In this post I would like to rant about the possibility of integrating random missions and its implication.
When we jump into a flight simulator, any flight sim, one of the things we would like to know is: "what should we do today", or something along these lines.
To have a sense of purpose, That is not an easy thing. When you fly in DCS you know what you are going to do, but in open world flight sim, it is up to you to make the adventure.
This was one reason why I started Mission-X coding back in 2009. I wanted to be able to "tell a story" or to "make an experience" inside X-Plane world. In Mission-X v3 I think you have enough tools to do that, you just need some patience and free time.
But, what if I do not want to think to much on a story and prepare a mission or adventure ?
This is were a mission generator come in handy, sort of.
Myself, I'm not a huge fan of generating a mission that will ask you to fly from location X to Y and then you just find yourself in a no way zone where you could not land or the area is not passable. Other cases would be the lack of interesting scenery or locations. It is basically like drawing blindfolded (more or less).
The image above taken from x-plane shows how complex it is to pick a random location and a good one.
So what are the options I thought of:
- Fully randomized: could be great if can overcome the "blindfold" issue.
- Base on templates - give me some rules of what to expect.
My first steps in generating a mission was: let the plugin generate a mission file just like any designer, so it can read it and treat it as any human generated mission.
This was my first goal. I wanted the plugin to use same "xml language" I defined and layout in the "designer guide". This gives me a good boundaries of what to expect, it also provide the simmer of designer a file he/she can copy to their own folder and tweak it to their heart content, and then make a new mission out of it.
My second goal was to make it simple. Now that is a bold claim, but I think once you understand the rules, you see that it should not be hard to customize it, but more on that later.
The mission generator for now, will use Template files as a rule book for generating a mission. Even more, it will walk on the line of: ad-hoc locations, and won't randomize the coordinates for now.
Why am I using this approach ?
Main reason was - focus and better experiences.
When using such an approach, it means that some work need to be done. But, to make it simpler for the designer, he/she do not need to modify the the template "rules" but only add coordinates of interest that would like to be part of the generated mission.
Here is an example:
My first attempt was to create a medevac mission for helicopters around Seattle.
Using the Mission-X rules, I had to create at least 2 goals. First goal - you should reach location A to pick someone and the second goal - fly to a location to "drop" this someone.
This should be simple, but which locations should I pick ? I do not have access to X-Plane roads and parsing the roads just to place a good location is not a simple task.
Solution: allow the designer to define their own point of interest. You just need to add the <point> element in the template (at the correct location)
Here is and example to a mission generating template.
Only the blue box represents the mission itself, the rest are points of interest I picked.
The example is a 2 goal template based. One represent injured location and the second landing area. Each second location represent a Helicopter ramp but not every location looks like a hospital area, most are residential ones.
The Template itself has rules, syntax rules, but most of them are already borrowed from the standard mission file, and only few are new.
If you go over the template you might noticed that the returning location is also using a random location from ad-hoc list.
The coming version will have a special goal type: "start" which means return to the starting location (simplifies template creation).
I will continue to make the template simple and streamlined to be accessible by many (I hope).
Why do I think this is a better approach for now?
- You can create specific templates for specific planes/helicopters.
- You can hand pick interesting locations that would be plausible to fly too.
- Diversity: As long as we will add more points, the "random mission generator" will have more data to build missions, and hopefully challenging ones too.
- You can copy the mission file and make it the bases of your own mission, by adding or removing parts of it.
- Check different scenery and prepare points of interest based on that scenery.
- Create templates for different locations (Los Angeles, New York etc)
- Create more diverse templates with more goals for different adventures (TBD)
-  Share your customized template with others.
- Main con, you can't just push a button and you generate a mission no matter where you are.
- Restricted to only locations that were predefined by designer.
- If scenery will be changes locations might be nullified.
In away, templates could be more interesting than just generating a mission for every possible location. I'm not saying that it won't be implemented in the plugin, only that for the first attempt and as a base for the other options in the future, I think that using a template approach could be educational and through experience we should be able to build a better Mission Generator".
Please share your thoughts, you can send me an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time
have a great simming