Very simple missions
Which missions are considered simple?
A very simple mission is not an official or fan nomenclature. Instead,the author of this article will use this term to refer to those missions that contain only those basic elements that are required in every single FreeSpace mission.
Simple missions normally have only a needed amount of messages, debriefing stages, and a limited number of ships and even fewer ending possibilities.
If you are making a campaign and have some missions which play little part in the plot, it is not advised you make them overly complicated. For these missions, you are advised to make them simple. This way, you get more time to work on more important missions.
- Make only a limited number of messages. Do so by making sure none will overlap one another. The more messages you make the higher the possibility that they will overlap. The following messages are a must to every FreeSpace 2 mission:
- Notifications regarding mission failure and success
- Notifications regarding permission to return to base
- Reports regarding important ships being destroyed, disarmed, or disabled
- Arrival and departure message for important ships
- Messages should not be overly complex nor displayed in the middle of heavy combat.
- Limited number of ships: Be especially careful with using ships larger than corvette-class, as they will be expected to launch fighters or be protected by bombers, which are complex actions to organize.
- Stages: Missions essentially consist of several discrete parts. The transition of each part is defined by the arrival or destruction of a ship. You have to set the arrival cues of these ships so that they only arrive after a previous stage was completed, often by the destruction of a hostile ship or the departure of a friendly one. This makes it sure that the three stages won't intertwine, saving the FREDder from a lot of time to test each possibility in case the stages overlapped.
- You will need to test the difficulty of the mission and optimize it for game balance. The simplest way to do this is to keep the number of fighters and bombers low.
- Avoid the use of random numeric variables. This will cause your mission to require much more testing.
Simple missions must indeed be simple. Everything that distracts the player's—FREDder's—attention should be avoided, otherwise the mission will become more complex, and the more complex a mission is, the more likely a FREDder will make a mistake.
As already mentioned, simple missions are good for those short campaign missions that are unimportant for your plotline or character development. Do not concern yourself too much with these missions, because all the other plot and character developing missions will be more memorable to the player. The FREDder must therefore dedicate more time to the development of more complicated and plotwise more important missions. Wasting days on a two-minute hit-and-run mission with one Mission Goal is neither wise nor very practical. No one will open your simple missions in FRED and complain about their simplicity if(!) there are far better and more memorable missions in your campaign. Though pay attention not to be too simplistic if you create such a simple mission and find a place to it in your campaign. No pilot chatter, for example, is not preferable in this case.
Other than this, simple missions are good for beginner FREDders to see how they can handle SEXPs, Mission Goals, or manage game balance. If you stop for a moment to think about it, more complicated missions are basically simple missions with a lot more Events (messages, orders change, enemies withdraw, something self-destructs, etc.) and ships. If beginner mission designers learn how to make a simple mission, those missions can serve as a sample for more complicated missions, where they expand the mission file as extensively and creatively as they can, setting a solid ground for Volition-level missions. Do not be too ambitious at start. Be enthusiastic and energetic, but not ambitious. Your lack of experience will doom your overambitious project to failure. Gain some experience by doing simple things, then proceed gradually until you reach the apex of your abilities. You know, even F1 world champions must learn how to drive first.
Every mission, no matter how complex, must contain all elements listed above. A ten-minute-long "Expose the NTF Spy" mission might be fun to play, but having a blank Mission Goals window or receiving no "Return to base" directive is distracting.
Through this mission example, you will see how a simpler mission looks like in theory. In practice, there is no guarantee it can be done exactly as it is described below. See Notes.
A Leviathan cruiser ran the GTVA blockade and is to be hunted down. Command sorties a Deimos corvette and some fighters. The corvette arrives six clicks away from the Leviathan, but since the Deimos is faster, they have a chance to catch up with it and destroy it with their beam cannons. In the meanwhile, the NTF attempts to disarm the forward beam cannons to give chance for their cruiser to survive. In the first part, the player must destroy some bombers which come from the front and attempt to take down the beam cannons. The second part is about the battle between the Leviathan and the Deimos. In the third part, the Deimos is to be escorted back to the node until it makes the jump to subspace.
This mission has
- Three to eight friendly fighters
- The two warships: A Deimos and a Leviathan
- Enemy bombers and fighters, as many as makes the mission acceptably difficult.
- A jump node, where the Deimos comes from
- Two waypoints
- At least the following events (not mentioning message-only events)
- Destroy Leviathan cruiser directive
- Defend friendly Deimos directive
- Destroy enemy fighters (one event for each attacking wing)
- An event which summerizes the requirements to grant the player authorization to return to base.
- (Chained to the previous event), an event which displays the "Return to base" directive.
- Good-secondary-time, which tells the fighters to use their Trebuchet warheads in case they have some, or the player has the possibility to arm his wingmen with them.
- Events which order warships to use their beams (Retail FreeSpace 2 and ancient FreeSpace Open versions)
- Additional events which are only made to send messages
- Enemy cruiser escaped (Mission failure message)
- Friendly corvette escaped (Mission successful message)
- Friendly corvette destroyed (Enemy destroyed corvette message)
- Additional enemy bombers jumped in (Part 3)
- (Optional) Events which display messages which report the hull/subsystem status on either or both warships
- (Optional) An event which checks how far the friendly corvette is from the jump node and display a message in which the corvette makes report about it ("We are reaching the node in three minutes, pilots.")
In the mission happens
- The Leviathan follows a waypoint. When it reaches it, it jumps out and fails the mission
- The Deimos has the order to attack the Leviathan, when it is down, it changes orders and starts moving towards a waypoint, which is placed inside the jump node. When the Deimos is inside the node after the Leviathan is destroyed or departed, it jumps out
- Ten-thirty seconds after start, enemy bombers start jumping in from the front with the orders to attack the front beam cannons. When both cannons are down, the bombers depart and stop arriving. (The Deimos still stands a chance with its rear beam cannons, so the mission is still not lost).
- After the Leviathan has been destroyed or has departed, new wings of hostile targets start jumping in and attack the Deimos. They cease their attacks when the Deimos has been destroyed or departed.
- Ediitng the Mission Specs editor
- Giving a name to the mission
- Setting "All ships beam-freed by Default" (In FreeSpace Open, if set, the events which enable warships to use their beams are redundant)
- Support ship settings
- Will it repair hull?
- Advised for testing No traitor flag
- Aligning the Team Loadout options
- Warships added to escort list
- The Attack my target! order removed from the issuable orders for the friendly corvette
- Initial orders for all ships
- Advised Some sort of background, preferably with nebulae and planets and multiple, colored suns
Notes about Example
This mission has not been made by the author of the article. It is not guaranteed that mission balance can be kept using the numbers above or the mission in this shape could be too short. It is a main rule in making a balanced mission to not stick to the mission's preliminary description. If the mission is too easy, have a hostile cruiser or corvette jump in to attack the friendly Deimos. If the mission is too hard, give the player reinforcements and/or make the Deimos have cruiser escort.