Great to hear that Goran and Theo’s DC-3 joined the CRJ-200 and Realscenery’s Oahu photoscenery in gaining top ratings from the Magazine this month!
That makes it a trifecta for X-Aviation. Ok they don’t exactly flood the market with products, but clearly that’s because they concentrate on quality.
Having 3 high quality xplane products featured in the magazine, which has historically been heavily MSFS oriented, gives us a warm feeling where we need it the most
In other news, this guy (me) is happy to announce I’m back on the Australian Red Centre terrain project after my long break. It is quite complex and brain-numbing work, I had to stop, to keep motivated! Now I’m really enjoying it, including the preparation of some instructional notes for other devs.
MY OBSERVATIONS UPON RETURNING TO XPLANE
FT56 asked me what I thought after being ‘away’ for so long. For quite a few months, I’d been keeping a fresh perspective by using a number of other Sims/games, such as Battlefield 3, MS Flight, DCS P-51D, IL-2 Cliffs of Dover, Aeroflyfs and even the older Flaming Cliffs 2. So I feel pretty qualified. Just call me ‘Dr’ from now on! Or Big Spender..
Here are my notes. Firstly the other Sims:
IL,2 CoD – still buggy, but cheap and with impressive variety and effects. Their sequel might be worth waiting for. It’s their last chance to regain credibility. Must-have for a WW2 Fan.
Aeroflyfs – the kind Robert Arts helped me get this delivered down here at the south pole. Not cheap. I’ve flown it once. Stunning photoscenery based in the Alps, beautiful 3d scenery but too little of it. No navigation, limited systems.
The major advantage, its looks and physics, is let down in my opinion by the limited cameras and no replay function. I need to fly it more I suppose, but it’s missing too much to get me hooked.
Flaming Cliffs 2 – a hoot, an older sim but if you like modern jets, it’s still incredibly challenging and flexible. I’ll certainly pick up FC3 on release.
DCS – the modern successor to FC, this is a real sleeper, as I’ve previously reported. 3rd party development is shooting along, with FSX oriented companies like IRIS moving across. The upcoming Mig-21 looks awful, terrifying. Right up my alley!
The new Nevada scenery looks spectacular. A very specific, deep simulator. The P51 or A10 can keep you busy learning for months. Scenery is massive, high quality and performs well. Some may tire of the same drab look however. That’s why Nevada can’t come soon enough.
Battlefield 3 – no, it’s not really a sim! The plane’s flight model is very simplistic. But it’s a hoot, insane online action, a pleasant relief. As a scenery afficiinado, it’s worth it just to marvel at the beauty of what they’ve produced. Watch your back though.
MS Flight – I know I’ve been controversial with my support for this. Believe me, no one was as surprised as myself. All I’ll say is that although I too am upset that third parties seem to be locked out (for now), the full package is so well done, with the joy of flying in an online community so darned easy that it is seriously my second sim of choice. I only have fsx installed for comparison purposes, it’s dead in my own opinion.
Now back to xplane- here are my notes when first firing it up:
Variety- wow, so many different contraptions, of all genres.
A thriving community, with diverse backgrounds. Third party contributions MAKE this sim.
This is serious stuff- as a flying sim, its flight model and systems modelling is rarely rivaled. Only the dedicated sim DCS challenges it, and even then, its flight feel may not be as ‘scary’ as xplane’s.
With xp, you don’t need a jet, bombs and flak to make you sweat. Just try and fly by the numbers and do a greaser landing in a Duchess, phew that’s enough!
Airports- this is another xplane strength and also weakness. A great variety of destinations. With a variety of quality. You take the good with the bad. Conversely, DCS has less variety of facilities, but they’re all optimised and superb. You’ll never recognise any of them though, or few will.
MS Flight has the potential to emerge as a sim with good variety. Even the Hawaii facilities were faithfully modelled, with a number of them being equal to a $30 add-on in other Sims. And Alaska appears only weeks away..
Weather- supremely controllable. Clouds are marvellous, if a little same looking.
I really enjoy the fidelity of the planes in xp. So many great quality freeware and payware models. As evidenced by the awards mentioned above. Again, if you are deadly serious with your Sims, xp is the leader. Its devs take their job very seriously too.
You’d be surprised at how detailed some of the MSF plane interiors are, well the ones with cockpits at least. But I’d never pretend their systems and handling was at the xp level. Not far off though. Certainly I’ve never flown so much as in MSF. That’s because of the combination of all its strengths. A simpler FM offset by an attack on the visual and aural senses.
So here’s where I get to the ‘room for improvement’ that I noticed when coming back. Feel free to counter in the comments!!
Sameness – no matter where you fly, the terrain and autogen give a very similar look. Even Europe and America look similar. Then Oz. Hence my project, to prove that we can add variety. You all know what I mean. Bloody crisp, beautiful green terrain and Californian houses. Everywhere.
Performance – straight away I noticed that xp is so sophisticated, doing so much, that it is really pushing my system. The other Sims all fly along at 50fps with high-max graphics settings. I can even fly MSF in 3D mode, which halves the fps, down to 30fps.
But with xp, with HDR on, at some facilities the sim really groans. It’s ok, Ben is doing a great job, it’s just that sometimes it loses that ultra smooth fluidity that I remember from xp9. And DCS.
Usually when we post such whinges, we can hear Laminar groan, wince then push out some rabbit from their hat that fixes things! Lets hope 10.10 comes out and makes me eat my words!
More seriously, we have been doing some beta testing of some others’ scenery projects, with a worrying trend for bad fps, with hdr in particular being the usual challenge.
DEVELOPERS, you need to build in a performance buffer for HDR!! If like some, you take the lazy (‘efficient’) route of basing your entire night look on HDR lights, please make sure you don’t use so many lights that it grinds my pc down to 5fps! I know many are in it for a quick buck or to get a higher profile, but you don’t want to be famous for the wrong reasons!
Now I don’t feed my family with scenery development (I can dream!) But if I was, I’d be striking a good balance, with some .lit textures where needed, to minimise the load caused by HDR. Yes it would take longer, it’d be a pain. But your market would be tripled, with many more able to see your efforts.
Funny, that’s what I did with the CBD scenery. I got much more effective results from a large use of lit textures and then very select use of HDR. To me, such lights should be used sparingly, as accents to a core masterpiece. Lecture over!
Lastly, shadows and HDR – what amazed me is why IL2, a relatively older tech game (ok, it’s buggy tho!), has razor sharp, eye-burning HDR and shadows, at low fps cost. It might be me, I just don’t notice the HDR in the day. The shadows, even at GPU melt settings, are nowhere as crisp as I’ve seen in other Sims.
So that’s my impression after coming back. A real serious sim with huge variety, challenge, a great community and plenty to improve. The good thing is that we always know that it will improve and adapt. We just don’t know when. Maybe tomorrow!
‘Ave a great weekend.
P.S. is that a first? A whole post without a picture? Sorry, it’s our new austerity measure. We may also go down to 6 point font to save more in future..