This is a
series-in-progress that's designed, essentially, as a conceptual
re-skin of an earlier set of educational missions we'd previously
developed. The goal here is to take what are educationally-sound
missions and tie them back in with a story wrapper.
There's one very obvious danger here - having pre-designed missions and
then adding a story can make the story tend towards being an
afterthought. My task, then, is to find a way to preserve the
educational objectives of the missions while at the same time making
the general flow subservient to the story.
low-hanging fruit on something like this is, then, the visual
appearance of the content. This is really a pretty easy part. Because
the previous missions were designed to introduce some basic concepts
anyway, it was only very basic flight aspects of flying that were
For example - a large part of the content of these missions
depended on using an ultralight plane (essentially, an engine strapped
to a hang-glider). Knowing that early flight was basically predicated
on "strapping engines to gliders," I simply researched airplanes of
that era until I found one that was mechanically similar, at which
point it became a basic exercise in swapping the model of the
ultralight with my period aircraft.
The more difficult part was maintaining the basic objectives of the
missions while fitting appropriately in the period and story.
To work out most of this, my approach would
usually be to
divine the function of
the objective rather than the appearance. Once I knew what something
was doing, I researched period-appropriate
tasks and worked with the
storywriter to massage some of these tasks back into the story he was
for example, the player was required to fly through a "gate" - a
rectangular square in the sky defining some plane perpendicular to the
direction of flight. For my purpose, I looked at the example of World
War 1-era observation balloons, which defined a point in the sky (the
first thing I needed to do to create a rectangle). I could then place
two of them side-by-side (now two points in the sky, a line).
complete the rectangle, I needed two more points, but it would have
looked awkward to simply have two more balloons floating directly below
the first two. So instead, I looked at smoke flares, a device often
used to communicate visually in the sky. I made each balloon emit a
smoke flare, then, that trailed downward and controlled for the fadeout
at a specific point, thus creating points three and four.