"Global Adventures" series has seen a shift in design organization
for me. Whereas before (with some of the design for AIR or earlier
missions) design was done more by fiat, design here has been
substantially more collaborative and iterative.
biggest transition has been one of moving towards a cloud-based
design tool for each of these missions. Since I am ostensibly working in
"real world" (FSX uses a simulation of the globe), my in-game
locations are all approximately the same as their meatspace
that end, Google Earth/Maps has proven itself an invaluable tool.
isn't the first time I've used Google Earth for design. I used it
often in AIR (in fact, it was tied in as a part of the curriculum there
touchscreens) but this is the first time it's been a
procedural element of my design (before, it was largely at-will). There
are two notable
I see from using this tool:
overhead in terms of sharing these designs.
Earth is a
standalone application, its map files are exportable to Google Maps,
which is entirely web-based. I can
e-mail these maps directly to coworkers (or clients) regardless of
their PC configurations.
2) I can speed up the transition from design to
I am constrained to what is essentially a coplanar map
design (points of interest can vary by elevation, but no designs
call for points stacked vertically), my 2D design acts as an
orthographic view of my final in-game design. It is because of
this fact that I made
a tool that converts the exported Google
Earth files into an FSX-readable mission file. I've been able to
cut down on a lot of the
initial blocking-out of a level by using
this tool to generate a basic object at each point of interest.
This gives me 100% colocation of points between the design
and the level without having to manually enter so much as a
second of latitude or longitude.
mentioned above, I've also had the opportunity to make some tools for
this set of missions. The tool mentioned above is a tool that is, for
now, just for me (although the possibility exists to expand it in the
future for use in-classrooms as a basic mission editor). I've also made
tool that is designed for the end-user.
of our missions for this series is a multiplayer mission that has this
set-up - the players are given a set of targets to reconnoiter, they
locations of these targets (latitude/longitude), and they are given a
set of tools (airplanes) to do this with. The players must decide which
which targets (e.g. "is this target so small that we can only land
there with airplane X?") and then balance everything out
the players so that the targets are reached in the shortest possible
the goal in this mission is testing efficiency of the plan and not
testing the ability to navigate (dead-reckoning style), the mission was
to allow the players to use a GPS. When this feature was requested, FSX
being able to set up a GPS flight plan was a known quantity.
able to set up that same plan in
the context of a scripted mission was not.
it turned out, FSX did support flight-plans in-mission, but the
flight-plan had to
be premade. To allow the players to create a flight
plan that would automatically integrate into the mission (without also
jumping through a lot of hoops), I made
a tool to allow the players to
input coordinates manually (from the
given pre-mission) and then have a flightplan
generated for them the next time
they play the mission.
worth mentioning too that this tool is another one ripe for future
The tool that was distributed with the mission is a
constrained one compared
to the full functionality of the tool as a flight plan creator. I know
that in the
future, I could likely integrate Google Maps directly into
GUI to allow
for a point-and-click placement of GPS waypoints.