This month I’m doing some content surrounding the use of third party mission generators in combat flight sims. Both DCS and IL-2 have some very inteesting third party applications that add to the available ways that sim pilots can generate scenarios.
One of the campaign generators that has been out there for a long time now is Pat Wilson’s Campaign Generator – popularly known as PWCG. Pat is a long time community member in the IL-2 community, the Rise of Flight Community before that and a big enthusiast of the genre. It is my great pleasure to have had a chance to do a question and answer with Pat about his work, IL-2, and what you can do with PWCG.
The Q&A with Pat Wilson
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into flight simming? What was your first flight sim?
My father was an airline mechanic so aircraft have always been part of my life. I remember playing a video game in an arcade (mid 1970s) called Red Baron where planes would pop up in front of you and you would have to shoot them down. I was thinking then how great it would be to have a game that put you into a cockpit. Fast forward a decade or two and I am playing Red Baron, Red Baron 3d, Aces series, etc. I have played some jet sims but I have always loved the old planes. In the end I wanted to play a flight sim long before they even existed.
What drove the creation of your Campaign Generator? When did it get started?
It’s 2009. RoF comes out. It’s the first new attempt at WWI in decades. The graphics, watching the engine heads clack on the Albatros … but it has no campaign. So I decided to write one. I have a pretty long history in modding flight sims, having done the Western Front Patch for RB3D. 12 years later, here we are. People may not realize it, but PWCG has been under continuous development for quite a bit longer that 1C’s career mode.
What’s the biggest difference, in your eyes, between the built in Career system in IL-2 and PWCG?
I want to focus on what PWCG does as opposed to differences. TBH I don’t know enough about 1C’s career mode to comment on differences. Career mode may or may not do some of the same things.
The way that missions play out is of foremost importance. In PWCG, using virtual waypoints, enemy flights are moving without being spawned. Virtual waypoints are effectively a series of interconnected, moving spawns. The result is that enemies come to you as well as vice versa. This ups the intensity of the mission.
Beyond that there are upwards of one million randomizations in every PWCG mission. They just do not play out the same way. So much so that I don’t any better idea of what is going to happen than any other player, despite having written the software.
PWCG missions are built from the ground up and not from the air down. First weather is created. Then ground activity is created. Then AI flights are created with the weather and ground activity in mind. Finally, the player flights are created, taking into account air activity, ground activity, and weather. I think that this has a subtle impact on the feel of the mission. It’s not about you. There is a world of stuff going on.
PWCG simulates out of mission activity. Pilots and planes not in the mission have simulated activity. This makes the world feel more alive as things can happen outside of your field of view.
There are also quite a few systems in PWCG that may not be in career mode at this time. PWCG has a claims system. There is a journal and squadron log.
PWCG has a fully functioning logistics system that applies to both men and machines. Every single pilot and plane in a PWCG campaign is modeled. They are not made up at mission time. Every pilot, not just the ones in your squadron – every squadron, improves, does his job, and may be lost. If you transfer from one unit to another and back again, your old mates will still be there. Well,at least the ones that have survived. They may have different scores, medals, levels of skill, or rank. If you decimate an enemy unit they may be out of action for awhile. When they do come back it will be with more novice pilots.
In my current career I started in Me110s with I/ZG 26. I flew with them and got to know them I used the journal to track my missions with them. What they did and what I did with them. Then I transferred to a fighter unit. I was attacking a train when Me110s showed up to take out targets in the same area. I finished my mission and ran the debrief. I was horrified to learn that three pilots that I had flown with in ZG 26 were lost in that mission. I knew their names.
Planes have a production schedule. They are delivered to depots at the front and then supplied to squadrons as needed. Better planes will replace older models without you having to crash the old ones first.
PWCG supports both cooperative and competitive online careers, flown using 1C’s coop capability. Most people use it for coop to fly with their friends. You can, however, fly against each other. If you are flying coop in the same unit you will all be in the same flight. If you are in different units then a flight is generated for each unit. All players will be in a flight that is going about its business. You may or may not meet your human counterpart.
Other things are the ability to create a new pilot if your current one dies. A lot of people like this when playing a dead is dead campaign. Really you can create a new pilot at any time and switch between them at will. This is available in SP and Coop. I like to create a transport pilot and fly the occasional Ju52 mission while I give my main pilot the day off.
As for PWCG vs 1C’s career, there is no vs. Just more options. Play both and decide for yourself. Lots of people do play both and alternate between them.
For someone who has used your generator over the years but may not have recently, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve made?
Just a few days ago I added internationalization. The logistics system has been added in the past couple of years. Coop and competitive support. Free hunt ground attack missions. Iconic events – missions that emulate a well known event like Market Garden. These are playable as part of the campaign or independently as single missions. I personally like the Kerch landings. Several more targeted squadron roles like raider, train buster, etc. have been added. They were a look forward to Normandy but have been incorporated into PWCG right now. You can even create a PWCG mission and then take the role of a FLAK gun or tank instead of a plane. Those are just a few. I release new content pretty much every month.
You’ve not been hesitant to use some stand-in aircraft in some campaigns to help broaden the aircraft set. You’ve also been interested in expanding the range of the new Normandy map to include earlier battles. Is it a struggle to find the right balance between historically correct and close enough to be fun?
Not really a struggle. There are many knowledgeable people on the flight sim boards. I just ask – what are the performance differences between what we have and what was really used. If the delta is not that much I am more than willing to use a stand in.
Using the Stuka D3 in Moscow is the best example. You can catch and kill a Stuka D3 in any Russian plane. So is it more accurate to have the wrong Stuka or no Stuka at all? Given that the performance difference is not game breaking, I chose to use the D3.
There are other aspects as well, like airfield assignment. I assign airfields based on the movement of front lines in PWCG, not based on historical placement. I will get the player in the right general area, facing the units he would have faced, but not necessarily on the historically correct base. I frequently shorten the distance to the front to reduce transit time. There is still more than enough flying straight and level between the more interesting bits.
1CGS sometimes mention your campaign system as another option for people to check out. How much help have you had from the 1CGS team over the years?
Lots of help from Jason and Luke. I don’t have any contact with the development staff, but they are in Moscow and quite busy with their own work. In the end, through the mission file as input and the log files as output, 1C has a very clean interface to the game. As long as that contract remains in place I can do everything that I want to do without bothering them.
What are you most excited about for the future of the IL-2: Great Battles Series? Are there features that you’d like to see what would help PWCG?
The Normandy map offers upwards of 3 years of action on the Western Front. Four years if I do a faux BoB. Really looking forward to the expanded FC map and further FC development. Whatever comes next. So far, everything coming from 1C has been, IMHO, world class stuff. I am happy to be able to work with it and contribute.
Those are all of the questions I asked Pat about PWCG and his work on creating one of the longest running utilities that supports the IL-2 experience. I wanted to thank Pat Wilson for taking part in this latest edition of the Community Q&A. Pleasure to learn more about PWCG!
Although some may feel a little intimidated by setting up a third party application, getting started with Pat Wilson’s system isn’t that difficult. One IL-2 .CFG file edit and 64bit Java installation later and you’re up and running with PWCG.
Requiem from the Air Combat Tutorial Library has done a tutorial on how to setup PWCG so if you prefer to watch a video, he’s got a handy guide here.
Requiem has also done an updated version of that video with a focus on starting a cooperative multiplayer campaign. I’ve been flying several missions as part of his campaign series and I’ll be doing a flight journal piece on that very soon.
Want to run your own co-op campaign? Check this video out!