Becoming a SimDirector: Scenario and Mission Generation
Prepar3D needed a new way to plan, design, and implement training and learning scenarios. For that reason we created SimDirector, a complete mission and learning scenario tool suite that will ship free in all versions of the Prepar3D v2 SDK. The main goal for SimDirector was to bring more refinement to editing the Prepar3D mission world and to help make it more intuitive and easier to create structured learning and training experiences. Prepar3D now meets it’s ‘learning missions in minutes’ goal we set out for from day one.
With SimDirector users can now rapidly and easily create and share structured learning experiences. Teachers, instructors and students can easily create lessons, instructions, flight scenarios, all with dynamic feedback to the user. Developers of complex addons can now easily record and save virtual instructor lessons with their aircraft to show their users how to operate the aircraft or perform complex procedures, instead of having to just refer them to flight manuals or pre-flight checklists. There are now many new exciting opportunities to make this more interactive.
SimDirector has three distinct modes that give you all the control and insight you’ll need to create incredible missions. The three modes, which are explained below, are:
Directing in World Editor Mode
Above you’ll see a screenshot of the default layout of World Editor Mode. All of the windows are configurable, but the ones we open by default tell a good story of how much easier it is to create learning experiences with SimDirector in Prepar3D v2.
Along the left side you see the new Mission Catalog and the new Mission Objects listing that give easy control over all of the objects available to add to the mission and the objects that are already placed in your mission. In the catalog you can easily search and filter the thousands of available objects based on category aided with identifying colors and icons, or use a text search to find exactly what you are looking for. Don’t know what you’re looking for? Well now the mission preview shows the rendered object before adding it to the mission and your placed objects list.
Adding objects to the mission has never been easier, you can drag-and-drop to an exact location or you can just double click to add it to the center point of the map view. Either way it gets added to your placed objects list.
Because large missions could get out of hand with the number of elements needed to support them, instead of having a list of hundreds of objects, SimDirector now has the ability to organize them into groups. You’ll see a good example of groups on the Mission Objects portion of the screen.
We’ve made interacting with Prepar3D in this mode like you would expect from any other top down map. You can now pan (middle mouse button) and zoom (mouse wheel) while interacting and selecting your placed world objects (left mouse click). Working with and manipulating the objects in the scene no longer needs an extra controller and still gives more control than ever before.
Interacting with objects in the world has been made easier as well. To build a successful mission, objects need to be connected and object properties need to be configured. All of this can now be easily done in the Property Window along the right side of the screen. If you are familiar with the Object Placement Tool (OPT) all of the fields will look similar and you’ll know exactly what to do. For those of you who aren’t, you’ll notice the gray box at the bottom will update and tell you exactly what the property you’ve selected does. You won’t need to flip open the Learning Center or search on the internet just to guess what a particular field is used for.
A new mode, Mission Visualization, was added to easily allow you to see how your mission was structured, and to quickly
connect the logic elements together. Everything is color coded, and everything is labeled, and you can now look quickly at the mission visualization graph and trace the logic and training path in even the most complicated of learning scenarios.Also for those who are unsure whether they are connecting things correctly there is now the option of showing the dynamic validation window which will identify errors in your mission. Just like in other applications if you double-click on any error or warning the appropriate offending object will be selected and show in your properties window.
Virtual Instructor: Taking Control of your Flight
Whereas World Editor Mode is more about the objects external to the vehicle, the Virtual Instructor Mode is geared towards creating interactions inside the vehicle. There are three things that make up Virtual Instructor: sessions, focal points, and view changes.
The session editor is really a new paradigm in Prepar3D missions. It allows the mission creator to program interactions with the cockpit that can be dynamically triggered at any point in the mission. The session editor allows the mission creator to record any number of clicks in the virtual cockpit that can then be later played back when the mission is being flown. Dialogs and delays can then be added to the session to allow for a full demonstration for flight tasks.
The next two items, focal points and view changes, are part of the Virtual Instructor Object editor. Focal points allow the user to create box highlights that can be activated and deactivated during the mission. Need to indicate to the pilot to look at their attitude and to pay attention to whether or not they are slipping or skidding through a turn? Draw a box around it.
The view change action is the last major piece for the Virtual Instructor and it allows the mission creator to control the camera. We completely overhauled the camera system for Prepar3D v2, and the view change action is a great example of it. You can now pan and zoom and have nice immersive sweeps and animations between view changes.
All of these objects allow the mission creator to artificially interact with the person flying as the end user. It is important to note that all of these objects need to be linked into the mission logic in the world editor.
Mission Preview: Finding Faults
In Mission Preview mode you can trace the entire execution of your mission in two discrete ways. The Mission Visualization that you used to create the mission now is a visual indicator for your objects firing as the mission is tested. There is also an output window which will indicate in sequential order when objects are fired.
On top of both of these automatic methods for debugging your missions there is the capability to monitor simulation variables during the preview. Once you start monitoring you can configure profiles for each of the vehicles you want. This allows you to add things like altitude and heading as simulation variables to monitor and then watch them change real-time as you fly your mission.
With all three of these methods of looking behind the curtain as you test your mission it becomes a relatively simple exercise of finding the faults in your mission.
SimDirector: In a nutshell
SimDirector is about giving the mission creators, all of you, the ability to control as much as you want. It is about ease of access to all of the information you need and the ability to quickly and efficiently edit and test those changes. Everything that was touched on is just a quick insight to what we have done for Mission Creation in Prepar3D but there is so much more available!
We are really excited about the opportunities this will open for mission creation and training in Prepar3D and cannot wait to see what you SimDirect!
Thanks for reading this week’s developer blog for Prepar3D v2.0, stay tuned for additional developer blogs in the future as we continue to outline some of the new and major enhancements for Prepar3D v2.0.
Software Manager, Prepar3D Development Team