This article refers to a very old version of X-Plane - I keep it here just to keep track of the past.
Countless updates were done to the product and Laminar Research is now about to publish X-Plane 10.
Now that Micro$oft just published the new version of their flight simulator called "X" I thought it would have been nice to write a small article about my favourite commertial flightsim: Austin's X-Plane.
This is how Austin describes it:
X-Plane is the world's most comprehensive, powerful flight simulator, and has the most realistic flight model available for personal computers.
And yes, the above statement is really true - when I tried it out I was shocked by its beautiful graphics and the fantastic physical behaviour of the aircrafts. But what made me very happy was that I had again the possiblity to pilot the famous SR-71 - the only alternative in the past was the military flightsim "Falcon 3" (and its numerous free clones like FreeFalcon) but with the time passing by it got older and its graphical system got a little bit "oldish" as well.
Why are physics so good in X-Plane? As Austin says:
X-Plane reads in the geometric shape of any aircraft and then figures out how that aircraft will fly. It does this by an engineering process called "blade element theory", which involves breaking the aircraft down into many small elements and then finding the forces on each little element many times per second.
These forces are then converted into accelerations which are then integrated to velocities and positions... of course, all of this technical theory is completely transparent to you... you just fly! It's fun!
Unluckily the production budget for this flightsim is quite limited, so it is not marketed a lot in TV and magazines and therefore doesn't get as much attention by the media as the others.
But of course low production costs mean as well low product price if the distribution reaches a minimum level. In the end for a few dollars you get 1) a great flightsim 2)scenery of the whole world (europe included) and 3) free updates for a very very long time. Ok, this was now a lot of blablabla - how does it look like? Here are some screenshots I took on my machine:
Heading at full speed with an SR-71 towards the swiss alps:
The beautiful swiss alps:
Lugano (the Melide bridge that crosses the lake is correct, but the remaining streets floating over the lake are a little bit funny...):
Como (in the center by the lake), Chiasso in the center and Pedrinate(the hill on the right hand side), the southest village in Switzerland:
A Airbus A380 flying over Zürich airport with flaps and breaks fully extended:
A Boeing 737-800 of Eurocypria:
Unluckiy the machine I am using for this flightsim is quite old and even by upgrading it as much as it was possible (Intel Pentium 4 3.0Ghz Extreme Edition HT, 1.5GB RAM, ATI 850XP AGP graphics card, Samsung IDE 160GB 7200 rpm), I cannot use the highest detail levels, especially about what concerns the object desity (that's why you see in the screenshots just a few buildings), but it runs at least at 25fps.
If you are interested in more technical informations, go to Benjamin's blog.
You don't know if you should buy this flightsim? And what about your machine? Is it powerful enough? You can quickly get an answer to these questions by downloading the demo from Austin's homepage.
If you like it I recommend you to buy the global scenery which will need about 60GB space on your harddisk and 1/2 day for installing it and downloading the latest upgrades, but in the end you'll get a very detailed map of almost the whole world (you'll have to search on your own for the airport sceneries and similar stuff).
You will be able to find links to more resources (airplanes, sceneries, objects, sounds, etc...) on Austin's page or by searching in the net.
You will notice that there is a strong community behind this flightsim.