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X-Plane - first impressions from an FU3'er

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I receieved X-Plane 7 in the mail some time ago.Upon starting it for the first time, it crashed right back to the desktop. My first thought was "Hey, this is just like Flight Unlimited III!" :-lolThe sim appears very touchy with regards to addon scenery. I even had to manually delete some 3d objects from so called "complete" scenery packages (the Socal and Destination Florida scenries in particular). Just like FU3...It appears the I'm about the only one having those problem, though. Guess the sim hates me...or my computer.Anyway, after some tweaking and messing with the scenery files, I got the thing up and running.I got to feel the famous flight model in action. Feels kind of like FU3, but the planes tend to "float" more. Some even too much. It's like having a huge helium balloon attached to the airplane. But, I'm not a real pilot so I can't really judge the flight models. They feel right most of the time and it only took a few minutes to get used to them, since they handled quite similar to what I'm used to with FU3. You can also fly on Mars which is intersting.ATC/AI traffic is quite basic. You can get "AI" traffic...ie. you get four or five random airplanes flying around, apparently not aware of you or each other at all. The planes are picked randomly from the aircraft folder, which means that you'll see anything from the X-30 to the Space Shuttle, to the Hindenburg to F-22 fighters to Cessna 172's on the same flight. Very interesting but not very realistic.Interactive ATC exists in the form of Microsoft Speech Engine generated voices and they can give some basic guidance.Weather is pretty nice. Snow on the runways looks pretty cool. Clouds cast shadows on the ground which looks quite good, especially over detailed scenery. Weather does not seem to be dynamic, but you can tweak many aspects of it. The sim also simulates wind, thermals etc. and it should be possible to fly a glider in this sim (I haven't tried).Generic scenery is pretty bad. It's better than the FU3 outer region, but not much. The landclass is fairly accurate, almost as accurate as the one in FS2004. The mesh however, is low res and quite poor. Urban textures are poor. Some forest textures look quite nice, however. The biggest problem is how textures are mixed. In FS2004, they are blended into each other. Even the ones in FU3 kind of fade into each other. In X-Plane, you easily see the edge where one texture meets the other. It's look pretty crazy at some altitude. Coastlines also need some work, and sometimes, runways are out in the water (!).There is some addon scenery available for the sim, much of it free. I've purchased the high-res version of Socal and Florida (they were only $1.5 or something each). They are FU3-style satelite scenery, about half the size of the FU3 regions, Florida is perhaps a little bigger (you can fly a small single-engine plane for almost an hour before reaching the edge). Scenery detail is similar to FU3 in the high-res version, the medium and low-res versions are probably a bit blurrier. The colours are much better than FU3 however.Unfortunately, it's not possible to enhance the mesh with addon scenery so hills and mountains still look a bit boring.Performance is very good over generic scenery. Autogen causes a big hit on framerate if you set the density or visbility distance too far but with some more reasonable settings, it works fine.Some drawbacks exist with the graphics. Neither the scenery textures nor the mesh have any LOD differences. As you may know from FU3, it has several "versions" of the same texture, so things that are far off in the distance get a blurry, low-resolution version of the texture to save on memory. The mesh has a similar feature, so that mountains in the distance are not as detailed as those up close. X-Plane does not do this at all. This of course means scenery is very sharp all the way to the horizon, but it also causes some problems.It is especially a problem with sceneries that use high-resolution textures. When using the Socal scenery for example, the sim uses over 1GB of RAM because it's storing all those HUGE textures in RAM (a bit of swapping on my system, since I have 512MB of physical RAM). I have two harddrives. I put the swapfile on one, and X-Plane on the other which significantly reduced loading times and pauses during flight.Also, if you're using 32-bit textures, you'll run/ out of video RAM quickly if you set visiblity to anything greater than 2-3 miles. With 16-bit textures, I can use about 12-14 miles of visbility with my 128MB Radeon 9700 Pro. A 256MB card would probably allow me about 20 miles of visiblity with 16-bit textures, maybe 10 miles with 32-bit.For generic scenery and low-res addon scenery, any modern system should do fine. For high res scenery, you need, IMO:Min: 1.5 GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 128MB videocardRecommended: 1GB of RAM, 256MB videocardAnything less and you should grab some medium to low res addon scenery. Still looks OK at a couple of thousand feet.If you want to see a screenshot from a specific place or have a question, just post it. I have all the time in the world (well not quite, but I do have until Christmas without much of a work or school or anything...).http://forums.avsim.net/user_files/44895.jpghttp://forums.avsim.net/user_files/44896.jpghttp://forums.avsim.net/user_files/44897.jpghttp://forums.avsim.net/user_files/44898.jpghttp://forums.avsim.net/user_files/44899.jpg

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Interesting!Though I'm not leaving FU3 I've had my eyes on X-plane for some time.X-plane's main attraction is its flight model and any true flight simulator should focus on this first. If X-plane models float too much this could be due to their focusing too much on airflows and shapes and too little on gravity. Can you load up the "floating" planes? In any event, where does the aircraft's mass enter the equation?Hans Petter

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I don't know if they are floating too much. It could be normal. They act fine during takeoff, it's just that I often find myself too high on final and not able to get the plane down without picking up speed. It might be that the planes loose too much speed and drop too quickly in FU3/FS2004. Since I haven't piloted a plane for real and only have FU3/FS to compare to it's hard to tell. But, compared to FS/FU, the planes "float" more.I haven't looked much at the plane editor, since I'm looking more for an entertaining and believable flight sim than tweaking cryptic parameters...I have played around with it (ie: "How would a Cessna 172 fly with a jet engine under each wing?" :-lol ). But here are two pics from the editor.http://forums.avsim.net/user_files/44911.gifhttp://forums.avsim.net/user_files/44912.gif

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Thanks for the report, Jimmi! Sounds consistent with what I've read over the past few years: X-Plane focuses on the flight model rather than eye candy (though the visuals continue to improve). Although I don't have the sim, I like that it supports a variety of engine types and includes tools for making everything in the sim including wacky aircraft if you so desire.From your screenshots, I really like those cloud shadows. They appear to vary in darkness based on the clouds that are casting them. The satellite terrain textures you added look great. The low res mesh doesn't do justice to the mountain textures, though.Peter http://bfu.avsim.net/sigpics/PeterR.gifBFU Forums ModeratorRenegade/Seawolf Design Group (RSDG)[table border=2 cellpadding=0 cellspacing=1][tr][td][table border=0 cellpadding=8 cellspacing=0][tr][td bgcolor=#6f0000]http://bfu.avsim.net/sigpics/logo75t.gif[/td][td align="center" bgcolor=#FFFFF6]Bush Flying Unlimited"At home in the wild"Looking for adventure? Come join us! * [link:bfu.avsim.net|Web Site] * [link:www.cafepress.com/bfu,bfu2,bfu3,bfu4|BFU Store] * [link:bfu.avsim.net/join.htm]Join!][/td][/tr][/table][/td][/tr][/table

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Hello Jimmi,a nice idea and a well done introdution of X-plane into our forum! Thank you very much for that. I for my part are so busy that I didn

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There are some limits to scenery:-Generic scenery is not very good because the textures are not blended very well. You can see the edges where one texture begins and another one starts. Textures can be replaced with your own, but they are still not blended like they do in FS2002/4. The only solution is to use continous satellite photo scenery, which is what FU3 'pilots' are used to. You get smaller areas but very realistic scenery.-Autogen is very repetetive and ugly, but looks good close-up with nice features like animated cars on the roads. The generic textures are also very small and you easily get a tiled look with repeated textures of the same kind.-Mesh is limited to low resolution and can not be improved, which creates ugly, blocky mountains. This is one of the biggest limitation of the scenery right now.-Mesh and textures don't have any LOD (lower level of detail in the distance to reduce memory and CPU usage). Framerate and memory problems can occour with very detailed sceneries.I don't think there are any real limits with models. The autogen feature puts a lot of 3d objects in the scene with fairly good framerate (if you turn down the visibility distance)Aircarft don't have transparent cockpit windows, and the gear doors and gear tend to "dissapear" rather than retracting into the aircraft body. They are animated, but at the last moment of retracting, the objects "pop" out of view. All other aircraft parts appear to be animated well.There comes several tools with X-Plane (World Maker, Plane Maker, Airfoil Maker). The tools are fairly user-friendly and powerful enough to design complex new airplanes and scenery.You can try the demo version of X-Plane, but it's only playable for something like 6 minutes.

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