I receive bug reports periodically relating to how X-Plane and the scenery tools handle badly formed scenery files. Here’s the rules:

  • It is a bug in the scenery tools if they create illegal scenery data.  They should at least flag the condition that is leading to an illegal file and refuse to proceed.
  • It is a bug in the scenery tools if they crash when trying to import illegal scenery data. Crashing can mean data loss, which is bad.
  • X-Plane’s behavior with regards to illegal scenery data is undefined!  This means it is not a bug for X-Plane to show a certain behavior with bad input data.
  • There is no guarantee that X-Plane’s response to illegal scenery data will remain constant over multiple patches, or even multiple executions of the sim.

This third point has some dangerous consequences:

  • X-Plane might handle illegal data in a way that an author views as useful; this “useful” side effect might go away in a future version.
  • X-Plane might crash in response to illegal data…sometimes.
  • There is no guarantee that X-Plane will provide useful diagnostics.

The reason for this scheme is that X-Plane is under pressure to get scenery loaded quickly, so at some point, there is a limit to how much validation it can do.

With that in mind, I do try to validate scenery when a problem is very common and the validation is not very expensive, or when there are serious data quality problems.  But as we move to having the tools do more validation, we can have validation where we need it: immediately, for the authors working on the scenery.

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.