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Tuesday, April 8, 2003

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X-Plane 7 Unveiled
6:00 AM | Tim Morgan | Comment on this story

In an abrupt surprise, developer Austin Meyer of Laminar Research pulled the sheets off of a well-hidden upgrade to his flagship product X-Plane, bringing it to version 7.0. Subscribers to Meyer's e-mail list may remember him publishing a "wish-list" of sorts; as it turns out, that list was actually the finalized feature-set to the new version, which Meyer describes as "unquestionably the biggest release we have EVER had."

The new version includes countless changes (all detailed on the website linked at the end of this article), including some noteworthy new features:

  • Experimental new 3-D, volumetric scattered and broken clouds. This is supposed to be impossible, but It's still done. These clouds are 3-D and volumetric. They absorb and reflect sunlight, are dark underneath, give a sense of speed as you fly through them, and cast accurate shadows for their formation and time of day.

  • TOTALLY-UNLIMITED numbers of global airports, navaids, airways, fixes, custom objects, number of polygons per custom object, roads, railroads, trails, rivers, taxiways, and powerlines!

  • Heavy frame-rate optimizations FOR HIGHER FRAME-RATE

In addition, rain, snow, and hail are now modeled as individual 3D objects, with hail even given the ability to pockmark a hapless pilot's windshield. A number of significant enhancements were made to the flight model and aircraft designers now have much more flexibility in designing their vehicles.

Meyer was quick to point out that version 6.60 of X-Plane is still underway and a version 6.70 is expected to incorporate some of version 7.0's frame-rate optimizations.

Currently version 7.0 is in beta mode, and a demo is available for download. Purchasing an X-Plane 7 CD will allow users to fly in the beta for more than six minutes. The CD will also work for all release versions of X-Plane 7.

Accompanying this release are new generation-7 global-scenery CD's with better geometry for more accurate coastlines and adjustments to situations where rivers and roads intersect airports. No changes were made to the Mars global scenery, and no new CD purchase is necessary.

X-Plane is Laminar's highly-extensible flight simulator, offering owners the ability to fly aircraft from airports around the world, and to design and fly a variety of aircraft, helicopters, gliders, and gyrocopters. The version 7.0 CD will be available at a discounted price of $59.99 through the beta period, but will climb to $99.99 once the full version is released.

[Update] Please note X-Plane 7 is OS X-only, unlike previous versions of the software.

Laminar Research
X-Plane 7
Download X-Plane 7.0 Beta/Demo (97 MB)
Buy X-Plane 7

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• X-Plane 7 Unveiled6:00 AM
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