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1.17 release


Captain Kitten

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1.17 Release

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X-Plane 12
Let me bring the bad news first. We got turned down by Laminar Research for X-Plane 12. We find their reasoning somewhat puzzling but we have to accept that we are getting nowhere. Let me say straight away that I do not want any speculation on their reasoning. We know of their argumentation and respectfully disagree. Both in principle and on how complicated our request is. We had high hopes for a while that we would get the access we have dreamt of for ages, but the future seems to be still a long fight with x-plane. We know at this time that we can force ourselves into xp12. But we’re tired of fighting and hopelessly defending long development cycles.

Sad, not only for us but also for other add-ons like Enhanced Skyskapes, SkyMaxx and others.

We are not saying that we won’t develop for X-Plane 12! As I said we know how we can do that, but both time wise and feature wise we are in the dark. It’s an effort we will pursue when X-Plane 12 is out of beta. (As usual) 

1.17
As always, the update is free for all existing customers. We decided to go for a relatively high detail on clouds this time around. Firstly to create a base to work on for future refinement and direction, but also to give a statement on what is possible. Almost every issue we have in the release version is caused by limitations in X-Plane. Either we had to do a performance expensive workaround or what we wanted to achieve is plainly impossible within a reasonable time frame. But we have a good base to work on future updates now. One thing to note is how smooth xEnviro runs even on the lower end of the accepted framerates. 

VR compatibility
The main change in 1.17 compared to previous versions is that xEnviro now is based on our spherical buffer. This has allowed us to get a much better performance for lower end machines and higher screen resolutions. Higher end machines also benefit, but not as much. The spherical buffer also allowed us to make xEnviro VR compatible. VFR training just took a huge step forward. VR is only compatible with Vulkan for now.

1:1 scale
xEnviro’s main objective is to give an as true to life representation of the environment as possible and thus we recreate our atmosphere in 1:1 scale. When doing visual training this is critical. Unlike other weather representations, like the native X-Plane 12 and MSFS clouds, you will have a true positioning awareness when relating to your surroundings in the sky. One example of this is when you fly between two layers of clouds that are close to each other. While in MSFS and X-Plane 12 you get claustrophobic in a 5000 feet gap, you will perceive this as a grand space in xEnviro. This is especially important when training VFR flights. 

Some issues
The 1:1 scale has its demands on performance. The main compromising issue in 1.17 is obvious when you load into the sim. Movement shimmer. This is not a huge problem when you fly slow and are gone when standing still. The artefacts are especially noticeable around the edges of the clouds. We have added a quality slider to reduce that shimmer - but at the cost of performance. This will be a continuous target to refine and improve for us going forward.  

Future of xEnviro
At the end of the development cycle we get a known issues list that will be corrected as far as we are able to within the limitations of X-Plane. The update cycle will be shorter for the coming updates. (Given that the situation for the development team doesn’t change again from aforementioned external factors) We have decided to support xEnviro for X-Plane 11 for as long as it seems reasonable. We will refine the existing base we now are confident with and add features as we go along. We will update the roadmap soon.

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1.17 Changelog

Added

  • Spherical buffer
  • Full volume rendering implemented. No more separate layer rendering
  • New cloud light scattering math
  • New cloud formation logic. Now we can create clouds of any shape
  • Smooth transition between stratus and cumulus clouds
  • Thunderstorm clouds are back
  • Incloud lightning
  • Clouds screen edge quality slider added
  • Draw high-level clouds checkbox added
  • Updrafts added below cumulus clouds with vertical development
  • Tropopause temperature control
  • Basic VR support
  • Weather search accepts Enter key
  • Added X-Plane rain sound checkbox
  • You can type several icao codes in the weather search window using virtually any separator and then hit Enter to get the list of metar report
  • Added hotkeys via X-Plane key assignment menu to open xEnviro Weather Briefing or Settings window or call for CAVOK conditions. 
  • Passive cloud sync. Clouds look the same for all the xEnviro 1.17 users at a given time and a given location. This feature is important for online flights and shared cockpit sessions. This includes thunderstorms

Changed

  • Atmosphere light scattering revised
  • Visibility maths changed
  • General scene light energy adjusted to match atmosphere conditions
  • Clouds blur level slider changed to clouds dynamic blur
  • Cloud base adjusted to better match reported values
  • The turbulence model is changed to match long-term forces better
  • Wind distribution changed to avail fake forecast reports for aircraft devs
  • Post-processing maths and application order adjusted
  • Increased distance for the city lights reflected by haze
  • Server timeout reduced to 5 seconds
  • New method to hide X-Plane DSF edge implemented
  • Full control over aircraft icing. No more random icing in snowfall

Removed

  • Banding lines on distant clouds removed
  • Clouds static quality slider removed.


Known issues

  • Clouds shimmer, hard edges, terrain blending issues
  • Clouds edge distortion at high-speed movement
  • Clouds can be loaded partially after repositioning
  • Some unpredictable shapes of clouds can form including lines and squares
  • No lightning bolts
  • No sun glow in VR
  • Cloud edges may create artefacts on distant clouds when close
  • City lights through clouds at night in rare conditions after moving aircraft on the map
  • Precipitation follows camera
  • Snow coverage may appear in the regions where no snowfall has been encountered recently
  • X-plane does not provide any option to set precipitation as snow but only as rain therefore it begins to play rain sound even when xEnviro draws a snowfall.
    We included a dirty fix that temporarily disables X-Plane internal environmental sounds when it snows outside and restores the initial value when a snowfall stops

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