On Saturday 9th February 2019, members of the X-Plane development team gathered to give a comprehensive update on their future plans and answer questions from the community over a live stream. The hour-long stream saw the team talking about mobile, the newly implemented ATC and of course, Vulkan/Metal.
We have watched the live stream and re-capped some of the key details that came from the event. Of course, you can watch it yourself above for the full experience, but hopefully, the details below give you a brief overview of what happened.
X-Plane 11.30 Now Available
- X-Plane 11.31 is out and available to download for users.
- “We are in bug-fix mode right now”.
- The team are working to make sure that 11.30 is as stable as possible before they begin implementing new features for future versions.
- 11.30 brought in significant changes to the code in preparation for the new graphics languages Vulkan and Metal.
- X-Plane was originally written using the OpenGL language. Was fine at the time, but now seriously outdated
- There’s not an intention to take each and every OpenGL call from the simulator to convert it to a Vulkan/Metal call. Would take forever to do.
- Instead, the team are working on completely re-writing X-Plane and implement something called GFX (referred to as “Gufex” in the stream).
- GFX calls will then be what will replace the OpenGL calls in X-Plane 11. These calls will be sent to, what was referred to as, “headquarters”.
- Once at headquarters, the system will know what graphics to send back to the simulator to then render them.
- This means that X-Plane will be able to render either Vulkan or Metal depending on what operating system you’re using.
- It also means that instead of fixing bugs with Vulkan / Metal separately, they will simply fix the bug in headquarters and it will filter to all operating systems
- Furthermore, using GFX, it means that if a new graphics language comes out, they just need to add it to headquarters and it’ll filter through to the simulator without having to re-write the whole thing again. Saving time and energy.
- “If it turns out DX12 is better than Vulkan, then we can change it if needs be.” Not confirmation of this happening, just suggesting it’s easy to change.
- GFX has also been designed to use multi-core threading from day 1. Austin then said that with today’s software, implementing multi-thread is so much easier.
- As Vulkan / Metal is in a lot of AAA games, going to Nvidia and AMD for drivers will be better as it’s a common language.
- Whilst that Vulkan/Metal is great, it was confirmed that OpenGL support will continue side-by-side. Due to drivers, add-ons and hardware that relies on OpenGL. Just like 32-bit to 64-bit, they will keep both supported for a transition period.
- Multi-threading stuff has already begun to be implemented. ATC in 11.30 is a good example as that is now in the background.
Status of Vulkan / Metal
- Both Vulkan and Metal are now running in Plane-Maker. All the materials, shaders, OBJ is now running in Vulkan and Metal. All shaders have been ported over.
- Next week, the team will start the process of porting Vulkan/Metal to the core sim itself.
- Ben is excited about this because once we get the sim running, they can start to get numbers on how this will impact performance.
- The new graphical language, and multi-core support, will get rid of many of the in-sim stutters seen in today’s technology.
- The team have looked at a lot of performance issues. With focus on Vulkan, knowing it will fix a lot of issues, they said they’re not trying to fix “small” performance issues.
- However, they are aware there are still some big issues which they are working on to fix and are aiming to not leave big issues broken.
- “Vulkan is a case of this year”
- X-Plane 11.30 brought in the new ATC feature.
- It runs in the background to the simulator itself, so not impacting performance.
- All airport names, aircraft manufacturers, etc are available. You can adjust text and pronunciation and just like Global Airports, we can do re-cuts of the voices very easily. Can grow easily.
- In the future, the team can work on localisation. For example, people in other countries with accents or languages can implement more local voices.
- The team are working on ensuring that mobile will soon be Global. Dubbed as “GloMo”
- Designed in a way to only download what you need. No need for for hundreds of GB of data, just the stuff you’ll need for that particular flight.
- The iPhone version of the simulator already uses 99% of the desktop flight model (maybe more).
- Mobile and Desktop are starting to merge in terms of files used. Chris is taking files from the desktop version and implementing them into mobile and vice versa.
- Every feature they work on the question is asked: “Can we do it on mobile and desktop?”
- By developing for mobile as well, it is forcing the team to be as optimised as possible.
- There will be a series of updates for the mobile version of X-Plane. Once the major update is out, “X-Plane 10 Mobile” will be rebranded “X-Plane Mobile”.
- Many code files from X-Plane 11 are in the mobile sim, so makes sense to drop the number from the title.
- Team has recorded PT6 engine sounds, switches and more. Desktop and Mobile.
- Will implement them on their King Air aircraft very soon.
- 737 FMOD sounds will be available by FlightSimExpo 2019.
- Will be attending various shows, AirSim show in Madrid 1st one, AeroShow in Southern Germany, FSExpo in Orlando (some nice events being put on by X-Plane at FSExpo – landing competition in VR with major prizes)
- VR will be shown at all of these 3 expos.
- Will new VR headsets be supported?
- Yes they will try and support it. If it works in Steam VR it should work within in XP.
- Will there be support for bone animations?
- Yes, it is on their road map. Treating objects as actual skeletal structures within the sim.
- Real Weather download?
- Weather engine web servers are now in 2 different formats. X-Plane are hoping to incorporate a more robust system so that real weather continues to operate and don’t fail.
- Austin is working on propwash technology.
- Austin is working on seaplanes and ground trucks atm.
Was there anything in the live stream we haven’t noted above? If so, leave a comment below along with a timestamp and we’ll add it to our list.