The X-Desktop and iPhone Are Not Zero-Sum Games

On the menu this morning: first a whiny rant, then a nerdy one.

Someone pointed me at this post. Before I go into my geeky diatribe about leveraging code, a quick note: it is true that at this point Austin is working heavily on the iPhone - probably more on the iPhone than the desktop. It is also true (but not mentioned) that Laminar is investing more man power into X-Plane for the desktop now than it ever has in the past. (With the iPhone we've grown our workload with a second "front" for products, but we've increased staffing a little bit too.)

It is also true that X-Plane 9 free updates have been less frequent. This doesn't mean there's less code going into them - it just means that we're doing 4-5 months of coding and 3 months of beta instead of 2 months of codindg and 1 month of beta. I'm not sure if this is better or why it is happening (each release has to be individually planned for the circumstances) but one observation:

Given how many video cards and drivers are out there and how they react differently to the X-Plane code, I wouldn't want a beta process less than 2-3 months, because I want to know that it's had time to run on a wide variety of hardware. If our beta has to be at least 2-3 months, then a 3-month release cycle would have us in beta all the time!

My whiny rant (the short version) is this: Laminar Research isn't in a position (as a company selling a product) to post all of the details of how our business operates internally. So posts that say "Laminar should do X" (where X is a business decision) drive me a bit nuts, because I can't post a reasonable reply.

Now here's my real point: development for the desktop and the iPhone are not a zero sum game. Clearly we leveraged the desktop sim to create the iPhone app. But it goes both ways; work on the iPhone also benefits the desktop.

Here is one example: when beta 8 comes out, Plane-Maker's "export to object" will a much more complete OBJ, in OBJ8 format, with animations already in place for things like wing controls surfaces!

That's a feature that people have been asking about for a while - both to make CSL objects* and as a way to save time when moving from a Plane-Maker drawn plane toa custom one. (You would first export an animated OBJ8, then start adding details in a 3-d modeling program. With beta 8, you won't have to rebuild your control surfaces from scratch.)

But...it's also a feature that is critical to the iPhone! The iPhone version of X-Plane uses animated OBJ8 files as well; this feature helped us internally to prepare planes for the iPhone version, but it's also a requested feature from our authors.

So my response to those who say that the iPhone has taken away from X-Plane development is that it is not true - not only because we are developing more heavily for the desktop, but because sometimes iPhone development is for the desktop.

* I do not remember whether the current compiled versions of libXplaneMP use OBJ7 or OBJ8 objects. Since libXplaneMP uses the OBJ code from XPTools, it should be (relatively) straight forward to update libXplaneMP and the clients that use it to use OBJ8 directly. In the meantime, you can use ObjConverter to convert an exported OBJ8 back to OBJ7 for CSL use.

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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.
This entry was posted in Development, iPhone, Modeling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The X-Desktop and iPhone Are Not Zero-Sum Games

  1. BobWhitt says:

    Does this mean potentially a CSL could be animated? Cool. I'm looking forward to the plane maker .obj exporting too. Thanks a lot for this update on what you've been doing!

  2. sothis says:

    "It is also true (but not mentioned) that Laminar is investing more man power into X-Plane for the desktop now than it ever has in the past."

    oh, can i file an application, or aren't there any job openings anymore? 🙂

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