Well, this is embarrassing. I’ve been meaning to post to the dev blog for months now; all sorts of new features, important bug fixes, and interesting tech has gone by. As you can imagine, it’s been really, really busy with the release of X-Plane 12 and subsequent updates, plus a number of us spend time in the dev lobby trying to help third parties and sharing pre-release experimental code.
So this post will be a quick overview of some of what has been going on and what is coming.
Move Fast and Fix Things (Hopefully)
Since we shipped X-Plane 12.00, we’ve been aiming for a fast tempo for updates and patches; more frequent, smaller patches so we can get key bug fixes to the entire community quickly. X-Plane 11 had one or two updates a year, and each update would take three months in beta because it was crammed to the gills with features. We’re targeting less than a month with these patches.
Here’s what we have shipped so far:
12.01 – lots and lots of bug fixes, new weather datarefs, and new OBJ features to help aircraft authors move to X-Plane 12.
12.02 – fixed memory leaks.
12.03 – scenery fixes, approach light fixes, and library elements to unlock the X-Plane Scenery Gateway
12.04 – in beta now! New plugin APIs (dataref introspection, sound APIs, weather APIs), weather fixes.
If there’s a theme here, it’s sanding down the rough edges of 12.0 and making sure third parties can create add-ons for v12.
Some Details: Sound
In X-Plane 11, we moved to FMOD as our sound engine; in X-Plane 12, X-Plane does not use OpenAL at all. Add-on developers have two choices:
- You can still use OpenAL, but you have to include it in your add-on yourself.
- Use FMOD! The X-Plane SDK has a new XPLMSound API that provides basic sound capabilities and a bridge to FMOD for advanced use.
Using FMOD lets your add-on create sound within X-Plane’s 3-d environment.
Another way to add sound: in X-Plane 12, objects added by plugins via the XPLMInstance API can include .snd files and attached sounds, just like aircraft. We use this on our ground trucks, and you can use it too.
Some Details: Approach Lights
In getting the scenery system ready for Gateway authors to create airports, we fixed a few long-standing problems for approach lights:
- Approach lights will now appear over water even if you use a pier. So you can model the piers for approach lights (e.g. at KBOS, KSFO) while using the built in approach lights.
- Approach lights can sit on top of gantries when they need more height, like you’d see at KBWI (see runway 10) or Dallas Love Field.
- The scenery has the approach lights and approach path cut out from the autogen so you can see the lights and make it to the runway. You don’t need to use exclusion zones – the cut DSFs are more precise.
Always use the built-in approach lights – you cannot create the ‘rabbit’ strobe in an approach sequence by hand-placing the lights, so we wanted to make the built-in ones work.
What’s Coming Next
There’s a lot more we’re working on, which I’ll discuss in a future post, but here are a few hilights:
- The airbus FMC is close to being ready to show – there’s a ton of new tech there.
- We are rewriting a piece of the rendering engine to use VRAM much more efficiently. This should help fix blurry textures.
- Lots of bug fixes and improvements to cloud rendering, including performance optimizations.
- Bug fixes and improvements for physics and systems.
Several features are down-stream of improving VRAM efficiency:
- We’re not happy with how orthophotos and the new water system interact, but we need the more efficient VRAM system to fix this. I’ll post about orthophoto authoring as soon as we have more information.
- We have improved bloom, also dependent on the new VRAM system.
- We may bring back a lighter version of exposure fusion – this will be up to the art team to decide if or how they want to use it.