Oh deary-dear, let’s take a page from Rand Paul’s Tea Party Playbook and indulge in some second rate Republicrat Plagiarism! And Hell, who knows? A little plagiarism just might be in order these days, don’t you think, for in the X-Plane universe it surely is the best of times – and the worst of times. If you’ve been following Simon’s posts these past few months you may have gotten the impression that X-Plane is all but dead, but guess what? There are plenty of pretty good reasons to think this evaluation is spot-on, with the forthcoming P3D v2 all but sealing the deal. Still (as far as I’m concerned), there is one fine reason why X-Plane will never die: MacOS and OpenGL.
Of course, as Simon has pointed out Open GL is precisely why XP will never burst into real competitive performance vs P3D, and despite all protestations from X-Plane’s faithful, P3D now appears to be the future of desktop-based flight simulation. But (and this is an important “but”) XP was conceived as THE sim “for the rest of us” – with “us” being those awful heretics wandering around in the MacOS wilderness, doomed to forever plead with the Great Satan (er, that would be Bill Gates & his spawn) to port a few measly programs over for us luddites to fawn over from time to time. So here’s a thought, if Laminar dashes off and does away with OpenGL, will XP too become just another Windows only sim? My guess if this were to happen? XP would disappear in a few months. You just don’t abandon your core audience now, do you?
And my, how things have changed. New Windows desktop machines from mainstream manufacturers are getting as scarce as hens teeth yet perhaps the most impressive powerhouse desktop machine of all time is about to release…and it’s a Mac! Maybe the Windows faithful can and will motor on with hardware upgrades, or maybe they’ll buy the new MacPro and run an emulation program, but it’s kind of ironic that it looks like Windows is developing into a first class tablet/mobile OS just as P3D is coming to town. If you’re the kind who likes food for thought, give that a nibble.
So who knows…maybe by clinging tenaciously to the MacOS/OpenGL paradigm, Laminar may yet carve out a bigger niche for itself, but personally…I wouldn’t hold my breath. With sub-par rendering performance and perpetually dreadful cloud- and cityscapes, X-Plane just isn’t in the same race with Lockheed-Martin, and it’s my guess that until someone comes along and buys Laminar and runs the company competitively (as opposed to rather like the hobby enterprise it appears to be) XP is, well, just not going to keep up. The worst of times, in other words.
Where all this leads XP is anyone’s guess, but here’s a preview of sorts: both Simon and I have found more than one prominent XP ACF developer lurking around in the FsX/P3D ACF developer’s forums. And, well, asking questions about breaking into ACF development for the Dark Side. For those of us who take note of the handwriting on the wall, that’s not exactly good news, is it?
Well, with that said, late last week along came Roman and Philipp (dba FlightFactor.aero) with their long anticipated Boeing 757 series, and it’s release marked the latest turning point in XP ACF development. I happened along quite by accident, so what follows isn’t a full featured review but more a series of impressions; that said I’m hopeful for X-Plane when a new ACF like this one comes along, so by way of this post – let me explain (ooh, sorry…bad one…) why I’m still hopeful.
To my way of looking at things, the single-aisled 757 was the de-facto spiritual successor to the 707, and it turned out to be an even better medium range hauler than the 727-200, but ultimately this Boeing just wasn’t competitive with the newer 737NGs and so ultimately was (in my opinion) prematurely axed from series production. Sharing many components and even basic cockpit architecture with the twin-aisled 767 series, the 752 carved out a niche for itself as a high altitude airport / medium range specialist, and spotters visiting US airports like Denver and Salt Lake City will find an abundance of 7-5s on the ramps. I’ve been flying from Montana to Atlanta via Salt Lake several times over the past few months and most of the SLC-ATL segments have been in 752s, and these old Delta birds are holding their own. I’ve included a few images from a flight I made this weekend as a post-scriptum, which you’ll find at the end of this post.
I was home briefly last week when FlightFactor.aero’s latest ACF released, so I got it from the OrgStore and made a few quick flights, mainly to check CPU performance at medium and high “complexity” airports. Need I say why?
Well, the FlightFactor.aero (Roman & Philipp’s) 777 series can severely tax even the most up to date systems, so I was more than a little curious about this particular area, but another equally troubling aspect has been the inability of the SASL plug-in to co-exist with the Gizmo plug-in architecture found in ACF from X-Aviation. In the past, I’ve worked around this by installing SASL ACF in a separate install from Gizmo coded ACF: a pain in the rectum solution but part of the price we pay for the internecine warfare that has plagued XP for the past few years.
Well, true to form when I opened the 752 with all settings maxed out at AeroSOFT’s EHAM, things got real slow, real fast (and this was with the latest 64-bit beta of XP installed). Remarkably however, dialing back cloud detail to 10%, dialing down road traffic and objects just a few notches (and restarting XP) yielded more than satisfactory frame rates, and this with HDR rendering, shadows and reflections still dialed up. So at any rate, in this respect I’d say that Ramzess & Co have done their homework! Moving over to AeroSOFT’s EDDL, the payware Reagan/National, or XPFr’s Paris Orly saw similar results, and XPFr’s latest-for-10 LFMT Montpellier was smooth as glass. My guess is if you have up-to-date hardware you’re going to love this file.
Remarkable as well, I got these results in my Gizmo laden XP install! So what have we here? Gizmo and SASL finally, verifiably coexisting? Hot tamale! Flipping through the installation notes, I couldn’t find the usual warning about not installing the 757 with other Gizmo-coded ACF…so…who knows? Maybe I missed something? Maybe I got lucky? What the heck! It appeared to work. Another round of applause for FlightFactor!!!
I still don’t like the DRM with this file, because I really don’t like the validation code entry for this ACF – or the 777. Why? Well, I sure would love to be able to cut and paste the code from the confirmation email into the pop-up activation screen, but for now note that you’ll have to write this code down and manually enter it when you first install and open the 757. You’d think with all this highfalutin technology on hand we could get something so simple done painlessly…
Anyway…how’d she fly?
Damn fine! Shooting a few “touch and goes” everything felt very (dare I say it!): plausible! This is a fine ACF, with predictable aerodynamics that feel very good at the desktop. Sounds are first rate too.
And how does she look?
Well, take a gander! Then take a look at the design credits, because there are a few surprises in the list, eh Jack? So yes, this ACF has a lot going for it in the design appeal department, all the more so as frame rates are so decent. There are only four liveries included (Air France, Lufthansa, Boeing “House”, and a plain white for do it yourselfers), with more promised in the “buck-a-piece” payware lotto sweepstakes, but there were none available on day one.
Still, not too sure about that Rolls-Royce logo on top of the Air France roundel (above)?
Yeah, yeah, my images are still dark, aren’t they? Well, as we’ve stated for years and years now, all kinds of subtle texture issues show up in this lighting!
Like the tail logo lighting that just didn’t show up on the Air France paint. No matter what I tried the logo light wouldn’t show up, and the instrument lighting on the steam gauges was difficult to modulate, too, with the lighting either too bright or too dim. And the reflections that show up on the windscreen are a little over the top…but still, I’m guessing they might be pretty close to accurate!
Oh, I went over the instrument lighting system with the captain of my Delta flight this weekend, and I’d say the developers need to work on this to get it looking spot-on perfect. It could be a simple matter of getting the zones mapped for smoother response, or maybe operator error…
Still, these lighting issues didn’t detract much while flying in twilight conditions, and who knows, maybe I’ve yet to figure out the controls…but for whatever reason it was difficult for me to get the instrument lighting where I like it.
I didn’t make any long flights or program any of the flight computers, and I’m sure someone will get around to it, but I will say that the documentation included is thorough and should provide you with endless hours of entertainment. What else are these long winter’s nights for, anyway?!
I’ve watched the development of Roman’s ACF from the SSJ through the 777 and now to the 757, and I will say without any reservation that this is his best 3D cockpit work yet. Is it PMDG quality? Well, I don’t know. Being a MacOS user, and still not desperate enough to try FsX or P3D, I just can’t answer that question. It IS easily as good as the Fly-J-Sim 727, in many respects a little bit better. I’ve still not gotten my hands on the new Saab from Goran & Theo, but might next time I’m home – and so might be able to answer that question at that time, but until I do it would be my opinion that this 757 has the best panel in XP, and is a fine purchase. Is the Saab better? We’ll see.
Yet, still no word on “other” 757 projects out there, so we’ll remain silent on the matter for the time being, but hopefully we’ll here about progress on the 767 project at the Org, or Goran and Theo’s 747-200, someday soon. Til then, I’m a very happy camper indeed.
Well, I’ve been as happy as a clam with Carenado’s Bonanzas and Baron, and most ecstatic with Jack’s 727-200. With just this small handful of ACF I can have as much fun in X-Plane as I care to have, so, surely, this is the best of times! I mean seriously folks, click on the image of the main panel (below) and compare it to any other heavy metal file out there for XP. Sheesh, like I said, I’m as happy as a clam right now. Look at where we were when we started this blog almost five years ago, then look at this one again. It’s a whole new world, ain’t it, Jethro!
Oh yes, about that tail logo lighting! Below, the logo lighting on the LH paint is subtle, but it’s there…
While the logo lighting on the Boeing house paint is “in your face” bright! I don’t get it. Probably a rendering flaw in XP, right, but why the variation in brightness? Weird.
So, a few images from this weekend’s 752 flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake. Just below, our 752 is westbound approaching the Wasatch mountains south of Salt Lake, beginning the turn north toward the airport. For the three of you who still don’t believe in climate change, all those mountains are usually buried in ten feet of snow by this time of year, and it was still almost 70 degrees F in Salt Lake City. Scary stuff, mate.
Below, after the flight, I asked the crew if I could come forward and snap a few shots. This turned into a nice half hour sit down tour. In case you don’t know it, Delta Airlines is still about as good as a U.S. airline can get. With great flight attendants, and some really, really good drivers up front, Delta is just a class outfit. Oh, the drivers? Despite some really seriously gusty winds on final, the landing was about as good as you can get. So, anyway…below, a panel overview.
Below, the center quad:
Data display, after part of center quad, below (and yes, this was an OLD 752!):
Below, behind the wheel. All images from an iPhone 5, so not the best but hopefully they’ll do. Again, a thousand Thanks to the crew!
So, herewith and forthwith and with every other kind of with possible, I bid you adieu, bon chance, and good night. Roman and Philipp have a real winner on their hands, and Simon and I wish them the very best. I would of course love to see a Braniff paint show up for this bird some day, but you can bet I’ll sure get a Delta too!
As always, thanks for coming along, and we’ll see y’all again soon.
Oh…is it just me, but does this new American paint look good on their 777?
Yeah, I thought so too.