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A briefing is a convocation of military personnel to discuss military affairs. In the FreeSpace games, there are three kinds of briefings: command briefings, mission briefings, and debriefings.

Command briefing

A command briefing (abbreviated CB) is usually held by a superior officer, usually an admiral or a squadron leader. Command briefings are about fleet movements, war updates, or introduction of new technologies. These briefings are also used to issue a welcome to the player when he is reassigned to a new flagship (FreeSpace 1) or a squadron (FreeSpace 2).

CBs are very often complemented by a 2D animation that is being played in a small box next to (FreeSpace 1) or below (FreeSpace 2) the command briefing's message. Uses of these animations vary greatly, but two categories can be drawn: There are animations that serve a storytelling purpose (animated node maps that indicate fleet movements) or are simply for aesthetic purposes (seeing your flagship from several angles while it is patrolling). If no animation is set in the Command Briefing Editor in FRED, the default animated GTA (FreeSpace 1) or GTVA (FreeSpace 2) logo will show up.

Command briefings consist of stages. There is always one block of text and one animation associated with each stage.

Command briefings are optional. If a mission has no command briefing, the game will skip the command briefing stage and jump to the mission briefing as soon as the mission is loaded.

If there is a command briefing in the mission, it will be the first window that appears as soon as the mission is loaded. If the player clicks on the Continue button, or presses SHIFT-Enter, the mission briefing will come up.

Using the "No Briefing" option in the Mission Specs Editor will skip both the command briefing and the mission briefing, even if the mission does technically have a command or mission briefing. Red-alert missions can't have a command briefing.

The music that you select for the mission briefing (SHIFT-B) will be played here.

Mission briefing

Mission briefing for Surrender, Belisarius!

A mission briefing (or simply briefing) gives essential information about the upcoming mission. Mission goals, participating ships, and possible tactics are explicated here.

Mission briefings also consist of stages, much like command briefings. There will always be one stage on screen at any given time. Every stage has a picture and a block of text associated with it.

These pictures are not JPEG or ANI files, but they are a group of ship icons on a black background. These icons are made by selecting any ship in the game and clicking on Make Icon. An icon will be drawn immediately to the position of the selected ship. If your selected ship is out of sight, change your camera's position (in the Briefing Editor!, not the main menu). This is done most conveniently by using the Zoom Selected (ALT-Z; only works if you have anything selected) feature. You can freely move the icons around, label them, change their IFF affiliation as much as you like. It makes no difference if a friendly Fighter Wing icon is made out of a hostile Orion. Beware of accidentally moving away any ships. It is safest to be in Select Mode (clicking on the cursor icon in the upper-left corner of your FRED window). Another safe way of selecting any ship is the Ship Select Window ("H") or using a rectangle selection. Zooming in or out will not alter the icons' size.

Every stage has a camera position associated with it. As soon as you have the camera where you want it to be, use the Save View option. If you want another stage to assume the same camera position, use the Copy View option, go to the stage the camera position of which you want to change, Paste View, Save View. Goto View will revert all camera alterations you made since the last save. This, however, will not revert changes made to ship icons.

Add Stage adds a new stage after last stage. FRED will not give you a blank window and force you to restart, but instead it will clone the stage that comes before the new one. You will have to blank out the text and write a new one, but the ship icons will remain intact. You can create, delete, or move away ship icons.

Highlight allows you to put emphasis on any ship that your briefing stage is about. If your briefing stage is about the fighter wings that will take part in the mission, the fighters' icons are to be highlighted. If you add a new stage, the same ships will remain highlighted in the next stage. If you want your group of fighters to be highlighted in stage 1, but not in stage 2, untick the Highlighted tag of stage 2.

Beware of deleting ship icons in the early stages of your mission. If you delete a ship icon in stage 1, and that ship icon is present in stage 3, it won't be displayed. If you want stage 1 not to have that fighter icon, you can simply delete the icon in stage 1 and create a new one for stage 3.

You can create the "static" effect between two stages with the "Cut to next stage" and "Cut to previous stage" options. If you want this static effect to be present between stage 1 and stage 2, you must have "Cut to next stage" ticked at stage 1 and "Cut to previous stage" ticked at stage 2.

If you want an audio file to be played during the briefing stage, set it in the Voice Wave File option. Your Voice Wave Files must be put into data/voice/briefing.

You can set a briefing music with the Briefing Music option. If you have a command briefing, this music will also be played there.

At the end of the briefing, the player will receive a list of mission objectives that are created using the Mission Objectives window (SHIFT-G).

At any stage, the player has the possibility to select his weapon and ship loadout. Mission designers can determine which classes of ships and weapons the player may choose in the Team Loadout window (SHIFT-P).

Mission briefings for red-alert missions work somewhat differently. Everything with the exception of briefing texts is ignored. For a red-alert mission, all briefing stages appear in one window.

If the player presses Commit, the mission will start.


A debriefing for Surrender, Belisarius!

Debriefings are for evaluating the player's performance and talking about the consequences of the mission's outcome. If the mission ends by the player jumping out—or in FreeSpace Open with the end-mission SEXP—the debriefing window will come up.

Debriefings also consist of numerous stages, but unlike command and mission briefings, the player is not restricted to one stage per window. In order for a debriefing stage to appear, it must meet certain preconditions set in the left-side window of the Debriefing Editor using SEXPs. All the stages that meet their respective prerequisites will appear in the debriefing window, in the order they are numbered in the editor. (If stage 1 is true, it will forever be on the top, etc.)

Debriefing stages can also be complemented by recommendations using the Recommendation Text feature. This feature is traditionally used to give player recommendations on how to improve his performance—hence the name. If the player clicks on the Recommendation text in the Debriefing Window, the recommendation text will appear below the relevant debriefing stage. Recommendations are the only texts that have no WAV file associated with. Simulated speech, however, reads it (FreeSpace Open feature).

The mission designer cannot determine which music will be played during the debriefing. It is determined by the outcome of the mission based on the mission goals set in the Mission Objectives editor (SHIFT-G).

It is also in the debriefing stage of the mission that the player receives promotion or medals. Promotions and badges (Ace, Double Ace, Triple Ace) are granted automatically, while medallions (Good Conduct, Conspicuous Gallantry, etc.) must be granted by the mission using the grant-medal operator. The player can receive these awards only if he is allowed to progress in the campaign. By this definition, standalone missions that are played in the Mission Simulator do not award promotions, badges, and medals.

Debriefing-related voice files must go to data/voice/debriefing.

Clicking on Accept will return the player to the Main Hall (simulator missions), load the next mission (campaign mode), or request the player to replay the mission should the mission's outcome be unfavorable (campaign mode again). Whether the player can progress in the campaign is determined by the campaign's tree, set in the Campaign Editor (SHIFT-C). For further information about setting up a campaign file, see Setting up a campaign file.

FRED tips

One of the most common FRED-related mistakes is the absence of the AWOL debriefing stage, that is, the debriefing stage that appears if the player jumps out without authorization. AWOL debriefing stages are not generated automatically; they must be set manually.

If the mission has the No Debrief option ticked in the Mission Specs Editor (SHIFT-N), the mission will immediately jump to the Main Hall when it is played as a single mission. When played as a campaign mission, the No Debrief flag is without any effect.

There is no such thing as an "incomplete" Event or Mission Goal in the debriefing. When the mission ends, all SEXPs that are "incomplete" will turn false. Therefore, using is-goal-incomplete or is-event-incomplete equals using false. A debriefing stage that has any of these three operators in it will never show up.

A FREDder must evaluate whether each debriefing stage comes up when it should and whether the tone of the stage is appropriate for the outcome of the mission. There is no point in Command congratulating you for destroying the GTC Secondary Objective if GTD Primary Objective was destroyed. "Invalidate" debriefing stages using the and and the is-event-false operators. A properly done scenario of the above example is as follows:

   GTC Secondary Objective
   GTD Primary Objective destroyed

Which will ensure that an appreciative debriefing stage won't come up if the mission ended catastrophically.

Text manipulation tags

These tags can be used to manipulate text messages in command, mission, and debriefings. For further explanation, see Briefing Text.

$r makes the word that follows it red.
$b makes the word that follows it blue.
$g makes the word that follows it green.
$f makes the word that follows it the color of friendly ships (default: green).
$n makes the word that follows it the color of neutral ships (default: red).
$h makes the word that follows it the color of hostile ships (default: red).
FS2 Open 3.6.10:
$w makes the word that follows it white.
$y makes the word that follows it yellow.

These codes work in all three briefing stages as well as in mission messages:

$quote creates double quotation marks (" ").
$semicolon creates a semicolon (;).
$callsign places the pilot name in its place.
FS2 Open, 3.6.12:

As of 3.6.12, a number of changes were made and additional flags were added.

$k makes the word that follows it black.
$e makes the word that follows it grey.
$v makes the word that follows it violet-grey.
$p makes the word that follows it pink.

The statements are case-sensitive. Adding upper case letters produces a brighter effect.

$W makes the word that follows it bright white.
$Y makes the word that follows it bright yellow.
$R makes the word that follows it bright red.
$B makes the word that follows it bright blue.
$G makes the word that follows it bright green.
$E makes the word that follows it silver.
$V makes the word that follows it violet.
$P makes the word that follows it bright pink.

Additionally there is a non-breaking escape character to control how certain special characters are colorized

$| makes characters following it the default text. Can be inserted directly between characters.
FS2 Open, 3.8:
$o makes the word that follows it orange.

Miscellaneous notes

  • FreeSpace makes use of the Bank Gothic Lt BT font.
  • Very little is known about what a canon briefing situation looks like. The only source is the FreeSpace 1 cutscene "Command Briefing."
  • It is impossible—as of FreeSpace Open 3.6.10—to use bold, italics, or underlining in FreeSpace.
  • Both games' briefings seem to have been optimized for 640x480. It's rare that the player must scroll down in a briefing stage to see a whole stage's text data in 640x480.
  • Command briefings in FreeSpace 1 give exact dates. In FreeSpace 2, they don't.

See also