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All New Flight Simulator X Mission - Earthquake!

Discussion in 'Mission Development' started by rightnumberone, 5/2/07.

  1. rightnumberone

    rightnumberone

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    Not sure I'm in the right forum :) ... but:

    From the developer of Palm 90, Boston Skyscraper Fire and Grand Teton Fire Brigades comes the biggest, baddest new mission for Microsoft Flight Simulator X.

    View the kick-ass video trailer here:

    http://fsxmissions.blogspot.com/2007/02/all-new-mission-earthquake.html

    Mission Briefing:

    On October 19, 1989 ... ABC Sports’ Al Michaels was broadcasting the opening of the 1989 World Series when suddenly all hell broke loose. On the air, Michaels announced that San Francisco was experiencing a large earthquake. It turned out to measure 6.9 on the Richter Scale.

    The entire city was affected … fires broke out all over – with a very large fire in the Marina district. A large portion of the Nimitz Freeway collapsed, trapping people in cars and under concrete. Roads and bridges all over the city became impassible.

    This documentary mission recreates those events … in stunning detail. Strap into your Jet Ranger. The fire department needs you to help ferry victims to area hospitals.

    Due for release soon!
  2. Horst18519

    Horst18519 Moderator Staff Member Resource contributor

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    Well, this forum is not exactly meant to praise your own missions...

    But the trailer looks well done indeed.
    I only wonder if the mission is really more than the usual find'n'rescue.
    Complexitiy in my opinion means more than a lot of scenery objects.

    But I'll have a look at the finished mission. :)
  3. rightnumberone

    rightnumberone

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    Thorsten,

    I wonder if you could take a moment and expound on your observation about the "usual find and rescue."

    What makes a good mission? What makes it compelling? What makes it enjoyable? Obviously, good scenery and a script without plot holes is just the beginning. But there must be other things, right?

    What are you looking for as a player that would keep you coming back to replay a mission even after you've successfully completed it?
  4. Horst18519

    Horst18519 Moderator Staff Member Resource contributor

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    I don't think that the target would be to play it again and again.

    In my opinion one of the most important points is: bugfree and smooth.
    All (well, almost...) default missions give me this minimum. They always tell me what to do. They don't include unneccessary things/files. They show text messages that tell me the same as the well-done audio-files. They help me with the mission pointers. They include nicely done rewards.

    Then, as a second step, I'd like to see missions that are not only a (lengthened) copy of the default ones but give me new ideas and new challanges like solving some sort of puzzle or having to think about a strategy how to solve it (like I did in my KAT-mission).

    For a mission that I would fly more than once it would be neccessary to be a non-linear mission, which can be said - surprisingly - of no mission I discovered yet.

    A SAR-mission seems to be the prototype of a linear mission, because it's always more or less the same: Takeoff, fly to the target area, find something, pick it up, fly it to somewhere and land at home.
    The problem with those missions: you flew one, you flew them all.

    In the Palm90-mission it seems like you tried a non-linear setup, which I liked (allthough I wasn't able to fly the mission because of a poor framerate), so maybe I will find more of this in the upcoming mission.
  5. rightnumberone

    rightnumberone

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    Ahhhh KAT = Kalua Air Taxi

    Now I am putting 2+2 and making it equal 4. I did not realize until just now that you were the author of that mission.

    That mission was one of only two that I found for download (in weeks of searching) that I thought met the standard set by Microsoft when they released FSX.

    This led me to attempting to create my own missions. I have come to the conclusion that the reason that compelling, bug-free exciting missions are difficult to find is because they are exceedingly difficult to produce.

    The average individual simply doesn't have the rather large skillset required to do this on their own. (I am a perfect example ... I have many of the skills, but the ones you have pointed out that I lack are glaring. My speaking voice, for example, is not adequate to meet the rather demanding audience for these missions.)

    I almost abandoned the Palm 90 mission development because I did not have sprite-effect editing skills. It was an absolute requirment for that mission to work (I needed a deicing truck that actually deiced planes in an authentic-looking way and there was not one in the default library).

    There are so many skills required to produce a high-quality mission (my view): writing, editing, film direction, cinematography, art direction, research. Then you need access to voice talent, a distribution scheme, marketing, the ability to master the OPT and other parts of the SDK.

    That's a big hill for the average hobbyist to climb. Which is why I think we are seeing mostly "take off here, fly over there and land" type missions.

    Maybe you could tell us a little bit more about your experience in developing the Kalua Air Taxi mission and some of the obstacles you had to overcome. I for one would love to hear your experiences.
    Last edited: 7/2/07
  6. Horst18519

    Horst18519 Moderator Staff Member Resource contributor

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    Well, thanks for the compliment. :)

    I'd agree with your points, most of all with the voice problem. For my own missions I found that doing good recordings of the atc-/audio-files is the biggest problem. And I didn't find a satisfying solution for it yet.

    For the other things mentioned I always try to look at it the way the user does.
    I also think it's more the work of a director or screenplay writer than a programmer's. :D

    As for the skills you named, you cannot expect one guy to do everything, but there are a lot of people right here in the community who can give advice and a helping hand.

    Finally, considering all you wrote, I start to appreciate more the work you did with the missions. ;)
  7. rightnumberone

    rightnumberone

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    Thorsten,

    I had two other items that piqued my interest in your response, which I'll address in two separate posts. I wonder if some of the other developers could chime in with their views on this.

    The first is the business with the Text messages.

    In the default missions, Microsoft included exact text of whatever dialog they orally presented to the Player.

    They did it for a reasonable purpose, I think: They distribute this product worldwide, but only record the audio in probably 6 or 7 languages. Including the text allows someone who may not understand a dialect or accent the opportunity to read the English text and figure out what they are to do.

    I found this, however, to be extremely distracting and detracted from the realism of flying (just my view).

    In the missions I've done so far, I have decided not to duplicate this (might be a mistake).

    I have chosen to be very selective about the text I put up on the screen and try to limit it to only the most important information - primarily vector information for those users flying the mission without the aid of the compass.

    I wonder how other mission builders feel?
  8. rightnumberone

    rightnumberone

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    And to the second item of interst: linearity vs non-linearity.

    I am fighting a battle with myself over this issue. I will give you a brief example of the dilemma I am facing with my next mission called Earthquake!

    In this mission, the Player will be expected to rescue many people. I have the player acting in the role of an air ambulance pilot. This type of a mission lends itself to a non-linear storyline; but only to a point.

    Here is what I mean. In my mission, there are varying degress of rescue required; some people are merely suffering smoke inhalation; others are drowning.

    If I allow the user to choose which person they want to save first and which of three hospitals they want to fly to it produces some discontinuity in the story. (The drowning people need to be rescued first, it seems to me).

    At first, I wanted this mission to be non-linear; the more I developed it, the more the story almost demanded that it had to be linear. I couldn't allow the player to rescue someone with a broken leg while others were drowning. It just didn't make sense.

    It could also be that I am sacrificing playability and enjoyment for realism and not striking the proper balance.
  9. Horst18519

    Horst18519 Moderator Staff Member Resource contributor

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    That is why I wrote that SAR-missions seem to be the linear-mission-prototype.
    Again, if you look at the KAT-mission, that is a good example for a non-linear one.

    I can understand why you found the written text messages an unneccessary duplication, but that is just an option for users who rather read than listen. The experienced user will disable that option anyway. But if he does that he won't get the information you give him in the text fields.
  10. BASys

    BASys

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    Hi Folks

    EDIT -
    Ooops just realised this is more or less what you were saying Thorsten.

    Anyway -
    Users can choose to turn captioning on/off.

    But if you don't include the text,
    and only use audio,
    there's no trace of it in the kneeboard.

    Particularly important in complex missions,
    where you might need to recall some previously related info.

    Think of it as if you've written it on your kneeboard.

    HTH
    ATB
    Paul
    Last edited: 8/2/07
  11. Horst18519

    Horst18519 Moderator Staff Member Resource contributor

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    Thanks Paul. It was what I wanted to say - but you found the better words. :D
  12. rightnumberone

    rightnumberone

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    Excellent advice guys. I think you have convinced me of the rightness of your position on the text issue. Hadn't thought of someone referring back to the kneeboard for information they may have forgotten!

    Excellent!
  13. scruffyduck

    scruffyduck Administrator Staff Member FSDevConf team Resource contributor

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    Well in the real world people have been known to make bad decisions. Seems to me that the user should be allowed to chose between alternatives (assuming that is feasible) and then be judged on the quality of their decision making :)
  14. Horst18519

    Horst18519 Moderator Staff Member Resource contributor

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    D'accord!
    That would be a nice way to make the user play the mission again and again - until he finally found a way to get the maximum reward/optimum solution.
  15. rightnumberone

    rightnumberone

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    "and then be judged on the quality of their decision making "

    Scruffy,

    You make a very good point. I had considered doing that also, and failing the user if they made the wrong decisions.

    This might not be the mission for that sort of non-linearity simply because of the length of this one (it will run 60-90 minutes minimum). What concerned me was failing the user 70 minutes into the mission (for making a wrong choice) and frustrating them by requiring them to fly it all over again. They will have a tough enough time just landing the craft in certain places where I'm going to put them. Heh.

    Again, this was a judgement call. Could have gone either way.
  16. scruffyduck

    scruffyduck Administrator Staff Member FSDevConf team Resource contributor

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    Fair enough, and bear in mind that I haven't looked at what the mission engine can do yet, but I can think of several ways in which and error does not have to be fatal. I do agree though that having to refly something that long from scratch would be very irritating.

    Interestingly, when I was working on my 'assigment system' a year or so back we (my testers and I) were looking at ways to make things event driven, rather like a windows program. It was also possible for the pilot to restart in the middle rather than having to start from scratch. Also I wonder if the concept of a series of short sections would be better than one long one. I had one idea which involved a treasure hunt (Please don't pinch the idea before mailing me :) ) Sure it had a beginning and end but it also had a bunch of stages plus it was possible for the pilots (this was for something like GAAR or BOTA) to take different paths through it to the final destination. Be warned that I used to write scenerios for Dungeons and Dragons so I have an evil sense of humor ;) I had a real problem with people getting upset when their characters got killed unexpectedly when they did something wrong
    Last edited: 8/2/07
  17. lc0277

    lc0277

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    That's an interesting point. What kind of strategy do you expect to see in missions ?
    I think of scheduling/route problems (for airline/ferry pilots) or military strategies (for military missions which are unfortunately not very common). But generally in real life those problems are solved by specialists behind their desks and not pilots.
    Of course we're using a simulator so we can do things that would be stupid, unsafe or expensive if they were made by real pilots ;) I could think of "campaign" mode involving multiple missions, but since a single mission covers only takeoff to landing parts of a flight (and not pre-flight), the choices are very limited. Besides usual aircraft failures, ill passengers or temporary traffic restrictions, I don't really see any points that could give a non-linear scenario to a mission.
  18. rightnumberone

    rightnumberone

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    "I haven't looked at what the mission engine can do yet"

    Scruff,

    My sense is that it's very flexible. There are, naturally, some limitations, but from the "plot" perspective, I find it to allow me to do just about whatever my imagination can come up with.

    So far, I've stuck mostly to a formula that I know the majority of those who are going to download my missions will like: all my missions so far have been helicopter SAR of one type or another; primarily because that's what I was initially interested in, but also because there is so much in FSX that is below 300 feet that I wanted to explore.

    I didn't feel like I got enough of that in the missions that shipped with the game, and I felt like there was a niche there. "The Living World" doesn't really factor above 10,000 feet and while there is alot up there to explore, I wanted to see what the limits of the sim would be low to the ground.

    I've been pleasantly surprised; and particularly excited about what will be possible two years from now with this simulation. The trick, for me anyway, has been to find the proper balance between "you are watching a movie" and "you are playing Flight Simulator." It is, after all, a game that interests people who want to experience the piloting of aircraft.

    So, the key for me has been to find ways to use the engine to set up stories that allow people to imagine themselves in interesting flight careers; while at the same time, get their heart pumping.

    I think I wrote somewhere else that while being a FedEx pilot is probably very interesting, nobody grew up wanting to be the mailman. They grew up wanting to be a fireman, or a cop, or Superman or a rescue pilot. I'm exploring that fantasy aspect of it from a mission design perspective, trying to see if I can create that sort of experience for people.

    It won't be all I try to do with it; but that's where I'm trying to learn what the game can and can't pull off.
  19. Javier

    Javier

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    This is a very interesting discussion.

    I would like to introduce another issue: the mission should be enjoyable.

    One of the key points that make the standard missions enjoyable is the fact that you know if you are doing (or not) what you are expected to do. I mean, if your target is north and you fly south, some miles later you will realize that with a nice message (and not with a missile targeting your plane :eek: )

    There is nothing more frustrating (and irritating) that to be in the middle of a runway after a perfect landing waiting for.... what? Oh, yes, the designer put the trigger just at the very end of the runway without any notice and you can wait for your passengers until the frogs start to fly :D .

    I remember a mission where you should fly above 1000ft due to city regulations or something similar. Well, if you fly under the expected 1000ft your engine will fail without any message about that. Please, this is not real !

    The multipath missions are a good idea, even better if you make each path of different difficulty. Then the users will be tempted to replay trying a harder one.

    A user that wants to fly and to enjoy the missions :)

    Best Regards,
    Javier.
  20. scruffyduck

    scruffyduck Administrator Staff Member FSDevConf team Resource contributor

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    Now that is an interesting idea :)

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