Dev Blog 153: Emergencies!

July 5, 2020

Good afternoon airport CEO! We hope you’ve had a good weekend, since we last wrote another two very productive weeks have passed and the work on Alpha 36 is finally nearing completion. We’d also like to take this opportunity to wish all of the new CEOs, who’ve just recently started their career as a result of the current ongoing Steam summer sale, a very warm welcome and perhaps a welcome to your first ever dev blog session. It’s time for the 153rd dev blog in order and the last edition on the development of Alpha 36. Today we’ll take a deep dive into what most of you’ve been waiting for, emergencies, and it’s going to be a long one so with no time to spare, lets’ just take off...

Emergencies!

A basic gameplay element that should go into the contents of a any great tycoon game is the element of risk. Up until the point of Alpha 36 and the emergency update, Airport CEO has never really had any explicit risk other than the challenges of operating a successful airport and the financial risks in regard to expansion... and of course the occasional bug. Implementing risk, or emergencies as they will henceforth be known, has always been a part of the main development roadmap but also contingent on all core systems being implemented and thoroughly tested. That time has now come and as a major part of the last content update before Airport CEO transitions into beta, Alpha 36 will finally introduce emergencies.

Alpha 36 and the emergency update introduces multiple different types of emergencies across three types of emergency states: Active, passive and occurred. An active emergency is an emergency that is tied to a spawned agent such as an aircraft, a buildable object or a passenger. This is a type of emergency that in most cases start some form of event chain and requires actions from airport employees and or service vehicles, or the CEO themselves. These emergencies can in some cases arrive in the form of a prompt, allowing the CEO to decide if the airport has the capacity to take on this emergency or not. A passive emergency is an emergency that is tied to some larger aspect of the airport’s operating environment, such as the economy or the weather. Passive emergencies rarely have an immediately actionable event chain but instead persist with some specific effect which impacts your airport as a whole over a certain amount of time. Lastly, an occurred incident is an incident that has already occurred and was caused by your airport’s existing operations but ultimately discovered outside of its operating realm, i.e. after an aircraft’s departure.

Running an airport is a great pleasure but comes with a great responsibility and the government expects you to be able to correctly handle any emergency situation that is put on your desk. Active emergencies are either correctly handled, failed or refused. Correctly handing an active emergency will boost your airport’s security rating, relations and allow you to earn a little extra cash but more importantly it will avoid your airport suffering the consequences of mishandling an emergency or, even worse, refusing to handle it at all, which results in heavy fines and notable docks in your security rating. Passive emergencies however, which do not have any active countermeasures, must instead be persisted and the success of your persistence will rely on a multitude of different aspects depending on the nature of the effect of the passive emergency. Occurred incidents are best managed by ensuring that their causes are eliminated, so that they simply do not occur!

We will now go through each type of emergency state by looking at a specific example of how a given emergency can play out at your airport.

Occurred emergencies

You’re already somewhat familiar with this type of emergency, as its state name entails that it’s the kind of emergency that’s already occurred once you’re alerted of it. Is your conveyor belt system incorrectly set up causing dangerous baggage to be onloaded to departing aircraft? Are departing aircraft not able to de-ice properly? Do you have underperforming security officers at your checkpoints letting unruly passengers through? Upon the aircraft having left your airport and landed at its destination, its departure state is evaluated and if any inconsistencies are found, an occurred emergency is generated. This will result an in immediate fine, security rating dock and follow-up e-mail from the government. You’re already familiar with this system so we will not go into further detail here other than mentioning that the core principles remain the same but have, from a code perspective, been integrated into the new emergency incident system running in Alpha 36.

Passive emergencies

Passive emergencies are emergencies that greatly impact the operating environment of your airport but do not have any immediate or expressed countermeasures, its instead something that you will have to persist through. The oil crisis emergency is a good example of a typical passive emergency which on a yearly basis, if you’re unlucky, could affect your airport.

Time to open up the wallet...

“A breakdown in negotiations between the world's largest oil producers have caused a spike in aviation fuel pricing. We can expect significantly higher aviation fuel purchasing costs from our aviation fuel supplier until negotiations resume.”

This emergency will, as described above, greatly increase the costs of purchasing aviation fuel from your aviation fuel supplier over a period of anything from two to five days. Since this is a passive emergency with a global effect there are no immediate countermeasures to resolve this emergency as you will simply have to wait for the negotiations to resume, there are however other ways you can ensure that your airport is resilient throughout such a crisis. One alternative is to ensure that you have a large financial war coffin and simply ride out the emergency by taking the financial hit. Another solution could be to greatly raise the aviation fuel selling fees toward your customer airlines, however that might of course result in notable worsened relationships. Another alternative would be to build an array of fuel depots and attachable fuel tanks and stockpile aviation fuel while the prices are low and thus invest in the ability to maintain a good relationship with your customer airlines thorough the crisis.

There are multiple ways to deal with this type of emergency, perhaps some that are even not outlined here, and the same probably goes for the other passive emergencies implemented in Alpha 36 such as staff strikes, railway signal failures, volcano eruptions, severe weather, pandemics and global economy crashes. These are emergencies that affect one or two specific simulation variables which in turn greatly impact the fundamentals of the game. They are all strictly dynamically implemented, meaning that there might be a multitude of different ways that a passive emergency can be persisted through.

Active emergencies

The active emergency is an emergency type that sets of a chain of events and that has some form of countermeasure in order to be dealt with. There are a few different types of such emergencies, but the most dominating category is of course aircraft emergency landings. In the emergency update we’ve implemented seven different types of aircraft arrival emergencies: Engine failure, equipment failure, weather warning, fuel warning, in-flight medical, in-fight security and air ambulance landings. We’ve also implemented three aircraft departure emergencies: Equipment failure discovered on the stand during the turnaround process (also known as aircraft not airworthy) plus bird strikes and wheel punctures during takeoff.

An emergency landing can happen at random and is presented to the CEO in the form of a prompt notification. A CEO can thus take a stance on whether or not their airport has the capacity to accept this emergency landing. However, refusing the emergency landing or accepting it without making sure that there’s an available stand could have dire consequences. An aircraft departure emergency, such as a bird strike or a wheel puncture, will also result in a prompt as the aircraft immediately needs to be rerouted and land while a discovered aircraft equipment issue on the stand will merely result in the cancellation of that flight’s departure. Yes, Airport CEO now has birds flying around and bird strikes are prevented by building BSPS (bird strike prevention system) sonar cannons near the runway’s landing and take-off zones while wheel punctures are avoided by ensuring that the runway is kept in a good condition. There are a few other additional active emergencies such as power surges, plumbing failures and passenger incidents but we’ll leave those for you to have the unfortune of discovering on your own.

Some say birds are not real.

Wait a minute... oh no! Looks like our tower at Lund International is getting hailed by Stripe Air Regional flight SA578 requesting an emergency landing due to a critical engine failure. Wait... it seems as if the engine is on fire! We'll have to pause the dev blog and attend to this situation immediately!

Mayday, mayday!

We have recognized SA578's emergency landing request and must now find a suitable slot for it. Since the flight is a commercial flight, we must take manual action and allocate it to an available stand as quickly as possible (within 30 minutes of accepting) otherwise this situation may turn really ugly. If the flight belonged to a general aviation aircraft it would instead land on its own, granted there being an available stand for it.

All empty! What a coincidence!

Flight SA578 has been given clearance to land and the nature of the emergency requires that a fire truck is deployed immediately!

Fire trucks include blasting horns.

The emergency response station houses two types of emergency service vehicles: Ambulances and fire trucks. The station works similarly to other parking objects such as vehicle depots and service vehicle parking lots but are exclusive to these two types of emergency vehicles. Thankfully we’ve built this station fairly close to the runway which means that it should not take long for the fire truck to make its way over to the emergency scene.

If this was an in-flight medical or security emergency, an ambulance or an airport police car would instead meet the aircraft at the stand and be ready to deal with the situation.

With parking spots for up to eight airport police cars.

Here we go! Let’s hope the pilot keeps their cool...

"Tungan rätt i mun..."

The landing seems to have gone OK. And here comes the water...

Keeping a safe distance.

The fire truck has managed to extinguish the engine fire and the aircraft can now make its way over to the stand. Emergency flights have heavily adjusted turnaround procedures, depending on the specific nature of their emergency, and do not require the full array of turnaround services otherwise offered at most airports. Instead they will need to disembark the unfortunate arriving passengers and their baggage before being pushed back for taxiing to a nearby hangar.

The smoking engine suggest that the aircraft is not airworthy.

Aircraft hangars are structures where aircraft are repaired. Just like with aircraft, stands and de-icing pads they come in three different sizes: Small, medium and large. It can take several days to repair an aircraft depending on how severely damaged it’s been during the emergency landing and if you completely fail to extinguish an aircraft fire it will be totaled and instead require dismantling. Totaled aircraft will not pay any fees for services it consumes, and its dismantling costs will be carried by the airport.

Clicking on a hangar reveals its content. Hangars share much of the same controls as stands and, as of Alpha 36, de-icing pads.

Thankfully, flight SA578 could easily swap out its engine and after a quick hangar pushback SA578 will now be able to depart the airport and return to service. Since this is an unexpected emergency flight it does not have any departing passengers from our airport, Lund International, and thus immediately takes off once it’s been repaired completing and resolving the active emergency.

Fly safe!

The engine failure emergency landing has been exceptionally well handled and it seems as if the government is satisfied as well. Once an active emergency has been resolved, the airport’s handling of it is evaluated and you are provided with a grade. Since airports are crucial infrastructure hubs the government expects you to complete all emergencies with a 100% score (grade A), however partial completions will result in much more manageable fines.

Please keep in mind that the information on emergencies we’ve detailed above should be considered as somewhat experimental but more importantly not final. The implementation of the emergencies is a combination of realistic simulation and tycoon gameplay as we want them to be visually differentiating, fun and challenging to deal with but not too granularly simulated and thus adding even more complexity to the game. Airport CEO is a very dynamic tycoon game that has a lot of aspects to consider when implementing functionality that intentionally disrupt many core parts of the simulation and will therefor require a lot of testing. There are also no “positive” emergencies detailed in this dev blog, something we know a few of you have requested, and something that we’re still evaluating and will be doing so until the base emergencies are thoroughly tested and deemed to fully make sense.

Alpha 36 will start internal testing this coming week and we hope to bring it to the experimental branch as soon as possible!

The development ahead

With Alpha 36 nearing completion we will soon be moving into a different state of development: Beta. As you may or may not know, Airport CEO has been in early access for nearly two years and have throughout that time seen multiple content updates by large Alpha deployments. With this final Alpha deployment, Alpha 36 and the emergency update, the base game is now considered to be feature complete meaning that it’s time to ready it for a full release. But before that happens, we’ll over the summer and into autumn run an extensive beta period with multiple minor, much quicker, releases where we polish and improve every aspect of the game from general bug fixing to performance improvements, UI polish and much more. The entire point of speeding up the development of the remaining Alpha versions has been to be able to do a proper, through and through, QA pass of the code base and the game’s design which we now, with all of its features implemented, finally can do. Exactly how that will happen and what the plans are going forward will be detailed in the next dev blog.

In other news

... the production pace in the aircraft factory is cranked to max and foreman Steve has assembled another aircraft, taking off together with the emergency update: The McDonnell Douglas MD-80! What a blast from the past.

Even more beautiful in metallic. Trust us.

That’s it for this week. Another one in the bag and if you read it all the way through: Congratulations and thank you. We’re looking forward to start serving you with updates again soon. Until then, fly safe!

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