My travels into X-Plane 10

I’m sure those clouds won’t cause an issue

Recently I picked up X-Plane 10. That’s not entirely true. I actually pre-ordered it in 2011 but when it arrived so did some other titles that stole my attention and I basically only loaded it once before forgetting all about it. Despite the high price tag and delivery cost!

The HDR and environment scatter effects are quite impressive. Here’s a default plane in the default scenery somewhere over a Washington national park.

Fast forward to 2013 and here I am sorting out the Track-IR, tweaking settings, configuring FSEconomy and finally looking at some awesome payware.

The first thing I noticed was the sim starts off with all settings at zero. This can initially be very disappointing to a gamer accustomed to immediate reward. You won’t load XP for the first time and see an amazing vista that blows your mind. To start out I loaded the default aircraft. They are pretty nice. Nothing advanced but a good way to get used to the simulator without having to worry about plugins or advanced flight computers. There are not as many GA aircraft as I’d like and quite a few oddballs and rarities like the SR-71 Blackbird (something I went and saw as an 8 year old child).

Flying at night is amazing, note the amount of traffic moving alone the highways and the number of buildings lighting up the city

Soon after I started flying XP regularly I read that there was a beta out that included a 64-bit executable. As a flyer in DCS I’m pretty used to 64-bit. However in XP you get the added benefit of lots of multicore support also. I was pretty blown away by some of the performance seen in 64-bit and actually upgraded to a GTX 680 4GB video card. The 4GB model lets me crank up the video resolution to Extreme levels and uses gigs of video texture alone.

One of the drivers for getting into XP was that I saw it was supported by FSEconomy. If you’re unfamiliar with FSE it’s an online economy system that lets you rent buy or lease aircraft, take on charter flights and earn money. The plug-in records your flight and works out your rental time, fuel consumption, ground fees etc etc like you’re running your own business. This is great for anyone looking for a purpose to flight simulation.

Sooner or later you’re going to get hooked into payware, whether it’s an airframe or some other mod. The quality of the payware coming out now is better than it’s ever been and new developers are adding X-Plane to their platforms in conjunction with the old FSX or Prepar3d outputs. Note that many aircraft are not 64-bit compatible so I’ve actually got a few aircraft that not supported and don’t work yet. The ones I’ve flown most are Jrollon’s BAe JetStream 32, a very very nice rendition of a nasty little regional turbo prop that carries about 18 pax. More recently I picked up the Carenado Cessna 210 which I actually bought and paid a few hundred thousand dollars for in FSEconomy. No more rental costs for me!

So why bother with XP when FSX is so established?

Well the first point to my picking up XP and really appreciating it is that it’s still in development. There will be more builds of XP, there are betas out, things are going in and they are all free. XP 11 will come out no doubt and Laminar Research are on to a winner.

Secondly, and related to the previous point, XP looks good everywhere. New patches are updating the scenery to add more buildings and populate airports with terminals etc automatically. I can take a job in FSE without having to worry about owning any payware landscape mod for that region. I used to fly FSX and I had the NZ landscape. If I flew anywhere else the default landscape looked awful. Also the FSX system was so dependent on a single core that the framerate was just bad no matter how good your video card was. In XP the lighting effects are great and use up to date DirectX, HDR tech. Since its 64-bit I can get solid performance despite gigs and gigs of textures and objects loading. This application will seriously stress your video card so it’s a bit more like a science experiment than others ‘games’ people are used to.

So finally, should people pick up X-Plane if they have and enjoy FSX? Well, maybe. I did and I would never go back. There’s a few catches though. If you have tonnes of payware well you’re probably not willing to give it all away and start again in XP. Also things like clouds are volumetric but often don’t look as good in XP. Turning dials isn’t done via the scroll wheel, it’s an annoying click and hold system that can drive me mad if the Track-IR camera isn’t paused. Air Traffic Control and flight planning can be another thing that’s not as streamlined as FSX. But in general, if you’re a new user or one looking for a change then XP is definitely the way of the future… unless Microsoft suddenly builds a time machine.

Coming into land over a busy city

Categories: Flight Simulation

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