As Chip alluded to in his earlier post, I’ve totally given up on MS Flight, having uninstalled it. What a kick in the guts it was for all the fans, many of us are rather upset and frankly, feeling conned by Microsoft. How many months has the thing been out? less than 10 mths? There’s already rumours that the online Flight servers (arguably one of the game’s big strengths, something all sims should strive for) may not be supported for long.
I paid MS $11 for their long delayed ‘deluxe’ Carbon Cub. I was so upset at their actions I never got around to installing it! That’s me, bitter till the end.
A great benefit of Flight was that it broadened my horizons, got me chatting online to even more people around the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love Xplane and its tight-knit community. Flight, being a substantially smaller community than the mega-huge entity that is the ‘Flight Simulator’ franchise, enabled me to contact another group of like minded hobbyists. Surprisingly, many Flight fans were also real life pilots. I’d say a very high proportion of the Flight market was comprised of people who’d flown before. Funny that. Kinda said something about its FM.
So right now, you Xplane Developers and hobbyists need to know that there seem to be hundreds of people online, esp at the Avsim Flight forum, voicing their frustrations and trying to work out where ‘to go to next’ (hence my cheeky Headline). I’ve read so many posts like this :
“I’m really upset, not sure what sim to go back to, I tried Xplane but X and X annoys me and I miss the eyecandy scenery, so I’ll go back to FSX/DCS/P3D/Donkey Kong”.
I have to say, I was frustrated reading the many comments that they wouldn’t try Xplane, or had tried but didn’t feel it was for them. Many still criticise the over-sensitive flight model (not my words) and the painfully slow improvement in scenery. Then the rollercoaster ride that is the beta cycle..
I’m a similar Guinea Pig/example. I love Xplane dearly, but I HAVE to have an alternative to give me breaks from its intensity. Let’s face it, it can be intense! All immense hobbies are. Look at all our posts here, the effort that goes into just overviewing new developments. I can spend weeks on one scenery test/project (cough…months.. cough!). Now xp 10 demands even more concentration and effort, to tweak its settings and get the right hardware to match. Reminds me of another flightsim of recent times!
The DCS P51 and A10 sims are great, but at this ‘early’ stage it’s quite limited in scenery and addons. Watch its progress, it’s a slow burner. If its scenery can expand, it’ll be a must-buy.
So now I am trying FSX again, seeing it in a new light. Maybe I’m lucky, as I happen to live in Melbourne, Oz, Orbx’s home base. As a result, I have ridiculously detailed airports, like YMML, YMEN, YMMB, YMAV and YLIL to do fun short hops around. I can recognise most major intersections, even petrol stations I’ve visited.
My first impressions upon going back, after about a year of abandoning it because of FPS frustrations? Well, the FPS is one thing! Flight was creamy smooth, often 40 and above. FSX is slower, but pleasingly I’m now regularly seeing very high 20s and capped at 30 (deliberately). But get this – the Nvidia drivers must be better, as I can get 18 FPS on TAKEOFF in the PMDG NGX 737, @ Melbourne! It very quickly shoots above 22 and then a gorgeous 28, an amazing flying experience. Heck, with the current Beta stage of Xplane, I can easily get down to 8-10 fps. How times have changed!
Speaking of changes, the Warning Wind as Chip calls it – A2A Simulations brought out an interesting little $15 addon for fsx, called Accu Feel, awhile back. It changes the ground handling and stall characteristics, as well as adding many new sound effects and visual cues, for ANY plane, esp the defaults. I think this is what’s making my return more pleasant. Any plane feels better, more alive than before. The more expensive addons aren’t worth using it for, e.g. the Aerosoft Katana, its FM and sounds are already impressive enough. I’m hoping A2A brings out another version, changing the airborne handling of aircraft much more.
The other major change is the obvious one, the long march of technology, particularly GPUs and CPUs. Finally our latest machines can run FSX at the level it was originally envisioned for. Crazy stuff, considering how long its been out for! Even with my one year old Nvidia 560, the lowest I’m seeing around very dense scenery in a good addon plane is 14 fps. Even then, it has a ‘smooth’ feel to it, where the flying/handling doesn’t seem terribly bad. But it’s as soon as I look slightly away from a dense area that things leap up. I can be right next to Melbourne airport, over hundreds of houses, and still see 25fps! What a new Core i5 chip would do, I shudder to think. Just Google i5 or i7 and fsx for recent results and you’ll see the great leap in smoothness.
Another change hit me, with big implications for Xplane. FSX Clouds. Lots of dark, threatening, ominous, multi-layered clouds. If you don’t believe me, look at the screen shots below. These are via REX Overdrive. What an incredible addon. I’ve maxed the cloud settings in FSX and you can see the results. REX also has an excellent weather engine. I could feel differing layers of turbulence as I changed flight levels. Challenging.
Compared to Xplane 10′s clouds, to me the REX ones are far superior. A more efficient approach, with more varied darkness levels, gives a more convincing look than the cloud puffs method. Ok, up very close the REX clouds can look a bit too Bill Boardy, but it’s hardly noticeable. From a mid distance, their 3d appearance is…lifelike. Im in heaven. On cloud nine, so to speak! Im sorry, but maybe Laminar need to get talking with REX again. If they’re on speaking terms that is! I bet they didn’t like the move to cloud puffs either.
By going back to billboard clouds, hopefully the fps issues at high detailed airports could be partly addressed. As I’ve said, I’m seeing BETTER performance in a Pmdg plane than a high end Xplane ‘equivalent’ , say the Crj 200. And remember, this is with my 3yr old i7 920. FSX eats CPUs for brekky, so the latest i5s would probably double my fps.
Then what happens if MS DOES announce a ‘Flight’ on Tubeliner steroids? Or Orbx/P3D bring out a hugely improved V2? Ha, sorry, I do see those 2 as one company. As good as! A formidable alliance.
Enough waffling. These are only my first impressions, I’ve plenty more fun analysis to do. As we’ve done before, I hope some of these points filter through and make xplane even better in the long run. Unfortunately right now, I see Xplane as the automotive equivalent of a solar car. It’s new, innovative and snazzy. Small and perky. But those damn Aussies, they keep pumping out Chevrolets that get more and more efficient every year. They invent new lighter doors. Then more oilfields open up and ppl don’t care about solar any more! Many people want that solar car, because ‘it’s right’ but in the end, the practicality doesn’t quite match their needs. It’s those pesky clouds again!
Im off to hide fron the Laminar Team….Again!