I think the developers official product announcement describes the expansion very well, as such, please see below for a copy of the original announcement.
For those that didn’t attend to the Flightsimexpo yesterday, here’s some information about our new upcoming product, which is:
GSX Level 2 expansion
An “expansion” ? Yes, it means we are not releasing a entirely new version of GSX, causing grief to anybody that bought it recently, and having to deal with several upgrade offers that won’t surely satisfy everyone so, instead, we are releasing it as an expansion, which means:
– The core GSX product will continue as it is, constantly updated for free in all its main features, so you won’t have to pay for a new version, just to get rid of bugs of the old one…
– You are not being asked to pay for something you might not be interested right now.
– It’s easier for us supporting it, because the code to maintain is only one, with just a different behavior depending if you bought the expansion or not so, this will give you the guaranteed of continued support for the whole GSX program.
We believe the expansion approach is one that will allow us to sustain the continuing development of the product for the following years, without leaving anybody out. We’ll surely improve all the core features in GSX, like Pusback, which is the likely candidate for the next rewamp (last year we remade the Refueling), and we’ll still add new services to the core product, like water/lavatory vehicles, and such core updates will continue to be free.
GSX Level 2 focuses on two main features:
SODE jetways, everywhere
GSX has been one of the most popular products out there, because it was always thought as a “global” addon that would work everywhere, not tied to a specific airport or airplane addon. The expansion will follow on that concept, with jetways, which will be improved in the following way:
– Upon installing it, ALL those outdated, ugly (by current standards) and bugged default jetways, will disappear, to be replaced by SODE jetways, way more reliable, and so much better looking, with the same level of quality you might have seen in our KORD V2 preview. This is not very different that having the default Pushback truck disabled during the GSX installation: the old default jetway model will be replaced with one with compatible dimensions, just way better looking, and using SODE instead.
So, without doing anything on your part, all default jetways in all default airport will immediately work/look much better. The following screenshot is an example of the default EDDM scenery, with standard jetways automatically replaced by GSX:
What about 3rd party airports ?
YES, we can replace them too but, it won’t be made automatically, you’ll have to go through the GSX parking customization page, and indicate the parking(s) you want the jetway replaced so, it will automatically create a very small .BGL EXCLUDE file, which will remove JUST the jetways from any 3rd party airport that used the default (CTRL+J) animation system, but its own custom models.
We DO NOT touch any of the original scenery files, and if you just remove the GSX-created Exclusion .BGL, that scenery will go back to the way it was. We’ll have a single shared folder in the \Fsdreamteam\Addon Manager\Exclude, which will contain all these automatically created Exclude files, with a name that will clearly relate to the associated scenery.
Also, if your addon airport already use SODE jetways, we won’t touch it, assuming a developer who made the effort to support SODE, already did jetways in the best possible way so, we won’t allow customization of these sceneries.
So, for example, you might take your FlyTampa EHAM scenery, which is very nice, but doesn’t have SODE jetways, and replace them with SODE jetways, allowing things not possible with the default animation system, like multiple jetways per parking, up to a maximum of 4. And yes, the editor will allow you to customize the range of every exclusion area so, you’ll be able to remove static jetways too, as long as they were modeled as a separate object.
The jetway customization features are extensive, see the following screenshot, which shows the new jetway editing page:
Here, we customized the parking to replace the “default replacement” ( a better looking version of the default jetway model ), with an actual Thyssen-Krupp Apron Drive Chrystal 3-tunnels 38/19, which is the real world designation for that specific jetway model. GSX Level 2 will come with 80+ real world jetways, modeled after their real life counterparts, from several manufacturers like Thyssen-Krupp or JBT. We’ll surely plan to expand this library a lot during the life of the product, with the goal of having every commercially available jetway in.
Why this is important ? In real life, jetways are offered in multiple sizes and different variations, to properly fit every possible parking space. But scenery developers (including ourselves), don’t usually model more than 2-3 variations for a scenery, because it’s simply too much work to do. This result in not always having the best possible fit for all parkings, which results in the jetway not working, or working only in a very limited range of stop positions.
Instead, with so many models to choose from, you can be sure there is a jetway that will work with that particular parking and yes, the editor will tell you if the jetway works, because when you edit in 3d, pressing the 5 key on the numpad, will “TEST” the jetway, asking SODE if it will work, without having to guess. You’ll hear a “ding” sound and a message, telling all the doors that jetway will be able to reach, considering its position and the position of the currently loaded airplane. So, if you hear the sound, you can be sure the jetway WILL work once you’ll get there. Otherwise, you’ll know you might have to either change to a different model, move it a bit, adding a connecting bridge, rotate it, etc.
Jetways can have several accessories, which can be turned on/off: the Air conditioner unit, the Power Unit, the Ground markings, and a LOGO.
You might want to remove, for example, ground markings and the Air/Power units on the 2nd jetway in a dual-jetway parking spot. Or, you can select a logo from a list of commonly seen advertizers (HSBC, Swift, etc.) or use your own graphics.
The power unit will actually power the airplane. Similar to the popular option in FSUIPC which prevents battery discharge when parked, we’ll keep the airplane powered when a jetway with a power unit is connected.
This will work with every airplane that use a standard electrical system but, same as the fuel system, if the airplane is flagged having a custom electrical system, we won’t touch it. However, we’ll publish some variables that airplane developers can read, so they will know if GSX has connected a jetway with a power unit, and decide to do whatever they need to do in their code, to supply the airplane with external power. Same for the Air conditioner unit, 3rd party developers can read a variable too and do whatever they want to do, knowing there’s external Air available.
JETWAY NUMBERS (Prepar3D 4 ONLY)
Jetways by default will have their number automatically set to the actual number of the parking (taken from the AFCAD), and users can customize the Font size, style, background and foreground color. This feature will not be available in FSX, since it uses the Render to Texture feature of the P3D4 PDK. This use DirectX11 to draw the numbers and, since it’s a static texture that never changes, it’s rendered only once, so the fps impact is exactly zero.
All these changes will be saved in the airport customization .INI file under %APPDATA%\Virtuali\GSX folder, so they can be shared and scenery developers can simply provide such .INI file alongside the .BGLs in their main scenery folder too, saving a great deal of time doing jetways AND place them, since they can just use our editor to either place our own jetways OR create standard SODE jetways which just a couple of additional parameters in the SIM.CFG file, so they will appear in the GSX editor, ready to be placed. We won’t require any license to do this, since users will be required to have the GSX expansion anyway, but it will be a great time saver for scenery developers.
Animated Passengers, everywhere
The 2nd main feature of the GSX Level 2 expansion, are visible animated passengers, boarding the airplane either using our new jetways (of course, they must have glass windows to be visible), and with boarding stairs, which is where they really shine.
We modeled a much better looking Passenger bus, and you’ll be able to see them coming out of it, and enter the airplane when boarding. There are many different characters, each one independently animated with its personal walking style and attitude so, the posh girl will walk very differently from the old lady or the little child, or the business man.
We also have characters for pilots and the crew. When boarding, a Van will come first, with the captain and the first officer coming out first, followed by the fight attendants, which will place themselves at every exit, greeting the passengers as they board.
Then a passenger bus will came, boarding exactly the number of passengers calculated by GSX, which is only simulated in the current version.
Here, we also have the ability for airplane developers to control the process because:
– By default, GSX will estimate the number of passengers, based on the airplane load, exactly as it is now.
– By WRITING TO to a special L: variable, airplane developers can TELL GSX the precise, exact, number of passengers which are supposed to be boarded, so GSX will indicate the same number the airplane is expecting to have.
– Another L: variable developers can READ, will indicate the running total of passengers boarded/deboarded so, developers will be able to keep track of the process and, eventually, simulate the progressive change in weight and balance occurring while passengers enter/exit the plane.
Both variables will be officially documented in the manual, and are very easy to use. We have been already in talk to several developers, who seemed eager to add this feature to their products.
Release date and price
If everything goes right with Beta testing, which will probably start in the last week of June (because me and the other main GSX developer will be on vacation in the US until June 24th), we are aiming for a September release.
The product will work with both FSX and Prepar3d but, we STRONGLY suggest Prepar3D V4, both because it will be more featured, but also because the animated passengers, although are fairly fps friendly, will probably take some toll on memory, which is already a scarce resource in 32 bit., so it’s very likely that using a complex airplane with a complex scenery AND animated passengers WILL cause OOM crashes in FSX.
So, while (with the exception of the Jetway numbers feature), there’s nothing that prevents the product to work with FSX, it would be wise using it with Prepar3D 4 only. Of course, it will be available in Trial, so if you are still convinced to use FSX, try it first with your preferred airplane.
About the price, it hasn’t been decided yet, but you can expect it will cost less than the base GSX products so, very roughly, you can expect something below 30$.
Very interesting indeed, I think the addition of animated passengers boarding and deplaning as described above will truly add something unique and special. Certainly an interesting time in the world of flight simulation, technology really appears to be making a push forward as of late.
*Image courtesy of FSDreamTeam.