In the past year, there have been many rumours about an upcoming new version of X-plane. The company behind X-plane – Laminar Research – finally this week released official information about X-plane 12, the long-awaited successor of X-plane 11.
X-plane 12 re-written
Laminar Research informs that a lot of the engines inside the X-plane software have been re-written for X-plane 12, utilizing the hardware better, taking a giant leap from X-plane 11.
The idea is that more rendering will take place in the GPU, pushing more math calculations away from the CPU. Taking advance of Vulkan to utilize both the CPU and the GPU efficiently.
One major component that has been completely re-written in X-plane 12, is the weather engine.
In the current version, X-plane downloads actual weather data (METAR) from airports. X-plane 12 actually predicts the weather all over the world, and at any time, and merges this with the METAR data to get very price and local weather data anywhere you fly.
Clouds are now volumetric, using the GPU to render the cloud’s form and color.
X-plane 12 vs MSFS2020
That’s a general question that so many asks. How will the visual quality be in X-plane 12, will it be like Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020? Actually stupid to use another simulator as a reference, but never the less this is a question heard all the time.
Austin, the founder of X-plane has made it very clear which direction X-plane 12 or any successor of X-plane for that matter will take.
X-plane will remain using autogen in version 12, meaning that X-plane 12 will calculate and generate the model of the world it’s flying in from the bottom up, instead of relying on photo sources like seen in MSFS2020.
Bitmapped graphics does look stunning but has its limitation when zooming in. Autogen on the other hand doesn’t lack information when being zoomed, and has the advantage that the simulator knows what object you are looking at; whether it is a tree, a car, and can be moved in the proper way, all done dynamically.
X-plane 12 uses OpenStreetMap to understand where the objects are.
Another concern from Austin is that the simulator cannot wait for high-resolution map data that eventually will make the simulator engine stutter. Its important that X-plane 12 is fast and has a correct flight model, something that is needed for the simulator to get an FAA certification.
New in X-plane 12
There are a lot of new things coming to X-plane 12, like said most things are getting more or less re-written.
A new native airplane is coming on. The first-ever Airbus in X-plane, the widebody A330.
A new ATC engine, with regionalized voice packs and local accents. Working both IFR and VFR.
The scenery has got some interesting updates, like 3D trees, precise runways, dynamic jetways. And the ocean now has waves calculated by the GPU knowing both the depth and the color of the water.
X-plane 12 release date
That’s another big question we all have. When can we fly the new X-plane version?
Laminar Research does not give a release day yet. But what they can reveal is that there will be a first closed beta release for third-party developers, and later on an early-access release to the public in order to get more feedback.