by Bob "Groucho" Marks
Article Type: Interview
Article Date: December 01, 2002
Product Name: IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles
Category: WWII Air Combat Simulation
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Release Date: November 2002
Req. Spec: TBA
Files & Links: Click Here
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An Add-on Becomes Much, Much MoreWhen it comes to the creation of a true benchmark, passion is more often than not the driving force that seperated the adequate from the awesome. It takes a team that cares about what they are doing to make something stand out from the crowd, be the product entertainment software, or spicy cheese nacho chips, or a Formula One racing operation.
|A Mk. IIb Hurri cruises the wetlands |
This passion for perfection is what makes Oleg Maddox and his development crew at 1C:Maddox Games the Ferrari F1 team of the sim world. Like that dominating racing team 1C has employed an exacting eye for detail, incredible technical acumen, and an unrelenting drive for product improvement to make IL-2 Sturmovik such an epoch-making flight sim.
After creating such a masterpiece, most developers would have essentially dropped support of the existing sim and moved their resources toward an all-new sequel. Instead, Moddox's team has continued to focus on IL-2's solid framework, improving and adding features to the original release while working on an expansion pack in parallel. This expansion pack, Forgotten Battles, has grown and mutated to the point where its status has gone from from add-on to full-blown stand-alone sequel.
|Warhawk on patrol |
The gestation of Forgotten Battles has been well documented on this very site, almost since it was a gleam in its developer's eye. As FB's release date looms, however, more details come into sharp focus and broad announcements resolve into crisp features. Fresh from a simulation trade show in England, Oleg Maddox was good enough to take valuable time out of FB's development to fill in some of the blanks…and offer tantalizing clues to future work from 1C.
Robert Marks (R.M.) One of the most anticipated new features of “Forgotten Battles” is the inclusion of a dynamic campaign. Will this campaign be a real-time ground and air battlespace type campaign similar to “Falcon 4.0,” with the player cast as a member of a unit free to pick and choose between missions and his success or failure altering the order of battle? Will it be a higher level type campaign that allows the player to manage resources, direct missions and jump into aircraft at will such as in Rowan’s “MiG Alley” or “Battle of Britain”? Or, will the campaign be of a simpler “if / then” branching structure?
Oleg Maddox (O.M.) Our dynamic campaign is more close to such as Red Baron system of campaign, but also has very different to that type of campaign features. In general it looks like (from our official description):
The dynamic campaigns are automatically generated, and the player can select his or her nation, squadron, and aircraft to fly. Players can also decide when they want to join the war. After the completion of each mission, the results will be processed and another mission will automatically be generated – and so on, till end of war. Results of one mission will carry on to the next and no two missions will be the same.
During the campaigns, forces will advance or retreat, based on the history of the battles. However, frontline movements can speed it up or slow down in limited degree. Additionally, resource tracking is present and objects destroyed in one mission will stay destroyed in the next. Every destroyed plane, friendly or hostile, reduces number of planes of this type in the theatre, making their appearance less likely. Destroyed trains and transport columns will affect supply rate. If an ace is killed or captured, he will not appear in future battles.
Your squadron will also play a key-role in the dynamic campaign system. Every pilot has a name, photo (it is possible to replace the default photos) a rank, medals, sorties and kills. Each pilot’s skill level is defined by combat experience. Pilots can be killed, captured, promoted, awarded or transferred. Losses are replaced, but new pilots will likely have minimal combat experience. Each squadron has a limited amount of combat ready planes, and if this number drops below some point, the squadron will be short-handed.
Players may choose to play from any time of 1941 to 1945 and fly for either Germany, Russia, Finland or Hungary.
Player also may change the skins for the own and AI planes. Each skin the code will remember during campaign until the time when there will be replacement of the aircraft that introduce the new type or completely new aircraft. Then you simply again need to repaint it, if you wish.
|CAPping Leningrad |
R.M. Under full realism settings, detailed engine management of reciprocating power plants is a listed feature of “Forgotten Battles”. The new sim, however, will also feature flyable jet aircraft such as the Me-262. Will turbine startup and operational procedures also be an option? Will the quirks of early turbine engines such as low reliability, compressor stalls from overzealous throttle usage, and slow spool-up be modeled? Will air restarts be modeled?
O.M. Start up procedures still will begins by one button press. It is simply impossible to model real starting procedures for such great amount of flyable aircraft that we have in FB. Let's say that such as Stuka had about 30-40 checks before to start. If we will model only one flyable aircraft – such feature isn’t too hard to make, but when we have 80 and most of them has different starting procedures… However the operational procedures will be different for different engines, and as I think it is much more important than to make copy of starting procedures for each type of engine/aircraft.
If you’ll use complex engine management option in a menu of difficulty, then it will means that you’ll get all things manually operated for the corresponding manual options of the real aircraft. Say such as manual control of propeller pitch (if not auto or with possibility to control also auto pitch), supercharger stages at different altitudes, radiators and mixture. Mixture control in real life in most cases was prohibited to use, but on some planes this option anyway need to be used on different altitudes.
In case of Me-262 the start of engines is beginning from starting of small piston engine starter build-in the turbojet engine, then if you didn’t reach proper rpm of turbine after starting of ignition and try to move throttle fast – you’ll get burning engine (or both engines). It is modeled with the reference to real Me-262 flight manual and documents of trials. Player will need to remember it always even in the flight, because when he will try to get acceleration from the cruise or economy flight to the maximal speed using quick movement to the full throttle position, he may get burning engines as well.
When there will be other flyable jet aircraft in add-on, such as He-162, this one will be almost free of such trouble, but some flight evolutions and landing on this aircraft will be some not easy thing… To say in general - we try to model most of kid’s illness of the first serial production jets.
On piston engines with manual control of supercharger, if you’ll forget to switch to the proper stage at proper altitude you may get troubles, like “overboost” of your engine or great decreasing of engine performance at altitude. Something like that.
|Caught like a (huge, flying) deer in the searchlights |
R.M. Besides looking gorgeous, do the searchlights serve an actual function in “Forgotten Battles”? For example, do the searchlights actually help the AI see your aircraft, and are you "invisible" to the AI interceptor aircraft and AAA if you are NOT illuminated?
O.M. The searchlights and AA cannons interact with each other. So when the searchlight doesn't grab you, AAA shooting without system (random, without system, in approx defined area). The when searchlights grab the plane the AAA concentrate the fire on the aircraft that is visible in a light rays of the searchlight. More effective AAA works when several searchlights are crossed on the target and tracking the plane.
AI aircraft also interact by almost similar way, but more simplified: the visible distance for them very decreased.
R.M. With the inclusion of higher performance aircraft such as the jets, has the modeling of high altitude and near transsonic flight been added or improved over “IL-2”?
O.M. It was modeled already in IL-2. Try to reach critical (maximum possible) speed on BI-1. You’ll get uncontrollable behavior of the aircraft and then movement to dive (say more easy to get it in case of “correct” position to horizon). It is possible easy to check with constant acceleration of this plane at sea level without limit of fuel in settings.
In FB for that purpose we use a bit more complex calculation.
|An La-7, feet wet. The water textures are amazing. |
R.M. The water textures shown in the “Forgotten Battles” development screenshots look incredible—and inviting. Even if seaplanes or floatplanes are not included as user-flyable aircraft, are water operations possible for third-party add-ons or future development? Are different sea states such as rough and calm waters modeled?
O.M. Probably yes, it will be possible to include flyable sea planes. We’ll need only proper cockpits for proper planes :). Physics and hydrodynamics already modeled for the landing on the water surface. As well as it is possible to add more different types of ships, except maybe aircraft carriers. Simply we have not yet the code modules for aircraft carriers. But such code is much more simple than say modeling of supercharger work.
We model only more or less calm water at the moment. For the storm and rough water we need much more time. Not the main goal currently. Probably in the next sim, because the storm and rough water need corresponding physics behavior of the ships and it is harder to model correct, than to use currently only calm water. The other problem in such modeling – properly looking mouth of the river… When you have connection of two different conditions of the water – currently it is too hard to make looking right. We have more important work over other parts of the code.
|Hello, sailor! The fleets in! |
R.M. With the introduction of the battleships, is there a possibility of including catapult-launched floatplanes in a future version?
O.M.There are no limits in engine and code. The problem lies only in time, and, as always, release schedule. There is currently one such Soviet ship - cruiser Kirov - that has a catapult and KOR-1 seaplane. Unfortunately we need to skip this function of catapult because we have not (and still haven't) time to make the model of the plane itself. If we haven't the plane itself - there was no need to program the catapult. And we don't like to use any replacement of other seaplanes by other types that are in FB instead of correct one.
|Another water study. Incredible stuff. |
R.M. Will the weather modeling be enhanced to allow such phenomena as engine and airframe icing?
O.M. Engine icing, or better to say, more effective cooling at altitude is modeled, but icing of surfaces – still not. We’ll think about such feature in future developments. We don’t like to make it just by visual effect and input some simple table for changes. We would like to model it with the resulting changes to the behavior of the plane due to changes of aerodynamics in that case. That will take enough time that to make it right. So – in future.
R.M. With the high mountainous terrain on the new areas, navigation will play an even more important role in “Forgotten Battles,” especially in bad weather. Have the mapping and navigation been enhanced over “IL-2”?
O.M. Do you mean navigation radars? That isn’t the case with the Forgotten Battles. It is the case of one of our new sims, where they will play real role in navigation :). (Interviewer's note: Oleg, you shameless tease! When pressed on this issue of this "new sim", Oleg chose not to elaborate, citing contractual obligations. Damn!) Other functions of navigation in IL-2 and FB work close to reality, if to use no icons on the map (especially in FB, where even icon of own aircraft may be switched off in difficulty settings on the server or for single play).
|Lavochkin on High. Note the Oxygen mask |
R.M. Development screenshots show pilots with no oxygen masks at low altitude and wearing masks at higher altitudes. Is this an user controllable feature? Will the player have to remember to “put on” a mask and/or pressurize the cockpit or risk becoming hypoxic?
O.M. At the moment oxygen masks are in auto mode. When you reach approx 3,000-3,500 meters the mask displays auto on the head of pilot. However in future we would like to make it as manual option. Let's say that current feature is the development stage of the next feature – manual control of oxygen mask of the next sim. (Interviewer's note: Again with the tease!)
R.M. Damage modeling appears to have been greatly enhanced over “IL-2,” with details such as burst shrapnel and individual engine components modeled. Are individual systems, such as oxygen and hydraulic, also modeled separately? Will system-specific emergency procedures, such as shutting down a damaged engine or using a fire extinguisher bottle, be modeled? Are injuries to individual parts of the pilot (head, torso, legs, etc.) also modeled individually?
O.M. All listed above damages modeled separately, except the separate injuries of the pilot. Head, torso, legs, etc., modeled as separate modules of the pilot, but the result will be always as “wounded”, “heavy wounded” and “killed”. In case of head hit – always killed. Now it displays by light red – red - black screen stages for corresponding injuries of the pilot body.
R.M. You and your team obviously put a lot of passion into your simulations, as is evidenced by the incredible detail put into the code. What other aviation-related hobbies do the team at 1C: Maddox Games engage in?
O.M. Someone make plastic models, someone RC models, 3 guys begun to learn to fly real aircraft. One guy very like to accumulate a lot of historical nonsense’s in aviation history or aerial battles :) Except maybe couple of our guys – all like the aviation in general. That was the main goal of me when I was building the team during last years: main thing is that you should know what you are developing. :)
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