X-Plane 10.25 went final today; if you’ve launched X-Plane you already know that from the auto-update notice.  With this update we shipped the first set of lego-brick airports, and new urban and natural terrain.  We also updated WorldEditor to version 1.2.1 during this beta run.

The Necessity of Saying Too Little

This post, like all “road map” posts, will almost certainly be too vague for your liking. What you’d really like to see is a list of features and a list of dates, e.g. “we will ship X on this day, then Y on this day” for future X-Plane patches.  Unfortunately I cannot provide that.  I also can’t expect you to be happy with only vague release notes.  But I have to hope that you can at least see what things look like from the other side of the table; if you were in my position, you might not post too much either.

There are a few problems with announcing new features way in advance:

  • The penalty for being wrong is a lot higher than the benefit of being right.  If I can predict our future features directly, at best everyone gets excited and impatient for the new release.  But if my prediction is wrong, it will make everyone very angry.  So if there is any risk that a feature might not come out when we think it will, I think everyone is better off without pre-announcements.  (We are not the only tech company or even flight simulation to maintain this policy.)
  • It is really hard to predict when new features will come out for technical reasons.  Or put another way, if what we are trying to do is new and novel, there aren’t good things to compare to in order to estimate schedules. We thought we’d ship real-time shadows in X-Plane 9.0, but when 9.0’s release date came around, they just looked awful; the technology we had picked was not good enough.  So we put them on ice, re-coded them and released them for X-Plane 10.0.  That kind of thing is hard to predict; we had working shadows for v9, they were just horrible.  In hindsight I’m really glad I didn’t pre-announce “X-Plane 9 will have real-time shadows” – everyone would have been disappointed by the lack of shadows, and it would have drawn away from the real-time water reflections we shipped.
  • It’s also hard to predict when new features will come out for business reasons; if a feature isn’t being worked on “right now”, there’s the risk that some kind of high priority emergency will come up.  For example, during the X-Plane 10.25 beta run, we realized we had to recut our installer, because it had a crash bug on certain OSX versions.  That time wasn’t in the estimate, but the installer crash was an emergency.  Had I said “X-Plane 10.25 will go final on November 15th”, I’d have been wrong, and you’d be mad that we had mislead you.

So my first point is that software is unpredictable, and I think it’s better to keep quiet until we’re sure we know what will happen.  Thus, no statements about what we will release six months from now.

Guidance Is Important

If you develop third party aircraft, you’re probably jumping up and down at this point, going “are you freaking kidding me?  I can’t plan my business this way!!!”  And you’re right.  What I can try to do is provide guidance about technical challenges that you might face as an author.

Our overall goal is to maintain add-on compatibility within a major version run.  If your add-on follows the rules, we’ll try to avoid changing the rules.  But sometimes add-ons bend the rules, and updates can affect those add-ons.  I try to provide hints as to what is going to matter, far ahead of time.

For example, X-Plane 9 introduced the concept of ‘glass’ objects in an aircraft.  Glass objects solves the problem of getting your cockpit windscreen and 3-d interior to render in the right order, which is nice.  But it also is necessary to get high quality translucency in HDR mode in X-Plane 10.  So we tried to get the ‘glass’ option into v9 and then encourage developers to adopt the new scheme, as it provides both better results and future proofing.

Big and Small Patches

Our patches to X-Plane come in two sizes these days:

  • Big patches have long betas (4 weeks or longer) and make significant change to the sim; we need the beta time to find and fix bugs introduced by the new changes.
  • Small patches change a very small amount of code; we test them for only 1 or 2 weeks. Because the amount of code change is very small, we don’t have to worry as much about strange bugs we didn’t expect.

X-Plane 10.10 was a (very) big patch, and 10.20 was a big (albeit not very chaotic) one. The bug fix releases (10.11, 10.21, 10.22) were all, of course, tiny – they just fixed 1 or 2 bugs that made it past beta.

X-Plane 10.25 is actually a small patch by our standards – while it provides a lot of great stuff for users (airports, cities, etc.) and it’s a big download data-size, the code changes are incredibly small; it’s mostly art files.

Future Releases

At this point our next “big” release planned is 10.30.  We have a ton of stuff planned for it; it’ll be a big release, offer significant new features, and probably take quite a while in beta.

If you are a third party aircraft or scenery author, you will want to re-check your add-ons on 10.30.  I know that this takes time away from working; we try to not have a “retest everything” patch that often; the last one was 18 months ago.  Remember that if you find something broken, you will need to report a bug, not change your add-on!

(As a side note, I hear this from third party developers all the time for bugs that have been in the sim a while: “You mean no one else reported this bug?”  Everyone thinks someone else will report a bug; some bugs that are visible only on third party content thus never get reported.  Assume that no one has reported a bug – you’ll often be right!)

We may do at least one more small release before 10.30, either for DSF recuts, more lego brick airports, or to fix any crash bugs that we find.  But at this point no code features are going into the sim before another “big” patch – small patches will be for art.

In terms of timing: I can say with some certainty that 10.30 will be next year, not this year – there are less than six weeks left in 2013, and we won’t be ready to public beta a big patch that soon.  I think it is possible that we’ll have one more small patch in 2013, but we don’t have a firm plan yet.

The DSF recut work is mostly done, but I am going to wait for AlpilotX to release his latest HD scenery; his scenery is developed using the same tech as the global scenery, so it should give us a good idea as to whether the recuts are ready or need bug fixing.

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.

13 comments on “X-Plane 10.25 and What Comes Next

  1. It’s great to see progress, although things need a lot of time in mammoth projects like a simulation of that complexity. I’m really excited about the upcoming SkyMAXX Pro addon, which seems to improve the clouds and sky colors a lot – one of my personal major complaints about the current versions of XP10.
    I hope that seasons will make it into the sim, as well as improvements on the weather FX front. When that happens, and maybe the old GUI gets a fresh look, then the slowly dying, no longer supported FSX can rest in peace.

    1. Yep -I’m going to link to that next, but I wanted to get 10.25 “final” so people didn’t need to get a beta to run the add-on.

      (Alpilotx’s meshes _require_ 10.25, because they have Albert’s latest terrain.)

  2. Ben, could you add a list of the regions where the lego brick airports were added (since obviously a entire list would take too long to right) so that users don’t have to guess and check when they finish downloading the patch? also if there just distributed across the entire world evenly then sorry, I didn’t know still waiting for the patch to install.

  3. I’m really glad that Xplane is always evolving and in my opinion it is always better. But the update from 10:22 to 10:25 at the moment takes another 25 hours and probably more, with an rate of 11kbits at an internet connection of 30Mbit ^^
    Sorry guys but what is going up with the server?

  4. Hi Ben, great news as usual, only I have one doubt… The DSF recuts you refer to are actually new DSFs using latest road map from OpenStreetMap?
    If yes, is there some future plan to do an “auto updater” so we can see more frequently reflected in-sim the OSM changes/fixes?

    Jerry C.

  5. I would for sure be exited to see seasonal textures in XP. As far as I know they have never before existed in XP? As a development consept I would think this type of feature are both complicated and/or even difficult to implement in a way that it looks realistic or plausible! Sadly I think as realistic or plausible XP is now, it looses some of its “simulation” value when the only weather we see is rain and the only thing we feel is wind (purhaps icing to if not remembering this wrong).

    I maybe way of in my assesment but I feel there should be bore to it than this.
    So if my English serves me correct and I do hope will see snow in our beloved sim sometimes in the future either by LR or by third party vendors.

    Good luck with the development and thank you once again for sharing this window into your world Ben!

  6. Nice work! I love that XP is constantly in development.

    I’m really hoping you guys go to a digital distribution model. I just had to reinstall from the discs and it’s such a pain with that many discs! Also a lot of people say they’d get XP but they dont want to do the mail order thing for some reason.

    I’m a big fan of buying things on Steam but I can understand you wanting to keep your independence from Valve or similar.

  7. great job, my point of view is the next updates should cover 3d water, seasons and maybe a new one shader vc rain and snow. light reflections on a wet track should be cool … this would Xplane 10 on top
    Ps sorry for my bad English

  8. im hoping that also this newer 1.30 will bring better fps like in fsx , im getting below 20 fps to be honest , in normal global texture building minimal , and other is minimal
    especially in 747 cockpit , fix it please ?

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