An ongoing question in the comments section has been: “when will this beta be released for Steam?” It’s a good question! In the old days, the answer was “it’ll be a few days” because building a beta for Steam was a separate process from building a beta for the Laminar Research installer.

We solved that problem a few months ago; when we create a beta, we create the beta for both installers at the same time in one coordinated symphony of automatic scripts and command line witchcraft. But there is still some delay in making the Steam beta be available to users – we usually wait a few hours to make sure the build isn’t crashing for a big portion of our user base.

Now you don’t have to wait! If you are a Steam customer you can get the very latest beta even if it’s broken and unusable.

What Is an Unstable Beta

An unstable beta is a beta build of X-Plane that has some kind of relatively serious problem, or that might have a problem we don’t know about because it hasn’t been rolled out to the whole community.

Why would you ever want that? Sometimes the unstable beta has a bug fix you really need. Maybe the crashes affect common hardware but not your hardware. Maybe you just like really new things.

How To Get Unstable Betas for Steam

Our application now has two choices for betas – if you go to the betas tab in the X-Plane app properties in Steam, you now have both the choice of:

  • “Public Beta” – this is the beta you’ve been using for months – it’s a beta, so it may be buggy, but we don’t release it until we have at least a little bit of evidence that it mostly works.
  • “Unstable pre-Release Beta” – this is the very latest beta even if it’s broken.

You can choose which one you want, or even switch between them.

For example, right now if you pick public beta you’ll get beta 9, which, for better or worse, has been the current beta for several weeks. If you pick “unstable pre-release beta”, you get beta 10, even though it crashes in HDR with some third party aircraft (a new crash to beta 10) and people tell us that sometimes it hangs on load.

Should I Use an Unstable Beta?

Probably not? There are two cases I can imagine where the unstable beta would be more useful than the normal beta:

  • The current stable beta doesn’t work for you, so you might as well try something new.
  • You are waiting on a specific bug fix and the unstable beta has it.

What About Customers Not Using Steam?

We don’t have this multi-beta capability for our home-grown installer, but someday I hope to add it – I think it’s a really useful capability to be able to define multiple tiers of beta quality.

We had a long discussion a few weeks ago about ways to deal with broken betas and a lot of people though that rolling out betas incrementally would be a good idea. Having multiple beta tiers can help this.

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.

27 comments on “Steam Users: Earlier Access to Unstable Betas

  1. From someone who was asked by your support team to move to the steam release due to constant issues with licence keys (I specifically brought the non-steam version to allow me access to beta releases earlier) and as a developer this is a huge benefit to me. Thank you.

  2. Hm, in my days we called unstable beta alpha release… Honestly too much obvious bugs is recently skipping into X-Plane betas. UFO light beam over aircraft in HDR and very slow XPL loading time just naming few in last beta. I am really curious how these and similar could pass through any basic testing on your side. Would you like to comment on this Ben?

    1. You assume that these bugs are present on every system every time. But I can state that this is not the case, I have observed none of those 2 bugs when testing b10 last night.
      HDR on, no light beam.
      Loading times as normal.
      (Also very smooth, no crash and no blurries.)

    2. UFO light? I recently had something similar which might be described as that. After some examination I determined it was a light I had accidentally exported from Blender. If you’re an aircraft developer and it’s your aircraft, you might verify only the intended lights are being exported (and not lights used only for modeling in Blender). However, if this is something new with a third party aircraft, please disregard this comment.

    3. I also have very slow loading times like 8 to 9 minutes just installed my i7 10700k @ 5.3GHz so I know it is not my cpu

    4. I’m seeing this as well. Zibo 737 at Aerosoft EGSS with Orbx Great Britain South, for example. Load time is now > 10 minutes. Aware that’s a lot of non-stock stuff being loaded but the same used to consistently be 11.50b10) rather than a sudden jump now. I think it’s the Zibo that takes the time as the stock Cessna for example is quite a bit faster. But when time per week for X-Plane is tight, this is a bit frustrating 🙂

  3. In graphics options there is a note that at least Win8 is required for Vulkan. Is Win8 officially supported for Vulkan or is it unofficial? In the announcement of Beta 1 only Win10 was mentioned.

  4. So some don’t like B10. If you guys agree, then I would assume B11 would be the next unstable release and B9 would remain as the public-beta.

    I like this new release flow.

    1. Yes for a few hours. If b11 doesn’t have major crashes, it’d become the stable AND unstable release – that is, we’d move _everyone_ to b11.

      Honestly b10 is right on the line…it’s not so bad we’re canceling it but not so good we pushed it to _all_ Steam beta users…if the panel crash had been move severe it’d have been hot-patched.

  5. Hello, I’m having an issue with the Modern3D callback, it behaves differently in Vulkan than OpenGL.

    Is it possible to talk about that in e-mail? I’m working on a freeware volumetric cloud project, and this different behavior prevents my plugin to run correctly in Vulkan mode.

  6. Can´t really see why so many users are so eager to get there hands on betas as soon as possible and then complain when it doesn´t work as supposed to. Think that Steam-users had a golden seat as it was: they get access to betas BUT with a little hold so that Laminar have time to hit the brake if there´s a major problem!

    Beta is beta, a testrelease with one purpose only: to figure out if programmers thoughts “on paper” really work live. There will be problems and there will be crashes!! If you can´t handle that, stay at the latest stable release!! As a beta tester you´re supposed to give feedback to help programmers forward, not complaining as if the developers trying to destroy your installation.

    Keep up the splendid work you´ve done so far Laminar!! Always on the edge trying to solve problems as soon as possible. Also thanks for that great feedback to us users about what´s going on, why things don´t work and the fact that you always try to find a solution to problems, by your self or in cope with other developers, instead of waste energy by trying to find someone to blame when things not working as supposed to.

    1. I want the betas (have had good and bad results, currently for me b10 is fine) but if I did have problems, I wouldn’t complain and ask questions, I would just roll back. 🙂

  7. Guys, can I make a total off topic question here?
    Are there any plans on adding ambient sound to the sim?
    What I mean is, if I’m on my plane with the engines off at an airport, I can see airports service vehicles and airliners landing and taking off, but I can’t hear them.
    So are there any plans to add that, or this already exists and my configuration is screwed?
    Thanks.

  8. Maybe make it available only via a published beta access code? Something like 1C0N53NT-T0N0T-CRY0N-F0RUM5-1F17-CR45H35

  9. Someone must be flying over skinwalker ranch

    +1 your idea on tiered releases, linux user here, so far this has been a blast.

  10. I filed a bug for the legacy pipeline error message that causes a sim crash. will this be fixed?

          1. A pipeline is a Vulkan/Metal term – it is all of the shaders + all of the configuration on the GPU to draw something. (So “shaders and some crud” is a good description.). The new drivers have the apps use pipelines because once we create a pipeline there is _no_ further steps before you can use it – batteries are included.

            Austin once told Sergio (twenty years ago while we were in Italy talking about X-Plane…7 probably) that drawing with the hardware was like drawing with a big box of crayons, and changing crayons was slow, so it pays to draw more with one crayon…that’s why we tell people to put lots of images on one texture (atlasing). Changing the shader, configuration, textures, etc., this is the “Crayon change” of the GPU and it is as much a perf problem now as it was 20 years ago. Everything is faster, and while we can change crayons faster, we can draw more too so less change is better.

            Pipelines are a way for Vulkan and Metal to let us “change crayons” faster – because the pipeline is fully built in advance and has no further configuration, changing to use it is quick and requires no complex computation. And it does work – pipeline changes are very fast!

            Compare this to OpenGL: when you go to draw, X-Plane has to look at all of these things to decide what to do:
            – The shader
            – The blending and depth fixed function state
            – The vertex format
            – The FBO format
            – What kind of thing you are drawing
            and it has to combine them all together to make a pipeline when you go to draw (or see if it can find an already existing pipeline it saved). That mixing and matching is a cost OpenGL pays on _every_ time we draw. The GL drivers do this pretty fast – the driver writers really tuned the hell out of that code, but it is a cost Metal and Vulkan entirely skip.

            Missing pipeline means X-Plane did not build the pipeline we need in advance during loading, resulting in us not being able to draw. It’s pretty much always a dumb bug in the loading code we have to fix.

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