Saturday, February 06, 2010

X-Plane Is An All You Can Eat Buffet

I have blogged in the past regarding the rendering settings in X-Plane, but this seems to come up periodically, so here we go again. Invariably someone asks the question: "what computer do I have to buy to run X-Plane with all of the sliders set to maximum?"

I now have an answer, in the form of a question: "How hungry do you have to be to clean your plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet?"

There is no amount of hungry that will ever be enough to eat all of the food at an all you can eat buffet - you can always ask for more. And when it comes to rendering settings and global scenery, X-Plane is (whenever possible) the same way. You can always set more traffic, more birds, more objects, more FSAA.

Now the all-you-can-eat buffet doesn't have infinite amounts of food in the building - just enough that they know that they won't run out. And X-Plane is the same way. There is a maximum if you set everything all the way up, but we try to make sure that no one is going to hit a point where they want more eye candy but they've maxed out the settings. Eat all you want, we've got more.

Why on earth would we set up X-Plane like this? The answer is choice.

If you go to an all you can eat buffet, you can fill up on nothing but potatos, or you can have five pieces of chicken. It's up to you. X-Plane is the same way - you decide if you want objects to be visible farther away or more densely. Would you rather have roads or trees? Birds or high frame-rate? You decide!

Not everyone's appetite is the same, and not everyone's taste is the same. This is very true when it comes to flight simulation. There are huge variations in hardware capability, target framerate (some users don't mind 20 fps, some demand 80 fps) and in what part of the visual experience people care about most (objects vs. FSAA vs. visibility distance, etc).

Given such a heterogeneous environment, the only way to meet the needs of a wide group of users is to present choice, and make sure that we have enough of everything.

So when you go to set the rendering settings, don't think that setting objects to anything less than maximum is like only eating half the steak you bought at a steak-house. Rather, the rendering settings are like picking which food from the buffet makes it to your plate. You choose how much you want based on what you can consume, and you pick and choose what is most desirable to you. And like an all you can eat buffet, don't eat too much - the results won't be pleasant!


Dozer said...

Haha, that's very profound!

Anonymous said...

The irony is you give us the choice to jack up all of the sliders to a ridiculous level but you don't give us the choice to natively remove the fog (I have to download a plugin ... that's no fun). If I want my system to crawl to a halt for benchmark purposes, at least remove the auto-fog.

Benjamin Supnik said...

Right - we don't provide the option because we don't want your system to crawl. It's a support issue - once the sim gets slow, the flight model starts doing huge piles of horrible things that users refer to as bugs and splatter at tech support.

Anonymous said...

The fog in X-plane is pretty aggressive. It it possible to have the auto-gen automatically reduce itself to a lower setting in heavy scenery areas such as NYC? And if it needs further reduction you can add fog at that point.

Benjamin Supnik said...

No because that requires a scenery reload. And changing the fog + LOD at the same time causes oscillations. We tried it once.

alloycowboy said...


Does X-plane adjust the scenery for the performance of the aicraft, or it's flight path?

Benjamin Supnik said...

X-Plane dynamically loads and unloads the scenery according to the airplane's flight path. That is, there's a lot more 3-d detail near you than far away. To see this, pause the sim, go to free view, and go FAR away - note the lack of airports and roads.

We do not adjust for airplane performance - rather we constantly try to maintain a buffer zone. If you get a really fast plane, a lot of scenery, and not a lot of cores, the 3-d can "fall behind".

alloycowboy said...

Thanks for answering my question. But know I have another one. I will admit my knowledge of how x-plane scenery works is limited but I did have an idea.In fact you might be using it already. If X-plane renders scenery using triangles or polygons would it be possible to assign each triangle a numeric code that would tell the triangle its slope,elevation above sea level, its climatoliogical zone, the amount of moisture it recieves....ect,ect,ect. Then you could have a scenery JPG file for each numeric code.

simon said...

Ben, for a change, no guys are doing an amazing job! 60gigs...well, it is a rather big world. Opensceneryx should be a compulsory install too, that adds so much, as seen in my last shanghai vid in the org forum. My Core i7 920 runs xp verrrry sweetly, thankyou. Simon W

testriderchuck said...

I've tried your suggestions. I now have an empty plate except for the single black olive on it. in FOG dammit. I've posted on the forum name = testriderchuck, cuuby's corner, where I've also described what I'm experiencing and what I've done to attempt a remedy.

All this and I still get the auto fog after sitting on the runway for about 2 minutes, engine idling. So far I've spent about $250 of my hard-to-come-by dollars and have yet change the for for more that one X-plane restart.

AND, i've tried 3 of your suggestions as listed in the blog.

Any more idea's.

Benjamin Supnik said...


I can't provide tech support via blog comments, and this isn't even the current form of the blog (see the first post - the blg has moved). I think you need to contact X-Plane tech support, or better yet, try one of the user forums. (The user forums are often better because you might find someone with near-identical hardware as you have.)