State of the Union…Sort Of

[written by Dhruv on June 25, 2008]

Well, it’s been a busy two months since we dropped the A320 bomb on everyone, in many ways. Alex and I have been hard at completing our respective university semesters, which wrapped up last month. Since then, we’ve both kept ourselves mind-numbingly occupied, both with XPJ-related work and with other pursuits. We have also taken some time to ourselves. Indeed, I’m writing this from seat 17A of a Northwest Airlines A330-323 winging its way across the North Atlantic on my way back from a 10-day soirée in Europe (in-seat AC power is a godsend…now if only Boeing hadn’t completely axed Connexion…). But I digress…

My European adventures carried me, among other places, to Paris, which for the non-aviation addicts amongst our readership (all three of you) houses La Musée de l’Air et l’Espàce at  Le Bourget Airport. I was fortunate enough to coordinate my travels to meet with XPFW’s Peter Meininger and take in the museum together. Together, we adventured our way around a full-size retired Boeing 747-128, and the piéce de resistance of the museum, Concordes 001 (the prototype) and F-BTSD (a production model which was in service with Air France until the type’s retirement in 2003). Having collaborated with Peter on various projects over the years, it was a welcome experience to finally shake hands with him. And yes, I’ll be honest - the backdrop didn’t hurt either. Photo of us from the museum are displayed below. I’ll leave it to you all to decide who’s who.

Amongst other things, Pete and I also talked shop about the 320. Things are still progressing well on the bird. The exterior model is inching its way closer to completion. I’ve spent the better part of this 8 hour excursion across the Pond playing around in Photoshop perfecting our base textures a bit more. I’ll admit - it’s a bit of a wrench giving up state secrets, but the key to our ability to mass-produce liveries in the manner that we do is that once the base textures are to a good level of completion, liveries are all-but academic. Now unfortunately, it’s the base textures themselves that take an age and a half to perfect! Anyway, I think I’m fairly good on the fuselage masters now, and the fruits of Alex’s and my labor is on display below [Click to zoom in on the nose section to get a better detail overview].

One can clearly see the details that he’s painstakingly fabricated for the kit, and at this point, I’m simply bandying around with the overall “feel” of the textures. Of course, the brilliant part about it all is I click two boxes in Photoshop, et voila! We go from blank white plane to liveried plane faster than one can say “V One”. Case in point presented below:

What this means for you, the users, is that once we get the paint kit fully hammered down, Alex, Josh, and myself will be able to tackle a rather large number of liveries in short order (and indeed have already started doing so). I will also attempt to simplify the paint kit to the point where I can make a public version available for users to create their own repaints without too much hardship.

Now, I have to digress for a moment, because I’m getting ahead of myself. At this point, we’re multitasking a bit as well, and I’d like to officially clear up the rumors a bit. We’ve been rather coy about this in the past few months, but let the record finally state that the rumors are true:

We are indeed upgrading the 777 to be fully ready for X-Plane 9 with a completely new object-based exterior and a heavy feature set upgrade.

Couple of quick bullet points on that bombshell (for those who didn’t see it coming):

  • First and foremost, the plane will remain freeware. It started its life as such and will continue to be so.
  • Minimally, it will require X-Plane 9.20. There are a veritable ton of aircraft and instrumentation-specific features forthcoming of which the 777 will take full advantage.
  • As far as model variants go, just to keep ourselves sane, we’ll be continuing ahead with the -200ER to begin with, and then completing out the line. Thankfully, this will be far less of a chore now than it would have been had we attempted it with last summer’s release. X-Plane has come a long way in terms of keeping projects organized, and we’ve also streamlined our own development workflow a great deal in the past year (it’s the fact that we never really get the chance to single-mindedly attack a plane that keeps us from releasing stuff faster!). So yes, those of you waiting [im]patiently for ultra-long-range -200LR and -300ER models of the 777 will be granted your wishes eventually. Believe me, we want them as badly as you do!

I think I’ve sufficiently bored everyone enough with my rambling now, so I’m going to refrain from writing anything further at this point. We will spill more details on the 777 shortly as we’re heavily into fine-tuning the exterior model at the moment, and would much rather wait until we’re ready to declare the objects final before we show it off. I will, however, leave you with a small teaser: a full render of the new model from Blender:

Thanks to all of you for your persistent commenting on the blog to date and for bearing with the silence for so long. It gives me the chance to do these long-winded addresses more often!

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