Thursday, January 20, 2011

Next-Gen Cities

A few days ago Tyler posted some pictures of the "auto-gen"* for X-Plane 10's global scenery.

First, a few notes on hardware and performance: Propsman took these pictures on a new iMac, so that's a core i5 and a Radeon HD 5000 series GPU - that is, a pretty decent system. Hardware technology continues to advance rapidly (especially on the GPU front), so there's a big difference between a 'decent' system bought today and even a hard core system from two years ago.

I don't know what your performance will be like. I do know that the system is performing well enough so far in its not-really-all-that-optimized form that we think we can ship it, and more importantly I know that we can turn the level of detail down in a number of ways to lighten the load as needed.

The most expensive feature you see here is the real-time 3-d global shadows. Heavy shadowing combined with heavy 3-d does add up and hit the system hard, but I think we'll be able to have intermediate shadow settings that should be more affordable.

X-Plane 10 will use hardware instancing if your GPU is capable of it, and it makes a big difference in the amount of 3-d you can show.

X-Plane 10 is also quite a bit more fill-rate intensive than X-Plane 9; if your GPU is having fill-rate problems with version 9, some version 10 features will be out of reach. In the past, X-Plane has been light on fill-rate, so we've had users running with cut down cards (like a GeForce 8400) without realizing that their card isn't that fast.

Some users have asked about architecture and localization. I expect we will not ship out of the box with multiple local regions; however, the library system allows us (or any third party) to provide new artwork sets for local, architecturally reasonable buildings.

Finally, it might be a bit difficult to see in these pictures (because they are focused in on the detail), but the 3-d buildings you see here work with the real-world roads. In the past, we've had a clash between the buildings and roads vs. the terrain texture. This is a problem we are solving for X-Plane 10.

* Auto-gen, meaning bulk buildings that populate the world in urban areas...whether it's really auto or gen or anything like autogen in the past is a complex discussion that will have to wait.


John said...

Thanks for all the info. I don't know how Austin feels about presenting more info on X-plane 10 (if he is worried about promising stuff that can't be shipped, or something?) - but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say every tidbit released gets me more excited for x-plane 10.

If I see some really crazy feature and it turns out it can't be implemented, seeing the technical background for why makes things a lot better and helps me image what the future might hold and appreciate the ingenuity that go into the work arounds.

Anonymous said...

We need a video of a plane flying over the new scenery, that way we can get a feel of how it all looks during actual flight.

MajorFibbs said...

Looks promising, but why are these pictures so dark, apart from the ones in twilight?
Let's hope the level of details can be achieved with 2010 computer hardware? And I hope Laminar will not make the same error like MS a few years ago: promising more than what will be implemented or worse what the user can achieve.

Anonymous said...

Looks incredible!

I hope the road traffic can be customized too so that on smaller suburban roads you don't get large trucks.

How do you assign the land area for each building? I hope its customizable so that inner city areas can have higher density housing.

Think of some Asian cities like Manila, in some areas you could fit 3 houses in the area occupied by a single house in those photos. In 'Slum' areas maybe 8 'houses'.

Have a look at Google Earth around RPLL (Manila) you will see what I mean about high density housing.

I understand that out of the box you're only going to have support for US cities but at least make the scenery system customizable enough so that 3rd party devs can produce great looking/plausible scenery for other parts of the world.

Regards MatthewS

Tonka said...

Ben - to your knowledge, is this Wiki article correct in saying that GPU's which support OpenGL 3 will support hardware instancing?


Benjamin Supnik said...

The article isn't accurate to X-Plane because there are multiple instancing extensions. We require GL_ARB_instanced_arrays or an OpenGL 4.0 driver (which bakes that extension in).

Now it gets trickier because the quality of instanced arrays varies quite a bit. I don't have good data on the latest DX11 cards, but amongst the DX10 cards the ATI cards do this better than the NV ones. (This style of instancing is core to DX11, so my guess is that the DX11 NV cards catch up, but I don't know for sure.)

Benjamin Supnik said...

Users will be able to replace these art assets via the library for regionalization -- in fact I hope people do so!

simmo said...

Great update Ben. Do you know if OSM Data for all the world will be used, or on release it will only be the larger population countries? I'm in Australia...
Ability to customize plausible local scenery will be good, I assume new tools or processes will be used? Goodie, more toys?
Finally, could features like fences between properties be randomized within an area? I love the look of those fences, but the same for hundreds of houses will look repetitive. Picky picky!