Much of what can be said about BoP Mission building applies equally well to XWA, especially since quite a number of things can be directly copied from a BoP mission to an XWA as many conditions and orders are identical. Exciting missions can be made with simple orders and overcomplexity is bad but a mission with a complex structure can be the most fun to play, if done right.
Having said that there are differences between
XWA and BoP though, like :
More ship types.
More ships can be onscreen at once.
Four sectors where action can be happening, rather than one.
Each order has a set of waypoints, rather than one set being used for all orders.
You can now jump to any order using the attached condition rather than only being able to jump to Order 4, though this can be rather twitchy.
Backdrops are more essential as they serve as the directional light source as well as being pretty.
Now to move on to specifics.
AI Hyperspacing :
To make a Flight Group hyperspace to a desired region you give the order "Hyperspace" with the number of the region you wish it to go to set as the first parameter. Note that the numbering goes from 0-3 (not 1-4).
Where in the target region it will arrive can be harder to control.
In experimenting I have found that if Waypoint 1 for the first order in the new sector is enabled then "something" strange is done to the arrival position and the AI flight groups arrive at a different distance from each other than they were.
If Waypoint 1 is not enabled though then the ships arrive in the same relative position to each other facing (the enabled) waypoint 2, however it seems that their X and Y co-ordinates are inverted (+2 becomes -2 for example) and the Z co-ordinate has a value added or subtracted from it. In my experimenting this seems far easier to adjust for.
HOWEVER although this worked in a test mission with a FRG and 4 smaller ships at 1km distances (above/below/left/right) and the same technique worked again when used on a pair of Frigates in another mission I have found that an entire convoy of Heavy Lifters decided to hyperspace in at the same co-ordinates despite my having set things up as they had worked before, and in the same mission a pair of Cargo Ferrys decided to do the same thing. I was using the same method so why it didn't work is a real puzzle to me.
There is a Nav Buoy wizard built in to Allied which automates this process. This wizard will create 4 Hyperspace Buoys (enter Hyperspace & exit Hyperspace for both sectors) with the correct names and orders. The "exit Hyperspace" buoy can be used to define the point at which the player exits hyperspace and I recommend that it is set to vanish after a short delay (by setting the departure condition for when the player arrives in the sector, though you do need to give the buoy an order for it to be active and to depart).
Orders / Order
Each flight group has 4 orders per sector.
A flight group will start with the first order and as each order is completed it will move on to the next. It will also move on to a different order when a condition which has been attached to that order is met.
I thought initially that once the FG had jumped to an order that it would continue from that order through the list. However it would appear that if the order it has jumped from can still be done that it will return back to that order instead. This will even happen if the Flight Group has skipped to a "Hyperspace" order and then returned to the original sector.
There also appears to be a limit of 2 on how many orders/sector can have jump-to conditions. I say this because during a recent mission I tried setting 3 and it did not work, but when I removed one jump condition it did. This may have been a fluke however.
I also thought that when a flight group returns to a sector it remembered how far it had got with that set of orders and began the order following the hyperspace order which had caused it to leave. It seems that this is not actually the case, rather when the flight group returns to the sector it checks its orders for that sector. If it had reached the hyperspace order by completing the previous orders then that gives the same result as if it had remembered how far it had got. However if it had reached the hyperspace order as a result of a jump condition and a previous order is still executable (a patrol order for example) then it will revert to doing that order.
The XWA Orders system is definitely more complicated and (if I can rid myself of the BoP habits) will allow for more flexibility than was possible in BoP with it's simpler "Jump to Order 4" system.
Global Groups and
Global Units :
These are simply two different ways of creating a multi-Flight Group unit. They differ mainly in that the ships in a Global Unit share an overall numbering (being labelled 1 to whatever) while ships in a Global Group are numbered within the flight groups (being FG One 1-?, FG Two 1-?......etc).
Global Units are therefore mainly used for fighters to group them into squadrons with the right numbering while Global Groups are used more for gathering flight groups together so they can be treated as a single unit for conditions and orders.
Briefings, description, and debriefings :
Mission Briefings are implemented in both the New Horizons editor and in the full version of AlliED. Other editors do have the facility for the Mission Briefing text and the Mission Successful / Unsuccessful Debriefings however.
For the briefing texts one thing I have noticed is that the mission description has the short-description (as seen in the Combat simulator) at the top with a # separating that and the description as seen in the briefing. Since XWA displays the text following the # if there is no has then it displays no text.
Mission successful does not have a hash but most of the mission failed I have looked at do so placing a # at the top of the mission failed text would be a good idea to assure that the text shows up.
The TG XWA Missions have wave files to accompany each part of the briefing/debriefing. What I can say is that inside each of the numbered subfolders of wave/frontend on the CD there seems to be a file starting with "N" which is the mission specific wave that plays as you enter the briefing room, 1 or more files starting with "S" which play for the mission description, one or more files starting with "B" which play for each piece of briefing text, and a file starting with W which plays for the mission successful debriefing. Since there is no list file for these I had thought they were probably defined within the mission file itself. Psychic has kindly submitted this additional information (as quoted below):
How I think XWA does it:
- Splits the B?M? off the start of the mission filename (e.g. b1m1whatever.tie is Battle 1 Mission 1)
- If there is no B?M? designation on the filename, but there is a graphical briefing, crashes unceremoniously leaving the user wondering what's gone wrong. :-)
- Looks in Wave\FrontEnd\ for a folder called, e.g., b1m1
- Takes the Wav files from here. B*.wav are each text string in the graphical briefing, S*.wav are the text briefing, W*.wav are the Mission Results. N*.wav is played as you enter the briefing room, e.g. "Welcome, Cadet Azzameen" on b1m1.
It's fine for the BnMn folder to be empty or missing, as long as the numbers are still on the filename. According to Troy Dangerfield (of AlliEd fame), you can put whatever you like after the B?M?, and you can have as many battles and missions as you like, so B20M17DoAHitAndFadeOnLotsOfImperials.tie is an acceptable filename.
Thanks go to Psychic for this contribution and it looks like I might have to rename all my mission files before I add proper briefings rather than just using the (remarkably capacious) Mission Description text facility.
However I have had no luck in using this information to add custom wave files. By renaming a missions filename (changing nothing else) to match another's I was able to get the mission to play the different set of waves, but nothing I tried during my (admittedly brief) experimenting succeeded in getting it to play a set from the Hard Drive (wave files had been copied from different missions folders on the CD).
Available in AlliED and works in the same way as with BoP. Messages are displayed when their condition is met. I have not really played around much with these yet, though what messages I have created seem to be visible in all sectors rather than just the sector where the event has occurred. Looking at TGs missions they seem to have set a condition which would probably translate as "be in sector" for their messages to restrict where the message is visible (which is more "realistic" as a starfighter transmission would not be immediately audible in an adjacent sector).
I can also say that (also very similar to BoP) within the wave folder there is a subfolder called Missionvoice which has many subfolders with the actual wave files in and corresponding list files for each mission. At the moment AlliED does not have the facility XvTED had for creating these list files and linking the waves, but it is possible to do this manually. Instructions on this are is available at Ace Antilles X-Wing Outpost.
Briefing Room or
Family Transport :
Defined in editor.
The lightsource(s) in each mission area are defined as part of the backdrops. AlliED has labels for some boxes change to reflect the values being Brightness and Size, but unfortunately by default does not have descriptions of what the backdrops look like. This is easily added by adding a Backdrops.txt file though.
You would first set Craft type to Backdrop (use the one just above the *dontuseme*s).
Then in the craft name box the colour values are set (Red / Green / Blue), 1.0 0 0 would be red , 0 1.0 0 would be Green etc. You may find a paint package useful to check the proportions for the colour you want. You may also want to look at the descriptions of the backdrops and have the colour of the light relate to that.
The Brightness box (AlliED) obviously holds the value for the brightness which seems to be a value out of 1 (1 being full intensity, 0.5 being half intensity etc.). A happy medium between dramatic lighting and being able to see things should be struck. A single strong light source would produce the most dramatic shadows but those shadows could result in ships being almost invisible against the blackness of space from some angles, conversely several light sources would make everything well illuminated (so you don't lose sight of anything) but the ships would look washed out and flat.
The size box (AlliED) obviously denotes the size of the backdrop with 1 being normal size, .5 halfsize, 2 doublesized, etc.
The Waypoint value sets the location of the backdrop. What XWA seems to do is use the waypoint value to draw a line between 0,0,0 and the point you set, the backdrop is then displayed an "infinite" distance away on that bearing. Just be sure not to put it at 0,0,0. Thankfully if you do forget then AlliED puts in a small non-zero value so you won't get a nasty crash.
Finally, as with all craft, you set the drop down box next to the Waypoints to the sector you wish the backdrop to be displayed in.
Thanks go to Pax for the original information on adding backdrops.
Convoy Ships :
You can use condition 53 to make one of those cool convoys with a bunch of containers in-between the cockpit and the engine. Just go to the Arrivals tab for the container you want to connect in-between a cargo hauler, and make the arrival condition this...
-100% of Flight Group ? must 53"-
The ? is the cargo haulier you want to put the container in between. To make the hauler move, just give the move order to the hauler. The containers don't need a order to move, the cargo hauler pushes them along. And any ship can be hauled. It would be neat to see a Cargo Hauler pushing around a disabled Star Destroyer in a repair facility.
To make long convoys, just make multiple containers in a flight group, and if you want a new flight group, just do the same thing (100% of Cargo Hauler must 53). They will be added according to which is first in the Flight Group list to have that Arrival order. So, basically, these ships are 53ed to a hauler...
Alpha will be near the cockpit, Beta will be in the middle, and Gamma will be near the engine.
Thanks go to Cybercheat whose post I have quoted and to Sheldon for his work as well.
Although in XvT/BoP you could use the "Jump to Order 4" to make ships attack former-friendlies in XWA this is far nicer as there is a proper defect order which changes the IFF/team to the new side. You can either use it as the name suggests for a ship to decide to switch sides or you can use it instead of having a ship "Board to Capture"ed if you want the captured ship to do more than simply leave.
This is a far simpler thing since Sheldon discovered the missing link of the condition for "if defect" as in my previous experimenting I had needed to use other conditions which could cause occasional problems.
First thing is to set up the "Defect" order which thankfully is named as such in AlliED. In the box marked "IFF?" you should place the number of the IFF (acquired by counting from 0 the IFFs in the list of them) you wish the ship to defect to. You should also set up the "jump-to" condition for the order (if you are using one).
Next you should set up the post-defection orders and set their jump-to to be "if condition 52" which Sheldon discovered to be "if defect". This order could be anything you wished (within reason).
Remember though that you are giving a starship an order which involves it shooting at things that its lasers will change colour if the IFFs it defected to and from have different colours (like Imperial and Rebel).
Hangar entry and
One thing which can be annoying is when fighters enter or exit the hangar in an incorrect fashion. There is only a finite amount of space to go in and out of the hangar so if 3 squadrons are trying to do this at the same time it does look rather strange.
Exiting the hangar is easy to adjust as you simply set a small time-delay for each flight group so they leave the hangar at intervals (I normally allow 2-4 seconds between FGs, which strikes a balance between the fighters being too spaced out and being in one big clump which looks like it should get jammed in the doorway). If the mothership has been hyperspacing then delays are crucial as if you have (say) some TIE Fighters set to arrive when their mothership arrives then the fighters will launch before the mothership has slowed down from the hyperspace jump and will be badly out of position, a 10-15 second delay has proven effective in countering this (think of it as the time it takes a starship captain to actually say "Launch fighters" and the message to reach the hangar)
Entering the hangar can be more complicated but I have found that if you give a "Escort : Mothership" order following the mission specific order then the fighters will take position near their mothership. If you then have a "Fly home" order which is jumped to when the preceding Flight Group has "come and gone" (which is triggered either when it is destroyed or when it enters the hangar) and when all the mission goals are complete then the Flight Group will wait its turn if necessary.
mission Limits :
Beyond certain limits the mission will not work.
The ships/sector limit of 96 is the most important one to keep in mind as if you try to have too many ships onscreen at the same time the XWA will simply delay arrivals until there is room for the new ships as the ones it has displayed are destroyed or leave (remember it is 96 ships at a time in each sector, not 96 ships in total in all sectors at a time or 96 ships in total in the mission).
Another important limit is the number of Flight Groups. BoP began to have trouble at around the 46FG mark but fortunately XWA has a far higher limit of just over 100. I have not had much experience with this limit, but there was one mission where I had created about 120 FGs and it corrupted, I tried again (with quick FGs) and it corrupted again ; I then tried merging FGs together and changing a few things and managed to get it down to about 102 FGs which worked fine. I may have just been unlucky though in the corruptions.
The final limit is on the number of messages per mission that will work, so over to Ace Antilles :
Hi Guys. Some info for your Editor / Web Pages. It seems that XWA only accepts a certain amount of in game messages. While Allied lets you put in up to 100 (+?) messages the problem is XWA won't accept any messages over about 65, (0 - 64). If you have over 70 it crashes. Over say 66 the text colours go all weird. I found this out while redoing Hernans Death Star mission because he had 100 messages in!! This is excessive for most people but good info anyway. I probably wouldn't recommend going over 60 messages. I'm still not sure if this is too many as I am having problems at moment.
Thanks go to Ace Antilles whose e-mail I have quoted
missions to game :
Since XWA is built around one big campaign you don't have a place to choose between campaigns (unlike BoP). There are two options, replace or add.
Since anybody playing the custom missions would have completed the included missions you could just stick them on the end and have a dummy "complete" pilot included. The campaign missions could then be played in order using the dummy, which would allow for all the storytelling.
Alternatively you could replace the list file entirely with the shipset system (which would substitute files at the beginning of the session and restore defaults at the end). One thing to note though is that it looks like you have to start numbering at 7 if you want to be flying from the concourse.