I have a bunch of stuff I need to post that I haven’t gotten to because this week has been the usual last minute chaos that always precedes a show.

In this case that show is FilghtSimExpo in Las Vegas, and if you click on that link you’ll see what a user told me — Saturday is completely sold out! While this is unfortunate for any X-Plane users who were on the fence about going and hadn’t registered, I think it’s great for flight simulation. For years now we’ve been wondering if the US can have a “big” flight sim trade show like the ones in the UK and Europe, and I think the answer is a resounding yes.

For those not going, there will be a team video taping the Laminar Research talk, and it sounds like they’re bringing some serious equipment, so I’m hopeful for the resulting video.

One note for third party developers: if you need to talk with me about a technical issue (e.g. you have some programming or add-on problem you want to get resolved) and you’re arriving at the show the day before, email me and maybe we can set up a time to talk early. For family reasons I have to leave very early Sunday morning so getting time to talk Saturday is going to be hard.

We are bringing almost the entire X-Plane development team, so with Philipp, Alex and Ted also present there will be plenty of people around to get add-on questions answered even when I’m not.

There have been a lot of questions about X-Plane’s road map and we’ll get into them in a lot more detail on the developer blog once the show is over.

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.

38 comments on “Next Stop, Vegas

  1. Did LR arrange some non-mobile-phone video recording?
    If not, can you please post the links to all team members 24/7 face-cams?

    Also, do not be fooled by this line on their home page:
    Las Vegas Strip Night Flight (Save $50 with code fsexpo1)

      1. This is exactly what I wanted to hear. Was sort of hoping for a live stream somewhere but hey, I want, I want, I want.
        I know Xplane newcomers OrbX will be there too along with other 3rd party devs so I’m sure there won’t be any shortage of intermingling by all concerned.
        Can’t wait to hear an update on Vulkan and more about the roadmap.

        1. “it sounds like they’re bringing some serious equipment” … iPhone 7 with 35% battery charge and forgot power charger at home (with the rest of pro hardware), selfie stick for tripod.

          Oh… and cooled by wet rag.

          But as long as it’s Livestreamed is all that matters 🙂

  2. Good luck with the show and I hope you guys can talk a bit about the improvements on the ATC system.

  3. Will be getting in very late on Friday but very much looking forward to meeting some of the X-Plane team.

    Is Tyler going to be there?

    Thanks Bill

    1. Hi Bill,

      Tyler’s the only one who won’t be there – he had a prior commitment that conflicted with the show. So we’ll be talking about him behind his back a lot.

    2. My stupid best friends are having their stupid wedding in stupid Jamaica the same weekend. They were unmoved by Ben’s suggestion that they relocate to Vegas so they can be married by Elvis. 😉

  4. +1 for bringing your own video crew.

    It’s a shame that FS Expo doesn’t manage (or care) to stream presentations and panels. Well, it’s only 2018. Maybe next time.

  5. Looking forward to meeting you guys. Should be fun and informative – always seems to be if past video efforts are any indication. I’ll be the overweight old dude. 😛

  6. Oh thank god for that, some video’s are so shaky and the idiot always talks loudly over the presentation… A pro recording is also good for promo purposes.

    Where will it be posted? Looking forward to this one… have a great time, but remember this IS Vegas!

  7. Thanks for the interim update, and good luck at the show. Love the way XP keeps evolving. Cheers.

  8. Would it possible to update MacOS users about the Metal timeline since Apple has announced the depreciation of OpenGL and OpenCL in the new version of MacOS?

    1. Also interested as I am working towards an iMac which will run X-Plane 11. Sounds suspiciously like that might not be a good idea.

      1. We’re developing metal concurrently with Vulkan – the timeline should be almost exactly the same. Also, “deprecate” does not mean “delete”; we expect XP11 to work fine on Mac for the foreseeable future.

  9. Is there an SDK update on the roadmap to add functions to acces all parts of SID/STAR/IAP, handle the different leg types,… ?


    1. +1

      The NAV situation, map and SDK, will be on my mind if I get a chance to chat with Philipp.

      1. Unofficially got the word that the originally anticipated update isn’t going to happen due to a undesirable level of risk that’s involved in terms of stability and/or reliability. I forget exactly how Philipp put it, but it definitely sounded reasonable. If he’s willing to enhance with a reply – that might help.

        Overall it was a terrific opportunity to meet the guys this weekend. Can’t say enough good things about the presentation that Laminar Research put on and the way they bent over backwards to answer questions at their booth. No question, I was totally geeked out. Thanks, guys!! 😉

    2. I started working on an external library that can read X-Plane’s navdata in the latest format. I’m using it in AviTab but designed it as a decoupled library so you could easily use it in your projects. It can already parse all dat files including apt.dat. Procedures are parsed as well, but that part still needs some work that I’m going to finish in upcoming versions of AviTab.

      It’s already possible to list all runways of an airport including ILS frequencies, find routes between airports or navaids and some other stuff.

      Feel free to join the development or use the library in your project, BUT please note that it is AGPL licensed, i.e. if you use it in your project, your whole project must be licensed AGPL-compatible as well even if you just link to the library. That means it’s illegal to use it in closed-source projects, even if it’s just a web service. And I will find out if you do 😉


  10. Hi
    I just read this from you Vegas presentation: “Laminar closed their presentation with arguably the most exciting new feature, a new particle system. This particle system is set to ship with X-Plane 11.30. This incredible new feature replaces all of the smoke, dust, fire, and visual heat distortion effects with brand new ones that are much more realistic.”

    Just waving my little flag here: currently, the heat shader mimics heating but it does not mimic correctly jet exhaustion when engines are in full power. Actually, instead of seeing real jet exhaustion when a plane takes-off, lands, flies, we see a heating effect which is partially but mostly wrong.

    This is what we should see, a longer effect that depends of the power:

    Then heating should be spread all over the place for a few seconds:

    When the plane crosses the sun:

    More persistent black smoke but it should be more faint, more transparent, more blurry than now: https://mir-s3-cdn-cf.behance.net/project_modules/max_1200/681e0229209251.58f3ff45d122f.jpg

    Now talking about contrails, condensation, wingtip vortices, vortex, fog,… that would be amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Jb9VfzwWFk

    thank you

    1. Here’s a link to the new particle effects part of the presentation:https://youtu.be/lTOfbFMOxjo?t=2848 it will answer most of your remarks. 😉

      I cannot wait for the new particle effects to arrive and based on what was shown in the presentation, I’d say that effects will finally be on par or even superior compared to FSX/P3D, well done LR!

      I’m just curious about performance as shader-based particle effects tend to be much more fps-hungry and than FSX’s 2d texture effects. The smallest amount of chimney smoke in GTA V literally splits my fps in half, hopefully XP manages to be a bit more efficient in that regard.
      Oh well you can’t have all, can you.

      1. Overall performance should be pretty good, but like OBJs, authors have enough control over the system that they can kill performance if they choose to. I don’t know what FSX/P3D tech you are comparing things to – the particles in X-Plane are 2-d billboards with 3-d positions, which is almost universally how these things are done.

        1. I really think that X-Plane, right now, should be developed for the next hardware to come. We should be able to disable some effects but now that the GPUs are more and more powerful, it’s about time to foresee what X-Plane should look like in 2025 in terms of graphics.

        2. OK, I might have misunderstood how XP’s new particle systems works. Doesn’t it use shaders to create visible effects like rain in the current version? I was under the impression that the new particle system would build on that in a more extensive/detailed manner. So let’s see if I got this right. The new particle system uses 2-d textures/billboards (like skycolors_.png or lights.png) that are placed in a 3-d scene/XP, right? Are there any shaders involved in creating/displaying those new effects? If that’s the way the new effects work, then I think that’s pretty much the same thing that FSX does.

          On a side note, does this mean that devs/3rd parties can change/switch billboards with their own to enhance effects? Would this be possible on a local/per aircraft basis or just globally for all of XP?

          And my last question would be whether the depiction of rain will change with the new effects as well. Will rain drops get bigger, more noticeable and possibly editable? Thanks Ben for any insight on this 😉

          1. Yes, the particles are billboards – the author picks the shader, and yes there is a shader involved in their display. (On any GPU capable of running X-Plane, a shader is ALWAYS what ‘draws’ stuff – there is no way to draw without one.)

            Third parties can customize the size/movement/look/behavior of the particles and their textures.

            Rain – we’ll see. Our main goals with 11.30 are to (1) ship the particle system to third parties and (2) replace the old non-customizable particle system. It does not do rain but it does do all of the other FX.

          2. Takling about rain. Currently, when we enter in Replay mode at normal speed, the rain is realistic as when we follow the plane rain drops are horizontal (because of the speed). But once we play the replay at slow motion, the rain drops fall vertically even if we are flying at the speed of 400 mph. There also there is room for improvement.

      2. Also, as I’m not a plane maker, I don’t understand what’s this “table” thing for the particle effects but PLEASE, make it so that there is a default setting for the plane but also the ability for the final user to change the values. This “table” should be a text file that we can modify. I have seen so many times third-party plane maker doing it completely wrong for their plane.

  11. I watched the presentation on twitch and it looks very nice..
    Looking forward to 11.30.

    One question.
    Wouldn’t it be better to make the option for the experimental flightmodel in the planemaker ? So the developers can decide if the new flightmodel is suitable for the aircraft or not ? I guess many aircraft developers have to tune the aircraft for this change anyway ? So a global on/off option may not be that good ?

    1. The experimental flight model _is not versioned_. This is why it’s not available in Plane-Maker. We are not giving authors the ability to use an -unversioned- flight model in distributed aircraft.

      1. This seems to be part of a clarification I was trying to drive to with Austin, and may have missed the mark. While we were talking about jet engine performance, this was what I really wanted to drive to in the end.

        What I’m looking for, as a 3rd party developer, is to be able to tie an ACF to a specific flight model version so that the functionality of features I create, that are dependent on certain flight model’s performance characteristics, will not change for my users unexpectedly.

        Take fuel flow for instance. If I write a fuel consumption estimation tool, I don’t want to have to rewrite that every time the flight model changes. I’ve found that it doesn’t take much to for such predictions to be thrown off. What was once within reasonable accuracy in one version of X-Plane is thrown off when the flight model changes. While it’s always best to have the latest and greatest, versioning gives a developer a chance to maintain consistency in their product, and then time to update, or not, as their schedule and good judgement permit.

        So what we could have, to encapsulate the whole idea, is to have an “experimental” flight model available for beta testing of sorts by everyone, and as that flight model becomes stable based on user feedback, that becomes the current flight model. The flight model that it replaces then becomes the current “stable” flight model, which all new aircraft would presumably use. Older products could/would still be tied to the flight model that they were created under until re-saved specifically with the new format. The flight model version would be written to the log.txt, to be sure, so that developers and Laminar Research alike would know when a user complaint relative to the flight model was referring to either current, experimental or legacy flight models.

        I know that its very likely that LR doesn’t want to support flight models that are several versions out of date. Maybe you only want to support the current version. What LR supports would have to be a policy decision, and perhaps a limit of something like the last five flight models will be supported by the sim, and anything older has to be updated, period. This gives a balance between support and functionality stability for everyone, and also gives developers a chance to determine their best course of action when the new flight model alters the performance of their add-ons.

        My first question for Austin should have been my last. Will there be jet engine performance corrections in 11.30, in addition to the experimental jet engine model that he’s working on? I have a need for fuel flow to become relatively stable, and perhaps for thrust production to better match the numbers we insert in Plane Maker. Presuming, of course, that we’ve been using the right numbers!

        Thanks for an awesome weekend with the team, whether or not you could be there both days.

        1. Hi Steve,

          Right – the point o the experimental flight model is that it is _not_ stable or versioned – it gives us a way to “beta” a new FM iteration over a longer time period than a regular beta. Right now betas for large patches are ~ 8 weeks of full beta, and while this time is longer than LR wants, it is too short for any useful feedback on the FM, especially since authors avoid the beta until the end due to other stability issues. The experimental FM lets us beta what is probably 11.40’s FM all the way from 11.30 through to 11.40, publicly. This is why there’s no PM-save for it.

          Once we have something stable, where we think the math is right, _then_ we’ll do real versioning. Doing version-compatibility is time consuming for us (we _do_ do it this though and did quite a bit in v10) – this is why we want to validate that the new FM stuff is correct before we have to support it in a version indefinitely. The experimental FM was driven by neither Austin nor I wanting to be stuck with old versions that were wrong but had escaped the lab.

          With that in mind, I do not expect breaking changes in the non-experimental FM in 11.30.

          The other thing to note is that any time a feature is orthogonal, we don’t have to version. So we don’t have to version the 1-spool jet engine when the 2-spool is introduced because it’s a different engine model. You get compatibility by not changing your engine type, and if you resave as 2-spool, expect different FM output – that’s sort of the entire point of the NEW engine model.


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