Back in the days of FS5 I was an active user of the flight sim. I have spent many hours playing the sim excessively and tinkering with the code to “enhance” this revolutionary new simulation. At that time, I was making sceneries and each one took hours and hours. Nonetheless, I was fueled with FS fever and spent many late nights trying to make this or that better.
Fast forward 17 years or so, and the time available to spend on the FS and the passion of flight simming have taken a more casual twist for this simmer. This review is coming from the standpoint of the casual user, the one that might have the will, but not the time to learn the new “tricks”. I still love flying, real or simulated, but things inevitably change, and these days I spend much less on flight sim and much more with my kids, job requirements and other things that are considered real life. However, I did not forget those of you who might spend uncounted hours in front of that monitor trying to figure out what went wrong with that particular line or are trying to improve that perfect coding.
FSX has one thing though that no other MSFS sim had since the time of FS4. What used to be called Adventures are now Missions. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for FSX (need I say SAND, lack of hardware, etc.) my most favorite part of it is the Missions.
Today we have a new magnificent tool available that is perfect for both the active simmer as well as the more casual type.
Installation and Documentation
Download from Flight1 and their purchase wrapper is a standard way of installing and validating your programs these days. The whole installation, after the program downloaded, took only a few clicks. It only gets a bit more complicated if you do not have the internet access, but from what I understand, you have an alternative way for non-internet computers as well.
The documentation consist of a pdf file which is useful if you have several monitors, but I printed mine so I can take it away from the PC and go through it at different locations. One thing that I would like to see is a sample mission and annotated description of each step so that an inexperienced user would have a chance of doing the whole process without running into snags.
The Instant Mission Maker will gather some info from the FSX libraries and then open up with a Random Mission Generator screen. This is a great feature if you really like to try a new mission, yet don’t have much time to write the script. More about writing the script later, but let’s examine the Random Mission feature first.
Random Mission Generator
If you are just starting out in the mission creating “business” this tool is a great way to get you up and flying in just a few mouse clicks. First, you select the airport you would like to start from. Optionally you can leave the airport field blank and the Random Mission Creator will assign one of thousands of airports in FSX. Then you tick or un-tick the type of mission you would like to fly.
Choices are sightseeing, formation flying, air taxi, or cargo drop. You can select one, two, three, or even all four choices. Sightseeing is the most leisurely and least demanding, but it will still test your piloting skills as it can throw in such things as speed and altitude restrictions. The last choice you will need to select is whether the mission will end only at the paved airport.
With those few clicks, you are ready to generate the mission. The only remaining choice is to either “generate” the mission or “generate and edit” which gives you a chance to add your own touch to the program.
After that’s done you can fire up the sim, select your newly created mission and off you go. The whole process takes less then two minutes and the mission is ready for you to fly it. There is no copying, and no compiling required. Very simple and easy to use, indeed.
At first, I enjoyed these missions for their variety and I especially liked flying in formation with other airplanes. After a while, at least for me, the randomly generated missions become a bit predictable, so I decided to spice them up with personal touches. This is where the previously mentioned “generate and edit” option comes in. Now you can get into the “script” of your newly generated adventure and start playing around with it.
You start with a good randomly created mission that has no errors in it. You can now decide at which point you want to include some of the many options available to you via the simple and easy to use GUI, written in plain English.
For example, let us say you have created a sightseeing flight with the Random Mission Generator. If you would like to add a car driving up to your plane that will unload some of your passengers or add cargo, you can do it with only a few mouse clicks. You can also add scenery objects, create a different camera angle for a certain part of the mission, create engine and systems failures or add some animated scenery, sounds or special effects.
On one of my missions, I have added a flock of birds just over the midpoint on the runway. Then I imported one of the sounds from the FSX sounds folder, and after the obligatory bird strike, I enabled engine fire and engine failure. It took no more than five minutes to customize the mission, and I was back in FSX trying it out.
For even more customization of the Random Mission Generator, make sure you have the FSX SP2 installed, or FSX Acceleration, and you will be able to modify objects, scenery, and locations in FSX real time by simply clicking and dragging different scenery objects or mission waypoints with the mouse. After you are done, save and reset the mission and you can try out your changes immediately.
One thing to keep in mind here is to change, edit or add one thing at the time until you get a good grasp of the logic of the mission. Again, the Random Mission Generator’s ability to edit those Random Missions is a very smart and safe way to learn how to create Missions from the scratch.
Custom Missions or Missions created from scratch
To make missions from nothing, all you have to do is click file/new and off you go. Alternatively, on the Instant Mission startup you can choose to cancel the previously discussed Random Mission Generator and the new mission screen will appear. The missions in Instant Mission Maker are created and executed in order.
On the left side of the screen you will have the mission steps in very simple, plain English, and to the right of those steps there will be options available for each part of your new mission. At first, there will be only three steps. First is the welcome screen where you can chose the location where your mission will start. Next is the first voice or title prompt that can be changed to your liking or it could be left as is. Finally, the third step is how your mission will end.
At this point, it is up to you to insert steps and create your scenario. I found it useful to plan what I wanted to do and outline it on paper, but sometimes I just started playing with various options and started experimenting with them. The FSinsider web page offers some very useful tips on how to plan your missions, and there are many other sites which offer help and forums on the same subject.
Nevertheless, this program is so simple and easy to use that even a person with limited computer skills and some Flight Sim experience can figure out different options relatively easy and quickly. I have generated four different missions with bird strikes, engine failures, and flames pouring out of engine bays in less than an hour after I first started playing with this program. These were very simple and semi catastrophic events no real world pilot would ever wish to encounter, but the point is that they were easy enough to make - even for someone like me who has a very limited time and long standing natural resistance to computer code programming.
At the time I started tinkering with this program, the news of the week was a miraculous water landing on the Hudson River by the crew of the US Airways Airbus. I just had to try to recreate that event in Instant Mission Maker. By reading the news I figured out where the Airbus had taken off from (KLGA). After firing up FSX, I set up my FSX A321 on the appropriate runway in New York. Next, I started the Instant Mission Maker and used the very neat feature of “use current plane position” as my starting point. This step also saved my airplane and weather.
From here I’ll try to depict how easy it was to recreate steps or mission actions by writing Next Step: whenever I just clicked and selected a step in the Instant Mission Maker.
Next step: I typed in “US air clear for take off” etc, etc. I right clicked on the left side of the screen which contains the mission steps to insert a new step.
Next step: Here I told the Mission Maker (by clicking and selecting) that “user” should reach a flight parameter of above 3000 but below 3200 feet MSL.
Next Step: I inserted a command for the FS to play a sound. All actions and commands are pre-made. You just point, select and click. Here I had the option of recording a sound and importing it. Or I could just import one of the many pre-recorded FSX sounds. In addition, I could import any sound from my computer. I imported one of the failure sounds from the Fs Passengers for FS9.
Step: Insert the FSX action. Engine failure no 1 100% .
Next Step: “Say command” - you can either record or import or have the computer generated voice read what you type. I typed: “Both engines out need to get down fast!”
Next Step: I right clicked and pulled down “User should” and selected “Reach an area”
At this point I slewed over the Washington Bridge on the Hudson and picked a place on top of the Hudson River. Next, I clicked “use current plane position” and defined the width, length and height of the area where I figured the real Airbus glided to a water landing. I made the area quite long so the mission would be a success even if I didn’t make the touchdown point at exact same spot every time.
However, I made the box narrow to define the width of the Hudson river. What helped here immensely is the really cool feature of editing on the go where you can literally see the box in FSX, if you have both programs running at the same time. You can even rotate and move the box with the mouse (but remember you must have the SP2 or Acceleration Pack)
Next Step: Mission Accomplished
After that I reloaded FSX, chose my mission and off I went. After I flew the mission three or four times, I adjusted some things and tinkered with sounds, voices, cameras, special effects and so on. However, my mission was done and working perfectly from the first attempt (albeit it was crude and unrefined and I wouldn’t dare to upload it to the Avsim library in that state)
It worked like a charm! The time it took to recreate this event was less then an hour with all the tinkering and test flying it, so I would say that is amazing. On the contrary, it took me twice as long to get everything I needed and get the things even set-up with the FSX SDK and the default mission editing/creating program. I gave up soon afterwards.
Now, some may say that the graphical interface program is less powerful and less customizable then the hard core code writing, and you are probably right. Once you start programming the mission by writing the code and deciphering the SDK, you will certainly have more options and even understand the Mission creation process better. For me though, time is limited and I will take the simple and easy way to get there by using the relatively simple GUI offered with this program.
Furthermore, do not forget that this simple-to-create mission was nowhere near the quality of default missions that come with FSX, mainly because of my prompts were computer generated voices done by “Microsoft Sam”, and I have not mastered how to use special effects to my liking yet.
If I was to spend some serious time and recorded some voices, or have friends or family involved in order to create variety of different people on the frequency, then edited and threw in some LGA tower chatter, this mission would have been much better. Yet it would take much longer to make. The point here is that you can do all those things with Instant Mission Maker, but you are not required to, in order to have some fun.
Lastly, I had the problem where the Airbus would actually crash every time I touched down on water. I solved that problem later by turning off the crash effect in the FSX and later again I defined the box to be just above the water so when the “bus” entered the area the mission camera switched to another view and "Success" was displayed in green letters on top of the screen. Not very realistic for now, but until I get more proficient in the usage of this program, that will do.
After I got bored with flying the bus into the Hudson, I thought of other real world events I would have liked to create in FSX. Just browsing through my airplane collection in FSX gave me an idea of a tragic event that could have ended even worse if the pilots didn’t perform the miracles as well.
I saw a Just Flight/CLS DC-10 by United and immediately I thought of the Sioux City crash landing when the hydraulics went out on a DC-10 after the engine exploded in flight. Perfect! Again, it didn’t take long to set up the airplane in flight over Iowa, remap my CH yoke for three engines (the pilots had to use thrust to turn as the ailerons and rudder were virtually ineffective due to loss of all hydraulics) and re-create the basic mission with the Instant Mission Maker. Once more, it was not the payware or even default quality, but the skeleton of the good mission was there. Now I just needed time to make it better.
Here I found the first and only real problem with this program. This problem may not really be a problem at all for some of the users who are more focused and less prone to jumping around with their ideas, but it was still a problem for me.
Just as I was getting ready to go for the third attempt to make my KSUX landing mission more real, more credible, I had an another idea, and then another, and ….. then I realized it was so late that I would not be ready for the alarm clock when it went off in a few hours. So you see, it really is not the problem of the program, it is I the user, who is the problem.
I had such a blast with this thing that messing around with it suddenly became very time consuming. What a paradox! I had an easy to use, simple and clean tool that does not take long to learn and use. Yet when imagination and creativity kicked in, all bets were off. You will find yourself adding more and more, and there goes your time.
This, I realized, brought me back to my days of endless hours in front of the monitor, when I single-mindedly wrote the lines and lines of code in BGLCOMP for FS5, into the wee hours. I was totally obsessed by it. In other words, if I could make the time and push the real life aside, I would be spending more hours with the Instant Mission Maker then with any other add-on for our favorite sim. Well… almost any other add-on because there is one more program that seemingly does the same thing except on a different level. This one has the potential to be even more powerful and fun-time consuming.
Expanding The Capabilities of Instant Mission Maker with the FSX Mission Editor
FSADDON has created another product called: FSX Mission Editor. It can read and import Instant Mission Maker files and then modify them to greater extent than would be possible with just Instant Mission Maker. It is a free download with some options turned off, but you can get a good idea of what it can do if you decide to purchase the license and unlock its full potential.
This program also has the capability to make quick missions as well, and you can use it without the Instant Mission Maker to create random or custom missions. Its graphical interface is quite more complex and involved, but so are the possibilities of what you can do with it. You will also need to read the manual carefully (which is quite thick) in order to create missions from scratch. There is a review on AVSIM as well, so if you are tickled you will probably want to read that one as well.
Here is an example. One mission I made, started with a camera attached to a luxury car that was delivering a passenger to my Learjet. The camera points at the Lear, and all looks fine but there is no way in Instant Mission Maker to fine tune the location of the camera, so I ended up seeing the wheels of car only.
Here I opened up my mission with FSX Mission Editor, and found the node called camera. Next, I adjusted its position by few meters/feet so that you could see the entire car as it rolls down towards the waiting aircraft. This was easy and quite simple to do. However, it opened up more potential and I found that FSX Mission Editor is an even more powerful tool. By reading the forum messages from FSX Mission Editor I think I also found a way to solve that splash on the water problem I had with my Hudson River Landing Mission.
The FSX Mission Editor is not really competing with the Instant Mission Maker, rather it compliments it and takes the mission making or editing to an even higher level. I just need to find more time to explore it fully. Again, read all about that one here.
There are no performance issues with Instant Mission Maker on my computer, but be aware that adding the large amounts of scenery and effects might slow down the sim, and it is easy to get carried away. The one thing to keep in mind is that you should design your missions in an area where your computer performs well, so my selection of the NYC wasn’t the best since it is such a demanding area on my PC without a mission anyway.
On the other hand, my Sioux City landing worked perfectly smooth. Think in terms of Tokyo Mission vs the Sitka Approach missions in your default FSX and you’ll likely understand the logic here.
The Instant Mission Maker is simple and very easy to use. The documentation is more than adequate to get you going, and its features are something we have not seen in the FS world since the days of the old FS4 and the adventure files. By that I don’t mean the graphical and visual experience, but the flexibility to add on another dimension to the Flight Simulator that lies hidden in its intricate web of files and folders.
With the unfortunate twist that cut off the ACES team from the continuation of the FS development as we know it today, the Instant Mission Maker can serve as an important tool that will keep the FS flame alive for a while longer with many users. It features a powerful GUI that will be great for the first-timers as well as well as those who can be very creative and have the knowledge of inner structure how the missions work.
They can create quick and easy frames in which to build their complicated and challenging adventures…err missions. This program can also provide a way out for those burned out simmers who just need to take a break from flying and experience something even more creative and stimulating.
The instant Mission Maker also has its flaws. Aside from taking time from family and real life, it can be frustrating to find why the mission cannot continue or why the mission generation failed due to duplicate objects. Yep. I had those messages, but they were not the show-stoppers and I found them to be correctable by going through the plain English script and thinking linearly; in other words until one thing happens nothing else can. Mostly, however, it was me, the user, who created faults in the script, but the documentation that comes along with this program does not warn of such problem areas.
Despite those minor flaws, this program is great and with its reasonable price I would recommend it to anyone who likes the missions in the FSX and anyone who thinks that they have a creative streak. Most of all, I would recommend this program to the people who, like me, have used FS for a while and have found themselves slowly loosing the passion. For me the Instant Mission Maker rekindled the old interests, opened up the old doors, dusted of the old books and magazines, and made me remember why this hobby was such great joy to pursue.
Hmm, on that note, I think I will start looking up the facts about that Tenerife collision. Let’s see - I can set the weather, the planes exist in the Avsim library, I can use the internet and my old books to gather up the necessary communications…or maybe I’ll just create a happy sightseeing tour of Grand Canyon, or… what’s that on the news? Another fire in L.A…hmmm, how about a water-drop flight…Wow, it is 2 am already! Signing off.
What I Like About Instant Mission Maker
What I Don't Like About Instant Mission Maker
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