DCS World Mission Editor: Secondary Explosion Effects
Updated: 3 days ago
A little bit of eye candy for your strike missions
Picture this: You boot up DCS and set out for a strike mission. Your target is a large ammo depot. You weave through air defenses as you make your way to the target, masking behind terrain and dodging AAA left and right - and when you finally get there and attack, all you get is a small explosion and the target's 3D model switching to a destroyed one.
Feels a little underwhelming, right? You expected something more spectacular - a chain of explosions from the ammunition cooking off and detonating everything around that depot you just hit. Maybe you wanted to re-enact Ace Combat 5's Powder Keg where a bunch of ammo bunkers start going off in a chain reaction. Well, don't worry - today we're going to show you how to get those effects on your DCS World missions, and hopefully give you some ideas along the way.
While there are certainly more elegant ways to do this with Lua scripting, our goal is to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible, so we'll be showing you a basic method that works using only DCS Mission Editor triggers. Here are a few examples of how you can set it up:
Basic Example: Ammunition Depot
Let's start with the basics: A static object which will trigger secondary explosions once destroyed. The first step is to place an area over your target to define where the secondary explosions will take place. For this ammunition depot, I've set up two different zones - The smaller one will get fewer, larger explosions, and the larger one will get more but smaller explosions. You can set up more of these "layers" if you want - but beware of potential performance hits.
With the zones set up, we go to the Triggers window on the Mission Editor and create a new trigger. Since ammunition bunkers in DCS are pretty tough, and I want this one to detonate as soon as it is hit by a single penetrating bomb, we can set the condition for the trigger as "Unit Damaged".
For the actions, we set "Explode Unit" to ensure the bunker is destroyed after that one hit - and then comes the key behind the explosion effect we want, the "Shelling Zone" action.
This trigger action generates explosions on the ground, simulating an artillery barrage - however the rate of these explosions is fast enough that it makes for a pretty versatile effect. We create one "Shelling Zone" action for each zone we have created.
Under its options, we choose the zone we want, the number of explosions that will take place inside the zone, and the TNT equivalent of each explosion, measured in kilograms - keep in mind the maximum for this number is 500 kilograms, so unfortunately you cannot simulate the huge single explosions which usually result from ammunition depots cooking off.
Video: Basic Ammunition Depot Example
Setting Up Delayed Secondaries: Ammunition-Carrying Ship
We can take this concept a step further and make it so some of the explosions only trigger a certain time after the target is hit. For this example, I've set up a docked cargo ship with two large zones and several smaller zones spread out through its deck.
In order to help our players with target identification and really get the point across that this is the big bad ammunition-laden ship they need to destroy, we can set up a bunch of static military vehicles on its deck by selecting our ship in the "Link Unit" field. Keep in mind that this only works for static objects - unfortunately, as much as I'd like to place MANPADS and anti-aircraft guns on cargo ships as a welcoming gift to unsuspecting players, as it currently stands we cannot place active units on ship decks. (ED, please?)
In order to achieve the delay effect, we'll set up multiple triggers - in this case I chose three - each one triggering its own set of explosions. For the first one, we set the conditions as either "Unit Destroyed" or "Unit Damaged" depending on the mission creator's preference - and for its actions, in addition to "Shelling Zone", we set a "Flag On" command to set a flag of our choosing to "true" once the target is hit. You can choose an arbitrary number for your flag, as long as it does not conflict with any other flags in your mission - in this case I chose "101".
Then, for our following triggers, we set the condition to "Time Since Flag", which will trigger once a specified time (in seconds) has passed since a certain flag has been set to true. Thus, we can effectively specify a delay in relation to the activation of flag "101", and therefore in relation to our first explosion.
For this example, I've set two delayed triggers for different sets of explosions - one with a 1 second delay, and the other with a 2 second delay.
Video: Delayed Secondaries Example
Setting Up Map Objects: Airfield Ammunition Warehouse
Setting up your own targets is all well and good, but what if you want to apply this effect to map objects, such as the fuel and ammunition storage facilities present at airfields? Fortunately, the 2.7 DCS update gave us a tool to do exactly that.
After right-clicking on a valid map object, such as a building, an "Assign As..." window will pop up. Clicking this window will automatically generate a zone linked to the map object's ID, which allows it to be used to track the object's status.
In the Triggers window, we will now set up a trigger with the condition "Map Object is Dead". Under the options for this condition, select the zone which has been assigned to the map object in the previous step. This will trigger this event as soon as that map object is destroyed.
In order to give this a little bit of extra kick, we can set an "Explosion" action in addition to the "Shelling Zone" action. This will generate a single explosion exactly at the center of the selected zone, at an altitude set by the mission creator. It isn't as visually impressive, but it helps by being one extra layer in our effects cake.
Just like with the hardened ammunition depot, I've set two circular zones around the target, each one linked to a "Shelling Zone" action - fewer but larger explosions on the inner circle, more numerous but smaller explosions on the outer circle.
Video: Map Object Secondaries Example
Getting the visual effect you want with this method often requires quite a bit of tweaking and playing around with the values of "TNT Equivalent" and "Shells Count". If it's looking too mushy, reducing the size of explosions and increasing their number can help. However, when adjusting these values, keep in mind that the higher the number of explosions, the higher the impact on frame rate - if you have too many explosions going off, even if they're small ones, your players will definitely feel the performance hit.
Now that you know what you can do with a few simple triggers on the Mission Editor, the possibilities are endless! Using this method alongside other mission features, it is possible to think up a variety of mission scenarios - For instance, in a mission involving rescuing civilians from an industrial zone under insurgent attack, you could force players to be careful about potential collateral damage by making the destruction of structures such as fuel tanks and warehouses trigger a devastating chain of secondary explosions.
When I make missions to play with friends, I like giving my players reason and reward for going after certain static targets. They know they'll get to look at cool explosions, so that's already an incentive - but I also like making their destruction have tangible effects on the mission. For example, maybe destroying an ammunition depot reduces the amount of artillery enemy units can throw at friendly forces, and destroying fuel storage tanks could reduce enemy aircraft spawn rates.
I hope this article has given you some ideas to give your missions that little extra bit of flavor - and good laughs when your friends realize that ammo bunker they just dropped a JDAM on... That one was special.
About the Writer
Caio D. "Hueman" Barreto
An incurable aviation fanatic since childhood, fascinated by the design and history of practically anything that flies. A long-time fan of flight games, he currently studies aeronautical engineering and pursues his hobbies of drawing, writing and flight simulation on his spare time. See Staff Profile.