During the Flight Simulation Association livestream with Austin and Martin from Laminar Research, all-new previews and details were shared for the next generation of X-Plane. During the presentation, Austin spoke about new autogen, pricing, version numbering, seasons, clouds and more.
During the stream, a series of new screenshots were shared. This was broken down into four sections.
A new preview video was also shared during the stream. This video showed off a new forestry rendering that makes 3D trees the new norm for the next-generation of X-Plane. The trees were dense and also swayed in the wind. Not only that, but for the first time in X-Plane, seasons will be included (more on that below). You can watch the Forestry Preview below.
Is this X-Plane 12?
A popular question in the community is whether this “next generation” of X-Plane would be dubbed X-Plane 12 or if it would be an upgrade to the existing X-Plane 11 ecosystem. Austin said that “the version number is not the important thing. The version number is what determines whether you pay $59.99 or not. I’m not going to get hung up on the version number. We’re building the next generation of X-Plane. We haven’t decided on the pricing and version numbering yet.” Austin did confirm that they will have ironed out all the detail by the time FlightSimExpo 2021 comes around in September.
Another question that is on people’s minds is whether there will be seasons with the next generation of X-Plane. Austin says “yes” and that it will go beyond just changing some colours based on the time of year. He said, “People have been asking for seasons for ages. My team has written shaders to interpolate between seasons.” He goes on, “Not just 4 seasons, it changes between time. Based on latitude. There is an infinite amount of variety for seasonal stuff”
Volumetric Clouds and Weather
Whilst Austin wasn’t supposed to talk about clouds and weather, he let the cat out of the bag and mentioned a few key important details.
“Yes, we are doing volumetric clouds,” he confirmed during the stream. “Clouds that change shape and size over time. That’s another thing I want to bring into the next generation of X-plane.” Austin confirmed that this is an area he is working on right now, and more information will come in the future.
Microsoft Flight Simulator and Satellite Streaming
Unsurprisingly, Austin was asked about his thoughts on Microsoft Flight Simulator and also streaming in satellite data into the sim. Austin said that he has used Microsoft Flight Simulator for a total of around 30-minutes, but compared some of the imagery to that of a post-apocalyptic world. He said that when you’re flying 3,000ft and above, the world does look great and you can see landmarks, but once you get closer, he felt as though the image quality was lost. When asked if he wants to see imagery data in X-Plane, Austin simply replied “no.” Instead, he said, X-Plane would create great-looking assets and then use the data available to inject those into the sim. So whilst you won’t be able to find “your house” in the next generation of X-Plane, you will have crisp looking autogen and texturing all the way to the ground.
Austin makes it clear that all these increased details and new features will mean there will not be a performance boost. He did, however, say that X-Plane will use hardware much more efficiently moving forward. This doesn’t mean X-Plane will become a slideshow, but he wanted to set expectations that the team want to create a realistic simulator with the new technology rather than focusing on just having super high frame rates. Again, the experience will be a smooth one with the right hardware.
When Will We Learn More?
For the better part of 2 years, this has been in development at Laminar Research. Whilst today was just a snippet into what the future holds, the team said we can expect to see a lot more at this year’s FlightSimExpo in San Diego. Ultimately, whatever we see come September, Austin wants to deliver on the promise of “upping our game for the rendering engine and a flight model that is much better than before.”
Whilst the steam is over, you can watch the VOD now over on the Flight Simulation Association channel.