Lighting Rheostats in X-Plane 9

There were a few threads regarding lighting rheostats in X-Plane 9. Here's a short version of the issue and why we're not changing X-Plane 9's behavior.

X-Plane 9's policy toward lighting rheostats is a little bit arbitrary. The sim will pre-position every lighting rheostat in the cockpit to 75% intensity on sim startup, and from that point on, we never touch them. We do not reset them when you load a new plane or reset your flight.

The result of this is that when you load a new airplane, it "inherits" the rheostat positions of the last airplane loaded. This can cause a problem if the newly loaded plane doesn't have controls to adjust the lights (e.g. it has no instruments on the 2-d panel or manipulators on the 3-d panel, and there is no keyboard shortcut defined). A plane can be "stuck dark".

It would be nice if X-Plane would pre-initialize the lighting rheostats on startup, but X-Plane deos not have enough information to do this. For example, on plane load, the instrument brightness should be set fairly high (so a glass cockpit can be read during the day) but the flood lights should be fairly low (to prevent loss of night vision). But X-Plane has no idea which rheostats control instruments and which control floods. So if we wanted to correctly initialize the cockpit, we wouldn't have enough information.

To make it more complicated, some airplane authors have taken it upon themselves to initialize the cockpit via plugin code. If X-Plane were to start changing the rheostats at startup, it might undo some of what these plugins have done.

Given the difficulty of maintaining compatibility and the lack of a "correct" set of values, we decided not to change the behavior in 9.50 or 9.55.

If there's any take-away point for airplane authors, I think it is this: provide controls for the lighting rheostats that you use in your airplane. Otherwise the user can't turn the lights on if they are off for any reason. You can control the lighting rheostats with a generic instrument, manipulator, or the built-in instruments.

Ugly Glow

There is a separate issue that sometimes comes up: X-Plane panels can look bad when the flood lights are turned all the way up during the day. A panel can look very red and washed out, for example.

This problem comes from a mismatch of real-world lighting levels. In the real world, the sun is approximately four gajillion times more powerful than the little dome lights in an airplane. So when the sun is out, the dome light isn't visible even if it's turned all the way up. The dome light only looks bright when your eyes have adjusted to a no-sun condition.

What X-Plane should do (and may do in the future) is scale all cockpit lights relative to the overall daytime brightness, which would effectively dim the effect of flood lights during the day. Simply turning down flood lights when a flight is started during the day is not a full solution, as the user can simply turn them right back up again and end up with an unrealistic scene.

Suffice it to say, I think we will address these things in a v10 time frame, not a v9 time frame; in the short term it's better to have airplanes continue to function as the author intended.


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About Ben Supnik

Ben is a software engineer who works on X-Plane; he spends most of his days drinking coffee and swearing at the computer -- sometimes at the same time.
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3 Responses to Lighting Rheostats in X-Plane 9

  1. Anonymous says:

    Re ugly glow, it would be a big help if the SDK provided datarefs on ambient light conditions that plugins can use to dim cockpit lights during the day. This can be approximated today as a function of local time but the result isn't perfect for all latitudes or whether conditions.
    /Nils

  2. Hrm...

    sim/graphics/misc/cockpit_light_level_r

    and friends will give you what you want if you read them from a 3-d drawing phase and not from an FM update or cockpit draw call.

  3. Anonymous says:

    That's something to explore. Thanks for the tip!

    /Nils

Comments are closed.