Version 8.01

The biggest thing that's new in version 8 is a completely new scenery architecture. In addition, cockpit refinements continue, notably with support for a real 3D interior cockpit model. Version 8.01 is the first distributed V8.x that wasn't designated as a beta. However, 8.01 was released to meet a distribution deadline and was not as "finished" as the later 7.x production versions. A lot of refinements and bug fixes continue, so it's important to keep up with the updates.

SO WHAT IS IN X-PLANE 8.01?

TONS. MORE THAN WE HAVE EVER HAD IN ONE NEW VERSION BEFORE.

X-Plane 8.01 is the most ambitious and revolutionary update ever.


New scenery engine:

We are designing a completely new scenery format, providing a totally disordered, adaptive set of polygons to fit any terrain... GONE is the classic "checkerboard" pattern where the grids must run in regular "horizontal/vertical" directions... The terrain will now be dynamically crafted to fit ANY terrain feature, no matter how irregular or oddly-shaped. Then, countless buildings and other landmarks are overlaid on the terrain using adaptive algorithms THAT FIT THE BUILDINGS TO ACTUAL STREET-MAPS, resulting in neighborhoods that actually follow REAL roads, no matter their unusual or convoluted pattern, since we no longer follow artificial street grids, but instead use actual road data. The goal here is simple: total freedom to model any terrain, with any topology, that exists. On Earth OR MARS.

Click here for the scenery-info page for scenery developers


Speed:

WHEN USING THE SAME SCENERY AS VERSION 7.62, 180% of the speed of X-Plane 7.62 on a Macintosh G5. (You will see varying speed increase on varying computers.) That's right. 80% faster. When using the SAME (version 7) SCENERY FILES, the frame-rates in X-Plane 8.00 are 80% higher than in X-Plane 7.62.

Most programs get SLOWER with each release.
X-Plane gets FASTER. 80% faster on the this release.

On my Mac G5, MAXIMUM visibility, clear sky, in the 747, I get: 37 fps in X-Plane 7.62, and 69 fps in X-Plane 8.00.

Full-screen no HUD view, I get: 46 fps in X-Plane 7.62, and 92 fps in X-Plane 8.00.
Is that enough speed for you?

NOTE: WHEN YOU USE THE NEW VERSION-8 SCENERY, WITH HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF ROAD SEGMENTS AND BUILDINGS, the frame-rate can go down as X-Plane plots every known mapped road in the USA... a rendering option in the Rendering Options screen in the Settings menu lets you choose whether you want the fast, simple Version-7 scenery, or the complex, detailed (but sometimes slower!) Version-8 scenery.
X-Plane 8.00 can run either version just fine!


New aircraft format:

We have many more parts and wings, with the ability to attach any part of the airplane texture to any part of the plane for total customization, and to attach any of the many bodies of the airplane to any of the moving flight controls, either directly or at some movement fraction, all designed to get the airplane moving parts and countless other details just right. The goal here is simple: TOTAL FREEDOM TO DESIGN ANY AIRPLANE, TO FLY IN ANY WORLD, YOU LIKE.

Here are the specifics:

Total aircraft-texturing freedom: Use any part of either texture for either side of any body and either surface of any wing... with no limits.

Now, what would you do with 20 misc. bodies? Attach any of the 20 misc. bodies to any aircraft part you like, and any control surface you like, with a ratio to indicate the fraction of control deflection that the body moves. This makes flap-track movement perfect.

You can build a 3-D cockpit: While flying with the JOYSTICK (not mouse) click on the center of the windshield with the mouse and move the mouse around to look around... with the cockpit in 3-D now of course! This 3-D "virtual cockpit" has the exact same resolution, controls, movement, and detail of the 2-D cockpit. While other sims have had virtual cockpits, this virtual cockpit has the exact same resolution and clarity as the 2-D one! You can fly instruments on it just like with the 2-D panel!

As well, custom cockpits will have the option to use a "COCKPIT TEXTURE" (in addition to the texture they use now) where the "COCKPIT TEXTURE" is simply the current cockpit, with all the moving instruments, handles, etc. (every single pixel, including moving ones) in place... so mapping the 2-D cockpit we have now (with all detail and quality) to a 3-D object is a snap.. just use the "COCKPIT TEXTURE"! See the KSBD Sample Object for an example... it will show you how to do this near the end... it is just a special polygon type is all.

If you are flying a plane that does not have a 3-D cockpit made for it, then X-Plane 8.00 Beta (not publicly avail yet) now makes a 3-D cockpit on-the-fly for you at up to 1024x1024 res... it is EXACTLY LIKE THE 2-D COCKPIT but in 3-D... You cannot even tell a single pixel difference in quality between the 2-D standard panel and 3-D moving one... the 3-D one just moves in 3-D as you move your view around.


Now for some flying:

The runways now flatten to the terrain... so runways can now be (strongly) sloped and hilly!
Just put a runway on a hill to see it! Taking off and landing airliners on hilly runways is quite a challenge... Sitting at KSBD I looked down the runway in X-Plane to see the runway dropping down just a little in the middle and sloping up slightly at the far end... it looked just like a real runway, which is never really perfectly flat! I forgot I was looking at a SIMULATED runway for a moment!


New View Options:

New Engine Instrument Options:


New Flight-Model refinements:

Various Features:

Awesome orbital graphics and what goes on behind the scenes to make it happen:

Here are some interesting numbers for you:

Since scenery in X-Plane can currently go out to 25 miles, but the view from orbit can be 3,000 miles, we cannot draw terrain geometry to do the Earth from orbit. So we take a shortcut: draw satellite-image textures of the Earth draped over a round globe. X-Plane 7 used a nice PAIR of textures (1024x1024 each, at 3.14 meg per texture, total 6.28 meg) to draw the planet.

The fact that it takes 6.28 meg means that 6.28 meg of VRAM was needed to draw the Earth at "Extreme Res" in X-Plane) Modern video cards come with anywhere from 16 to 128 meg of VRAM. So this took a decent, but not unreasonable, chunk of VRAM.

This looked good from orbit, but was terribly blurry when close in, as in low Earth orbit and shuttle re-entries. 1024x1024 for half the planet was just not enough to give a good, detailed terrain from 100,000 feet up.

So Sergio provided me with 466 textures of the Earth, each covering 10x10 degrees of altitude and longitude, for X-Plane 8.00, each 1024x1024. (There are actually 648 such "patches" of Earth, but Sergio need not provide me with ones that are all water) Now, when a 1024x1024 texture (which takes 3.14 meg) covers 10x10 degrees, and it takes 648 of these textures to cover the Earth, how much RAM is this?

2,034.72 meg of VRAM.

Some people get all excited about a 256-meg card, but you need 2,034 meg to draw the Earth at this level of detail. Upon figuring these numbers, and crashing my G5 just trying to LOAD them all at once, I almost gave up on Sergio's hi-res orbital textures.

So the system requirements for X-Plane 8.00 will be 2,034 meg of VRAM, right?
Of course not.

We have 3 tricks to play:
  1. Have you ever seen the ENTIRE PLANET AT ONCE? Unless your head is bigger than the planet Earth, with your eyes sticking out in 4000-mile-long stalks so that you can see both sides of the planet at once, then the answer is "no".

  2. If you are at 100,000 feet, seeing hi-res imagery for the So-Cal region because you are Mike Melville in Space-Ship-One, do you need hi-res imagery for Florida as well, which is out of sight? Or Colorado, which is so low on the horizon that you only see a hazy blur in the fog, not any clear detail? Of course not.

  3. Do you have to run at "Extreme Res" on a low-end machine? Of course not.

    SO, X-Plane 8.00 is smart: it only draws the 9 REGIONS CLOSEST TO YOU IN HI-RES MODE... at 3.14 meg per region, that is 27 meg of VRAM dedicated to orbital rendering... just about right for 128 or 256-meg video card if you are somewhat serious about allocating RAM to Orbital rendering... and we still get Sergio's awesome textures. NICE!


Here are some interesting technological tidbits for you:

X-Plane 7 is written with ARRAYS AND PROCEDURES. Now X-Plane 8 is written largely with VECTORS AND OBJECTS.

What's the difference? X-Plane's language, C++, stores all sorts of data in ARRAYS... lists of numbers that contain data.

For example: the lift of an airfoil... the lift is recorded for each of 3,600 possible angles of attack
(one-tenth degree increments for each of the 360 possible degrees angle of attack, with math to interpolate in between)

But here is the problem: What is X-Plane (ACCIDENTALLY, BECAUSE OF A BUG) thinks that the impossible case of 361 degrees angle of attack exists? Then it will look for the 3610'th index in an array with only 3600 indices. What happens then? NOBODY KNOWS. Maybe a computer crash. Maybe a bad flight-model. Maybe nothing. When you go past the maximum allowable array range, all bets are off: the memory of your computer could be scrambled who-knows-where and result in a computer crash right at that nano-second, or maybe two hours later.

This is the Achilles heel of the C+ language, and has been for decades: Going out of array bounds can crash your computer... and you never know how much later the computer will crash, making it near-impossible to tell where the problem really is, thus making the problem near-impossible to solve.

Enter Ben Supnik, algorithms expert, who shows me how to use VECTORS. Vectors are just like arrays, but with one major difference: WHEN RUNNING X-PLANE WITH MY COMPILER WATCHING THE CODE, THE PROGRAM WILL STOP THE VERY NANOSECOND ANY PART OF THE SIM TRIES TO SO MUCH AS =>LOOK<= OUT OF BOUNDS, IMMEDIATELY showing me the problem. This means the Achilles heel of C++ is finally armored: any out-of-bounds access is immediately seen and solved... there are no "skeletons in the closet" that went out of bounds without me knowing about it. If the program SEEMS to be running fine, then it really IS running fine. That is priceless, and is of course integrated into X-Plane 8.00.

As well, UNLIKE arrays, VECTORS can be re-set on-the-fly to ANY SIZE, WITH NO LIMITS EXCEPT THE MEMORY OF YOUR COMPUTER. What does this mean to us? It means that Ben Supnik can design scenery with as many polygons as he likes... NO LIMITS. Robin Peel can give as many airports, NAVAIDS, airways, and fixes as he likes... NO LIMITS. Sergio can give us as many objects as he can build... NO LIMITS. You can design 3-D cockpits with the new 3-D cockpit technology with as much detail as you can imagine... NO LIMITS.

The other major internal change is I have gone from PROCEDURES to OBJECTS. What does this mean? Procedures are the pieces of code that manipulate all the data in the sim. The other Achilles heel of C++ has always been that you can work on a procedure to get it to manage data just PERFECTLY for a YEAR, and think you have achieved Nirvana, ONLY TO HAVE ALL YOUR WORK LOST BECAUSE SOME =>OTHER<= PROCEDURE IS MESSING UP THE DATA YOU WORKED SO HARD TO PERFECT! Say, for example, I think my lift-finding procedure has found the perfect lift for an airplane... what good does it do when some OTHER procedure is (accidentally) MESSING UP THE LIFT DATA? WE get garbage in the flight model, and that ruins everything.

The solution is OBJECTS, and here is how it works: Each OBJECT is a procedure that HIDES IT'S DATA INSIDE ITSELF SO NO OTHER PROCEDURE CAN SEE IT! COOL! This way, once I get a procedure to FIND the perfect lift coefficient, we get to KEEP it... no other procedure can mess it up! AWESOME! This is done in X-Plane version 8.00 as well.


Tech Notes:

NOTE: JUST ADD AN "_INN" TO THE END OF THE COCKPIT FILENAME
IF YOU WANT THE COCKPIT TO ONLY BE VISIBLE FROM THE VIEWS THAT ARE INSIDE THE AIRPLANE.

NOTE: JUST ADD AN "_OUT" TO THE END OF THE COCKPIT FILENAME
IF YOU WANT THE COCKPIT TO ONLY BE VISIBLE FROM THE VIEWS THAT ARE OUTSIDE THE AIRPLANE.

This way, you can have 3-D cockpits that are only visible from inside the plane, or only visible from outside the plane, or a different cockpit for each of those two possibilities.
Why do this? Because in the INSIDE cockpit model you might not want your little man flying the plane since his little arms and legs might get in the way of the controls... not a problem when looking from the OUTSIDE.
SEE THE EXAMPLE PLANE THAT COMES WITH X-PLANE 8 FOR AN EXAMPLE OF THIS.

Reverse-Compatibility:

We will support:


Version 8 Overview

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