Normally we try not to pre-announce new features before they are complete, but it’s been kind of an open secret around the company that we are working on native VR capabilities for X-Plane. Austin mentioned it on a Facebook Live stream, and Chris posted pictures of un-boxing his OcRift and Vive.

So today I’m going to show you a sneak preview of something that I’m just too excited not to post: X-Plane 11’s new Pirate-VR™ mode*.

There are two major challenges to integrating VR with a general purpose flight simulator:

  • Performance. X-Plane typically runs at 30-40 fps on a high-end system on a single monitor. How do we render a stereo image to two eyes without cutting frame-rate in half?
  • Usability. How do users interact with the complex cockpit buttons and switches using 3-d “wand”-type controllers that ship with today’s VR head-mounted displays?

Pirate-VR™ mode solves both of these problems.

When rendering to the head-mounted display, we simulate an eye-patch over the left eye.

By blacking out the left eye, we are able to recover quite a bit of framerate and run a stereo render at over 40 fps; minor optimization should get us to something fluid for the HMD.

In Pirate-VR™ mode, both of your hands are replaced by large metal hooks. Since it is pretty much impossibly to safely operate the over-head panel of an MD-82 with hooks for hands, we can skip 3-d interaction testing on most of the cockpit, simplifying VR interaction quite a bit.

I can’t announce when Pirate-VR™ will ship, but for scallywags who will be joining us at FlightsimCon in Hartford** this year, I think we’ll have something you’ll really want to get your hooks into.


* Yes, it is, of coarse, pronounced “Vee-ARRRRRRRRRR!”

** Update: my wife points out that the correct pronunciation is HARRRRRRRRtford.

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.

30 comments on “Sneak Preview: Pirate Mode!

  1. You know what, you’ve got me for a second, then I’ve started thinking… and realized what date is it. 🙂

    Congrats for releasing v11 btw! I’ve joined in during beta testing, you’ve got a 15 year MSFS convertee here. Great job, really!

  2. I’m going to be ordering my VR hardware today after hearing about these great features!

    Yo Ho Yo Ho, The pirate’s life for me!

  3. Sometimes, it seems with X-Plane to two step forward, one step aft. But SHIVER ME TIMBERS! Does this mean we can fly as Captain and First Mate with the same VR headset?! This is arrrrrguably the greatest enhancement of X-Plane since Crowsnest view. Keep up the good work!

  4. I’m dying after this incredible news. this is what i have been wanted to hear regarding vr. never thought my wishes come true so fast! this is one of the many differents between p3d and xp. future!

    1. Um, dude, consider today’s date before you get all animated about VR in XPlane.

  5. I think every news about VR is horrible due to the fact that I get horrible sick when using it. But this horrible news was actually horrible fun on a particularly horrible day.

    So thank you so horrible much 🙂

  6. My testimonial looks like a simple slogan . ‘Unforgettable Impressions you’ll get to flying by X-Plane 11’. So my work as artist (to Gateway&Org) should be appropriate quality. Thank you, LR. By the way,how about a secondary importance thing, like design of the control panel a nuclear Power-station. Have you any plans to do a process of change the priority orders of scenery_packs.ini file more comfortable, i mean the users who are unfamiliar with a ‘simple text editor’? Perhaps it would be great to perform this in a graphic environment.

  7. My IT department prohibits the use of hooks as computer interface devices. Apparently they had too many shorted out computers and broken touch monitors.

  8. I tried out voice commands in VR just last Monday and it worked spectacularly well. I’m planning on bringing a full demonstration to FlightSimCon…

  9. Another commenter has mentioned feeling sick with VR. A lot of the sickness is due to poor frame rate. And X-Plane 11 is no exception. I’m heartbroken with the poor frame rate, and this is despite having a 4.6Ghz 7700k and GTX 1080.

    Before I updated the GPU, I had a GTX 970. There has been ZERO FPS improvement. Bear in mind I don’t max out my settings because I use TrackIR and prefer the slightly higher frame rate at 29-52 (42 AVG) FPS; otherwise it’s jittery, ESPECIALLY when there are any clouds, then it’s back to 30FPS.

    This simulator is CPU bound. Changing CPU frequency from 4.2Ghz to 4.6Ghz shows this. But I only achieve a max 29-52, and again I promise these are with modest settings.

    I absolutely love X-Plane, but I don’t understand why on such a high end system it won’t run properly, using default aircraft, default scenery. What can we expect to happen when more high quality planes like PMDG make planes for XP? How can X-Plane be optimised better, and what are the time frames? Will we need to wait for for XP 12?

    I respectfully want to share that I get 58-79FPS in P3D with the PMDG 747 v3.

    My heart lies with X-Plane since version 7! I also want it to be a massive success! Congrats on the launch, I bought it straight away!

  10. But I can’t see out of my right eye, only my left, you’ll need to add a check box for that to switch eyes!

    LOL, you got me for a nano second….. to funny.

  11. About Windows 10 Game Mode,(Win + R key).
    At the moment we can record X-Plane 11 using this, but only in window mode, in full screen mode no.
    Probably from next week we will have the option Game Mode completely functional, if it will have desired effect, bring benefits for all games is another story.
    But if Win + R key function can make recordings in full screen mode already would be good.

  12. Hey Ben,
    Whats the status of being able to get more performance out of the CPU and GFX card? I know you all have talked about Vulcan in the past, where is Laminar at with this. Does Laminar plan on supporting multiple GPU’s and more than 1 thread in a CPU?

    1. We already use more than one core for CPU work, but we intend to improve the “spread” to get better utilization.

      I don’t know about multiple GPUs. We have _no_ plans to do multiple GPUs for a single monitor, or multiple GPUs for one VR head-set, but it _may_ be possible some day to use multiple GPUs for multipole windows. (I am told that right now this does not work!)

      For now, I strongly suggest one big GPU and not two small ones.

      Overall performance improvements (better shaders, better code, etc.) is much higher priority than multiple GPU.

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