The ability to create scenery libraries started with X-Plane® v8 and the sim has used libraries internally since then to organise and publish its built-in scenery resources. OpenSceneryX was created because there was a growing need for a good quality collection of resources to supplement these built-in collections and it is the only scenery library for X-Plane® that actively collects contributions from the community and publishes them. There are several benefits of using libraries generally:
- The resources are installed once but are used many times across many scenery packages, reducing the size of downloaded scenery.
- A high quality set of library resources is a big benefit to scenery authors, who no longer need to spend many hours modelling common items or hunting around for pre-built ones.
- Because of the way libraries work, scenery authors don’t need to worry at all about copyright issues – they are not distributing the library resources with their sceneries, so there are no copyright issues associated with using them.
There have been many discussions about scenery libraries at x-plane.org over the years, but only since X-Plane® 8 have we been able to package up groups of resources that can then be used by other scenery authors. One of these discussions prompted me to set up the project and start building the library. From humble beginnings (the first object, an animated hangar, was contributed by psiteo on 26th October 2006), and a slow start (the first release, v1.0 contained just 9 resources!) many contributions have poured in from the community, to make a total of for the current release version (). From version 1.2.0 (4th May 2007), the library has used an incremental installer, which means that updating an existing install is much quicker and more painless. The use of the library has picked up as it has grown and as more and more scenery authors have become aware of its existence. There have been a lot of scenery packages released recently that use it, which is very rewarding to see.
The library is organised into five top-level categories, corresponding to the five types of resources currently contained in the library – objects, facades, forests, polygons and lines. There is nothing stopping us from extending this to include X-Plane®’s other resource types (beaches, roads etc.) but no-one has contributed any yet so currently there is no need. Within each resource type, the library is organised into categories and sub-categories down to several levels, to produce a hierarchical organisation scheme. For example, objects are primarily categorised into ‘aircraft’, ‘buildings’, vehicles’ etc. and ‘buildings’ are further subdivided into ‘commercial’, ‘industrial’, ‘airport’ etc. Getting this organisation right has been one of the challenges of managing the library, and a few mistakes have been made here and there along the way!
On a technical level, the library is now managed on GitHub, which is a fantastic resource for developers. OpenSceneryX has a number of projects on GitHub, which allows very straightforward collaboration between contributors.
Problems and Challenges
One of the most time-consuming parts of managing the library is handling the copyright on all the objects. Every object that is submitted has to have all authors included in the read-me and the original contributor isn’t always clear about who the original authors are! Gathering this information can be tricky, sometimes impossible, but without permission the resource cannot be included. Luckily much of the community has been very supportive and practically everyone I have contacted has given permission to distribute, not only the specific resource being contributed, but all resources ever authored by that person. The future of the library depends on this open attitude and I must say I’ve been very impressed.
Other challenges include logistical ones to do with the growing size and complexity of the library – most operations that can be automated are automated, and the installer has made updates for users a lot faster.
Finally, running the library is not cheap due to direct costs such as domain names, hosting and bandwidth. Paypal donations have historically come nowhere near meeting these costs, so we have sadly had to incorporate advertising on the website. Don’t worry though, the library itself is and will forever be free for everyone to use and enjoy.
Well, firstly the future will always mean growing and improving the library. However, care must be taken as it is over 1.1GB and even with the incremental installer this is a lot of content to download. Encouraging contributors to optimise their objects is a big but important task, I think a lot can be learned by Bertrand Augras’ clever texture sharing scheme – his many static aircraft all share the same livery file, which not only cuts the size of the library but also makes rendering in X-Plane® much more efficient, therefore improving framerates.
More recently, the number of third party libraries has increased dramatically, which is a really healthy sign that X-Plane® is going from strength to strength. However there is a downside as users have to install quite a lot of libraries to see non-Gateway scenery at its best. We have therefore started to make an effort to merge in other libraries when authors have offered to contribute their content. This has now happened a couple of times and if any library authors are happy to merge, we would be very happy to accept your work.
Finally, as X-Plane® has evolved, OpenSceneryX has always expanded to incorporate the latest features, for example: Animation, DDS textures and new object features such as TILTED. We are currently looking at some future enhancements such as automatically enhancing the X-Plane® static aircraft system with aircraft from the library and automatically delivering seasonal changes.
Hopefully with the continued support from the community we will be able to continue advancing the scope and features of the library well into the future.
The latest release notes.
One of the many threads discussing scenery libraries over the years. This thread is a little bit special because it actually kicked me out of ‘thinking about it’ mode and into ‘doing it’ mode.
The original OpenSceneryX ideas thread.
The official OpenSceneryX release news and bug reporting thread.
The official X-Plane® documentation for scenery libraries.