We previously reviewed Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D® product version 1.1, and now, updated versions 1.2 and 1.3 have been released, to provide student, private, and professional pilots an immersive flight simulation training environment. Prepar3D is evolved and updated from Microsoft ESP™, which in turn was derived from Microsoft Flight Simulator X. Prepar3D also includes new features and enhancements to aviation, maritime, ground-based, emergency response training scenarios, and it adds a new multiplayer engine, to help professionals and students from around the world train together in real time. In this article, we highlight the version 1.2 and1.3 updates.
To begin, it’s significant to mention that coinciding with the release of Prepar3D version 1.3, Lockheed Martin announced lower prices and new academic licensing:
- Prepar3D for professional use price is reduced from $499 to $199, with price adjustments available to anyone who purchased Prepar3D since the beginning of 2012. Users should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the invoice number, license ID and the purchaser’s first and last name.
- An academic license for Prepar3D is now offered to immerse students in learning. Prepar3D for academic efforts at and below the undergraduate level is offered at US$49.95. This version will display a small watermark on the screen.
- The Lockheed Martin Prepar3D Developer Network Program remains the same. For a subscription fee of US$9.95 per month, developers receive two copies of Prepar3D to develop and integrate new applications into the Prepar3D ecosystem.
Prepar3D’s new licensing alternatives and prices
Prepar3D can be used by private pilots, commercial organizations, the military and academia, as a licensed software training program for virtually any scenario imaginable. Prepar3D users can practice a mission or flight before it happens, to increase effectiveness during real-world operations. In a recent discussion, a senior executive of a chain of nine flight schools confirmed that students learn faster and require fewer, expensive in-air training hours when they use computer flight simulator training in conjunction with usual flight school training. In view of Microsoft’s new Flight product being a true game, Prepar3D now seems to be the “virtual successor” of FSX.
Version 1.2 Updates
The list of updates and improvements in Prepar3D version 1.2 includes:
Full Windows 7 Support
- User interface redesign
- New interface and extended multiplayer experience
- Observer view camera management redesigned and expanded
- Save flight user interface redesigned
- Alert system and progress dialogs redesigned for continuity
- End flight interface redesigned and clarification added
Additional Flyable Aircraft Added to Standard Vehicle Set
- Beechcraft Baron 58 – in four liveries, plus G1000 model – previously AI only
- Beechcraft King Air 350, in four liveries – previously AI only
Added aircraft menu options for flyable airplanes
Multiplayer Experience Redesigned and Improved
- Redesigned, streamlined multiplayer user interface
- All multiplayer screens have been redesigned including the mission resolution and racing results windows
- Multiplayer simplified and streamlined for the end user
- Connect to IP now works on a global scale
- Several improvements to the internal voice communication system
- Removed local echo
- No longer sends communication data packets when no one is talking
- Able to select a sound device other than your default system sound device for multiplayer voice communication
- Submersible and other SimObject categories are now supported by multiplayer
- Multiplayer chat is redesigned and can to be maximized and resized
- Other miscellaneous multiplayer updates
- When ending a multiplayer session, user is no longer placed back to their default flight
- Add-on scenery is now an allowable option in multiplayer sessions
- Tower controls now have access to the map feature
- The ‘Join Aircraft’ button now swaps to ‘Leave Aircraft’ when joining a shared aircraft
- If the map is chosen to be disabled, users can now not access it via the map button on certain aircraft panels
Other New Features in v1.2
- Users can specify from where flight plans are saved and loaded
- Enhancements to the Submersible SimObject Class
- Animations and lighting support added to submersibles
- Proper lighting at depth
- Submersibles are properly rendered on the ground
- Observer view system enhancements
- User interface redesigned for clarity and ease of use
- Observer views can be easily configured with sensor and color views
- Users are prompted when they attempt to load an incomplete or incorrect mission file
- Users can sort the columns of data in the SelectAirport user interface
- Tail number, call sign and flight number can be set on an aircraft’s ‘View details’ screen
- Underwater scenery is now visible from above water if appropriate detail settings are selected
- Menu system font has been changed for increased visibility and readability
- The Scenery Library dialog now defaults to a user’s Prepar3D installation directory, not the desktop
- The Use Directly and Cache Scenery radio buttons have been further explained with tooltip text
- Rendering pipeline performance improvements show a marked performance improvement in all cases
- Enhancements to water detail effects and rendering settings
- Water effects settings are now divided into two sliders, Reflection Detail and Refraction Detail, which are clearly labeled
- The Low, Med, High names have been replaced with text describing what scenery elements are rendered at each setting
- The Water Clarity slider controls the transparency of the water surface
- LearningCenter article is expanded, to further explain details of each setting
Scenery settings in version 1.3 include Water and Bathymetry parameters.
Chicago skyline, with Reflection and Refraction sliders both set to Everything and water Clarity set to 50%, showing glassy water surface, with colored reflections of buildings
Multichannel Capability Extended
- Expanded field of views able to support up to a 360 degree field of view
- Documentation and samples expanded in the LearningCenter and further examples added to the Software Development Kit
Unlike FSX, Prepar3D saves and loads assignments of multiple monitors of control panel, subpanels, and scenery, flight (*.FLT) files.
Learning Center Documentation Enhanced
- Additional examples for new multichannel 360 degree field of view support
- Additional articles added, including navigation section and glossary
- Multiplayer article expanded for new features
Software Development Kit (SDK) Enhancements for Developers
- Modeling tools have been updated to support 3D Studio Max 2010, 2011 and 2012
- Configurable ground clamping capability
- Added ability for SimConnect to “tag” the SimObjects that it creates
- Added new API, AISetGroundClamp, that allows turning on the ground clamping facility, which will push objects that are underground back up to ground level
- Additional ExternalSim capabilities
- Additional SimVar support to External Sim
- Added fallback support for any SimVar not natively supported by the current Category Sim Class, so all SimObjects inherit this ability
- New example and article documentation on leveraging the new ExternalSim APIs to run the user’s own aerodynamic model and simulation through SimConnect in Prepar3D
- Additional SimVar support to External Sim
Version 1.3 Updates
After receiving great feedback from users, Lockheed Martin has implemented new application enhancements and developed fixes to improve stability and usability of Prepar3D®. Here is the list of enhancements and fixes in version 1.3:
New Simulator Enhancements
- ExternalSim based SimObjects can now participate in Air Traffic Control distributed simulation/multi-player sessions.
- The simulation can now play sound when it does not have focus in Windows:
- Accessible via a checkbox in the ‘Options – Settings – Sound’ menu
- Or as the ‘MUTE_ON_LOST_FOCUS’ entry in the Prepar3D.CFG file
- The Prepar3D Learning Center sound article has been updated with details on this change.
- Used distributed simulation/multi-player mission roles will now be recycled.
- If a player leaves the distributed simulation session, their role will be recycled back to available so that the player can re-join or a new player can take their role.
- Ground Vehicles can now support left and right wheel animations.
- Custom weather themes are now supported and will be loaded into the simulation:
- The Prepar3D Learning Center weather themes article has been updated with details on this new feature.
- Default performance configurations have been updated to reflect new updates to the user interface and performance profiles.
- Two additional levels of detail (LOD) are now available for the Terrain LOD Radius slider in Display Settings:
- Very Large (5.5) and Extremely Large (6.5) are now available options.
- The existing ‘WideViewAspect’ configuration setting in the Prepar3D.CFG file, for wide screen monitors, is now accessible via a checkbox in the ‘Options-Settings-Display user interface.
- Simple and advanced control settings sections have been redesigned and simplified in the ‘Options-Settings-Controls user interface.
- The Air Traffic Control (ATC) window is now resizable.
- Minimum sizes are enforced when resizing the multi-player chat, ATC and LearningCenter windows.
- Modeless windows now return the focus back to the main application when closed.
- The “minutes until session starts” notice in multi-player exercises can be expanded up to 100 minutes.
- Tooltips have been added to the multi-player user interface to provide more details on available settings.
- Updated airport geometry, taxiways, and aprons for
- Langley Air Force Base (KLFI)
- OrlandoExecutiveAirport (KORL)
- Eglin Air Force Base (KVPS)
User Interface Updates
Prepar3D version 1.3 scenery on southeast side of Eglin Air Force Base
SimConnect and Software Development Kit (SDK) Enhancements for Developers
- The first pass of a Content Error Reporting System is complete:
- More details are available in the updated SDK about to how enable with the ContentErrorLogging flag in your Prepar3D.CFG file.
- Asserts caused by content in the simulation will now be logged for developers to reference and fix.
- SimStart and SimStop now function correctly.
Known Issues Resolved
- Autogen and new season textures are now fully loaded after a change during runtime.
- Time of day, season, and weather information are now set, saved and loaded from *.FLT files.
- Fixed an issue with the menu system not properly shutting down on exit with additional third party menu add-ons installed.
- Several controls settings that were not being saved, are now being saved.
- Two controllers of the same type and name are now supported and can now be used in Prepar3D (including XBOX 360 controllers).
- ‘CTRL-SHIFT-?’ now loads the Prepar3D Learning Center into the sim window, in addition clicking Help, LearningCenter on the main menu.
- Fixed several errors that would prevent multi-player client missions from being loaded.
- Fixed a program crash on exit if a user deletes their AppData and ProgramData directories.
The Prepar3D Learning Center can be opened inside the sim window by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+?, or on the main menu, by clicking Help, LearningCenter.
Additionally, the Prepar3D team and developer community continue to enhance Prepar3D’s capabilities and features. For additional information about Prepar3D, visit www.prepar3d.com