FSExpo 2019: Building Airports with World Editor (WED)

June 7, 2019

Today, Laminar Research gave a presentation at FlightSimExpo 2019 about what WED is, and how easy it is to use and create airports.

One of the tools X-Plane is built on is World Editor (WED), which allows any user to design and submit an airport for inclusion in X-Plane itself.

The presentation began with a brief introduction from Julian Lockwood, Michael Minnhaar, and Jan Vogel about the topics to be discussed. Michael, who is the developer of WED, started by talking about what scenery is and how it works at a fundamentally basic level.

Jan, Michael and Julian shortly before the presentation | Image credit: Laminar Research

All scenery consists of a base mesh and overlay scenery, with a combination of other types such as ortho imagery. But it was the overlay scenery that was expanded upon in the presentation.

The scenery gateway is the website and service that users can submit their airport to for inclusion in future updates of X-Plane, and World Editor is heavily molded around it.

Michael goes on to explain how WED has adapted over the years to become a powerful tool in scenery development. For example, it has become very user-friendly in many aspects, such as the preview panel, that allows users to see what object they are selecting.

The World Editor interface

The preview panel itself has undergone some changes in its history, and one upcoming feature in WED 2.1 is live facade adjustments. A short preview of a facade's dimensions being changed on the fly was shown, including how a pier changes with respect to its overall height - railings and supports appeared and disappeared on the fly.

Further to this in WED, 2.1 will see live on-map adjustments of facades. This includes jetways, where a demo of the bridge being moved around whilst its section that connects to aircraft remained on the same heading.

WED 2.0 was released back in April and included many new features and improvements. One of these was highlighted by Michael: the ability to display OpenStreetMap and ortho-imagery in the background. It makes hand-placing facades, buildings and everything in-between easier - orthoimagery mosaics can be as large as one gigapixel.

Michael describing the latest features included in WED 2.0

Following on from Michael's discussion of WED, Jan Vogel stepped up to show how easy it is to use WED.

Jan is a huge contributor to X-Plane's gateway airports, having uploaded more than 500 airports for all X-Plane users to enjoy.

In his demonstration, Jan shows how to place a control tower at L.F. Wade International Airport (TXKF) in nine simple steps, using only WED, X-Plane 11 and a browser. Having the browser is useful in scenery creation as it allows research of the airport to be undertaken, such as real images to reference from.

  1. Firstly, the World Editor application was launched.
  2. A new scenery package for L.F. Wade International Airport was created in the launch screen.
  3. The apt.dat file was imported from the scenery gateway for the airport. In his example, he chose to further improve the already-recommended airport; that is, the one in current versions of X-Plane 11.
  4. This step showed how to place a control tower. It would also be where the vast majority of the airport is built using 'LEGO bricks.' These objects are part of the default library of assets which can only be used - third-party objects cannot be used in gateway airports.
  5. Once complete, the scenery export target is chosen, which is usually the latest version of X-Plane.
  6. The airport must now be validated, to ensure conflicts and issues are not present when uploading to the gateway.
  7. The scenery pack can now be exported...
  8. ... And then viewed in X-Plane to double-check that everything is in place and how it should be.
  9. The last step is to export to the scenery gateway.

This was all shown on a video that took less than seven minutes.

At this point, the airport will be reviewed, and if OK, will be accepted. If it is better than the ones already submitted, the airport may be chosen as the 'recommended' scenery to be included in the next batch of gateway airports distributed in an X-Plane update. The next batch is to go into X-Plane 11.35 - details of which are expected in Laminar Research's development presentation tomorrow.

Last up, Julian Lockwood, who runs the scenery gateway, showed the brief process of how it worked.

Julian Lockwood on centre-stage

The gateway includes features such as conflict control, which allows one user to lock in an airport so nobody else can work on it. Or the fact each airport is reviewed manually, in which Julian said about 150-200 airports require review per week.

Furthermore, bug reports can be submitted by users for its creator to review.

Some statistics of the scenery gateway were also shown:

  • Total submissions: 25,000+
  • 3D airports in X-Plane: 10,000+
  • Active gateway artists: 1,300+
  • Total (estimated) man-hours: 100,000+

Laminar Research's developer presentation will take place tomorrow at 1630 EDT (2030 UTC), and a virtual reality landing competition will also take place on Sunday at 0930 EDT (1330 UTC).

Be sure to check out our FSExpo 2019 hub here for the weekend's proceedings, and follow Threshold on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram for all the latest X-Plane content from the event.

You can also join in the discussion about the weekend's proceedings with other users in our Discord server here.

Threshold encourages informed discussion and debate - though this can only happen if all commenters remain civil when voicing their opinions.