tkyler Posted March 27, 2009 Report Share Posted March 27, 2009 So you're finally ready to try x-plane and see for yourself what it's all about? Through this posting, I hope to give you a general idea of what you can expect and towards the end of the post, attempt to discuss the direction x-plane might be heading. So let's just start at the beginning with a bit of esoterica.The x-plane installation consists of a few key executable files along with a whole lot of support files. The key executable files are in the root x-plane directory and are as follows:1.) X-Plane2.) Plane-Maker3.) Airfoil-MakerThe support files are things like the terrain database, the aircraft files, bitmaps, plug-ins and a myriad of other files most users will never interact with. If one is hoping to become a developer, then you will have to become acquainted with all these files and what they do and there is a web page for that, but for people who simply want to fly in x-plane, you generally need not concern yourself with anything other than the "X-Plane" executable.The x-plane package is available in four different "versions". There is a “Demo Version”, a "DVD version", a "beta version", and a "updater version. Sound confusing? Where here's some examples to help clarify.If you wanted to try a demo version of x-plane, you would go to www.x-plane.com and download an installer file. You would run the installer file and the demo version of x-plane, along with limited scenery area around Innsbruck Austria, would be downloaded and installed in a directory of your choosing. You could then run x-plane for up to 10 minutes in demo mode. There are no limitations on the demo mode other than being geographically limited to Innsbruck and the 10 minute time limit whereby x-plane displays a dialog box and negates any control input, but all the aircraft are available to you.So if you decided you liked x-plane and wanted to buy it, you'd order the latest DVD version of x-plane which will net you 6 DVDs. 95% of the data on those DVDs is the world terrain database. Now you can choose which parts of the world you want to install and a full install of the world terrain will eat up a good 60GBs of your hard drive +/-. Any part of the world where scenery is NOT installed you CAN fly in but you will only see water and no land; however, the airports will be in place. X-Plane has an installer that will walk you through the installation. I'm not saying it's easy but it seems everybody gets through it somehow. Feel free to ask question in these forums if something eludes you.So let's say you've installed x-plane and your part of the world. Well the version of x-plane you purchased on DVD and just installed is probably some 'stable' version chosen by the x-plane developers.... let's say 9.20, which is the current DVD versions available online. An older version like 9.00 might be something you'd buy in Wal-Mart. The x-plane authors figured these were as good of versions as any to put on DVD so they did it. NOW....here's one thing about x-plane you really need to understand, and that is X-Plane is updated CONSTANTLY. Once a stable version get's "burned" to DVDs and ready for shipment, the x-plane authors go right back to programming in more features and lots of cool new stuff. So rather than let these new features build up and disseminating them in one big release in the future, they elect to offer frequent updates. So while you may have installed version 9.20 or 9.00 off your DVDs, chances are there will be some new update to x-plane already or if not, then probably in a few months into the future. There are usually announcement on common forums when an update to x-plane is released. Now whenever an imminent update is about to be released, the x-plane authors first release what is called a “beta version” for public testing. This is a chance for people to test the software and report bugs. Do NOT expect this beta version to work correctly “across the board”. If you desire to try the beta version, then you should be prepared to report any bugs you find...that is the purpose of the beta “phase” of the release. After some period of time has elapsed and the x-plane authors feel that no more significant bugs remain, then they will declare the release “final” and that release will become what I previously referred to as the “updater version” So then to recap, the procedure for new x-plane owners is to install x-plane from the DVDs and then check for updates or beta versions. If you were to do that as of this posting, then what you'd find is that you would probably install version 9.20 from DVDs...and the current “updater version” would be 9.22 and the most recent beta version will be 9.30b7. When 9.30 goes “final” i.e. all the bugs have been handled, then 9.30 will cease to be a “beta version” and will become the “updater version” and the x-plane authors will go back to adding more features to be released at some unknown time in the future in a new beta version.So this post will now assume that you have the latest and greatest version of x-plane installed and you're ready to launch x-plane. After launching x-plane for the first time, x-plane will place you at LOWI, the Innsbruck airport, which is the same airport as is the demo and you'll be in a Cirrus Jet. At this point, you can select another aircraft or another airport or both.Generally though, the first thing you'll want to do is set up your rendering settings. X-Plane has a myriad of rendering settings that vastly affect the quality you see on the screen. The rendering settings you will choose are directly dependent on the power of your video card. Some of the common settings you'll want to experiment with are the “texture resolution”, the “anti-aliasing”, “aniosotropic filtering”and “pixel shader” pull down menus......in that order. These four settings have the biggest effect on the visual quality you'll see. You can expect to have to quit and relaunch x-plane to have these settings take effect as this information has to be loaded into the video card during x-plane loading.After your rendering settings are set, you'll probably want to next set up your hardware if you have any. If you do not, then x-plane will still allow you to fly using a input device such as a mouse or trackball in conjunction with keystrokes for various functions. If you do have hardware, then x-plane has a setup screen that allows you to select which buttons on your hardware control specific functions within x-plane. You can also map commands / functions to keystrokes in another setup screen.Once you have your rendering settings and hardware setup, you're ready to start “flying” so at this point, you can select a new aircraft and/or new airport and begin flying. The first thing you'll probably notice in x-plane is the lack of any buildings / structures at airports. Airports are just flat expanses of “pavement”...taxiways and runways. Where's the tower? where's the terminals etc? Well x-plane, like other sims, creates it's airports from standardized information that allows it to populate the “virtual earth” with all recorded airports....5000+ in all. It is impractical for the authors of x-plane to create individual airport details. At this point in time, it is left to 3rd party contributors to create 3D scenery for airports. The x-plane authors are working on creating generic, default airport structures but for exact replicas of specific airport scenery, 3rd party solutions will always be the only option. I will NOT go into scenery development here, but I will say that all tools and technology exists in x-plane to create as much 3D scenery as one could desire. In addition,there are tools available that allow one to convert scenery made for MSFS into scenery usable within x-plane. You might also notice that common famous landmarks are not available either. This is because the market traditionally targeted by x-plane was not the “visual world” as we know it but this is changing. The x-plane authors have recognized this and there are aggressive efforts to provide famous landmarks into x-plane.You're next impression of x-plane will come from the aircraft you've chosen and the performance characteristics you experience. All aircraft in x-plane are highly customizable and just because an aircraft is included with x-plane as a default aircraft doesn't mean the flight model is accurate or fully developed. X-Plane has demonstrated the ability to model aircraft flight very well when the time is taken to tune a flight model thoroughly. So if you're first impression of x-plane is negative because the particular aircraft you selected did not seem to perform as you expected, then just know that aircraft can probably be further tweaked to perform even better. You also may note the lack of virtual cockpits on many of the x-plane default aircraft, where only a 2D panel exists. This is due to the “transition” x-plane finds itself in where flexible 3D functionality for virtual cockpits has been provided by the developers but has yet to be implemented into the default aircraft. Laminar is currently engaged in an aggressive effort to update it's default fleet to include 3D virtual cockpits for it's fleet.Another shortcoming of x-plane you may notice is the lack of AI (artificial intelligence) air traffic. Now x-plane does have a basic system of AI air traffic, but the system leaves a lot to be desired. Again, the developers of x-plane realize this and the AI portion of x-plane is being revamped.Up to this point, we've discussed what can be expected to get an “up to date” version of x-plane running on your computer, but I suspect there will be lots of features you WON'T see and wonder what's the story on these features. Well what we haven't addressed is what x-plane CAN do. X-Plane CAN do anything almost anything MSFS can do. The x-plane developers have spent the last few years creating a code base and infrastructure that will allow developers to create very powerful results. What x-plane lacks is development by 3rd parties. In the same sense that a road is paved into new territory, until that territory is populated with desirables, it will take a while to grow. The “road” has been built...but x-plane needs developers. This forum has several experienced developers that are ready to help and assist new users who might have interest in contributing to this simulator and its growth.As time goes on, x-plane add-ons will increase...we're seeing that now. High quality scenery will come available...Ortho-photo scenery will come available, 3D airport scenery will come available, AI traffic will become available. It will take some time, but the technology is there to develop it. 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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