New Level of Realism

Flight simulation has developed further. Most noticeable for me: X-Plane is getting better and better. Not just because X-Plane itself is developed further, but mostly as add-on developers gain in skills and tools - and computers in power to render those dreams. Large photoreal sceneries sampled from satellite imagery are no longer a problem - some years ago, the sheer amount of data would have congested any hard drive, and afterwards toasted any graphics adapter available. Physically based rendering (PBR) is no longer a theoretical approach, but has become reality for 3D applications like X-Plane and can be executed on consumer class hardware.

First of all, the picture above is a raw screenshot from my X-Plane 11 setup, not being post-processed in any way. Yes, the aircraft on display is a payware aircraft (in fact it's the JustFlight Piper PA-28 Arrow III). The underlying scenery was made DIY using Ortho4PX without any special tweaks or settings - this is what you get more or less out of the box at the end of 2017. Impressive, eh?

Honestly speaking, this level of realism has a price of its own: The scenery weights about 2.5 GiB per 1° tile, and fast storage (SSD or better) is still not cheap when needed in large quantities. Covering the whole earth could easily consume around 100 TiB (depending on the detail level of the mesh and imagery used), so practically one is limited to some areas of special importance. When flying GA planes like the Piper on display, one is limited to a certain area anyway - it's not exactly a fast plane...

However, it gives a taste of what is currently possible with some minimal efforts, and what the future could be as soon as computers will allow it (I never thought hard disks could once again become the limiting factor for progress, but it seems I was wrong there...). I'm looking forward to the future - let's see where we will be in some years, when X-Plane 11's life cycle will come to an end in favour of X-Plane 12...

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