The future of our mobile simulator

Some days ago, Laminar has announced that they are currently working on a massive update of X-Plane 11 mobile, which will bring a global coverage and approximately 10.000 3D airports.

That has been a kind of a surprise, because it came right after the presentation of Flight Simulator 2020.
As Microsoft intends to open a new frontier by developing a complete simulator for a console, Laminar sees a concrete future for the mobile platform.

Of course the versatility of this platform is exploitable in a lot of ways, but there are some difficulties that Laminar shall face in the upcoming future.

Hardware compatibility

One of them will be the hardware compatibility, while it’s quite easy to understand that different mobile phones will run X-Plane in different ways like a computer does, it will be quite hard to have compatible yokes, joysticks and pedals.

It’s obvious that if you are looking for a complete experience, the only solution remains a good computer, but remember that the mobile version will still have big jets like the Boeing 737, which is almost impossible to fly in medium hauls keeping the phone in the hands.

That’s a pretty significant limitation if Laminar really wants to expand their mobile version of X-Plane.
But if I must tell the truth I’m pretty sure that this will be an inspiration for many.

It’s not a case that, for example, after the release of complex games like Fortnite, Asphalt and many more, the market of portable joypads that might easily be mounted on a phone has grown.
That might happen even with stuffs dedicated to mobile flight simulators, that are already diffused, you just need to be brave enough to build them, and I cannot tell more.

Add-ons

A simulator wouldn’t be a simulator without… Add-ons!

Even if it’s true that Laminar will provide X-Plane mobile with a lot of planes, like they have already done, yet they should be aware of the fact that they cannot cover the whole world with 3D sceneries, it is a massive work.

If you think about it, the various forums available, registered a significant growth as they had started to host freeware 3D sceneries and various resources, but I dare any X-Plane user to say that he/she hasn’t searched or downloaded the sceneries he/she needed for his/her flights.

We can’t pretend to have all the 3D sceneries available for the computer version converted for the mobile one, because many of them use libraries and objects that weren’t made by Laminar, requiring additional libraries that would be almost impossible to install, maybe it could happen only on Android phones.

But we will have the gateway sceneries, that could basically live a second youth after being substituted by more complex and beautiful sceneries.
So, Laminar is going stimulate the market of their gateway sceneries, and even stimulate the users to create their own sceneries on the mobile version.
Wouldn’t it be cool to work at your scenery while in the tube?

35,000+ airports and the ability to fly virtually anywhere on the globe is a huge undertaking, but we weren’t satisfied and wondered if we could take the 3D airports from our Scenery Gateway as well.
The first step was getting Desktop’s scenery library (the “Lego bricks”) converted. Mobile has very specific needs to hit its performance budget, so we asked Petr (the amazing artist behind all the scenery library improvements that X-Plane Desktop has gotten in the last couple years) to take a look at migrating them. In no time, he had nearly 1,000 art assets ready to go, including:
-Terminals, hangars, & ATC towers
-Other buildings like fire stations, gas stations, & business centers
-Jetways, baggage carts, & belt loaders
-Cars, parking garages, & parking lots
-Fuel tanks & water towers
-Miscellaneous “clutter,” including fences, noise barriers, picnic tables,

light poles, flag poles, traffic cones, & barbecue grills

From the official Laminar’s blog

I can’t imagine a future for planes and plugins coming from other developers.

Almost all of the most diffused third party planes, just work with a different logic and custom plugins that would be impossible implement.
And we also shall remember that the memory available on our mobile phones isn’t that much, and should be used for other things.
It’s hard to accept, but at least you don’t want to buy a secondary gaming phone, you should be satisfied with the pc version.

IFR suitability

Can you offer global coverage only for VFR flights? I don’t think so…

A fully functional default FMS that could just allow the users to fly the aircraft from A to B should be enough to satisfy everyone, but I used to fly the 737 in the mobile version. It had the FMC modeled, but I couldn’t load up a route, sadly.

I know that, anyway, this problem was already solved, so hats off to Laminar’s staff.

Memory storage and solution

My basic X-Plane folder, without add-ons, used to weight around 50 gigabytes, it wasn’t a lot on a PC, but it could become a trouble for a lot of users who don’t have much internal storage and use their phone for other goals, like work.

The solution that Laminar found is good, because you can download the sceneries you need each time you plan a flight, and then you can delete them, that’s a very minor impact on memory.

Miscellaneous problems

More difficulties could regard multiplayer feature, ATC and traffic.

The multiplayer is a “short-term goal” on the main PC version, but we already have IVAO and many similar networks that allow the users to have a complete and realistic experience, even with human ATC.

Now that the 5G is slowly becoming a reality in the world, it would be interesting to have a good multiplayer feature in a mobile simulator, as JustFlight already has, but possibly freeware.

The default ATC will be, for sure, the solution adopted by Laminar, even though the quality is really low, and I’d die to have the chance to talk with human ATCs even on mobile.

The traffic is a problem that comes with the ATC, because it would be sad to see the skies empty… A good multiplayer service with real ATC, might be a fantastic solution, because there wouldn’t be neither the necessity to use CSL libraries, since we’re all using the same simulator and the same planes…

As you can see many problems were already solved by Laminar Research, that is really aiming hard on the mobile platform, as a versatile alternative to the classic PC or the console.


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