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:
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.
In 11.50b6 we added a command line argument to run Aftermath, a debugging utility, hoping it will give us more insight into device loss errors.
A “device loss” error is specifically the crash that accompanies the on-screen (or log.txt) error message “Encountered Vulkan device loss error!” Using Aftermath will not help us investigate VRAM issues–that is a different issue entirely.
If you are on Windows, have an NVidia GPU and you see a device loss error followed by a crash, you can help us track these bugs down by running X-Plane with Aftermath enabled. We know from 11.50b5 that many devices are not compatible with Aftermath, so if you crash and burn immediately, you can go back to using beta 6 without the extra command line option.
We will be using the command line via Command Prompt. (Here are instructions on getting started with this if needed.)
Launch X-Plane from the command line with the following flag:
You can then try to reproduce the steps that caused the initial device loss, or just fly as usual. If device loss happens again, the auto crash report form should come up again. Please fill out your email and submit the auto report to us for investigation.
Well, that was something. I had a very nice post written up last week on the state of beta. We had spent a week very carefully trying to improve stability and then…beta 5 exploded on the launch pad.
So…let’s try this again. But before we get into beta 6, a few graphs:
That’s a graph of auto-reported crashes over time – the big spike up is April 2nd when 11.50 came out. The gap in the timeline at the end is when our crash reporter temporarily was shut off for exceeding quota! From this I can take derive two take-away points:
A lot of people are really excited to try the 11.50 beta even though it’s early and unstable and
The 11.50 beta crashes a lot.
The silver lining is that the crashes we have been collecting are very very informative so it’s been a really great data stream.
Here’s one more graph:
That’s bug reports and they’re up something like 1000% – we have received close to 1800 reports since then. Of these reported bugs, over 500 are in the category of “it crashed” or some other similarly catastrophic, bad thing happened.
So with those graphs in mind, let’s talk about where we are at with the beta.