Why X-Plane's new particle system is making me happy

While everyone's waiting for Vulkan, the API that promises to boost up X-Plane, my eyebrows raised at something else: the new particle system.

If you follow the Three Grumpy Simmers video series, you probably know that I was expecting to see what was it that Laminar Research was bringing us on their presentation at the Flight Sim Expo. Namely the new API they are working on: Vulkan. Now, if you saw their stream (which you can find below, courtesy of Bel Geode, they mention they're hard at work and that perhaps they will release a beta by the end of the year.

Key word: perhaps. They are not just throwing stuff into X-Plane but rather doing it from scratch so that it works properly. So, we'll need to have patience.

There was something else that really caught my eye (and ears) on their presentation, though: along with great tools that they are building for developers, there was something in the middle of those tools that got me excited: the new particle system.

Yes, we have all heard it before: I want my contrails, I want my wheels to show some better smoke, I want them to splash some water up on wet runways. Pretty.

There's something else you can do with a particle system, though, and Laminar has shown it: fire. And smoke, of course.

At around 51m55s of their presentation, Ben Supnik shows an aircraft engine on fire, which is illuminating the ground. A few seconds later, you see fire on the ground, next to the aircraft.

He also mentioned that you can attach particles to aircraft (and only aircraft right now as it was confirmed to me by Austin) and control them through dataref. I am hoping that, at a later stage, you can attach those particles to other objects as well or just place them in the scenery. You know why? So that we can simulate forest fires.

X-Plane 11.30 particle system X-Plane 11.30 particle system

And the particle system can also be used to simulate water or fire retardant being dropped from aircraft.

With the particle system, Laminar might be starting to finally allow us to build the ability to fight fires again, which is something that we lost from v10 to v11 and that Laminar doesn't seem interested enough to make it right again -- just like sling-loading (Laminar folks, really, you should improve sling-loading so that we can grab and drop stuff wherever we want to).

I am sure some talented developers out there could grab this new system and make something spectacular for us to use. A full-blown product developed around firefighting where we could attach tanks (kind of like SwissCreations did with the DreamFoil AS350 where we can change some parts of the model).

So, yeah, Vulkan is exciting but, for me, if this new system is done in a way so that we can use it for other stuff and not just aircraft, it could be a major breakthrough for developers and put something new on the table. We are always looking for new ways to use our sim. For us, virtual helicopter pilots, this could be something amazing.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Sérgio Costa

About Sérgio Costa

Sérgio has been a flight simulation enthusiast for nearly 25 years. His passion with helicopters developed during MSFS 2000 when he discovered the complexity of these aircraft and the challenge it was to control them. Since then he has been primarily a helicopter flight simmer, trying his best not to crash and kill all his virtual passengers. Sérgio is HeliSimmer's editor and writer and one of the Three Grumpy Simmers, a YouTube series and Podcast produced together with YouTubers Bel Geode and NovaWing24, obviously dedicated to flight simulation.

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