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Preparing to Soar Into Release

Neilie Johnson Posted:
Interviews 0

Last week Wargaming celebrated its 15th Anniversary and part of its epic celebration entailed showing off the company's upcoming new multi-player online war game, World of Warplanes. In addition to allowing the press to play the game, Wargaming developers made themselves available for interviews; appropriately enough, these took place inside a canvas army tent set up on The Stalin Line, an old military fortification dating back to the 1920s. Within that historic and highly evocative atmosphere, Lead Producer Anton Sitnakau graciously fielded the following questions.

MMORPG: What's been the feedback from your World of Warplanes open beta—or, what's the most significant change you've made in response to it?

Anton Sitnikau: The most significant changes were introduced during the Global Alpha and Closed Beta. Open Beta is more about polishing and fine tuning core game components. It involves no alterations to the game’s main design, but we’re constantly tweaking, testing, and listening to community to make minor improvements. The team is gathering valuable data on player behavior, combat stats, bug reports, and direct feedback on the game. We are also optimizing the underlying game systems to ensure they have enough capacity to support our user base.

There’s a list of changes we plan to implement before the game goes live. Based on feedback and stats we receive during Open Beta, these changes will most likely touch upon flight mechanics, player cameras, and mouse and gamepad control schemes.

MMORPG: Do you think it's important to make the joystick controls accurately depict what it's like to pilot these planes? The mouse controls are decidedly more arcade-feeling.

Anton Sitnikau: Since we started working on the project, the core principle of its game design has been that one control scheme shouldn’t provide a combat advantage over the others.

If you play with mouse for example, you specify a direction with the cursor.  The built-in AI completes required maneuvers, and your aircraft moves in the set direction. In other words, you show the controls where you want to fly, not how to maneuver. If you choose joystick, you get direct control over the plane and perform maneuvers yourself. You can adjust AI settings and choose how much help you receive and can even turn it off. Turning off the AI assistance will create a more challenging experience similar to the real feeling of piloting.

World of Warplanes is not a simulator game, so the AI assists players by taxiing aircraft, compensating deflection effect, and balancing out planes when they lift up or lower their fore bodies—in real life, pilots would manage these with rudders and trimmers.

MMORPG: Has there been any demand within the community for a cockpit first person view?

Anton Sitnikau: Although the cockpit view is among most requested features, we aren’t going to introduce it into the game. Implementing a historically accurate cockpit for each in-game aircraft is a very time-consuming task. The majority of players will never use it since it blocks of a large portion of the game screen. The hardcore community would enjoy the feature, so we are going to publish the UI API, allowing amateur devs to create cockpit view themselves.

MMORPG: Right now it seems that most matches end when all of one side is defeated. How often is the supremacy mode utilized, and are there any plans to make it more compelling?

Anton Sitnikau: The team is still adjusting the game’s balance. Statistics on the number of battles won with supremacy mode varies from version to version and ranges from 15 to 40 percent.

We have a clear vision how the current game mode should be optimized, we have to tweak the game balance and find a clear way to assist players during battle without disturbing its course.

MMORPG: Will we see any maps with winter landscapes in the future?

Anton Sitnikau: The only winter arena featured at the moment is the Arctic Region. We are polishing another one—the Eastern Frontier which will be introduced in a future update.

MMORPG: How does the challenge differ, making maps for Warplanes as opposed to Tanks?

Anton Sitnikau: World of Tanks battle arenas are in 2D, while flight combat requires 3D maps. We have to consider technical characteristics of each warplane type when designing a new location. Ground-attack planes for instance, fly at lower altitudes than other vehicles. The American F-86 Sabre is much faster than biplanes, and the map fit for pre-war aircraft would be far too small for fighter jets. That’s why each battle level comes with different sets of locations.

Battle arenas in World of Warplanes differ from Tanks in terms of technical parameters. Air combat is much more dynamic than ground clashes and requires larger maps (1 x 1 sq.km in World of Tanks, vs. the average 15 x 15 sq.km in World of Warplanes). Top-tier fighter jets need even more spacious areas.

Terrain elements are another difference between each game. World of Warplanes doesn’t need the level of detail that World of Tanks has: there’s no need to draw lampposts, detail leaves on trees, bicycles, etc. No one will notice them while flying. What matters in World of Warplanes are clouds, moving ground targets, breakable bridges, etc.

MMORPG: Are there any changes coming to the tech trees? What's the main focus in terms of balance right now?

Anton Sitnikau: All national lines and warplane models that we intend to implement are good for three years of regular updates. We will adjust our plans as development progresses. For example, we completely overhauled the upgrade mechanics during Closed Beta and revised the upgrade system of every plane.

As for game balance, we will ensure that planes stay competitive within their tier, while maintaining the unique combat behavior of every model. Each aircraft type comes with specific combat objectives. The main role of fighters is to destroy enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat. They are perfect for close dogfights, defensives, and interception. Ground-attack planes are used to provide support for friendly troops and destroy enemy ground targets. Heavy fighters are the middle ground between agile fighters and slow ground-attack planes. They are “universal soldiers”, good at intercepting enemy ground-attack planes and eliminating ground objects.

When balancing the game and drafting tech trees, we consider the unique parameters of every vehicle and the characteristics of each warplane type.

MMORPG: Teamwork is essential in World of Tanks. Do you think success in World of Warplanes is as team-dependent?

Anton Sitnikau: World of Warplanes depends on teamwork the least of the three games (World of Tanks, World of Warplanes, and World of Warships). In World of Tanks you can ask teammates for help and wait for backup while hiding in the bushes or behind a house. Warplanes, on the other hand are constantly moving. There are almost no opportunities to hide and the combat pace leaves no time for waiting, so players must rely on their individual skills. The core of cooperation is acting in a plane unit, having agreed on combat tactics before battle.

MMORPG: Right now it's possible to take someone out by colliding with them. How do you plan to prevent players from using this tactic for griefing?

Anton Sitnikau: We’ll prevent players from colliding with their teammates, but destroying enemy planes will remain in game. Although it is a reckless tactic, it can be a useful strategy to win.

MMORPG: You announced the addition of Great Britain at the press conference—what other nations is the community clamoring for?

Anton Sitnikau: Every community wants to see its nation get a warplane line. Serbian players even drafted the tree and sent it to us, suggesting they could build 3D models themselves if we agreed to add them into the game.

MMORPG: Are there any new game modes planned for World of Warplanes?

Anton Sitnikau: Yes. Game modes take more time to develop; we plan to gradually introduce new scenarios. The next mission type planned is tentatively called Escort. Players will intercept enemy bombers and defend their own, while ground-attack planes clear the way for them, destroying hostile AA guns.


Neilie Johnson

Neilie Johnson / Neilie Johnson is a freelance contributor to MMORPG.com. She's been writing about games since 2005, developing games since 2002, and playing them since the dawn of time. OK not really, but she's pretty sure she's got controllers older than you. Witness her game-related OCD on Twitter @bmunchausen.