New information and images are coming at us from Laminar Research and the team working on X-Plane 12. The latest images showcase two of the default aircraft shipping with the sim and the detail levels that have been reached on them. We also get a look at some of the airport details from the X-Plane Scenery Gateway. Let’s have a look!
The first one that we’ve seen in the last week is a refurbished version of Laminar Research’s Beechcraft King Air C90B. This aircraft is currently available in X-Plane 11 and Laminar are clearly updating its looks for X-Plane 12. Of particular note, Laminar wanted us to focus on the reflections on the windscreen which is indeed impressive. The rest of the aircraft model and textures have also clearly been given a significant update.
Next up, Laminar were teasing us earlier today with another aircraft showing us just the wingtip before revealing the full aircraft. It is a Piper Super Cub with the enlarged back country tires which is a very nice addition to see as bush plane flying has really become popular with flight simmers in recent times.
Airports in the scenery gateway
Next up? Airport upgrades! X-Plane 12 looks to be trying to answer the scenery question with some very good autogen and prebuilt airport details that can be applied to the airports in their scenery gateway. The gateway is a repository of airport scenery, often supplied by the community, using a package of scenery objects which have been updated significantly for X-Plane 12.
The airports don’t have the custom scenery quality that you might get from some paid addons but it is still a huge advance forward. Part of the upgrade also includes much higher resolution taxiways, runways and other tarmac elements as well as new and upgraded buildings, objects, vehicles, etc. There are also cracks applied to the edges of the tarmac procedurally. Also applied procedurally is the mowed grass texture which does look convincing and can apparently be generated or hand painted in the gateway.
Not updated in these images is the scenery itself which is, according to the thread releasing these images, still using the X-Plane 11 scenery package. So don’t judge the roads, background textures, or water transitions just yet.
Have a look at some of these airports including Aspen…
And Bella Coola….
Ignoring what’s going on in the background, the airports themselves do come off well with much nicer details than we’ve seen from prior versions of X-Plane.
The lynch-pin in all of this will be just how good X-Plane 12’s lighting model is and how well it interacts with these details. High resolution textures are nice but nearly every other flight sim is applying different shaders and other tricks to really make those details come alive and so X-Plane will need to do that too to really keep up with the visuals.
The mowed grass and cracked runway edges being applied procedurally does give us a potential look at how X-Plane 12’s scenery system may ultimately be applied. Although streamed orthographic scenery seems unlikely, a much higher resolution digital mesh, better scenery textures, and a procedural system that prevents the repetitive and tiled scenery textures might go a long way towards letting X-Plane 12 catch up to MSFS in the scenery department even if it isn’t using satellite imagery.
It should be interesting to see how that pans out.
In the meantime, keep an eye on this thread for more updated airports.