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:
- 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.
- 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.
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 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!