(Spoiler alert: the answer to the “when” question is going to be deeply unsatisfying and annoy you. Sorry – there isn’t a date. But at least you’ll know what’s going on.)
It’s been over four weeks since Philipp publicly demonstrated an early X-Plane 10.30 build with the new GPS. What’s going on now? What about 10.30?
What’s In X-Plane 10.30
Here’s a rough overview of what’s going into 10.30. We’ll have a complete change log when we release a public beta; right now the change log is not compiled, and it’s going to be long enough that I can’t go through everything now for a blog post. (To give you an idea, Austin has 158 commits on his branch going in.)
The one truly big new features is the new GPS Navigator that will ship in X-Plane 10.30. Please note that an aircraft must be modified to take advantage of it. It looks like a basic modification (e.g. if the aircraft already has the old G430) should be a few clicks in Plane-Maker. Similarly, you can add the GPS to your aircraft with drag-and-drop in the panel editor.
Philipp has Oculus Rift support working but we’re still trying to figure out whether to ship it in 10.30 or wait; the actual Rift support is usable but the user interface is still quirky. Since they’re not actually selling devices to consumers yet we may wait.
We’re working on a number of visual improvements:
- Tuning and improvements to the look of the clouds, including their behavior as you fly into and out of them.
- Optionally increasing the distance the DSF scenery is drawn for better long-range rendering.
- Better fog in lower visibility situations. (I’ll try to post some experimental pictures over the next few days.)
This stuff is not finished – in particular, my fog work is not done yet, but if we can get it all working together it should make the visual experience in X-Plane 10 a lot better, and a lot closer to what we imagined.
Under the hood 10.30 contains major changes to Plane-Maker’s panel editor and the entire OpenGL stack; these changes don’t provide any immediate features – this is just us putting in new infrastructure for future updates. I mention this only for completeness; infrastructure changes can cause bugs that we’ll fix before and during beta, but they’re necessary to keep the product evolving. The OpenGL changes in particular can affect plugins if they haven’t followed plugin SDK guidelines.
10.30 has some small extensions for third party developers, including a number of new dataref-based interfaces to customize sim behavior; we held off on this kind of thing during 10.20 to ship 64-bits faster so now we’re catching up on adding flexibility for third parties. I’ll post a complete list with the release notes; some of this work is already done and some is still in-progress.
Finally there’s just a huge number of bug fixes, including a number of high profile and stubborn bugs. Please do not ask about your favorite bug in the comments (I will nuke your comment!). We will post complete release notes when we reach public beta.
The Release Process
We’re trying two changes to our release process for X-Plane 10.30:
- We are doing extensive private pre-beta testing before the public beta. Normally we release a public beta and get 300 reports that all tell us the same one big bug. This time we are starting with a much smaller group of testers and slowly growing it; this gives us much more efficient feedback and should speed the whole process up.
- We are doing private testing on parts of the sim individually before we jam them all together. I’ve had users test my “lots of DSFs” code separately from Philipp having people test the GPS. Traditionally we’d test everything at once, and the chaos of having so much new code in one single build made life hard for both testers and developers. So this time we’re starting small and slowly bringing the pieces together.
(Please do not email or post requesting private beta access – we are not looking for additional testers at this time.)
This process is an experiment; when 10.30 is done we’ll have to step back and see if the added complexity saved us real development time.
When Will 10.30 Be Released
We are currently privately testing some parts of 10.30. My expectation is that we will reach a public beta of 10.30 with the GPS, but without all fog-related features in weeks. (I don’t know how many weeks – it depends on how fast the current bugs get fixed and what new bugs are found.) Austin and I have differing views on this; I always push toward “don’t public beta until all of the bugs are gone” and Austin pushes toward “let’s get people the new GPS ASAP.” I think the actual public beta will be somewhere in the middle.
The current plan is to get the GPS public before we integrate some of the newer fog features so that users can use the GPS (and third parties can start to add it to their airplanes) without everyone being held back on my incomplete fog code. We’ll roll the fog code in when it becomes stable enough.
What Else Is Going On That’s Not In 10.30
A few things that are not part of 10.30:
- Alex is still working on autogen; we’ll release art assets when they are complete and shippable, but 10.30 won’t wait for them. (10.30 does have the autogen engine enhancements he needs.)
- I still have a bug left to fix for DSF recuts; those also aren’t tied directly to 10.30.
- The Airport Gateway and WED 1.3 (to send airports to the gateway) are in late development and early test; they’ll ship as soon as they are ready, but don’t require an X-Plane update.
- Once the Airport Gateway is live, we’ll gather up all of the airports users have shared with us since X-Plane 10.25. We’ll include those airports in an X-Plane patch whenever they’re ready – if that’s after 10.30 we can do a small update to push out airports very easily.
Put another way, X-Plane 10.30 is mainly about code changes; if the various art asset and data updates become available early enough, they’ll go into 10.30 but if they don’t, we’ll do a 10.35 or some other small patch to get them to you as soon as we can.