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Publisher: Laminar Research    Genre: Flight Sim
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: 601 @ 400 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 250 MB    Graphics: 800x600

X-Plane 6
May 29, 2002 | Tim Morgan

Click to enlarge

X-Plane's Airfoil-Maker program.
Plane-Maker is not simply a tool to design 3D models; all data about the aircraft is entered in this program, from the thrust of its engines to the time it takes the landing gear to fully extend.

X-Plane comes bundled with a variety of common airfoils (wings), both modern and vintage, but should the designer need a different airfoil, X-Plane comes with Airfoil-Maker. Note that the 3D structure is not significantly used to calculate its dynamics; primarily, the data entered in Airfoil-Maker is used in calculations. Airfoil-Maker allows designers to specify constants used in calculating the airfoil’s handling. This program is reserved for those with some knowledge of engineering: the interface is incomprehensible to those who do not know what they’re doing. Performance data is displayed as a passable graph.

Designing aircraft is half of the ballgame, however: X-Plane includes a remarkable scenery editor, named World-Maker. World-Maker allows players to craft scenery by dragging nodes around and painting terrain textures onto them. The interface is surprisingly easy to use; even novices who might be daunted by the task of creating airplanes should be able to add some realism to the area surrounding their home.

Although X-Plane only comes with 30 different textures to apply to terrain, the land-use data has a lot more versatility. The U.S.G.S. publishes data that includes around eighty land-use types, from low, sparse grasslands to evergreen broadleaf forests. These eighty land-use types are mapped to the thirty included textures, but gamers with a little time can paint the other fifty textures, creating a much more varied and accurate depiction of the landscape. Contrariwise, gamers can remove some of the textures and reduce complexity to reduce the VRAM requirements of the game.

The World-Maker program also includes support for custom objects, which must be in the OBJ format, a sort of text-based 3D model description syntax. These objects can have custom textures, allowing players to increase the realism or complexity of a city, or add his or her own house to the landscape for flyovers. Like the auto-generated buildings, however, these custom objects will lack substance and the player’s aircraft will be able to taxi or fly right through them.

The expandability is extended further with X-Plane’s data-output capabilities. Outside of its InputSprocket support, X-Plane supports a number of professional aircraft control systems and can output flight information in a few standard formats. This allows players to review their flight with specialized programs or build custom cockpits around their computers. Although cockpit building is not at all popular on the Mac, hopefully X-Plane will pave the way for future GA sims.


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