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Guest Setanta

The Moving Target Myth (and why you should steer clear of Betas)

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Guest Setanta

One of the things I keep hearing about X-Plane and third party development is that"Third parties don't want to develop for X-Plane because it's constantly changing"While there is a grain of truth in this statement it's really a myth. Why? I'll try to explain.1. There is no reason for developers to try to produce versions of their products for every beta that is released, only for the major point upgrades(i.e. 9.2 - 9.3). Now while these are pretty frequent for X-Plane compared to most software they're not so frequent as to be unmanageable.2. While the upgrade from 9.2 to 9.3 involved a fairly major change to the flight model, this tends to be the exception rather than the rule. The vast majority of releases of X-Plane will involve only small changes if any being necessary to any third party developments. While these can be a pain for very small developers without a team of experienced beta testers it's not a problem for any of the larger developers to which the above comment tends to be applied.3. It's not as if you have to completely rebuild the aircraft from scratch. 3-D models of aircraft and cockpits need no modification. The functional model within planemaker itself may need a little tweaking and testing, but most of the data should still be fairly close to start with. X-Plane has a good record for backward compatibility and very often all that is required is to open the aircraft in planemaker and save it again to get it working correctly with the new version!Credit where it's due - with X-Plane the updates generally add features which developers can either use or not, without breaking current functionality for the most part. Where it does break something it's generally well documented how to correct the problem. Yes, X-Plane is constantly changing and being upgraded and adding features and getting better (for the most part ;) but not in ways that would cause third party developers problems in keeping up with said changes.Why you should steer clear of BetasPeople seem to misunderstand the concept of a public beta version of software. Betas are expected to have problems. They're expected to break things. People who choose to use them should understand this. You should never install a beta version over the top of the last release version but in a folder of its own - preferably on a separate hard disk which contains nothing else in order to minimise the possibility of it ruining your computer setup.The public beta, which is what applies to X-Plane beta releases, isn't a release version - it's out there for you to try out and send in feedback, mostly by finding bugs and other problems and reporting them back to the developers. As such you should steer clear unless you are:a. Competent with your OS and able to use tools such as the console.b. Willing to report your findings to the developers in such a way they can understand and attempt to reproduce them.(Description of problem, conditions under which it occurred, reproducibility etc.)c. Willing to enter dialogue with the developers in order to attempt to fix said problem.Betas are not 'the latest and greatest' - they are test versions with bugs and problems and all sorts of stuff you really don't want. If what you want to do is run X-Plane - stick to the releases. When a new one comes out, wait until third parties have updated their stuff to match the latest release, then download it and install it.If you want to help X-Plane improve then install the beta release separately, report any bugs that you find to the developers with a full description and work with them if necessary. Try different aircraft under different conditions. Install third party items and try them with it but above all, keep it separate from your release installation.If you want to have a look at what might be coming in the next release, again install the beta separately and play with it - just don't expect it to work as well as the last release version did or to support the same things. Always keep your last release version as your main installation.Setanta

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Guest RobertAlley

You make some interesting points, but as a relatively enthusiastic newer member it would be useful to know for sure whether you are just a very satisfied user of X-plane; or something more.Donald

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One of the things I keep hearing about X-Plane and third party development is that"Third parties don't want to develop for X-Plane because it's constantly changing"While there is a grain of truth in this statement it's really a myth. Why? I'll try to explain.1. There is no reason for developers to try to produce versions of their products for every beta that is released, only for the major point upgrades(i.e. 9.2 - 9.3). Now while these are pretty frequent for X-Plane compared to most software they're not so frequent as to be unmanageable.2. While the upgrade from 9.2 to 9.3 involved a fairly major change to the flight model, this tends to be the exception rather than the rule. The vast majority of releases of X-Plane will involve only small changes if any being necessary to any third party developments. While these can be a pain for very small developers without a team of experienced beta testers it's not a problem for any of the larger developers to which the above comment tends to be applied.3. It's not as if you have to completely rebuild the aircraft from scratch. 3-D models of aircraft and cockpits need no modification. The functional model within planemaker itself may need a little tweaking and testing, but most of the data should still be fairly close to start with. X-Plane has a good record for backward compatibility and very often all that is required is to open the aircraft in planemaker and save it again to get it working correctly with the new version!Credit where it's due - with X-Plane the updates generally add features which developers can either use or not, without breaking current functionality for the most part. Where it does break something it's generally well documented how to correct the problem. Yes, X-Plane is constantly changing and being upgraded and adding features and getting better (for the most part ;) but not in ways that would cause third party developers problems in keeping up with said changes.Why you should steer clear of BetasPeople seem to misunderstand the concept of a public beta version of software. Betas are expected to have problems. They're expected to break things. People who choose to use them should understand this. You should never install a beta version over the top of the last release version but in a folder of its own - preferably on a separate hard disk which contains nothing else in order to minimise the possibility of it ruining your computer setup.The public beta, which is what applies to X-Plane beta releases, isn't a release version - it's out there for you to try out and send in feedback, mostly by finding bugs and other problems and reporting them back to the developers. As such you should steer clear unless you are:a. Competent with your OS and able to use tools such as the console.b. Willing to report your findings to the developers in such a way they can understand and attempt to reproduce them.(Description of problem, conditions under which it occurred, reproducibility etc.)c. Willing to enter dialogue with the developers in order to attempt to fix said problem.Betas are not 'the latest and greatest' - they are test versions with bugs and problems and all sorts of stuff you really don't want. If what you want to do is run X-Plane - stick to the releases. When a new one comes out, wait until third parties have updated their stuff to match the latest release, then download it and install it.If you want to help X-Plane improve then install the beta release separately, report any bugs that you find to the developers with a full description and work with them if necessary. Try different aircraft under different conditions. Install third party items and try them with it but above all, keep it separate from your release installation.If you want to have a look at what might be coming in the next release, again install the beta separately and play with it - just don't expect it to work as well as the last release version did or to support the same things. Always keep your last release version as your main installation.Setanta
I agree with your general premise.However, there are more circumstances perhaps.When I bought 9.0 I found it would only run in a little 1280x1024 window in the center of my much bigger monitor. That really just did not work for me. So when the next beta came out and supported higher resolution-I really had to go for the beta as that was a necessary item for me to get usage of the sim.Then I found I could not run xplane without it crashing within 30 seconds or so-was told there was a problem with xplane and certain nvidia cards (quite a few cards it seems).This crashing has only seemed to have been solved with the very recent betas-so therefore to have any use of xplane on my system I must use these recent betas.Problem is-I spent a month making my plane for xplane 9.0-it worked good on the first 9.0 I bought-though the constant crashes and small window made it pretty much unusable for me.Every single beta that has come out has improved some aspects and broken others.Now with the recent beta the sim at least seems to be usable for me finally. So do I spend another month of my time trying to make my plane work again-only to find it will be broken in the next version? At this point I have somewhat lost the spirit.Then there is that payware plane I bought-originally designed for 8.0 ( the developer said updates would be provided for free for all 9.x versions). I have yet to get an update...the 3d cockpit is a jumble of googly gook and the flight dynamics don't work anymore just like my personal plane.I agree a beta is a beta and risks will happen when using one-but it seems at least here sometimes a beta is needed to get usage of the sim...at least in my experience. But then something else gets broken. So does one use the "stable" version with the broken things or does one use the "beta" version with broken things. Or maybe one just decides to sit on the sidelines and see if at some point everything can work...By the way-I talked to a few developers at Oshkosh and when I mentioned xplane they just rolled their eyes. So I don't think it is a myth.

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geofa, i think it's because ether a. they can't be bothered to try it, or b. they don't see enough money in it, or c. in the x-plane community, people are not going to be very willing to pay 60 or 80 dollars for an aircraft, period... it's a stretch for the xp community to see spending 40, unless it's darn good... so the payware devs would have to reevaluate their pricing and their marketing... on top of a market that's not as big as msfs... while I do prefer x-plane, and find it superior to FSX in many ways... the fact is that payware devs dont want to go for the lower amount of people, they want the most money possible...

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geofa, i think it's because ether a. they can't be bothered to try it, or b. they don't see enough money in it, or c. in the x-plane community, people are not going to be very willing to pay 60 or 80 dollars for an aircraft, period... it's a stretch for the xp community to see spending 40, unless it's darn good... so the payware devs would have to reevaluate their pricing and their marketing... on top of a market that's not as big as msfs... while I do prefer x-plane, and find it superior to FSX in many ways... the fact is that payware devs dont want to go for the lower amount of people, they want the most money possible...
That is not what the develpers expressed to me-in fact one of them made his product xplane compatible -he just said he didn't know how long that compatibility would last.

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Guest Setanta

Due to circumstances beyond my control I've been away for a couple of months but I thought I'd put in my few penn'orth anyhow ;)

You make some interesting points, but as a relatively enthusiastic newer member it would be useful to know for sure whether you are just a very satisfied user of X-plane; or something more.Donald
Ummmm, actually something less I guess :/I'm not truly satisfied with any flight sim I've used over the years. In the FSX vs X-Plane debate I'm in the X-Plane camp I guess, but I can see advantages and disadvantages to both sims. Primarily I was thinking as an experienced coder who has experience of updates and beta programmes from both sides of the coin. I certainly have no connection with Laminar Research if that's what you were thinking - though I used to be distantly connected to MicroSoft in a previous life. I just feel that X-Plane has had a raw deal when it comes down to this particular aspect and that there is a lot of misinformation around.
I agree with your general premise.However, there are more circumstances perhaps...
This is true enough. The OpenGL rendering side of X-Plane has had a major overhaul during the version 9.X run and works graphics cards and their drivers much harder than it used to. This has caused problems for some users, yourself included it seems. Sadly that is the nature of beta testing, public or not, which is why I generally recommend avoiding beta versions unless forced to as you were.
geofa, i think it's because ether a. they can't be bothered to try it, or b. they don't see enough money in it, or c. in the x-plane community, people are not going to be very willing to pay 60 or 80 dollars for an aircraft, period... it's a stretch for the xp community to see spending 40, unless it's darn good... so the payware devs would have to reevaluate their pricing and their marketing... on top of a market that's not as big as msfs... while I do prefer x-plane, and find it superior to FSX in many ways... the fact is that payware devs dont want to go for the lower amount of people, they want the most money possible...
I tend to feel much the same, the main thing for me being the money aspect. Personally I reckon $40 would be about my limit as well, and it would need to be something special for that money and from my limited exposure to the higher priced FSX addons - I don't think I've seen any I would pay more than $40 for there either - maybe I'm just a skinflint ;)
That is not what the develpers expressed to me-in fact one of them made his product xplane compatible -he just said he didn't know how long that compatibility would last.
Hmmm, I wonder how long the compatibility lasted - or perhaps it's still compatible?Thing is, I reckon that most FSX developers are under the same impression about X-Plane, that it would be a lot of work for little profit and loads of hassle with all the updates needed. However, if you accept the point I made in the original post about necessary updates not being half as much hassle as people seem to think things start to look a little different. I don't know much about the process required to create aircraft for FSX but by all reports in X-Plane there are basically three parts to the process.1: Creating and texturing the 3-D model probably takes more than half the time/work required.Now if you're starting from an already existing FSX aircraft you already have this done. All that is required is to convert the model into the correct format for X-Plane which, on the surface, seems pretty straightforward to do.2: Creating and texturing the instruments for the cockpit, 2D and 3D.Again if you already have the textures within FSX for your 2D views there is almost no work involved. Basic instrumentation is drag and drop to a large extent. If you require custom instruments you can now create them fairly simply from textures within PlaneMaker. Again I'm guessing that you would already have the necessary textures in the FSX version.3: Setting up the flight model.OK, here you're working from scratch but only here. You should already have accurate performance figures from your FSX model so it's a case of creating a 'close enough' model of the aircraft within plane-maker (it doesn't have to look good, just function well) and plugging in the data for engines, dimensions, dihedral etc. then testing it to tune performance. Now if you want to make the performance really accurate this could mean taking some time, but you should be able to get something flyable and reasonably accurate fairly quickly.Ok, I'm making a semi educated guess at this stage but I'm guessing the number of man hours required to convert an FSX plane to X-Plane is a tiny fraction of what it cost to develop in the first place, perhaps only a couple of percent. Surely it would make sense for the big FSX developers to to make better use of their already existing resources by converting their aircraft to work with X-Plane even though there is a smaller and more frugal market - the extra expense of development would be minimal - I'd guess one competent guy given a couple of weeks could convert a GA aircraft to a reasonable standard.Something to think about ?Setanta

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Guest BionicCrab

Eventually when it's the only game in town.. I don't buy this theory that it's impossible to develop for x-plane because of the moving target theory... that's just b.s. from my point of view. You either know C++ and OpenGL or you don't. Sorry if microsoft isn't around to hold your hand but if you look to what is offered by the individual SDKs , x-plane is far more advanced than the simconnect API. And this is why I was suggesting earlier to Tom in the other thread that we need more source to make it easier. As limited as the simconnect API is , it one of the best documented APIs period.

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Guest Setanta
Eventually when it's the only game in town.. I don't buy this theory that it's impossible to develop for x-plane because of the moving target theory... that's just b.s. from my point of view. You either know C++ and OpenGL or you don't. Sorry if microsoft isn't around to hold your hand but if you look to what is offered by the individual SDKs , x-plane is far more advanced than the simconnect API. And this is why I was suggesting earlier to Tom in the other thread that we need more source to make it easier. As limited as the simconnect API is , it one of the best documented APIs period.
When it comes to plugin/software development for X-Plane I've written a few things for my own use over the last couple of years and I've had no problems with software updates at all. It's the same story with most of the the other plugins I use on a daily basis. It's the usual story - if it's properly written in the first place it will continue to work just fine. On the other hand, if you write something that depends on the flight model staying constant you're going to need to update it when the flight model gets updated. I suppose this is actually one advantage for FSX developers - nothing's going to change any more so you can code lazily.Again, considering converting from FSX to X-Plane, the plugin side would be a little more work - depending of course on the way your code is written for FSX. X-Plane is cross platform and based on OpenGL rather than DirectX so anything platform specific is pretty much no-go. However stick to a standard language like C++ and your source code should be pretty much identical for all three platforms under X-Plane. The X-Plane SDK is a little quirky but once you get your head around it it's also pretty powerful - there's little that you can't do with it. to summarize, converting software/plugins to X-Plane would mean a major rewrite of the code but if you write it properly in the first place you should have little need to update it in the future.Setanta

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On the other hand, if you write something that depends on the flight model staying constant you're going to need to update it when the flight model gets updated. I suppose this is actually one advantage for FSX developers - nothing's going to change any more so you can code lazily.
He,he..........that sounds like lawyer talk... :( In reality, some designer/programmers for MSFS have spent years to improve the flight dynamic code for Microsoft's flight simulator. Their abilities have become somewhat legend in the flight simming world, and nothing is easy or lazy about it.But it is a fact, that the X-Plane versions do change every few months, and what worked yesterday, won't today. Some X-Planers seem to enjoy that fact, as it becomes part of the hobby. For developers it could be a nightmare, as paying customers would expect near instant updates. A good payware product that's going to easily cost more than $15, needs to at least be a working model for several years. With X-Plane, that could be a problem. Many simmers (my self included) don't enjoy learning and keeping up with all the why's and wherefors of what makes X-Plane keep ticking.L.Adamson

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Guest BionicCrab

Actually we're talking about the reliance of useless microsoft libraries that slow down the rendering quite a bit... not the physics. Being lazy is using GDI+ code intended for windows for your guages, the only thing missing is the menu bar... being productive would be writing them directly in OpenGL or Direct2D hence offloading the rendering duties from the CPU onto the GPU. The latter being far more difficult and isn't covered in a matter of a couple of chapters.. and because microsoft chose to ONLY use their libraries you can never duplicate some of the features in X-plane with FSX. I'd like to see someone write the HUD guided landing for the X-22 in FSX... good luck. :) The fact of the matter is you could have a game of pong rendering in x-plane...

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Guest Setanta
He,he..........that sounds like lawyer talk... :(
I've been insulted online before but never quite THAT badly! *laugh*
In reality, some designer/programmers for MSFS have spent years to improve the flight dynamic code for Microsoft's flight simulator. Their abilities have become somewhat legend in the flight simming world, and nothing is easy or lazy about it.
Ahhh, I knew as I used the term 'lazy' it wouldn't translate properly but I went ahead anyhow:) I certainly didn't mean easy! If the code you're working to is static then a lot of constraints are lifted from your coding practices and a lot of the 'grunt work' involved becomes unnecessary. You still have to write the clever bits! That's what I mean by 'lazy coding'.
But it is a fact, that the X-Plane versions do change every few months,...
Absolutely...
...and what worked yesterday, won't today.
Errrr, no.When it comes to things like scenery and 3D objects (including aircraft) they almost certainly will work tomorrow! From Ben Supnik's blog:
Here's a quick review of how long the various scenery and modeling file formats have been supported:DSF: 5 yearsOBJ8: 5 yearsOBJ7: 7 yearsENV: 9 yearsOBJ2: 9 years
The file formats have been extended and improved over the years, but retain backward compatibility. I'm still using some scenery with the latest beta of X-Plane that is in a format which originated 9 years ago. OK, it's slow and not great looking by current standards, but it's as good as it was the day it was created.When it comes to flight modelling, 9.3 involved some major changes so yes, there was a need for a major update to the flight characteristics of the aircraft in most cases. However I would guess (and I am guessing here) that maybe one update in six months should keep the model accurate enough - and it's not a hugely difficult job to update the model.As far as coding in concerned, if your code is properly written in the first place - i.e. You follow the same guidelines and practices that pretty much every professional programmer in the world has to - then your code should continue to work for the forseeable future.
Some X-Planers seem to enjoy that fact, as it becomes part of the hobby. For developers it could be a nightmare, as paying customers would expect near instant updates.
That's always the nature of the beast :) Those darn (L)users - It would be so much easier without them ;)But yes, the paying customers can be pretty demanding that way, and rightly so IMO. However, the nature of the way that Laminar Research structure their updates mean that while the customers want updates all the time, they are only required infrequently. And it's not a case of starting from scratch, rather tweaking your already existing product, often in only minor ways.
A good payware product that's going to easily cost more than $15, needs to at least be a working model for several years. With X-Plane, that could be a problem. Many simmers (my self included) don't enjoy learning and keeping up with all the why's and wherefors of what makes X-Plane keep ticking.L.Adamson
Several years? Without any updates? Hmmmm, I don't know of much software that would meet those criteria including operating systems!Most software products would tend to have at the very least two updates a year, often one that introduces new features and one that sorts out the problems with the new features introduced :) It shouldn't be too much different with X-Plane products. And yeah, flight sims should be for simulating flight - that's what I use mine for. But I also happen to be interested in the way things are going for X-Plane and hope that some of the great people who are developing for MSFS will seriously consider developing for X-Plane as well, so I have more great aircraft to fly :)Setanta

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Actually we're talking about the reliance of useless microsoft libraries that slow down the rendering quite a bit... not the physics. Being lazy is using GDI+ code intended for windows for your guages, the only thing missing is the menu bar... being productive would be writing them directly in OpenGL or Direct2D hence offloading the rendering duties from the CPU onto the GPU. The latter being far more difficult and isn't covered in a matter of a couple of chapters.. and because microsoft chose to ONLY use their libraries you can never duplicate some of the features in X-plane with FSX. I'd like to see someone write the HUD guided landing for the X-22 in FSX... good luck. :) The fact of the matter is you could have a game of pong rendering in x-plane...
Not sure what HUD guided landing feature you're talking about? Can you show us in X-Plane? Or is it something like this.(Do a youtube search for "degigi2003" , since I can't direct link due to AVSIM rules. This is a FSX F-18 HUD landing system! (He enhanced from a HUD developed by Scott Printz.) Look at the video "FSX Hornet Night Landing and Carrier Break (New HUD demo)" in particular.Also X-Plane's stated performance advantage over FSX is also a myth. X-Plane accomplishes it's good performance by limiting surrounding visibility to 25nm. It will even cut it further if performance will drop even lower. It also limits AI traffic. That is my biggest problem with it, and I have an E6850 3Ghz system. FSX renders up to 120nm radius, even for many of it's non complex systems aircraft, has more detail then anything in X-Plane with the exception maybe of the MU2 or the new CRJ, Can support weather with multiple cloud layers with the use of ASA or ASX (I have my cloud radius set for 90nm), and can render hundreds of AI aircraft at a time, and still can get frame rates of 30-60fps in most areas of scenery, and in areas such as New York around 20-25FPS. Only the ultra detailed and system modeled aircraft like the PMDG, LDS or Captain Sim 757-767, will it be significantly lower about 13-18 in NY and 20-28 elsewhere. I venture to say if FSX also cut it's rendering area down that much it would be getting much higher frames then even X-Plane.

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Guest DeskPilot

As a recent buyer of X-plane I recomend it for Helicopters and serious IFR work.There are many more helicopters with accurate flight dynamics available for X-plane than FSX. They really let you get in the groove of making necessary corrections to make the bird do what you want on a sub-concious level. With a chopper's flight profile the limited area of scenery displayed is less of a factor.X-plane clouds and low vis beat any version of MSFS so far hands down for IFR.Donald

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