Recap of the FSA live interview with X-Plane’s Austin Meyers and Orbx CEO Anna Cicognani

Earlier today, the Flight Simulation Association hosted a conversation with Laminar Research and X-Plane creator Austin Myers together with Anna Cicognani from Orbx. The conversation was wide ranging with some elements of the new scenery discussed and the suggestion of plenty to look forward to both from the X-Plane team and from Orbx.

Watch the stream, read the notes

Although Austin and Anna are the headliners of this discussion, Anna brought along Sante from Orbx and Flight Simulation Association enlisted the help of Brian aka SkyCommand to moderate the discussion.

I encourage you to check out the Flight Simulation Association’s live stream video and watch the whole thing for yourself. I’ve also taken some notes during the presentation and done my best to put them here in an understandable format! Enjoy!

Don’t have time to watch the whole stream? Here are my notes:

  • Austin says that for the first time he thinks MSFS and X-Plane are no longer leapfrogging but diverging in their approach. He cites their work on flight models as being “professional grade” and that X-Plane 12 is being used for eVTOL development
  • Sante from Orbx says that the X-Plane 12 is much crisper visually. Has been working on bringing over the Orbx’s products to the new sim.
  • Austin says that we’re in a pilot shortage right now. Predicts that the rise of the eVTOL technology is going to require even more pilots than we have right now. X-Plane 12 will feature this type of flight.
  • Anna from Orbx says that she also agrees that there also will be a shortage of pilots. Suggests that there are a few categories of people who buy Orbx products. People who want extreme realism and people who want to see the world and explore it.
  • Anna says good high-quality scenery is often a hook for buying even more scenery. Poor quality has the opposite effect. Orbx is focused on high quality realism. Includes many authors and freeware developers.
  • Austin says that the visuals for X-Plane 12 have been improved through the use of “first principle physics” and “first principle lighting.” Going down to the fundamental physical laws and are using those principles to generate the visuals.
  • Anna answers a question about if they make products based on demand or from internal principles. Anna says that its important to make a product that you like. If you own it and do it well then that usually translates into a better end result.
  • Austin was asked what new feature he likes the most. He says the flight models accuracy is the first thing. The second thing is the new sea plane physics which makes flying sea planes more accurate saying that they’ve been having a lot of fun with that.
  • Sante from Orbx teases that Brisbane International is “looking really nice” in X-Plane 12. Anna adds that airport authority is working with the scenery as a digital twin for training.
  • Austin was asked what the benefits are of the partnership between X-Plane and Orbx. Says that X-Plane scenery is a mile wide and an inch deep saying the reverse is true for Orbx. Current the teams are working on figuring out how ortho scenery and water edges are. Says that they are keeping the lines of communication open between the teams.
  • Anna answers the same question saying that Orbx’s mission has been to cover the planet with high quality scenery. Anna particularly likes the regions and flying around them. Says Orbx is well positioned to provide high quality detail with their geospatial department. Looking forward to delivering more.
  • Anna won’t say what products are going to be available out of the gate.
  • Brian asks Austin if the SR22 (coming in X-Plane 12) is a good learner airplane and then if he owns his own airplane. The SR22 was the first airplane Austin owned as it turns out. He also talks about the Lancer Evolution that he currently owns which is also in the sim.
  • Austin is asked on the release date for X-Plane 12. Says he doesn’t know yet. Wanted to release last year but wanted to work through several items – gives an example of the need to sync the water physics with the art physics as just one set of things that needed to be done. Says he wants to be in beta sometime this summer. Says there are 250 alpha testers working on it.
  • On compatibility: Ben, Austin’s right hand man in coding, says that everything that works in X-Plane 11 should work in X-Plane 12.
  • On VR Austin says that they haven’t done much more on VR for X-Plane 12 but says that 12.1 will likely include some new support.
  • Austin says that they are also working with a customer on a Level D (top level) flight simulator certification. Will be working with them to establish whatever hardware support they need.
  • Multiplayer status: Won’t be different on launch from 11. X-Plane mobile does have a massively multiplayer online capability and Austin promises in the long-term future that the online experience will eventually come to the desktop too. Says that it won’t matter if they are on mobile or desktop.
  • Anna and Sante: What new features is Orbx working with from XP12? Sante says that one of the coolest new features is the ability to have water on top of ortho scenery. Says that they will be able to better sharp rivers and canals.
  • Austin reports that he’s most interested in providing a whole world scenery option that is small and quicker to download.
  • As a follow up, Anna says that, yes, they want to do a FTX global scenery style product for X-Plane with the whole world covered in scenery. Anna can’t give a date.
  • Austin is asked if we’ll all need new computers to run X-Plane. Says the alpha testers are reporting that performance is just as good as before but the sim is looking “four times better.”
  • GNS430, GNS530, and G1000 have all seen improvements. Austin can’t remember exactly what’s been done.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Franz says:

    Many thanks for the recap !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Urgent Siesta says:

    Well, I was completely wrong. 😦

    I had believed/hoped that they’d announce some sort of collaboration, or at least something like the old Orbx Global for FSX/P3D. I.e., something that wouldn’t be as intensive or expensive as TrueEarth, and would have global coverage as the priority rather than the fine detail of TE.

    Truthfully, I was also secretly dreaming they might even have figured out some type of integration (shows that I’ve become spoiled by MSFS’ scenery convenience!).

    But it was quite far from that, obviously…

    Austin was his usual entertaining mad scientist self, but he missed a LOT of opportunities to evangelize XP and why it should be the “Prosumer’s” choice, mainly by not answering and then expanding on the actual questions that were asked…

    Still and all, Austin is focused on fixing the things I disliked most even before MSFS (weather visuals and water), and while I was previously fine with XP’s lighting, the First Principles focus permeating v12 is now welcome.

    The flight model and WX improvements look to be substantial, and are going to be an even stronger reason to prefer XP for civ simulation.

    Based on all this, I’m finding that I’m using MSFS and it’s incredibly strong freeware scenery community for world exploration (where neither XP nor P3D have ever provided anything interesting), and XP for when I’m serious about airmanship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I had also hoped that Austin would have made a better case for XP12 and for partnerships with Orbx.

      There’s plenty of potential here and I suspect long time X-Plane fans will find little or no reason not to update. But I was hoping for something… more. Still, it’s not out and I continue to reserve judgement.

      Also was hoping for Orbx to reveal their plans. I’ve almost bought another TrueEarth pack but have decided to wait.

      Liked by 1 person

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