According to Walker ……
First, I must say that I do not yet have a beta copy of X-Plane 11, so all I know about it is from watching the recent announcement from Cosford. However, I am excited by several things I saw in the announcement video:
- New FMOD sound engine – After spending many, many hours trying to get realistic sounds into our models, I am quite excited to learn that X-Plane 11 will include the FMOD sound engine. I’m not familiar yet with FMOD, and I’m not sure how X-Plane 11 will implement FMOD function calls. However, I believe that FMOD will add a new level of realism to X-Plane by providing features such as direction-aware sound effects, sound panning, 3D sounds, distance-aware sounds, etc. Hopefully, X-Plane will provide “hooks” into the FMOD sound functions in the form of datarefs or commands. Otherwise, I’m afraid I may have to dust off my C++ textbooks! Maybe Laminar will even provide a new section in PlaneMaker for sounds configuration…
- Reflections and ambient occlusion effects – this is a really exciting development! X-Plane users have been complaining for years about the lack of realistic reflection effects, and now it is finally here! I think these new “eye candy” effects will really increase the realism and immersive experience in X-Plane greatly. Again, I’m not sure how X-Plane 11 will take “cues” from the texture files for creating the reflection effects – I’m sure that we will have to tweak our textures or NORMALs or other aspects of the graphics files used to paint our aircraft, but it should be relatively easy to modify existing aircraft models to provide these effects. It seems that the ambient occlusion effect (darker shadows appearing near corners of objects, around wheels on the ground, etc.) will be an integral part of the rendering engine in X-Plane 11, requiring no special effort from aircraft and scenery developers. If so, this will be a really nice touch and will add subtle realism to the simulator.
- New User Interface – the new UI will please end users, I’m sure. For us developers, the new UI is not impactful really, but I hope it helps attract new flight sim customers to the product. It looks very nice!
- Detachable, floating instruments – it was unclear to me how far X-Plane 11 will take this concept. Austin and Ben demonstrated how the X-Plane FMC instrument could be “detached” from its place on the panel and enlarged on the screen for better viewing. They already do this with the g430/530 instruments in X-Plane 10, and it is very handy for pilots. I’m not sure if instruments like transponders and radios will also have this new feature. Regardless, it won’t help payware developers very much – most of us create customized instruments, and the only way to provide pop-up enlarged versions of custom instruments is via plug-in programming.
- Particle effects – Austin Meyer made it very clear that X-Plane 11 will NOT include a particle-effects engine, but he did hint that this is something on the development road map. Who among doesn’t want animated raindrops on our windshields and things like animated smoke? There are lots of possibilities for particle effects, and I hope that this feature will find its way into X-Plane 11 within the next year or so.
Those are my initial thoughts on X-Plane 11.
It will obviously take some months for developers to learn to incorporate the new features of X-Plane 11 into our models. And, as is the case when any major release of X-Plane comes out, it takes up to two years before the user base is almost entirely upgraded to the new version. So, I expect us and other developers to have both an “old” fleet and a “new” fleet of models for quite some time. Austin mentioned in the Cosford presentation that existing aircraft models will work in X-Plane 11, but they will not benefit from some new features such as surface reflection effects and FMOD sound effects until they are upgraded. It’s an exciting time for X-Plane fans, and I can’t wait to get the new version on my desktop!
Thanks Walker for your contribution. It’s much appreciated.