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Neil Hewitt
09-30-2010, 02:15 PM
Have people been following this at all? Prepar3d is Lockheed Martin's fork of the Microsoft ESP source code. So it's basically FSX for commercial simulation. In the last few weeks their site has begun to come alive and it seems they're close to shipping an inital version. No word on pricing, I imagine given the audience that they're pitching for that it will be business-level pricing rather than home-user-level pricing, but even so we're probably talking hundreds rather than thousands for basic licensing.

Word has it that they've been working on the core engine to optimise performance, move work onto the GPU etc. They apparently have some ex-ACES people on staff working on the code.

This must be worth keeping an eye on. Not only will Prepar3d be backwards-compatible with FSX add-ins, but given its target audience you can expect it to become more open and programmable and suitable for a cockpit-building audience, unlike Microsoft Flight which looks like it's going to target the casual gamer.

Could Lockheed Martin, rather than Microsoft, end up being the salvation of the home cockpit hobby?

One to keep a close eye on, I think.

http://www.prepar3d.com/

JNicol
09-30-2010, 06:43 PM
Hi Neil,

I thought I should pipe up here as I am the guy responsible for Prepar3D commercialization. I have been a member of this site for years under another user name and I guess I wanted to keep that one under wraps... :-) I have built sims at home for a few years (helicopter, desktop Cessna and a truck sim for my son), built them for a living (Bell 412, A320, tank sims etc), have a copy of Mike's sim instrument book and so on. Am I passionate about home cockpit building.....? yep.

We are going to be announcing the price point for the client and the Developer Network within the next two weeks and I wish I could be more specific on that. The surprise will undoubtedly come for developers participating in the development program. ;)

I can tell you that I think it was the first day I joined the project, I said that the number 1, 2 and 3 items that will need to be addressed will be performance. (Actually I probably said that during my job interview as well!) We have been working on the core engine and we are looking at updating it from DirectX9 and getting cycles onto the GPU at some stage. It is a hard road, so I wouldn't count on major performance increases just yet, but there will be tweaks. A million lines of code is not something that we can get through easily! The development team are world-class though, they are working on it and we have an exciting roadmap for the product!! Yes, we also have a couple of guys from the old ACES Studio as well and I will leave it to them to introduce themselves through the website blogs when they come up for air.

Some of the new features include sensors, multi-user enhancements (i.e. more than two users sharing a cockpit), brand new user interface, upgrade to Visual Studio 10, OpenGL to DirectX support and others that I am hoping to share in the next week. (*hint* anyone like submarines?) I also asked Pete Dowson if he would support Prepar3D with FSUIPC and he has integrated this support in the very latest version (which will also be available as a download on the Prepar3D website as well).

All in all as long as you are not using Prepar3D for entertainment purposes, cockpit builders should be happy. At least you know that there is a MyCockpit mole on the inside.... :D

I would encourage interested people to get onto the site and tell us what they want and if there are any annoying things that would make life easier that we could fix or put into a future build. We really intend opening up the doors and getting the community involved with us to make it even better. It is our intent to make regular updates and patches (er...feature enhancements) to the product and not do a release every 3 or so years, so there will be more opportunity to get features in and updates out.

Regards,
John

Note that the views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Lockheed Martin.

Neil Hewitt
09-30-2010, 07:15 PM
Thank you, John, for the great news. Nice to hear it from the horses mouth, at it were. I would argue that most non-pro builders are going to derive some degree of entertainment from their flying ;), but it's clear that from a company like Lockheed it's not going to be targeted at your casual simmer - the guys putting together commercial sims for real-world training have presumably got to be your real customers. For a significant and ongoing improvement over FSX I would certainly be willing to invest a reasonable amount over time, and I'm sure many here would too. The backwards-compatibility is clearly going to be a major draw compared to, say, moving to X-Plane or the Aerosoft product (assuming it happens). Having FSUIPC on board is a big win.

I'm a software developer by profession, so I appreciate that fixing the performance issue is far from straightforward. I dread to think what a genuine multi-core rearchitecting of a monolithically single-threaded codebase that old would look like as a task. You'll have to do at least some concurrent tasking to take advantage of GPU offloading, of course. Rather you than me <g>. Actually, scratch that. I would jump at the chance if I thought I was even vaguely good enough. I'll just have to stick to .NET :sad:

I look forward to finding out lots more as the weeks go by.

JNicol
09-30-2010, 08:35 PM
Well, I also hope that we can attract the development community to the platform that have had previous experience with FS9 and FSX. There will be lots of opportunity to reach our target commercial market with the add-ons and utilities that make the base platform the powerful engine it is. There are lots of examples that I am seeing now, including the use of payware aircraft and scenery add-ons by commercial users that want to enhance the experience. I definitely believe that there are opportunities for people to contribute and be part of this at many different levels.

I hope, for example that we can start a Search and Rescue group and get the community to contribute payware/freeware aircraft, missions, challenges, flight plans and so on. An Emergency Preparedness and Response group, a Humanitarian Assistance group, the list goes on. There are flight schools and colleges that want Prepar3D, so I see lots of opportunity for enhanced payware aircraft with realistic start-up and shut down procedures, local scenery add-ons for those guys and again tutorials, missions, tools etc. Lots of opportunity I think for hardware providers as well as we move the goal post from entertainment into commercial areas that may be interesting for folks. People in this forum have great ideas and talents putting hardware and software together so I have no doubt that there will be some great ideas coming up!

Just some random thoughts.

JNicol
10-15-2010, 04:27 PM
Hi Neil,

I apologize in advance to the forum admins and members, this isn't supposed to be an ad. Just letting you and everyone know that I have just posted the pricing and availability for Prepar3D on the website. www.prepar3d.com (http://www.prepar3D.com).

The price for the client application is US$499. The price for joining the developer network starts at $9.95 per month. Note that anyone developing add-ons, missions, flight plans and so on for Prepar3D can join the developer network. When a solution is delivered for an end-user, they will pay the $499 for the commercial runtime license. For $9.95 per month, developers will have access to two (2) copies of the Prepar3D client application, plus access to other Prepar3D apps. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to go to the web site. Again apologies if this is not an appropriate medium to get the message across. (This is a world-wide exclusive for myCockpit!);)

Regards,
John

Matt Olieman
10-15-2010, 06:26 PM
John, welcome to MyCockpit and thanks for the update of Prepar3d.

I (we) look forward to hearing more of Prepar3d progress and any other updates you may have to offer us.

Again, thanks for the "world-wide exclusive."
Matt Olieman

Neil Hewitt
10-15-2010, 06:40 PM
Thanks, John - that's very interesting. And not as pricey as I had expected :)

Some builders end up using more than 2 copies of the sim software at a time, though - while today's powerful PCs do a lot, in a five-projector system, say, it's hard to avoid having more than 2 PCs running the simulator; you just can't get the performance out of a single client and there certainly isn't a Quintuple-Head 2 Go. What do developers who need more than the 2 copies of the Prepar3d client do? Do they need to acquire commercial licenses for any development clients over the 2 limit? Or will there be bolt-on pricing for the developer network?

I will certainly be looking at joining up and getting a good look at the first release of the client, particularly to see where it has evolved over FSX/ESP.

JNicol
10-17-2010, 01:05 PM
Hi Neil,

You raise a couple of good points and hopefully I can address these. The new ATI Eyefinity cards can have up to six monitors out. There was a limitation with ESP that had a maximum of 4 monitors out before it would crash. This has been fixed in P3D, so that using something like an Eyefinity, you can have 5 or 6 monitors/projectors out. We have also put in a new feature to address performance issues where you can run the main simulator PC with only an instrument panel and no out-the-window visuals.

Simulation systems such as Project Magenta in a typical client/server configuration will allow instrument panels to be run on separate machines with a copy of FSX being used for each out-the-window view. For typical development environments I can see that two copies of the software will be sufficient for most applications, however I acknowledge there will be some commercial applications that will require additional copies for development. I would see that these more complex environments may have more than one developer working on them?

Saying that, I will look at this for sure and look at pricing of additional development copies over and above the two. Remember that we are talking about $10 per month for the first two to allow smarter people than me to develop apps for P3D. :mrgreen:

When I built my A320 sim I had a single channel with multiple projectors out on the single video card, so only needed one copy of FSX and had other software for the instruments. My Bell 412 was the same. If I was going to upgrade the basic systems, then of course I would look at a PC per channel for greater performance.

Perhaps people reading this could give me an idea of their typical configurations for multiple copies. That would certainly help me to ensure that the developer community is going to be served.

John

Neil Hewitt
10-17-2010, 03:21 PM
Good point about EyeFinity, although I don't think too many people here have gone down that route yet, based on posts I've seen. The issue with FSX has always been that it's CPU-bound. Even today's fastest CPUs, overclocked, cannot satisfy the desire for high framerates when flying in a very complex scenery area, with heavy weather, lots of AI traffic, add-ons like PMDG, and sliders maxed (or even very high). The graphics hardware is almost never an issue these days because GPUs are so much faster than they were when FSX was released. But everything that is rendered on-screen has to be calculated by the CPU on what amounts to a single thread. Microsoft was able to push texture loading onto separate threads, but AFAIK that was about it. Unless your team has been able to substantially re-engineer the core of Prepar3d to be inherently multi-threaded in a comparatively short time - which, with all due respect to them, I doubt; we'd be talking about absolutely fundamental changes to a million-line codebase - then performance is limited by what can be done on a single thread. No doubt there are areas within that thread where performance gains can be made, and it looks like you've achieved them based on what you say, but I would be dubious indeed about trying to run a three- or five-display system using EyeFinity on a single PC, which would almost certainly need multiple visual windows active, and getting decent performance landing at JFK, say.

All the client/server stuff you can buy that uses FSUIPC is brilliant - and takes the load off the FS PC - but some of the really CPU-consuming stuff like autogen and AI traffic cannot be networked out in any way (at least AFAIK). Being able to run a copy of the client with no visuals and no CPU hit so that all the power could be used for other stuff would let you dedicate one PC to visuals with no control hardware, sound hardware etc, and then run panels, hardware adapters, controls, sound etc on a non-visuals PC; I could see that working even with a multi-projector system, but I'd still be expecting to see the frame rate drop through the floor with all the above stuff I talked about turned on.

I guess what would be great, over time, would be for you to be able to split the functions of the client up and run them on multiple PCs networked, and indeed in multiple processes on a single fast PC. This would closer approach the kind of architecture you see on Level D systems. In particular, having a visuals-only client that didn't run in slew mode but in a dedicated outside-view mode, with other modules feeding it all the data it needs including the position of AI planes etc, would let you get great visual rendering performance out of todays fast PCs.

You could take the sim engine as it stands and make it possible to turn off chunks of the overall pipeline. So for example, one engine process could be only generating the sound, one could be calculating the positions and activity of AI aircraft and vehicles, one could be handling add-ins. Each engine would be able to get its own threads and RAM from Windows, and the load would be distributed across all the cores available. The necessity to coordinate activity between multiple processes adds an overhead, of course, but FSUIPC and WideFS already do this, and whether it's across the network or across processes in a single box doesn't really matter. I suspect Peter Dowson might make an excellent distributed member of your dev team :)

As a software architect (albeit one with no particular speciality in gaming or simulation) it seems to me that going for a grid-computing approach is probably going to be easier than comprehensively re-writing the software to be inherently multi-threaded. But that would definitely involve running lots of copies of the core engine, so the licensing model would have to change.

Anyway - far be it from me to tell you how to do your job :) I'm just really keen to see what you've been able to do so far and to take Prepar3d for a spin.

For the record, my own sim - still very much in the building phase, but planned out in terms of software and hardware for the initial build - consists of 2 main desktop-type PCs (but in a special housing I built for them to minimise the space they occupy), 1 tablet PC that will be mounted directly into the MIP, and an old ultra-mobile PC (an ASUS R2H) that will just run custom software I'm building for a radio stack and some other stuff. My project will be heavily touch-screen based with lots of UI written by me. So I'm probably a bit different than most around here. The precise division of functions is not finalised yet but I will almost certainly need to run 3 copies of FSX (I have 4 licenses). I may add another desktop PC to the mix. So to run Prepar3d in all the same places I'd arguably need 3 or 4 clients. However, I guess if I were to adopt a Prepar3d solution I would look to rearchitect around a 2-client system and take advantage of your performance increases.

Hope that helps! I think you can probably get a lot of feedback from people here if you start a poll - just ask Matt or one of the admins. It's very on-topic so I guess there'd be no objections that it's a disguised advert. Perhaps Lockheed would fancy advertising here anyway :)

As always, John, thanks for your participation and all the information you're providing. I'll be signing up in November!

JNicol
10-18-2010, 08:36 PM
Hi Neil,

You have again raised some good points for discussion. I have to say that this is P3D, so even though we are starting from the same code, we are going to be getting the graphics processing off the CPU and where it belongs into the GPU. It won't happen for a while as we upgrade the core, but it is on the roadmap. Performance might be slightly increased with what we have done now, but dont expect 100 fps just yet! In any case, I think a poll sounds like a great idea. I will ask Matt. So the question would be, For a typical Prepar3D development set-up, how many client licenses would be required - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 or more. I will also look at getting a poll up on the P3D website.

Regards,
John

Neil Hewitt
10-19-2010, 07:13 AM
Hi John.

Absolutely no inference intended that your team is somewhow limited by the previous design choices of FSX. I know first-hand what can be done with an existing code-base by a dedicated and talented team. It sounds like yours is properly world-class. Taking advantage of the GPU to offload calculations is the obvious next step, but I'm sure it's going to take a lot of work and won't happen overnight. It'll be very cool when it does, though.

I wish I knew more about commercial simulator system software. My own specialism is traditional data-driven Web apps, so there's not a huge amount of room for architectural heroics, as it were. If any company out there has created a massively-multithreaded or massively-parallelised flight simulation system, I'd be really keen to hear about it - it's got to be the way forward. In my mind's eye I'm thinking about what a home simulator might be capable of in 2020 already :)

Melnato
10-19-2010, 09:33 AM
Hi John,

Im not a developer, but a "high end" simmer with a full 737 pit and three channel FSX visual,
running on four dedicated computers....see here for background:
http://www.flightdecksolutions.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4209&start=0

My questions are:
How many licences would I need? and
Is it really worth changing over for a private user?

Love to test it out nevertheless :)

Nat

JNicol
10-19-2010, 05:57 PM
Hi Nat,

I love your set-up! (I had an FDS A320 at my last company and had lots of fun with it). For a set-up that has three channels for out the window, you would need a P3D license to serve as the image generator master and a copy for each visual channel. That would be four copies. Developers would have access to two copies for the price of the subscription, plus if more copies are needed they could get additional licenses at the standard rate.

John

AK Mongo
11-05-2010, 12:46 AM
John,

What does one need to do to qualify as a developer?

Reid

JNicol
11-05-2010, 10:44 AM
John,

What does one need to do to qualify as a developer?

Reid

Hi,

As with many other software development network programs, there are many differing levels of skill that members have. From people with no experience, to people with lots of letters after their name and years of experience. Many of the people that develop apps for smartphones have no formal training, but are designing and selling commercial applications. If you have a willingness to learn and want to jump in to Prepar3D development then joining the P3D Developer Network is a great way to start!:D

John

JNicol
12-07-2010, 10:46 AM
Hi Neil, Everyone!

I just wanted to let you know that after looking at the issue and consulting with some of our partners, I confirm that we do not restrict the number of subscriptions that developers can purchase. This means that developers can subscribe to more than one subscription in order to get the number of copies that they require for development and testing. This is particularly useful for multi-channel set-ups. So rather than pay-out $499 for copies over and above the development subscription, you can purchase additional subscriptions. Hope that this helps.

Regards,
John

Neil Hewitt
12-07-2010, 11:38 AM
That sounds like an ideal solution, John. Many thanks to you and Lockheed for considering this community. I look forward to signing up when my project gets to the installing-the-computers stage (hopefully soon).

NH

castle
12-13-2010, 04:48 PM
Hi John,

Sent off an email to the Prepar3D tech support a few weeks ago, have not heard back, thought I might try here...

Can the Prepar3d be used in a mode wherein ONLY the scenery portion is used; i.e. all the models, instruments, fdms, etc are turned off and a udp socket is used to receive vehicle state that defines position and attitude ( lat, lon, pitch, roll, bank)?

Would this require a 3rd party package such as SimConnect, FSUIPC, or does PrePar3d have an internal socket module with an accessible header file to create a data packet and establish network connectivity.

Reason I ask is have fully functioning 737 and 747 cockpits running with real time Linux OS (RTAI and Xenomai) and hooking into the scenery would be a big positive.

JW

JNicol
12-13-2010, 05:15 PM
Hi JW,

Apologies, it looks like the email got lost in the system. Typically it is best to post in the P3D Forums rather than send email. There are more eyes on the posts there. (Sometimes the email goblins eat our emails.)

So what you are looking for is to use Prepar3D as an image generator for out-the-window. This is scenario is supported. You can control a vehicle outside of Prepar3D using SimConnect and send the "ownship" control data to fly it. Prepar3D is multi-channel capable out of the box, which means that you can have multiple slave computers set-up, each with their own viewpoint (and each with a copy of Prepar3D running on it), controlled by a master. This master could be controlled via SimConnect. I have no experience with Linux so couldn't tell you if your specific setup will work, perhaps someone else in the forum can answer that. I am not sure how Linux would talk to the Windows box, our development is done on Visual Studio 2010 and I am clueless in these things.

You could build a model that has no internal cockpit, or just change the model.cfg file to delete the interior model reference. We also have a new feature in Prepar3D that has an "Instrument only" view. This function does not draw the external view point if you are running a computer that is just showing gauges. In FSX and ESP, there is still an overhead of drawing an outside scene even if instruments are maximized to fill a screen in cockpit builds. This issue is now gone.

Also, we are hoping to get a CIGI (Common Image Generator Interface) supported add-on out one day. (Depends on customer demand etc) This will allow Prepar3D to be used on many different types of simulators that support the CIGI protocol for applications exactly as you have described without too much code refactoring, if any.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

John

Atomic_Sheep
12-13-2010, 10:53 PM
So the way I see it, Prepar3D is basically what FSX should have been? Like obviously it has a few more features for bigger clients but essentially based on reading this thread alone, I get the feeling that it's just a working copy of FSX? (not trying to sound cynical). Also is there a FSX like demo for it? i.e. a small region with 30 minute run time? Any word on performance improvements over FSX SP2? Lastly, have you guys worked on the flight model at all/are you planning on working on it at all?

JNicol
12-13-2010, 11:38 PM
(not trying to sound cynical).

Too late. :wink:



Also is there a FSX like demo for it? i.e. a small region with 30 minute run time?

No, that isn't something that is in the pipeline at the moment.



Any word on performance improvements over FSX SP2?


We are not necessarily comparing apples with apples when it comes to performance. There are new features and there have been a number of issues fixed. "It depends" is the answer. People are generally finding performance improvements because we have upgraded to Shader Model 3.0 and made some fixes. If you have the new global texture resolution cranked up to max (now 4096 instead of the FSX default 1024) and you have the new Bathymetry (underwater) setting on, you are probably going to find some fps hits. If I was flying, I probably don't need bathymetry. If I am doing litoral/maritime ops or driving a submarine, I probably don't need general aviation or road traffic turned on. I suggest that you go to the support forums at the Prepar3D website to read the various posts and answers regarding the new features. www.prepar3D.com (http://www.prepar3D.com)



Lastly, have you guys worked on the flight model at all/are you planning on working on it at all?

No on the flight model. Yes on planning to improve it in the future and if you have any specific problem areas in the flight model that you would like us to look at, please feel free to drop us a line in the forums so that we can look at it. The developers are very receptive and we are always looking at ways in which we can improve the product.

Thanks for your comments.

Regards,
John

Atomic_Sheep
12-15-2010, 02:49 AM
There are a few addons for FSX which utilise 4096 textures. I think Real Environment Extreme uses 4096 clouds and ORBX utilises 2056 (or something of the sort) textures for its scenery. To be honest It's kind of hard to tell whether there is a performance hit between the different texture sizes. The way I see it, there's a greater video card hit with these higher resolution textures? CPU shouldn't be affected all that much? The only difference that I notice (apart from a greater video card load would be load times i.e. hdd get a better work out and really anything other than SSD doesn't quite cut it. Since FSX is so CPU intensive, I was wondering more along the lines of whether there are noticeable performance increases in this department? Users with a GTX 580 appear to get more than sufficient fps in the video department but they are still struggling somewhat when it comes to CPU. Memory isn't really a problem either I think, from personal experience, I've got just the plain vanilla 12800 memory but it seems quick enough and with 12Gb, I've never come anywhere close to maxing this. I think the most I've ever reached was something like 6Gb and that's including OS and I think I had other apps running as well.

JNicol
12-15-2010, 03:13 PM
Hi,

The settings for Global Texture Resolution and the comparison between FSX and the new range in Prepar3D are listed below:

FSX/ESP: 64 128 256 512 1024
Prepar3D: 256 512 1024 2048 4096

These relate from left to right from Very Low to Very High. What you are pointing out is the TEXTURE_MAX_LOAD= setting in the FSX.CFG which indeed will allow textures to be greater in resolution for those add-ons. The above figures are the new default. We are actually also going to be expanding and relabelling them in the next release update to the following (Very Low to Very High isn't that descriptive to those of us that tweak!):

64 128 256 512 1024 2048 4096

The software is still tied to the CPU as FSX is, but as mentioned, we have updated the Shader model from 1.1 to 3 so there is a small performance and visual quality increase. We are looking at upgrading the DirectX version next year as well and moving some of the current CPU overhead onto the GPU. I can't comment on performance on the GTX 580, I am not using one, but interested to see what your experiences would be with P3D.

Regards,
John

Atomic_Sheep
12-15-2010, 09:00 PM
I'm not using a 580 either. I've just seen some performance comparisons between a 480 and a 580 I think it was running on FSX butnot sure how the comparison would go with P3D vs FSX on the same machine. Would be interested to see that also. I was thinking about trying it out, but haven't decided on giving it a red hot crack just at this stage but I'm certainly quite interested in the project and will keep myself as up to date as I can.

Neil Hewitt
12-17-2010, 02:16 PM
Signed up for a Developer Sub today and I'll have a play over the weekend, see if I can see any performance improvement on my reference system.

NH

JNicol
03-09-2011, 03:52 PM
Hi Everyone,

Just letting you know that I posted news about the upcoming release 1.1 of Prepar3D. I think that there are a few features that cockpit builders will like, including multi-touch support on multiple monitors and we have fixed multiple window repositioning on start-up as well. More here:

http://www.prepar3d.com/2011/03/08/prepar3d-1-1-release-update/

John

Kennair
03-11-2011, 11:58 PM
I have it running on a multi-monitor i7 980x in tandem with FSX but haven't noticed any performance improvement however I certainly look forward to this update. It looks very comprehensive and responsive. When was the last time you heard that about FSX? :D

Ken.

halroach187
02-10-2012, 12:57 AM
hello folks. I'm here representing a group of enthusiasts from FSX and current and ex pilots and controllers. We have been using add ons and squeezing every bit of simulation we can from FSX for a long time. Avid users or VATSIM SQUAKBOX FSINN ECT... we also rent our own server space for creating and shareing aircrafts and scenerys we develope for FSX. With the announcement of MS flight 2012 many of us have absolutly no interest in using this closed sourch and childish GAME. We wanted FSX to be built on and improved.... now just by chance i come across this Prepar3d product as i was reading a dev article about making the transition away from microsoft due to the new structure in Flight 2012. So I have noticed a very large price point that many of our users cant afford. but in the same token we are going to be left for dead when ms flight comes out.... we need a realistic simulator, creator, editor, mp, tower controller, we need everything fsx had and want so much more.... this was a perfect program for us but again too pricy..... so why no demo? or at least a smaller version to play with at a lower price point. we all fly with homeade cockpits and controls. We want to use this product! We want a group licenceing deal or some form of purchase program to be able to make this transition.... simply put it costs too much for us FSX hardcores..... Please enlighten me as to any plans to make this a widly avaiable program attainable for us fsx folks.? lookhead does not know the market they are missing out on by making prepar3d a commercial drivin product only... make a dulled down or smaller version for at home simmers please.... please reply as we are closing on the ms flight release date of feb 29

weyes
02-10-2012, 06:32 AM
I found this very interesting http://forum.avsim.net/topic/361758-04feb12-update-on-sp1c-and-a-few-other-items/
look at the section titled "PMDG Development for Prepar3d"