F/A-18E Mission Builder Tips && Hints

Click on button
FAQ Scenario Ideas Tips && Hints Mission Builder Training Mission Builder Forum


Ending A Mission, Generating the Debrief and Linking the Results to Your Campaign
Contributed by Tom "Tailspin" Jones
Trying to figure out how to end missions, getting the right debrief to come up and then have the campaign branch off in the right direction based on the mission debrief results has been confusing to me, to say the least. I have spent quite a few hours just trying to get it all to work and I think I finally have most of it figured out and will share it here. If anyone sees any errors in what I have written, please post your comments/corrections in the mission builder forum. Thank you. Also, a special thanks to Bob "Recluse" Tullman, Fred "Baldeagle" Balding and Matt Wagner from Janes for answer questions in the F/A-18E Mission Builder forum which helped save me time trying to figure some of this out.

Click here to read this article.

Click here to download the Word .doc version of this article.
TACAN Template file
Contributed by Fred "BaldEagle" Balding
This is a mission file with TACAN's assigned to all the airfields/airport/airbases. Note that the TACAN numbers and abbreviations are mine. I don't have access to the real TACAN info for this area. Be sure to check the settings for the Fence-In countries. If you want to use this file as your "Default" Mission Builder file, rename the original DEFAULT.CMF and name the TACAN TEMPLATE.CMF to DEFAULT.CMF. When you click on "New File" button, the TACAN Template will be loaded. Download Tacan_Template.zip here.

Planning and Testing
Contributed by Ken "Timber" Alger
I am now starting to develop a sequence of construction. One of the missions involves a Russian strike package coming in to hit an airport. I had quite a time getting them lined up properly and assigning targets. Once I got that figured out it became a head scratching operation wondering how I would know, for sure, if they made it to the target would really bomb it. The first try I left the AI wingmen on the deck and took myself up and gained alt then followed them in. Got shot down by their CAP. (Ed.: Set "Indestructible" cheat when flying test missions) The second time I went OTR at their target, shut down and waited. One of them came in and over shot the target. I figured well that one will just pickup the next waypoint and RTB. Not so. It did a wide loop and made another run on the target. (Told Tailspin if I didn't know better I would have sworn their was a human flying that Russian plane). Anyway, remembered something you or Recluse had said about keeping the waypoint far enough out to allow for lineup. Adjusted their approach and moved the waypoint back to give them room for the bomb run. Having been involved in house construction (built from the outside in) and boat building built from the inside out) I'm still trying to figure the best sequence of steps to take when building a mission.

All this to say:

The manual , on page 6-168, has a recommended order of design but before you go that stage you need to know what it is you want them to do. Each airplane and object has a purpose, to one degree or another, and you need to get the list of how they will interact with the rest of the objects. The flowchart that Tailspin and I have built displays all the cells and missions. Now for each mission, to keep the relationship, build a simple flowchart or relationship matrix to keep everything within that particular mission in sync. A simple example: If your going to have a Russian ground strike package hit a target, just how far into the mission should that happen? You place them to close the player will not have the opportunity to get airborne and on scene before the target is destroyed. To make sure it's hitting the assigned targets test that element. Place yourself on the runway at the target (in your favorite F/A-18, and if a runway isn't there already, well, you have the power to build a temporary one). and watch the strike package hit their targets. Then make the adjustments. Might have to move the Task Force in closer. Or maybe put a timer on the lift time for the Russian Strike package. Just keep moving through the mission, add a little, test a little, until it's completed.

Creating a "Neutral" Country Cap
Contributed by Tom "Tailspin" Jones
While working on developing missions for our campaign, I started wondering how both Sweden and Finland could fit in the scheme of things as both companies have "non-alignment" military policies. I would think that either country would prefer not to have either NATO or Russian forces enter their country during a war. My original thoughts were that I would like to see unauthorized aircraft escort out of neutral air space.

After thinking about it for while, even though the AI pilots act pretty realistic, the pilots that have the best chance of wandering into unauthorized air space would be human pilots, possibly up to 8 of them in a multiplayer game. So I set about to see if I could model this.

After doing a lot of messing with moving area events, area events, flags, escort commands etc., I found this was getting very complicated to do and was adding a lot of conditions and the real mission wasn't even built yet! I could see that I needed to follow the "KISS" method but how?

Then it dawned on me. Use a combination of the cap waypoint command and moving area event. The basic idea is place the cap close enough to the border so that when the player is near it, a warning message is display. If the player doesn't turn around pretty much right away, he will be engaged by the neutral country's cap within a minute. At 420kts, the player would cover 7 nm in a minute. Since a Russian air base is near by, I made the assumption that the cap would be forced to engage quickly to avoid a possible NATO/Russian air battle over their homeland and maybe an escalation of the war in their homeland.

To represent the Swedish caps, I used the Blue Russian Mig-29s, assuming some kind of leasing arrangement with Russia. There are no Swedish planes in the mission builder, so this was the next best choice for me. I set the planes to "neutral" the first time, but, being that they were neutral, they did not react unless I fired on them. Since that wasn't working, I set the Blue Mig-29s to enemy status. I then set the 2-plane flight up with a single cap command with a detection radius of 33nm. I made sure the waypoint was set so it was away from the Swedish border with a radius of roughly 40 nm. To do this, I added a second temporary waypoint, then moved it around the cap waypoint at various point along the border to find the 40nm distance(s). I will explain the distance difference soon. I would then move the cap waypoint right, left, up, down as needed. The fence borders were turned on for Norway and Sweden, so the player would also see "fence in" and "fence out" messages if he was flying all the way from the carrier.

Finally, I added 2 moving area events to the Blue Mig-29s. The first one was set for ANY friendlies ENTERING the moving area with a message command saying that unauthorized air space was entered. The second one was set for ANY friendlies LEAVING the moving area with a message saying that the player has left the unauthorized air space. Both were set for a 40 nm range, same as the distance from the cap waypoint.

So here is what happens: When any friendly (read human player) enters the moving area of the Mig-29s, they will get a message saying that they are unauthorized and need to leave immediately. Depending upon the Mig-29s positions around the cap, you may also get a "fence in" message at the same time or 30 seconds earlier or later. (Human factor involved here.) Since the distance between the movement area and cap detection radius is 7 nm (40nm - 33nm), if the player is traveling 420 knots, he has approximately 1 minute before the caps detect him. Once detected, the Mig-29s will attack until either the player or they are downed. If the player turns around right away and leaves the second moving area of the Mig-29s, he will get the second message saying that he has left Sweden's air space. If the player receives this message, then he knows that he is definitely out of the cap detection range. The player may also get a "fence out" message but that does not always coincide with the moving area message. This set up will continue to work until the player pushes things too far and enters the Mig-29s' 33 nm cap range. After that it is a fight to the death and there is no turning back.

One can make things even more interesting by adding a goal to the Mig-29s that they can't be destroyed, then set up a goal state event that if they are destroyed, flag 30 is set. I picked that flag number so it wouldn't always be in the way of the real mission development flags. From there, you can do things like add invisible SAMS down below that appear and fire when the flag is set. Or add a second cap sitting on the runway at the nearest airbase with an initial take-off command that also triggers when the flag is set. Add the cap waypoint for this flight so it is just 30 miles from the border but make the detection range 40 nm.

Using those examples, what I did was set up both the SAMS and the second cap. When you kill the first Swedish cap, the SAMS usually engage you in another minute or so. You can usually avoid the SAMS; however by the time you do it, the second cap, which is now a 4-plane flight :-), has detected you and you are now in a fight to the death with 4 planes. All because you didn't leave Swedish air space when asked. ;-D

Other notes: You have to play with ranges till you find something that satisfies you. For our missions, with a 2-plane cap, I have decided to use a cap radius of 35 nm and 33 nm if I add a 4-plane cap. The AI programming is really great and will sometimes detect you only when you are closer than the 33nm and sometime it will detect you a little farther away than the 33 nm. For me, the 35 nm detection range seems to work better with the main mission that I am setting up nearby.

So there it is. One mission builder idea that can add a little realism immersion factor to your missions. I have no doubts that there are lots of other ways also.

To read more about Tailspin and Timber's campaign, go here.