Tuning X-Plane for VATSIM

Due to some key behaviours in X-Plane that differ to its competitors, it is necessary to ensure X-Plane is correctly adjusted to maintain a stable framerate above 20fps. XSquawkBox recommends that you target 30-35fps to ensure that you do not experience significant slowdowns that result in the simulator’s “time dilation” effect from being applied. “Time dilation” causes significant issues for traffic separation and sequencing and is not permitted on the network.

Laminar Software maintains documentation on how to set the rendering options correctly for X-Plane 10 and for X-Plane 11.

In addition to Laminar’s notes, we offer the following guidance:

  • Read Laminar’s guides and follow the steps, looking at frame times and adjusting settings as your first port of call before resorting to a graphics detail autoadjusting tool - getting the settings right first will generally help immensely, and let the detail autoadjusting tool deal with the unexpected.
  • X-Plane 11 was released in 2016 and targetted hardware contemporary for the time. If you only have an older system, do consider using X-Plane 10 instead.
    • In the XSB team’s experience, older (DDR3 memory equipped) systems have significant difficulties running X-Plane 11 with higher CPU-dependent settings - even an i7-4770, once a top of the line i7 CPU, struggles in X-Plane 11 with the world object setting set to medium, but can handle X-Plane 10 easily.
  • X-Plane 11 can produce highly variant frame-rates based on the scene contents - a properly tuned top-end system can produce 35-40fps on approach, and over 90fps in flight. This variance can be easily demonstrated by switching to an external camera, moving the camera clear of the aircraft, and then pitching the view up and down through 180 degrees, watching the framerate as you do it. Tuning must be performed in areas with high complexity scenery areas, with the camera pointed at the terrain for best results.
  • Scenery, Plugins and Add-on Aircraft can all dramatically change the minimum system requirements.
    • In particular, whilst alpilotx’s HD and UHD terrain meshes look great, they seriously increase the CPU burden for the same rendering settings due to their autogen density.
    • XSB, and any other plugins that use xplanemp, require additional texture memory on top of what the simualtor uses by default to load aircraft textures on the fly - high traffic situations may result in significant increases in required texture memory. Being conservative with the texture memory slider if you know you’re going to enter a high traffic event is well advised. If your settings result in X-Plane needing more texture memory than your system has available, it will result in a severe degradation of your frame-rate.
  • Do not set texture quality to the Uncompressed option (the very highest setting) - there’s absolutely no cause for it. If you’re finding an add-on’s textures look poor with compressed textures enabled, you should report the issue to the add-on developer - such issues only tend to occur with assets that do not ship with precompressed textures as the real-time compressor is not as good as the offline tools. The same applies to CSLs that look poor with compressed textures enabled - report such issues to the CSL author.