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Prepar3D 4 FSDT Upgrade informations

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Some information about P3DV4 64 bit upgrades for all our products:

We have been working for the past months during the V4 Beta testing period, upgrading all our support software, to be sure we would be ready for the V4 release. While we were at it, we took the time to take a serious look at all things we wanted to do better/differently in the software, and what the new platform could offer, to make the experience as good as possible, and ensure a smooth transition to our users.

First and foremost, all upgrades will be entirely FREE of charge. Some of our sceneries, like O'Hare, or KLAS, started their life when FS9 was still around, moved on FSX, passed through P3D V1, V2 and V3, and you'll still be able to carry them in the 64 bit world, without spending a penny! Yes, it took time and work to make sure they would work, but we firmly believe that it's best for everyone if users are facilitated upgrading to a new platform, especially when it's so much better than the previous one.

The most important thing that need to be updated, is the support software. We ported the Addon Manager to 64 bit because, as a .DLL, it had to be ported, otherwise no FSDT, no GSX, nothing...but now it works just fine and, while we were at it, we made a ton of changes and enhancements, trying to follow every feedback we got, including the nasty ones...

Single FSDT folder installation

Until today, if you had to install an FSDT scenery, it went in the main sim folder, without the ability to choose it freely. And, if you had to install into multiple simulators (like FSX, FSX:SE and P3D), you had to run the installer multiple times, for each sim, with lots of duplicated files and wasted disk space.

The new installers will install *outside* the sim (by default, under C:\Program Files, but you'll be able to choose freely ), and it will install into several simulators at once, in a single installation run, without any duplicated files. You can install into any folder, or any drive.

New add-ons configuration system on P3D3/4

Starting with P3D V3, LM offered developers a new way to install add-ons, without the need for installers to touch the main sim configuration files, such as the scenery.cfg or the DLL/EXE.XML files. Each addon can have its own private XML files, which will hopefully fix once and forever the issue of installers failing because some other rogue installer corrupted those files. We'll have our own private configuration files for scenery, textures, simobjects, effects and sounds so, under P3D V3 and V4, we can install without touching ANY of the default files of the sim.

This also has the added advantage that you will be able to uninstall and reinstall the sim entirely, and all your FSDT add-ons will be still be there, with no need to reinstall them. The sim will give you the ability to momentarily disable/enable an add-on installed this way, to troubleshoot, without having to mess with config files manually. We hope this will result in a greatly improved reliability and installation convenience, both for users and for our support. We can only hope that more developers will switch to this method, because the benefits will be obvious, once you'll try it out.

And, in order to ease the transition, and not forcing anyone to re-download all installers, we gave all new installers the ability to "migrate" the one already installed in the "old way", to the new system so, for example, if you run the new GSX installer, with lots of other FSDT products already installed, and you had them installed in multiple copies across multiple simulators, you'll find out you'll have more hard drive space at the end, since the new installer will look into all the sim, and will consolidate all files from all FSDT products into the new single location, moving them to the new system, without requiring a lengthy reinstall process and without having to redownload full installers. Of course, we'll have updated installers ready anyway, if you want to start afresh.

Addon Manager changes

Keeping it up with the concept of trying not to touch the sim configuration files, we made the following changes to the Addon Manager:

- Its own settings, will now stored into a separate .INI file in the %APPDATA%\Virtuali folder, instead the [fsdreamteam] section of the FSX/PREPAR3D.CFG file.

- If you WANT to use it for tweaking the main .CFG file, you will have to enable every tweak explicitly, and only those that have been enabled, will then be saved to the sim .CFG file, and only after you press the Save button.

New Memory management for sceneries

64 bit changes everything for a scenery developers. We were always worried about crashes and OOM, and keeping high fps, that we had to compromise on smoothness, because we decided that some stuttering is always best than an OOM. Now, with the OOM ceiling raised quite a bit, we'll have more leeway and give you back smoothness.

Remember the "Anti pop-up" setting in the Addon Manager ? Years ago, it did a lot, because we used to have most of the scenery handled by the Addon Manager. Nowadays, the Addon Manager doesn't really do much, other than being an interface to buy and activate the products, because what used to be done by the Addon Manager (creating most of the objects you see), it's done by Couatl, which is far more powerful and flexible, allowing for complex things like objects changing depending on the weather, season, time, AI presence, simulator used, and lots of other things. The downside of this was that, once we moved the main scenery creation task to Couatl, the "Anti pop-up" setting didn't do much, simply because there wasn't so much stuff that was handled by it. Objects created by Couatl scripts had their own loading ranges, and there wasn't any control possible for users.

We *knew* that, if we raised the loading ranges, the scenery would be way smoother, but it would likely OOM, because it wasn't simply possible to fit it entirely in the limited 32 VAS address space. This was particularly true for KMEM, which was designed taking into account a very aggressive memory optimization. Destroying/Creating objects is the same thing that SAVES you from an OOM, but reduce smoothness.

But in the upcoming update, we linked the setting between the Addon Manager and Couatl, so this slider will now control the memory management strategy entirely, both for the Addon Manager, and for Couatl. Which means, if you turn it up to the maximum, *everything* will be loaded at once at 15-20 NM out, and nothing will ever be loaded/unloaded again, until you exit the airport area entirely. The setting will work for FSX and earlier P3D version, just to let you experiment with it, but you'll likely see OOMs on 32 bit simulators. But on 64 bit, it will be your best friend, removing any pop-ups and stuttering formerly caused bv the aggressive memory management, which was originally made to prevent OOMs.

Live Update

Due to the increasing number of users, we found our existing server couldn't keep up with the increased traffic anymore, and this was clearly apparent when we had the last GSX update: lots of user assumed the software had problems, just because they got corrupted files or partial installs, because the servers were overloaded by too many users at the same time.

So, we replaced the Live Update system ENTIRELY, wrote a whole new updater program, and moved over to Amazon Web Services to host the updates. We believe it will be almost impossible to crash Amazon due to traffic, and the downloads speeds should be much better and constant, regardless of the traffic.

Also gone will be the confusing concept of "minor" and "major" updates, and scenery patches and vehicle patches, etc. The single new Live Updater, when started, will be able to update ALL your installed FSDT products in one go. Everything: small files, large textures, vehicles, liveries and program code. All in one go.

GSX major update - Version 2.0

We have been holding out on GSX updates for the past 4 months, the whole duration of the V4 Beta, because the changes to the main software were so many, the Live Update servers and support software are entirely new, so it would have been a big mess trying to support the smaller bugfixes while we were working on the new update so, you'll get a significant update in the next days, because it contained all the feedback obtained by users during the past months. It was a bit frustrating not being able to push updates for trivial things, and we couldn't even fully explain why, since we were under a strict NDA, and we took it very seriously.

The Future

We think Prepar3D V4 is the most important release of the past years but, the most exiting things are those you cannot see, yet. The P3D SDK always was much better than the FSX one but, with 32 bit, there wasn't much we could do to exploit these features, because there wasn't much space to put what was already possible. And, the V4 SDK has been vastly upgraded, allowing things that could really push forward realism and immersion.

Some of them were already available in our software, but we haven't used so far, but will surely plan to, once the community at large will realize how much better V4 is.

Lastly, I wanted to thank Lockheed Martin for the terrific support they gave us during the Beta. Remembering the old flight sim Betas (I think the first one I got involved with was FS95, the first Windows version), they were mostly bug hunting and finding installation issues. Microsoft always said that, once a product hits Beta, it's too late to add new features.

This one was different, and LM really did their best to LISTEN to us and our ramblings, and added things, even to the last minute, because we asked for it. Some of these suggestions, will open the door for exiting new product features, which weren't planned or even possible before.

We are very optimistic for the future of the hobby. Now, users will have to do their part, and just DROP that old crusty 32 bit sim that accompanied us for the past 11 years. Yes, FSX will turn 11 this they say, all good things must come to an end.

Hot damn!  Can't wait!!!!  After 20+ years, 64-bit is the biggest announcement in decades.  Well done, FSDT, well done!   ;D

Thank you Umberto!


Muchas Gracias!!! ;)

Thank you so much. Appreciate the gesture very much.  ;D


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