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Posted on Aug 19, 2013 in Electronic Games

World of Warplanes Interview With Sergey Ilushyn

By Brian King

As part of recent coverage of Wargaming.net’s 15th anniversary (read here) in Minsk, Belarus, Armchair General had the opportunity to sit down for a roundtable discussion with Sergey Ilushyn, Producer for World of Warplanes (WoWP). The format of the talk was very open, so the following interview is essentially a reconstruction of that question-and-answer period – including questions asked by several other journalists at the table.

Sergey began with a general overview of the game and the core philosophy behind this air-to-air combat title. The game shares many of the design and UI elements of Wargaming’s current title World of Tanks (WOT) with groups of 15 vs 15 aircraft in “quick dogfights between fighters.” Necessarily faster paced than the ground-based entanglements of WOT, the game mechanics will be very familiar to anyone currently playing the tank game.

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Sergey went into some depth regarding the controls, noting that they wanted a good balance between a simulator and an arcade game, and went to great lengths to make the controls easy and convenient – especially for new players. A player can use the keyboard and mouse much the same way WOT players handle their armor. They can also use joysticks and gamepads which would be more familiar to pilots of other flight games, but Sergey was very clear that none of these should hold any advantages over the others. He prefers the keyboard controls so he can also drink his coffee while playing. I think I’ve read that veteran aces often did fly about with coffee mugs braced between their legs so maybe he is on to something?

Cupholders aside, discussion turned to whether WoWP would ever display the interior cockpit views of these historical beasts. Currently the game has a wide open view, or even 3rd person view, with an uncluttered HUD and mini-map, very similar to World of Tanks. Sergey said they would be providing tools to mod developers so they could include cockpits once the game is released, but said they had no plans to introduce a screen full of controls for each plane, primarily noting they want to focus on combat in the game and not necessarily the experience of flying individual planes. He assured us that real planes with varying degrees of visibility were reflected in the visibility model, using the example of the P-51 with its wide open cockpit having the ability to spot enemy aircraft sooner than models of aircraft with notoriously poor visibility.

With the recent announcement the British were coming to WoWP before the game launches, Sergey was probed for other new content coming to the game before launch. He didn’t have anything to say about the actual date of release, but he provided a laundry list of items over the course of our discussion, some to be included, others not.

  • New branches of the tech tree. He stated that besides the entire British line, there would also be some additions to the branches of existing countries, specifically mentioning the Yakovlev branch of the Soviet tree.
  • Moving targets for ground attack aircraft. No, this won’t be in the game, although the trailer for the new British line clearly shows ground attack aircraft pounding a moving convoy. Sergey shared his view on this by saying that they thought about using moving targets, and they may still include them at some point, but they found in testing that moving targets on the ground were very hard for new players to hit and therefore opted to leave them out for now.
  • New maps. Sergey noted that at least two new maps were on deck in a forthcoming update, and quipped that “there are never enough maps.”
  • Clan Wars (CW). This feature will be implemented after release, with some internal testing happening now. He also mentioned that at some point in the future there may be links between CW in WoWP and WOT but reiterated their official position that no combat will occur directly between the two games (eg. simultaneous air and ground combat on the same map at the same time). Once World of Warships gets put to sea he expects all three CW worlds will have some relationship.
  • Crew experience. When asked about the lack of a barracks in the current build of the game, Sergey assured us the release version would have a barracks and that the progression of skills up the tech tree would happen in a fashion very like WOT. You can build your favorite crews, acquire and master skills, and transfer those crew members to new planes as you advance.
  • Take off and landing. Not coming. Sergey used World of Tanks to illustrate the futility of driving to and from the battlefield from your garage each match. There are no plans to allow players to take off and land in WoWP. The focus is and shall always be on the gratifying short, sharp clashes for air supremacy.
  • New aircraft sounds. Sergey didn’t give a time frame for implementation, but he said they were unhappy with the engine sounds of many of the aircraft in the game so they packed up the team and went to Planes of Fame in Chino, California, to record authentic engine sounds from 18 aircraft at the flight museum. The team is keen to adhere to historical accuracy whenever possible, and Sergey reinforced their overall efforts to make these aircraft as accurate as possible. He said they use historical consultants to delve into archives for blueprints, they travel to aviation museums around the world, and they even fly the aircraft when possible.

Finally, we solicited feedback from Sergey as to what advice he would give to new players of the game, helping them get into the action quickly while keeping the frustration at a minimum. Since Sergey and his team often mention concessions were made to keep the game simple for new players, we figured he’d have useful advice for the player heading into battle for the first time.

  1. Take your time. He stressed the importance of enjoying the battles and becoming good at the lowest tiers of the game. The pace is slower and you have time to think. A bi-plane behaves much differently than a jet plane and you absolutely need to become proficient at 3-dimensional combat before you can progress up the tiers. Many of the reporters at the table nodded agreement, and I can say from experience after having played the highest tiers on a press account the action happens so fast I could make the most elegant jet behave like a flying brick!
  2. Read books on real dogfighting tactics. Going to the library may not be a gamer’s dream day, but he said the action is based on real physics and real tactics work as you’d expect. Read up on real tactics if you can. We noted that some maneuvers appeared to be impossible using the keyboard and mouse, and he acknowledged that some maneuvers are deliberately impossible so as to keep new players out of trouble. For example you can’t completely stall out your plane going straight up and fall straight back down as the computer will take over to prevent this. However, this and other maneuvers can be enabled by modifying the default key behaviors.
  3. Think of dogfighting as a balance of energy. When you are high in the sky you have a lot of potential energy. When you descend to attack you expend that energy until you attack your enemy – at which time you want to hit hard and fast and then return to a higher elevation, thereby rebuilding your potential energy. Once you are stuck near the ground you have very few options.
  4. Know your plane. The game includes a nifty comparison feature so you can see how your plane stacks up to enemy models. You can tap this feature while you wait for each match to load and in combat using the HUD. Sergey said this is key to knowing whether you should attack the enemy from the front or retreat and pick a more favorable encounter. Likewise, you shouldn’t be taking your ground attack aircraft directly into fights with light fighters that can outmaneuver you. You have to use tactics specific to each type of aircraft.
  5. Use a wingman. Players of World of Tanks will appreciate the value of having “platoons” of friends in the battle, and WoWP will utilize wingmen and in-game voice chat to help players protect each other and coordinate their actions. Again, real tactics are key and no World War II pilot could survive for very long without a radio and help from their compatriots.

My final question for Sergey was what model of plane did he prefer to fly in the game he helped produce. He wasted no time in answering that the BF-109 was his choice for a “real fighter” and one that he enjoyed playing. With a name like Ilushyn I had expected him to say something closer to Sturmovik!

Final Thoughts

For me personally, after playing on a press account and completing a modest number of battles and climbing a handful of tiers on my personal account, I think it will be awhile before I become proficient at this game in the mid to upper tiers. My gaming background involves very few flight sims and I’m a notorious “ground pounder” in the games I choose. That lack of flight experience really shows, even when I conceptually know what I should be doing.

That said, I do enjoy flying the low tier planes and World of Warplanes does a good job of keeping you within your tier with similarly skilled players (at least in beta). Even with several tier 10 tanks in World of Tanks I still enjoy playing my PanzerJaeger I, (tier 2) which is a commendable achievement for a game you can play without spending a dime. If World of Warplanes is similarly enjoyable at the lower tiers, we can speculate it will be a hook that drives players to want to pursue the same rush at the higher tiers, using jet fighters. It will just be a while before this writer achieves such glory.

Thanks to Sergey for taking the time to meet with us and patiently answer our barrage of questions over the course of an hour. See you all at flight school!

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