tonywob

Now the cat is out of the bag!

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As I'm sure everyone is aware, P3D v4 was announced for release next week, and FSW early-access was released, finally bringing all our sims to 64-Bit. It's a pretty exciting time, we have several new sims out, something that is a far cry to a few years ago when MS Flight was cancelled. I think now is a crucial point, as many people are trying out all of these sims and trying to decide which platform to put their hard-earned cash into. Some of us will just run many sims at once, but others seem very reluctant to support more than one sim.

Whilst P3D is aimed at the professional market, it has the added advantage that many addons will be available for it (ORBX, A2A and PMDG are offering free upgrades from v3). This is a pretty smart move and means there is going to be less incentive for users to try out another platform such as X-Plane 11, FSW or Aerofly FS2. (FSW is, I fear, going to need to change their addons policy to be able to compete with this)

It's not hard to see that the X-Plane community has grown a lot over the past year, but where do people think X-Plane could go now in order to attract more users and grab some of the market, attract new developers and stay relevant?. For me, I'd like to see:

  • For X-Plane to keep a good separation between game and sim. I like the way the UI is simple to use, but doesn't gamify it (Like with FSW which reminds users they'll loose rewards if you don't choose a destination airport).  I like P3D's no-frills interface as well.
  • More study-level aircraft. The recently announced A320 was good news. 
  • VR support. But we know this is coming soon
  • Better weather depiction. I'd like to see more complex weather supported. I think the default clouds in XP11 look really good
  • Better addon scenery. Compared to their P3D counterparts, a lot of payware scenery is lower quality but costs the same price. However, there have been some really nice airports released lately, so I think the bar has been raised here
  • Ability to customise the mesh locally per airport. I think this effects the creativity of many developers which maybe why some addons seem lower quality.

Some things I think X-Plane has spot-on are:

  • The visuals and lighting. X-Plane 11 is just a gorgeous sim, even on default scenery. 
  • Ease of development. It is very easy to make addons for the sim, with a big community behind it. I find the SDK for FSX/P3D cumbersome to use, and I like the fact that with X-Plane you can create scenery easily using completely free software (Blender, etc)
  • Multi-platform. I'm happy it works on Mac OS X and Windows. It also runs on Linux, but many devs don't release Linux addons
  • The freeware community. Just look at the tools and scenery available for the sim, for free. The airport gateway is a huge success, and it's great to see people adding their own airports for inclusion into the base sim.
  • Laminar Research. This one might seem strange, but I like their enthusiasm (especially Austin's). The developer blog is always interesting to read, and it's great that users can interact with the developers and get their feedback heard. LR are pretty open on what they are working on

 

 

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39 minutes ago, tonywob said:

there is going to be less incentive for users to try out another platform

That's true, and even going back to P3D could be an option for some who changed to XP mainly due to VAS problems they might have had in P3D.

I had uninstalled P3Dv3 a while ago because the only way to get rid of OOM crashes was to deactivate scenery I was not flying in the current flight, but that always felt bad. As a pretty good substitute, in X-Plane I have the whole U.S. west as orthophotos plus the U.S. West buildings freeware and REP-enhanced Carenado aircraft.

With P3D going 64 bit I will install P3D again, incl. all my OrbX stuff, the A2A Comanche and the PMDG 737 and maybe finally able to enjoy that "OrbX/A2A/PMDG sim" as I always imagined.

At the same time, I will also stick with X-Plane. But X-Plane is more for "work" (vFlyteAir, and so on), and I always felt flying in the OrbX-World was like a vacation from work.

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I believe a key component to make XP really stand out is getting a hold of the best imagery possible.  Some of those payware airports you speak of, being "lower quality", is due in part to available imagery and it's official usage.  We as the consumer can take it upon ourselves to create our own custom ZL imagery, but replacing the imagery that a payware or even freeware add-on already has is a bit tricky.  For example, Justsim has a great add-on for LOWI, and everything looks amazing except for the imagery.  I tested my theory by creating a better ZL tile in that area, but couldn't get it to override what JustSim had.  Maybe it was user error, but my point being, that imagery at the airports especially, makes for better looking scenery.

Another point to airport scenery, and even perhaps dense urban scenery objects, is the ability to effectively handle lighting changes.  It is nice to have a densely populated city, but if the objects don't reflect light the way it should, they tend to look a bit cartoonish.  Unless LR ups their game with scenery objects or gets a third party to officially release 'cities', such as was done for FSX and P3D, the customers are left to their own devices, with a mish mash of good and not-so-good scenery populating the area.

I DO love that, as a community, XP's is probably the strongest, when it comes to user-created add-ons.  Everything from libraries to airports, it's great to see so much available, but at the same time, anything official from LR (such as the gateway scenery), still has a long way to go, and right now, it needs to increase pretty quick to meet the demand of the increasing popularity and usage by the consumer.  Again, I think LR needs to set some standards, when it comes to gateway inclusions, opting for more detailed and realistic looking scenery to fit into the schema in place by the base sim.

Tony mentions reluctance to use multiple sims, and I for one can only support one.  The costs associated with running multiple sims is out of my realm of possibility, so like it was stated, I moved to XP because of the issues I had with previous sims.  I found a niche and I am happy with it, but at the same time, I'd love to see more growth in the community, both payware and freeware.  This lull or stall that's happening right now could be just 3rd party developers being hard at work to churn out new products...or so we can hope. :biggrin:

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FSX is going into the hangar infinitely for me, choosing P3D V4 as my main platform.

 

It just is a pity I have to say farewell to the pmdg MD-11. As this one is tied to FSX...

 

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Excellent insight Tony. Thx for sharing your thoughts.

Good competition, in the for of "stimulus" is always positive in any area, and bring evolution... I hope the 4 platforms can keep alive, serving each own the specific points they're stronger in.

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Spot on Tony.

In the ADX P3D v4 stream Milviz said they are building a study level aircraft for XP11 to test the market ( I was distracted for a moment but I think that it was an ATR) - confirmed that study level means up to the level of the Majestic Dash8 - but not to the level they are going on the new training version. This is very good news and hopefully the community will support it so that they stay with twith us and encourage others in. PMDG are clearly having sme issues porting their aircraft over but reading between the lines there is hope that the 737 NGX might get ported.

There are some clear fixes that still need to be done - water and cloud shadow simmering (native clouds) are the immersion killers for me - although the water fix is helps there needs to be more done. Also still some issues with object shadows. However I am sure that these will be addressed during XP11 lifetime

Performance for me now is excellent with the latest beta. I was flying the Florida Keys last night and with full reflections, full objects, second notch of antialiasing (don't need more in 4k) and the textures and  visual effects one notch off full. Using a 50" 4k monitor Iwas getting 60 FPS with Vsyc off. With refections off I was getting 90 FPS. I know the Keys are not exactly heavily popultaed but even so I have never seen FPS anywhere near that before. Miami at those settings was a steady 30 FPS with vsync on and around 40 with it off.

It would be good to see seasons added but until it happens P3D v4 will be the go to for me where I want a bit of seasonal change - I couldn't bear the blurries and the lack of LOD detail in the other iterations of P3D but that appears to have been fixed so I will be giving it a go. The snow effect looks great and is dynamic with the wind.

I see Austin announced the day of the P3D launch that he will be dong a live Facebook Q&A session on Friday re the roadmap for XP. Coincidence?

cheers

Peter

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47 minutes ago, MarioDonick said:

At the same time, I will also stick with X-Plane. But X-Plane is more for "work" (vFlyteAir, and so on), and I always felt flying in the OrbX-World was like a vacation from work.

I'm in the same boat. I use other sims for fun and actual flying, but spend a lot of time in X-Plane as a developer.

16 minutes ago, Jimm said:

I believe a key component to make XP really stand out is getting a hold of the best imagery possible.  Some of those payware airports you speak of, being "lower quality", is due in part to available imagery and it's official usage

I don't want to give specific examples of developers, but there are few airports available from ORBX which also have X-Plane versions, and the difference is quite striking. I personally don't think airport developers should rely on orthophotos alone and I believe the key to a nice looking airport is well-done handmade ground textures (I tried to do this with my last airport ENOV). A perfect example of this is BetiX, who have done a great job on X-Plane, and this for me is the major difference I see between the two platforms. Even if a developer must use high-res orthos, they should at least photoshop out shadows, cars and attempt to make the colours look even and match the buildings. For custom ground textures, I highly doubt anyone would notice or care that the asphalt isn't exactly the same colour and has the same cracks as it has in real-life :biggrin:. Additonally, orthos look awful at ground level.

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1 hour ago, tonywob said:
  • Ease of development. It is very easy to make addons for the sim, with a big community behind it. I find the SDK for FSX/P3D cumbersome to use, and I like the fact that with X-Plane you can create scenery easily using completely free software (Blender, etc)

As I am not a dev, I cannot really judge this, but something seems to keep the big devs very firmly commited to the ESP platform. One thing might be their experience with these tools, which gives them an advantage over new devs, while in XP they'd be the novices. The other thing seems to be that LM does a good job at keeping 3PDs in the loop and on board. I have the feeling LR could learn a little bit in that department. (Then again: Austin is constantly optimizing the flight model, which easily breaks stuff that is not easy to fix, while P3D hasn't changed a single thing in that regard AFAIK, making Devs' lifes very easy, but not necessarily improving the sim).

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5 minutes ago, domae001 said:

As I am not a dev, I cannot really judge this, but something seems to keep the big devs very firmly commited to the ESP platform. One thing might be their experience with these tools, which gives them an advantage over new devs, while in XP they'd be the novices.

3DS Max, which is pretty much an industry standard for 3D modelling in games is well supported for the ESP platform and used by many developers de-facto. It is also what is currently required by AeroFly FS and most likely FSW as well. It's also very expensive. Of course, there are other alternatives, but most professionals are trained to use this software (If they've done a college or uni course, it will likely have been 3DS Max)

Whilst one can also use 3DS Max for X-Plane (I know of a few who do), there are also excellent plugins available for the free and equally as powerful Blender (Which I love), and the easy to use Sketchup (which I think the majority of new devs start out using). The major difference I've seen with X-Plane is that most of the file formats are very easy to understand (most can be edited in a text-editor), and adding models into the sim is really very easy and quick. I found the entire process with FSX a much more painful and involved process.

 

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Thanks for the insights, Tony! I'd actually love to teach myself some 3D modelling to create some simple assets, but I found Sketchup to be very intimidating at first look, so I never really tried. Maybe some day I find the time and endurance and create my house for XP... nice to know that it's possible!

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Well, if you find sketchup intimidating do not go further...3D modeling is not for you.

Sketchup is much more intuitive than any other 3D model program and you get tons of models already done for free. Huge pity it's that XP doesn't like multi textures for the same obj.

 

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Sketchup is easy. after 1-2 airports you will be a pro :D!

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Just now, Desaix said:

Huge pity it's that XP doesn't like multi textures for the same obj.

That's both a good and a bad thing. It's good in that it forces developers to make more efficient models, but the bad thing is that it makes it more difficult for new users initially. UV unwrapping on a complex object is a real pain (especially in Sketchup). I've read that LR is planning on at least adding a separate texture sheet for ambient occlusion which will be even more efficient and make texturing large buildings with repeating textures and baked AO much easier.

In FSX, developers often design the entire airport in their 3D design program and export them out. In X-Plane, this is much harder to do as the tools don't support it yet (It can be done in Blender using layers, but the placement is a nightmare because the scenery ends up floating or sunk into the ground because of the origin point)

On a side note, the utility FS2XPlane, which converts scenery from FSX to X-Plane, actually creates different models for each texture used on what is a single object in FSX. So a building might consist of several different models each with different textures. This is often the reason why scenery conversions are not as nice and often perform worse than native content. 

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To be competitive XP11 will need to improve ATC and AI, so that the commercial airliner environment is simulated.

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3 hours ago, tonywob said:
  • Ability to customise the mesh locally per airport. I think this effects the creativity of many developers which maybe why some addons seem lower quality.

 

That's the most impossible. I had that conversation about that with Ben over developers' blog... The only way to make that possible is to change the dsf system for 1 degree to 0.1 degrees. That way the "airport mesh" will have less impact to the other airports located in the same 1 degree tile.

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