Development diary: some X-plane tests

I have planned to look at all the 'new' simulators, with a view to creating some New Zealand scenery, starting with converting existing Real New Zealand and Godzone scenery. However this could take a while to figure out, and I'm not sure yet what I'm likely to end up releasing. The deciding factors may come down to whether I'm excited enough by the results I can get, but I will at least try to cater for the majority of New Zealanders. Note that the main aim is to produce scenery which I can sell in my Store, so other considerations will be whether a particular simulator user base is happy to pay for local scenery development.

I have already mentioned the new simulators in So, what’s Godzone’s plans for the new sims? There are still some reasons why I need to wait to check out some of these, but as the tools become available, I'll make a start on each. First up, though, is X-plane. I had already begun experimenting with X-plane scenery, but I've had to send it to a helpful tester just to see if it works, as I hadn't owned X-plane. However a very generous contribution from a supporter, who has an interest in X-plane scenery, gave me the chance to buy it, and I've only just been able to see my experiments in the sim.

X-plane has never really been a popular choice for New Zealanders, but with version 11 there is a real jump in interest. I must admit that I've never really been 'grabbed' by X-plane, although I've only ever tried the demos, and viewed user screenshots and videos. I never real saw a particular scenery which blew me away. I know I can be blown away, I've seen some truly amazing stuff in Aerofly FS2. One of the problems with my perception of X-plane is that there were never any flash New Zealand scenery to show me how the 'real' New Zealand is depicted.

From my initial experiments, though, I am beginning to be very impressed by it. Flying over the same photoscenery I've done for Prepar3d, I can have a frame of reference which isn't based on some part of the world I've never seen. I must admit that X-plane has a number of hidden strengths, which didn't really show up until I flew over my photoscenery alps, for instance. There are still things I find annoying -- all X-plane scenery, default of otherwise, appears murky to me, I guess that this could be tweaked, but I'm not yet at the stage that I even know where to start with this. I've been lucky enough to be able to build FSX/Prepar3d scenery on existing third party elevation addons -- FTX, and Vector Land Class. The default mesh in X-plane is like stepping back to an earlier time. This too can be fixed, and I'm prepared to have a go myself, but mesh is not really my favourite part of development.

But in some respects, X-plane has certain immersive features which surpass my Prepar3d. I say mine, as Prepar3d handles thing in its own way, for instance to get a proper handle on scale, there's VR, but X-plane just gives a good non-VR depiction of the scale of mountain flying.

There are some real stumbling blocks with  X-plane scenery development, the tools are just not up to the same standard as Prepared. For example, the photoscenery tool I use -- World Editor (WED) -- crashes long before I've built a decent sized scenery area. I need to figure out a way around this, but it's things like this which make me realise that it's going to be a bit of a battle to get to a finished scenery.

Anyway, here's a few screenshots around Mount Cook: the airport, and the head of Lake Tekapo. So far I haven't included the mountain itself, I'm saving that for a treat for me:) This is a narrow strip of scenery only, as I can't figure out how to increase it without crashing WED. I've resized these from the original 1920x1080 to 1280x720, as this is the normal treatment for FSX/Prepar3d screenshots on this site. The water is photographic only at the moment. The airport buildings and 'autogen' are default X-plane. I'll deal with autogen in another development diary.

Note that X-planers refer to photoscenery as orthophoto scenery, but I don't, as I'm too old to change. And to me, orthophoto scenery really means the automatic non-distributable scenery made by Ortho4XP. I'll only use photos which are fully licensed for distribution. In this case, this is the same source imagery as I've used in the yet-to-be-released Alps/Lakes photoscenery for FSX/Prepar3d, at 1.2 metres/pixel.

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