Further Thoughts on X-Plane 10, Part 1

Now that X-Plane 10 has been out for almost a month and seven “beta” releases have been distributed, I thought it would be a great time to take another look at X-Plane 10.  In this multi-part series, I will share further thoughts on X-Plane 10:

  1. Part 1: Laminar Research Delivers a Sour Taste
  2. Quick tips on Getting Started with X-Plane 10, both configuration and rendering options
  3. The revised experience: I’ll share some screenshots and further discuss whether X-Plane is worth it after spending more time with the software on multiple platforms.

So without further ado (do you guys really read this?), Part 1:

Laminar Research Delivers a Sour Taste

In my previous post on XP 10, Initial Thoughts on X-Plane 10, I discussed how much of a nightmare the release was and how frustrating adjusting setttings could be.  I ended the post by suggesting that those of us with older systems stick with X-Plane 9.7 and kept to my “do not buy” recommendation.

This post also became a place for many readers to share their experiences with X-Plane 10.  It quickly became clear that I was not alone in my conclusions and many of you struggled with X-Plane 10 as well.  There was some harsh criticism for Laminar Research, referring to their recent as “disappointing”.

I would like to note that to date, no one from Laminar Research has bothered to address these comments on this blog.   In addition, I personally have sent three emails to Laminar Research requesting further comments.  None of my inquiries have been returned.   Shame…

Its Beta software!

X-Plane 10 is really beta software.  Maybe I missed a memo to their consumers, but with all the hype around how great X-Plane 10 was going to be, someone forgot to stick the “beta” label on it in a place consumers can read.   The X-Plane 10 release represents the worst software release in years, with so many bugs and a confusing installation (can’t use the installer on the DVD!), Laminar Research jumped the gun. Nothing says it better than pointing the seven “fixes” released since its debut.  That is almost two per week!

Mac Users Beware

X-Plane 10 is not optimized for Mac.  The explanation that I received on Facebook was that Macs are not optimized for gaming and this isn’t an X-Plane 10 issue, but an Apple issue.  Even still, Laminar Research could have stepped up and pointed out the performance variance a little more black and white.

$80 is a rip-off!

Its $80 for crappy, beta software.  While I recognize that Laminar Research has a lot of time resources invested, $80 is steep, especially for software that wouldn’t run out of the box (you must download a new installer from their website).

So, for $80, what am I getting?  The latest in graphic rendering, improved ATC (?), and a few extra planes that can only on “high end” systems.  The only thing is keeping me from filing a charge back with credit card company (fraud would be my reason for doing so), is that I personally jumped the gun when I ordered it even before downloading the buggy web demo.

Conclusion

Sadly, Laminar Research has left a very sour taste in my mouth from mis-leading marketing to a scalping cost for buggy, poorly checked software.  From what others have said, I am not the only one.   As a customer experience advocate, I proudly give Laminar Research an “F”.

My message to Austin and the rest of Laminar Research: “You boys are playing in the big league now, releasing buggy software and ignoring your customers isn’t going to get you market share.  Stop and think about who is really paying your paychecks.  Smart business is about the customer.”

Coming up in part 2, some quick tips on getting started with X-Plane 10, including how to get “decent” frame rates on older systems and how to configure your joystick.

Initial Thoughts on X-Plane 10

Update 12nov12: I wrote this post shortly after the initial release of X-Plane.  I didn’t have the best experience with the initial beta products.   However, almost a year has gone by and X-Plane 10 has evolved into a mainstream offering.   I am working on an update to this post and encourage everyone reading this to take these comments with a grain of salt.  If you just downloaded/installed X-Plane 10, grab the updated installer from the website and run the update as there are a lot fixes available.  Cheers! 

–begin original post–

Let me start by saying that my experience with X-Plane 10 was one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had with a piece of software in my entire life.

Customer Experience Failure

I’ll skip the blow by blow, but the simple task of downloading X-Plane 10 web demo was a Thanksgiving nightmare, followed by the inability to even start the program, and finishing with such low frame rates, that I thought my monitor was showing me an old 8mm film. Then came a number of web updates and the requirement to download an installer from the website to install the DVDs.

The overall experience was a far cry from a smooth roll out of a new product. Clearly Laminar Research was not prepared for the release of software that still needed more testing and fixes prior to release.

X-Plane Eye Candy

With the full version of X-Plane 10 installed and about 20 hours dickering around with the rendering options, I have finally reached a point of content with X-Plane 10.  So, I thought I would post some screenshots of my initial testing.

The settings for my ’08 iMac

The trick to getting decent frame rates from X-Plane 10 is to turn EVERYTHING off and then start turning options back on and up.  It is a frustrating and lloooonnnngggg task.  Austin should design a little program that can set rendering options based on computer settings.  But then again, Austin is not that cool.

Challenger 300 at Sunset over Puget Sound

But after spending a lloooonnnngggg and frustrating time dickering with the rendering options, I was able to install one of my favorite X-Plane aircraft, the Challenger 300 by Ddenn Design, and fly from KPAE to KSEA and experience a few of the new X-Plane features.

The Stinson L5S, a very close cousin to the Piper Cub in FSX

I also realized that Laminar Research has clearly marketed X-Plane 10 as a direct alternative to FSX or Flight.  Included in the web demo are the Baron, a King Air C90B, and the Stinson L5S.  Similar aircraft in my default FSX hanger.  I was sad to see the Piper Malibu missing.

Initial Thoughts

My initial thoughts on X-Plane 10 are mixed.  While it represents a revolutionary step forward in simulation software, the customer experience of downloading the demo, installing it, and configuring it is down right atrocious. As an customer advocate, Laminar Research might have an awesome product, but the experience to use it is the pits.

To Buy or Not To Buy?

Is X-Plane 10 a “do not buy” product, as I stated in my tweet?  At this time, I will say that if you are willing to invest countless frustrating hours getting it configured and you own a powerful computer, buy it!

If you are an FSX user, I recommend waiting for Microsoft Flight, which will offer a far superior customer experience and better support. Since Microsoft has killed off Flight (rightfully so), the best alternative to X-Plane 10 is Prepar3D, despite its steep price tag.

For me, I paid $80 for this thing, so it will sit on my computer along side X-Plane 9.7, taunting me to mortgage my house so I can buy a super computer to properly run it. Until then, X-Plane 9.7 wins.