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World of Warplanes Interview

Jim Zabek & Alexandr Zezulin, 8 August 2012

GrogHeads’ Editor-in-Chief Jim Zabek recently had an opportunity to interview Alexandr Zezulin, Project Manager for World of Warplanes, the upcoming aerial sequel to the global smash-hit, World of Tanks.

alexJim Zabek (JZ): If memory serves me correctly initially there were plans to add airplanes into World of Tanks. When did you decide that World of Warplanes should be its own game, and why?

Alexandr Zezulin (AZ): You're right, warplanes were initially planned as a third-party AI-controlled support element that could be called for once per battle and would deliver massive damage to a certain square on a battlefield. This would be an effective move for team leaders, and its effectiveness would depend on scouting, with revealing enemy positions becoming a crucial factor.

But this just wasn't enough for warplanes. They were not supposed to be a support element for ground forces; they had their own tussle for air domination, which to my mind was far more important than ground control. This is why World of Warplanes concept was prepared shortly after Tanks went to their closed beta. The idea was to provide players with pure air combat essence, that's why there won't be any takeoffs and minutes spent to get to your objective.

JZ: I have a number of friends who won’t leave the ground without their TrackIR and HOTAS. What types of hardware will World of Warplanes support?

AZ: At its current stage World of Warplanes Closed Beta offers to choose from four control schemes: joysticks, keyboard, keyboard + mouse, and gamepads. TrackIR and several other hardcore controllers will be supported down the road, but they aren’t our major focus. We are now busy polishing two types of mouse aircraft control: expert and simplified (arcade). The first one will give you full control over surfaces (i.e. ailerons, giving and elevating rudders); while players that choose an arcade mouse will only specify the plane direction, while AI will adjust lateral attitude and precision.




click images to enlarge; but be warned, they're BIG!


JZ: The flight sim community can sometimes be very demanding in terms of “realism” regarding a plane’s performance. As you develop World of Warplanes what are you doing to make the game both accessible to newcomers and still remain appealing to harder core flight sim fans?

AZ: Short answer is that we are going to provide simple to learn yet satisfying to master flying experience with historically appropriate content.

The game will contain a fair number of compromises and concessions to ensure it’s attractive both to arcade action junkies and the hardcore TrackIR crowd. Trying to please both camps we’ve created a half-and-half blend of realism and fun. To make the game accessible to casual gamers, we’ve simplified controls and developed a user friendly interface. A complex flight model will offer all of the aerial combat thrills, but won’t require players to learn any of the advanced flight mechanics. To provide an easy path for novice pilots we’ve also omitted spins, takeoffs, fuel mixture and flap deflection angle control. So new players will be able to jump right in and get a feel for the dynamics of air combat without having to worry about all the little details. On the other end of the spectrum, to satisfy hardcore simmers World of Warplanes will feature manifold tactics, like Boom-Zoom or Air-Roundabout. Players will be able to perform HachWave, Breaks, Immelmans, Yo-yo's (high/low), Barrell rolls, Loops, Vertical and Horizontal Scissors. We’ll also implement vibration on high speed and when gun firing, stalling, and engine fires.



JZ: Aircraft technology made huge advances from the 1930s to the 1950s in terms of aerodynamics, power plant, armament, and design. What kinds of challenges has that created for the development team as they create a game that allows all planes of that era to interact?

AZ: Aircraft from the 30's won't encounter jets from 50's in World of Warplanes battles, as our matchmaking system won’t let it happen. Much like in World of Tanks, players will be automatically added to each battle according to the tiers their warbirds represent. Most likely, there will be four main levels: novice players (tiers 1 to 3) on fairly slow pre-war biplanes, medium-tier battles on WWII aircraft, upper levels with several jet models included, and top-gun battles with tier 9–10 jets and prototypes.

Tweaking the game balance is rather nerve wracking actually. To name a few tricky moments, consider, for example, agile Soviet I-16 and sluggish Tsh-3, both of them tier 3 vehicles. It proves that the scattering of tech parameters in different plane classes within the same tier can be huge. Models within the same class can be a road-block, too: e.g., compare the tier 10 Sabre that has 6 12.7 mm machineguns and another early jet La-15 with three 23 mm cannons.



JZ: What lessons have you learned in creating World of Tanks that have been used to smooth the development for World of Warplanes? Please share with us a few of the experimental planes you’re planning on incorporating into the game.

AZ: World of Warplanes is a lesson learned from World of Tanks in every possible way. Now we are very clear on what will work, and what will not in terms of technology implementation and tools, which makes our planning really solid and allows us to avoid certain pitfalls.

We’ve brought all the key game design elements that led to World of Tanks success: simplified controls, deep game mechanics, flexible business model, detailed upgrade and damage systems. Besides, with the second title we devoted much time to server and hardware maintenance. If World of Tanks servers weren’t ready to handle large numbers of player inflow, this time we’ll provide descent server capacity and a comfortable game for a massive crowd of gamers right away. The game already supports multithreading and multicore, and we touched upon each and every subsystem of the game client to assure elements that consume much technical resources were replaces with efficient ones.

As for the experimental planes, we’ve already announced the American “Flying Pancake” Chance Vought F5U. Thanks to its huge wings, the plane will perform vertical takeoff and almost hover above at the surface. Not to mention that it’ll have an impressive armament of six 20 mm guns and two 1000 lbs bombs. Another prototype we just couldn’t pass by is the German heavy jet fighter Me. 1102. It featured technologies advanced for its time (variable-sweep wing, jet engine, and heavy gun armament) that set the trend for post-war aircraft design in large part.



JZ: Aircraft typically require much large spaces in which to dogfight than tanks. How much larger do you anticipate the maps to be for World of Warplanes and how has that impacted software development and hardware hosting of the game?

AZ: Battle arenas will be around 15x15 km2 (map sizes will be enlarged for higher tier battles on jet planes, of course). Most flight sims only offer several scenic views, and terrain under the wings seems flat. It wasn’t an option for us. We aimed at crafting landscapes that would make sense for aircraft: levels filled with buildings, canyons and mountains, as well as complex low level terrain (grass, bushes, tree shadows, and high resolution textures). Of course, creating beautifully rendered environments ate out a good amount of time during the development, but we believe it was worth it.

I should also admit that we stepped away from historical accuracy here. The actual combat in World of Warplanes will take place at a lower elevation level than in real life. It will allow players to turn the lack of available space into a tactical element, enabling them to seek cover among the twists and turns of terrain and effectively eliminate enemy ground objects.

JZ: Will players be able to serve any kind of ground roles or will the game solely offer airplanes?

AZ: World of Warplanes will focus on air combat with airplanes being the only vehicle option. However, team bases (presented with ground objects) will have AA guns to protect them from enemy offensives. Players will have no control over surface-to-air weapons; all of them will be managed by AI, as well.



JZ: What kinds of ground strike missions are being considered as objectives?

AZ: The core of the game will lie in dynamic PvP battles, while air-to-ground combat will be limited to extermination of enemy ground objects. The latter will have different levels of protection, sizes and relevance: e.g., vulnerable lone fuel depots will be easily destroyed with machineguns, but you’ll need no less than cannons and missiles to eliminate heavily-armored factories and battleships.

JZ: World of Tanks offered players a number of types of tanks, from small and fast scouting tanks to mobile artillery. What types of planes are you working on – for instance will there be bombers, escorts, interceptors?

AZ: There’ll be three primary classes of planes (fighters, heavy fighters, and ground-attack aircraft) with life-like combat behavior and different objectives for each class. Highly maneuverable fighters, for example, will be perfect for close dogfights, defensives, and interception. Sluggish ground-attack planes will engage in the combat, too, but their main role will be to destroy ground targets. Heavy fighters will present a middle ground between agile fighters and slow ground-attack planes, so they will be somewhat like ‘universal soldiers’, intercepting enemy ground-attack planes and eliminating mildly defended ground objects.



JZ: One of the really enjoyable things about World of Tanks is that battles typically only last a few minutes and players can easily jump from one battle to another. How long do you anticipate battles in World of Warplanes to last and will there be a similar design to World of Tanks where players may have several planes in their hangers?

AZ: Yes, World of Warplanes will feature hangars good for several planes (with an option to pay for extra slots) and similar to World of Tanks drop-in/drop-out match style with a 15-minute limit for a battle. Actually, plane fights are much more dynamic than ground battles, and practice shows that it always takes less than 15 minutes to define the strongest team. A typical battle in WoWP Closed Beta, for example, rarely lasts longer than 7 minutes.

JZ: Will the for-pay elements in World of Warplanes be similar to World of Tanks’ system?

AZ: Yes, World of Warplanes will be free-to-play with options to pay for additional stuff. You’ll be offered to pay for customization items and to lessen grind, but we won’t sell you supremacy weapon. In other words, you will be able to pay for extra comfort and fancy non-game-impacting features, but your chances will depend solely on your skills when it comes to winning.



JZ: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

AZ: We tried to develop a game that we would like to play ourselves, and with every new update we get closer to our goal. Watching designs come to life is genuinely exciting, and we hope you will enjoy it as much as we do!

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