Chopped Livery

We have received a number of bug reports on the livery system in X-Plane 10, as well as complaints from both users and authors about how the system works.  This post describes what I am thinking for liveries; if this proposal seems hair-brained, the comments section would be a good place to counter-propose.

Two notes on UI discussion before we jump into the details:

  1. We hate check-boxes.  If the UI debate is "which is better, UI A or B", then the answer is pretty much never "let the user pick A or B with a check-box", because the point of UI is to present the program in a human-friendly manner.  Having two different UIs with selection forces the user to become the UI designer, which is inherently harder.  So while we don't have zero check-boxes in our UI, we really try to keep the 'have it your way' stuff to a minimum; X-Plane is a product for sophisticated users and if we put in a check-box every time we get a request for one, the product would be absolutely unusable.
  2. In arguing for UI, describe what you want to do, not how you want to do it.  If you describe an implementation but we can't do the implementation, the discussion is over.  If you describe what you want to do, we can find several implementations and pick the best one.

Liveries Now

As of X-Plane 10.11, you can:

  • Select your livery when you open a plane using Open Aircraft...

But you cannot:

  • Change the livery without reloading the airplane, mid-flight.*
  • Select your livery from the Quick Flight dialog box.
  • Change your livery quickly (since a plane reload is slow).
  • Change which livery the QF dialog box picks for you - it always pick "no livery" (that is, default paint).

These first two bugs go hand-in-hand.  Because you have to reload the plane to change liveries, you lose the initialization that Quick Flight may have done for you.

* There is one bug to note: if you go to the open aircraft dialog box, select a different livery and hit cancel, X-Plane will change your livery on the fly but not reload the plane.  Some users have noticed this and use it as a back-door way to change livery mid-flight.

For 10.20

For the short term, I am converting the bug in the Open Aircraft dialog box into a feature - the dialog box will have a "change livery and keep flying" button to change your livery on the fly, and the "cancel" button will not unexpectedly change your livery.  Thus the functionality of the old "open livery..." v9 functionality will be part of "Open Aircraft."

This isn't perfect, but it at least addresses the issues of changing liveries quickly, or changing them while flying, without having to know about and use a hidden UI bug.

For the Future

There are more features we'd like to do in the future:

  • Have a dedicated livery-change UI again - perhaps one that 'floats' over the main window while you fly, so that you can see the liveries as you click on them.  This would be a quicker way to rapidly preview a large number of liveries.
  • Remember the last user selected livery in the per-aircraft preferences (along with quick-look keys) so that if you go to open an aircraft and don't do anything else, we can pick the last livery you used.
  • Someday have 'drill down' functionality in the Quick Flight window so that you can set more detailed info about your plane (livery, weight and balance, fuel, weapons) and then go back to the main QuickFlight window.  This is a long ways off though.

None of this is going to make it into 10.20 - I mention it only to explain where we're trying to go - the change for 10.20 are designed to not interfere with this future work.  The future work is all based on user selected livery choice, with preferences an easy selection.

Livery Choice in Plane-Maker

This finally brings me to livery choice in Plane-Maker.  I have always considered this a bit of a weird feature; it is inoperative in 10.20 and we are looking to get rid of it permanently - that is, setting a livery in Plane-Maker has no use in any of the above plans.  Our view:

  • The first livery you see if you first open a plane for the very first time in QuickFlight will be the default one.
  • Preferences should record the users choice of livery, and this should be done entirely from X-Plane. It should not be necessary to open Plane-Maker to change livery preferences, any more than Plane-Maker is needed to change rendering settings or joystick preferences.  User customization should be 100% in-X-Plane.

As I said before in the top of this article, if this seems half-baked to you, please describe what you want to do, not how you want to do it.  And please understand that when it comes to UI, less is more; we need to identify a small, highly leveragable set of UI options to cover a wide variety of features.  We don't want to have 6 ways to do everything!

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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 Aircraft, Aircraft & Modeling, Modeling. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Chopped Livery

  1. Robert says:

    The obvious solution to me is to make the last used livery the one used on subsequent uses of a given plane. So essentially it's a continuation unless the user changes preferences. So there is no "default" (except the first time). It's just the last used one.

    I generally prefer when software just picks up where you left off for things like this. Odds are I don't want to spend time setting up before going, I just want to go. Odds are I was ok with what I had last time, or I plan to change it. I don't plan to do the same thing I did last time... I get forced into that with unnecessary UI.

    That's the one use case you can pretty much plan for. Repeating a user's actions. Can't predict what they want.

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Yeah - I'm going to push to get prefs working sooner rather than later - it's the one other thing (other than faster livery change) that I hear from users about a lot.

  2. anthony_d says:

    When it comes to drill down functionality in quick flight, would you consider expand this to airport selection? I.e. select your parking spot or runway.

    I also know a lot of people wouldn't mind seeing the ability to drill down to specific airport, by selecting contintent --> country --> state / province --> county --> city. As an example try searching for "New York". Neither KJFK or "the other one" (La Guardia) appear on the list!

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Yes we would. The drill down model (or "Chris's pipe dream", as I call it 🙂 is that Quick-Flight can go to the various more detailed screens for complete control. Airplane could go to livery, weight & balance, airport to the full open aircraft with start types, weather to the full weather screen, etc.

      Thus everything would be configurable in two ways:

      - When 'creating' an initial flight, everything would be configured by drilling down from quick-flight.
      - To change one aspect of flight while flying (e.g. change time) you go straight to the dialog box from the menus.

      There's a lot of restructuring to make this happen though.

  3. chris says:

    your short term fix sounds good Ben, will that be in the coming beta 6? or meaning 10.20 RC /final

  4. Flightime56 says:

    First off don't cancel the esc/cancel as it would cause havoc, It works or just move it forward to the aircraft screen... which brings us to.

    I agree with Robert having to reset everything just because you have to shut down the computer is a pain, yes I know I can use the "situations" but it would be great to restart right were you left off, If that esc/cancel bug wasn't in there you would have to reset everything EVERY time you changed a livery, it is a royal pain even now to move everything to a gate (align the aircraft) and shut the aircraft down just to start it all up again to start a sector.... then if you wanted to add another livery change!
    It would really help also if the computer crashes in flight as to get back to the same position, the right livery, blah, blah..

    A popup screen to set the livery and gate is a good idea but I like the Quickstart screen to be clean but function... It works well at the moment.

    Which brings me to... could we have the "hot/cold" tickbox on the Quickstart screen?

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Re: hot/cold on the quickstart screen, let me answer this way:

      I do not think we will add _any_ additional setup to the quick-start screen. It is meant to be a summary. Some day if/when the quick-start screen can 'branch out' to more detailed screens, we can add more options in the 'second level' screens, but the main screen really needs to be simple.

  5. vonhinx says:

    Changing livery is best done on the ground though I understand the need of some for video captures. I'd rather a menu item, "Aircraft Setup," call up a quick flight dialog box, which allows the following:

    1) Select Tail Number, with preview of livery, call sign prefix and initial suffix;
    2) Set time of day by slider (defaults to last exit plus one hour on relaunch);
    3) Set live load and fuel by sliders (lockable in-flight by plugin);
    4) Write the tail number, live load, time of day and weather to the aircraft prefs on exit.

    The fms should be able to define a flight number, which can affect the suffix of the call sign. Weather belongs on its own menu, and defaults to last weather + some change factor on relaunch/reload, unless it's set to 'fixed' parameters in the weather dialog window (useful for flight testing).

    The current checkbox to call the setup window on launching the sim should remain.

    • starflight says:

      "The current checkbox to call the setup window on launching the sim should remain."

      Yes, with one suggested change: if set to show quick flight box on startup, auto-dismiss it if there's no user activity after 10 seconds, and continue loading whatever was used at end of last session.

      I have the startup QF box turned off right now because several times I've left to do some other thing while X-Plane starts up (3-4 minutes for me), then come back after a few minutes and realize the QF box has been sitting there the entire time, so after manually dismissing the box I'll have to wait another 2-3 minutes.

  6. Patrick BUreau says:

    Just as a note, not only it reloads the aircraft. When it reloads it, it always reloads it to the default location at an airport. This is annoying. Most time, you have to load an aircraft twice (even when not changing livery). If you choose an airport location (Gate A for example), then want to change aircraft, you<ll have to go back to Airport Selection Gate A after loading the new plane because it puts it to the default location.

    I've submitted a bug report a while back about this.
    not sure if this is considered a bug by the developers ? If not a bug, it is probably a nuisance for sure 🙂

    Patrick

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Reloading and re-initing the aircraft and flight is intentional; authors depend on this to get their plane reloaded and we cannot reliably reload the plane without clearing out the flight. The new 'change livery and keep flying' button means you don't have to reload a plane unless you _want_ to reload a plane.

      • Mike Burke says:

        Re-initializing is fine, but any way we can set it to keep the "ramp start" option that was selected for the airport via the "Select Airport" menu similar to how it keeps the livery for aircraft?

        As a specific use case, if the default spawn point (via the "Go To This Airport" button) is in the middle of an active runway and I want to change aircraft type while positioned at a gate/ramp, I have to reload 2x (once to change the acf, once to reposition myself at the airport since it kicks me back to the 'Go To This Airport' location when the acf loads).

        This is especially troublesome for controllers if I forget to disconnect from VATSIM before doing so, as I've unexpectedly caused a runway incursion. 🙂

        I think saving it as a 'user pref' fits with the same spirit of not having to open PlaneMaker to set a default livery.

        Also - email coming re: the Core Audio stuff soon - it's been a busy few weeks at "real" work despite my best intentions 🙂

  7. Flo says:

    Totally agree with the plan re livery changes.

    I understand that the quickflight menu shall not be extended too much....but ;)...
    - I hope the rendering settings will make it into the menu "one day" since my rendering settings often depend on where, when and what I'm going to fly. Since not all settings apply without restart it sometimes requires a restart just do get ready (for testing it's annoying too).

    - And I think it should be possible to load saved situations from the quick-flight. I don't know any game (or even prog) that doesn't allow the user to load his saved game or work at startup. It's just reasonable.

    Cheers
    Flo

  8. xdave says:

    Forgive me for saying so, but I think this is majoring in the minors. Change the name of the Cancel radio button as said, document, and move on to higher priorities. 🙂

    • Ben Supnik says:

      We thought so too but you'd be surprised how much feedback we get on liveries. It's quicker to fix the feature than to keep answering bug reports. 🙂

  9. It's great to see this kind of focus on usability. Even though the proposed changes are simple, they will go a long way in making the aircraft/livery selection process more intuitive.

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