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Fred Wersan

Fred Wersan

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When VR-Forces added ‘scenario events’ back in release 4.3, the intent was to support a Master Scenario Events List (MSEL). In operations-based or discussion-based exercises, a MSEL provides a timeline and location for expected exercise events and injects -- actions that push the scenario forward.

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One of the features of VR-Forces Lua scripting that makes it so easy to create useful tasks and sets is automatic generation of dialog boxes. This feature makes it so easy to create dialog boxes that our developers often use it to create the dialog boxes for new C++ tasks, instead of using the Qt API. (VT MAK uses Qt, a cross-platform API to create the graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for its products.) Unfortunately, other than providing some support for indenting, the automatically generated dialog boxes are very generic in their layout. Prior to VR-Forces 4.6, if you wanted a dialog box that supported the user with a UI design that was more than utilitarian, you were out of luck. However, in VR-Forces 4.6 we added the ability to use Qt Designer to create custom dialog boxes for Lua scripted tasks and sets. 

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The MAK RTI has many configuration parameters that control how it connects federates to federations and how it implements the various RTI services. You can use these parameters to tune the performance of your federates and federations. In MAK RTI 4.4.2 and previous releases, these parameters were set in the following ways:

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Many factors affect the visual quality and performance of terrain databases and terrain developers must be able to assess the effect of their decisions when building terrains. VR-Vantage and VR-Forces have some built-in debugging tools that can help you with your terrain development process. This tech tip is a brief survey of some of these tools.

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The Windows versions of MAK products are built using the Microsoft Visual C++ (MSVC++) compiler. Because application and library compatibility is usually broken between different versions of the compiler, applications that interoperate must be built using compatible compilers. To help customers choose the correct version of an application to install, each MAK application installer includes the compiler version it was built with in the installer filename. Additionally, the About box for each application includes the compiler used to build it.

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When you are creating a scenario in VR-Forces, you usually have complete access to all of the simulation objects in a simulation model set (SMS) and can create as many as you want. However, in the real world, commanders do not have unlimited resources. They are constrained by their Order of Battle (OOB), which specifies the men and material available in a hierarchical structure. VR-Forces now supports the creation of OOBs. You create an Order of Battle in the context of a scenario. However, once you create an OOB, you can export it and then import it into other scenarios. This lets you quickly create new scenarios that use the same OOB for training or scenario development.

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Many of the web sites that most of us read regularly are not composed of static pages. They pull content from a variety of sources to customize the pages for the reader. You might see the same news article show up on the sites for multiple different news outlets. This is called content reuse. The goal is to get maximum use out of each content component. Similarly, VR-Forces supports many strategies for reusing scenario components. Using the same terrains for many different scenarios is an obvious case, but for this tech tip we will focus on ways to reuse scenario content – simulation objects and tactical graphics.

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Simulation objects in VR-Forces have many state properties, such as speed, heading, altitude, force, and so on. You can set many of these properties using set data requests. In past releases, if you wanted to add a new type of state property, you had to use the VR-Forces Toolkit to write a plug-in or update the application. VR-Forces 4.6 lets you add new state properties without writing code. 

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During the time between VR-Forces releases, as we work with development versions that have all the new features, we get used to the usability improvements that we’ve added. When we have to go back and use a prior release, the usual reaction to the old version of whatever function has been updated is, “Darn, the old way of doing things is so annoying (by comparison)!”

One of the new usability features in VR-Forces 4.6 is a revision to filtering the object creation palettes. In VR-Forces 4.5 and prior releases, you could filter the object list by selecting the force and category in drop-down lists. Lists are OK if there aren’t too many options, but if you have to scroll, they can be annoying. And even short lists take longer to use than icon bars. In VR-Forces 4.6 we have replaced the drop-down lists with quickly accessible icons.

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Over the past few months, MÄK staff have been transitioning from Windows 7 to Windows 10. We discovered that the Windows 10 "All apps" menu does not support the folder structure that we have been using to organize startup shortcuts for our applications, documentation, and tools. Everything gets dumped into a flat list under All apps > MAK Technologies. This makes finding the application you want to run tedious at best and confusing at worst, particularly if you have multiple versions of an application installed.

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VR-Forces 4.1 introduces significant changes to the Move to Waypoint and Move to Location tasks.

Ever since VR-Forces 3.8 (back in 2005), Move to Waypoint and Move to Location tasks have offered the options to move directly to the destination or to plan a path. When path planning was enabled, if the entity identified a vector road network between the start point and destination, it tried to use the road network for the appropriate segment of the movement task. In VR-Forces 4.0, we introduced Road Following, an improved algorithm for moving along roads. Unfortunately, vehicles often had problems making the transition from off-road movement to moving on roads, which resulted in poor vehicle behavior.

To solve this problem, in VR-Forces 4.1, we have separated the direct movement and road following tasks. The result is better overall vehicle movement at the cost of slightly less realistic transitions from off-road movement to road following. We now have three flavors of the Move to Waypoint and Move to Location tasks:

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You’ve been hearing a lot lately about the Pattern of Life support in B-HAVE 2.0.4 for VR-Forces 4.0.4.  We’ve told you that you can automatically create realistic background traffic in your scenarios without laborious planning and route development. But what does it really mean? In this blog and its successor, I’ll drill down a bit into how POL works.

First of all, it isn’t really the Pattern of Life, it’s the Patterns of Life. When you use the POL feature, entities get created automatically at locations of your choice called spawn points (and we say that newly created entities are being spawned). The frequency and timing of their creation is controlled by templates. We provide templates for civilians and civilian vehicles. However, you can create as many templates as you want for creating any supported entity. You can also create multiple templates for any particular entity type that vary in the pattern of creation that they use. So, you really have multiple patterns at your fingertips. (continued...)

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It is somewhat axiomatic in the documentation biz that“no one reads the doc&rdquo, unless you make a mistake -“ then everyone reads that section. In the Entity Editor documentation for VR-Forces 3.12, we described a feature that wasn’t actually in the product:“ the ability to edit 3D models in the editor. Since then, every now and then someone asks how to find that feature and we’ve had to admit the error. No more! In VR-Forces 4.0.4, you can edit an entity’s 3D model, XR model, and 2D icon in the Entity Editor.

The Entity Editor lets you quickly and easily change the 3D model used to represent an entity. When you change a model in the Entity Editor, the entity’s model definition also gets changed. (In other words, it is fully integrated with the settings in the Visual Model Editor.) 

The window that shows an entity’s model is live, so you can manipulate the view of the model using the same keys that you would use to move the observer in the VR-Forces Stealth or XR observer modes.

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In VR-Vantage 1.5, we will be making some small changes to the Track History feature. Track Histories are currently limited in how long they can get. This is for performance reasons because, as you can imagine, creating infinitely long track histories will cause the application to run out of memory.

In 1.5, we will allow the users to specify the length of each track history segment and also the total number of segments allowed per track history. This lets you have longer track histories if you have fewer entities, for example. 

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We are working on our demos for I/ITSEC and the Traffic Generation feature in B-HAVE 2.0 for VR-Forces 4.0.1 is proving to be a big help. Jim Kogler has blogged about this feature in his Pattern of Life blog, but to recap, when you add spawn points and sink points to a scenario, VR-Forces automatically creates entities (civilian lifeforms or civilian vehicles) at a set interval at the spawn point. They then move towards a randomly chosen sink point. When they get to the sink point they are deleted. This provides a steady stream of entity traffic that moves purposefully without the need to create plans, assign tasks, create routes, and so on. So I thought I would share some of my experiences with them.

My scenario has 18 spawn points and 18 sink points in a relatively small area. After one minute of simulation, more than 200 entities get created. After four minutes more than 400 are created. So when you plan your scenario, consider how many entities you want (including any entities that have specific plans as the main point of the scenario) and plan the number of spawn points accordingly; otherwise, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, you may find yourself dealing with a flood of entities.

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Okay, so B-HAVE 2.0 is done and most people might think the coolest bit about this release is that path data will generate 60 times faster. Yes, my spelling is often poor, but my numbers are perfect: I said 60 times faster"¦ Yikes SIXTY? Yep.

But let’s not talk about that, the really cool bit is the funky colors:

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One of the new features in VR-Forces 4.0.1 is support for launching counter measures (chaff and flare) from fixed-wing and rotary-wing entities.

Counter measures are enabled by default, so you don’t have to do anything to take advantage of them. If you run the embark demo scenario that comes with VR-Forces, you will see them being launched by the opposing force helicopters that are attacking the airport.

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When VR-Forces starts up, it needs to connect to a DIS or HLA exercise. To do that, you need to specify at least a minimum set of configuration parameters. The VR-Forces Launcher provides a graphical user interface for specifying these parameters. It is ideal if you want to run in combined mode (one front-end and one back-end that start together) or in independent mode (front-ends and  back-end are started separately) with just one front-end and back-end.

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The default behavior of the VR-Forces startup process is designed to get you up and running quickly. However you can customize the process to meet your workflow, as follows:

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