We have a lot of exciting news for XPlane2Blender users on three fronts: the Blender 2.49 Converter, Blender 2.8 support, and v3.5.1-beta.2!
Firstly I want to say a huge thank you to all the community for all your patience, advice, and support during this time of heavy development and slow releases. One of the biggest changes, I think, to XPlane2Blender in the last few months has actually been all of you! I’ve asked for advice and gotten constructive comments in droves, I’ve asked for projects and I’ve gotten example files to work with! I even asked for help with contributions to the project and gotten several pull requests to merge! Your passion for Blender and X-Plane inspires my passion for making the tools you want and need!
Now for the details!
The 2.49 Converter
The XPlane2Blender 2.49 converter has been in development for nearly a year, and the alpha is almost here. Some doubted if it was even possible to save these old projects, but the results speak for themselves. Observe these screenshots of Laminar Research’s KingAir C90B, F-4, and Boeing 737 that have been converted and exported with XPlane2Blender for 2.79!
McDonnell Douglas F-4
These are not proofs of concept, they actually work very well! Animations, manipulators, panel textures, meshes, lights, OBJ directives like shading, no shadow, DISABLE_DRAW, ATTR_light_level, and more, autodetecting textures, and preserving workflow features like picking the same OBJ file names and BULK export vs Regular export are all in the alpha. Basic scenery objects also convert, but some directives aren’t included yet.
We are not feature complete, and it will never be perfect: pre-conversion and post-conversion fixes will likely be necessary. However, spending only a day or two for the conversion is far better than redoing years of work!
Getting Your Old Projects Ready
The alpha is about two weeks away from release. In that time I HIGHLY recommend finding your old projects and doing the following
Make backups of your files, because there is no return if you accidentally save over a 2.49 file after opening it in 2.79
If you are able to do so and it can run in X-Plane 11.36, the converter has a very good chance of bringing it forward with few things to fix post conversion.
The big thing I’ve noticed is that DataRefs usually need to be fixed as future versions of X-Plane added more that made unambiguous Datarefs ambiguous.
I’ve noticed that some Blender 2.49 Datablocks have become “haunted” – where it crashes Blender 2.49 if clicked on or changed. I have no idea why or how. I can’t see a pattern or do anything about it, so take notes as these objects may need special attention post-conversion. If you have ideas, let me know!
Also be on the look out for game properties with bad values, like an “litlevel” that is missing a dataref, or a “GLOBAL_tint” that doesn’t have two numbers separated by a space. X-Plane may fill in defaults, but the converter doesn’t. Don’t worry, the converter will help find some of these – as long as the property names are spelled correctly!
If you are unable to run Blender 2.49, the converter may still work but you won’t get a chance to clean up the file and correct mistakes – it may require a lot more work post-conversion if you even get the chance. I highly recommend finding an old computer in the attic if needed.
Most importantly, make sure you have the DataRefs.txt that 2.49 was or is using during export. Otherwise it may be impossible to correctly convert animations.
The cleaner the input file, the cleaner the conversion, the better the 2.79 file. That is why I’m releasing this guide before releasing the alpha – so that some of this work can be done beforehand and day 1 questions will be about the converter and not 2.49 problems.
One last note: Releasing our internal version of XPlane2Blender for 2.49 does not indicate support for it. It is merely there to help prepare your project for use with the converter. Remember, we’re trying to run away from 2.49 as fast as possible.
Blender 2.8 Support
A person recently e-mailed me: “Will Blender 2.8 have support before the New Year?” My answer: Yes! Yes it will! Don’t lose hope!
During the alpha cycle for the converter I will be finishing the alpha for Blender 2.8 as fast as possible. We’re very close – the UI is working and I’m about half way through figuring out which API calls need to be replaced and how.
Before September is over you will start seeing more commits on the 399-blender-28-support branch. To keep up the hope, check out this screenshot of the BD-5J Microjet in XPlane2Blender in 2.8!
v3.5.1.beta.2 + Pull Requests
When I put out a desperate plea for some help developing the project I was gladly surprised by Kim Brandwijk, who has made several high quality pull requests that are small enough in scope to be added to v3.5.1.beta.2. I regret that I did not have time to merge them in a timely matter, but now with both alphas releasing soon all users can look forward to some excellent optimizations and speed increases soon. Hopefully the pull requests and community development can pickup some energy again.
I hope you all are as excited about this as I am! It has been a long summer of lots of coding, but I think people will be very happy with all the new features! Stay tuned for more news!
LR customers can now get the first public beta of X-Plane 11.40 by running the installer, checking the box to get betas, and completing the update. Steam will most likely be available tomorrow, barring any unforeseen crises with this build.
This version update includes the modified C172.acf and C172_G1000.acf that use the new nosewheel steering parameters, so you can try out the new bungee steering in default aircraft now. We’ve heard pretty positive feedback on the new handling from the pilots we’ve asked to try it so far!
The interaction of the nose wheel with the rudder and brakes now closely resembles a real C172: The nosewheel is no longer rigidly connected to the rudder, but by a spring-loaded steering bungee. This connection allows a steering angle of about 10 degrees, giving you three times the precision in steering that you had previously! But sometimes you don’t want precision, you just want to make a tight turn – in that case, you use differential braking. This will pull the plane around in a tighter turn, and with the new steering bungee, the nosewheel will follow that turn without skidding, because it can castor beyond the steered deflection.
If you don’t actually have hardware brake pedals, X-Plane will add the differential braking for you when you ask for maximum rudder (using your joystick twist axis).
A minor patch is now available for LR customers. We expect to release this on Steam in about a day. You will need to run the installer and opt into betas to get this version. It includes improved C172 steering, an asynchronous map, and .lin fixes. Full release notes here.
Update: the announcement here says better C172 steering but actually the aircraft file has not been updated and behaves exactly like the C172 in the previous release. The physics model does have an update that allows authors to simulate bungee-cable steering (like the real C172 has) – we’ll enable this in the default Cessna soon.
It’s officially out the door! (Steam should go “final” later this evening, but you can get the final now by opting into public betas — it’s still marked as a “beta”.) This was a fairly large release, and here’s everything it includes.
We expect to do a bug fix patch in the next week or three, depending on the severity of the seemingly inevitable “bug that got away” during beta testing.
Observant Steam pilots flying VFR noticed that the Cessna 172’s windows were completely solid gray in 11.35 release candidate 1 – not a huge problem for IFR, but not great for site seeing.
This should now be fixed – if you let Steam update the app you’ll get the clear windows back.
This bug was totally bizarre and astonishing. The interior glass texture for the Cessna was missing from the installation, but not from the master files we build the sim from or from the Laminar version. As best as I can tell, Steam’s tool for building the sim just lost the file randomly. I rebuilt the Steam install this morning and the file came back.
X-Plane 11.35r1 is now available. You should be able to auto-update from within the sim as usual with this version.
This update should just about wrap up the beta for 11.35. If you haven’t tried your add on with 11.35 yet, you have pretty much missed your chance as we expect to mark 11.35 final and roll it out for everyone soon.
Beta 6 is now available to fix the hang with auto update. Please note that it will actually take two (2) rounds of updates to see the complete fix. B6 will still hang, but it contains the fix so that when you update after that, it should work as usual.
To get beta six, run the updater and click “get betas”. Once you have beta six, the next update will work normally.
Here’s a feature that went into X-Plane 11.35 that will be really exciting to a very small number of scenery authors: in X-Plane 11.35, line files (.lin) can have custom painted end-caps on each end, and the texture repeats can be aligned to a grid.
Scenery authors who have gotten deep into X-Plane’s scenery system will already know from that first paragraph why this is useful, but for normal people who have seen the sun in the last 30 days, .lin files are the art files that define the look of thin linear features. X-Plane uses them for the painted yellow and white lines in the airport environment, but a developer can use them for anything linear.
Line files repeat, tile, and can follow the ground in a bezier curved path, which makes them great for curved taxiway lines. Their achilles heal up to now has been that when the line ends, the line just … stops. This makes them inappropriate for really thick uses, where that hard “cut” at the end of the line would be really noticeable and ugly.
In X-Plane 11.35 you can provide a start and end cap for each line definition. Like the line itself, it can be mulit-layered if desired. So, for example, you could use it to make dirt paths between buildings in a rural airport – where the path ends you can have a “soft” ending to the path and not have to worry about tucking the line under another scenery element to hide the cut.
We are nearing the end of the beta cycle and it is highly likely that the next build will be a release candidate. (Release notes here.) I’ll continue to sound like a broken record: please test your addons if you haven’t done so already!
One thing of particular note for aircraft authors in this update: we added datarefs to read the contents of the X-Plane default FMS Control and Display Unit (CDU) screen. You can read more about this addition here.