X-Plane 11.5beta6

I’ve been running beta 3 of X-Plane 11, deciding to wait on updating based on reports about betas 4 and 5. Beta 6 came out last night, and based on initial reports I decided to go ahead with the update. Initial impressions are that things only get better under Vulkan. Performance that yesterday was 27-30 FPS in the home cockpit with HDR, 4xAA+FXAA, and one below max objects today was 40 FPS under the same conditions, or 30 FPS with max objects. Adding clouds changes little to nothing in terms of performance, at least in my rig. I seem to see just a few micro-stutters compared to beta 3, but the performance is certainly better and I know the stutters (which are very minor) will disappear with later optimizations. I find this whole beta test hugely encouraging, and as I have said before, X-Plane 11.5 looks to me like it will be transformative in terms of performance.

One other benefit, at least to me, is that with reduced load on the CPU everything is working better: all my add-ons, the Saitek FIPs etc. I have far fewer performance problems on the rest of the gear in the sim now that X-Plane is more efficient. Overall it’s produced a far more solid and trouble-free experience. I have to say — knock on wood — that the simulator is performing extremely well and it’s been a pleasure to use.

VR Stream Testing

The other day I wanted to have some fun, so I loaded up the Colimata FA-18 in X-Plane VR and flew around the Salt Lake City area some. Performance under X-Plane 1.5beta3 in the sim was very, very smooth, yet I noticed that on the YouTube stream there were all kinds of stutters and judders. Yesterday after work I made another flight (video below) with the intention of testing different settings to see if they made a difference on the YouTube side. I’m sorry to say that the stutters and judders in the YouTube playback are still there. I’ll continue to explore the issue, but it really does ruin the video in my opinion.

That said, flying around the canyons and mountains of Utah in VR at 500 knots is still a ton of fun …

Flying The I-11 Rating On PilotEdge (In X-Plane 11.5beta3)

This is the I-11 rating on PilotEdge using X-Plane 11.5beta3. The IFR profile for passing this rating is to contact ATC on the ground at Corona, fly the Obstacle Departure Procedure, do at least one lap of the hold at the Paradise VOR, fly the victor airway to APLES, fly the VOR DME RNW 17 “DME arc” approach into Victorville, go missed, then cancel IFR and return to KVCV VFR for landing. To provided added practice I decided to hand-fly this flight (with the exception of the segment between the hold and APLES). Finally, for the first time I bring my ForeFlight display into the scene via screen mirroring, and I hope it adds something for viewers.

Having watched the flight, I am again reminded of the value in being able to go back and critique one’s work. Things go well for the most part, and I have three main observations:

  • I was at first visualizing the incorrect runway for the ODP. Caught it in time, but still. The extended centerlines in ForeFlight are helpful when on an approach, but the “07” on the screen was not helpful in me visualizing the correct departure direction.
  • On short final I look at my charts / iPad which destabilizes the approach (which was already a bit high) – something I would never do in the real world (and an important lesson about simulation).
  • There’s some general sloppiness on the ground that many viewers might not notice, but it comes from not having checklists. I should be using my real-world checklists.

Practice makes permanent, and I believe a sim can build bad habits as well as good. Going “by the book” is important to real-world proficiency, at least for me. Given that at least until Covid-19 restrictions are dropped this is the only flying I’m doing, I’m going to keep focusing on that. Finally, X-Plane 11.5beta3 performs fabulously. This is easily the smoothest, most detailed (scenery, weather, etc.) flight I’ve ever had in the sim. Really great stuff going on at Laminar.

Resources in this flight: https://www.pilotedge.net/ http://c74.net/xplane/_cirrus.html https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?… https://foreflight.com/

X-Plane 11.5beta3

I took a pass on beta two after reading the initial reports, but today held my breath and updated to beta three hoping for the best. I had downgraded my NVIDIA drivers to one that folks had reported as having better performance, and that caused me problems, but as soon as I updated to the most recent drivers everything worked great and was smooth as silk. Notably, upping the AA (HDR off) to 4x and even 8x isn’t having a significant hit on performance on my system, even sitting in SoCal, with ortho and full overcast (using VMI twick as a frame limiter, but with it set to 83% objects and 63% clouds). This gave me 24-25 FPS, running streaming software and a bunch of other things on the PC. Better yet, not a single stutter than I could notice. It’s very, very smooth.

Vulkan makes it a whole new day for X-Plane, even in beta. It’s a great, great improvement in the performance of the sim.

More Thoughts On XP11.5b1 In VR

Today I had a window in my schedule and it was a prime time to do some real-world-quality practice in the sim. I haven’t been in the actual Cirrus SR20 I rent for two weeks thanks to Covid-19, so it’s essential that I use the sim to keep the aviation brain fresh, especially for checklists and IFR procedures.

Fortunately, VR in the vFlyteAir SR 20 is an excellent way to do this, given its very realistic flight and operational model. So today I decided to log on to PilotEdge and simulate a flight under real-world weather conditions from Seattle to Spokane (KSEA to KGEG), filing ZADON ZELAK ZIRAN ZOOMR.ZOOMR1 GANGS. PilotEdge ATC gave me the Seattle 7 departure, so I was able to practice a SID as well, and when arriving in Spokane I shot the RNAV (GPS) Y RNW 8 approach. The vFlyteAir simulation of the Cirrus Garmin Perspective system handles this sort of IFR work reasonably well, with some modifications and concessions compared to the real-world system.

This flight was also over Orbx Washington TrueEarth HD scenery, which is always taxing on my CPU-limited system. For VR settings I selected HDR, FXAA, one notch below max objects, reflections at 1, shadows off. I used VMI-twick to regulate frame rates. To sharpen the image in VR, I used supersampling of 1.6. Weather was multiple levels of scattered and broken clouds. Overall, on the ramp in SEA I was getting 25 frames or so, and they were relatively smooth. At lower frame rates leaving Oculus AWS off provides a smoother experience for me. Once the frames get to 40 FPS, it’s smoother with AWS set to auto. The flight went with no problems at all — no crashes, no significant stutters, no hangs. The system preformed quite well. I find that in these types of scenarios — complex scenery, urban area, big airport, and weather — with Vulkan I just can’t push all the sliders to max in VR. My CPU just can’t take it (the 1080ti hums along just fine). But with them backed off just a bit, the performance is great. In more normal settings, I can up the anti-aliasing quite a bit (and turn off the supersampling). I also suspect the fastest performance I’ve had to date is to turn HDR off, and use supersampling with no anti-aliasing, but the shimmers are just hard to take. It’s clear to me, though, that Vulkan is providing sharper images in the VR headset than OpenGL did — I can read things just fine with HDR anti-aliasing on and no supersampling.

All this is to say that I’m quite pleased. Using VR to stay proficient is now really an excellent option as Vulkan makes the whole thing visually smooth and quite appealing on my system. It was good before, now it’s really good. And as new betas come online, I expect it to only improve.

X-Plane 11.5b1 VR Testing

Here’s a stream with yesterday’s VR testing. It runs very well for me, but if you keep fiddling with the settings it wants to give up and crash. But the performance is very smooth. In some later testing I found that ASW fixed 45 FPS worked best for me.

Beta Update And A Recent Stream

Testing of the new X-Plane 11.5 Beta 1 continues today. I spent some time with VR yesterday, and found it very finicky. But I think this is more about Oculus than X-Plane: since I moved to the Rift-S my Oculus software has been very buggy and unreliable. So much so that I’d pretty much given up trying to use it in X-Plane 11.41. Regardless, what I found yesterday was that I was able to fly VR under Vulkan if I first loaded X-Plane, then loaded into the airport / scenario, then started the Oculus software, then reloaded Oculus from within the Oculus software (I had to do this before 11.5b1), then switched to VR in X-Plane. A lot, but it works.

My experience was that performance in Vulkan was much better than in VR for 11.41. While I still kept objects one notch below max, I flew with shadows on, full reflections, max textures, HDR and had reasonable frame rates with … importantly … few stutters. When anti-aliasing gets too high, though, it gets stuttery, so I stayed around 2x and sometimes 4x. I also found that in non-HDR I only had one eye working in VR. Asynchronous Spacewarp doesn’t seem to help smoothness, and super sampling makes things a bit sharper but comes at a performance price. As some others have noted, the GPS screens seem more blurry than usual in this beta. Today I’ll get to settings that I consider optimal, but overall the experience in VR was great and a significant improvement.

Today is going to be testing day, and I’ve already warned Mrs. Glideslope that I’ll be in “The Hangar,” which is what we now call the closet in which the sim sits, most of the day. Also, with us under stay-at-home orders here in Florida I’m no longer traveling for work or flying in the real world, so I have more time for the sim — and need to spend time in it to remain at least basically proficient in checklists and IFR procedures for my real-world flying. All this is to say that I expect to be streaming more in the coming days. On that note, my streams have been very unreliable ever since I upgraded to the 1080ti GPU. I think I’ve finally resolved those problems (I’ve under-clocked it a bit, and fiddled with some other things), and in a test stream the other day flew for an hour without crashing. So let’s hope that continues. Here is that post-bug-squashing test flight from the other day, and it showcases some of Orbx TE Florida as well. Note that it took a while to get the audio levels right (it’s been a while since I’ve streamed).