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x-plane X-Plane 11: An Op-Ed

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I've noticed how sparse things are in this forum and I will make every attempt to fill it with useful information.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the direction flight simulators are going these days.  The history, in a nutshell, is that we have about four different branded simulators that exist in the flight simulator ecosystem.  There is Flight Simulator X, Prepar3D, X-Plane and AeroFlyFS.  The first two mentioned are currently developed in a 32-bit environment, while the last two are developed for 64-bit (X-Plane made the switch recently while AeroFlyFS emerged in native form).  When you account for all of the total development for these four simulators, the results are resoundingly in favor of FSX and P3D, which is logically so, based on the fact that the native code has existed for over 10 years now.  The problem, which many refused to address in a logical fashion, that 32-bit code is limited by VAS, or Virtual Address Space.  This space is governed not by the user's total physical memory in their rig, but the environment's ability to write to memory the 4gb of data.  If you are like me, you've invested heavily in the 32-bit flight simulator ecosystem, because for far too long, we were told this was all there is to be and you made whatever sacrifices, tweaks, adjustments necessary for it to work efficiently on your system.  The key phrase here is "what we've been told", but the reality is that with the technological advancements that have taken huge leaps forward in the past decade, we're essentially sitting still, when it comes to using the full capabilities of our systems.

"I have a Ferrari sitting out in my garage, just itching to race on that road, but the potholes are numerous, so now it just sits"

It's an odd, but relevant metaphor, for what we are going through right now.  We have the Ferrari, being that of a new add-on aircraft or butt-kicking scenery, but nowhere to run it at it's full potential, due to the potholes, cones and condition of the road.  The road needs an upgrade folks!

We now have a new road, and it's 64-bit.  now, before everyone starts waving their arms about "it's not all about 64-bit!", allow me to enlighten you.  While it is factually true that a 64-bit environment is no longer constrained by VAS limits (at least none that would be caused by the fastest of systems), and it would take full advantage of all of your system memory, thus enabling you to last through a long haul flight, it also opens up a window of opportunity for developers to expand their work, incorporating more detail, more functionality, as well as less tinkering, tweaking or adjusting of settings within the sim to accommodate those who have issues running the software.  My system is not the latest screaming system, loaded to the teeth with a beefy cpu and gpu with max memory and storage, but it does run a 64-bit simulator better than a 32-bit one.  When I got back into simming heavily, my primary usage was FSX.  After a while, the tinkering and tweaking got old, and fast.  About that time, P3D emerged and it was marketed as a very stable, reliable and in-depth sim.  Unfortunately, it was simply running the ESP code from FSX, so nothing really changed all that much.  Over time though, P3D did get better, but that looming issue of VAS was nagging me and I would still succumb to crashes.  A little later, I unfortunately learned to live with the issues by way of keeping my settings down and in turn, missing out on all of the great extras programmed in to the add-ons I had.

One quick note: Running FSX and P3D, with NO add-ons will give you stellar performance...that's a fact.  As soon as you start adding add-ons, that's when the trouble begins, so when you feel that something is wrong with your sim, it's not the sims fault, it's the addition of add-ons.

Sorry, I digress.  So here we are, 2017, and we have better news emerging.  X-Plane 11 is in Beta and so far, I love what I see and I love what I experience now.  it is only going to get better and knowing that, gives me a better sense of hope for the future of flight simming.  We will eventually break free of 32-bit and bask in the glory of unhindered flight, with the only restriction is what we have under the hood.  Ten years ago, i started with what I thought was fast technology, but after putting my system through the paces of flight simulation, I started my painful journey into upgrading.  In that time, I've upgraded six times, with each time getting slightly better than before, but not so significant that I could stick with what I had for long.  Granted, this is coming from someone who occupies the .1% of flight simmers who use a laptop.  I know, I know, for shame, I'm using a laptop, but the reality these days is that laptops are being designed and loaded with tech that rivals desktops, so we're no longer the red-headed stepchild.  My current rig can hold it's own in X-Plane, and I get great visuals and great performance...what I'd been wanting for ten years has finally happened.  Unfortunately, I spent thousands of dollars on hardware and software, to help fix one problem after another, when all the while it was based just the operating environment.  Sure, I learned quite a bit over that time, with one of the major lessons being "not to hedge my bets on anything for flight simulation".  Clever marketing was always a key to a successful business and as a result, I bought into it all.  Looking at those beautiful screenshots made my mouth water and my wallet recoil in horror.

So you may ask me, what I've done with all that I bought?  I still have it, archived on an external HDD.  Whether I use it ever again is another story for another time, and while I still suffer bouts of "buyer's remorse", the good news is that I put a stop to it, or a "freeze", if you will.  See, this the reason I believe so many still stick with certain developers or even a particular sim.  They have buyer's remorse: knowing that they've spent a boatload of cash on content, and that content may not have worked like they had hoped or not at all, but they own it and would hate to delete it because it would prove they were fooled or they made a bad choice.  Yes, I have felt that way, but at the same time, I knew that if I found a way out, an outlet that more than makes up for the bad financial choices I made in the past, then I could move on and be happy.  This is where I am right now, currently utilizing a wonderful simulator that works out of the box, and so far, 90% of my content is totally free, thanks to the gracious talents of people around the world.  I never progressed this fast and this far with the other simulators.  I was always of the mind that you had to use payware to get the best experience in a sim, and while that has some truth, the whole truth is that you should research, ask questions, stay informed and then make your decision.

There are a lot of people out there who still treat X-Plane as a niche simulator, and believe the current metrics that usage isn't going to pick up, when in truth, right now, X-Plane has the largest user base than it's ever had.  Every new version and the intermediate milestones have made XP better than before.  I've flown GA and tubeliners across so much of US (more than I did with FSX and P3D), as well as more of Europe.  The only issue I have with XP these days, is where I want to fly. :)

In closing, and I apologize if this post looked like a lengthy rant, is that X-Plane deserves everyone's attention.  Give it a try, since there is a free demo for it.  Experience what it can do for you, and then make the decision if you want to use it.  If my laptop can run XP just as good as a desktop (and that's saying a lot), then you have nothing to lose to try it out.  As for content, there is a lot of great freeware and payware available.  The most work you'd have to go through for setting up XP, is the mesh and textures, which comes down to how detailed you want the Earth to be for you.  The quality of aircraft is just as good as for the other sims (though perhaps not yet equal to PMDG standards), but that's what makes XP unique.  Developers have a new approach with no boundaries.  The same holds true for scenery and airports.  Yes, there are still some aspects of XP that need attention but LR is aware of it and it'll get sorted, but there are third party devs out there that are making great strides in developing their own standards and it works out really well.

I'm here a lot, so if anyone has questions, concerns or just wants to chat, you know where I'll be.

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