviro was not overwriting it. So even if xEnviro was removed from the plugin folder then X-Plane still acted on the same bad weather data... even the programmer would say, that couldn't happen, but it did, and that is what caused the confusion. Then as quickly as it came, the data in xEnviro was overwritten and everything quickly went back to total normality. xEnviro themselves have lately just moved over to a new server? maybe or maybe not? The point of all this text is that even though you think it is you that is making the mistakes, then the more complex X-Plane gets you have to assume that this is not always the case, and the cause might be hard to find and fix. Code is a very weird thing and there is the factor that some written code in one area like the core of X-Plane could be infected by code of another remote set of instructions, yes they are supposed to work closely if intimately together, and that is why many plugins are buggy bastards, as unlike aircraft or custom scenery which have to, to a point follow X-Plane conditions and rules, then the code in plugins can be a bit more aggressive and creative. I don't think there was or is anything wrong with xEnviro's plugin, as it has worked fine before and very well ever since that bad data dump and it was the most tried and tested of the xEnviro versions in v1.07. It was like mad ghost had taken control of X-Plane for awhile... thankfully it is now all gone.... poooof! Oddtober The above was the start of October 2018, but as months go, the October just gone was just plain weird. I am used to periods of oddness, as that is just the cause of normal life... but in X-Plane life it was simply a month to forget. Did the eminent release of the new X-Plane beta of 11.30 cause the weirdness, maybe a little. Pre-Black Friday/Thanksgiving heads down time, also maybe yes... First announcements from Laminar noted that the 11.30 beta was planned for around early September, fair enough as this is development hell, and beta building is not a precise art. But then September came and went and far into October we then went, and the more that each day passed then the less and less the world of X-Plane slowed down... you were for days sometimes just looking at a blank canvas. Weirder was the fact everywhere you went on planet X-Plane during October it was either raining or stormy? xEnviro only runs with the current live weather, great for total realism, but bad for trying to do a review in dark murky wet conditions, worse as you where halfway through a review and the damn sunshine comes out... So your sitting there thinking, why use xEnviro? Good point, but only currently does xEnviro give you that realism in weather conditions, sometimes it is all a little too realistic A lot of developers have access to the new beta, but as I have found is that in having access doesn't means you can actually use it, as it is still buggy and elements are missing. So what do you do? Some developers just gave up and went on holiday/vacation instead of pressing the keys. Some got blindsided by a Hurricane, yes it was that sort of month. A lot of developers have been caught out before at the initial release of X-Plane11. It came out of the box pretty good, but the beta process then ran on for months (and months) and the release went mostly backwards and so you were caught? Update and you were out of date at the next well... update. Hold off until X-Plane 11 went final and you were waiting months before getting a final layout of the simulator, then you had a lot of work to update. In reality you can't win either way. So obviously Beta 11.30 will start the whole process all over again. To be fair in the fact that Laminar Research is now a very different place than it was say five years ago. For one they now actually have staff, unlike back then it was a totally caffine intoxicated Ben Supnik pounding along, and Austin Meyers making performance changes on the fly.... most of the other contributors were still mostly outside this inner two man circle... until Supnik brought in Chris Serio to take on a bit of the coding overload off his shoulders. Now Laminar is starting to feel like a business and not a hobby, it even has a PR person. The release of beta 11.30 was nothing like the buggy messes of the past X-Plane10 era, yes we had to wait, almost to the end of October and almost two months longer as the first date it was to be first expected, but it came very smoothly out of the box, it is a sensational update and as good as promised, it has it's quirks as I will address in the analysis, but they are not the beta itself, but the changes that are required by third party addons... yes there will be bugs, and yes there will be updates, but I am very sure that 11.30 will go final well before the end of the year. Is this the same Laminar Research we are talking about... even that could you even mention they are now very professional in their approach to the simulator? You can, but I hope that none of the original pioneering spirit is still also not lost, and with this beta release I think that is very much still in evidence. First thoughts are that X-Plane11 has gone to another higher level, even at this early stage. And again seriously ignore the total idiots that note they are getting poor framerates and bad crashes from the beta and shouting and complaining about their own self ineptitude, as "Stupid is as stupid does"... And could you seriously believe that so many actually complained when xVision was rendered disqualified because of the new 11.30 Vulkan shader system... they were told, from the start, and on why it was free in the first place, dummies. It is very good, but be aware it will take time to sort all the small details out, and yes you will have a cliff face of updates to climb through, but the efforts in doing so will be well worth it. Plugins A lot of plugins have had updates lately and plugins more that other areas of X-Plane were the busiest over the last month. There is now a growing gap between what I call "Pro" plugins and the rest. Where as before all plugins were really all the same and experimental. Certainly if you are paying for a plugin it should be a Pro version, but quality is the key if the plugin is pro or not. But some pro plugins are really expensive in the $50-$60 range like RealityXP's GTN750 FMC, and are they justified at that sort of price, xEnviro's environmental engine is insanely expensive, but I can't live in X-Plane without it? so it is all relative. But good and even great plugins are certainly worth the expense if they deliver. WebFMC is simply brilliant and more so now updated and when used with Rotate's MD-88. X-ATC-Chatter and X-Camera are both excellent, not to say with BetterPushBack and TerrainRadar. GroundHandling Deluxe has had an update, but a poor one in my view, but it is still well worth the cash. WorldTraffic3 is still the plugin of all plugins, and like xEnviro I just could not use X-Plane without out the WT3 activity it delivers. XPRealistic Pro is also brilliant, but it is seriously hampered by the use of it's FlyWithLua installation, FlyWithLua conflicts with everything and everything because it uses the same coding as most SASL plugins that run, well everything and everything, and FWL is always my first visitor when X-Plane won't load or run correctly, for now FlyWithLua is out of my plugins folder because it is just conflicting with too many other plugins... a really big shame because I really love the XPRealistic effects... but my sanity comes first, and add that in with this past mad... odd, weird October there is not much of that left either... roll on November! Stephen Dutton 1st November 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  12. Behind the Screen : September 2018 Most online fliers don't really care about scenery, it is all about in the way the aircraft flies, handles and feels. To a point they are correct, but if the aspects of the way you use and fly an aircraft is not accurately represented in it's correct environment then without that reflection you are seriously missing something else in the dynamics of simulation. Almost all of the early simulators certainly followed this aspect, as scenery or the replication of the real world environment was not back then a high profile item on their feature lists, obviously detailed aircraft were not available either, but if the general view of the land (ground) and sky was represented then the focus was on the flying of the aircraft. Even when I came into X-Plane with v9 nearly nine years ago the scenery mesh was still quite primitive, you accepted it because it was the best it could be at the time, even if the mesh and objects was still basic, airports were a little better but were mostly converted early FlightSim 2004, because they were the only objects that would sorta of convert over to the X-Plane's initial OBJ8 format. If you wanted some sort of a realistic environment what you really needed was a very good if warped sense of imagination, thankfully I was equipped with such a heightened awareness. X-Plane10 came in with a focus more on the environmental aspect than the actual aircraft. the base mesh came now with complex mapping built in, which replicated better water areas and most importantly included the OSM or Open Street Map data that replicated real world traffic and street layouts, it wasn't perfect in that it relied on real data, and so if you flew to say China, it looked like the Chinese were still back in the water paddy era (it still does to be honest). With X-Plane10 also came "Autogen" which was a set of library objects built in to the simulator to replicate housing and urban infrastructure, it worked and it didn't, because at first there was too few art assets of which then basically consisted of SoCal houses (South California) and a few factories... The idea of X-Plane autogen was to not totally replicate absolutely real world objects, but to sort of create a generalisation of what a urban areas looked like, the plus is that the objects were highly refined and extremely efficient, if a little samey compared to the real world, worse was the fact that the SoCal minority objects severely restricted a worldly view and to a point even se in their own American landscape as well. Secondly is that when X-Plane 10 was released all of those 6 years ago, as then computer power or graphic card power was still quite small anyway and if you had 2K of graphic power you were in the top order of trendsetter of gamers, and even with that title then full maximum object settings were just within your reach and not in to the full capacity you really needed to create a realistic urban world around you. The last aspect of X-Plane10 that made a difference was the extension of the area tiles, from a meager 50nm outward to 100nm or . From any altitude the small tile footprint was dismal in the early X-Plane environs, but the 100nm extension did make even a horizon look plausible, but still and even today some mountainous artifacts can still creep into the visual extreme boundary. The odd thing was that X-Plane11's focus was not on the environmental areas, but in some ways X-Plane11 has had an even more larger impact on the realism factor of X-Plane. PBR (Physical Based Rendering) with reflections and it's better shadow and lighting effects now brought the objects to life, and scenery and mostly airports became a much more real place to work of fly into or out from. Then more autogen objects in the form of Germanic style housing really changed the outlook of areas, as the German feel is more representative of areas not only in Europe (including the UK) but even in Asia, Russia and even Japan than the restrictive American architecture. Other areas have changed significantly as well, mostly in graphic power. In 2018 you should have at least a 4K graphic card, a 6K is better, but in reality a 8K card is now required, with a 11K card as a target soon. The line should level off around 15K of which is still a generation of graphic cards away. the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is the current champion of the best of the best with 11K, but even with this monster installed then you will still not get every setting slider set to maximum, as the killer here is the texture quality. So why the X-Plane history lesson? Well it is important to note that In 2018 a line was crossed, an important line on several points. One was that more European urban (meaning industrial) autogen was added now into the mix (which was covered here) and the American set of the same medium industrial autogen is coming in the 11.30 beta. Also scenery developers finally got the message that using the autogen to your advantage can create a better product, in that if the gaps between the autogen and the custom scenery was reduced it made a huge difference to the overall scenery. That aspect is also covered even in a larger picture in that if you create city sceneries with using the autogen as a major fill around your city central items. It is important to note that to get the full effect now, you do need your object slider set at full maximum, in the past this was really never possible, but autogen efficiency is getting better, but obviously there has to be a trade off, even for me. That comes with dropping down your texture quality slider to "high", and yes you lose a little quality, but not as much as you would expect in this age of high quality textures. But find the balance and you can get a high object count and still have a quality custom scenery and still mostly use or get through with the settings on a 4K graphic card. The current effects of all this is that now X-Plane11 scenery is getting mind bogglingly good, the images created for the reviews shows those aspects on how far X-Plane has really now come. There is no way even a year or so ago you could get the scenario of Florence, Italy or the mega Seattle size sceneries to deliver the sort of full visual impact that they are now delivering, in airports with ShortFinal's KLAX and Nimbus's KORD they are not now islands in the landscape, but part of the landscape in a whole. I have always championed the use of the efficient autogen coupled with custom scenery to get the best visual representation and efficiency out of X-Plane and the current development certainly bears that out, yes I accept the Ortho4XP route is very popular, but expensive with hardware and not very efficient. But to date you can see the effects of just have one artist doing the work, as very good and talented as it is, it is just too slow a progress, ditto the excursion for city landmarks as only a few can be produced for each city, leave landmarks to the custom payware addons and add in more regional autogen for more impact, that fact has now been proven. But I am not denying that in areas the autogen model is still wanting and many blank areas do still show uncomfortably in your eyeline. And in another aspect it also now shows the limitations of the X-Plane autogen spread as being now very severely limiting. Certainly the Seattle scenery made that very obvious, with if you sit at Sea-Tec airport and turn your viewpoint to the Seattle city, then the autogen stops about halfway into the scenery, and from above it shows the spread limitations quite badly, and that is not to get started on the limitations of the traffic/road night lighting. But the x square of adjusting the autogen spread like with the earlier load of mesh tiles maybe more of a backward step at this point than a forward one. But that ultimate of nirvana is now getting extremely close as well. Views of horizon to horizon autogen and full city landmarks will soon create a full vista of reality. Helped by (hopefully) the huge efficiency of the Vulkan/Metal api's and the next generation of computer power, then the doubling of current processing power should get the deed finally done, and all should come together around the time of X-Plane12's release. This is also very prominent in that the Laminar Research road map (hint X-Plane12) will mean a major focus on efficiency, so the biggest changes will be internal and not visual, with all the expanded updates and versions over the last decade, and that is not overall a bad thing, as it is a clearing out of the dated aspects of X-Plane that are holding it back and not allowing the simulator to move forward, and obviously we will lose some very cherished areas, which is very Apple, but we know that the benefits will always highly outweigh the losses. The point is that finally X-Plane is starting a new era in realistic visual simulation, yes there is still a way to go, but finally the blocks are now falling into place, and it has been a very long difficult road to get to this point... but we are getting there. Ground Routes Many new airport payware scenery releases are featuring and including WT3 - WorldTraffic3 ground routes and airport operations as part of the package. The included routes are excellent in a drop in and get instant perfect traffic activity at the airport. These provided routes have a load of advantages, mostly in saving you time in either waiting or generating the said routes and then getting on with this flying business. Get it right and it is an instant high satisfaction rating. But many if most scenery releases with this new feature now being released, is this aspect really not what it really seems at all, and in some ways it is a total backstep to the sceneries benefits. In most cases those so called provided "custom created" ground routes are just a generation of WT3 application, packed up and packaged. And in most cases they are not even tested. The issue really goes far deeper than this. Most developers understand the creation of the ATC ground route system in WED (WorldEDitor), but only on a superficial level. So yes they create the ground routes and what is done is done and expect the routes to be perfect, but the problem is that all traffic applications and certainly in the far more clever and more complex WT3 application, in that it requires the far, far more detailed and correct flow information in taxiway and runway routes, correct stand information (open stand or bay stand), and more so in the state of the stand (correct stand information). I admit is it very complex layout to understand and can take a fair bit of time to configure correctly and yes only a few brave souls have gained this specialised skill, and the very best is Brian Navy or K-Man. And to a point that is the problem. Start up a newly installed scenery with these so called provided custom routes inserted and they either work perfectly or worse horribly in they simply don't. The thing is here you are paying for them to be honestly perfect. But too many sceneries lately have been totally horrible, with traffic aircraft running around in circles, running across the grass, departing right through terminals and the list goes on, in fact they are worse than the generated versions in the first place... the worse issue is the landing connection to the gate or stand. This is actually caused by the stand information not being the correct data wise, but the results are when even an aircraft lands correctly it will simply disappear instead of taxiing off the runway to the gate. That is fine but in over half an hour and all the ground aircraft will have then departed and then with no resupply of arriving aircraft, the airport then empties out to a complete blank or a wasted few. Worse this month was LEAL - Alicante Airport by VirtualDesign3d, followed by KORD - Chicago by Nimbus, and the list this year has been extensively long, and do you yet see any reviews on these pages for the said scenery, no, and that is because the traffic systems just don't work, and if you haven't see a review for a released scenery, you can always guarantee it is always this same issue. Thankfully Brian Navy has fixed up KORD, as he fixed up KSEA and KLAX as well and a mountain of others, so we should send him some nice fat food parcels or slabs of beer. But that does not fix the problem? The thing that really annoys me! is that to get the ground routes checked out for these mistakes is not THAT hard to do. I certainly don't want K-Man overloaded with fixup issues to save us all, but obviously he and a few others could advise on what is wrong the ground routes and where to fix them. Developers think that the scenery highlights are the 3d buildings, great animations and specialised glass and as much clutter as you can fill in there... but if the traffic activity does not work, then for everything else it is a dead airport, or a flat simulation, or worse a lot of wasted purchaser's time in getting it all fixed up to the point that it should have been done in the first place... ground routes and airport activity is the No1 feature of every scenery, not the bottom of the list feature, if the traffic does not work correctly you won't use the scenery, buy another one from the developer or worse just bin it... and worse still I won't review it, because the punters deserve better. X-Plane11.30 It is almost here... The next X-Plane11 update in beta 11.30 is due imminently, and my guess at the UK Cosford FlightSim on October 6th. A note that the speaker at Cosford for Laminar Research is not Ben Supnik or the Grand Poobah himself in Austin Meyer's but Philipp Ringler. That denotes that Ben is staying back to cover the XP11.30 beta fallout, of which means the release will be the same time as the presentation and not a delayed release date.... excited, you should be. This update is full of features, but it will still be the small fixes that will have the biggest impact on your day to day flying. Obviously it will be the new particle effects that will create the most drama, and the game is on in that who will get their aircraft out first with the effect feature? Or will we get the same deal as when X-Plane11 came out in that many developers will wait until v11.30 goes final before updating? personally I don't think so, as the effects have been in development for a very long time and also they should be be very well tested by now. One thing will be for sure, there will be a lot of updating to do, and it will be very busy until at least the USA Thanksgiving day 2018 marker. The update will of be covered in detail by X-PlaneReviews as per usual, and by the time the next "Behind The Screen" comes around in November then v11.30 will have been released and all the results will be in... so until then, just keep on downloading and updating! Stephen Dutton 1st October 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  13. Behind the Screen : August 2018 In many ways 2018 up to date has been a slightly frustrating one. It is X-PlaneReviews coda to checkout any new releases before publication in either "News!" or "Reviews". Other X-Plane news outlets proclaim new products, but they don't actually see them, so in reality they don't know really what sort of product it really actually is being released, but as in reality the detail is not very good. We (as in you) and I (as in X-PlaneReviews) expect and accept a certain leeway in new releases or new developers coming into X-Plane. That fact is a given because at it's heart X-Plane is quite complex. Even the very best developers have issues, bugs and items that need attention after the main release, you even expect that and understand that complexity, and usually the areas and items are corrected quickly and professionally. But in 2018 we have had a bounteous of new product and new developers coming into X-Plane, and certainly the more on board the merrier. They come in two segments with crossover products from the FlightSim world, or someone starting out as a apprentice developer. Nothing wrong with either of those approaches, but they do all have one major thing in common, in badly incompleted projects. In many cases the really "totally obvious" areas that are not covered before releasing their work for sale and to the expectation of users buying it. Downloading a lot of scenery this year I have been appalled at the so called "finished state" of the projects, some of my correction lists are quite long and detailed on why in reality this scenery shouldn't be on sale in this state... other projects are in similar positions, but are ruined more by poor installation details, and manuals (mostly plugins). The major point here is that, why not have the work checked and corrected before publication? the i's dotted and the t's crossed... and don't get me wrong here in that I want all the time the absolutely perfect product on my download, but if a user is faced with a poor scenery with a half completed layout or a plugin they can't install or use then the developer is in trouble, and if they are new to the X-Plane system then that reputation is going to get hammered from day one. So the point is you can't save someone that isn't going to listen in fixing up even the basic requirements. Once the product is up on the store and a review is done then the excuse that the "review was hard on the product, and affected the sales" is to blame the messenger and not the developer that didn't get it checked out correctly in the first place. We are very mindful here at X-PlaneReviews on how our reviews are presented, but we still look at the released product in the context of it's release sale presentation. In many cases we have delayed a review till the v1.2 release to clear up some items, but the reality is once the review is pinned and is then now out there warts and all once we post it, and then Google will stamp it up there on their servers as well. The problem is the situation is getting worse and worse and not better as the year goes on. Three items downloaded together this week for potential reviews were all rejected in one form or the other because they were quite bad in the same one form or the other aspect... so instead of doing reviews I am actually doing my monthly notes instead... all were worthy reviews, but all were not worthy of attention because of the various areas that are not completed or the installation was not achieved, and X-Plane users deserve far better and more so if you are paying for it. Worse is the point that there is a little war going on at the moment in trying to get "freewarers" to open their tight financial fists and to support developers and X-Plane in creating a more quality simulator than just being a "Global Airport" simulator that seems to be doing a far better job than the so called professionals lately. And deep down the crux of the issue is poor release product, that is simply incomplete or not up to the standard that payware requires, but overall the points that get me really annoyed is the fact that most areas only needed to be looked over and corrected before release, and in most cases there was only minor fixes and changes required, and maybe only a few weeks more work required. A small note on the FS crossovers as their issues are slightly different from the apprentices in the fact that their products don't take advantage of X-Plane's features to promote their product. I have already mentioned about the dumping of mostly FS product in X-Plane to make a quick dollar, but this is mostly quality product that misses out on some excellent tools (i.e. animated airbridges) to make their product (even if old) far more attractive for X-Plane users, again this track record has not been very good to downright awful. But the attitude of "we will fix it up later is after release" is not going to make you like Apple a trillion dollar company even if that system works for them, they do still beta testing and try to make sure their products are in a certain quality frame before putting them up for sale. This is in the school report of "must try harder" or at least to get your work checked out by a third party (and with someone actually familiar with X-Plane), and correct the glaring mistakes or issues before publication. Environmental Products September or the Q3 period of 2018 is going to an an interesting and even a very exciting time for X-Plane in first the release of v11.30 (see below) and the battle for your skies with environmental products from Xenviro and Active Sky. Environmental plugin products for X-Plane have had an interesting history. The first was SkyMaxx, the plugin was a breakthrough weather engine but suffered early framerate issues, but with development and great features it is was certainly a big step above the native X-Plane weather, with crepuscular rays and lens flare for realism. xEnviro was in my mind though the real breakthrough environmental engine, expensive at US$70, however I still think it delivered that promise of realism and the excellent framerate that it promised. The product itself is very good, but the activities behind the product are going straight into the situation of on how to really stuff up your customers and your own credibility in one go with manual 101. On release there was a foray of updates till Dec 2016, that initially made the plugin really good, great performance and quality weather was a bonus that was v1.06, and it had only one itsy-bitsy issue in that if you lost the internet connection to xEnviro's servers it would simply crash, it was a small one, but a big issue in the day to day running of the simulator... a fix, not on your life. The fix finally came in v1.7 in September last year (nine months late) and xEnviro plowed on with the more coming "great features" that finally came with v1.08 in January 2018. Only it didn't as that version had a huge amount of bugs, then came v1.09 that had even more. To put things into perspective a member of the xEnviro team was involved in a life threatening incident that required some time away to recover and hence the mess and quick release of v1.09, fair enough... but a bug fix, again not on your life, and we are still waiting six months later. So the full bug fix list since Dec 2016 or 20 months ago is just for that Internet connection bug, as I am still running on v1.07. The really annoying thing is that the v1.09 had so much promise, it is SO very good, but you can't actually use it, and the framerate use now stinks? I will note that xEnviro are also tied in with the Laminar Research X-Plane changes, so a lot is not actually their fault, but even a few bug fixes, just to keep the customer happy after paying over US$70 dollars while you develop forward, not on your nellie. And so most users have already pulled their expensive plugin and gone back to the now more better refined but still heavy framerate Austin Meyer puffs of cloud. To be balanced is that in the last few months the xEnviro team have been more supportive with better support and forthcoming information, but like I said, I am still running v1.07 (really v1.06 with one bug fix) and so this version is still actually 20 months old. If your a Mac user you didn't have all this palaver because you never got the plugin option in the first place, like I said... customer relationship manual 101 (look under failures). So why all the above customer report... Well in September and now in beta is HiFi's Simulations Technologies ActiveSky, a Flightsim product coming over to X-Plane11. The points are that ActiveSky has a pretty good if with an excellent track record in Flightsim, its been around for ages in fact since 2002. On one side is the fact that FlightSim product ported over to X-Plane can have a pretty fickle record, but HiFi do have the numbers on the board and the product is to be priced moderately at around the USA$50 mark Are you starting to get the full picture between xEnviro and ActiveSky... If ActiveSky delivers then do you expect users to still be faithful to xEnviro? as you can only push your punters so far, and this is noted in the aspect that xEnviro is a brilliant product, and has coming some even more brilliant ideas and features... like snow on the ground or mountainous areas, so if the METAR report says snow then you will get that without then changing to a seasonal texture, that feature alone is worth the entry cost, and deep down xEnviro has delivered some exceptional and realistic weather. My gut wants xEnviro to be the premier environmental tool for X-Plane, but the story so far means it has it's very difficult (and wholly avoidable) past to overcome before creating or pressing on with any new forthcoming features... their past luxury development time and user patience is now very quickly running out. v11.30 I covered a full analysis of X-Plane's immediate future in both the Expo 2018 roadmap report and the last Laminar Research Q & A session over the last few months. Overall you got a pretty excellent picture between these two sessions on where X-Plane is currently going. Certainly v11.30 is going to be an absolute blockbuster, in the fact I have nicknamed it X-Plane11 v2.0. But like I noted in my Q & A notes is the fact that these ongoing progressing features are now taking a significant toll on my system. Anyone one will tell you that simulation is always going to be an unending battle with hardware vs software and the hardware usually loses, as you think you have won that battle and then a new one starts, but when your framerate count is starting to run in the lower 20's you start to worry, and I have my settings set at only in moderate positions and not at full max, then the worry is more fraught than ever. My position is always that if can run this then you should be able to as well. My hardware is not the full blast power house, but not quite also the "so old" as it still uses Windows 7, and in that it is positioned very much in the middle to reflect the balance of X-Plane's current requirements. The odd thing is that I am in the frame of mind that I am not yet in the next upgrade cycle. My graphic card is 8gb and should be powerful enough for most (yes I know that higher is better) but my board and processors are now starting to feel their three year old age, and so are due to be replaced next year. But overall I should still be in that middle ground of being able to negotiate a balance... but I have this terrible gut feeling that v11.30 might just do me in? My savior is hopefully going to be the new APIs of Vulkan (in my case and Linux users) and Metal (for the 36.9% of you that are Apple users), but they are not due until the end of the year, if the API doesn't fulfill its promises then the board and chip upgrade is going to have to happen even sooner, but my reasoning is that Vulkan will deliver and does in the areas I require it to really deliver in and that is in processing the smaller stuff even quicker. The one major aspect of the Q & A was that Laminar are going forward in one major area and that is in efficiency. So the biggest new features coming are not now the visual showy ones but the hidden engine parts of the simulator and the fact you may not be able to twiddle with the X-Plane internals as much as you could in the past, see the Dev Blog post on shaders. And in fact I think there will be a lot of ongoing internal engine changes right up to until the end of the X-Plane11 run, and not much of the original X-Plane engine will be in there by then as you move into X-Plane12, a bit like when Apple moved over to Mac OS X from Classic MacOS. Killer Simulator users There was the New York Post article about the guy Richard Russell that stole a Dash Q400 and flew it around and finally crashed it in the middle of Seattle's Nisqually Reach on Ketron Island. The article notes is that yes in "you and me" as simulator users are now the biggest danger to the public since ISIS or Al-Qaeda (and yes they also used aircraft as well for terror). More to the point we are a fast rising source of danger because we have already done this threat already before as from the evidence created by that "rogue" pilot that flew with training on "a simulator" into stealing and crashing the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that flew to "god knows where" and crashed and killed so many innocent people.... you are now walking around with a "Killer" or "Terrorist" written on your back because of your association with flight simulation. So be careful folks as they are on to us! The article is poorly written, X-Plane was noted originally but that section has been deleted (maybe at the deference of Laminar Research) who were also noted in the original article for comment. But some points are quite ridiculous, notably the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Air Safety Institute spokesman that quoted "A pilot would also need endorsements from flight instructors for certain skills to fly a Q400"... hello Mr AOPA, Russell stole the aircraft and didn't ask for permission? But the article did say (originally to the quality of X-Plane's simulation dynamics) that are home based simulators now getting too realistic and now almost too lifelike for their own good. Obviously this is the main goal of simulators in trying to be as realistic and as close to real world flying aircraft as possible, to note that real world pilots do brush up on their skills on home based computers before doing so in training in real world simulators, and we them call "Study" aircraft for a reason, in to replicate the real world aircraft and ground based simulators for cross training. Let us be realistic in the fact that all home simulators were all mostly created originally to help in and for real world training, not for home user histrionics. The inevitable point or discussion on if a simulator user could jump in (in this case a Dash Q400), start it up, taxi, takeoff and then do aerial aerobatics is highly debatable and certainly every simulator users ultimate dream. One thing for sure was that it wasn't the X-Plane simulator that Russell flew and learnt from (if he did anyway). X-Plane only has one graded Q400 from FlyJSIm, and very good as it is, but it is certainly not certainly deep enough of systems and avionics to be a base for starting up a real Q400. The only simulation of depth is the MJC8 Q400 from Majestic and it comes with and wait for it... a training edition! Maybe that is why Laminar Research ask the NYP to delete their references to X-Plane. But anyway you look at it, then the guy could startup, taxi and fly the aircraft, and so could he have also landed it... I think so (Dashs are notoriously hard to land) as he didn't want to or need to as he selected (the point is he selected) a barren empty island to finish off not only the aircraft but also his own life. The debate that experienced flight simulator users could transition to the real aircraft will forever rage on, but my experience is that I transitioned to a real B737 simulator and that was from a being a behind a monitor and using a keyboard flier and flew it from YBBN to YSSY and all with the nodding approval of my right seat flying instructor. In the account of my own abilities and with that experience in mind I am quite sure I could fly the real B737. So that must make me now public enemy No.1! Stephen Dutton 1st September 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  14. Behind the Screen : July 2018 - X-PlaneReviews 5th Anniversary This edition of "Behind the Screen" coincides with X-PlaneReviews fifth year Anniversary. A big deal, well in any industry to survive is foremost the general idea, but in this very modern fast moving world as many others can come and disappear in simply a blink of an eye, as usually (mostly around the New Year) up a new site pop's and it is totally full of enthusiasm and to be honest you do get overwhelmingly overwhelmed by the sheer output they are able to quickly generate, so you keep your head down and do the best you can, keep the faith (family motto) and plug on ahead. Then usually they start to falter, and within months they have either collapsed and mostly disappeared, or then finally the odd old post then pops up now and again, but mostly the dragon storm has run it's course and blown itself out. Personally I don't mind these sites as any new viewpoints in X-Plane can always be welcomed, you can always learn something new as well or see a different approach to what you are doing. But the worry is when in the unbridled enthusiasm of the getting so much attention in that the actual facts get well... a bit lost in the message or with the messenger, as this is of course the age of instant news, or "fake (internet) news" and then every email, message or text is taken as gospel when it is actually isn't and then then the post is out there, and the damage is done, and sometimes mostly the damage is irreparable. X-PlaneReviews is a bit, well shall we say old school... more city newspaper than instant TMZ, but the one thing we do is check is our facts, and so we know what is really going on in the industry (even if sometimes we can't tell you about it), that goes for our reviews, yes the reviews are a few days and even sometimes a few weeks older than the release date, but we would have flown the real aircraft, landed at the real scenery and tested those plugins. No heresay, no passed on information, we have checked it out and verified the product is what it is. Like most work, then what you see is only the top of the iceberg, a lot of what we do is behind the scenes, working with developers and helping with ideas, testing... a lot of testing, helping users, the list goes on, and the pop up sites then very quickly realise, that to run a site like this requires a lot of hours of work, the idea of just posting, posts is actually very different from reality, spend a few days away and the landscape has already changed, the funny thing about running websites is that you actually work far harder and a lot longer than you did with manual work and it takes up a vast amount of your time, this is the one area that the budding bloggers also don't see, but they soon quickly find those facts out. So what has changed in X-Plane in those five years, well a lot, but a lot is still the same. In detail then X-Plane is way and above and beyond with what what had back then, in fact most aircraft and sceneries from back then would simply be laughable today, but that is not to say they weren't good, they were what they were for the time and the computer power, and to think back then we really had only one virtual cockpit (a nice B757), as all the panels were only 2d... all 2d, and just think about that. The quality in design in X-Plane11 is now jaw-dropping, you think it couldn't get any more realistic, and then it does some more, but in also being far more efficient as well with the latest tools. We certainly loved our aircraft five years ago, as we do today, but the range we have to choose from now is getting overwhelming, but from a FlightSim point of view of X-Plane that would seem laughable, but the choice is now there for every taste. So the change in reviewing has grown substantially as well. Overall we still do the same in detailing the aircraft or scenery, flying the aircraft or testing out the scenery (mostly for framerate efficiency)... but it is in the depth of the aircraft and to a point in the scenery in detail, that is where we have had the biggest changes. I was able to review five years ago, because basically the aircraft were quite simple... but that is certainly not the case today. The hardest challenge in reviewing is simply making the same feel different, and saying the same facts over and over about the same thing in 1200+ reviews, and even making it entertaining. The main point of the five years of the journey of this X-PlaneReview site is the extensive work of learning. and even more so in the last few years. The skills required are now high, and I would say even real world capable. You could say I was getting above myself, even a so called "big shot know it all". But I disagree. Five years of constantly flying and practically in pretty well everything from hang-gliders to A380's, and I mostly fly when doing with reviews 2hr to 4hrs a day that is converted to 28 to 30 hours per week, yes a day and even if I averaged that out with sceneries. The one area I have had less time to do is long haul which is my favorite form of flying, because I constantly need the computer for the reviews, but I will sneak one in now and again. Mostly when doing reviews the flying computer is usually still running, flying or testing or like it is right now with a new aircraft to review doing a 350 nm flight. And then is the actual physical study with manuals and a lot of Googling for the areas that are not covered in manuals or specific instrument items, lingo or just plain aircraft information. The last year instead of the study becoming less with time, it has actually stepped up significantly with far more heavily detailed study aircraft now coming into X-Plane, this year has been an Airbus year with the deep systems ToLiSS319 and FlightFactor's A320 Ultimate, then there was the extensive depth of the Boeing twins of FlightFactor's B757/B767 and FJS B732, I mean even a real pilot learns and flies only one airframe at a time... for god's sake! ... and worse I want to keep everything as real or as close to the real world as possible. Then comes X-Plane itself. I started with X-Plane9, with X-Plane10 changing the environmental aspects of the simulator, the focus there was in taking the basics of X-Plane9 and then making the world around the fundamentals of just flying an aircraft, and to making a far more realistic world to actually fly the aircraft in, and the change to 64bit was a very important step as well. At the time X-Plane11 didn't seem to be the huge step in simulation that X-Plane10 was, but looking back from this position today then X-Plane11 has changed the simulator more than X-Plane9 and X-Plane10 put together. Many of you would disagree with that statement, but I believe that X-Plane11 has more depth now globally than any other simulator out there (and yes many will also totally argue that case) but here are the facts. PBR or Physically Based Rendering has totally and absolutely changed the way we see and feel all the areas in simulation, PBR makes the simulation world realistic, and you only have to compare the X-Plane10 version of an aircraft to a X-Plane11 version, in other words... dull or alive. X-Plane was known for it's highly realistic aircraft performance and handling, that is nothing new. But since X-Plane11 was released the basics of the flying have also again fundamentally changed, You however need the tools to access this area, as a throttle system is now invaluable. In reviewing the biggest challenge now is simply landing an aircraft. Every single aircraft has a totally different feel and performance, before X-Plane11 there was a sort of barometer between most categories of aircraft and it was quite easy to adapt between them, but that is simply not the case now in X-Plane11. The simulator now is very much more fine tuned to the aircraft's performance and the challenge of finding that absolutely correct timing and throttle adjustment that separates lift from stall has become crucial, and every aircraft is now very different in this area, and it is very highly challenging to get it right, and then do it again. The point is the skills required are now also seriously high, challenging as much as it is in the real world, and in fact the real world is actually probably a little easier as you have real metal around you with a real feel from the machine, just like when driving a car compared to a car racing game. Of all the areas over the last five years this one has been the most difficult, the most demanding area of all, because I simply can't get it wrong as the review counts on these factors. I do admit that in reviews (mostly with GA aircraft) I do put a lot of emphasis on this area in X-Plane11. As noted the basics of X-Plane haven't really changed but everything else has. I would have never dreamed of the gate to gate experience I can achieve now with say the ToLiSS319 and a few quality addon sceneries and that I was so aghast that so many users in X-Plane are not taking advantage of the quality of the aircraft and scenery now available to them to make their flying as authentic as it can actually be. Most changes over the years have been incremental, but the simulator has changed fundamentally, but two areas have made the biggest differences, in Laminar Research's change it was the switch to 64bit, as that allowed the explosion of space to expand out the simulator and make it more relevant. In addons it was the release of Classic Jet Simulation's World Traffic, that filled up your airports and made X-Plane a far more dynamic world around you, and for all the clever ideas over the years X-Plane still doesn't come close to choice of addons that the FlightSim users have available. And weather is a great example, with the still bulky native weather system, the SkyMaxx series and xEnviro, all have positives, but none really absolutely covers the workable system X-Plane requires and what that FlightSim has had for years, and the less said about X-Plane's ATC the better. No one bores quickly than me, and I don't have time in my life to waste it around on trivia, so what has held my attention for nine years by keeping me here in computer simulation. That huge learning curve for one, there is always something to learn, practise or do better, or try that again, aiming for perfection and to be as good as the real guys. The development of the simulator, in ideas, genius moments and seeing developers up their game with every release, pushing the boundaries, seeing the dream come true in front of you of flying almost the real aircraft, landing at an almost real airport, the development cycle simply never stops and I have a slogan in "X-Plane - Building the world around you at one airport at a time". I actually gave myself four months in X-Plane before the so called then "fad" wore off, but here I am almost eight years later and still enjoying it, loving it actually and knowing on how much more there is still to come, and X-Plane leads in online communities, users and people all over the world from every nationality that all have the same goals, aspirations and share their same love for online simulation, there are no barriers here, not race, not age, not gender... stupidity maybe, but then that is universal, but overall we share and do the same together, learn, dream and push X-Plane forward, we get a lot of things right that most humans on the planet get wrong. I have made a few speculations this year, but one thing that is very apparent is that these next few years are going to the most significant for the simulator, where and in what direction will it go, good or even bad... but we are still growing, still adding in the numbers, but X-Plane is still at a very critical point in its history... and even I couldn't forecast the future right now, but like in the real world it is not X-Plane itself per se that is the question, but the events outside and surrounding it that will bring the questions and the changes, the problem with every business is that people and things change, many like myself who have been in simulation for years will move on, and new people and business's will replace them with their own agendas, change happens... for the good or for the bad,and if I am here in another five years time in will be interesting of where we will be then as now... if the changes are as big and as significant as they have been in the last five years, then that will certainly be interesting and exciting time. Payware Clutter Earlier this month came the "cease and desist" notice to a developer, in this case it was Rim&Company that produced the scenery "Ayers Rock" and "Ushuaia Malvinas Airport". If you look you will see that both sceneries have been pulled from sale. The issue is that the developer used clutter or objects taken from other sceneries without their permission, most notably here is Cami De Belis and Richard G. Nunes our South American specialist, and at least in that context Rim&Co had their pick of quality objects. But this is a no, no in X-Plane or any simulation platform, as if you use items or objects you must have permission if it is a payware product, mostly just as a notice to the ownership and copyright of the original material or work, some developers will ask for a small fee, but most will allow for free in respect to where the original items came from. Some rumors even stated that Rim&Co actually doctored the objects to claim them as their own (copyright), which if true is even worse than just stealing them in the first place. Personally I thought something was wrong while reviewing Rim&Co's "Ayers Rock" as there was extensive over clutter that I mentioned in the review, and believe me there is nothing like that much in quality detail anywhere in Central Australia... In context though it is hard for Payware developers, but not enough to actually steal items. If you are a freeware developer you have a very wide selection of libraries, hence the output of say tdg, and a lot of these libraries are very high quality ones at that, like the misterX library. For the payware developer they have to create every single custom item from scratch to build up their own library selection, and in context is that not actually fair. The bonus of this is that the library is all custom and can be used as a feature to sell the scenery, but a lot of clutter is just that in basic airport clutter, and if another quality scenery developer has some really excellent items that is perfect for your scenery and also give X-Plane itself a sort overall consistency then should that option be actually available to them? In my reviewing in scenery, then still most developers are still single dev's and they are still not in the larger teams or groups like you find with aircraft development, although this scenario is currently changing. The problem is that with a single developer although in many areas they are very good in creating the actual scenery, that in some areas they can also be quite average or not even that bothered to create high quality clutter objects. And so in far too many sceneries I have seen many an excellent work ruined by really average baggage carts, aircraft stairs and other clutter that look like they have been created in the 1990's era of 3d modeling. So even then the very best developers can have their weak spots in a single developer scenario unlike were as in a team, in that if one developer can then compensate for the other developer's weaknesses. But is it fair that for someone trying to build a business creating custom payware scenery to have freeware quality clutter at a far higher and in far more abundance than with their own work? I asked mister6X this and he noted it up to the developer to create his own high quality custom scenery, and again as a feature for users to purchase that custom high quality scenery, and for all of that it makes it a reason to highlight the quality of Payware over Freeware, but the issue here becomes more confused in the fact that mister6X also has an extensive high quality library available for freeware developers as well? The overall point here is that if X-Plane is trying to build a business model to attract talented developers to create scenery for the simulator, the first point is "why bother", because the freeware market is just going to ruin any chance of the developer actually making any cash out of it, never mind a living. The X-Plane mindset is already "its free!" so why pay for the same thing, and for one the freeware developers have all the advantages and even sometimes a donation button on their work as well, this is why X-Plane is lagging behind in this area, with the chance of the payware scenery business even collapsing completely altogether. It is also being seen that even high quality scenery can very quickly go on to the "Sale" market and priced well below it's worth just to sell the scenery to cover costs, again the user will get into that "sale" mindset and will know that soon any scenery release they will be able to pick it up at a very low cost, again why would you do it, and why spend months of work just to give it away at below cost... it is a model that just can't survive. So the debate is should developers have access to their own high quality clutter libraries, for a fee? It works both ways... the developer can save months of work in just creating clutter objects that come with a high quality already built in and give X-Plane a consistency of design. And the developers can also make money off the fees for their developed libraries so that is another income stream for their business, plus it gives the developers far more options in the way they can fill out their scenery as they would now skimp on those areas because filling them out is going to take a lot of time for no real return. One way or the other, the current business model for payware scenery has to change and quickly, and so does the altitude towards such practices. So would have Rim&Co paid a fee for those objects instead of stealing from Cami and Richard, probably not... but at least the option would have been there for them to do so. Preview In July X-PlaneREviews introduced a new category called "Preview". Full reviews can take time to cover all the very varied aspects of a scenery or even an aircraft, like the KLAXv2 by ShortFinal as the scenery took nearly four days to review and then there was an extra added on segment for changes. Problem is there are now as many as 4 to 5 new scenery releases a week, and in that I realised I was simply falling behind. Users want facts and usually want them quickly when they want to purchase products, so I could see it was getting to be a problem if even becoming very stressful in just covering every aspect of every releases. So "Preview" was created to give you a comprehensive overview of a release, if the release is significant to X-Plane then of course the full review will still be completed. But "Preview" will allow us to cover the product far more quickly without still missing out on the main important details that are made up in purchase decisions. Again I thank... The site is as always reliant of the many other people to function. First thanks goes out to all the developers that give out such outstanding work, they all have created this amazing intimate world with their creativity. I spend a lot of time with many of them, and although they wonder why I am there suddenly 100% then disappear only to reappear again later and it is that because there are so many projects ongoing, and I try to follow all of them, but time is of course limited. Overall I try to see for the benefits of X-Plane on how the work is going forward. Laminar Research is always a foundation we constantly complain about, but in reality they have really delivered and again this year. It is a far more professional business today than certainly when I entered X-Plane. Give them a another round of applause I think they have deserved it. The X-Plane.Org and the X-Plane.OrgStore is the centre of our X-Plane universe, take both out of the equation and would X-Plane be where it is today, and would this site even exist? I would doubt it. A lot of users note it is a monolith, but I see it as a steady hand in allowing the simulator to thrive as passionate people give a lot of their free time to help and give service to so many others, both Laminar Research and the X-Plane.Org are two binary stars orbiting each other that keeps that balance and the X-Plane engine running, surviving, so it is important that we support both. I have no problem in saying X-PlaneReviews supports the X-Plane.OrgStore because they do supply a lot of the releases for reviews, it allows us to cover a far larger area than most review sites, but my real reason for supporting the X-Plane.OrgStore is because it supports X-Plane in the best way it can in service, and developers trust it and the users do as well, in other words it is a sound and solid foundation you can rely on time and time again and that is a rare thing in this day and age.  See you all next month in our sixth year in X-Plane Stephen Dutton 1st August 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  15. Behind the Screen : June 2018 We ended the last Behind the Screen edition in May 2018 with the coming FlightSimExpo 2018 in Las Vegas. And I covered the overview of the event here Laminar Research : FlightSimExpo 2018 X-Plane Roadmap. The Expo was everything we expected it to be and even more, and the more interesting background of the Expo was just as interesting as the announced upfront details and the following roadmap from Laminar Research. In the short version Laminar did a really great seminar, and in fact were the highlights of the Expo, but that was also the underlying theme of this Expo as was the changes with the overall simulation genre as a business. There was many highlights to the Expo. First being was that simulation although dwarfed by online and video gaming is not as many predicted dying a thousand slow deaths, but coming from the FlightSim World perspective it may seem that way. In fact simulation and as this Expo showed that simulation is quite healthy in new members and participation, but it is still is a small niche area that is simply not advertised enough as to how good simulation really is today... in other words not many people out there actually know that simulation actually exists and how good or how great it is. Secondly is the fact that simulation is going through a major seismic wholesale change, and this year in 2018 will be remembered as one of the most significant moments for the whole of the many simulation platforms, yes this theme has been current for a few "Behind the Screen" editions this year, but it is extremely important to understand why and how this situation is unfolding and then as quickly as it is. This was highlighted even more by the Expo in Las Vegas, yes all the big guns were there in PMDG, Aerosoft, Orbix, Quality Wings, Rex Simulations, Goflight and more. But there was a significant change in the air as well, as in the past FlightSim Simulation business totally and dominated the expos and seminars, but here the mood was very different. And the only company that had the biggest and over-riding presence at the Expo was X-Plane's Laminar Research, and not only on the stage, but in the event hall as well. Daniel Klaue (Thranda) summed it all up nicely in his comments of his visit to the Expo and he was certainly active in finding out of where everything was standing in this current simulation business. His notes that Lockheed Martin's P3D was or is never going to be a community driven sim is highly significant and that the platform's user base is sectioned into areas that in reality is not good if Lockheed Martin's funding (military) is suddenly reduced (Although a pro-Trump defence buildup will not see that in the immediate future), but so If Lockheed Martin decided that a small side simulation business is not worth throwing cash or resources at and again it mirrors the Microsoft decision of a decade ago, then the complete current FlightSim business model and even the user base around it is totally and completely over and in effect the Microsoft platform days are then well and truly over as well. And as Dan Klaue notes.. "if the funding for the development of the sim comes from a 51-billion dollar military industrial complex, interested in the sim primarily for its value in training military personnel, it seems pretty detached from the market forces that could make the sim a better sim for end-users and hobbyists. interested in the sim primarily for its value in training military personnel, it seems pretty detached from the market forces that could make the sim a better sim for end-users and hobbyists." Yes FlightSim may survive the loss of Dovetail Games and FSW, but it certainly won't survive the loss of P3D, and is the Lockheed Martin philosophy and business model one to invest in a five year or more business plan? Dan does note that Lockheed Martin don't even know what to do with P3D themselves, either keep it in the military theme or go public and compete head on with Laminar Research, but overall they are not a private commerce based business but a giant aerospace company. So you can easily see the working of the worry beads by even the most entrenched FlightSim developers and although their smiles and thumbs up said "Everythings OK" the reality is however very different. But Laminar Research and X-Plane is still a very different platform as well. Built by hobbist's and run by hobbist's it is very community driven and that is very good. But X-Plane is also still very different from the user and business likes and not's of the FlightSim community, so hence the real hesitation of the major FlightSim business to come and develop for X-Plane. This fact is highlighted very well or even very badly for X-Plane in the latest user data from Laminar Research.. "Usage Data as of June 2018". As 61% of all flights in the simulator are with still with and only includes the basic default X-Plane aircraft, and default and simple are the word to be noted here. Next down by a long way at 4.5% is the Boeing 738x Zibo mod aircraft which is again free and a development of the same aircraft as the default Laminar Research B738 version? So currently 65% of ALL fights in X-Plane are only with freeware aircraft, and just think about that. My real horror at those numbers was that the two new Airbus aircraft with the FlightFactor A320U and more so with ToLiSS's A319 were not even registered, they are noted as something like a percentage of 0.09%. Yes I will admit they are in a high price point, but the numbers are not good at all if you want to base your payware business model on X-Plane and certainly in the heavy aircraft genre that most of these FS developers have most of their investment. In fact it destroys any chance of any business model at all, and this point is very significant for the future of the X-Plane platform in the simulation business. If the hobbist twiddlers are wanting to keep out the monster FlightSim community out then they are certainly doing a very good job about it, but that sort of mentality is also very, very detrimental and even fatalistic for the future of X-Plane as a simulation platform and certainly as a payware business. This leads to two very different future scenerios for X-Plane and both are not good for the simulator. The first one is that the FlightSim developers group together and create a new simulator in their own image and business model or even buy out the Lockheed Martin platform. This is not hypothetical either as they already have once before as a group tried to buy the original Microsoft Flight Simulator licence, but Dovetail Games put in a higher offer... but that is not saying it will happen again as desperate times create desperate measures. The reflection on X-Plane in this case will be that it will go along on it's merry hobbist way, but there is a significant issue in that even X-Plane devoted current developers will slowly disappear as the returns for the amount of development time will widen and top quality products will gradually become scarce, and in fact innovation instead of going forward in the payware features will slowly disappear. In other word X-Plane will be PlaneMaker based again (Like the Magknight B787) with only a few developers willing to produce aircraft for a very small market as only freeware or a minute share of if any payware aircraft will dominate the simulator. And to be honest even I would abandon my beloved X-Plane if the high quality product stopped coming or decreased, as I hate to go backwards for a minority view of even for a few hobbists. Second scenerio is that the FlightSim developers change X-Plane into their own world view, a sort of migration issue in that in time the immigrants change the nature and soul of the simulation platform to suit their own conveniences and in that yes they would probably make it actually better, but it wouldn't be the X-Plane in the eyes and feel that we know it today. This is already happening in the way that Orbix is already creating their own hub and universe, as you can buy only from them and only them or you either don't get it or be given any choices, worse is the fact they are hoovering up all the best scenery X-Plane developers like no tomorrow with wishes, good tidings and mostly the chance to earn real money, but note that money all goes back only to Orbix and not into X-Plane, is that really the X-Plane way, certainly it is the FlightSim way... So if all these major FlightSim developers do decide to come and eventually run X-Plane as their new universe then the hobbist's will certainly very quickly be outnumbered by the immigrants because they are willing to open their wallets. But then the current miserly user base is very much to blame for their own loss and more so the high loss of a group of very highly talented developers that are only trying to make a living and at least get some sales for their hard work, in reality you just can't blame them going to a market to sell their great ideas and innovation and being rewarded for it, as certainly X-Plane users are all turning their noses up at the work because it is going to cost them a few hard dollars to invest into the X-Plane platform and even then at it's own or even their own survival. And you can also see why FlightSim Developers are not going to come to X-Plane either, why would you for such minuscule returns on your investments and resources and a user base totally disinterested in what you are provided for the simulator... why should you as it will always be free or will it. The excellent and even ground breaking aircraft released already this year with FlyJSim's excellent Boeing 732, FlightFactor's Aircraft A320 Ultimate and most notably the ToliSS319 deserve far, far more than a 0.3% or the noted 0.09% share of the X-Plane market and believe me when this sort of quality stops coming then you will only have yourselves to blame in not investing in the very best, not only in X-Plane but in simulation overall as a platform as well. And don't even get me started on payware scenery. The problem here though is that X-Plane is like buying an Apple Computer, as when you buy the simulator you get everything you need with it as well, from good (not great) default aircraft and basic but still very good autogen scenery, so why buy any addons. From my perspective you are then only doing yourself your own disservice. Yes I loved my original X-Plane, but if I run my current X-Plane version at a basic level then it does feel even quite basic and even then far removed from the environment that has been created around it with quality addons, yes it costs money to build this more comprehensive world, but to me it is an investment, and not just in paying out dollars to get the very best return from the simulator, but it does not have to cost an absolute fortune either, but an investment it still is and an investment that is certainly worth doing and also doing something far better in supporting not only the talented developers but the future and the quality of the simulator itself. PMDG Everyone at the FlightSim Expo where there waiting for a big announcement from their CEO of great importance Robert S. Randazzo. But I do admit he is a funny guy. Would PMDG go (back) into X-Plane... No nothing announced on that theme, "boo hiss". Next was the announcement of their next aircraft release in the Boeing B748.... "Is that all?" was the response when even a few years ago such an announcement would have been a big huge extravagant big deal, with great in-depth features delivered here that had me thinking "what if this B748 WAS in X-Plane and... wow), so is PMDG getting like Apple who over delivered for years and any new announcements are now noted as "lukewarm" at any events. But PMDG's big product announcement was for a Global Flight Operations addon which was quite clever even if it took PMDG ten years to actually build it... but again the response was "You have got to BE kidding me?" with a lot of "OMG's and the total disbelief that this product was the worst ever and "I mean just like just like.. EVER" Global Flight Operations is nothing in the way we haven't already seen, but it does bring all the simulation operations together, and the intergration of ACARS certainly adds into simulation another level of real aircraft/airline immersion, and the fact it is not restricted just to PMDG aircraft and open to any quality payware is another bonus, and consider the FF A320/Toliss319 being used, or the Rotate MD88 or the B757/767 twins. I think it also overall showed PMDG's biggest issue, as this Global Flight Operations would actually work very well strangely enough more in X-Plane because of the higher and more committed, intergrated and connected community base, it is actually more suited to US than their main current FlightSim market... so they are pitching it to the wrong user base. And that is a very interesting point in many ways, not only for X-Plane but for the FlightSim user base as well. Expo But the FlightSim Expo in many respects was the best yet and Laminar Research again really delivered and the particle effects were certainly the highlight of the event for X-Plane as was the ongoing and promise of the development of Vukcan (nee Metal) and the announcements of new the systems and avionics with GFC-700, KFC-250/Century and rate-based S-Tec 55, KAP-140 and the Piper Autocontrol brand autopilots, new oxygen systems, and anti-ice and de-ice systems and better autopilot systems by Phillipp Ringler, and with not too many sleeps either before beta v10.30 with all these goodies enclosed will hit our simulator, with my guess that will be around late August or early September 2018. A small apology in the fact the X-PlaneReviews site was a little slow in a few periods in June, I again came down with a small virus, so that made me a bit of say "unwell", but overall thankfully X-Plane releases were also a little slow... but as they say "life happens". So until the the next edition of "Behind the Screen' at the end of July, then 99.01% of users can look at the excellent ToLiSS319 on this month's header image and wonder out loud what they are really missing out on... but for a full 0.09% rest of us it is heaven in simulation. See you next month. Stephen Dutton 1st July 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  16. Behind the Screen : May 2018 Every year the Flightsim Expo has grown, from a humble 40 attendees (FlightSimCon) in 2013 to the extravaganza of this year's 2018 Expo in Las Vegas on June 9-10, 2018 at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel. Will I be there, well I doubt it as I live in Australia and I really don't think I would get a ESTA visa, In other words I am the sort of person Prez Donald Trump is trying to keep out. But I will keep trying, maybe next year... The thought though of Ben Supnic (Laminar Research) and Las Vegas in the one and same moment is got to be worth any trip to the Expo, Ben can create a massive party in a small time back street bar, so god knows what he will do with the resources available to him in Vegas... it doesn't even bear thinking about, but anything could be on the table post expo... as a side note, there is a notice for users down-under/Oceania for the "Ozflightexpo" in November in Sydney, there is a good chance I will be at that one. But it is the shear volume of users now that makes this SimExpo interesting, in the past then all these of these simulation flight conferences were totally and absolutely dominated by the FlightSim community, X-Plane was usually relegated to a small stand or a minor demonstration slot that got a few nosey punters at the back of the room... how things have changed. This year the Expo still has the FlightSim developers, so no change there, but their wares are now very much more focused on X-Plane and now even to the point that some of the FS punters are announcing their new product for X-Plane more than their traditional markets, I certainly doubt the group from Laminar Research will again be relegated to the back of the room status this year. There will be announcements for X-Plane, but that is not the really important aspect for X-Plane users at the expo. Every year these FlightSim conferences are usually used for the focus on the X-Plane future roadmap, where the simulator is going and what Laminar Research (LR) are focusing their (limited) resources on next. There is a lot of praise to be had in what Laminar have already delivered over the last few years, all that they have announced at FlightSimCon's in the past years they have always been implemented and Laminar have mostly delivered far more in features than they actually promised in the first place. There will always be the groans on that in say the ATC, or the weather, and now Vulcan and their current spiel of "when!" or "if ever". But I personally I have always kept the faith in that when Laminar does deliver a significant and usually for a very problematic key area of X-Plane, then their results or solutions are usually far more better and very elegant for the advancement of the simulator as a whole as like with the delivery of VR (Virtual Reality), so yes key areas are under development, and yes they will be delivered, so let's just "have a little more faith". So a lot is again going to be expected from Las Vegas 2018, but my guess is yes there will be some very nice surprises, but mostly the roadmap will be a more slimmed down but a more focused agenda than what has been presented in the FlightSimCon past. Certainly Vulcan, Metal and multithreading are always top of the wish list, so certainly expect a few notes and powerpoint slides on those items. The X-Plane ground effect is really the simulator's current and most prominent and annoying issue, expect a few notes on that or at least when a fix is coming, it was noted already to be included in the 11.30 beta, but we might find out actually "when" 11.30 might be put into beta. One note to make is the announcement (in a podcast) of the way Laminar Research are wanting to update certain aspects of the simulator, say in this case the engine performance. In the past LR set the performance settings in X-Plane and the developers then went to their own performance models and reset the aircraft engine performance to the new criteria, so far so good. But the problem with that approach was that as LR kept changing or fine tuning performance areas and in some cases even weekly or monthly, the developers just couldn't keep up with all the extensive changes, some tried but most failed (mostly in the jet engine performance) but many then just waited it all out until the changes were finally locked in (end of beta), but this took with X-Plane11 last year a full six months from the introduction of the new simulator version and that made a lot of the aircraft unflyable or just plain awful to fly during that waiting period, and think of the problem is then made worse by say the fleet of over now nearly 40 aircraft that are now produced by Carenado for X-Plane alone. The idea is that if Laminar reset or retune areas of the aircraft performance model, then globally the changes are then transferred to every X-Plane aircraft, so all are updated instantly, no lag and no huge task for the developers to edit every single aircraft to match the changes. It all sound's wonderful and simple, but from the start I had my doubt's, that in theory it would work, but again like with Carenado, you also have the 40 different flight models that are in fact very different from each other, a one set for all to me looks like it would cause more confusion than what it actually solves, again it will be interesting on if Laminar do address this item or bring up the subject at the FlightSim Expo. I would be really surprised if one of the areas that is not addressed or shown at Expo is the ATC. Tyler Young has been hacking away at this for quite a long time now and even asked us what we wanted from the ATC as well. The real problem is that a lot of users like me now use the WorldTraffic plugin extensively, so even if now Laminar do find a solution, then it still won't intergrate into the WT3 scenerio? I understand that Classic Jet Simulations is doing their own updated ATC system and I will admit the current built in version although very simplistic is not that half bad compared to the native ATC. A really interesting point is that if the native LR ATC is flexible enough, it could be used in or with WT3 as well? if the running traffic can give feedback to the native ATC then the idea gets interesting, even if you have to edit all those WT3 aircraft data files to make it all work. The built in ATC ground routes have come a very long way from the original layout, to the point that scenery developers are not using them effectively or setting the layouts up to the correct standards, as noted in last month's "Behind the Screen (April)" that they are certainly going to have to finally get their acts together and more so if the updated ATC is coming within the next batch of betas. One point about the Expo this year for Laminar is the fact that most of the roadmap they have promoted over the last few years, as like I have already noted have been covered and are now active, ATC and Vulcan (Metal) aside. So this year's Expo will give us a newer roadmap that the ones in past that mostly covered the known features, so it will give us a glimpse of what to expect from the rest of the X-Plane11 run, but don't expect a lot or a load of new features in the seminars, it will be more as a "steady as she goes" approach than the recent past's "all guns blazing" repertoire. But the importance of this Vegas Expo for Laminar is not to be underestimated either, this is certainly the most significant event that Laminar have ever rocked up to. In the past X-Plane was mostly a sideshow at these SimCon's, but in the last year and with the demise of Dovetail's Flight Sim World and now with the more mature X-Plane11 platform, then a significant crowd of FlightSim/P3D developers will be watching and inquiring on the X-Plane simulator's future roadmap, and that is all in their own interests and for their investment plans for the future. Many have already announced or released product for X-Plane, but aside from JustFlight, there still feels that there is still a reluctance to think of X-Plane as their main platform for the future in simulation. Laminar are certainly aware of this, so you may get a sort of Steve Jobs's... "and there is just one more thing" to highlight the platforms future direction and leave everyone gasping, but if Laminar do announce something significant, then their aim is not towards you and me, but directly at those CEO FlightSim developers that are still sitting on the X-Plane fence.... so it is certainly going to be a very interesting FlightSim Conference this year in Vegas, if only for the Ben Supnic show, both on the stage and probably off it as well. X-PlaneReviews will of course bring you all the full highlights and details of the 2018 Expo as soon as they are available. Internal Scenery Detail I am going to bring up the point of internal detail in airport terminals... now I love detail, and the reflection of real world realism when you are at a scenery, and to me arriving or departing a scenery that reflects what I have felt and seen in real life is the ultimate deal here. But I really don't see the point of internal terminal detailing unless it is seen or is in partnership with the external details. There has however been some outstanding details like the excellent Cormac Shaw EICK - Cork, terminal and the excellent terminal building at Turbulent's MBS but the differences here are the huge glass walls that reflects in on the internal details, in this case it is that I am overwhelmingly in favor. But what about the rest. In reality I would never ever really go inside a terminal, X-Plane doesn't allow you walk the hardened surfaces, so you get this cut off and half floor view point, the outside aircraft are not usually visible either so the ramps outside are blank of aircraft including the one you are flying, and the visual effect from the external view doesn't usually look very realistic either? Only a very few developers have really pulled the internal realism effect off, as glass is one of the really, really hard things to get right in X-Plane and in most cases it looks bland or even grey. But what I am seeing lately is a lot of wasted development time and far too much focus on these internal structures to the detrimental point that external areas are unfinished or not given the same extensive attention, and for what really? JustSim's UUWW - Moscow Vnukovo showed only what was actually required in day and night time terminal textures to make a terminal very realistic, and my point of view down on the ramp in turnaround is to me the most important aspect of realism, the main point here is that in most cases the idea and execution of internal detailing just don't match or live up to the real world same view point, in other words it looks like the model or modeling it is and not a realistic looking terminal building, but overall it is the wasted time for so little gain and in so much to the detriment of what they are actually trying to achieve with the scenery. May Airports/Aircraft May was all about scenery (again), and some in Turbulent Design's IDA - Idaho and MBS - Michigan were excellent, even if a few areas certainly highlighted the FlightSim approach more than the X-Plane Dynamic approach, but as scenery they are solid additions, I really liked KDAB - Daytona as well, but there was a few areas (mostlt buildings) that needed more realism and wear and tear. Certainly JustSim really delivered the scenery of the month with their excellent UUWW - Moscow Vnukovo as this is what most scenery is now supposed to deliver in price and quality, and major kudo's to JS for also providing the WT3 ground routes as well for instant activity. But with the very good, there was a lot of quite average if only freeware grade quality, the level in payware is now high, and even average scenery is just now not going to past the credit-card now no matter what the price, and again a lot of the scenery was released well before it was meeting the grade of even the basics, again X-PlaneReviews do filter it out, the best is noted here, but the sheer volume of releases lately means we can't cover them all in the release period, MBS by Turbulent is still coming and so are two Polish airports. Aircraft in May was focused on mostly GA and trainers, with my beloved Carenado Bonanza F33A getting the full XP11 treatment and the JustFlight/Thranda's release of their excellent C152 ll, both of which are exceptional. So a fair percentage of my flying this last month was in this GA size category. One longer route aircraft I flew in May was the veneable JRollon CRJ-200. There is no doubt the aircraft is really feeling it's age now, even for the ground-breaker it was on it's release, the heavy outdated textures do show and the system dynamics are now also feeling quite limited. But one thing it did show me was that the requirement to keep the aircraft up to it's current version status, I set it up early in the X-Plane11 release with that update, but when I flew the aircraft (from SLC to IDA) it was amazing at what didn't actually work with the later X-Plane11.20 version of the simulator, just small things, like a non-starting Engine 1 that drove me simply spastic in trying to depart, but with the only one engine starting and running, even when an X-Plane11 restart didn't fix it, I simply gave up... In my mind the aircraft was up to date, but actually it wasn't, there was a one added to the v1.40 to v1.41 that needed to be installed, and the excellent CRJ-200 BSS soundpack was also out of date( by a month). Both packages now installed and the CRJ-200 finally winged it's way to Idaho. The motto of this story is that even the smallest updates need to be covered to use any aircraft correctly in the simulator, even if it takes afternoons of your life away updating in doing so. FlightFactor A320-214 Ultimate I have covered the basics of the FlightFactor A320-214 Ultimate but not yet done a full on review of the aircraft. Is it still in beta or is it not? Well it is released but the continuing beta test pattern even with the sometimes daily or weekly updates still continues. I thought that I finally was in a position to give the FF Airbus A320 it's due, but then a full modelling update was released, this aspect is very rare as most released aircraft are very rarely changed from their initial 3d work, as to change this aspect later can also affect a lot other things and mostly the textures (liveries) aspect, but no the bus now had a new forward underside and reconfigured nose, no doubt the bus is now far more bussy, and the changes are excellent as are a few other areas that were touched up, this was no doubt for the hoards of comments on the shape of the bus's nose, but even I will admit it looks far, far better, but overall major adjustments like this are usually very rare, so that shows the commitment by FlightFactor to the aircraft. I liked the idea of the IAE V2500 engine option as most of my local Jetstar (JQ) A320's are powered by that engine variant, but overall for me with such an in depth simulation from this aircraft the different performance was or is as important as the visual aspect, hopefully FlightFactor will add in the IAE V2500 option soon in the future. It is certainly becoming a very in-depth A320 simulation, but as noted earlier, my hours on the aircraft this past month were very low, and I actually only flew one flight (EDDL - ENGM), but I have several if more planned for the next few weeks. The little time in the cockpit however didn't mean I was not still learning as much about the A320 as I can, through the real manuals, but mostly watching YouTube videos of real cockpit A320 flights, there is some good videos out there and some really appalling ones as well (why can't they just hold the camera still) but this month there popped up a great series of videos by Graham called Reflected Reality Simulations. The really brilliant thing about these series of videos is that you have a real world pilot, now flying the simulated version of the same FlightFactor A320 Ultimate as you fly. The detail uncovered here is well worth the time spent watching them (and making notes) to be transferred to your own flying skills in the airbus, it is very detailed, but Graham covers a lot of aspects you never even knew about in the various system functions and FMC settings and it is simply invaluable information in getting the full and immersive quality out of the simulation, this is real world information on how real pilots fly this machine, and as much as I have studied and learn't over the years in X-Plane this series takes you to a totally whole new level of engagement with your A320 flying, highly recommended. That was May, another big month in X-Plane simulation, as noted with the coming FlightSimExpo in June then certainly the coming month will be just as busy and full as the month just gone... So see you at the other end of the month and already the start of the second half of 2018. Stephen Dutton 1st June 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  17. Behind the Screen : April 2018 The title of this month's "Behind the Screen" should actually be "The Good, the Bad and the very Ugly". It is all related to scenery of course as all there was this past month was scenery, scenery and more scenery as there was earlier in the year there was just aircraft, aircraft and more aircraft, who says that things don't come in three's, fours and even sixes. There was one major constant between every scenery, the good, the bad and even the ugly and that was that developers are not understanding the finer points of the way their scenery is intergrated into X-Plane. In fact this aspect started earlier in the year, but for some reason the issues just got worse and had me going to the point of frustration. Don't get me wrong, many developers are very good at this, but it is amazing how many are really rubbish at it as well. My biggest beef is with Ground Routes and the ATC layouts set out in the apt.dat data. First of all the minute is a little complex, but it also needs to be correct in making sure all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed. Mostly this is for the WT3 (World Traffic 3) generations, but it goes far deeper than that. The issue is that developers layout the ATC routes in WED (WorldEditor) and give them a once over and then move on to the rest of their scenery development. initially the ATC ground routes look perfect and even a few tests will prove that they work, but they don't. WT3 requires far more information from the built in ATC data to function correctly in creating ground routes but more importantly data for running the airport in locations and runway use. Now you would say that "so what" my A.I. aircraft work now "so what is the problem"... The problem is that to a point WT3 is a bit ahead of everything else in X-Plane in this area and for the reason we use (or I do) WT3 than the built A.I. system, as WT3 in its design layers itself as to NOT be burdened by the inadequacies of the native systems, but it is still burdened by the native ATC system if it is not set up correctly. So the issue is that when the native ATC is refined and then working as it ACTUALLY should, then all the issues that is now hindering WT3 will then surface later in the native A.I. and ATC as well. The issues are really just the minute, but they have large impact on making the ATC and A.I. system work effectively. For one most developers don't set even their basic settings like Gate type or Category, or even make sure the actual aircraft will fit in that actual gate. (note how many GA's appear at a airbridge gate? a lot) You can even set the airline code as well. For GA's there are tie-downs and the operation type. The routing to the gates from the main taxiways are mostly always missing as well (just the runway and taxiways are laid out), so if you even DO get an aircraft appearing at the gate, then it either has nowhere to go or has to cheat to get to the nearest path to get to an active taxiway or runway. Believe it or not most scenery developers don't actually even number their gates or stands? A point on this is that at one scenery airport there was five "Gate 1" locations noted? And if you looked at the airport chart there was yes, five "Gate 1's", but they were actually listed as 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E, but the developer had noted them all the same as Gate 1? and on it goes... The biggest and most annoying point is the end of the runway disappearing aircraft, they land but then just disappear, or just appear and then takeoff. This is caused by the wrong ICAO codes on the gates so the A.I. is unaware of any parking spots so it vanishes once it comes to a stop. And that leads into another point in the way that most developers also make the full runway the active part of the ATC layouts. Not all runways are created equal in that most have blast pads (usually noted with arrows pointing to the ACTUAL start of the runway) but developers don't consider this, no they lump the whole runway in from beginning to end... Access points to runways need to be correct including hold points and then some runways have turn circles, and this a tricky one is this one for all of the ATC ground routes to get right, but it can be laid out to work correctly. My point is that a good 80% of the scenery released lately have most of these issues installed and that is not good enough when you are paying good hard earned cash for quality. There are many good developers who do it right like Justsim and any airport associated with Omar Mansoor (Aerosoft), but most developers are really terrible at ATC networks. I admit a lot of ground networks are very complicated and may need a professional like Brian Navy (Captain K-Man) to lay them out or supply the corrected ground routes and airport info. So if developers note in their sceneries feature list "ATC Ground Routes" it doesn't mean they actually DO work, and in most cases they ACTUALLY don't. A nice feature would be for the developer to supply the WT3 routes and Airport info as part of their scenery package, and in that way you would know they work and most of all they have been tested so they DO actually work as they should or have been advertised to do so. Another beef is the placement of custom textures. In most cases custom textures work really well, but in many cases drowning out the autogen and creating a void around the scenery (usually an airport) is a lazy and not very professional approach to creating visually appealing scenery... this is one area I rallied about for years, but still it continues, and the wrongly coloured mesh textures don't look good either? It is supposed to blend in all together like it does in the real world, or don't you get out much from behind your computer screens. 95% Rule Still on scenery but also applicable to aircraft or even plugin's is my 95% rule... First of all I have been there, working on a project for a long period and you just get to a point where it is all just a blur, and you are just "Simply over it" as the issues just keep on coming and coming and the end (or money) is still a long, long way from coming, so yes, I get it. But like Apple more and more developers are now using users to fix their issues, in other words release it and fix it all up later... hence the 95% rule. So more and more (mostly scenery) is coming onto the market not complete and even not finished, and still WIP. Is this situation good enough? Not really... First point is that no product in X-Plane is finished, the simulator is too fluid for that, but there is the line between being completed to date and ongoing development. Like the above comments the developers are just too much in a rush to get the product out there, X-Plane features that are missing or don't actually work is the biggest area of complaints (its called research!), but smaller items that like lately in the trees and ground textures that are not matching the native mesh textures, many are completely different in feel and look... but the list goes on. So the scenery is downloaded to my desktop and on a first look I usually can't believe how bad it is... so why didn't the developer get the scenery checked out before releasing it? It is called "beta testing" but no, you get it it first in this uncompleted mess... and then the developer is annoyed that you list out a long list of the "Obvious" and call his or their work average? And don't forget once that review is out there, you are stuck with it.. forever? the Good the Bad and mostly the Ugly... and this is the same review that users go to buy and assess your product, to see the evaluation and that is done over and over again... Yes I accept and so do users that items can be overlooked, and still there are areas that still need attention, but a few products like this and you quickly going to get a reputation, and its not a good one, and you are then stuck with it, so don't blame the messenger. Mostly it is only an extra few weeks or a month to complete it, and like I learnt, and that was to simply walk away from the project for a week or so and do something else, then when you come back to the table nice and fresh, the obvious is right there to be fixed and wrapped up. Aircraft Update Some notes on aircraft. I have flown FlightFactors A320 Ultimate a lot over the last few months, and yes it is now coming to the point of a very nice but far more polished aircraft. Constant updates, mostly weekly or even daily has tightened the aircraft a lot up since it's public release. Now I can be confident of a total block to block service, and a highly enjoyable one at that, the release of BSS sound package has now made it even better (Same for the ToLiSS319 would be a nice, nice please) but I feel the BSS sound package is not yet totally complete, but it really is a nice environment in the cruise. Negatives are still the "Failures" or issues, that are still too common and can ground you, and with no way of fixing them, then that is very frustrating... overwise brilliant. Yes the ToLiSS319 is getting a lot of attention as well, mostly because of the unique "save" feature, very hard to get your head around that when you activate a save (saved situation) of the aircraft it is simply ready to go... go. Everything is done and all you have to do is the pushback, it saves me hours on doing reviews... totally worth buying for that aspect alone. Jumping into the FlightFactor Boeing 757 Series was interesting in seeing where the aircraft was in relation to all the newer Airbus equipment and was expecting the Boeing to now feel very outdated, but it came up very well overall against the competition, certainly the cabin updates shows how to keep an aircraft modern and relevant. Interesting was my first flight in an aircraft I knew so well, I crashed, well I actually had a bad landing, but it took three flights in the various versions before I got my full professional wings back... NOTAM, you still need constant practice to stay on top of an aircraft, even if only out of the cockpit for a few months and the skill set is not as sharp as you think it is, but I soon focused back in again... with practice. Like most I was looking forward to the release of the djdragon737, Boeing 737-900 Ultimate. First yes I know it is a beta, but overall I was disappointed. Yes it is also a freeware, so who am I to complain? but after all the ho, ha it came across as a bit of a let down... and after four months of the extra development maybe I expected more (yes I know again it is not payware) but most of the features were still blanked off. No doubt the Zibo B737 core is exceptional, it flies very well thank you very much. But I was seriously confused as well.. If the default B737-800 is the basis of the simulator and zibo's work? then why do the -900 version? Yes I understand the -800 version is coming? But all we really all wanted was the zibo mod with an excellent cabin and opening doors and all the nice features? Instead was that we got a totally different half-cast aircraft version? Is that just me... Dovetail Games This year it has been a cascade of announcements and releases for X-Plane, and a significant amount of those announcements and releases have been by Flight Simulator's most prominent developers, in Orbix and FlyTampa to note two of the best. So suddenly X-Plane is the flavour of the month as Orbix for one noted "never, ever" but always "maybe" for years and years that they will develop for the X-Plane platform. Don't get me wrong I welcome such influential developers to our universe, but why now with the sudden change of heart and why so many? The news that Dovetail games was abandoning development of their "Flight Sim World" simulator was a shock, but not to most in the simulation business. The story is one of a big promises and the reality of hard core business. Dovetail bought the rights to from Microsoft for the original rights and base code for "Flight Simulator", which was then Bill Gates's hobby when he was at Microsoft and to sell a few computers on the side for the company. But Bill wanted to save the world and collect a Nobel Prize in the same breath so a simulator was the least of his things to worry about, not that the size of FlightSim was nothing by that point but enormous and a huge business on its own standalone standards. Originally the major legacy development players in FlightSim wanted to buy and run FlightSim together and put together a deal to buy the rights, but Dovetail a game developer (but does create a pretty good Train Simulator) out bid and got hold of the FlightSim rights with a promise to build it into basically Flight Simulator 2.0. Ultimate. In reality it was the perfect set up, someone to develop the core and a new modern simulator and the developers providing the goods to make it all into the one huge business plan that you could imagine, as the idea of the developers developing the simulator together just wouldn't work because each to their own they would want certain things that the others didn't, a bit like why Formula One Racing Team's shouldn't run their own sport, as they would just fight to much over it. So what went wrong? The name Dovetail Games gives it away as they wanted to run FSW the way most games business are set up and with Steam, and noted that all products either went though Steam or their own system or nothing. Then the FS developers turned around and withheld their products on a business model that is very different to theirs and starved FSW of product, the results are going to be obvious. So many saw early this coming disaster writing on the wall early and as a lot of users were already raving about X-Plane11 then X-Plane was suddenly a 'sort" of a better business plan for the future. But what now? Is FlightSim in it's original core now finally in its death roll? The problem all the time was the 32bit core? FSW and P3D have changed to 64bit (X-Plane moved to 64bit years ago) but now FSW is a dead end, P3D have gone from strength to strength but is still hampered by its management style and user interaction, but will again the developers pick up the pieces of FSW at a fire sale price and redevelop it again in their own image, that answer is of course in the future, but the vast amount of those users are now coming to X-Plane and so developers have noted that the X-Plane simulator base is one of the best right now, for all it's quirks... now suddenly they all want to be our best friend. The benefit's are of course enormous if most of the FlightSim stalwarts move into X-Plane, and to a point we may not want such a wholesome change to our simulator as the core of the user base is very different to the core of the FlightSim community as our basic philosophies are actually quite different, and we certainly wouldn't want to become Flight Simulator 2.0. in their eyes. That is where the sceneries released over the last few months and mostly this last month are very interesting as they covered all the different aspects of the way FlightSim see's X-Plane as a business and a simulator. The Three ways of Scenery The way you approach X-Plane, can make the difference between being accepted and creating a market within it, and to a point this has always been the difference between the core philosophies of the platforms. First is how to get it wrong. No doubt we welcome new product to X-Plane, but we are far more discerning in what we purchase or invest in to add into our X-Plane experience. To a point we have a high standard or that we could be known as even mean! That is because X-Plane at it's core would rather build and share than purchase. But if you want to build a very high quality experience then even the most stinginess of us will pay to get that addition no matter what, this is known offically as the "Gotta have that" syndrome. So if you release a (in this case) a scenery in X-Plane that is basically a very old and an outdated FlightSim product and throw in a few X-Plane badly set out features in there and then ask a high price, then that is really dumping old crap into our simulator to make a dollar... and believe me we are going to see a lot of that sort product over the next few years. The forums and the reviews are not going to be kind to you, and I doubt you are going to sell a lot your outdated crap over here in X-Plane either. The second approach is the gated community approach, which is very FlightSim. Orbix has arrived and we welcome them, but they are very much this is our way and not your way approach which of Aerosoft also adheres to, and I don't know if X-Plane users in being very community minded and share the love all around would want that approach even if it works for them really well in FlightSim. If you notice there are no Orbix products on the X-Plane.OrgStore and there probably never will be, but the problem with that is that X-Plane views the store as one their filter but mostly their security in service and reliablity, and many users just won't purchase product if it is not listed on the .OrgStore and anyone not on there, then they must be considered an outsider. And that aspect is justified with the collapse of the "let’s sim store" last month, you could say that Orbix is certainly not in the same league of the underfunded let’s sim store, but we are still investing in products and we love the security of where our money goes. For X-Plane it is a community approach which is rather like shopping at the local store rather than going to Costco with all their rules. Third approach is like the one by FlyTampa. The one thing that really impressed me with the introduction of FlyTampa and their FlyCorfu! was the willing to understand and deliver what X-Plane users want, I mean really want. They spent the time and the resources to work out the features of our style of simulator and made sure there was the correct mixture of both with the best of their original FlightSim scenery, but also in the way X-Plane has unique features and tools that make our simulator the way we understand and use it... the result was a sort of hybrid of the two platforms, and no doubt admittedly the actual scenery was not the latest but still a few years old, but that didn't matter at all as the full results are simply spectacular and FlyTampa got a lot of credos coming their way on what they delivered and they also delivered the scenery at a reasonable price. This is the model for success in X-Plane for any budding FlightSim developers in that we understand that you are going to deliver your original and quite successful product and we accept that, but we also expect that you take our tools and features into consideration to make the original version more X-Plane like than just the same but crossover work with a few badly installed animated airbridges and a few thrown in lighting effects, and you would think that after all the years of being in X-Plane that Aerosoft and their newly release Rome XP would certainly by now deliver far better than this very old and outdated work, and would they really have the nerve to ask money for the same ancient scenery in 2018... and that at the core is the issue, in that X-Plane is not FlightSim, so don't treat us like FlightSim or even try to sell us their old outdated crap as I doubt even in this condition that FS/P3D users would pay out for it either. Bobby Dylan twanged "For the times they are a-changin'" and yes they are, and a lot of this change is for the overall good, but we don't have to accept everything that comes our way, X-Plane has always created its own feel and direction and that is the way it always should also be. See you all again next month... Stephen Dutton 1st May 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  18. Behind the Screen : March 2018 It is hard to get your head around the fact that already three months or a quarter of this year has already gone, harder still is the realisation in that only in eight months time and then if Laminar Research keeps to its normal release timetable then X-Plane11 will be already halfway through its development run. So soon Laminar Research will looking to start X-Plane12. So it is frankly shocking how quickly the time goes by. In my eight years in X-Plane and seven years doing reviews I have never had a year start like 2018. Chaotic is one word that comes to mind, but more in just the simulator is really, really busy. Aircraft and Scenery are coming at a phenomenal rate in upgrades and releases and not to mention all the plugin and effect downloads you can get your hands on. X-Plane lately is exploding and to be honest it is hard to keep up with it all sometimes. So you do need to focus on what is worth catching and using as well as flying and to a point that is what this site is all about. But with all the huge amount of changes coming through it is also bringing in other elements that need users need to be aware of. Most older based X-Plane users are quite wise and switched on to these elements, but the newer cross-platform (i.e. Flight Sim/P3D) and new simulator users are a bit more detached on the way that X-Plane goes about it's business. They are used to a no boundaries or even the credulous use of simulation, that aspect has positive areas, but also negative areas of the way of flying on-line. With the success and the huge in-flow of new users to X-Plane these elements are also bringing in the good and the bad as well. In no period previously has X-Plane had more announcements and new or old if you even count in the introduction of both Orbix and FlyTampa into our sphere of downloadable product, and it is certainly exciting to welcome of such well known names. But we need to be wary as well as many businesses and individuals are now eyeing the gold marked cash cow that is X-Plane. I will note that X-Plane is still in reality a growing platform, and in product it has a long way to go to compete with the of the FS/P3D market, but one point is that X-Plane product is far deeper and more varied and certainly has better quality than other platforms than many users actually take for granted. That said the very top level of the say PMDG, Majestic or Captain Sim is still a "Study Grade" niche area that remains to be filled with more choice. The worrying aspect is the devious types now eyeing the cash. It is easy to set up a checkout store and start selling product, in fact it is far too easy. The sudden demise or closure of the let’s sim store is a reminder that not everyone out there plays the game well, in going down they took a lot of money with them, but worse the users are now out of the update loop that doesn't allow them to update their purchases in the future. To a point there was always bad noises around the site from the start with gullible developers (whom should know better) and starry eyed users going along with it all. The problem comes from a fact of life, is that everyone or anyone can start these stores, but can't actually run them. In X-Plane we have been a bit mollycoddled by having the X-Plane.OrgStore. Efficiently run and very reliable with brilliant service, and no I am not saying that because they give this X-PlaneReviews site a lot of access for reviewing purposes, but that is a well known fact in the X-Plane universe. But overall you know if it is available on the .OrgStore site then it is backed up by service and your money is safe and more importantly the developers trust it as well. And trust is the word here, and you are going to have work out if any new store on the game is worth your investment. I have a few sayings and they always hold true... one... "if it is too cheap then there is either something wrong with it or you are being done" and two... "at the end of the day if you want quality, you have to pay for quality". A twist on that is not to be extorted either, in that knowing "what you are buying is worth the value" You can easily pay too much for an average product. That is what X-PlaneReviews is mostly about in dissecting the best from the rest. Not only will the expanding of the X-Plane universe bring dodgy punters, but also more dodgy trouble-makers. "Fake-News" is a modern day mantra, but the dangerous ones who only want to bring attention to themselves, again it is very easy to set up a site to throw venom and crazy thoughts, but these actions can have repercussions that can hurt. Many a so called "Breaking News" sites are also opening up and they are mostly in the "cut and Paste" new variety, I welcome these sites, but these "cut and pasters" don't do the hard yards either in cross-referencing their news sources and can mostly broadcast false information more than correct information. The effects this year already are obvious in the so called "News" sites the amount of false information that is broadcast is not good, they "cut and paste" but don't think either as they want "eyes" on their sites and the too feel good with all that attention, they don't care about the damage they can do to a developers reputation or to the X-Plane Simulator itself, it is all about them in the end and "Just about them and getting that attention". ditto their reviews, poorly constructed but also missing crucial facts of the aircraft or scenery they are reviewing, I'm not against anyone doing reviews and in fact I will encourage them to have a point of view, but in not simply delivering the correct information or the correct features of a product is simply a "no, no" from my point of view, as you the users deserve the right information and correct facts about that product. Already we have had one developers reputation severely damaged by this nonsense, and that is not good. 90% of reviewing a product is mostly research or cross-referencing to get your facts right, you deserve the correct information above everything else. There will always be trouble and mischief makers or just the plain idiots, but uninformed publishers can do real damage, and if anything is dominating this year already it is that aspect of poor checking of facts, so do yourself a favor and if you find a site that the facts don't add or stand up them give them a miss, if they can't be smart then you can. Orbix and FlyTampa The introduction of Orbix and FlyTampa is a big moment for X-Plane and will go a long way to fill out one of the biggest blank areas of the simulator. We need seriously good scenery and too a point it has been flowing quite nicely over the last few years. JustSim scenery deserves your support, I admit it is basic scenery, but they do deliver and also use all of the X-Plane11 features and at a low cost price, support them as they are delivering the goods as with their excellent LCLK Laranca which is already on my high rotation for flights. ShortFinal (mister_x) is another brilliant scenery developer as his KABQ-Albuquerque and it is simply the very best. But Orbix and FlyTampa are still a very unknown quantity in X-Plane. Aerosoft hasn't exactly helped with their successful FS/P3D crossovers working correctly in the X-Plane environment. Some of Aerosoft's scenery is excellent, and I use them to a very high level, but a lot of scenery are badly transferred and some of the old FS/P3D scenery that is frankly crap for the money you are paying and uses non of the X-Plane features to even help out their case along... so in reality Aerosoft's casebook is very contradictory of poor consistency. I know now they will say that "X-Plane is unprofitable and so the scenery has to be produced to a cost factor" but that is defeating the point? Sell us crap and then wonder why we are not buying it? The really annoying thing is that to bring these sceneries up to a good standard costs them almost nothing but using the right developers to do the job, and worse is that Aerosoft are not new to X-Plane, but have been in the simulator for years now and yet nothing at all has changed in their approach, and my point is "Don't blame us for not delivering the expected profits" until you get more consistency and quality in your own products right and treat X-Plane with the same quality you expect from our market as from other markets. And that brings us to Orbix and FlyTampa. Both can have huge market share in X-Plane, but the point is they have to deliver quality X-Plane scenery as well, if a small development house like JustSim can, then why not these juggernauts. But the same question is still valid. "are you going to deliver cheap crossover titles from FS/P3D" or deliver quality X-Plane featured scenery? That answer is in the future. The main effect of both Orbix and FlyTampa is the sort of scenery they deliver. They are not constrained to the US/Europe axis, although a lot of their product is still in those regions. But Orbix has a lot of exciting "Oceanaia and Australasia" scenery that will certainly expand out the use of X-Plane as does FlyTampa with their excellent OMDB-Dubai and YSSY-Sydney. FlyTampa are exciting as well because they just don't deliver the scenery, but the complete surrounding areas as well with the excellent Dubai city as a hallmark of great scenery and the most (I won't say bootlegged) but transferred scenery from FS to X-Plane in the simulator's history. Their FlyTampa-Hong Kong Kai-Tak also comes with a full Hong Kong city vista as well and that is what makes these guys special, yes both Orbix and FlyTampa can make a huge difference to X-Plane, so yes we must support them, but like with Aerosoft above it is a two way deal, how this will play out will be interesting but it is overall exciting and the start of a new era for X-Plane.. Monthly Notes A few monthly notes on my ongoing battle of the Airbuses, with the A320U (Ultimate) and the ToLiSS319. At this point the ToLiSS319 is ahead on points, I fly it far more often and enjoy the sheer dynamics of its systems. It was very hard not to hit the forums a few weeks before the release to scream "This is bloody brilliant" because the ToLiSS319 is absolutely brilliant to fly as you now know. I noted that the ToLiSS319 will be the most popular aircraft in X-Plane by the end of the year and that title is fully deserved and as the developer is bringing out updates and bug fixes at a right click and the bus will easily be so very good by the years end. But I do hope some time is also devoted to the FF A350 with the same (ToLiSS) MCDU set up installed, and that would be a real top off a brilliant year for Airbus flying in X-Plane. So where does that leave the FlightFactor A320U? Very high up there "Thank you very much" and as the nautical miles now slip by it gets better by the moment, as it is a brilliant simulation. But one in area that puts the A319 the notch above it is in the area of system failures, as I find myself constantly stuck flying with failures or even being grounded by issues (Flap jack fail?). Yes I like the realism of failures but not to the point that they can't be rectified or switched off, small areas of failure yes, but grounding me after twenty minutes of setting up the aircraft is only going to send me sparse and only a restart and a re-input is going to get me flying again, that is a "no, no" and I will simply go and fly something else (mostly the A319). That area needs attention to be a little more versatile which is shame because I really do like this aircraft. A full review on the FlightFactor A320U is still coming in X-PlaneReviews, but I want to get it totally right before putting letters to the screen, this is a deep aircraft and it deserves a deeper understanding to deliver the correct review. The news of Andrey Sheybak and his family that were in the building of the "Winter Cherry" mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo was shocking as is the fact that it was on how it is so easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The fire took 64 lives and it could have easily have been Audrey and his family, to say that X-Plane "missed a bullet" is not to be dwelled upon, but the loss of xEnviro to the simulator would have been a great loss. The plugin development is at this point on hold at v1.08 until further information is forth coming. Overall March 2018 was another chaotic month, but with some really great releases. The Matterhorn Park 3D was a spiritual journey back to one of the most important places I have ever visited, and this scenery really delivered in that look and feel of Zermatt, really well done and the genius of the developers. The Alabeo Ovation XP11 was a really big surprise on how good it really was, a really lovely aircraft that went very quickly into my rotation for constant use hangar, loved it... a lot. And the Aerobask DA-62 was as expected another brilliant and fully rounded release from now one of the very best developers in X-Plane, there is always a proud moment when our own developers deliver a world class product, well Aerobask does... well done guys. See you all next month.. Stephen Dutton 1st April 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  19. Behind the Screen : February 2018 There is no doubt that X-Plane is powering its way into the year, already there is two months used up and there has been already so much come past our screens in announcements and releases. The big release was of course the FlightFactor A320 Ultimate and the ToLiSS A319 of which we will get to both in a moment. Expensive Hobby We are still most in X-Plane11 upgrade status as he developers keep on refining their past catalogue of aircraft to meet or mostly exceed the conditions and meet the requirements and features that X-Plane11 provides, so this last month you have seen a parade of the rich and famous to all vie for your attention. This includes the excellent Ddenn Challenger 300 Bus Jet, Pilatus PC12 HD Series XP11 by Carenado, Piper Twin Comanche PA30 v1.3 by vFlyteAir, Quest Kodiak v1.6 by Thranda and a zillion releases and updates from vSkyLabs. All excellent and all top notch aircraft to fill your skies. For me it was Airbus, Airbus and more Airbuses, in the FF A320 Ultimate, ToLiSS A319 and the beta release of JARDesigns Airbus A330v3. Same concept but different aircraft and almost daily, but in an interesting thing is in that one aircraft's performance and settings was useful on flying the other, you learnt something interesting on one Airbus system to find it useful on another, certainly between the FF A320U and ToLiSS's A319 and also the other way around. they don't compete with each other but more dovetail together depending on how you want to fly them on routes. The A319 is just perfect on some routes, and the FF A320U on others, and in most cases the choice can even come down to something like the sort of mood your in. The FlightFactor A320U release was actually a surprise? I thought at the last batch of beta purchasers it should have been released there and then as it was by and far mostly a complete simulation from block to block, but then FlightFactor started to do another round of bug fixing and tuning and doing daily updates and there was still a list there to work though, but mostly it was really new beta testers going over old ground, and I think the developers realised the same at the same time and released it... another factor was that the ToLiSS A319 went into RC status, so was FlightFactor just reacting and thinking that the A319 was going to have an imminent release and pull away a lot of sales? In reality it was far from the situation as there was at that point still ongoing work to be done, and the release came later as promised on the last day (even hour) of February. As you watched the final tuning of both these Airbus aircraft you could see they were going to clash or be released in a very short time of each other. My fears was the situation was that to have to put X-Plane users in a very difficult position on choosing which aircraft to purchase if your funds are limited. My position as a reviewer is always in this context, yes I do purchase aircraft and scenery, but more importantly every review is in that very important frame of you getting the best investment for your money. To a point I don't whip up cut and paste announcements on this site unless it is really important and everything that is listed or reviewed on X-PlaneReviews is seen in their right context on my computer and running in X-Plane. That means you don't get here everything that is published or announced. My feeling is that this site is a filter of what is the best and worthy of your attention and of course that important cost factor. But even this period early into the new year 2018 most of the releases have been very much in very high end cost factor. With FlyJSIm's amazing Boeing 737-200, the Ddenn's Challenger 300, Carenado's Pilatus PC12, the massive FlightFactor A320 Ultimate and now this A319 from ToLISS... it all and can be too much, were as in the past you usually had a significant major release spread out to mostly only two a year and we haven't finished yet with an update coming for JAR's A330 v3 and Aerobask's DA-64... all are more than worthy, and all are excellent high class aircraft... and your hard earned disposable income is not going to cover all of those bases. So all these brilliant aircraft are screaming "Buy Me!" and in your heart you are screaming as well, and I feel your pain I really do as these latest aircraft are really the best X-Plane has ever seen and it is not going to get any easier as more developers want to spread their wares to the simulator. And originally X-Plane was based on that more freeware and and share the love around basis, so has it all gone commercial. Can this huge change ruin the basis of the simulators core and is money replacing its heart and soul. X-Plane's Market A couple of developers vented their frustrations Support our Developers or prepare to say Goodbye! in noting the X-Plane payware market is too small to be viable. First point is that we can't debate that issue because we don't know who they actually are or what products they are are offering but they are noted as "big-name developers". I am first to admit that X-Plane was always a sort of hippy community of love and peace and paying almost for anything that was beyond their reasonable scope of thriftness. "Free" was always the first word that they expected and any commercial realism in that benefited them without reaching into any sort of pockets and never mind deep ones was always going to a priority. The downside of that mentality was that X-Plane's market stayed small and certainly was not as a viable business case, a few made pocket money to have a beer on a friday night or invested in a new joystick. It also hindered the simulator to what the dark side (FlightSimulator) was enjoying in bucket loads. The X-Plane market however did begin to stir a few years ago with the arrival of FlightFactor and JARDesign, but it was the brave coming over of Carenado that really changed the game. I have mentioned a billion times on this site of the failures of other FlightSimulator crossovers that failed to understand our market, but wanted to change it to their terms or make X-Plane the FlightSimulator Mk2 in their names because at that time FlightSimulator was a dead duck left by the side of the road. To its credit X-Plane stayed true to its form and rightly so. So yes the cash didn't flow to their coffers in bucket loads because in reality they tried to bamboozle X-Plane users with easily converted FlightSimulator crap, there is one thing that you don't do is take X-Plane users for granted or even as a bunch of airheads, if anything we are really far more smart and intelligent than that. Carenado was brave to try to understand and actually see the potential of our market, but smart enough to understand that X-Plane has to be and use X-Plane features and not be FS MK2. They found the most brilliant X-Plane developer and basically gave him an offer he couldn't refuse, and results is that I will bet my house that not one of the developers noted in that article is from Carenado. But what about the X-Plane market? Well the sheer volume of the above releases say developers are willing to develop for X-Plane and give us quality products. The point is that X-Plane users have light pockets and FlightSimulator pockets are deep is not going to wash with me, the point is that all simulation users all have the same sized pockets, the difference is in the actual market size. There is no doubt that the release of X-Plane11 will be seen as a total watershed moment for the simulator. New users and FlightSimulator users are finding that out and want in... X-Plane in the last twelve months added 100,000 users to its base in twelve months, more than the last three years put together, go through the forums and they are certainly liking what they are seeing and using. To a point X-Plane is still a small market compared to the mega FlightSimulator market, but that is changing and very quickly. The problem for the developers noted is that X-Plane is in that major transition period and a bit like Apple before they released the iPhone, they were an innovative company but "hey" their Mac market share is nominal compared to Microsoft... and today? When people see a great thing they will want it. The real issue for developers is quality, X-Plane is now very demanding of quality and features. Once a developer could get away with a very good product, but as I note through review after review that the quality and features are going through the roof but users will pay for that quality if it delivers, and the really heartbreaking part of my job is seeing great past developers and friends being left behind as their work is just not going to cut it anymore, once brilliant but now their ideas and skills are simply of another era. It has always been the "Chicken or the Egg" situation for X-Plane and that hasn't changed at all and the developers are stuck right in the middle of that, but the reality is that to make money you have to deliver high quality product, even change your way of thinking in that you may have to collaborate to cover the quality and detail that is now required, because that is what this developing business now is a "business" and not a hobby, but as they say "If you build it they will come" and that rings true here as well, the more the developer deliver then the bigger the market they have to sell to, but also another major factor is still that X-Plane clubby mentality... we develop and stay within the X-Plane universe and hope to sell to that small market.. The one thing that the FlightSimulator market does really well is sell "FlightSimulator market" to anybody that will buy anything, so developing is more than just creating great product and releasing it, it is the bigger awareness of the bigger world out there to not only sell your products but to also promote the X-Plane platform as well... When I go out and meet people I sell them X-Plane because in reality most future customers don't actually know that X-Plane actually exists! Most of my local friends are people I have converted to the cause and guess what they buy... product, lots of product... and still better they tell me "How really great this all is", and "I'm loving this" but X-Plane is also loving their cash that wasn't there a few years ago... God that was a big busy month... see you next month at Easter. Stephen Dutton 1st March 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  20. Behind the Screen : January 2018 The start to the New Year in 2018 was with a bang, and with an extraordinary aircraft. The release of FlyJSim's Boeing 737-200 TwinJet to version v3 was far more significant than most X-Plane simulation users realised. The aircraft was expected just before Christmas 2017, as per the usual release period from FlyJSim, instead the aircraft release came into the New Year which in many ways was a far more better time to release without the distractions of the Christmas Holiday period. So why was the aircraft so significant? It was to a point the first of the new-generation of X-Plane11 aircraft, as it used all the features and tuning that came with the X-Plane11 simulator version. You thinking would be, "well we had X-Plane11 aircraft all last year, so it is not that much different or special", but it is in that most of the releases or mostly the upgrades that came out last year were mostly conversions of existing aircraft and to bring them up to the X-Plane11 level of compatibility, and although on the surface that also seems the same approach from FlyJSim, it is in reality a very different aspect in the fact the aircraft was created to include the X-Plane11 features from the ground up after X-Plane11 went final and not converted. Yes a lot of the original v2 design's were used, but even those were reconfigured to the X-Plane11 specifications. So the FJS 737 TwinJet is the first true X-Plane11 aircraft, in other words it is the future of X-Plane11 aircraft airline design. At first sight or flying you then knew this was something different, an even more deeper immersion of simulation flying. I will make the comment here that X-plane11 changes the basics on the way you absorb a new design. In the past any aircraft could and would be easily summed up within a few flights and its visual clues. X-Plane11 really does change all of that, and I realised that factor once the simulator had gone final. Flying aircraft is now a very deep subliminal activity, in the feel and the way you interact with each machine now is very, very different and you have to peel back the layers to get down to the core of the aircraft, the words "it comes to you" is based on the real world feel of the way we interact with our machines and how their personalities come out with time to interact with their deeper being. That aspect plus the really now extremely deep systems noted as "study" aircraft, means these aircraft are not now a simple circuit around the airport and "you get it" factor, it now goes far more deeper than that. It also buries the "First Impressions" factor, as you have to go a far more longer way around and spend a lot of time to get down to real aspects of the aircraft, pro reviewers do have the experience factor on their side, but looking over an aircraft like the FJS Boeing 737 v3 TwinJet is now like looking straight up the side of glacial mountain and wondering how to climb it. So this splits users hard into two separate camps. The ones who are willing to spend the time and work through the constant procedures to get to simulation nirvana, and yes the work is worth the rewards. But also the other camp that in letting the developer give them a hand in filling in a lot of blanks and short cutting systems to give them the feel and fun but without the dread of the depth, in other words "Start up and fly". But even the second approach of the helping hand, can be also be a far deeper simulation than it was only a few years ago. This was the time of the Aerosoft ATR 72-500 with most of the systems blanked off, and simple simulation was the go, even the most basic aircraft released today make that aircraft feel like the toy it was. The amount of work now required to set up the aircraft (and you haven't seen nothing yet folks) is substantial, in almost real life programming and loading factors. This is now a period required of even up to twenty minutes before you fly, if you want the FMC data to perform correctly and to be realistic then the effort is required, but it adds in a lot to a quick flight (to somewhere) and adds on time to any serious simulation. The split is certainly required so don't also mock the "basic" aircraft approach. To experienced simulation flyers these aircraft are just that to their minds in being "Simplistic", but remember you were once a simplistic flyer, the novice, the "where is that?" idiot. It can take years to really, really fly today's excellent simulation aircraft and don't throw at me the "Oh X-Plane's not still a deep simulation in any form, because of this or that", because it isn't and you are really working far harder in there now than ever lately and certainly far more than in those ATR 72-500 days. The release of the Boeing 737 TwinJet from FlyJSim also came with a warning.... "Make sure you have flown this aircraft a lot of times before doing a review", which was very good advice, not great for getting a review out to the waiting hungry hoards that wanted to get their hands "On it". But still good advice and I passed it on in the review of the aircraft. In other words don't go blabbing out on the forums unless you understand what you are ACTUALLY talking about, because as noted these so called "First Impressions" just don't work anymore. In this day and age even the experts can be caught out and badly by not fully understanding the aircraft that is presented to them. For the record it took me seven goes or landings to land this v3 Boeing 737 TwinJet from FJS in the absolute perfect manner, and in one landing it was actually quite a mess? But that highlights the subtle changes and differences you are faced with now of these very different XP11 machines and in the way you are required access them, if your not feeling that, then you are not doing it right. The FJS 737 TwinJet delivered also another masterstroke. It was in a strange way the first of what you would call a complete aircraft. Yes we have had aircraft cabins before, but not to sheer immersion of how complete this aircraft was from the cockpit and right down to rear of the cabin. In most aircraft of this genre the cabin is an afterthought, a space to be filled in... not really that important in the whole scheme of things. But here you were in the cabin, in the seats and if you moved around (and in flight) you were as in the moment as flying the aircraft from the front seat. It felt "Complete" if what complete is? but you knew it was a new era of X-Plane simulation, of what is to come and where in the high standard of the new line we are now flying in. The FJS B732 will of course in few years appear nostalgically to seen be in the same light as the JRollon CRJ-200, but in the current time is the FJS B732 best aircraft in X-Plane right now? and in that complete sense, personally I think so. On a side note. The FlyJSIm Boeing 737-200 v3 was also a slightly proud occasion. The aircraft was not done by a large development team, yes there is outside elements in the aircraft, but mostly it was mostly the work of one developer in Jack Skieczius. Jack is an X-Plane original and to create an aircraft of this extremely high standard is a reason to laud his efforts, not only in the design of the work but also advancing X-Plane to another level. Bonanza 2018 In that vein I have some very bad news for you. In 2018 it is going to be an expensive year, and your hands won't be out of your e-commerece site all year. In 2017 with the X-Plane11 introduction, most of the releases were mostly the reconfiguration of current aircraft and airports to the X-Plane11 specifications, and in most cases you had to (re)pay to access the new X-Plane11 version. This clouded the market in the fact that your hands were always in your electric wallet to get back the same aircraft (but still better) that you had the year before in X-Plane10. Many opted out and just stayed in X-Plane10, but that was not a great idea at all as the changeover or cost has to be faced one day, and every day you stay out then the more expensive the crossover will be for you. But back to the bad news... So all of the projects that were ongoing, they were then put on hold to clear up the upgrades to X-Plane11 because users wanted to use them in the new simulator. Once the decks were cleared it was back to the grind of completing the shelved projects for release, and you guessed it right for in... 2018. So expect a huge amount of new projects being released this year, a bonanza you would say, but also a lot of the projects that are going to released in a short and expensive time. They are already coming thick and fast, and the year hasn't even really started yet, so start saving for a bumper Easter period, as it is going to get really expensive folks. Two aircraft on the short list are both Airbuses, in the FlightFactor/SteptoSky Airbus A320 Ultimate and the ToLiSs Airbus A319. Both are coming very soon and both (as in both aircraft) are going to stretch your budgets. In some areas they are remarkably similar and mostly in the FMC programming and use, this is Airbus after all and their philosophy of "Fly one and fly them all" and that is very relevant here with both these aircraft. But they are fundamentally different as well but not in the way you think they would be. You are going to be happy flying either aircraft, because they both deliver great experiences, but the choice is going to be more on routes than actual aircraft differences. The A320U is better for this and the A319 is better for that, "eeny meeny miny moe" and that creates the problem, purchase one aircraft and you will certainly want the other one. VR - Virtual Reality Laminar Research has put out its first betas of it's VR (Virtual Reality) integration with X-Plane. Your thought's would be that X-PlaneReviews have not mentioned or reviewed VR in X-Plane much, but that is not of because we are not aware of VR or not previewing the technology. I have used VR and mostly in a helicopter scenario and will note it is an amazing experience. But and here is the "but" question... VR is still very new technology and there is that high cost factor in that currently Laminar at this point only supports the most expensive headsets of Oculus rift and VIVE. Overall it is the gap between the current and the future VR manipulation of the simulator in X-Plane that is the barrier. The advent of hand VR controllers are very good, but there is still that wave in the air feel of no physical contact. For those of you that haven't yet experienced the VR feeling, it is the immersion in a different 3d world, but it is also like standing in a dark room with your hands out not touching anything and your hands can and do go through walls, almost ghost like. The next phase as noted by Ben Supnic is to give you access to your current add-on tools in your joystick, throttle and keyboard in a more physical aspect that will create a better interactivity with the simulator. In my case I was using VR in a frame that replicated the Helicopter's controls and the immersion factor in that sense is very good for the flying aspect, but with the interaction with the finer aircraft controls even in as something simple as turning on the aircraft's landing lights was problematic, you can't hold a Collective and a Cyclic and then a VR handset all of the same time in a physical sense, and that physical feel and touch is very important when flying helicopters. There was another aspect that was an issue as well, the current VR headsets are extremely hot and tiring... with twenty minutes of flying I was already seriously sweating like nothing else and was simply buggered, and I don't really face the prospect of using the VR headsets for longer periods of time like 3 to 4 hours, which is a standard simulation flight. But one point I will make is that while I was waiting my turn to fly in the VR mode, a real helicopter pilot was putting the system through its paces, and he was extremely interesting to watch at work, a lot of movement in the seat and very minute movements on the controls, but when I copied his flying style (interesting to say the least) it was a very much more easier but a far more involved simulation, it made sitting in front of a computer screen quite boring after. So on that note VR is or will be a very exciting and very immersive next step in flying on computers. In five or ten years it will be as normal as what you do now, but you will be really in there and intimately flying the aircraft and not just operating it from a slight distance, a realism you can only dream of only a few years ago will be reality, but at this point VR for X-Plane is still in it's baby steps... but it will quickly grow and mature. BetterPushBack I am quite steadfast when it comes to plugins, my philosophy is that the less plugins in the plugin folder the better as they can compete with each other or mess up the basics of making X-Plane run as efficiently as it can. My biggest hate is the fact when the simulation is stuttering or pausing for something that is effectively a barrier and not an enhancement to the experience. But we all need plugins, as they can and do enhance simulation in ways that are beyond the boundaries of Laminar Research's basic approach. Once found (and tested), some plugins become default that I will defend with my life, so adding or changing plugins is a big deal to me. Take the pushback... I was a great fan of JARDesign's iTow or Tugmaster Deluxe. But after years of virtually no development or upgrades it became a bit of a pain to use on all aircraft. Then I switched to the X-Plane11 native pushback, which is actually very good, now there is "Stop" button. But the native pushback has one fault... call the pushback and then just sit there waiting forever for it to arrive? I have sat a full ten minutes waiting for that damn truck to arrive, very realistic, but "hey, I have a flight to run, and airline time is money!". I tried the BetterPushback plugin in August last year, and to a point it wasn't very impressive as it was at the time quite buggy. But the above FJS Boeing 737 TwinJet actually uses the plugin as part of its feature set and so I redownloaded and tried it. It is excellent, but still has a few quirks in the fact the setting of the initial pushback alignment is still a little buggy, and you have to be very careful setting it up correctly... but overall it works extremely well with every aircraft I have currently used it with, and so it comes highly recommended. My New Year started off with whimper and not a bang, another bout of flu sent me to the doctor's and a week in bed. This did set my agenda back a week, and a lot of catching up to do. Most of what I wanted to cover has been done, but a few are still on the list, but will get around to them soon. As usual great new releases can also ruin any well made plans as... X-Plane stops for no one or anything. See you all next month Stephen Dutton 1st February 2018 Copyright©2018: X-Plane Reviews
  21. Behind the Screen : Year in Review 2017 This time last year I felt like I was in the dream of "X-Plane, A Christmas Carol" The Charles Dickens story of your humble simulator. There was first the "X-Plane of Christmas Past" or in layman's terms X-Plane10. The X-Plane10 version was now almost complete after its journey of four years, this was a breakthrough version of X-Plane that finally brought the visuals up to the standard of quality flying that was in a complete contrast to the basics of X-Plane9, better weather, better autogen, better avionics had created a simulation that was really good, realistic and throughout X-Plane10's odyssey the payware add-ons of aircraft and scenery had also become the higher power of quality that we now all take for granted. "X-Plane of Christmas Present" was last years hybrid of newly released X-Plane11's beta, new, clean and very different from X-Plane10. We though really didn't know the true depth of what we really had yet in the new version? was it good, brilliant or just a nice upgrade as the then jury was still out on all of that. But at the same time as X-Plane11 was released and so was xEnviro, an expensive but very interesting new environment engine, but again it was in its really early development stage. Another fact of "Christmas Present" was WorldTraffic. Another add-on of considerable complexity but hopelessly lost in its own brilliance and the work was already ongoing for the next version in the "user friendly" version of WorldTraffic3. But here was the promise of "X-Plane of Christmas Present". X-Plane11 was running, xEnviro also looked really good and you could at certain airports run WT2 and get a sort of an wide broad idea of what all three together would look like in a vision of "X-Plane of Christmas Future"... In twelve months time what of a real sort of simulation would we then have, it was exciting but also sort of disconcerting at the same time. Obviously three sort of betas or not so full versions were going to be not very reliable or gel together in the sort of fusion that you required for a good simulation, but the future was there, it worked (sort of) and it all looked very promising. So here we all are now in that promised "X-Plane Christmas Future"... the future is here and did it all work, did the dream happen as wished and more importantly are we happy with the results? As with any changes and certainly with a significant step like this, it was certainly an interesting mix, but the overall result was that all those three areas in X-Plane11, xEnviro and WorldTraffic3 are all now fully compatible and running together as one pure simulation. And so did they all deliver on the advancement of X-Plane as a whole as a simulator. The answer is an astounding yes, in fact the future as it stands now is that if you run the full system together it does feel like you have stepped right over a full version of X-Plane to X-Plane12, that is the sort of monumental step that X-Plane simulator took in 2017, a significant year? Yes certainly and the vision more than fulfilled the promise. It is however not a complete score card for everyone as we shall see, and that significant jump also came with a small cost as well in hardware. So let us go through these significant areas to see how it all came together as our "X-Plane of Christmas Future" and the addition of more one extra element that made the active side of the simulator come alive as well, and remember VR (Virtual Reality) is just around the corner as well. X-Plane11 I will put out the debate in that was X-Plane11 really ready for release even in this beta form. Was the simulator released to meet a target date (Thanksgiving 2016) and not a development date? My personal go on that question is that really the software wasn't ready for release as it was about two months short. Don't get me wrong because the Laminar Team pulled lots of rabbits out of hats to get it a more viable running simulator and quickly as the simulator wasn't half bad by mid-January. Myself I didn't even run the X-Plane11 version seriously until early January except for that earlier look and test, but as for using the simulator then that wasn't actually possible and for many reasons, the main one is that I am now always very wary of new software straight out of the box, I learnt that in the very hard way. So now I am a follower and not a frontliner, but it has saved me a lot of pain and frustration. And in reality and certainly with X-Plane11's case it was the right approach to take. It also allows you to make a better informed analysis of the software than the disjointed one of what was in reality a very incomplete or unrefined release from the start. A secondary reason was that in reality there was no actual aircraft to fly with X-Plane11 anyway. By three weeks in and we are at beta 8, and that was finally the update beta release to see the new simulator version in its much better cohesive form. I also did a huge clean out between XP10 and the rehoming of the all the elements (Scenery, plugins and aircraft) to the newer XP11. A lot, in fact a huge amount of debris was either filed away or binned, it was like a new home and a far better place to be in at that. X-Plane11 was certainly the far different place to be in. Leaner, cleaner but more importantly by far it was a more efficient in the fact that the interface was all new and that made navigation a far better idea, go back now to XP10 to see how hard it really all was, and how long it really took everything to load. It was and still is a huge step forward. Laminar also took away our toys... settings were far more generic and a lot of them were now set for the best framerate and efficiency, you could still fiddle with them through a back door, but I quickly realised that the settings provided were the best you could use and any backdoor fiddling was more to the negative than the positive, and one area that also came back was the visibility mist like you had in X-Plane9. Many hated the mist and still do, but I warmed to it's incredible realism and spending more than a few hours over the year comparing my real life aircraft window images to the simulator's version, then the conclusion is that the mist is as real as it gets. That was the basic first impressions, but the sheer power of X-Plane11's features then started to be revealed in a more slower longer process and not the directly into your face over the year, it is a deep simulation is X-Plane11 and far deeper than it looked on the surface when you first flew in the new simulation world. The biggest barrier to early X-Plane11's use was aircraft. Laminar had done a lot of basic fundamental changes to performance and developers needed to get their heads around the significant differences, then to make it more difficult as Laminar in their wisdom did a complete revise of the aircraft performance and months after the release in March, so developers were basically back to square one. Laminar will note "well it is still a beta" but in reality it was a bit unfair and Laminar should have had at least this area covered before the initial release. This performance issue split developers into two camps... the first group did a semi X-Plane11 release that covered the XP11's new features and performance, but it at least gave you the aircraft to fly in the XP11 simulator. The second group just sat it out (for months) and waited till XP11 went final before tackling the changes and both camps were in reality right in their approach. But the wait and see approach did cause those developers to get a lot of "when will you update to XP11" calls. They also didn't want to update either because if you wanted one of their shiny new upgraded aircraft to fly in X-Plane11 then you were going to have to pay an upgrade fee or repurchase the aircraft. This was a contentious issue and in some areas unfair to a few that had only just purchased their addons and now they had to repurchase them again with the same aircraft or scenery to just fly in X-Plane11. Personally I think this could have been handled better and fairer, and was a big barrier to many users switching over to XP11 and most stayed then only flying on in XP10 as they still do because of that significant upgrade cost factor. But the other side of the coin was that developers now have to deliver upgrades for the full duration of XP11's run and for free, that is four years of non-payment until the next version upgrade, and so it goes both ways and the features that X-Pane11 brings to the upgraded addons are also significant. The sad thing is that these non-switcher users are still not seeing or using the immense benefits of XP11's features and this was brought home to me very early in the year. One of the most appreciable benefits were again the visual aspects of PBR or "Physically-Based Rendering". This feature created excellent light reflections and unbelievable texture reflections that brought the realism of real to life, add in the new "metalness" feature and sitting in an XP11's cockpit was now a revelation of almost touch like existence, VR (Virtual Reality) will highlight the feature more to the "amazing" level of reality we now have available in simulation. I spent most of the early months of 2017 with my jaw on the floor and my eyes wide as one after other of aircraft and sceneries spellbounded me with their extreme realism and that revelation has not left me even at the end of the year. In my point of view PBR was the best feature that XP11 produced and the images in our reviews are certainly a huge step more realistic and real than the same images in XP10 to highlight the differences. Other X-Plane11 features were slower to emerge over the year. FMOD sound is a huge step forward for X-Plane as the sounds in reality except for 3rd party addons were quite basic. But it has taken time for developers to get their heads around it, but once they did, then the feature quickly became the normal... but it took time or the second half of the year to get there. The GNS G1000 GPS system was also in a longer period of gestation and was only released in v11.10 and very late in the year, but the wait was well worth it. Other areas that were XP11 features like autogen and aircraft I will cover in those areas later, but again although small in comparison it all added up to significant changes to the simulator as a whole. Overall X-Plane11 introduction was more a slow burn than a wham in face hit, but on a deeper level a lot of ground was covered and so was the bugs and refining of the new version. Laminar Research have changed a lot in their approach to releasing and updating the simulator over the last few years, but this more methodical approach is covering more areas and turning out a far more professional product and even if I may say it, it is a far more mature simulator. xEnviro environment engine In X-Plane11 the weather did get a welcome refinement and thankfully a better framerate hit and is now good from average. But 3rd Party tools will and can do a better job on focusing solely on one area than the extremely wide range of areas that Laminar has to cover. There are far to many shader changers that adjusts the XP default weather, when in reality it is the basics that need the treatment. Skymaxx was a great release in finally a 3rd party addon that had a go at doing X-Plane weather in realistic way. But xEnviro was a revolution in the way it totally and completely created a different and realistic environment in X-Plane, use it and then turn it off to understand the total game changer it is. I know I have harped on about xEnviro all year, but my points are significant in what it delivers, yes it is extremely expensive, yes it is not perfect and full of artifacts, but in the right areas it delivers in creating a mood or a scene that is beyond perfect for simulation flying. Anyone who does purchase it then kicks themselves in "why didn't I do this earlier and stopped instantly complaining about it". As noted the product is good, but the service was dismal throughout the year. To succeed in any business then the product has to be good but so then does the support as well. In a note the support has lifted its game towards the end of the year, but in other areas it still leaves a lot to ponder. The worrying thing about all this is that fixes via a few updates throughout the year was all that was required as any good developer does. The first update was nine months after the initial release in September and finally fixed that bad crash to desk top issue, and in reality the differences between v1.6 and v1.7 were minuscule. Worse was the main areas where not addressed. Clouds still have bad lines in them, horizon lines and circles under aircraft... biggest misdemeanour is the fact that after after twelve months there is no Mac version? But "hey" they are bringing you wet runways in the next version, but still anyone who adores Steve Jobs can't run xEnviro? It is crazy stuff you can't make up... priorities!. And worse the Maccers are not even on the current list yet, but way down at the bottom.... it is so crazy it makes you cry. The reason I hate this point is the fact that they can't use one of the very best addons in X-Plane, the Maccers are missing out on something really great... complain now to your local xEnviro thread. WorldTraffic3 Oh how difficult was WorldTraffic2... It was for diehards only. The idea was great, but translating the idea to the simulator was hard. The only way to fix the plugin was to gut it and change the foundational aspects that made it all work. In other words it was a big job, but a necessary one. I was a beta tester on WT3 and it wasn't pretty earlier on but finally the basic principles were right, and ease of use was finally in reach of everyone's fingertips. I was excited about WT3 all year but couldn't tell a soul, if you look carefully at most reviews this year it is running in the background, the clues were there if you had looked hard enough. At it's release back in September, WT3 was not still a fully rounded plugin, the basics are done, but now it was the turn of the community to give WT3 its legs. As the changes are based on the upgraded functionality of X-Planes ATC ground routes for that ease of use. It also is highly reliable on those ground routes being perfect to get the very best return out WT3. If there is no ATC ground routes or poorly created ones then WT3 would function badly as well. The older WT2 ground routes did still work, but not in every aspect if you wanted to edit certain gates or features, again WT3 totally relied on those ATC ground routes being perfect. It will take a few years for WT3 to be totally and fully immersed with X-Plane11 as this area is filtered out, but some brilliant work by Chopinet and K-man has shown how to do it well, as fully completed routes are simply a marvel to behold. If the ATC routes are well done like at the sensational Aeropsoft - EDDF, Frankfurt by again another good XP designer in Omar Masoor then you can see the huge difference that WT3 has brought to the X-Plane simulator this year. The promise was always there, but now WT3 certainly delivers on that promise in spades, as WT3 is not just a choice but an essential aid for the simulator. So there we have the three cornerstones to the current X-Plane step to immortality. But one more interesting addon was added and created another new fundamental corner to this years serious advanced change... XPRealistic. XPRealistic Movement in simulators is nothing new. We already had "shake" or Headshake by Simcoders that gave you basic movement, and a few addon aircraft had those landing shakers to make the landings more realistic. But the difference with XPR(ealistic) was that you could set the movements and actions for different types of aircraft which in the real world move or fly in vastly different ways, a GA is very different in movement to A380, and so this plugin reflected that and you could save that aircraft's profile to use or change aspects of that in the future. The only downside was that the plugin used the "FlywithLua" (FWL) plugin as a host, nothing wrong with FWL as a plugin, but it does sometimes conflict with other plugins on several levels as I painfully found out. But here was another very different dynamic to compliment the other changes above, and all four together is an X-Plane experience you could have only dreamed of a few years ago. The vision of "X-Plane Christmas Future" came to pass, but it was far, far better and superior than the vision of "X-Plane Christmas Present". Graphic limitations Of course you don't get these huge changes and and visual overload without a penalty. Most users complained that the changes to X-Plane11 required a major updating of their hardware, which was in effect completely wrong. X-Plane11 could easily run and in fact is far more efficient and faster than X-Plane10 was. There was no huge step required in hardware like there was between X-Plane9 and X-Plane10 to cover for those extended texture tiles and OSM data. Certainly X-Plane11 had grown significantly from the start of X-Plane10 run. But the main penalty was in the usual area of graphic processing and created mostly by those huge 4K textures that had a more bigger footprint by the way that PBR rendered the textures. Aircraft and their systems are far more deeper and complex compared to most of the earlier XP10 aircraft and the weather as usual did its job in overloading the graphic engines. So the requirements jumps easily from a minimum of 1gb to 2gb then quickly went to 4gb in basic rendering power. But then this year a minimum of 4gb is now required and mostly another step to either 8gb or 11gb is going to be the normal. Thankfully Graphic card costs are relevant, but these have become the basic requirements to run the X-Plane11 simulator in its current form. And so all the above is highly conspicuous of the changes over the 2017 X-Plane year, so it is to your own impressions if these aspects do create that significant and even extreme aspects that the X-Plane simulator in its current form, is now vastly superior than it was in the past. Aircraft With the release of X-Plane11, then Laminar included new aircraft to the line up (and took a few older ones away). The main new aircraft included was the Boeing 737-800, the Mcdonnell Douglas MD-80 and the Sikorski S-76. A Cessna Citation was promised but it has even to date not been released. All the remaining aircraft got updates, but most were average. The Boeing 747-400 was unflyable for most of the year and still needs a little more attention, but some aircraft had loads of attention lavished on them with especially the King Air C90B and the Cessna 172SP. The Cessna 172SP was also upgraded to use the G1000 GPS system in the release of X-Planev11-10, so overall it was a mixed bag. The native Boeing 737-800 became one of the most interesting aspects of the year. Someone fed up with the basic aircraft decided to upgrade it significantly and so was born the words of the year in "ZIBO Mod". The ZIbo modifications were and are quite extensive with other users also throwing in their modifications in FMOD sounds 5.1 by AudioBird XP, the TerrainOnND by DrGluck and many others. This also spawned another project on the same native aircraft called the "Boeing 737 Ultimate" that will add in a full cabin, opening doors and various winglets or scimitars and that is due for release any time soon. I doubt any aircraft in any period of X-Plane has offered as much discussion and excitement as these projects on the Zibo Mod ideas. The results was and is a payware grade freeware aircraft, but to note it is experimental (which puts it certainly deep into the X-Plane coda of design) but it is actually very good. I came to it about the middle of year and it was interesting but with still a few rough edges (mostly with the very detailed FMC) but it does raise a lot of questions in that will more aircraft like the Boeing 747-400 or the DC-80 also get the Zibo Mod treatment, or if Laminar is smart enough to bring the projects in house and make them official... we shall see, but the result was one of the most interesting aircraft of the year. Payware A large percentages of releases in 2017 in aircraft were all mostly upgrades to the X-Plane11 version. A lot as noted were released as "new' versions, but in reality they were mostly the older XP10 versions with a lot of new features and the alignment with the X-Plane11 performance changes. So 2017 was notably "The year of the Upgrade". Some aircraft had a lot of revisions, some even close to monthly in releases which made sometimes a lot of confusion on what version or what even the release aircraft version actually was. First out of the box with XP11 conversions was the Challenger 300 and CRJ-200, both are flyable at years end, but need attention. Most notable in that category was Rotate's MD88 and JARdesigns A320/A330. X-Crafts and SSG did a huge amount of changes to their E-Jets and often tack to tacked each other on features or updates, both are great but overall the SSG had more of the edge with their latest releases in the excellent E170/E195LR by the end of the year. The Boeing 777 and A350XWB were both upgraded by FlightFactor but only to "keep them flying" grade. In fact in new releases FlightFactor was very quiet with only the Boeing 757 having a significant upgrade to the "Pro Extended" version with three variants of a -200, -300 and a Cargo. Like a lot of the significant X-Plane developers most were only visible for the X-Plane11 upgrades and most decided only to concentrate on new X-Plane aircraft or a totally revising of their older designs, so expect a lot if not a huge explosion of classic X-Plane developer releases in 2018. Including FlightFactor with a A320 Ultimate, FlyJSim with all his products in the B727,B737 and Q400 having extensive upgrades, QPAC under a new name called ToLiSSs with a A319, Ddenn with his Global 6000, Harrier VV8b by Trident and the biggie with the McDonnell Douglas MD11 by Rotate. My main guess is that the developers wanted to have a more of a completed and stable X-Plane11 before releasing anymore "banner" aircraft and then having not to update and change monthly or even in some cases this year weekly. The Boeing 787-9 that was originally developed by Heinz Dziurowitz has had a lot of updated development by Maglight, but is still not a really dedicated study level simulation of the aircraft. That is one of the biggest holes in the X-Plane simulator currently, and yes there are a few scores of developers doing their 787 designs, we will see on how that one turns out in 2018. The oddest to really strange development in 2017 easily went to the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 by ATS. The aircraft came out early but right at the intersect between the change from X-Plane10 to still in late beta X-Plane11. It fell really through the cracks as it didn't fit in either camp. Plus it was odd in the fact that it didn't or you couldn't use the even basic of X-Plane commands to fly the aircraft, so you had to every time you wanted to fly the aircraft reset your basic keyboard and inputs to get the right commands in datarefs, and then switch them all back again to fly everything else? It was still highly buggy as well, and as the year went on it slid away into obscurity. The thing is, when you did sort everything out and sort of got some control over the aircraft it was quite nice to fly and was a good simulation, but its strange abnormalities easily outweighed its benefits? As usual the General Aviation arena of X-Plane delivered a lot of gems in 2017, in fact even some so brilliant that they are best aircraft for X-Plane in a while. Aerobask was brilliant with their excellent Pipistral Panthera, Eclipse 550NG and Velocity V-Twin. All these aircraft had excellent new GPS systems with the Dynon SkyView and GTN750/GTN650 instrument systems, but the overwhelming factor was their use of X-Plane11's PBR tools that brought in a new high benchmark in textures and interior quality, breathtaking was the word. Another huge quality delivery was from vFlyteAir with their excellent PA-30 Twin Comanche that was simply an incredible aircraft with outstanding menu features. Their Sirrus SR20 G1000 was very good as well and there is no doubt now a serious player in the GA stakes of high quality aircraft in X-Plane. There was a few new serious GA players as well with PicusX and their Aqulia A210 & A211G, and AeroSphere Simulations with their Cherokee Warrior ll, Arrow IV and Archer lll and Piper Seminole a developer to watch in 2018. Another few developers came on board as well with Auctusdelineations and his very interesting EV-55 Outback and Avia71 for his skilled aerobatic machines. One of the biggest new developers to come into our orbit was VSkyLabs. The developer runs a site dedicated to creating various interesting aircraft as projects, and the are all very good, even if a few are of the obscure design school. His Tecnam P2006T was a great utility machine, but it was his rendition of the Classic DC-3/C47 that has brought him fame and fortune in X-Plane. The initial release was basically sound and good, but with poor textures and no exterior rivet work, it was brilliantly great and average in one package. But the development process was furious and the DC-3 grew quickly into the classic aircraft it is that X-Plane has dreamed of for years. Before your eyes it became something else and no aircraft this year has given me more exhilaration and a smile on my face than this exceptional machine. It is of course nowhere near perfect, but it is excellent to fly and must be used with the XPRealistic plugin to get the most alive flying experience in X-Plane today. One of 2017's must have aircraft. Carenado had their usual busy year, but releases were restricted mostly to getting there huge 35+ aircraft up to X-Plane11 standard, it is a lot of work... and those upgrades will continue well into 2018 to cover all the range. The highlight from Carenado was the absolutely incredible Dornier Do 228 that hints of more greatness in the future. The Carenado connection with Dan Klaue was also evident in one of the year's GA masterpieces. Thranda teamed up with Flight Simulations JustFlight in their first release for X-Plane in the Just Flight PA28R Piper Arrow IIl It showed that the combination of a great FS quality developer and a brilliant X-Plane designer can produce something that not only pushes the quality and features to another level, but deliver a flying experience that is second to none. The Arrow lll is not perfect as the menus are average and the price sets a new higher barrier for a GA in X-Plane, but all in the right places it is quite simply an extraordinary aircraft. Scenery X-Plane scenery had an extraordinary year in 2017 in X-Plane as well. The introduction of X-Plane11 brought with it some excellent new features that would transform scenery at an fundamental level, mostly in PBR and certainly with the metalness textures in glass and reflections. X-Plane11 also brought in better basic WED rules with far better ACT routes (important) and great native ground traffic. There was the impact of Laminar's "Global Airports" or WED airports that delivered hundreds if not now thousands of quality 3d scenery, they do range from the basic to excellent, but now it is that WED as a scenery tool is extremely powerful, but it has certainly delivered to fill in a weak area of X-plane's simulations visual aspects. But another aspect was the regional areas finally also getting attention. German (or European) autogen made a huge, massive impact in any European or even anywhere away from the usual South-Cal feel of X-Plane autogen. Laminar added in some landmarks to Las Vegas and London as well, but overall the new euro autogen changed the whole landscape for flying around the continent. We expected some 3rd parties to bring in some dedicated regional packages (the system is in place for them?) but nothing happened and neither did say the same autogen idea for the UK or Italy. So it all ended the year in quite an odd way. Something that can fundamentally make a huge difference visually to your X-Plane experience has sort of been left to ponder, we hope (no pray) that 2018 will change that scenario. The year for scenery in 2017 started off with a huge bang as CYBD - Bella Coola BC by Beti-X which was a masterpiece of intimate scenery, the game seemed over before 2017 got even started. But this was an exceptional year on all levels for great scenery and finally scenery started to develop to a quality point to point flying in that the quality was there when you departed, but the same quality greeted you when you landed, in other words you got the full total gate to gate experience. The main players in this was JustSim and Aerosoft. JustSim just churned out quality software for months, sometimes two sceneries a month, and you scrambled to keep up with them all. On top of that JustSim was sensational in using the new X-Plane11 features for glass and reflections on both buildings and runways. Some packages were updated from X-Plane10 to X-Plane11 but overall there was a lot of new airports to devour as well. EDDH, Hamburg was excellent, ELLX - Luxemburg was a sensational surprise, LOWS - Salzburg and LOWI - Innsbruck were good as well and updates to their LFMN-Nice and ENBR-Barcelona were great as well. However JustSim has gone very quiet in the second half of 2017... Aerosoft had a banner year in X-Plane. The main change was the use (finally) of a decent X-Plane scenery developer to do their upgrade work, and boy did that show. Omar Mansoor (KRSW - South Florida/KDFW-Dallas Fort Worth) did the bulk of the work and the results were simply sensational. ENGM - Oslo was and still is one of my real favorites now in X-Plane, as is the companion ENBR - Bergen. WADD-Bali was the exception of the year in a dropped game, as Aerosoft used an average FS developer to do the conversion and it was really a straight over movement from FS to X-Plane and with poor or no X-Plane features in place, so Aerosoft returned to their past average form, which is shame as the scenery is excellent, just the conversion is very poorly executed. Omar was back for EIDW - Dublin and LSZA - Lugarno and everthing went great again, but Omar's "pièce de résistance" of the year was the simply sensational recently released EDDF - Frankfurt... MisterX went pro in 2017 under the name of ShortFinal Design. The past master of freeware scenery like KBOS, KLAX, KSFO and a long list of free great airports delivered even more greatness and another level of quality with two sceneries in KSLC (Salt Lake City) and the remarkable KABQ - Albuquerque International Sunport, he may have gone over to the darkside, but you couldn't simply fault his work or live without it. Ninbus Simulation Studios (Butnaru) had a busy year as well with three sceneries coming out of the studio. With KMCO - Orlando, the excellently featured TFFJ - Saint Barthélemy Airport and an recent update to KATL - Atlanta. Drzewiecki Design delivered the excellent Washington XP but by their standards it was a quiet year. Other highlights included a great update to KLAX v2 by FunnerFlight and a new and talented developer in KHAF - Half Moon Bay by Rising Dawn Studios. And the if very interesting YAYE - Ayres Rock - Connellan Airport by RIM&Co that didn't know when to much is simply too much of everything, but the Rock itself was excellent. Overall it was not just one thing that brought scenery to a extremely higher level in every area in 2017 for X-Plane. It was the fusion of many parts that combined to give you an exceptional canvas in which to fly. The X-Plane11 features of autogen, ground traffic and better WED tools then combined with better features and the sheer higher quality of the scenery. Certainly the aspects of WorldTraffic on scenery had another huge milestone impact, in this area then X-Plane had a that banner year of fusion. As the payware sceneries deliveries this year was so highly strong, I didn't use (or download) as much freeware as I did in the past. The person I totally admired in the past was tdg, and his exceptional work. But I couldn't and neither could a few other serious scenery developers try to understand why he refuses and still does to not insert WED ATC ground routes into his sceneries, yes it is as they say a "bone of contention" but a huge swath of (300 hundred) sceneries of his great if brilliant work and now unusable scenery is now either (in my case) not being used or even downloaded, why is totally beyond belief, but true. unfortunately as WorldTaffic3, X-Life builds as does the native A.I., then his work will diminish in non-use, I hope tdg sees the light in 2018 before it is too late. Plugins For third party plugins they had in 2017 to be more than just become a special feature you could access. In the past they now had a very direct and active influence on to your actual screen but more significantly and in the way you used X-Plane, in a few cases the plugins have now become a vital component of the X-Plane system itself, and in 2017 it was the plugins that were the major highlights of the year. I have above already noted above the huge impact the major plugins with xEnviro, XPRealistic and WorldTraffic3 have already made to X-Plane this year so there is no need to repeat the facts again here. Only two items to note... Flightfactor delivered their AVS or Airport Visual System, that the review didn't make the post before Christmas because there was only so much time and it is big review. Another plugin point is that developers are starting to use plugins as a means of delivering their products not related to plugins themselves but other aspects of the simulator and for later product updates. One or two is fine, but I hope they don't start to clog up our plugin folders with these product designed tools and even keeping a watch on your use of your simulation uses, this current friendly backdoor helper could quickly get too invasive for their own agendas even if the developer is currently only saying it is not the case. I am sure we will talk about this more in 2018. ___________________________________________ And so we come to the closure of another X-Plane year in 2017. And every year it is usually noted as a "milestone" this and "best year ever' that, but what of X-Plane in 2017. Even the diehards would have to admit it was a significant year for the simulator, and a maturing year. With so many elements coming together and in a surprisingly more efficient simulator than we ever expected then certainly this was a defining year in so many ways. We did see and now have the "X-Plane of Christmas Future", and how good is that. The X-Plane community also welcomed in 2017 an unprecedented number of new users to the simulator and many are enjoying X-Plane for the first time. Numbers don't lie, the proof that X-Plane is still growing and is still moving forward is one of the greatest Christmas gifts you can have, more people are enjoying what you enjoy and the significantly more users 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 that software. Again this Review site cannot function without all the great and exciting work by the tireless developers that give us all this exciting product to fly and use, as I mentioned earlier X-Plane has come a long way in the last few years. To the X-Plane.OrgStore who supports this site with service and updates, a really big thanks. Of course X-PlaneReviews wouldn’t exist either without you the users and your contribution to both the simulator and to reading this site and your comments, so thanks and tune in again in 2017 for even more in-depth analysis, great detail, inside and future product news as X-PlaneReviews heads into its 5th landmark year. We will finish off with X-PlaneReviews best of the year awards… So I will now list my Best of the Year 2017: Best Aircraft : Boeing 757 v2 Extended Pro by FlightFactor/Steptosky Yes they win again, but it was a really excellent upgrade. Honorable Mention : A320 Ultimate by FlightFactor/Steptosky If it had been formally released it would have won easily, overall a poor year for top end airliner releases. Best Classic Aircraft : McDonnall Douglas DC-3/C47 by vSkyLabs An experience to be fully appreciated at 4000ft and just rumbling along at 200kts... Honorable Mention : Mudry CAP 10C by Avia71 A great aerobatic aircraft to have fun in. Shouldn't totally love but do : That DC-3! Best General Aviation Aircraft : PA28R Piper Arrow IIl by Just Flight/Thranda Takes GA flying to a completely higher level again, including the price! Honorable Mention : PA-30 Twin Comanche by vFlyteAir Incredible features and a if perfect great flying machine 2nd Honorable Mention : Any Aerobask aircraft For the incredible texture realism and outstanding features The GA category was full of great aircraft in 2017 Best Helicopter : There was no new Helicopter releases in 2017 A lot of upgrades but nothing new, next year should be better. Best Scenery : CYBD - Bella Coola BC by Beti-X Yes CYBD still won, and mostly because of both the great detail and summer and winter textures Honorable Mention : EDDF - Frankfurt by Aerosoft If you want the best working and exceptional airport scenery for Europe then EDDF is your best choice Again a huge amount of choice of great releases. Person(s) of the Year : Greg Hofer Delivered the impossible and has completely changed the look of X-Plane airports at the same time with WorldTraffic3, oh and WT3 is actually easy to use. Honorable Mention : Laminar Research Delivered what they promised and more, VR is coming soon as well. Best Plugin : WorldTraffic3 by Greg Hofer The Impossible made possible, now your airports are active and really alive. Honorable Mention : XPRealistic by rk Apps Shakes you, moves you and brings your aircraft alive from the inside, a plugin developer to watch. Best Moment of the year 2017 : Watching the dream finally all work... WorldTraffic3 in all its glory at 3am in the morning at EDDF. Worst Moment of the Year 2017 : Not one aircraft that would actually fly in X-Plane11 Biggest distraction of 2017 : Finding no ATC ground routes at an airport I really wanted to use for WT3, and yes it was usually a tdg airport! Personal Favorites of 2017 : Rotate MD-88 (awesome), vSkyLabs DC-3 (way too much time flying this aircraft to nowhere), Carenado Beechcraft 1900D (just so good), PA28R Piper Arrow lll by JustFlight/Thranda (so good, so challenging), A320 JARDesign (point to point), Native X-Plane11 B737-800 its basic but great to fly. That is X-PlaneReviews for 2017, and we will be back after a very much needed break and rest early into the New Year on the 3rd January 2017. So Merry Christmas and a great New Year 2018 Stephen Dutton 22nd December 2017 Copyright:X-PlaneReviews 2017 (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)
  22. Behind the Screen : November 2017 October and March are the demon months in X-Plane. You look forward to them immensely but there is also the dread of the huge workload and the sheer amount of detail that you have to work through. Of course late October is the release month for the Christmas holiday period, and late March is now becoming a very large release period for the Easter holiday period. In fact Easter is now really the most interesting period for X-Plane as users don't have the usual hang ups that usually comes with all the expensive Christmas present giving and worse the "You have to be here to celebrate together" issue... For Easter you have more cash available and more importantly you have far more time for relaxation and X-Plane flying. Last year in November 2017 X-Plane was overshadowed by the release of X-Plane11 with the usual Laminar Research thanksgiving present, but this year we won't have that event, and so it is really mostly the usual back to business releases like the final of the release of X-Plane11-10 but there are still a nice load of gifts in this -10 release to keep you well and happy for going into the 2018 New Year. So October 2018 was a blockbuster month with two major releases with the FlightFactor/SteptoSky Airbus A320 Ultimate and the JustFlight/Thranda Arrow III of which I noted in the October edition of "Behind the Screen". Both releases are significant to X-Plane but a lot of users were very annoyed that it was a beta version of the A320 and most were not allowed into the beta process which to date of this edition is still ongoing. On this FF A320U subject I will make one thing very clear and that is the beta process with this aircraft is the one thing you really just don't need in your X-Plane life. Obviously you want to experience the aircraft and devour its incredible features, but... You just don't really want to go there no matter how capable you really think your abilities are. It is a seriously complex aircraft, daunting is a word I will use and very buggy at the point of the beta release and your only return for your initial experience would have been lots of frustration and for the sheer out of your depth feeling on how to fly the aircraft. It is brilliant and it will be one of the foremost experiences in X-Plane by the time of its formal release. So enjoy it then when it is all sorted. Boeing 757 On the subject of complex releases is that in November FlightFactor/SteptoSky also released the B757 Professional Extended v3 aircraft. My relationship with the FF/StS B757 has been a bit disconnected in the last year because of a strange password issue that wouldn't unlock the aircraft that even the developer couldn't fix, which means I had very little flying time on this fine aircraft all year. A new version fixed the password issue and I was then a B757 captain again with now three variants to fly with a -300, Freighter and of course the original -200 version. Back in the B757 cockpit I found myself slightly floundering. I knew the aircraft inside out, but did I? It has been over a year since I last reviewed an update on the aircraft and flew it perfectly back then. I soon got my act together but it took three flights before I had become fully accustomed to the aircraft again, once more tuned in then the aircraft came back easily to me and I got the performances that I expected not only from the aircraft but from my own flying abilities. I will make the point that in reality nothing had actually gone wrong, but I simply had lost the feel and flow of flying a complex aircraft, and yes I will admit to this. Like I have mentioned in the past in the ability to "Check" yourself on an aircraft every now and again so you don't lose that flow was certainly brought home hard with this situation. I had been locked out and it showed. There is another point to make on this theory in that it was I think more the underlying changes that was significant than the actual aircraft itself that had changed. Basically the B757 was the same machine, but over the year it had also had improvements, but more so it had been tuned differently for X-Plane11. "ahh" you will say and that is the point. Even though the aircraft was actually the same, in another way it was very different with all the very different aspects of flying now under X-Plane11 dynamics than the other older X-Plane10 parameters. With most aircraft throughout the last year the changes were significant but also subtle as well so you adapted as you went along. What the B757 brought home to me was in reality how much of X-Plane under its new guise was really different and like anything else you had to adapt with the changes set for you. Overall the X-Plane11 dynamics are quite extraordinary in their feel and obviously very different. Carenado Do 228 The Carenado Do 228 release was a blockbuster. These short-regional aircraft are always very versatile, but this one was very nice to fly as well. Now between the Beechcraft 1900D and the Dornier, you have a really have a hard desicion to make on which one is the one to fly, detailing is "open mouth" and can you actually believe "how good is this" territory, but it shows how good the add-ons now are for X-Plane. It was a very hard aircraft to move on from to do another review. X-Plane Demographics and X-Plane11 I am a big fan of demographics, and so Laminar Research's X-Plane collected data which is published periodically is always going to interesting. But this last release was more shocking than you could reasonably expect. The main thought is that, who is just a casual user and who is the diehard user. Are most users just flying in X-Plane as another distraction like playing video games and watching You Tube, or are they really into X-Plane... X-Plane. I will always note that the core users will always be a lot smaller than the overall size of people that have purchased the X-Plane simulator and to a point the data points this out. Originally the core group was around 30,000 out of 300,000 registered users, so about 1 in 10. But back then simulator users were very divided in what simulation platform they used. The fence was very high between the Flight Simulator hot shots and the X-Plane twiddlers, in other words X-Plane users were and still are very much involved in the mechanics and creation of the X-Plane world, were as the FS groups preferred to buy and build their world in components or packages. To a point both worlds have now merged a lot, and over the last few years a huge amount of diehard FS/P3D users have sampled X-Plane but still went back to their original offerings, but with the release of X-Plane11 last year the few then became a torrent as the walls fell and X-Plane became their primary simulation platform. X-Plane users have finally embraced the add-on market as well, as product gets better and this has pleased both camps. But that Laminar Research data is very bewildering. For General Aviation flying then X-Plane11 is the place to be, but many or most airliner pilots they are staying in X-Plane10? Why... well most probably it is the cost of upgrading those expensive add-on airliners, as at an average of US$50-$70 it is certainly a large replacement investment. Another point is that large aircraft users are waiting for the aircraft to be fully upgraded to X-Plane11 before taking the plunge, but in reality that case is now mostly closed as if not all the aircraft are now X-Plane11 compliant. On the RAM front it seems you need far more X-Plane11 than 10. 2Gb of RAM today is ridiculous as is 4Gb and the minimum now should be 8Gb. X-Plane on average with everything running with a heavy textured aircraft, large payware airport and a few plugins in using RAM is around constantly 6Gb, just under the 8Gb margin, so 16Gb should be the norm to not let the artificial RAM takeaway too much performance. In VRAM which is not listed in the data, then that is the the most developing important item with X-Plane11. I am at this moment updating my VRAM card from which I thought was a very safe headroom of 4Gb to an 8Gb card, even a 6Gb will be out of date in a year or so. So yes X-Plane11 chews up graphic cards like a hungry cookie monster. The reasons are mostly in the far more heavy aircraft 4K textures and the sheer scale of payware scenery we can now access. Weather was always a graphic card killer and although you will now slide through light weather event, but come to a stormy weather event and your frame-rate goes south. Add in WorldTraffic, X-Enviro and a box full of plugins and you can see why the graphic card is bulging. I noticed through out of the year my rendering options sliders were slowly going backwards, textures was were the biggest slips that moved, but mostly overall all sliders slid a full notch down, so even with my rendering options adjusted well down I am STILL always on the 4Gb limit or just under it or mostly over it. "aahh the cookie monster..." Biggest surprise in the LR data was that a quarter (23.4%) of X-Plane users still only use the mouse for flying aircraft. I will attribute this to the fact that most of these users fly on laptops, but seriously... mouse input? a quarter of you? I lasted I think seven minutes flying with my finger... I am moving on from that fact. No doubt the biggest barrier to X-Plane11 is simply cost. Not only the actual simulator (which in reality is the cheapest part), but the hardware and the cost of updating the payware aircraft is a cost to overcome. I feel your pain, but the sheer benefits of X-Plane11 certainly bear out the upgraded cost factors, Yes you can buy X-Plane11, still put in a 4gb graphic card (around US$200) and update the aircraft PASYG. At least you are upgraded and flying, go on treat yourself for Christmas... oh and go and buy yourself a cheap joystick as well. Christmas Presents (I won't be getting this year) On the "What would I like for Christmas" angle then I won't certainly be getting it this year, but I can hopefully put it out there for 2018. There is no doubt that in 2017 the rate of excellent add-ons have been the best yet, as we will cover in my regular end of the year review. But there are some holes I would like filled. In aircraft it is a head shaking in disbelief that there is still no decent top quality B787 Dreamliner? Yes there are a few out there, but not a deep level sim version, and "God knows" even Boeing will have sorted allthe the problems out of the aircraft before X-Plane gets one? A -9 would be very nice thank you.. A great Boeing 744 deep sim would be nice as well, but by the time we get around to that release all B744's will be in the scrapyard, you hear that PMDG? In General Aviation I would like a nice Britten Norman Islander, a nice aircraft that somehow X-Plane forgot. Another I will get down on my knees moment is for Carenado to cross over their currently in development F-27, yes that Fokker F-27 Friendship, at least it does have a chance of making it into X-Plane. In scenery a very nice payware EKCH - Copenhagen would make my Europe a better place... and I am still waiting and waiting for a very good HECA - Cairo to fly to... But still 2017 didn't again deliver much from the East either so anything from out there in 2018 would be a nice late Christmas present Oh and my cruise that I went on in the first week of November? Well I did trivia, pass the donkey, the samba dancing, name that tune (very good at that), cookery competition and won a chef's hat, bingo, zip lining over the top decks, disco dancing every night, got lost on an island beach and eat myself sick with all the free food, I needed a holiday after all of that. See you with my Comprehensive "End of the Year Review 2017" just before Christmas... Stephen Dutton 1st December 2017 Copyright©2017: X-Plane Reviews
  23. Behind the Screen : October 2017 I rounded off September's "Behind the Screen" entry with a bit of frustration with plugin issues. A loss of a mouse input on the main screen and only a working menu bar is going to drive you mental if there is no becoming fix. These plugin issues are very annoying and can be really and sometimes impossible to fix... Your thoughts are to just pull out all your plugins and find the offending traitor. Well that was the very first thing I did with no change and that was when it went from maddening to down right just frustrating and after three weeks of pain I was getting a bit bothered about the whole thing and not to say of all the lost time in doing reviews and testing. But I knew and it pointed to that it was still an plugin issue. First point is that it only affected me? As if it was a global issue it would have been all over the forums. Secondly it was the thought that it could be the new X-Enviro v1.07 as it was released at that point in time, thirdly I had run close to 30 betas of WorldTraffic3 and all those plugins were just not talking to each other? You could run one but not both together as they simply hated each other? Then there was the X-PlaneRealistic plugin that became corrupted as it it ran through the FlyWithLua plugin and so the imposter simply ruined that with a "Nil value". And so there is a big thank you to both the developers of FlyWithLua and Roy from X-PlaneRealistic who both put in a lot time trying to find the cause and fix the issue... so how the damn do you fix it? The Nuclear Approach... The Nuclear approach involves a complete X-Plane rebuild by downloading a second X-Plane version (or demo version) and rebuilding the simulator up from scratch. The X-Plane basics stay the same in that you move over only your larger folders including your Global Scenery, Custom Scenery and Aircraft folders. The rest is all new and clean, It is like a huge moving house clean out and this cannot be unstated as a bad thing. As you go along adding in hundreds of downloads this and beta that, then a lot of junk can and does build up in all the various folders and worse in different preferences spread away from the main preferences stored in your output folder, It is in the really small stuff that really clogs up the simulator. So a three hour download of Gb's of X-Plane, one hour to reset everything and add in all my settings again and I restarted my ultra clean X-Plane11 and guess what?... the damn issue was still there?... So it was time to get creative? I knew the X-Plane download was clean? and I tested it next with the original demo scenery, default aircraft folder and demo custom scenery folders installed... and the issue finally and thankfully went away? So it was now the Sherlock Holmes approach to elimination in trying each default folder separately then concluded that the issue was in my custom scenery folder... more elimination concluded that any scenery installed in September had to come out and do a retest after retest until I narrowed the villain down to a scenery that I had been given to review, It was a nasty piece of bad problems right from the start, but it also contained a folder with a SASL plugin installed... and there was my master villain... a rogue SASL plugin that consistently conflicted with all the other plugins.... pulled out the offending scenery and my life suddenly went back to normality and my X-Plane simulator suddenly began worked like clockwork again and has done ever since. So if your X-Plane application starts crashing and behaving oddly you can guarantee it will mostly always be a plugin, but the motto of the above story is that it is not always the ones in the actual plugin folder that is causing the issues. I totally recommend to "Nuclear" your X-Plane application at least twice a year and even every quarter if possible and that is even if X-Plane is running perfectly. This house clean is in just that, it is a clean out of all the hidden stuff you can't see. Then to save this current newly downloaded copy of the initial download (before you add in the Global Scenery/Custom/scenery/ Aircraft folders) on an external hard drive for a quicker download of a clean edition in the future, you can then easily run the updater to bring it up to the current X-Plane version. Another bonus is that if X-Plane goes batty or isn't running correctly then that clean version is always there to put everything back running and correctly very quickly. vSkylabs DC-3/C47 Another version to v2.5 for vSkylabs DC-3 dropped in also in October. This is only after weeks since the last revision of the last release and you were really expecting only a few nips and tucks but not the excellent load of new features on the aircraft... It is absolutely a work in progress, but the aircraft has become one of my go too's if I want to just fly to particularly nowhere at all but end up flying for hours and hours to well particularly nowhere. It is that sort of aircraft in the sheer delight in just rumbling along at a 200mph speed and 6000ft and loving every minute of the experience. You see the aircraft grow before your own eyes and become just better and better, and so its journey becomes your own, it has been one of the aircraft of the year to date. X-Plane11-10Beta X-Plane11 v11.10 beta hit the download and it was an excellent update. I do admire the way Laminar are getting that efficiency into X-Plane and my framerate did improve around 15-20 frames on average. Laminar are aiming for a 60 frame average and if you had told me that number last year, I would have thought it was some sort of a Halloween prank, but no, now I think it is possible and achievable. Of course disregard the nutters that say that the framerate is worse than ever as they are the ones not checking the defaults in settings or worse not using the same scenery or aircraft to find a cosmic balance... It is good and even great and believe me on that. The G1000 was excellent as it was expected to be. Laminar do create basic versions of these GPS systems without any frills, but they are very solid as well, very impressed.The new Version 3.0 of the X-Plane SDK (XPLM) was very interesting as well. These sort of new additions don't really change anything at their time of release, but certainly the effects will be very quickly realised and then the changes will be huge and have a significant impact on the way we use the simulator. The clever points with tools like these are the ideas that come out of nowhere but then change everything with a new direction of an old way of doing something, so you should be very excited about a simple thing as a new SDK, it can change your world... no pun intended. October is always the big month for big new product or final beta testing of aircraft and this year was no different, mostly it is aimed at the coming Thanksgiving/Christmas seasons. This year is slightly different in that there won't be a Laminar Research release... X-Plane11 is now last years highlight, and it will be quiet on that front this year after v11-10 goes final. Arrow III and Airbus A320 Ultimate So the usual late October releases were both very significant aircraft for X-Plane in the Arrow III by JustFlight/Thranda and Airbus A320 Ultimate from FlightFactor. For being very different types of aircraft they both had some remarkable similarities. They both lift simulation another notch up in quality and expand out the sheer breadth and scope of their designs. Outwardly they look very X-Plane familiar, but both aircraft require another level of skill and learning to get down their real depth of the expanded experience that they can deliver. Ask me the same in six months and I will say maybe "oh that, yeah easy" but in reality there is a bit more going on here than that. We do take are simulation flying very seriously (maybe too seriously sometimes) but simulation is getting extremely complex, not in the broad sense but certainly in the details. The Arrow demands a lot of practise and the far more higher skills to fly it. It makes it hard in a review sense in that you want a review up there quickly but also in a very complete form in its analysis and interpretation. But in a few days with aircraft like the Arrow it is very hard to do that because with every flight there is far more to learn and far more absorb, even with a hard flying five flights to understand it, I then get the overall shape, but is certain it will take a far longer period to really be a full master of the machine, that is with a lot of practise and lots of hours flying the aircraft. Ask me again in six months what I think of the Arrow and in some areas I will counterclaim my own review. But that I think is normal as well as you go through the learning process, it is a totally brilliant aircraft is the Arrow III but it also lifts the game a few notches higher as well and with that we have to adjust upwards as well with our newer required skill levels and knowledge on how good aircraft like these are now represented on a computer screen. The A320 Ultimate is exactly the same as the Arrow III. Another huge download file, another huge learning curve and a depth of a simulation that goes deeper than the grand canyon. There is no doubt the A320 Ultimate will be a landmark aircraft for X-Plane, but don't expect that straight away. With this huge step forward there is also a learning path not only for the developers but for us the users as well. Another point on these two aircraft is they are pushing computer power and X-Plane limits as well. A 4gb VRAM graphic card is a requirement for both aircraft, but in reality they both require an 8gb VRAM graphic card to give you the expanded graphic head room to work with, and how quickly did we get to that line and limitation. Yes computer power is still staying close to Moore's Law and still we need more. Thankfully the foundries of Intel and current new kids back on the block with AMD's Vega and Ryzen Threadripper's multi everything will help out the cause, but they are not cheap and you have throw in a new motherboard as well to add in to the next step cost changes. It will cost you as much now as it did with purchasing the whole computer in the first place, and so it better be worth the step cost. And sadly as always many will be left behind or be restricted to certain aspects of online flying. 2017 is become fast a significant year for X-Plane with X-Plane11 showing its muscle and with huge new addons that push the boundaries further than the Starship Enterprise and its five year mission, it is exciting, I just hope we can keep up with it all... The site will be quiet for about ten days as I head off on a cruise around the South Pacific, "oh lucky you" you will say, but there is sort of madness in the equation. I decided that only a complete disconnection from the internet will relax me, and once 5 miles out into the Tasman Sea and my iPhone connection will then be severed until I come back 8 days later... will I cope, not on your life but I need a break, a rest... so total boredom beckons and a few games of Bingo, I am sure I will have any aviation questions covered... lucky legs 66! See you all again after I get disembarked. Stephen Dutton 1st November 2017 Copyright©2017: X-Plane Reviews
  24. Behind the Screen : September 2017 You get great months and then you get those really hard draggy months and guess which category September 17 fell into, yes the second one. Part of the issues is that there is a lot of betas flowing around and September became the update and rerelease month par excellence. The two biggies came out with xEnviro finally coming out with their v1.07 and finally is the word here. And then there was WorldTraffic3 in release as well. Secondary was that a lot of airports scenery (mostly Aerosoft) was also updated to X-Plane11 and so much was updated X-PlaneReviews found it all a bit overwhelming, but as they say when it rains it... All these plugin releases also created a bit of a issue on the system side that has severely slowed the site down over the last few weeks. Plugin conflict is one of the worst things to fix, and far worse when you can't see the actual cause? I actually don't have a lot of plugins running, but three I think are essential in using X-Plane11. One is xEnviro, Two is WorldTraffic3 and last but not least is XPRealistic the excellent motion and effect plugin... I just can't run X-Plane11 with any of those excellent addons running alongside me in there. But here is the sudden issue in that none of the plugins above suddenly like each other, even if they have all been very good friends all year. Every time I run two or more of the plugins together now I lose my mouse pointer and screen input, menu bar works fine, but not in my main screen, and this issue has caused havoc for weeks now? Your point of view is that why bother and just do the reviews? That is all and good, but that will give you less of the full experience and and very visually with xEnviro and WT3, but underlying is the fact that you need to find the cause and because if it happens to me then it is not going to be before too long before you start being mouseless as well. You expect plugin issues while there is a beta program running and I was running a few side by side, but not with releases? So it is all very confusing. WorldTraffic3 I have been a big part of the development of WorldTraffic3 from the start. But don't get me wrong this is all Greg Hofer's work and not mine, I can only help or encourage where possible and add in ideas on how to make it all work as best as possible. First to note is that the plugin is totally and absolutely horribly complex, that it works at all is simply up to Mr Hofer's genius, but it does work and extremely well, but there are a few comments that have to be laid out to understand that the release of WorldTraffic3 does not mean it is a completed project and that point is actually very far from reality. Mr Hofer can only do so much in making the plugin as efficient and durable as possible, but overwhelmingly WT3 does totally rely on outside layouts being correct and set to being totally effective. If you have any issues with WT3 then look inward at X-Plane11 far more than the actual plugin itself, yes there will be bug fixes and more refinements to come and quickly, but 90% of WT3's issues are not residing in the actual plugin itself but in the X-Plane11 framework that it now uses. Even though the tools to create a really good ATC and ground route structure at airports with WED (WorldEDitor) has been available for awhile, and even if the released airports and mostly with the default Global Airports that reside in your custom scenery folder it doesn't mean that these ATC structures are all created equal. In fact of the many I checked, they were all really quite average with most missing parking position lines and traffic flow lines that are not completed or simply missing. And then WT3 has to interpret this poor layouts and try to make your airports look busy and exciting. When you have a correctly set up ground route structure and I use Aerosoft's ENGM - Oslo scenery as a benchmark, then WT3 is simply astounding in it's operations, but in most cases the layout even if it says on the packaging that the scenery is ATC- Traffic flow is WED compatible is that they usually are not, and this is the biggest hurdle that WT3 and to a point X-Plane itself has to climb over, and not just for WT3 either as these ground routes are becoming more and more important to the effectiveness and general everyday use of the simulator. Then there is the factor of many sceneries and mostly freeware that don't have any ground route layouts at all, and yes I am poking an stick at tdg here as although he makes simply excellent scenery and does astounding work, this one little oversight will cause for most of his work to be totally unusable in the WT3 universe and I am quite angry about that because to insert ground routes for someone as talented as he is at WED is just simply astounding as well. So the point is for WT3 to be a major and important part of your X-Plane experience is that a very significant focus will have to go on and be made on the WED ground route layouts... then and only then will WT3 deliver the incredible return on the investment you require, in other words don't blame WT3 but fix the fundamental basic issues of WED first and make the whole system work together. I have also noticed that some users are generating auto ground routes and posting them up on the X-Plane.Org. This is really a waste of time and actually a big diversion in the fact these ground routes can for one be very easily generated within WT3 quickly and easily anyway, but worse are they actually "Corrected" or refined ground routes with the sorted correct parking assignments completed and in most cases the answer is no. Again you want fully well defined or completed ground routes and not just quick and nasty setups that users will take for the real thing and only they make your airport sceneries totally functional with the WT3 plugin, this is an IMPORTANT point to understand, in that the layouts required by WT3 need to be the best we can distribute and fully setup for instant use and be secure in that they will deliver the required standard that we require to make X-Plane the excellent simulator it is. Over the last few months in checking most sceneries we do fall very short or if anywhere near the mark to make WT3 effective at this point. But what I love about X-Plane is that as a collective clever set of tinkerers and changers we do have the skills and talent to fix this ATC WED layouts for the better and quickly, and then distribute the changes for everyone else to benefit from, that is the promise of not only X-Plane as a simulator but for WT3 as well. From this point forward this WT3 icon will tell you in a review of the WT3 layouts and notable points on what does or doesn't work, or if that scenery even does not have the required layouts to generate ground routes. To a point I found most good payware scenery released recently are doing very effective ground routes or at least acknowledge that well set up WED ground routes are now as big a major feature or is a major feature on selling their product. I would like to thank everyone who participated in our fourth anniversary competition in August, of course X-PlaneReviews would like to pick many winners but we have to settle for just five, it was very hard in the end but the final choices were the worthy winners. See you all next month Stephen Dutton 1st October 2017 Copyright©2017: X-Plane Reviews
  25. Behind the Screen : August 2017 Thanks to everyone that entered our 4th Anniversary Competition. You may think we do these competitions to give ourselves a bit of a pat on the back when in reality that is very far from the truth. It is actually to gather feedback on what users love and use in X-Plane. There is no bigger waste of time than reviewing or focusing on items that users basically have no interest in, we want to give you information of what affects you as a user so you know and can use your aircraft, airports, plugins to the best in X-Plane. So two aircraft stood out. The JARDesign Airbuses and VskyLab's DC3/C47. The JARDesign Airbus will soon be joined with the release of FlightFactor's A320 and so that will be a significant observation between the most popular Airbus in X-Plane with the newcomer, no actual release date is forthcoming but soon would pass the developers lips at this moment. My flying month of August was dominated by two aircraft, one the above mentioned VskyLab's DC3/C47 and the second the Zibo MOD Boeing 737-800. First the DC3. There is an update review coming for the just released v2.1 of the DC3, but everything has been on hold for the week because "yes" I have had another (four this year!) flu bout this last week and that has absolutely ruined all the plans. So sorry the site has been slow. So back to the gut buster. VskyLabs released their DC3/C47 around late July 2017, in fact only weeks ago. First impressions were impressive, but in areas it was a little bland and hence the low price. Biggest visual negative point as there was no mapping or that raised riveting and lines set out on the bodywork. Personally at that point in the review I thought that X-Plane users deserved a little better than this and with this iconic aircraft at that, but I liked it, so don't get me wrong here. We will note the Leading Edge DC3 version, but that is a very old version now, and again X-Plane users deserve better. In most cases after a release the developer will disappear for about six months and then pop up again with an update unless there is something urgent to correct with the release version, but that is not what happened with the VskyLabs DC3, in only weeks there has been a significant upgrade to the aircraft in version v2.1 including the noted mapping, so full and absolute credit to the developer, and I will cover those updates in the review. But the aircraft was also very significant. I did the review and moved on to another release, but in my spare time had a few flights including getting lost over the North Sea (It was a long story) but I flew from Aerosoft's ENBR - Bergen but ended up in EGPH - Edinburgh (I said it was a long story), but along the way I totally fell in love with the old bird. The aircraft brought back the reason we all do this flying thing, sheer fun and delight. To get the full effect you do need rk Apps XPRealistic Pro excellent realism shaker and a lot of time as the DC3 is not the fastest aircraft on the runway, but that is the whole point as well. You don't fly in the DC3 but trundle, shake and grin a lot. I can see why the aircraft is so beloved by everyone. So yes I am addicted to the DC3 like it seems is now everyone else, an amazing aircraft and the current version is simply outstanding, not perfect as it is still a project in progress, If you don't have it then you are outside the class and you need to get with everyone who has, it is becoming an amazing aircraft. Zibo MOD Boeing 737-800 Another aircraft that has dominated my flying time has been the Zibo MOD Boeing 738 which is based on the X-Plane Laminar Research default Boeing 738. This is an interesting development in X-Plane as most X-Plane default aircraft are mostly off limits to changes, but this ZIBO version may change that area significantly. In most cases the developer is the owner of the copyright, so unless with permission outsiders can't mess with it, and in reality you shouldn't because it will mess up the basic fundamentals of their systems and settings. It is fine to do liveries or an external modification (MOD) but on the aircraft stuff then that is a no, no. But there are a few items that do need attention in this area. Some aircraft are allowed transfer copyright wise as they are leaving the game or in most cases usually have sadly passed off our mortal coil. But what of developers just leaving us all in the lurch like Virtavia and Dawson Designs and their C-17 and SeaKing aircraft? Mostly they just need a few touchups to keep them X-Plane11 happy, but there is nothing we can do? I totally love the Seaking but the glass doesn't work in X-Plane11 as it is blacked/blanked out and Virtavia is saying nothing, is that good enough... no not really. But the default Boeing 738 is a very different deal. Laminar Research commissions developers to create aircraft (and scenery) for the simulator. Mostly they are externally very good, but system wise very basic. They usually only have updates only when absolutely required like with a new feature or version of X-Plane, noted is the fact they are really quite good with X-Plane11, but overall they are still basic. So along comes the Zibo MOD Boeing 738, which takes this basic model (with permission I would think) and changes most of the systems and adds in a lot a great features, and this project has become THE really big attention-getter in X-Plane this year. Modifications (MOD) can be one of the great areas of X-Plane, but it can send you down dead end paths that experienced developers do avoid. I mostly stay away from MOD's unless there is an outcome worth noting, so yes my involvement with the Zibo MOD B738 has been fleeting, but I have kept an eye on it if only from a distance. But there was also the time I needed to see where it really was in development and see what all the fuss is about. So I deep dived and loaded in all the elements noted like the base MOD, Terrain Radar (works with other aircraft as well!), AUDIOBIRD sounds and mashed them altogether to create a B738 that is quite frankly amazing, but not perfect. A test flight from YBBN - Brisbane to WADD - Bali shows that the Terrain Radar and the sound pack are excellent, and the basic flight systems are very good as well, but the FMC is still very buggy with SID - STAR insertion and editing not very good at all, but then again it is another project in progression and FMC's are the hardest areas to develop as even the best have struggled with making them efficient. When the project is more polished I will of course do a review or cover the aircraft because of its significance to X-Plane, I just don't think is is still quite there yet. But it is a significant project and an interesting one? So do Laminar take all the mods on board and add them into the default version? That is an interesting question because it would quickly elevate the X-Plane default aircraft from good to very good , my personal take is that if the original developer says yes (or authorises) the changes then all I see a big beneficial to the simulator as a whole, but problem is the MODs are out of the developers designs so what if he want to update and update, you can see how it gets complicated? A bigger question is will the same MODs be done for the default B747-400 that is dire need of attention, just think of the same changes to that long haul bird and I am sure a big smile will come to many of your faces, wishing is one thing, but maybe pushing that agenda forward would be a great idea... Certainly in time most default aircraft will get the same MOD treatment and for that then everyone benefits. But it is feeling like there is change around with this MOD business and the success of the Zibo MOD B738. Don't get me wrong we don't need a load of conflicting MOD's on the same aircraft, but it is a very interesting development this year. FMOD Sound Another huge area now also emerging is the new FMOD sound engine built into X-Plane11. Now as the developers have started to get their heads around it, very quickly the updates to FMOD sounds are now coming thick and fast, again an easy and very brilliant advance to an area neglected for far to long in great sound. And like with the above Zibo MOD B738 the sound package from Audiobird was to just an add on FMOD pack that you just dropped in to the aircraft file and that quickly and totally changed the aural aspect, can it be just that easy? Well yes and it works, so you are going to see a lot more of that in the future, brilliant sounds at just a click and drop. xEnviro and WorldTraffic3 September is shaping up as a brilliant month as two projects that have been in extended development has been xEnviro and WorldTraffic3 (WT3) which are both finally coming into their end games. xEnviro weather engine in v1.07 has had a few issues along the way, but finally the developers have noted that it is now in beta. There are a ton of new features and the dreaded disconnect server issue has also been addressed, if history (recording and using past weather history) is not going to in there and there has been no mention of a Mac version either, which I think is a major issue and should be a priority and not a new feature. From an income angle alone it doesn't make sense, but then a lot of what these guys have done over the last few months doesn't make much sense either. WorldTraffic3 is also in the last throes of beta testing. I have noted before that WT3 was coming soon, but this is one complicated plugin, and it is amazing how something has to be so complicated to make the user interface far more easier and accessible to use. Clean out the old desk and usher in the new... WT3 will blow you away with its ease of use and the sheer dynamics it will bring to your simulation flying, plus it is the very best animated computer screensaver and timewaster ever! As noted earlier the FlightFactor A320 is still in development, but there is as noted is a bigger sniff in the air that it could be coming in September as well, if not then early October, but this is one project you don't bet on as the development period has been long and detailed. So September is going to be an interesting month and we will see how it all rolls out. Certainly 2017 has already been a huge year for X-Plane, but my guess it is all going to end with a lot of great developments and brilliant releases rather than whimper out, its been a great ride till now, but as they say "You haven't seen anything yet"... see you all next month. Stephen Dutton 1st September 2017 Copyright©2017: X-Plane Reviews
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