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
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
Click here for the
scenery-info page for scenery developers
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:
aircraft-texturing freedom: Use any part of either texture for either
side of any body and either surface of any wing... with no limits.
- 20 misc. wings.
- 20 misc. bodies.
- 10 landing gear, including a new gear type: 3 across for the C-17
- 20 landing gear doors.
- 10 flap deflections.
- Slat deployment schedules to match the slats to the flaps as you
- 4 customizeable speedbrakes at any angle
- 2 rudder types so you can get vertical stabs with strakes built
PROPERLY with perfect-chord rudder.
- 2 flap types so you can get different inner and outer flaps
across the wing.
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
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:
- Straight down view: ctrl-o... kind of cool!
- S-key now goes through 3 levels of lookdown... 5, 10,
and 15 degrees down...
- equivalent to adjusting your seat however you like.
- Zoom way in on your plane in map view while at an
airport... and see the runway right down to the skidmarks, and your
plane right down to the paint!
- New "viewer-only" option that you can set in the
"Special" menu to just use X-Plane as a VIEWER to move your viewpoint
around... useful for checking out your scenery projects, etc., without
having to fly to them, if you so choose.
- ALL the maps can go into 3-d mode... kind of cool to see a 3-D
sectional chart with your path plotted on it in 3-D! The maps now plot
MUCH, MUCH, MUCH FASTER as well.
New Engine Instrument Options:
- New engine instruments: PIE. (in the ECAM folder) as
used in Boeings.
- Also the Engine RPM, Prop RPM, N1, N2, Manifold
Pressure, EPR, torque, fuel-flow, ITT, EGT, and CHT are =>ALL<=
available for =>ALL<= engine instrument types.
- New system model: Fuel pressure. Set the maximum (engine
screen:tab 3), custom limits for the panels (limits screen:tab 1) and
set the gage (panel screen).
New Flight-Model refinements:
- "Break-Away thrust" modelling: The plane won't drift
slowly on the runway... you have to get enough thrust or other energy in
there to get it to break friction and start moving.
- NEW supersonic flight model! Much better! It tracks the
compression shocks and expansion fans all the way along all the bodies,
from nose to tail, measuring the pressure on each "facet" of the
fuselage, and applying the resulting force in the right direction!
- Cool new speedbrakes and landing gear doors! Check out
the speed-brakes tab in the controls windows in Plane-Maker... enter the
brake and door locations, angles, deflections, part of the texture each
ones uses, etc.
- Enter the body drag coefficient per part! Cool! Get that
(subsonic) drag just right!
- New option: joy button to toggle steering between locked
and free-castor! This may seem minor, but it is kind of fun to toggle
the nosewheel steering during taxi and see how the plane handles with
differential braking rather than a steerable nosewheel. For even more
fun, get into the 747 and go to an external view right by the nosewheel
and watch what happens with various steering inputs with and without
nosewheel steering... a minor thing, for sure, but fun to play with!
- Auto-brakes don't come on until the NOSEWHEEL TOUCHES DOWN, as in
- Go to the "About" menu... the "About" box now gives you
your current version of X-Plane AND THE LATEST VERSION AVAILABLE AT
- Joystick axis assignments for all TRIMS are now
- No more turbulence in the overcast layers unless you
crank up some turbulence manually or fly into some really active weather.
- FMS improvements: Auto-init to current location, better
init when you change modes, more user-friendly refusal to take data
until you enter a destination TYPE to go to, etc.
- Plane-Maker: Copy gear doors and speedbrake from other slot!
- Easier free-turbine engine-starts.
- Specify the ANCHOR location now for seaplanes.
- Specify the VACUUM gage angles in the custom limits screen of
- Plane-Maker: Weapon import into misc. body! In the body-edit in
Plane-Maker, just hit the import WEAPON button right next to the import
BODY option, and voila! The weapon geometry is brought into the misc.
body... this is the beauty of the new acf structure... it is so modular
that I can easily let you mix-and-match various parts and weapons,
copying between them as you desire... nice!
- Check out the "expert" menu in Plane-Maker: There is a visual
texture-edit in plane-maker now... apply any part of any textures to any
part of any plane visually... fun and easy!
- New Plane-Maker option: Output the aircraft as an OBJ. This lets
you design the new 3-D custom cockpits with a reference OBJ for the
aircraft, and scatter aircraft OBJs around the airports..
- APU! It's basic, but functional. See the switch in the
- Much better HITS (highway in the sky) rendering.
- In Plane-Maker you now have a jettisonable load location
when you check if the payload is water... this is obviously where the
water comes out in your water-bombers.
Awesome orbital graphics and
what goes on behind the scenes to make it happen:
- Incredible detail in the orbital views... just
amazing.... 648 times more resolution (not a typo) in orbit than X-Plane
7.62! The Japanese Anime is a good way to get up there... as well as
choosing the circling view and arrowing to straight above the plane and
then zooming out... or taking SpaceShip-One up to 300,000 feet, of
course, and seeing the view from space!
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:
- 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".
- 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.
- Do you have to run at "Extreme Res" on a low-end machine? Of
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
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
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.
- New landing gear texturing... see the landing gear section in
Plane-Maker, and the "Paint Reference.bmp" in the instructions folder
for an example: We now paint the wheel in the lower-left of the texture
by default, and wrap the tread around.
- EGT, CHT, OIL T should always be degrees F, as entered
in Plane-Maker engine screen. ITT should always be degrees C, as entered
in Plane-Maker engine screen If you want different units, then simply
do a custom gauge with appropriate labels, or enter the appropriate
offsets in the LIMITS screen in Plane-Maker. this specification of the
temp units is needed to get all cooling effects from air-cooling
correct. (Including ambient temperature and air-cooling)
- New organization for custom object textures: See the San
Bernardino example: the custom textures are now stored in the same
folder as the objects... simpler that way! The old format is still
supported though for reverse-compatibility.
- NOTE FOR CUSTOM 3-D COCKPIT BUILDERS:
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
- I have changed a number of filenames for clarity and
- Add "_LIT" to the filename for the lit objects
textures, not "LIT" like we used to.
- The old convention is still supported, but move to the new,
consistent-with-aircraft convention for long-term support.
- New custom-cockpit instrument lite names:
- Note the "_" in the filename... chosen for better
- As well, I had to change the name of some of the art
horizons... if you have a custom cockpit with a custom art horiz you
will need to change the name of the file a bit... see the cockpit folder
for the proper naming convention... this is needed to specify whether
the horizon is vacuum or electric powered.
SEE THE EXAMPLE PLANE THAT COMES
WITH X-PLANE 8 FOR AN EXAMPLE OF THIS.
We will support:
- Airplanes back through version 7.00.
- Scenery back through version 6.51.
- Object-files back through version 7.00.
- Airfoils back through version 3.63. (not a typo).
Version 8 Overview
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