Sunday, October 14, 2007

X-Plane 9: The Absurdity of Pretending

There have been plenty of rumors and semi-official posts regarding the upcoming major revision of X-Plane (X-Plane 9). I have been trying to keep my mouth shut about it...the problem with pre-announcing anything is that the upside to us is small (at best we do what we said) and the downside is large (at worst we don't do what we said and people get grumpy). No one complains if XP9 turns out to have no-pause scenery load and it's a surprise...but plenty of people complain if we say "there won't be pauses" and then they are.

But...the situation is becoming mildly absurd...plenty of info is out there, and saying "the upcoming major release", etc. just feels political and weaselly. Austin would be disgusted.

So listen: I am going to try to provide some info on X-Plane 9. This info is subject to change. This is what we think is going to happen to the best of our knowledge. The release is still a ways away and enormous changes will happen. When things change, do not bitch to me that "you promised X" would happen. I do not promise anything. This info is provided to try to help those making add-ons for X-Plane plan appropriately.

With that in mind...I will try to post some more details on the authoring environment in the next few days. For now, here's some very basic guidance on compatibility and hardware requirements:
  • The hardware requirements will be at least as high as X-Plane 8. If your machine is gasping and wheezing on 8, it's not going to be any better on 9.
  • X-Plane 9 will depend more heavily on pixel shaders. If your hardware doesn't have pixel shaders (GeForce 2-4, Radeon 7000-9200) or has really crappy shaders (GeForce FX series) you will miss out on a lot of the cool stuff in v9, and possibly have the scenery look worse (but faster) than v8 (as we move features from the CPU to pixel shaders).
  • Scenery that opens in x-plane should open in X-Plane 9 unmodified - if the scenery works in 8 but not 9, report it as a bug!
  • Plugins that work in v8 should work in v9 without modification.
Finally, we are trying to finish up X-Plane 861...this is a bug-fix patch for version 8 - it contains no new features, but it does fix a few nasty bugs, some of which cause crashes. So if there is any new feature, it's coming in 9, not 861. Version 8 has been out for a very long time, so I will accept no argument that v8 should have more features than it does now. It's been a long run!

(One of my main goals with 861 is to try to fix any weird behavior for third party scenery add-ons, so that a scenery add-on looks the same in v8 and v9. If we left the bug in 861 and fixed it in v9, authors would have to hack the scenery to make it work with v8, and then remove the hack and republish for v9. By trying to fix the authoring bugs in v8, at least when possible, it lets authors publish one package for both versions. Of course, v9 will have new features, so I expect some v9-only scenery will emerge pretty quickly.)

9 comments:

Bold & Courageous said...

The bit about pixel shaders makes me happy, as I moved from a 5200FX to an X800 XT.

CRC said...

Features blah. When, oh when will the scenery tools finally be released to work with the new scenery formats?

I've been hanging on for nearly a year for these so I can go an fix a lot of issues with airport layouts etc, but at the moment, it's just not happening.

Benjamin Supnik said...

CRC, stop waiting and go use the WED public beta! It's under the tools section of scenery.x-plane.com.

형진 said...

Can Global Scenery for v8 be used also in v9?

Benjamin Supnik said...

I believe v9 will load v8 global default scenery. But if v9 comes with new global scenery (and I think it will) it would be better to use the new scenery.

D-EWAU said...

Hmmm, I wonder if x-plane 9 will support more than 2 cores, I guess multithreading will be the future for best performance.
Do you have any clues concerning multithreading, multicore support?
4 core cpu's are spreading the market at < 250 $ ...
Would be nice if x-plane could benefit on the long run.
Just my 2 cents,
jimmy

Benjamin Supnik said...

x-plane 8 already uses up to 4 cores to rotate tiles...the incremental improvement of this is more noticable in v9 than v8. Whether this justifies 4 cores now, I don't know. In the future we'll be doing more multicore stuff, I am sure...it is the way of the industry. How soon, I do not know...recoding for threading is a non-trivial change!

Anonymous said...

Im sorry if you have a really really old video card. maybe your old P4 with hyper transport won't keep up. this 9 will be around for a few years at least. most games that come out need the best hardware at first. There is a reason for this.

Thank you for your time

Benjamin Supnik said...

Anonymous, I'm not really sure what you're referring to here...was this the post you meant to respond to?