The update that has been very long awaited for in the X-Plane community is the release of version 11.50 – the Vulkan update. Because the release is so consequential to X-Plane, the developers are rolling it out quietly with a phased approach that will slowly add people to the access list over the next couple of days. Here’s what we know about this release.
Staggered roll out
After going through a couple of release candidates, versions of 11.50 that were intended to be final release but needed to be checked, Laminar Research has finally put version 11.50 into the public release category. The auto updater will now begin making this version available to all – but in a staggered way. Something new for X-Plane.
Here’s what the developers had to say about the staggered roll out:
One last note – because 11.50 is such a disruptive release (in that it requires add-ons to be updated to run in Vulkan), we are working on a staged release. While everyone who wants to get the RC can get it, and everyone who wants the final version will be able to get it, we are trying to make the auto-update notice ping the user base incrementally, so that our tech support is not overwhelmed.Ben Supnik, X-Plane Developer
You can circumvent this by selecting the beta release option on Steam which should give you the final release candidate which is the same as the final version. Or wait it out until your version of X-Plane has been updated.
One of the biggest updates in X-Plane history
The thing holding back X-Plane 11 the most was it’s ancient rendering engine. Based on OpenGL, an API that has slowly gone out of favour as newer and more minimalistic API’s have been brought in, the older versions of X-Plane were saddled with low frame rates and stutters. Very little progress has been made on the look and feel of the sim over the last few years with the base product. Of course, third parties have done everything they could to make the sim look better but this often ate into the precious few frames per second that X-Plane could generate even on the most monster of systems.
Vulkan will, in part, open the door up to better visuals and performance. This graphics API is more minimalistic than OpenGL and the net effect of its implementation will undoubtedly be better performance both now and over the long run.
X-Plane has fallen behind in the visuals department and Vulkan is the ticket to the future for the series. Based on recent interviews with X-Plane creator, Austin Myers, Vulkan also opens the door to some of the more professional applications he’s looking to insert X-Plane into. Already FAA certified, Austin think’s X-Plane is the right platform for professional flight training. Synchronizing images across large numbers of displays, however, was a challenge under OpenGL but Vulkan should help them alleviate that too.
This is hopefully the start of some very cool things that will come from Laminar Research and their third parties now that 11.50 is out.
Expect some growing pains
Although the lengthy beta testing period has eliminated a tremendous amount of bugs and given third party developers time to update their products and make them fully 11.50 compatible, I would suggest that there are still going to be some growing pains.
If some of your plugins no longer work, give the authors a bit more time to get them up to speed. Some will need longer than others but hopefully over time we’ll see this new update really show off what X-Plane is capable of doing. Despite the launch of MSFS, it’s unlikely that X-Plane will be going anywhere and a solid core base of users, third party developers and this recent upgrade, they should be around for a long time yet. Even if some have jumped to the nearest competitor.