Catching my breath

Just a quick look at what's happening in the local sim scene, during a very hectic time. The biggest news is that the Godzone Kickstarter fundraising project has reached the 'activation' target, which means that the multi-sim project will go ahead. You can still make a pledge until the 20th July, now that it is a sure thing... but please read the Kickstarter project page details first, so you know what to expect, and what the chances are of your particular simulator being supported long-term.

Some well-discussed news from developers this week, with a group of major players announcing that future projects will support Prepar3d v4 only. This was the ways things used to be, back in the days when MSFS was still in development, it was expected that when a new sim version was released, the previous version would be supported for a short time, but would be phased out as the 'current' version gained traction. Supporting the current version plus the previous version was well-accepted back then, but since we got a bit stuck in a time-warp with FSX, people are having to come to terms with this way of doing things, now that there's some lively simulator development.

The clincher, though, is the move to 64 bit, which removes a lot of the obstacles for developers who produce complex addons, and want them to work with other complex addons. I can understand that, and although I too have been caught unawares by FSX's sudden obsolescence, it makes a lot of sense that the restrictive 32 bit platforms are discontinued.

On the other hand, I don't really have the luxury of settling on one simulator, at least until I know where New Zealand simmers are likely to end up. Hence my project to explore 'em all, just to test the process, and whether simmers want it.

So for the time-being, I'll continue developing for FSX/se and Prepar3d v3 and v4, and explore the newer sims as well. That's not to say that I won't release a Prepar3d v4-only project at some point, in fact I do have something in mind once the dust settles from the recent upheavals...

Still no v4 installers for Real NZ/Godzone yet. I thought I'd solved a major issue by switching to the new v4 addon features, but turns out it isn't quite 'prime time' yet. So the installers will be tuned to v4 as far as they can be, but not 100%, which was my initial goal.

So at the moment I'm working on two versions of the Vector Land Class Libraries, one will include the Autogen Configuration Merger Tool, and the other won't, which is the main change I've had to make once I figured out my custom autogen plans weren't viable. Then there's some tidying-up of the two airports, Nelson and Dunedin, to tweak for some changes in the way that v4 deals with transparent textures, plus I've added some dynamic tarmac lighting using the new v4 techniques.

So, while we're awaiting that, please take a look at the Kickstarter campaign, you have another two weeks to help make New Zealand more 'real'!


Development diary: comparing X-plane and Prepar3d

One of the non-technical factors which will determine whether there's ever a 'Real New Zealand' scenery for X-plane is simply whether or not X-plane can represent the 'real' New Zealand. Since I've only been using X-plane for a few days, I am a real beginner regarding what X-plane can actually achieve. To help with this, I've decided on a quick test of both sims, using the same photo scenery, as a similar aircraft.

Not a fair fight, though, I will say upfront. The X-plane scenery is a definite trial-run, with a number of issues which may or may not be my fault:) There are gaps in the photo coverage, simply because I haven't yet figured how to handle large areas of photo coverage. And there's no water-masking in the X-plane scenery, I haven't even begun to look at that.

Some observations:

The Prepar3d aircraft is the Alabeo Cutlass II, and the X-plane version is the default C172. The Cutlass is one of my favourites, simply because of the type, and ease of use. However I'm very impressed by the X-plane aircraft, as it works very well, and comes free with X-plane.

My Prepar3d has a number of bells and whistles, including Active Sky, with real weather shown here. The camera is EZCA, with preset views. My X-plane is plain vanilla, default everything really. My Prepar3d also has the VLC 20 metre elevation mesh, while the X-plane mesh is default, and low resolution.

Yes, I did almost hit a mountain a couple of times in the X-plane flight, this is simply because of my lack of any knowledge about how X-plane works, too much time trying to remember how things work, and not enough watching where I'm going....

The flight is up the Murchison Glacier and down the Godley River to Lake Tekapo. I took off at Mount Cook airport, but as the X-plane photoscenery coverage doesn't include this yet, I left out the take-off to keep things fair.

Here are the videos. Note that the reduced video quality is intentional, otherwise it would take all day to upload via my rural DSL connection. First up is Prepar3d:

And here's the X-plane video:


Well, there is a lot to consider apart from the ability of X-plane to display nice New Zealand scenery, but initially I am very pleased with X-plane -- this flight was a good example of perception of scale, and immersion -- X-plane handles these well, and even the lack of 'atmosphere' compared to Prepar3d doesn't really detract from the realism as much as I thought it would. Sure, even with HDR turned on, the X-plane visuals are not very punchy, but the way the light and shade works is very effective. Still some frustrating bits which mean that I need to go back to learning a sim from the beginning. For example, there is sometimes a white line which obviously delineates the photoscenery tiles, whereas in Prepar3d, there are no tiles. I took off 'blind' at Mount Cook, as the runway suddenly broke into weird graphic anomalies, which disappeared when I lifted off.

So, what do you think of X-plane photoscenery?