X-Plane 8 introduces a major revision to the X-Plane scenery system.
Here are the major new features of the scenery system:
Still a number of things are still the same as before:
At this point file formats, some library code, and the model editing tools are released. We are working on getting the full scenery tools finished and released. The full SDK will contain:
The new scenery generation tools make extensive use of open source libraries; in order to comply with those licenses and to give back to the open source communities that make the new scenery possible, all of the new scenery tools will be released in source code as well as binaries. If you are a programmer interested in working with the new scenery, we recommend working within the source code bases for these tools, as they already solve a number of problems relating to in-memory storage and processing of the new scenery.
The new X-Plane 8 scenery file formats differ from the old X-Plane 7 formats in that they are open-ended; they can represent almost any configuration of scenery as long as a tool can create it. With X-Plane 7, to implement new features with the scenery, the format had to change. With X-Plane 8, the format can represent almost anything. This means that the format will not change as we develop new scenery technology. Also, third party programmers will be able to design new scenery creation tools without being limited by our file formats, and it may even be possible to convert scenery from other flight simulators.
X-Plane 8 is made up both of scenery files (DSF files) and text files that describe the various entities in the scenery package. (Object files describe buildings, network files describe road patterns, forest files describe vegetation, etc.) These text files can be extended in a backward-compatible manner, so that new features can be made available to scenery authors without affecting the main DSF scenery files at all. For example, we could introduce pixel shaders by adding an extension to the "terrain info" text file to allow authors to specify pixel shaders for terrain types; the DSF files would not have to change.