X-Plane 11.50b14 is available via the Laminar Research installer & Steam “Unstable Betas” channel. We’ll make beta 14 the standard Steam public beta version once we have a sense that it’s not completely unusable.
Highlights of this update include fixes for stutters and freezes we heard a lot about over the last week. We believe users on the latest Nvidia driver (451.48) should see improvements as well.
We have seen some early reports of problems with VR and performance, and some of them are already identified and will be addressed in beta 15. We are going to keep with beta 14 for now to collect more bug reports – it also provides smoother flight for NVidia users.
Catching Problems Early
The plugin system has an iron-clad rule–you can’t talk to the plugin system from your plugin from a second thread. This rule is important because if a plugin violates it, the resulting crash may happen later, somewhere else in the code, or might just be impossible to decipher.
Beta 14 addresses this by crashing immediately when plugins run certain APIs illegally from the wrong thread. The goal here is to clearly identify these problems as an incorrect plugin, so the plugin author can fix the problem, and we can tell how stable the rest of the sim is.
Here’s the gotcha: when a plugin crashes the sim by doing something illegal on a thread, X-Plane doesn’t diagnose it as a plugin bug – you’ll just get a standard auto-report form. This isn’t perfect, but we think a clear auto-reported crash is better than a confusing auto-reported crash.
We quietly released beta 14 yesterday afternoon, and so far, the top four auto reported crashes are all plugin crashes in threads.
Plugin authors: we will try to find you and tell you if we see your plugin crashing in threaded code by calling X-Plane.
X-Plane 11.50b13 is now available. Steam users, remember you can access this version immediately by opting into the “Unstable Pre-Release beta” version. We’ll make beta 13 the standard Steam public beta version once we have a sense that it’s not completely unusable.
Beta 12 was released on Friday, however we quickly learned it had a major issue: Windows OpenGL users couldn’t launch. Our build process had a hiccup that caused a shader mismatch, so we rolled beta 12 back in favor of beta 11 for the weekend.
Beta 13 fixes this shader issue, and includes all of the beta 12 fixes such as:
As always, remember that this is a beta, so make back ups!
We’re Going Back To Saying ‘Root Objects’
#544 – it appears the “Exportable Collection/Object” naming scheme was confusing. We’re going back to 2.79 phrasing “Root Collection/Object” in the UI, error messages, bug reports, feature requests, e-mails, everything. If I make a mistake please correct me quickly!
Our bright and shiny new fun feature is here! Automatic Lights (also called WYSIWYG lights) replaces Named and Param lights. It fills out parameters and aims directional lights for you in the most efficient way possible! No more doing math by hand, no more reading the lights.txt file, no more being scared to experiment! The UI guides you and prevents mistakes! Automatic lights are the new XPlane2Blender default light. Download this example to see many different uses of this feature!
We’ve tried to make this as intuitive as possible, but just in case you’re not sure what fills in what parameter, see this table:
Blender Property Used
Light’s color picker
R, G, B
XPlane2Blender’s Index property
XPlane2Blender’s Light Size property
Spot Light’s Rotation (in any mode)
DX, DY, DZ
“Omni” if light is a POINT else Spot Shape > Size
XPlane2Blender’s Flash Frequency property
XPlane2Blender’s Phase Offset property
Any other parameter found in lights.txt can’t be changed in Blender.
Some very very old lights are not compatible.
This is currently an opt-in feature only. An updater for old named and param lights would be difficult and limited and likely won’t happen.
A dataref search window style feature feature is planned, but currently to get a list of lights and their parameters you’ll need to click “Create lights.txt Summary” and look at the internal text block “lights.txt Summary
The lights.txt included is the same content as X-Plane’s lights.txt, with slightly different formatting. Your .obj will be completely correct in X-Plane, but X-Plane’s old and currently shipping lights.txt is not compatible with XPlane2Blender. This will hopefully be corrected soon.
Please send me pictures and stories of what you’re trying now that the light system is more easy! I can’t wait to see more sparkling lights across the skies and airports of X-Plane!
X-Plane 11.50b11 is now available. Steam users, remember you can access this version by opting into the “Unstable Pre-Release beta” version. We’ll make beta 11 the standard Steam public beta version once we have a newer beta.
Release note highlights include:
New UI option: anisotropic filtering
New Plane Maker option: always use Experimental Flight Model
Enabling the Experimental Flight Model in Plane Maker
The experimental flight model has proven to be quite stable since it was released in X-Plane 11.40, so authors can now set up their aircraft to use it by default.
The new check box is found in the Author screen in Plane Maker. When it is checked, the aircraft will always get the 11.40 experimental flight model, no matter what the user pref for flight model is in the X-Plane UI. You should use this option if you like how your aircraft performs with it enabled.
When the new check box is off (which it will be by default), the user pref decides what happens, just like 11.40. Aircraft creators should pick this if they target the older flight model. Note there’s no way to force the experimental flight model off.
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.
X-Plane 11.50b10 is now available if you update via the Laminar Research installer. (Steam users: it’s on the servers and we’ll hit go in a few hours if we don’t hear reports of massive crashing and pain again.) You can view the latest release notes here.
This update has two major improvements: we fixed our top auto reported crashes, and optimized VRAM usage based on the reports many of you sent in. If you update to beta 10 and still see blurry textures, please create a new diagnostic report, and file a new bug report with it.
Normally I try to not mention specific add-ons when talking about problems; it’s not fair to the add-on maker, it’s really hard to know what the real problem is without knowing everything about the bug, the problems I blog about usually affect a wide array of add-ons, and I don’t want to throw add-on makers under the bus. It’s not fair to them, particularly in this case.
In this case, however, approximately everybody knows that the Zibo was missing its wings in 11.50 beta 9 – it’s a very widely used add-on, and it’s a perfect illustration of the problems with third party content validation, which is what this post is about.
So…gather round children, and I will tell you the tale of how the Zibo lost its wings.
With Vulkan and Metal, X-Plane is now firmly in the driver’s seat for VRAM management. This lets us eliminate stutters that were previously present with OpenGL and almost impossible to avoid. It has, however, one big and noticeable downside: when you run out of VRAM, you get blurry textures.
Of course the goal wasn’t to replace stuttering with blurry textures, and we believe that given the normal work load of X-Plane, you should not be seeing this. The fact that so many users are seeing blurry textures, especially on big cards with lots of VRAM, points to the VRAM code being buggy in all the ways beta code can be buggy.
How much VRAM do I need?
Just to get the obvious out of the way, our system requirements have not changed for 11.50. Our minimum VRAM requirement for X-Plane 11 is still 1Gb. We expect these cards to be able to run 1080p with lowered texture resolution, providing an equal experience to X-Plane 11.41. With 2Gb we expect users to be able to run HDR with medium texture resolution on 1080p systems. 4Gb and higher should be able to run HDR at with high resolution textures with 2k monitor resolutions. With 6Gb and higher, 4k monitor resolution should be possible.
A week or two ago we had a very dead beta, and posed the question of how to incrementally test betas in the future. We got a variety of responses, ranging from “private test it first” to “roll it out in a wave” to “full speed ahead, we know betas are bumpy.”
Since then, we’ve been doing one of the easiest and probably most useful things we can: posting the betas early to third-party developers who are in our developer Slack channel.
Beta 7/8 had a ton of changes, and our third-party developers found multiple problems, some of which we wouldn’t see in our internal tests. So we held off on releasing betas 7 and 8 to the public while we fixed those issues. Until today.
X-Plane 11.50 has been similar to X-Plane 11.20 (our VR) release and different from what we normally try to do, in that when we went beta (both private and public), the work for Vulkan wasn’t done yet. We had something that you could fly with, that was delightful for some users (and unstable for others), but we also had a big list of things we still needed to do.
X-Plane 11.50b7 has been recalled before it even made it fully out the door.
We had a ton of changes in this one–at one point I pulled over 100 Git commits on our release branch. Ben and Sidney also knocked nearly all items off their features-to-do list.
But thank goodness we asked our third party developers to kick the tires early on this one. They found a beta stopping bug in about 30 minutes! In our attempts to fix some performance issues, we caused the aircraft to be blurry in almost all cases, and we knew that was not an acceptable regression bug for a flight sim.
So sit tight for beta 8 to come soon, and don’t panic when your version numbers skip b7.