Sandy and I are working on a major revision to the plugin SDK (all the old stuff will work, we’re just adding new things) that should be available in X-Plane 9 soon. The new “2.0” SDK APIs include some new functionality for working on scenery.

  • Plugins can find the height of the ground at a given location, which is necessary to draw in the 3-d world in a realistic way (e.g. vehicles that drive on the ground in a sloped airport environment).
  • Plugins can load and draw OBJ files using X-Plane’s built-in facilities. I’ve posted OBJ drawing code in the past, but this makes things even easier.
  • Plugins can lookup virtual paths in the library to find artwork from scenery packages.

This makes a number of scenery-system concepts available to plugins.

I’ve been resisting OBJ-drawing support in the SDK for a while, but a few things changed my mind:

  • We’ve moved as much drawing in X-Plane to OBJs as possible and it’s been a big win. A lot of the dynamic elements are OBJs, they’re used in scenery and cockpits and airplanes. Using OBJ files means our artists (who are not programmers) can customize just about every aspect of the sim. So by providing a file format with a rich tool chain to plugins, hopefully we are helping third parties streamline content development.
  • With pixel shaders, X-Plane’s 3-d drawing environment has become complex and hard for third parties to safely augment. By encoding drawing at a higher level via pre-built OBJs (which can be animated via plugin-driven datarefs) we can insulate plugins from drawing-environment changes.

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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