Welcome back to another platform updates blog post where we aim to provide you pilots with the latest features and goings-on within the FsHub team!
As usual we’ve been pretty busy and been working on many features across the FsHub, LRM and even the Aeroconomy platforms and am excited to share the latest new with you today – this should have gone out a couple of weeks ago but other things have been getting in the way/we’ve been busy working on various bits and peices so thank you for your patience!
Let’s jump right in…
Our new Assignments (Mission) Generator feature
If you’ve been keeping up with our announcements on our Discord server you’ll see that earlier this month we released a new Assignments feature whereby virtual airlines (of any kind) can now configure different types of randomly-generated assignments (or “missions”) which Fshub, based on the settings entered by the VA can randomly generate assignments and missions for your pilots to fly.
This particular feature has been designed and I guess you could say that this is my “solution” to cater for other types of airlines/flying groups such as Heli-med, Chater, Cargo, Military, Bush flights, and Aerial Firefighting etc. etc.
Whilst the new (optional) Assignment Manager module is happy to generate flights to and from established airports that exist within the simulator (and we have a ton of options for randomly generating these kinds of assignments) this system, based on what it was actually primarily designed for, really shines when generating assignments to non-airport specific locations such as GPS locations (such as in the bush, oil rigs, ships, hospital helipad and road-side locations) and opens up a whole load of fantastic possibilities for STOL, float planes, Military and Helicopter flights.
Here are just a few example use cases and ideas that I had in mind when developing this feature which I hope might serve as a creativity booster if and when you and your airline staff create assignments (obviously these will depend on the type of airline you are running):
- Heli-med operations (you could either use completely randomly selected GPS locations or set a list of specific GPS locations within the area that you operate to give your pilots a more realistic experience) such as at skiing resorts (sport-related incidents) or major roads (vehicle collisions), and built-up cities (cardiac arrests etc.).
- “Poacher Patrols” and Veterinary Missions – Using STOL aircraft potentially in Africa or the Australian outback to patrol or tend to animals in the wild!
- Cargo missions in remote areas – Flying in the Amazon, using STOL aircraft, requiring expert piloting skills and landings/departures to, from or both heavily obstructed and vegetated areas.
- Military reconnaissance flights (flights can land and depart from a specific airport but you could impose a minimum flight distance and specific aircraft types) or delivering soldiers and/or supplies to soldiers at make-shift, war-torn landing zones.
- Aerial fire-fighting operations (land on water to “collect” fire retardant) from specific GPS locations that are at lakes, riverways or in the sea.
- Visit obscure locations – You could set up assignment templates for “helicopter charters” to custom scenery locations such as visiting Sealand (a sovereign Principality built on a WWII military fortress in the north sea!)
- Charter flights – You could use your existing airline’s hub airports and then configure the assignment templates to generate random flights to or from airports within a set radius of your operating area (hubs)
- Scientific/Expedition charters – Using specific GPS locations you could configure a list of places where scientists may need to be taken such as glaciers, the Artic Circle and other remote areas.
- Re-creation of charter flights to remote islands (that don’t have actual airports) such as the luxurious Fyre Festival where VIPs paid thousands to attend a remote party island.
- Police/SWAT – Busting drug cartels and other criminals in parts of South America (think “NARCOS” – I loved that Netflix series ;)).
- Helicopter Transfers – To transfer staff to custom scenery locations such as oil rigs, wind farms or static ships.
Whilst the above are just some examples, you can combine the power and available options that our assignment system provides to literally cater for any kind of assignment or “mission”.
In addition to the above, this system can also be combined with our existing Routes and Duty Schedules features (for conventional, commercial airlines), you could, for example, choose to set the value of the rewards on your Company Routes to zero (0) and then use the assignment generator to generate flights to and from “Any company route” and by setting the value of a reward on the assignment template specifically would entice pilots to fly the company routes using the generated assignments only (as the rewards would only be available and “paid out” when flying them as an assignment) or, equally, pay a “bonus” for flying the assignment (such as an “overtime” achievement).
The official FsHub demo airline (Alaska VA) is using this system to automatically generate tasks based on our routes, hubs and spoke airports such as pilot stand-in (sickness cover), maintenance flights and VIP transfers. I’ve personally really been enjoying using this as a way of finding “jobs” and flying other routes that I wouldn’t otherwise normally fly and as an added benefit, we’ve configured our assignments to pay the pilot a “bonus” (as overtime) on top of the existing Route based rewards.
Conventional airlines, whilst they primarily fly route-based flights (and probably have their routes and hubs set up in FsHub already) could use this feature to generate other assignments such as maintenance, lost baggage, repatriation flights and/or “fictional” pilot cover (for example, if a pilot calls in sick) – so don’t think this is just for bush, helicopter or military flying!
More details on how this system works from a pilot perspective can be found on this wiki page (full instructions) and, for virtual airline owners/managers, full documentation can be found on this page – this particular page provides a ton of use cases, examples and tips for generating awesome assignments so definitely give it a read if you’re interested in using this optional module.
To date (two weeks since it was released), we already have over 15 airlines now using this feature and between the airlines, have amassed well over 1,000 assignments/missions flown!
I would also like to give an honourable mention to SixKnots and IronBird from FireFly Air of whom were helping me test, providing bug reports and re-testing at the initial release a couple of weeks ago – I really appreciate the hard work you guys did and you certainly saved me a ton of time so thank you, guys!
In addition to the work that I have been doing on the new Assignments system, there has also been a number of other fixes and improvements to FsHub and the LRM client these include:
- We released LRM version 5.6.1 – Which includes fixes for a bug that we found in the Aircraft Manager feature where under some s – If you’re still on the older LRM 5.5.9 release, you can download and upgrade to the new version from the main LRM website.
- Based on pilot feedback, we updated the Pilot achievement overview details for aircraft-specific assignments – we added a new Wiki page and linked to it from the pilot assignment overview which details the specific aircraft types that are “valid” and will count towards the achievement requirement.
- We fixed a bug with the aircraft restrictions feature (due to a duplicate aircraft type).
- Improvements to the gallery pages (image loading and error handling).
- The daily challenge now shows a “count down” as to how many hours, minutes and seconds there are until the next set of challenges is generated (should help pilots understand how much time they have regardless of whichever timezone they are in).
- …probably a ton of other bits too and I’ve since forgotten 😉 – It’s been a super busy few months!
Progress on the new LRM client (SimConnect version)
The latest LRM client has had further updates added to it this past month too with the view for me to further expand the possibilities and in-sim experience of the new VA assignments/mission system, this now enables the pilot to “action” certain other (virtual) mission-type objectives such as “lowering a stretcher” (where the LRM client is now able to “track” a period that the aircraft may have to hover for a set time within a range of a new “objective” coordinate (eg. SAR/Helemed), fly a straight and level path for X nautical miles within range of X (for ariel firefighting, military surveillance or bombing missions) and even “load/unload” cargo/passengers/casualties at a certain airport or coordinates – The new LRM client now tracks these optional objectives and provides the user with real-time feedback either through a new AeroPad app or using the new LRM client interface (using the AeroPad is much cooler though and can be used on a separate remote iPad/tablet device too).
Given that Microsoft announced their new MSFS2024 release a couple of days ago, I’m now keen to understand what SDK changes the Asobo team plan to make to ensure that the client will also work with the latest version of the simulator – I’m hoping that more information will be shared ASAP so that I can better plan features and potentially have to an extra layer of abstraction to ensure that this also functions on day one of the release.
I’m also eagerly awaiting any information regarding if the SDK will enable me to track some of the “mission” tasks within the new simulator and hopefully be able to integrate that seamlessly with the new Assignment system that I released earlier this month as if this will be possible, this would be absolutely awesome…. if not however, I know I’ll be able to implement workarounds within FSHub and the new “actions” feature in the latest LRM client – so whilst I wanted you to know that this is on my radar (tighter integration with the new features) for now though, we’ll just have to watch this space 😉
Progress on the LRM XBOX plugin
As I’ve mentioned already in our Discord Server, I’m now very close to my goal of “saving up” for an Xbox (planning on purchasing it at the end of the month – 2 weeks’ time!) and at which point, I will be looking to start the integration of the already developed WASM module and testing it. – Really hoping I don’t have to buy a second copy of MSFS now 😉
One potential obstacle I may face however, nearing the completion and has only recently dawned on me is the potential need for FsHub (me personally I guess) to form a company/organisation – As many XBOX users know, the only way to get plugins into MSFS (for general use) is to purchase them through the app store – it is my understanding that I’ll therefore need to go through the process of forming a company (I don’t believe that Microsoft will accept submissions from non-organisations) and then going through the process of applying to Microsoft to become a content provider.
There are two potential “issues” that I see:-
- I will have to form a company (FsHub has always been a “hobby” project of mine – I hold down a regular day job too) and with that, decide how to best take on the extra stress and hassle of running one, the associated tax returns and essentially running a company that doesn’t really make a profit (which obviously isn’t all that easy to explain to “the taxman”) as I wouldn’t expect or could rely on XBOX users to pay a premium fee for the addon. Microsoft however will still want their minimum amount per “purchase” and as such, I would only expect that the cost of the addon for XBOX would be “free” from FsHub but MSFS would still charge their “minimum fee” (which I believe is about $5).
- XBOX users would have to be prepared to pay/buy the plugin as per the above – basically, the same issue that PMDG have for making their livery packs available on the store.
If you’re an XBOX user I’d really love to know if you would be massively opposed to this and would I be wasting my time? My hands unfortunately are tied here!
Rest assured however that I will take a day out this week to investigate the full requirements from an MS Store and company formation perspective so I have a solid understanding and know what I need to do to make this possible and as cheap as possible for those XBOX users.
New flight achievements
Between JimG, Clorix and myself (ballen), we have been rolling out more flight achievements to keep you all entertained with things to do, the new achievements that have gone live in the last couple of months include:
- Blown away at Princess Juliana
- Bush Flying in the PNG (released as part of the latest MSFS world update)
- Micronesia Island Tour (released as part of the latest MSFS world update)
- Cook Islands to French Polynesia (released as part of the latest MSFS world update)
- Oceania Bespoke Airport Tour (released as part of the latest MSFS world update)
- Cannonball Run
- Gumball 3000
- Goldrush Rally 2023
- British Channel Islands Tour
- Cross Canada
We also have a few more that we are currently working on and will be rolled out as soon as they’re ready and/or we have noticed that pilots have started completing the latest ones and then probably itching for some new ones 😉 – the other ones that you can expect in the new few weeks include:
- A South American bush achievement
- An African bush achievement
- …we also have a couple of others that I’ll keep as a nice surprise for now though but thought I’d mention the above ones as I know those areas are currently under-represented so wanted you to know that we are rectifying this.
For those of you that have always wanted to fly a “round the world trip” but maybe didn’t know how to go about setting up a flight plan, we are also working to put together a special type of achievement where FsHub pilots will be able to “fly around the world” broken down into a series of seven (each continent) multi-leg achievements, having achieved all of those (and the connecting flights), you’ll be awarded the “Around the world” achievement – This is a pretty extensive achievement and as such, will take us some time to complete and release so expect it later this year (likely in the fall).
Given the implementation of our new VA’s Assignment Generator, this also opens up the opportunity for a few more Pilot achievements badges too, these are planned to be released in the new few days and will centre around the number of VA assignments/missions that a pilot has flown (and before anyone asks if previous assignments flown will count, they certainly will).
Behind the scenes I have been working on more of the Aeroconomy codebase and, at this point, I now have a fully working dynamic (real-time) economy processor (calculator, I guess you could call it) which, uses the real-time data from FsHub (based on the flights, destinations and aircraft flown) to dynamically calculate country-specific fuel prices, business rates, maintenance fees, cargo quantities, PAX numbers, charter opportunities and and landing fees – All of these metrics (based on the FsHub “world” economy) will affect your airline operations and profit/loss – this system essentially uses the REAL supply and demand that FsHub “sees” from the actual pilots, aircraft, activity and countries that pilots are actively flying in.
Whilst at the moment, this probably doesn’t sound all that beneficial to your game-play experience, after all, there isn’t an “interface” to Aeroconomy just yet but this is essentially the “core” feature and a massive part of Aeroconomy that needed to be handled and now means that whilst I continue to work on the other bits and pieces mentioned in this blog post above I can continue to monitor the economic states/prices and apply tweaks as required (this system is now actively running within our platform – silently processing the live data and crunching the numbers).
I guess, to the average FsHub user, this may not sound that interesting but rest assured this is actually HUGE – I won’t go into much detail at this point as there are so many things to talk about and explain why this is a game changer in comparison to other types of economy systems out there at the moment but I was keen to share this with you as I personally, think this is very cool!
As a reminder – This is an optional (opt-in) feature for airlines and so airlines don’t have to use this system to “compete” against other airlines on FsHub if they don’t want to. So no need to panic/worry if you’re happy with the way that airlines currently work within FsHub as you can continue to use airlines in a non-opinionated way (like FsHub already does by default)!
What are we missing or what would you like to see in future?
Whilst I’ve been really busy recently with developing/implementing LOTS of things in parallel – to ensure that everything “works together” when the new LRM client is released (FsHub, the new assignments system and features that are in the works for Aeroconomy), I’d really love to hear your feature requests as it is super important now that I’m getting much closer to a release of the new LRM client – if any new feature requests require some LRM-specific changes/feature added to the new LRM client, I would much prefer to add them now as opposed to crow-baring them in at a later date.
If you do have a feature request or would like to “bounce” an idea off us/see if something is possible, please raise a feature request, please be specific as possible regarding what you want to see added, why/the purpose and how you might envisage it working – I’ll be reviewing all new feature requests at the end of the month and unless anything major comes up, will work to finalise the new LRM client by the end of August and get it into the hands of the beta testers.