Where Have All My Settings Gone

I have written quite a bit on X-Plane 11's rendering settings, but it has mostly been in the form of me being grumpy with users in the comments section. This post explains some of the thinking behind the decision, and what you can do about it if you really miss them.

Random Choices

Here's a scenario that played out over and over and over and over during the last few years: a user with a high-end gaming machine would get X-Plane, max out all of the sliders, and find the sim ran like a slide-show. The user would then randomly reduce some of the sliders, find the sim still ran like a slide show and now also looked like hell, and would complain to tech support.

Tech support would forward me the report, and when I'd get a screenshot of the rendering settings, it was clear: the user was not getting even close to the best performance/quality trade-off possible for his hardware.

X-Plane 10's settings were too numerous, too complicated, too esoteric, too astonishing, and way too low level. Users were setting them incorrectly, and this is entirely understandable, because you had to understand the underlying rendering engine's implementation to set them correctly.

(If you're going "I understand that some things affect CPU and some affect GPU", then you're one of a very small number of users who pays a lot of attention to this blog and the comments - you're not normal! And you might still not know all of the weird fine print; the CPU-GPU divide is just never that clean.

No Wrong Answers

For a rendering setting to make sense, I think we can establish a few requirements that it must meet:

  1. No wrong answers. We don't want there to exist any set of rendering settings that a user can pick where the sim is being inefficient in its trade-off of quality and performance. We can have settings that optimize for quality rendering and settings that optimize for framerate, but we should avoid settings that optimize nothing.
  2. Understandable. The rendering setting should control something that makes sense to the user. "Draw trees" is understandable - users know what trees are. This means the settings need to either control reasonably obvious things, or control settings that are industry standard. (E.g. not everyone knows what full screen anti-aliasing is, but virtually every 3-d game has this setting, so we consider it "standard".)
  3. Not Astonishing. The setting needs to actually control what it says it will control. The "airport detail" setting in X-Plane 10 was a really terrible setting, because it did control slight improvement in the curvature of taxi lines, but did not actually affect the 3-d stuff at an airport. An airport detail setting that does not control airport detail...astonishing!
  4. Not Buried. We need to have few enough settings that users can find the ones they care about, and they aren't lost in a sea of noise.

These rules place some limits on the kinds of things we can have as settings. We can't have settings where picking the wrong answer will break the sim. We can't have settings that are so low level that users won't know how to set them. (The sim has a setting for how many shadow map cascades have 3-d objects, but do you know what the right answer for that setting is?) And we can't have settings where their operation is so counter-intuitive that they aren't going to do what users expect.

We took the existing settings and did a mix of moving them around, grouping them, and in some cases removing them in an attempt to meet these guidelines.

But I'm A Tweeker

Some of you really love settings. Some of you might even love settings more than flying the actual sim. If you are in this bucket, the good news is: settings.txt still exists in Resources and you can still hack it up to get complete control over everything in the engine. X-Plane has always been open to tinkering, hackering and exploration, and this is not going to change. If you modify settings.txt and get better performance at better quality, please let me know - I'd be happy to incorporate your tuning into the sim itself.

But please don't tell tech support that your machine is smoking if you hack up settings.txt. Setting.txt and the art controls are for hackers who want to poke at the machinery with a stick and see what happens. (They are also not for pay-ware add-ons to mess with because they change frequently.)

Where Did My Settings Go?

What follows is a long list of specific settings that are gone and what happened to them. I'm posting this so you can get a sense of the "why" that went into this. The very fact that this list is so long is part of why this needed fixing.

Compress Textures: This is merged with the texture slider, so that uncompressed textures is now a "super-resolution" on top of the highest compressed resolution. This prevents the previous silly combination of a low texture resolution without compression. In any case where we can pick compressing vs shrinking the textures (each of which reduces textures size), compression is the better choice.

Gamma Control: The sim now runs in the sRGB color space, and gama "correction" of DDS compressed textures looks like absolute hell. If you're a hacker and really want to mess with this, there are exposure art controls; my view is that it's up to our art team to make the sim  the right brightness. But hacking the color space makes absolutely no sense in an app that's designed to run in a linear color space.

Draw View Indicator: always on - it's for 2-d views only, so I'm not sure how much anyone cares; we may end up nuking the entire feature.

Dim Under Hypoxia/G-Load: always on.

Draw Hi-Res Planet Textures: always on; the scenery looks like a disaster without it - there's no reason to be turning this off given X-Plane's system requirements.

Runways Follow Contours: this is now always on; individual airports can be marked for flattening on a per-airport basis. This means authors can control how their scenery is viewed and users don't have to toggle the setting mid-flight.

(This is one rendering setting that we may have to put back. While I am concerned that putting it back will slow the adoption of flattening control in the scenery community, there are some use cases that can't live without it.)

Draw Forest Fires and Balloons: Off - we'll turn it back on when we can get the balloons to only draw in appropriate locations, then always leave them on (in those locations and at the right weather).

Draw Birds and Deer: Always on. Deer are restricted by airport size; we do have an open bug to make sure that these animals always honor the sim's overall reliability and failure settings, e.g. you'll get hit by birds if you command a bird strike failure or if you allow the X-Plane world to throw curve-balls at you.

Draw Aircraft Carriers and Frigates: Always on - there isn't a good reason to have them be off.

Draw Aurora Borealis: Always off. If we develop a modern renedering of the aurora at appropriate latitudes, we'll have it be always on in the appropriate places.

Side note: one thing you might notice here is that a lot of these settings let you turn off and on "cute tricks" that would then draw everywhere without context. My view is that these things need to draw in the right locations only and then they can always be on.

Tree Density/Object Density/Road Density/Number of Cars: this has been consolidated down into a single "number of world objects" 3-d slider. The idea is to balance all 3-d so that CPU time is spent efficiently and the rendering looks plausible. We have some future work to do to make low-setting autogen and roads look better; we can be smarter about how we simplify the scenery, and that smarter simplification is not going to fit into nice buckets like "draw park benches" or "draw median strips".

World Level of Detail: this was merged into the single 3-d slider. This one was a tough call, but in the end, I think that the use cases that people wanted for keeping this slider were almost entirely work-arounds for inefficient management of LOD in the sim itself. This will have to wait for a patch, but I think we can be a lot smarter about our draw distances and that will result in a better sim. Again, the smarter, better managed LOD isn't going to be a single-dimension slider.

Runway and Taxiway Smoothness and Lighting: the lowest setting is gone; you always get 3-d light fixtures at airports. The "smoothness" code didn't do much; you get slightly higher smoothing at the top 3-d setting. This slider didn't do much and users tended to max it out for very little benefit.

Requiring 3-d light fixtures is an example of something that has happened a lot in v11; we've dropped the very-low-end rendering configuration from v10 that existed to support only the worst of the worst hardware - that hardware is now below system requirements. If you can run v11, you can handle 3-d light fixtures, and they're really not expensive.

Shadow Detail - this was split: the detail of 3-d shadows is in the visual effects slider, and whether shadows draw on scenerty is a single check-box, exposing the one "trick" that was really useful: turn off scenery shadows, keep the airplane, and get a ton of fps back. The old overaly/static shadows (which just drew a quad with a dark shape of an airplane on the ground) are gone because it's not 1995. The shadow resolution is often pixelated in v11; this is an open bug, not something that should be in a slider.

3-D Bump Maps/Gritty Detail Textures: these are now part of the visual effects setting; turning them off is a huge loss in quality and was only meant for the worst of the low-end hardware, so you get these unless you go to "minimal" GPU.

Draw Volumetric Fog: this is always on - even Intel GPUs can handle this and it's a necessary part of the v11 rendering engine.

Draw Per Pixel Lighting: this is always on. It's not 1995.

HDR Rendering: this is part of the visual effects slider - the idea here is a single slider that manages everything on the GPU; again, the goal is efficiency at all levels.

Atmospheric Scattering: this is always on, even for non-HDR rendering!

For volumetric fog, atmopsheric scattering and the new PBR lighting, these effects are all on al the time, giving authors a consistent single lighting model to target when authoring. We get our low-end fps by providing low-cost/lower quality versions of them.

Anisotropic Filtering: always at the default 4x. 16x isn't a huge help, and 4x isn't that expensive. If you want more control, your driver control panel will override us.

DSF Extended Scenery: always on, now that we're always 64-bit.

Cloud Detail: this is supposed to be tied to the visual effects slider, so that we don't roast your GPU with clouds if you turn this down. This is definitely broken in the public betas, but will be fixed before we go final; tuning this is waiting on me fixing cloud performance overall. When done, the visual effects slider will be able to modulate a whole pile of stuff to ramp or down the load on your GPU.

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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.
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96 Responses to Where Have All My Settings Gone

  1. Patrice Aubry says:

    I'm not going to comment on some of your debatable (although understandable from a developer's POV) decisions, because it looks like you/LR made up your mind already. The leitmotiv here is sternly resumed in one of your statements: "There’s no reason to be turning this off given X-Plane 11’s system requirements." You really should put this at the top of your post as it explains a lot of things about the direction that V11 is taking. Not really a criticism, just an observation.

    Anyway, I want to experiment with the Extended DSF feature, which is arguably a RAM and GPU killer (especially combined with Andreas' UHD scenery). Unfortunately I can't find it anywhere in the settings.txt file. Is this hardcoded in V11?

    • Ben Supnik says:

      I think 4x3 DSFs may be hard-coded...if you can't find the art control used in the v10 pref, it's probably no longer optional.

      Most art controls exist for three reasons:
      1. To tune settings without having to recompile the code, for development.
      2. To debug settings in the field (e.g. "hey turn this off, does it get better").
      3. To experiment with new techniques that haven't shipped yet.

      Once a setting is done (and we have considerable experience with 4x3 DSFs from 1050) sometimes the benefit of simplifying the code outweighs the option to change the configuration for debugging.

      • Patrice Aubry says:

        Seems hard-coded indeed. I enforced SETTING DRAW CHECK renopt_extended_dsf 0 (frankensteined from V10 settings) and V11 immediately complained that max value must be "at least" 1.

        Well, I suppose "considerable experience with 4x3" actually means "GTX 1080 required" 🙂 No doubt the extended scenery looks great from high altitude, but the benefit *you* get by simplifying the code doesn't necessarily translate into a benefit for the end user... Be careful that X-Plane 11 doesn't turn into the next Microsoft Flight.

  2. Richard Elliott says:

    Thank you for that explanation Ben. All the parts relation to technical aspects of the rendering make a whole lot of sense, and I'm sure your explanation will help to mollify some of the people who have been complaining.

    As regards the simple "on/off" or "quantity" features for specific scenery features I'm still disappointed about the cars, deer, and birds and I guess others will feel the same about things like trees , but I'm one of your "tweakers" so I can get around it.

    I'm a bit apprehensive about the cloud details. On my system (4790K @ 4.7 GHz, 32 GB RAM, Titan X with 12 GB VRAM) I can run XP10 well with nearly everything maxed - except - cloud puffs. That was always the major limiting feature for FPS so I routinely kept it fairly low. I am a bit worried that I am have lost that option in XP11, but we''l see how it goes.

    • Ben Supnik says:

      You will be able to use the visual FX setting to control cloud density...we're definitely NOT going to leave it the way it is now. I am also hopeful that clouds in v11 will be categorically less expensive perf wise than v10.

      • Richard Elliott says:

        No, I didn't think I would be able to control cloud puffs (which is why I was concerned) but I'm glad to hear you say they will be less expensive.

        I can get rid of a few of the other irritations though 🙂

        • Ben Supnik says:

          When it comes to GPU load, there are a few things that move the needle:
          1. Cloud coverage is the big one. Max has new cloud art and has really tried to go light on the GPU cost. I'm also working on some code that will lower fill rate. We may only produce two "levels" of clouds (light and heavy) - the idea is to let Max carefully tune both levels, rather than just running a linear interpolation of some of the parameters and praying that the results don't look silly at intermediate levels.
          2. Turning on HDR - makes the screen cost more, makes the high FSAA options less optimal.
          3. Turning on SSAO adds a (small) amount of GPU load - there's an internal quality setting we could bump up and down but I don't think there's a lot to be gained there - a middle-of-the-road setting is good for both perf and visuals.
          4. The cost of preparing real-time reflections can affect the GPU...for big GPUs this is quite cheap but for older ones this matters; I need to look at ramping this up and down to get better reflection blurring on higher-end GPUs.

          The idea is to have one slider control all of this, selecting good trade-offs for each performance level.

  3. He Chen says:

    I actually think setting Anisotropic Filtering to 16x is a big help especially you are at the one end of the runway and you can see the runway center line extends far enough. At 4x the center line only extends for hundreds of yards and bluurd out. Also accroding to my finding, 16x cost nothing on the fps, but it is a big leap on visuals. I hope you could consider setting this to always 16x. Thanks.

    • He Chen says:

      Btw using X-Plane on my Mac there's no way you can control it via driver control panel.

    • Elios says:

      yeah ZERO reason not let the user select the level of AF like any other good game out does

      also even intel GPUs can run 16x at no frame rate hit...

  4. Steve.Wilson says:

    Brilliant and revealing. Good explanation for anyone that protests the change, great information for tweakers. Thanks, Ben. Perhaps with this knowledge we can speak more intelligently about the choices, and perhaps alternatives, rather than seeking to create an advanced user interface that restores what was available in X-Plane 10.

  5. Edwin says:

    Thanks for the extensive explanation. Some comments:

    "Draw Aircraft Carriers and Frigates: Always on – there isn’t a good reason to have them be off."

    My reason was that I never used them and they mostly look out of place.

    Also, I personally think the "runway follows terrain" feature doesn't really work either way. Turning off the global setting would be great. But I think that requires the flatten flag to be set on all airports that weren't explicitly set. There are just too many places where the mesh is not up to the task. I had an interesting experience in Ho Chi Minh/VVTS recently.
    But even on a per airport basis a single "flatten" setting is not working either. Flying into Lukla on a flattened airport is no fun at all (never mind the how it makes things look). But meshes (even the HD ones) are simply not detailed enough to cope with a runway following the terrain. Currently, the only way to solve this is to build a custom mesh with an airport patch like you can using Ortho4XP.
    My personal opinion is that apt files should be able to store non-flat runways and aprons with X-Plane being able to generate something properly shaped instead of flat.

    Other than that, having a settings file for tinkering while keeping the interface clean sounds like good thing to me.

    • Ben Supnik says:

      There's no question that our current options are often "which bad thing do you want" - but a better solution requires new tech that we don't have yet (but do want to create).

      • Riccardo says:

        I can only dream about a mesh editing in WED to introduce airport features like car tunnels, apron elevation to better mix buildings, runway drop-offs... with the (maybe) existing sloped height mesh.

        I wonder whether this new tech would imply a complete revision of the existing mesh system or anything could be added on the current system as a scenery preprocessing to locally modify the last loaded 1X1 tile meshes with data included in a custom scenery. I remember you wrote something on this subject a couple of years ago regarding the possibility to add airport tunnels so glad to read it's still on the wish list. I just hope it can be addressed in the XP11 run, I think even an off line routine to incorporate custom height data in the existing mesh would do the trick. Nobody complain in the FSX world if a scenery designer ask the user to set season, number of parked aircrafts, traffic movement...when installing or before loading the scenery so I bet we would more than happy to have a similar approach to install custom height meshes outside of X-Plane. But of course I know little of high-level mesh editing but just like many others amateur (I guess also prof) scenery designer I feel pain to be obliged to change a whole tile to add a tunnel or a small hill around my airport, with the high risk to screw up other designer's work.

      • DE Neely says:

        I'm also one who never had the boats on, don't need em, don't want them, checking them off wasn't about FPS or rendering, it was about getting rid of something I just don't need. Forcing that on users isn't good. This is an area where having them on (and working well) for those who want them is good and off for those who don't is a GOOD thing, and should be looked at. its not about FPS/Rendering, its choice, user choice that doesn't kill the sim is good.

        My big complaint is still the roads/trees/cars. More oft than not in the areas I fly in XP puts roads in, where none are exist which is an eyesore. Having the ability to somewhat limit that via the selections was nice. a better needed solution of course is much improved OSM data that is correctly labeled and read.

        That said I think that a few of the changes are bad still and go against what we've been told, but its clear that its not going to change, and we have to deal with the end result.

        • Richard Elliott says:

          Just spotted your comment about the roads. I hadn't complained about losing that setting yet, but now that you have reminded me... 😀

          My problem with the roads is getting 2-lane asphalt roads with street lighting in lots of rural areas in the UK. Sure, there are masses of what look like minor roads in the OSM data, but in reality most of them are just access tracks to farms!

  6. Oscar Fernald says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for taking the time to explain all this; I understand most of your reasoning, my only gripe is with the taxi line curves: I put a lot of effort in nicely curved taxi lines, but even when I set all GPU sliders to max, they still look very angular (kinda 1995-ish 😉 )
    In fact, I see no change whatever setting I use. Does this mean that control over the taxi line curvature was left out altogether, or is it a bug?
    There is a workaround though: adding vertices, but wasn't that the very thing you were trying to discourage people from doing by adding the airport detail feature in the first place?

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Hi Oscar,

      I do have to admit, I was distinctly trying to _not_ have people add vertices. The problem I found was that even at the -highest- setting the lines still looked polygonal, so we risked having to go off into ga ga land vertex count wise to really get them to be smooth.

      Perhaps a better plan would be to use a higher setting on lines than pavement. Curving pavement is _crazy_ expensive because the pavement triangles are also physics triangles, so they affect the cost of ground-aircraft intersections. By comparison, lines aren't as expensive, so we might be able to run them up more.

      If you want to bug us on this, file a bug with a pic of your airport with XP10 at its highest curvature setting and Xp11 for the same section...

  7. Sebastian says:

    It was the right decision - to decimate the graphical Options while modernizing Rendering. Nice Job.

    • Carsten says:

      I also think, that it is good you made this simple with XP11. I'm with X-Plane since 9.x and sometimes it is not good to have many options. It seduces to tweak and trade off between quality and performance when you better should enjoy flying.

      Thanks for X-Plane 11!

      • Jonathan Livingston says:

        Completely disagree!

        People should be given options to adjust the sim to their liking!

        Different people make different trade-offs to create their enjoyment.

        Some people want to turn off shadows completely because they don't match with the ortho scenery they've created.
        Others don't need high fidelity shadows so they turn them down to get some more fps.

        How can you enjoy flying if the sim doesn't run well though it could if given the options to turn unneeded things down?

  8. Dellanie B. says:

    Q. Will the ability to save replays make a return to XP11?

  9. Alexander says:

    Evetually the simplified setup may lead to a situation where some of the tweakers finally stop TUNING the sim and finally go FLYING again...

  10. Mike Turner says:

    Thanks Ben for this very detailed post.

    I am still trying to discover all the different things I used to tweak in XP10! Pleased about the rwys following contours as my own airport (EGCC) has a river running under one end of one of the rwys that produces a sharp 'V' shaped depression in the pavement! My main beef is that I now learn I have to "hack" to get rid of trees. This is not an fps issue, rather the fact that I think, as I always have done, that they look totally unnatural. My preference is for photo-realistic scenery so that the world looks "right" from the air, and detailed 3rd party airports so the take-off and landing sequences are as realistic as possible. I don't even much care for autogen buidlings but I get the sense that I may be the odd one out here!

    One thing I used a lot in XP10 was the local map. Pausing the sim and changing my altitude to 2000' was the best way to study an airport. There are many other things I use it for that I haven't worked out how to do with XP11's map.

    I know - I obviously am not comfortable with change or reading manuals., so no need to tell me it's my own fault! Basically I do love XP11 and am just waiting for all my 3rd party A/C to become compatible!

    • Mike Turner says:

      I forgot to add that I find deer and birds ludicrous and am not happy with balloons either!

    • Ben Supnik says:

      Please file a bug for ECC ASAP - we're recutting DSFs, so now is a good time to look at it.

    • Tyler Young says:

      Just a heads up... you can absolutely still use the V11 map to quickly set your altitude. (Just click on your aircraft and you'll get an "inspector" window with which you can manipulate the plane.)

    • Jan Vogel says:

      You can still set your plane using the map.

      Hit M (to bring up the map)
      Click your plane
      Drag the sliders for altitude, speed and heading.

      You may want to pause before you do this, as the plane immediately starts "falling" if you drag the altitude without setting airspeed, first.

      Jan

  11. Thanks for your explanation, Ben. Although the new setup options should be more than suitable to most users, you still leave a back door open for those who demand for more. And now I even know where to look at - although I hardly find any reason to do so...

    When I moved over to X-Plane in May 2014 and first saw the setup options I was like "WTF"! But after getting into all items I really fell in love with the level of control you offered to the user.

    The new UI really is an invitation for new users to move over to X-Plane. Setting up X-Plane no longer is a rocket science for former FSX of P3D pilots.

    Regards,
    Marc

  12. Mark Fosseth says:

    Hi Ben, reading your to do list it seems to me that we are still far away from the final release that seems to take place on April, reading all of your notes.
    Thx

  13. Manuel says:

    Can I have non-gritty textures back? This grittyness must be an american preference (i.e. movies on US dvds are grainier than on european dvds) , I much prefer the cleaner look of non-gritty textures.

  14. Rodrigo says:

    When will we get some public documents about PBR rendering? How each map are declared in the obj file, supported formats, etc?

  15. Nathan says:

    I take a lot of comfort from LR having said VR is high on the agenda.

    VR benefits/requires a really high framerate (90Hz+!), and of course needs images for both eyes rendered. So I'm guessing framerate optimisation has to be constantly on the minds and task-lists of everyone at LR. (?)

    One thing I want to draw a comparison to are games, take GTA5: Sooo many options in the render settings. So you fiddle, and the framerate dies. So you look online, and you find an almost scientific article where someone/someteam has meticulously performance tested each render option and graphed the results - but each in isolation, as the number of combinations reach chess-like levels. You read for hours, and study the screen shots where you struggle to see the difference between the old shadow algorithm and the new, but slower algorithm. So you use nVidia's GeForce Experience, where another team have created databases of 'recommended settings for your game', you choose to go with their recommendations and then fiddle with just one or two easy-to-understand settings (like draw distance, number/variety of people) and maybe just make sure your 'expected vram usage' stat stays under 100%).

    For X-plane, I think we're in a transition phase - and it's not helped the tweakers/advisors/voices that the render options have been reduced BEFORE the optimisations are all in place.

    The other thing that doesn't help is that plan of what is being fixed. Without that visibility, it's only going to upset people when you take things away before replacing it with the improvement.

    My ideal is one slider that is 'the balance of framerate over fidelity'. Thats really what users WANT, but the variety of options is either an admission that it's too difficult for a team to know how to optimise for YOUR hardware.

    Hey, perhaps even a lack of rendering options means tech-support comments don't result it 'try turning this and that off' and instead a nice feature-request for the devs to improve performance for everyone...

    Can we fast-forward to that day please?

    Oh, and...
    Birds & deer - independently controlled, and off! Until they both behave correctly in replays, and the deer stop bucking around like 1995.
    (oh, and a because-ben-is-reading-note about the making-me-sick cloud shadow edge alias shimmering during rolls). [TODO: raise a friendly bug].

    and, and... have there been any thoughts on changing the per-airport flattening to define the plane they are flattened to (e.g., pick one runway to have an elevation at both ends)?

    ps
    My single slider that indicates contentment with the XP11 plans is way up into the happy end.

    • Ben Supnik says:

      We are _not_ considering arbitrary-plane flattening...there are basically a few cases:
      1. The user has a need for exact-MSL behavior, e.g they're interoperating with FSX online or some third party physics or visualization system in a pro marker. In this case, a plane that isn't flat in constant-MSL space doesn't help.
      2. The user has an airport that was not marked a an airport when the DSF was generated, and they are trying to make the airport usable. In this case, the triangles are huge and pretty much any flattening is going to make an epic mess...an arbitrary plane is slightly less bad but not as good as pre-processing the airport.
      3. The airport was pre-"flattened" (loosely) in the DSF and has high triangle count. In this case, we could actually apply a high-quality DEM and at least TRY to move the existing triangles - fidelity of triangulation is not a huge problem in this case. So why stop at an arbitrary flat plane? Why not let the user provide contours?

      Basically, item 3 has _not_ been a priority in the past, because cases 1 and 2 dominated.

      From my discussions with alpilotx, case 3 may not really work well...the problem is that the triangles tend to be of a size where DEM quantization noise and other factors can make lumps. So we do need to think carefully about how to do better at providing a high-detail flyable 3-d environment.

  16. Jimmy says:

    In general, I agree with the decision to simplify and streamline the graphics options. The goal of graphics options are to increase performance as much as possible, with the smallest impact on visual fidelity. No one knows better which options accomplish this, than the developer of the actual 3D engine.

    With XP10, it was easy to accomplish the opposite, maximum visual fidelity reduction, minimum performance gain. Many options were redundant, poorly explained or didn't affect the sim in the way you expected (XP10 behaves quite differently from something like a first person shooter, due to the nature of complex simulation and extremely long draw distances, among other things).

    Of course, every system is different, with different bottlenecks such as CPU, RAM, GPU or even storage subsystem (long loading times), so different options need to be exposed, to cater to different setups, but only when necessary.

    However there are a few things I disagree in:
    Anisotropic filtering: I consider this a "standard" option, together with anti-aliasing. Almost everyone knows that Aniso basically = sharpness, and with a high-end GPU, 8x or even 16x doesn't impact performance much. Looking down the runway after launching XP11 for the first time, I immediately noticed the textures weren't sharp in the distance. So now I have to employ a driver "hack" to gain decent quality in XP11. This is not more user friendly, it's more convoluted.

    Also, I've always wanted a way to adjust building, tree and road/vector distances independently. IMO, the draw distance of autogen and trees is too far in X-Plane, causing unnecessary reduction of performance, and even introducing "shimmering" when not using higher AA modes. On the other hand, reducing the XP10 distance option also reduced the draw distance of roads etc., making VFR impossible.

  17. Elios says:

    NO
    Dim Under Hypoxia/G-Load MUST BE ABLE TO BE TURNED OFF

      • George says:

        Well, the existing and especially the potential new commercial customers might answer the question with a resounding thud.

      • Richard Elliott says:

        Well, if you are into exploring the maximum loads that the airframe will tolerate in aerobatic manoevres (i.e. testing to destruction) the "dim under G-load" gets a bit wearing! Not all of us really want a totally realistic real world experience.

      • xplanefan says:

        Another (maybe more legitimate) reason: drone/UAV simulation.

      • Elios says:

        because its not something that can be recovered from when say flying on Pilot Edge ITS NOT FUN is why

        unless you give some option in plane maker for O2 system mask that devs can put in to aircraft

    • xplanefan says:

      Second this. Because sometimes it's fun to just turn off the red/blackouts and crank and bank for an hour=FUN. Besides...how do you guys know I don't have 8 pack abs and am one of the few humans on the planet that can handle 9+ Gs for more than a few seconds...in fact I'm practicing my grunting this very instant!

  18. Max says:

    I'm actually quite happy with the new settings UI in X-Plane 11. Sure, a few more options would be great, but overall the sliders we got now are actually just fine.

    My (highly) modded X-Plane 10 installation was running with most options turned down to minimum, except for the things I did care about (texture quality for example) and my sim was unstable as hell with FPS going from "over 9000" [in fact, with VSync - 60] down to 15. Altough I always thought I knew what I was doing and I just thought "oh, this is X-Plane, you can't do anything about that." So I never thought my settings could be faulty.

    Now, in X-Plane 11 I get a solid stable 40 fps with the default settings the sim set for me and the graphic has improved too. Of course, I don't have all the mods installed but I discovered that playing with a stable frame rate is much more fun (Especially when flying on things were real time matters, for example FSEconomy or online flying - in X-Plane 10 the sim was "lagging" behind [in-game clock was saying 90 minutes but real-time clock outside said 110 minutes!] and now, with the frame rate always above 20 the sim moves much better).

    For me, performance has already improved a bit in X-Plane 11 and graphic quality (especially the new reflections - love them!) has also improved a lot with the new, simplified settings. You write the engine - you know best which settings at which quality give the best ratio.

  19. Justin Snapp says:

    Ben,

    I have been meaning to email you about one art control that is now seemingly no longer tweakable after the improvements in XP11 pb6:

    sim/private/controls/fog/std_deviation_cutoff

    While I understand your general disdain for tweaking art controls, I feel this one remains vital for people to be able to tweak to meet their atmospheric needs for online flying with networked air traffic control and group flights in cross-simulator platform environments. I believe this is as vital or more vital than runways follows contours control is for online group flights. It is also one that very reasonable and enthusiastic custom weather developers will want to have control over, and in fact existing plugins such as xEnviro do desire to control.

    I humbly BEG you to give X-Plane 11 users control over this vital setting.

    The settings.txt file is a welcome option for tweaking, but I assume there is no way to edit that file and force a re-read of the file once the sim is loaded, thus a sim reload will be necessitated.

    • Ben Supnik says:

      This control isn't tweakable because it is now driven by yet other stuff.

      There are two categories of tweaks:
      1. Internal rendering engine settings that can still be configured that were accessible in v10, e.g. changing the car density. Y'all have a good chance of keeping these _as long as_ the rendering engine works in about the same way as v10 did. In other words, I'm not going to rip them out for no reason, but if the underlying code change, the art control may no longer make any sense.

      2. Internal controls for various rendering processes. Sorry, no promises, all bets are off. The fog standard deviation ratio is a work in progress and an internal control and there's no guarantee that it will ever be writable. It is not my intention to have "tuning the fog" be a thing.

      • Ron Lynd says:

        "It is not my intention to have “tuning the fog” be a thing.... "

        I think we all agree that the visibility in the atmosphere is quite complex and dependent on many variables, which is a reason why there is a significant level of disagreement on the forums on what the proper level of "fog" should be in v11.

        The following two suggestions may help bring the atmosphere closer to what many experience in their area of the world, and allow for user compensation if they perceive that X-Plane still gets it a bit wrong. There are items within X-Plane that can do this already.

        A significant factor in visibility is due to air transparency/clarity, which is very often due to the saturation of water vapor, or relative humidity. Another factor is pollutants in the air, such as naturally occurring ocean salt particles, dust particles, smoke, and of course man made pollutants.

        Suggestion for how visibility is handled using real weather mode:

        With regards to the temperature and dew point, we often see the visibility begin to decrease in real life as the temperature falls closer to the dew point. Thankfully X-Plane has easy access to this on the METAR.

        One can see the way X-Plane currently handles this relationship by bringing up the following three datarefs in three separate windows:

        sim/weather/temperature_sealevel_c=
        sim/weather/dewpoi_sealevel_c=
        sim/weather/visibility_reported_m=

        I found that X-Plane currently keeps visibility constant if one changes the temperature in the dataref. Example: if the temp is 18 and the visibility is 50000 meters, the dew point shows -8.213712. If I change the temperature down to 10, the visibility remains 50000m, and the dew point falls to -16.213711. I’m assuming it’s keeping the same relative humidity to keep the visibility constant?

        I can see how this would make sense for the layman flying X-Plane, as it may be puzzling for some to see the visibility drop when they change the temperature. However in real weather mode, simply unlock the dew point in this mode. Let the visibility fluctuate based on the real weather reading the temperature and dew point from the METAR, and scale the “fog” to lower and lower values as the spread increases. This would also solve the issue that no METARs ever read more than 10SM visibility.

        OK, one might ask “but what about those times where the temperature is 25, the dew point is 3, and the METAR only shows 6 SM from haze due to other things such as dust, smoke, or other pollutants and air stagnation?” In this case, X-Plane would adjust the visibility based on “if reported METAR VIS is equal to or less than 10SM, vis = reported SM” (in this case 6SM) and “if reported METAR VIS greater than 10SM, vis = the temperature dew point calculation” or whatever code would make that happen (as you can see I’m clearly not a programmer lol).

        Suggestion for how visibility is handled using user defined Custom Weather mode:

        While this might best be dealt with the way the datarefs are currently written, I think having a Temperature, dew point, and visibility slider one after another with a line that reads “Visibility is typically related to the temperature and dew point, along with pollutants in the atmosphere” might allow most users to see how it works. To help this, make it so when one slider is dragged, have the corresponding slider and numeric value change with it so the user can see what is happening.

        THEN, right after the Visibility slider, provide a Pollution slider below it, and allow it to control the range of the fog/std_deviation_cutoff= from .25 to 2.00, or something to that effect. The way the “fog” is drawn in, it acts more like a pollution factor than fog anyway, and it is something quite relatable to anyone that has ever stepped foot outside!

        Ben, I know you are hesitant to give the users the ability to adjust this parameter, but it really will allow us to adjust the wide variances of how we experience the atmosphere based on our region of the world. It will reduce the number of people messing with your art controls, and allow add-on developers like xEnviro to give users more options as well.

        • Ben Supnik says:

          First, I think you're right that not all visibilities are made equal, and looking at the relative humidity is a pretty sane way to tune fog. It would be much more manageable for us to expose the relative humidity to third parties than the underlying implementation details like the fog exponential cutoff level.

          Relative humidity is a real world quantity, and we can take measurements from the real world and then talk about whether X-Plane is close or off base. So this is a good long-term interface...the world of meteorology doesn't change that fast.

          By comparison, the internal cutoff for the fog was accessible to users for a few weeks and then the underlying implementation changed and use of this art control was "broken". You can see why I don't consider it to be a good basis for third party authoring!

          • Justin Snapp says:

            I absolutely get your perspective on art controls being internal and therefore prone to change.

            From a user perspective though, the internal cutoff for fog seems to be still present, just stuck at a new lower value than earlier versions of XP11 pb where the value that shipped was "too high", but was editable. So either it is no longer writable, or internally it is constantly being written to with an unchanging (at present) value.

            Ron makes a lot of great suggestions and I hope it can be the basis for improvements going forward. The only thing I would add is that visibility and the appearance of fog should, of course, start by being based on measurable numbers yes. The visibility reported dataref, visibility_reported_m, is likely to always end up being tied to metar info. BUT, even though that is a "measurable" number found in data sources like metars, the sim operator/user is still going to be faced with a subjective question of whether the rendered visibility truly matches. Even if the implementation changes, something like the fog cutoff art control was handy to enable dialing in that kind of subjective calibration. I would also stress that (unfortunately) calibration to the real world is not the only consideration. It is also a valid use case to want to make the simulator match other simulators for online flying.

            (Same situation as with the whole sloped runways, and apt elevation. Would be nice to only have to make the data accurate, but alas it is also important to match other simulators for online flying.)

            I very much appreciate your consideration and the time you have taken in reading and replying to our inputs.

          • Ben Supnik says:

            The calibration is _not_ constant! With that in mind, it would be useful for users to have some way to edit it, if only to help facilitate this conversation, e.g. "here's a METAR, it looks silly in the sim, here's a photo of real life, if I set this art control to Y it looks better" is very specific and lets us really understand the problem in detail.

            I was involved in VATSIM for years, and I don't understand the argument for why users need some kind of fog customization for online flight. The runway height being synced is necessary to fix artifacts. But consider three users, one with FSX, one with XP10, one with XP11. The online flight is going to have a canonical declared visibility (it's 6 SM), which hopefully correlates to some real world conditions.*

            All three sims are going to approximate 6 sm differently. We're not going to remove exponential fog to better match other sims, and because of that, the different sims will not produce the same visuals. Our goal is to make 6 SM look _more_ like real life than the other sims, either competitors or our own past versions.

            * The FAA's definition of visibility is not the most scientific of measurements...for this reason, I asked my co-workers who were pilots to view some known conditions in the sim to get a sense of how 'off' we were.

  20. Jonathan says:

    A few notes:

    16x anisotropic filtering is an absolute must. Things were just so blurry. That's the one thing I put back as soon as I thought of editing the file manually.

    Aircraft carriers aren't roaming everywhere in the real world (for the better). I don't mind in the sim but I can see wanting to disable them. And what's with the helicopter attached by 1995 intangible beams to a ship bouncing around like it's 1995? 😉

    One trade-off that I liked is draw distance versus object density. Depending on what I'm doing I desire more of one versus the other.

    Another trade-off is per-pixel work versus resolution. A blanket statement of "modern hardware can do this" (perhaps at a particular resolution) isn't reassuring. "This shading doesn't really matter because you'll be ROP-bound anyway" would be. It depends on the norms you use for deciding what's cheap enough to impose. I haven't checked how relevant it is but I'd like to eke some more pixels out of tolerable hardware, so I'm still dropping it.

  21. Tim says:

    I think the number of cars should be a separate control without effecting the number of roads and other details because what if you want no cars (more realistic for rural areas) but still want other details on? And Deer, fires and balloons I always turn off because I think it looks unrealistic. I guess us x-plane 9 and 10 users got spoiled when it comes to gui settings.

    • Richard Elliott says:

      Yes, cars are one of the most unrealistic features in the entire sim.

    • JimmyRFR says:

      I fully agree with this. I personally don't miss a lot of the settings that were present in XP10; I found that I hit a 'sweet spot' and rarely deviated. However, because I do most of my flying in quite rural areas, I almost always had the cars turned down to one notch above nothing and would only turn them up if I was flying around more populated regions. The excess cars aren't really noticeable in the daytime, but at night it can make rural areas 'light up' unrealistically.

      However, with the espoused philosophy of doing thing better so that settings don't need to be adjusted, perhaps X-Plane could one day automatically adjust the amount of cars based on building density in the immediate area: lots of buildings = dense population = more cars.

    • Mad Mat says:

      The deers and balloons are completely unuseful! Why they are leaving this function on by default??? I do not know any user that enabled this function!!!

  22. Jorge Gonzalez says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks to the entire LR team for all the hard work on X-Plane 11. I am very happy with the framerates I am getting with PB9 and have found the simulator to be very stable for me...especially after squashing the lingering smoke puffs bug.

    I have a question on the 'resume last flight' option from the main window that is a bit off topic in this rendering settings discussion. Each time I fly a leg from airport A to airport B and close down the simulator and later restart, resume last flight takes me back to airport A instead of resuming at airport B as I would expect. Is that the intended behavior of this option--to resume at the airport I last departed? I reported this as a bug but am wondering if this is the behavior that LR intends for 'resume last flight'. The default behavior of X-Plane 10 was to resume at the airport where I last landed.

    Thanks,
    Jorge

    • Tyler Young says:

      Starting from the last place you started is the currently *expected* behavior. I'm not entirely happy with this---we've dreamed up a few ways to make "resume flight" much better---but they won't make it into 11.00.

      • Jorge Gonzalez says:

        That is an interesting change from the X-Plane 10 behavior. I fly with real weather on and in real time and like to take off from where I last shut down the aircraft. I'm not sure what the reasoning is for this setup in V11 but I've resorted to pre-positioning the aircraft after landing so at my next startup (ie walking out to the ramp) I don't find that my aircraft is several hundred miles away.

        That was my expectation when selecting 'resume last flight'. I'll be curious to see what you guys come up with in future updates.

        • Tyler Young says:

          From my perspective, the *ideal* user experience---and again, any time we're talking about future work, I can't make any promises that this will actually happen!---would be to *actually* be able to resume your flight *exactly* where you left off. So, if you shut down X-Plane in the middle of a trans-Pacific flight, and you hit Resume Flight the next time you launched, you'd be right there, at the same speed, etc.

          • Jens says:

            But if I DID land on an airport then the logical "resume" location would be this airport. C-Plane even remembers this, puts it in the logbook.
            Starting where I STARTED last time is not "resuming" at all.

  23. Marco O. says:

    Why should it be necessary to tweak fog for online flights? If the visibility/fog rendering is technically correct (i.e. it shows the correct reported visibility), it should not be necessary to modify it, even if flying online with other people.

    • Richard Elliott says:

      Simply because not everyone wants to fly with the "correct reported visibility".

      This is not the real world, it is a simulator, and for many of us the most important thing is that you can set up a flight in any conditions you want, anytime, regardless of what is happening in the real world.

  24. Mad Mat says:

    Hi, I think your approach, even if understandable, is too simply. It is nice to have the possibility to tweak the settings easily, but probably you should adopt an approach that gives the possibility to tweak the options from the graphic interface. Why not use a "simple" way and an "advanced" way, as per user preferences? I was able to tweak XP10 managing different settings, but I'm still unable to tweak XP11.
    You really should leave the sliders, but you should give the opportunity to tweak some settings manually from the graphic interface, like all modern games. I suppose you could put an "advanced" option that unlocks the different options, even if some of them are disappeared. The number of objects for example is not controllable at all, but many people would like to show buildings but no roads, or only airport's and no other 3d object...
    Really...please...find a less simple way to manage graphic in x-plane 11, at least for advanced users, not forcing them to go back to text configuration files all the time they like to try a different parameter, this is not a step forward, but a step backward.
    To me XP11 seems more of a game than a sim at the moment: many graphic and cosmetic fix but no real improvement in some of the lack of the sim, like weather to say one that has been unreliable and too simple from YEARS.
    If I'd like to play a pure game I'd use some arcade game. Please consider also the advanced user base.

    • Mad Mat says:

      Sorry...I forgot...even with the sliders please show what parameter is affected by that slider, at the moment is completely unknown...The window is big enough to put in some more information.

    • Riccardo says:

      Although I agree with an ADV TAB, it looks like the UI decisions have been made.
      Quite sure an ADV setting plugin will come out with the ability to change hidden settings and reload scenery (something like XReloaded V2).

      The advanced user base buys XP11 no matter how the settings are exposed, with a reduced interface LR target newcomers and an easier manageable debug process. As long as we can change settings elsewhere it's not a big loss.

  25. RDrehmer says:

    Not about rendering, but is also tweaking: What about the joystick nullzones? Not everybody can afford a joystick with magnetic sensors. Me and my dirty pots would be really glad to have this control back (in a easy way, not digging into datarefs).

    • Ben Supnik says:

      If our auto-detection of null zones is not working AND you were able to manually get good results in v10, please file a bug. Someone may have more follow-up questions....

  26. Brian Mackie says:

    Completely off the current topic, but just some observations from a qualified pilot who is intrigued by the impressive development of XP11:

    At first, I thought that XP11’s user interface was a dumbing-down process to attract a wider customer base. Now I see that “reducing” options for, for example, rendering, is plain commonsense.

    XP forums are notable for the massive amount of debate about frames per second – and offering all manner of conflicting advice about how to raise them. I explored that route, and became hopelessly lost.

    Frames per second (or clarity) cannot be lifted safely beyond the capability of installed hardware (although overclocking helps). Fact. You can try to raise them by tweaking bits and pieces in your 3D card config or within X-Plane, but you will only get what you pay for. This endless debate is akin to witchcraft, and it is not profitable. It usually leads to bewilderment and irritation; more tweaking, greater frustration - and less sim flight.

    My highest fps is achieved by disabling almost all options offered by the Nvidia software, and letting XP take control.

    LR is correct in simplifying this rendering process to provide options that will help sim aviators across the board. If you want to lift your FPS to the remarkable, save up and wait until the next generation of 12Gb cards is in the shops. Or sit in the shed and tweak away to your heart’s content. That isn’t exactly what the product is for…

  27. Wayne Bennett says:

    Thanks for an explanation in to your thinking regarding the UI... I now understand more how adjustments made to one slider effects more things.. Currently in the middle of a PC rebuild I am tired of tinkering and just want to fly.. Great work so far...

  28. Kris says:

    Hey Ben,

    I like what you've done with most options hidden. I think it's easier than reading multiple guides on how your hardware works, and having 1 million different options. I also like that you let us continue to tweak via other means if us 'hardcore' users that read this stuff really want to.

    Having said that, I've been playing around with some art controls regarding shadows. Are there any plans to change the way cloud shadows are implemented? Currently, while under a cloud layer, shadows appear on the ground and in the cockpit like the sun is out. But if using the art controls I darken the cloud shadows, they look GREAT on the ground, but then they continue to show up in the cockpit and on the plane even while flying above the clouds.

    P.S. I hate to say it but I'm also keeping the shadows around longer when the sun goes down.. and I love it! It makes the cockpit really come to life at dusk hours. 8k shadow map helps with that too. (love my GTX 1080) =)

    • Ben Supnik says:

      I definitely have a "todo" to do a lot of tuning on shadows. If you find settings you like, please let me know. In terms of the cloud shadows, I'm not sure what's going on there...I thought we had a stupid special case to de-shadow the airplane at high altitude.

      • Kris says:

        You might have had that special case at some point, but I noticed in 10.x the default cloud shadows were a lot lighter than previous versions, hinting to me that maybe the special case "de-shadowing" wasn't quite working. So making the shadows almost invisible fixed them showing up on the plane at higher altitudes.

        I'll continue to mess around with them though and keep track of my settings.

  29. FlyBaby says:

    I agree with other comments about the cars, I would prefer to keep them at the lowest setting (or tun them off) and not have them scale with my choices of objects/density.

  30. Ron Lynd says:

    Three "advanced menu" item requests, and why:

    1. Deer & Birds On/Off - I get home from work and have a limited amount of time to sim before tending to other responsibilities. Maybe I'm trying to keep up with some online pilot buddies. I decide to execute the full cold and dark startup in my favorite addon airliner, on the PilotEdge (or other ATC) network. I spend 45 minutes enjoying firing this bird up and getting my clearance. I finally advance the throttles after being cleared for takeoff, and just as I rotate I smash through a herd of snickering deer / vacuum a flock of seagulls through my CFM56-3s - FLIGHT OVER. When there's no time left for a do over, or you just wanted to keep up with your friends in the group flight, an easy checkbox to zap nature's airspace violators sure would have been convenient.

    2. Flatten Airports (Off by default, On option) - Needed for two reasons: A) I have some scenery mesh and this runway that is following its crazy contours has a 2 foot vertical wall 2800 feet down the runway. I don't see it on approach until I'm already on the ground applying brake pressure. By the time I do, no speed left to lift back off again, so I hope for the best as I collide with it. B) "UAL 576, 25R via C, C5, B, follow the Southwest 737." I'm trying to spot my other buddy in the Southwest, who maybe is in XP 10.51, or P3D/FSX. I get lucky this time and see his V-stab "shark finning" through Bravo's asphalt, but even that's short lived as they disappear beneath the surface of my taxiway that rises up to follow contours. Going in to the advanced menu to flatten my airports sure would be nice right now instead of hoping the airport author did it in WED. (average sim pilot... "What's WED?" or "I have to edit a text file?")

    3. Road Density (OFF, 1, 2, 3, 4) - The ability to independently shut off roads allowed me maintain 30-55 frames per second on a mid 2011 iMac all the way up through X-Plane 10.45 (never tried .51 on it, was on a new machine by then). Those of us who were able to afford a new hardware upgrade for v11 might thirst for this ability down the road, and those that blew their hard earned cash a year ago will benefit from this option now. The good news is that today's photo scenery allows us to see those roads during the day anyway, and even though they'll have no cars it won't matter much once you're above 5000 feet!

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