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akita

impressed with x-plane scenery

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Hello all! as you can see I am new on these forums and in x-plane too.

Following the release of the beautiful new Microsoft I also decided to check x-plane out since MSFS for my rig does not have acceptable performance (not a rig problem 100%).

MSFS is windows only too, I use Ubuntu 2004 and I will probably uninstall windows, frankly installed it to check MSFS out, but I loathe this OS.

Trust me, I know my way around graphics and art, an while x-plane lacks in a major way in these aspects I think even the default scenery is utterly cool.

Note that my impressions are about visuals only for now.

Here is what I liked:

1) With Vulkan rendering, I maxed out my settings (everything) and performance are absolutely Phenomenal!!! (1920X1080p though with 8XSSAA)

2) Looks like x-plane is using auto-generated buildings. what really surprised me is how accurate it places them! Comparing to OSM and google maps made a great impression.

I think it's NOT less accurate than MSFS although the latter will show the buildings as they are in real life if the location has photo-grammetry but these have their other own problems.

what I saw is x-plane, while also placing buildings where they should be, it also knows to select industrial, high-rise, low urban etc.

3) What really blooms in x-plane, even more than MSFS in my opinion, are the lower altitude urban details. This can be used as a driving simulator, with traffic lights, signs, poles and much more.

4) No roads and other art conflicts, buildings, trees and details will avoid roads and where they should NOT be.

5) Cool particle systems and effects

Cons:

1) Lightning is OK although it can be much better, but clouds really s**k.

2) Roads self conflicts, a great example are bridges foundations which some times generated in a middle of a highway lane.

3) lacks regional scenery other than europe/usa.

4) Needs more textures detail! I have 8GB VRAM, x-plane is using only 3GB in new york! There is much room to update art and textures to year 2020 standards. Auto-gen and ground textures can have higher resolution.

5) Needs 3d vegetation for a real WOW effect in lower altitudes.

As an artist I'm also really interested in what x-plane can offer after mods, does somebody have a link for the SDK if there is one?

Some nice shots that I got, i will post the location so you can check out how accurate the placements are:

 

Palm Springs

just an AI that had to walk-around since my plane declared the runway's ownership while on free camera wandering around, really liked the heat blur:

50271084197_80fd3d0eab_k.jpg

50270908736_d5b88adb50_k.jpg

A great example for how detailed the scenery is, now with 3d trees and higher res textures this would be perfect:

50271082902_881f296854_k.jpg

Roads, buildings and other detail are placed in an accurate manner, although looks like data is outdated obviously a ~4 years old data back then win x-plane 11 released:

50271082432_a6f34f66e4_k.jpg

 

Madrid

europe autogen gives a good general look and almost accurate color wise for buildings, this is a view from above Barajs airport looking at madrid, really accurate:

50270237423_26223bf2d1_k.jpg

50270905811_1f1aac669a_k.jpg

 

Venice

Again, accurate placements, even the texture near the airport looks like the real one, although this shot also unveils the lack of better art for this simulator (Again, uses 3GB out my 8GB, it can be pushed much further)

50271079782_67108a3bc4_k.jpg

50271079002_d942cd8258_k.jpg

 

So x-plane made a great first impression, although it seems they should hire some artists to push their engine much further in year 2020 in terms of texture quality, VRAM is getting larger these days, no reasons to use 3GB only.

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This is the developer gateway: https://developer.x-plane.com/

Note that "World Editor" is a bit misleading as it's almost exclusively used for airports.

If you want to manipulate terrain art assets, you want the file specification documents on the scenery page here: https://developer.x-plane.com/docs/scenery/
These will tell you how art assets are placed.

Since XP is really open about everything but its flight modeling equations (baked into the binary) and mesh (binarized with MeshTool), you can simply study the default art assets, libraries and processing files. If an edit goes wrong, simply delete the broklen file and run XP's installer to fetch the original one.

User experience with the terrain system is a bit hard to come by though. Most of the lower level edits will have to be done by trial & error or studying other add-ons for reference (MisterX6's Japan, PilotBalu's XEurope, etc.).

 

As for the clouds, this project offers a free, open source replacment:

https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/65005-enhanced-cloudscapes/

Edited by Bjoern

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14 minutes ago, Bjoern said:

Note that "World Editor" is a bit misleading as it's almost exclusively used for airports.

I've used it to do lots of general scenery editing that has nothing to do with airports, so it's very capable and has improved a lot over the years

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@Bjoern YEAH that's what i was looking for. thank you very much!

Will look at the art assets specs but looking at pictures from japan pro does confirm that one can choose a region and build upon it.

The freeware clouds look nice, will try for sure, but clouds engine upgrade should come directly from Laminar and then developers build upon it. Current default look like based on billboards and visually horrible and seems to bottleneck cpu->gpu connection unlike modern ways which can look much prettyer and still perform better. In this regard, MSFS really is outstanding, though not unreachable, many use those, some I hope something will be done about it soon.

But the scenery is really what I'm looking to modify, the system looks amazing and if it's really open to modify and build upon trust me it can can put MSFS on the shame side.

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17 minutes ago, akita said:

The freeware clouds look nice, will try for sure, but clouds engine upgrade should come directly from Laminar and then developers build upon it

Agreed, and rumour has it we'll see an improvement with this in X-Plane 12, which is much needed

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1 hour ago, tonywob said:

I've used it to do lots of general scenery editing that has nothing to do with airports, so it's very capable and has improved a lot over the years

Agreed. I've only done a little bit with it, but after fleshing out my local GA airport, I moved on to adding two 3D objects to my home town that are important visual landmarks for navigation -- a factory with tall smoke stacks and a lighthouse.

I found objects in a free online 3D library somewhere that weren't perfect representations, but good enough. It wasn't hard, so yes you can easily edit scenery outside airports. 


X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator on Windows 10 
i7 6700 4.0 GHz, 32 GB RAM, GTX 1660 ti, 1920x1200 monitor

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The developers are working on clouds, and hired artists to update their autogen system, I am sure we are looking forward for great times!

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4 hours ago, Bjoern said:

and mesh

mesh is a lot more editable than certain people seem to insist.

you do need to understand the geographic and graphic concepts well tho.

3 hours ago, akita said:

But the scenery is really what I'm looking to modify, the system looks amazing and if it's really open to modify and build upon trust me it can can put MSFS on the shame side.

biggest issue with the current scenery is a lot of outdated art assets, no way to attach shaders to surfaces and a p.o.s. mechanism for vegetation placement.

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21 minutes ago, mSparks said:

biggest issue with the current scenery is a lot of outdated art assets, no way to attach shaders to surfaces and a p.o.s. mechanism for vegetation placement.

I would add "radioactive trees" as a problem they've never fixed. It's that weird effect when trees are back-lit. A back-lit tree should be dark, not glowing like it's radioactive.

At some point the 2D design for trees should get reworked as well, although that's probably at odds with the current focus on performance. One reason MSFS looks so much better is the tree modeling, but it's definitely a hit on the frame rate compared to XP. 

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X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator on Windows 10 
i7 6700 4.0 GHz, 32 GB RAM, GTX 1660 ti, 1920x1200 monitor

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6 minutes ago, Paraffin said:

I would add "radioactive trees" as a problem they've never fixed. It's that weird effect when trees are back-lit. A back-lit tree should be dark, not glowing like it's radioactive.

This issue is because the trees are flat planes with the normals all facing in the same direction (upwards). So basically they're lit exactly the same as the ground is.

As an experiment, I placed some billboard trees into MFS that I'd used in an X-Plane scenery, and it did exactly the same thing and they glowed and self-shadowed.

In short, the only way to fix the trees is to either make them 3D (which is not practical), or use the clever shader approach MFS does.

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1 hour ago, Paraffin said:

I would add "radioactive trees" as a problem they've never fixed. It's that weird effect when trees are back-lit. A back-lit tree should be dark, not glowing like it's radioactive.

this is actually a placement issue, it is possible to get good 3d vegetation

just not in any volume, and not with the proper way of attaching a shader program to a surface which means it suffers from lod popping.


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2 hours ago, Paraffin said:

One reason MSFS looks so much better is the tree modeling, but it's definitely a hit on the frame rate compared to XP. 

This. The trees and vegetation have an incredible importance on how good the scenery looks. XP's are inadequate, needs much better, but at the same time they should not drag performance too much...

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1 hour ago, Murmur said:

This. The trees and vegetation have an incredible importance on how good the scenery looks. XP's are inadequate, needs much better, but at the same time they should not drag performance too much...

Well, Laminar is building in a heck of a performance overhead buffer now, between Vulkan and a scenery engine that's already very efficient.

I've been doing some tests in the new MSFS at my home GA airport in a Cessna 172, trying to get the frame rate stabilized between low 30's and 40's.

Meanwhile, I load up a similar Cessna in XP11 11.50 RC1 at the same airport with Orbx TE WA loaded, and I'm seeing frame rates in the 90's. I just saw 104 fps this afternoon (using Rivatuner onscreen display for FPS on both sims). That's nuts, I don't need that kind of frame rate to fly!  🙃 

Granted, part of that is I haven't dug into the XP settings that much after upgrading to a 1660ti card a few months ago, so I should start looking at things like ground shadows and reflections I've turned off. But there does seem to be a ton of performance overhead on systems like mine that Laminar could use in XP12 to improve scenery and weather.

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X-Plane and Microsoft Flight Simulator on Windows 10 
i7 6700 4.0 GHz, 32 GB RAM, GTX 1660 ti, 1920x1200 monitor

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9 hours ago, mSparks said:

this is actually a placement issue, it is possible to get good 3d vegetation

No it's not a placement issue and as I pointed out above, it's because trees have all their normals pointing straight up, so they glow like the ground does. You can add more planes to a tree, but it will never eliminate the problem and just bog down X-Plane even more in terms of performance. In P3D, the billboards are rotated to face the viewer, essentially masking the problem. I've created trees from lots of planes in my airport projects, and they'll still have nasty lighting effects that clearly shows the geometry on how they're made up and it's simply a fight we can't win with the current engine and LR have even told me it needs a next-gen lighting engine to fix.

The xVision PBR hack that stopped the trees glowing seemed to work only because it caused the trees to simply not show lighting effects at all, essentially remaining static like they were in X-Plane 10. The hack also caused PBR problems in cockpits as it exaggerated PBR.

You can also add normal maps to trees that can help a bit, but it's still "plainly" obvious it's a cardboard cutout, and X-Plane .for files don't support normal maps anyway.

Not to turn this in to a sim war, but Asobo's method is very clever. Their trees are still 2D, but the normals on the trees are mathematically manipulated as if they're 3D changing they're viewing angle with the viewer, meaning unless you get really close to the trees, you are fooled to thinking they're detailed 3D with the correct lighting. I wouldn't be surprised if LR are doing something like this as well, as detailed 3D trees is out of the question for our current hardware.

Anyway sorry to the original poster for going off-topic a bit, I just wanted to clarify that problem that I've moaned about for years 🙂

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