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TUTORIAL – Mission Building in FSX Mission Building in FSX – TUTORIAL

FSX Mission Building


Tools of the Trade
Artificial gates can be used for
a tutorial or adventure

In this new series, we will examine just


how you go about creating your very own
Mission to share with others. In doing so, FIG. 4 Standard Mission
you will learn to appreciate the versatility of folder contents
this feature and we will hopefully get you
through some of the more demanding
parts! Be warned, once you start on this

N
aturally, there has been a lot of path, it is a downward spiral to ‘Mission
interest in FSX since its release addiction’ and I must confess that I have
and one of the features that has descended to the point where I can wake at Using Windows Explorer, open the role each folder and file plays.
attracted a large amount of positive night calling out: “No, no - you must use a your FSX main folder which is The *.PLN and *.WX files may
attention is the Missions engine. Details ‘Proximity Trigger’ you fool!” located under the Program Files/ already be familiar to regular FS
of this facet of FSX have been covered in FIG. 2 There are an abundant number of categories Microsoft Games folder just as it was tweakers. They recreate the weather
earlier issues of PC Pilot and commercial The tools to choose from and you can create your own in FS9. However, you will notice a and flight plan details for the
developers and freeware designers Even paths to deepening your flightsim few differences in the layout of the Mission. Each time you save a flight
alike have also been quick to grasp the addiction require some basic tools! folders when comparing the two planned route, the details are kept in
potential of Missions. It provides an Fortunately, Microsoft released the Missions Basic file structure versions. The changes start to a PLN file which is saved in your FIG. 5 You assemble all your charts and
opportunity to teach skills and explore Software Development Kit (SDK) but it is Firstly, however, we should examine the appear when you open your main ‘Flight Simulator X’ Files folder of diagrams into a single folder
the FSX features and effects in an only available with the Deluxe version of folder structure and primary configuration Microsoft Flight Simulator X folder ‘Your Documents’ (‘User’ in Vista).
entertaining, and often very challenging FSX. This kit not only includes the files that constitute the Missions engine. (Fig. 1). You will notice that some Not all Missions use a PLN file, for
way. information required to be able to plan and Without this knowledge, we will waste a lot folders have disappeared, for example, a short VFR flight to a
execute your Mission, but the Object of time and the inexperienced may also example, ‘Aircraft’, and you will nearby lake. The WX file contains
Placement Tool which is the primary inadvertently remove or change critical files - notice some new ones have details of the weather conditions at
interface we use to create our Missions. requiring the dreaded phenomenon known appeared such as ‘Missions’ and the time the flight was saved. The FLT
FIG. 1 Most of the
As with all tweaking and scenery or panel as – ‘a full reinstall’! While this series was ‘SimObjects’. Open the ‘Missions’ file contains the details of the
user data is in the
design and creation, you should know the prepared using Windows Vista, the folder and you will see a list of aircraft, its position, switch positions
Missions Folder
importance of backing up any file with procedures in Windows XP will be the same, folders with names such as ‘Airline etc. These three files are common
which you work as a precaution. It will also even if some of the diagrams in this series Pilot’, ‘Backcountry’, ‘Pilot for Hire’ with many of your own saved flights
help if you are comfortable with editing look a little different to what you are used to etc (Fig. 2). As you have probably and hold no surprises.
basic configuration files. - it is purely cosmetic in this case! guessed, these represent the main The ‘Charts.html’ document
categories of Missions installed on contains the navigation charts (if
your computer. If you have already any), that you have scanned or made
installed some commercial Missions, to supplement pilot navigation. The
you may also see them listed in the ‘Charts_Tab.html’ is just the same
developer’s own folder. chart with tabs for the Mission FIG. 6 Rewards are
As an example, open the ‘Airline overview and details. These pages, fun for the end-user may not recognize this beast as an
Pilot’ folder and you will see a and the ‘Details’ and ‘Details_Tab. and simple to create SPB, or ‘Sim-Prop Binary’ format.
collection of new folders with each html’ files will be familiar to you as Missions will happily use either SPB
one representing a whole Mission as the pages that users read when or XML format files, but SPB will give
you would find it in the FSX preparing for a Mission, as are the you faster load times. FSX will also
Missions dialogue window (Fig. 3). ‘Overview’ and ‘Overview_Tab.html’ select the SPB file in preference to
Open the Amsterdam folder. If you pages. You have already probably an XML file of the same name, which
haven’t yet flown this Mission, it recognized the ‘imgM_i’ and ‘imgM_ has implications in the next issue
requires you to fly a default Boeing c.bmp’ images as the ones you see when we start creating and editing
737-800 from Amsterdam’s Schiphol when you start, and hopefully, our Mission. We will also learn how
airport (EHAM) to London’s subsequently succeed in your to create SPB files from our working
Heathrow (EGLL) via a flight planned Mission! If you have any trouble XML file later in the series.
route - although an emergency recognising these files, browse the There are also usually two folders
forces you to make a decision ‘Missions’ section in FSX and you will within this particular Mission folder
shortly after take-off. see how they are used to provide itself. The images folder contains our
Figure 4 displays the contents of you with information. charts and images used by the html
this folder. If we are to create our Now we get to the ‘amsterdam. files (Fig. 5), while the sound folder
own Missions, we must appreciate spb’ file. Even regular FS tweakers contains all our recorded sound files
if we decide to create and include
them in our Mission package. Phew!
Don’t worry if it sounds a bit
bewildering. The structure of the
Missions data will become easier to
follow as we progress through
FIG. 3 Individual creating our own Mission, so don’t
Missions are in their get too caught up on the detail just
own folders for yet.
simplicity There is one more folder that for

40 PC Pilot Issue 48 PC Pilot Issue 48 41

40-43_jp.indd 40-41 3/8/07 15:23:26


TUTORIAL – Mission Building in FSX Mission Building in FSX – TUTORIAL

FSX Mission Building


Tools of the Trade
Artificial gates can be used for
a tutorial or adventure

In this new series, we will examine just


how you go about creating your very own
Mission to share with others. In doing so, FIG. 4 Standard Mission
you will learn to appreciate the versatility of folder contents
this feature and we will hopefully get you
through some of the more demanding
parts! Be warned, once you start on this

N
aturally, there has been a lot of path, it is a downward spiral to ‘Mission
interest in FSX since its release addiction’ and I must confess that I have
and one of the features that has descended to the point where I can wake at Using Windows Explorer, open the role each folder and file plays.
attracted a large amount of positive night calling out: “No, no - you must use a your FSX main folder which is The *.PLN and *.WX files may
attention is the Missions engine. Details ‘Proximity Trigger’ you fool!” located under the Program Files/ already be familiar to regular FS
of this facet of FSX have been covered in FIG. 2 There are an abundant number of categories Microsoft Games folder just as it was tweakers. They recreate the weather
earlier issues of PC Pilot and commercial The tools to choose from and you can create your own in FS9. However, you will notice a and flight plan details for the
developers and freeware designers Even paths to deepening your flightsim few differences in the layout of the Mission. Each time you save a flight
alike have also been quick to grasp the addiction require some basic tools! folders when comparing the two planned route, the details are kept in
potential of Missions. It provides an Fortunately, Microsoft released the Missions Basic file structure versions. The changes start to a PLN file which is saved in your FIG. 5 You assemble all your charts and
opportunity to teach skills and explore Software Development Kit (SDK) but it is Firstly, however, we should examine the appear when you open your main ‘Flight Simulator X’ Files folder of diagrams into a single folder
the FSX features and effects in an only available with the Deluxe version of folder structure and primary configuration Microsoft Flight Simulator X folder ‘Your Documents’ (‘User’ in Vista).
entertaining, and often very challenging FSX. This kit not only includes the files that constitute the Missions engine. (Fig. 1). You will notice that some Not all Missions use a PLN file, for
way. information required to be able to plan and Without this knowledge, we will waste a lot folders have disappeared, for example, a short VFR flight to a
execute your Mission, but the Object of time and the inexperienced may also example, ‘Aircraft’, and you will nearby lake. The WX file contains
Placement Tool which is the primary inadvertently remove or change critical files - notice some new ones have details of the weather conditions at
interface we use to create our Missions. requiring the dreaded phenomenon known appeared such as ‘Missions’ and the time the flight was saved. The FLT
FIG. 1 Most of the
As with all tweaking and scenery or panel as – ‘a full reinstall’! While this series was ‘SimObjects’. Open the ‘Missions’ file contains the details of the
user data is in the
design and creation, you should know the prepared using Windows Vista, the folder and you will see a list of aircraft, its position, switch positions
Missions Folder
importance of backing up any file with procedures in Windows XP will be the same, folders with names such as ‘Airline etc. These three files are common
which you work as a precaution. It will also even if some of the diagrams in this series Pilot’, ‘Backcountry’, ‘Pilot for Hire’ with many of your own saved flights
help if you are comfortable with editing look a little different to what you are used to etc (Fig. 2). As you have probably and hold no surprises.
basic configuration files. - it is purely cosmetic in this case! guessed, these represent the main The ‘Charts.html’ document
categories of Missions installed on contains the navigation charts (if
your computer. If you have already any), that you have scanned or made
installed some commercial Missions, to supplement pilot navigation. The
you may also see them listed in the ‘Charts_Tab.html’ is just the same
developer’s own folder. chart with tabs for the Mission FIG. 6 Rewards are
As an example, open the ‘Airline overview and details. These pages, fun for the end-user may not recognize this beast as an
Pilot’ folder and you will see a and the ‘Details’ and ‘Details_Tab. and simple to create SPB, or ‘Sim-Prop Binary’ format.
collection of new folders with each html’ files will be familiar to you as Missions will happily use either SPB
one representing a whole Mission as the pages that users read when or XML format files, but SPB will give
you would find it in the FSX preparing for a Mission, as are the you faster load times. FSX will also
Missions dialogue window (Fig. 3). ‘Overview’ and ‘Overview_Tab.html’ select the SPB file in preference to
Open the Amsterdam folder. If you pages. You have already probably an XML file of the same name, which
haven’t yet flown this Mission, it recognized the ‘imgM_i’ and ‘imgM_ has implications in the next issue
requires you to fly a default Boeing c.bmp’ images as the ones you see when we start creating and editing
737-800 from Amsterdam’s Schiphol when you start, and hopefully, our Mission. We will also learn how
airport (EHAM) to London’s subsequently succeed in your to create SPB files from our working
Heathrow (EGLL) via a flight planned Mission! If you have any trouble XML file later in the series.
route - although an emergency recognising these files, browse the There are also usually two folders
forces you to make a decision ‘Missions’ section in FSX and you will within this particular Mission folder
shortly after take-off. see how they are used to provide itself. The images folder contains our
Figure 4 displays the contents of you with information. charts and images used by the html
this folder. If we are to create our Now we get to the ‘amsterdam. files (Fig. 5), while the sound folder
own Missions, we must appreciate spb’ file. Even regular FS tweakers contains all our recorded sound files
if we decide to create and include
them in our Mission package. Phew!
Don’t worry if it sounds a bit
bewildering. The structure of the
Missions data will become easier to
follow as we progress through
FIG. 3 Individual creating our own Mission, so don’t
Missions are in their get too caught up on the detail just
own folders for yet.
simplicity There is one more folder that for

40 PC Pilot Issue 48 PC Pilot Issue 48 41

40-43_jp.indd 40-41 3/8/07 15:23:26


TUTORIAL – Mission Building in FSX Mission Building in FSX – TUTORIAL
FIG. 10 Vista users may need to locate their
Application Data file to correctly place the dll
xml file

Even the
animated
animals in FSX
FIG. 7 The FSX Pilot Records keep your The Mission engine flexibility allows you can be part of
rewards and milestones! to create any genre the challenge!

the cover disk of our previous issue of PC Files\Microsoft Games folder and you should If you still can’t get the ‘Object
Pilot (issue 47); alternatively it is also now see a folder titled ‘Microsoft Flight Placement Tool’ to appear, go back to your
some reason is remote from the a lot of work to rebuild your available from www.FSInsider.com. Then, Simulator X SDK’. Navigate your way through SDK/Mission creation folder and open the
Missions. That is the ‘Rewards’ folder previous scenario. download and install the SDK’s Service Pack to the SDK\Mission Creation Kit folder. You ‘MissionCreation.html’ file and go to
which you will find in the Main FSX After considering this for some 1A from www.FSInsider.com. Note: SDK should see a file called ‘dll.xml’ (Fig. 9). This ‘Setup’. It offers suggestions on how to
folder itself. If you take a peek in time, I came up with a plan that Service Pack 1A is a different update to the file tells FSX where to find the ‘Object check your ‘dll.xml’ file to make sure it is
there, you will find a number of should be reasonably simple to original SDK Service Pack 1! Please note that Placement Tool’ and turns on some configured correctly. Alternatively, visit the
RWD files (Fig. 6). These are created program, but also contains some you must install SDK 1A AFTER the FSX SP1 parameters that allow it to become visible. FSX Mission forums at www.Avsim.com or
from JPG or BMP pictures of a occasional advanced features to update to get it working - don’t ask me why, Windows XP users should copy the ‘dll.xml’ http://fsxMission.com/live/ for advice.
specific size that we can convert to highlight the flexibility that is I just know this! file to their c:\Documents and Settings\<your
the correct format. While Figure 7 incorporated into the Mission To be sure you have installed everything user name>\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX Your homework!
shows a sample of these, we will engine. You may of course choose correctly, start an FSX ‘Free Flight’ and in the folder. If it is any consolation, you have now
look at these in more detail later in your own scenario location and just task bar you should see a new option called Vista users please note that you must completed one of the most complex parts of
the series. be prepared to modify what we ‘Tools’. Click on the Tools bar and you copy the dll.xml file to your c:\users\<your creating a mission! Until next time, I suggest
discuss to fit your plan. should see ‘Object Placement Tool’ username>\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX you fly as many default and add-on missions
From little things, We will divulge our entire plot displayed (Fig. 8). If this isn’t visible, folder. (In Vista, the name of the Documents as you can to help develop an idea of what
big things grow... next issue but, to give you a hint, it something has gone amiss with your and Settings folder has been changed to works for you and what doesn’t. You may
Well before we even start to open will involve flying tourists around installation and you need to install it ‘Users’.) If you open the <your user name> also like to read through the SDK document
FIG. 8 The ‘Object Placement Tool’ will be our files and play with variables, we one of the world’s most scenic manually. The main reason this may occur is folder and the Application Data folder that you installed and become familiar with
main interface to create the Mission need to have a plan! This plan will harbours. Visit http://www.seaplanes. when you have a non-standard FSX doesn’t appear, simply type the folder the general terms and layout. ■
start as a small seed and over a com.au to get the general idea! We installation or partitioned drives. destination into the task bar at the top left of
period of time will hopefully will also receive input from the real- To install manually, open the c:\Program the window and it will then appear (Fig. 10). Peter Stark
develop into a complex, absorbing world company pilots to try to
Special effects and sounds can
and thoroughly entertaining ensure it becomes not only as
also be incorporated
scenario. I found the best way to realistic as possible, but also
start is with a large sheet of blank highlights some of the challenges
paper and some spare time. You they may face! I also suggest you
need to consider the following read http://www.fsinsider.com/
factors: developers/Documents/DesigningGr
1. The general theme. Will it be a eatMissionsforFSX1.pdf which
rescue, a charter flight, an airline highlights many salient points for
‘milk-run’ etc? Mission design which we can
2. What will the challenges be? incorporate into our theme.
Engine failures, instrument
failures, weather, bears on the The basic tools
runway etc? Now we need to make sure we have
3. What is the location, season, the relevant tools. When you
weather, time of day? installed FSX, you probably didn’t
4. What aircraft type is appropriate? install the SDK, unless you are a
Will you use a default one or ‘tweaker’ from way back and wanted
include (with perMission) an to explore the inner workings from
add-on? the outset. If you didn’t, put the FSX
5. Do you have any special scenery Disc 1 into your drive and using
that would enhance the Windows Explorer, right click the
scenario? drive and then click ‘Explore’. Open
You can always (and probably the SDK folder and double click the
will) modify these as we progress Microsoft Flight Simulator X SDK
through this series, but you need installer icon to start the installation.
to have a reasonably thorough plan Please be careful with these next
to start with. The ‘Object steps as some recent updates have
Placement’ tool is far from a logical confused many and caused many
tool to use, and you will find that if lost hours trying to correct them! If
you wish to make a major change you haven’t already done so, install
FIG. 9 If you need to do a manual install, you to your Mission later, it may involve the FSX Service Pack 1 supplied on
need to locate the dll xml file

42 PC Pilot Issue 48

40-43_jp.indd 42-43 3/8/07 15:23:33


TUTORIAL – Mission Building in FSX Mission Building in FSX – TUTORIAL
FIG. 10 Vista users may need to locate their
Application Data file to correctly place the dll
xml file

Even the
animated
animals in FSX
FIG. 7 The FSX Pilot Records keep your The Mission engine flexibility allows you can be part of
rewards and milestones! to create any genre the challenge!

the cover disk of our previous issue of PC Files\Microsoft Games folder and you should If you still can’t get the ‘Object
Pilot (issue 47); alternatively it is also now see a folder titled ‘Microsoft Flight Placement Tool’ to appear, go back to your
some reason is remote from the a lot of work to rebuild your available from www.FSInsider.com. Then, Simulator X SDK’. Navigate your way through SDK/Mission creation folder and open the
Missions. That is the ‘Rewards’ folder previous scenario. download and install the SDK’s Service Pack to the SDK\Mission Creation Kit folder. You ‘MissionCreation.html’ file and go to
which you will find in the Main FSX After considering this for some 1A from www.FSInsider.com. Note: SDK should see a file called ‘dll.xml’ (Fig. 9). This ‘Setup’. It offers suggestions on how to
folder itself. If you take a peek in time, I came up with a plan that Service Pack 1A is a different update to the file tells FSX where to find the ‘Object check your ‘dll.xml’ file to make sure it is
there, you will find a number of should be reasonably simple to original SDK Service Pack 1! Please note that Placement Tool’ and turns on some configured correctly. Alternatively, visit the
RWD files (Fig. 6). These are created program, but also contains some you must install SDK 1A AFTER the FSX SP1 parameters that allow it to become visible. FSX Mission forums at www.Avsim.com or
from JPG or BMP pictures of a occasional advanced features to update to get it working - don’t ask me why, Windows XP users should copy the ‘dll.xml’ http://fsxMission.com/live/ for advice.
specific size that we can convert to highlight the flexibility that is I just know this! file to their c:\Documents and Settings\<your
the correct format. While Figure 7 incorporated into the Mission To be sure you have installed everything user name>\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX Your homework!
shows a sample of these, we will engine. You may of course choose correctly, start an FSX ‘Free Flight’ and in the folder. If it is any consolation, you have now
look at these in more detail later in your own scenario location and just task bar you should see a new option called Vista users please note that you must completed one of the most complex parts of
the series. be prepared to modify what we ‘Tools’. Click on the Tools bar and you copy the dll.xml file to your c:\users\<your creating a mission! Until next time, I suggest
discuss to fit your plan. should see ‘Object Placement Tool’ username>\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX you fly as many default and add-on missions
From little things, We will divulge our entire plot displayed (Fig. 8). If this isn’t visible, folder. (In Vista, the name of the Documents as you can to help develop an idea of what
big things grow... next issue but, to give you a hint, it something has gone amiss with your and Settings folder has been changed to works for you and what doesn’t. You may
Well before we even start to open will involve flying tourists around installation and you need to install it ‘Users’.) If you open the <your user name> also like to read through the SDK document
FIG. 8 The ‘Object Placement Tool’ will be our files and play with variables, we one of the world’s most scenic manually. The main reason this may occur is folder and the Application Data folder that you installed and become familiar with
main interface to create the Mission need to have a plan! This plan will harbours. Visit http://www.seaplanes. when you have a non-standard FSX doesn’t appear, simply type the folder the general terms and layout. ■
start as a small seed and over a com.au to get the general idea! We installation or partitioned drives. destination into the task bar at the top left of
period of time will hopefully will also receive input from the real- To install manually, open the c:\Program the window and it will then appear (Fig. 10). Peter Stark
develop into a complex, absorbing world company pilots to try to
Special effects and sounds can
and thoroughly entertaining ensure it becomes not only as
also be incorporated
scenario. I found the best way to realistic as possible, but also
start is with a large sheet of blank highlights some of the challenges
paper and some spare time. You they may face! I also suggest you
need to consider the following read http://www.fsinsider.com/
factors: developers/Documents/DesigningGr
1. The general theme. Will it be a eatMissionsforFSX1.pdf which
rescue, a charter flight, an airline highlights many salient points for
‘milk-run’ etc? Mission design which we can
2. What will the challenges be? incorporate into our theme.
Engine failures, instrument
failures, weather, bears on the The basic tools
runway etc? Now we need to make sure we have
3. What is the location, season, the relevant tools. When you
weather, time of day? installed FSX, you probably didn’t
4. What aircraft type is appropriate? install the SDK, unless you are a
Will you use a default one or ‘tweaker’ from way back and wanted
include (with perMission) an to explore the inner workings from
add-on? the outset. If you didn’t, put the FSX
5. Do you have any special scenery Disc 1 into your drive and using
that would enhance the Windows Explorer, right click the
scenario? drive and then click ‘Explore’. Open
You can always (and probably the SDK folder and double click the
will) modify these as we progress Microsoft Flight Simulator X SDK
through this series, but you need installer icon to start the installation.
to have a reasonably thorough plan Please be careful with these next
to start with. The ‘Object steps as some recent updates have
Placement’ tool is far from a logical confused many and caused many
tool to use, and you will find that if lost hours trying to correct them! If
you wish to make a major change you haven’t already done so, install
FIG. 9 If you need to do a manual install, you to your Mission later, it may involve the FSX Service Pack 1 supplied on
need to locate the dll xml file

42 PC Pilot Issue 48

40-43_jp.indd 42-43 3/8/07 15:23:33