Knights Over Europe

John Reynolds asked Knights Over Europe Producer Mathew 'JP4' Herman and the Aspect Simulations development team questions about the highly anticipated WWI flight sim now in progress. The team sent along five exclusive new screenshots that show the development progress. This is the first in a series of updates we will be featuring as KOE progresses. Click on the images below to see full screen versions.

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Q: What's the nature of the main campaign? Is it dynamic or are the missions linear? And will there be a career builder or storyline in the campaign? And which years will be covered by the campaign?

"The campaign will be fully dynamic..."A: One of our fundamental goals is to offer a game that’s historically authentic with outstanding re-playability. The campaign will be fully dynamic with a focus on the player’s career as an aviator (i.e., kills, medals, promotions, transfers to hot squadrons, fame and glory, etc.) Just as in the real war, the ground battles will be a canvass upon which the missions will unfold. In other words, the ground war will create the impetus for squadron movements and the rationale for mission objectives. It will also serve as a reflection of how well you, your squadron and your side are doing, depending on the mode of play. There will be two modes of campaign play:

In Historic Mode, the campaign will depict the major events of WWI as they unfolded. Battles will occur when and where they did and the Germans are destined to loose, with the war ending on November 11, 1918. Despite strict adherence to the major historical events, the missions will still be dynamically generated and the localized success or failure of you and your squadron will still be dynamically represented. Remember, too, that the focus of campaign play is on you and your career, so your goal will be score kills, win medals, get promotions and transfers to hot squadrons, and gain international fame and glory. The outcome of the war is secondary. The most famous ace of WWI was Manfred Von Richthofen, and people don’t care that his side lost the war.

Image 2In Authentic Mode, however, the campaign will deviate from strict historical events, but still in a plausible and authentic manner. Major battles may occur at other times and locations, and the outcome of the war will be unknown. The most important aspect is that your activities will influence the outcome of the war. No, you, as a single pilot, can’t directly or overtly determine the outcome of the war — that would be stupid and certainly not historically plausible — but your successes and failures will set a general tone for your side. In other words, a good player can fly for the Germans and actually have a chance to see the Central Powers defeat the Triple Entente. We’re even toying with the idea of allowing the Americans, on occasion, to enter the war on the side of Germany (Mexican intrigue notwithstanding). Just remember, Authentic Mode will be an option, so those who prefer strict history will be happy, but those who like “what if” scenarios will also be thrilled.

Q: Will Knights Over Europe ship with a mission editor? Will there be an option for players to create their own squadron logos and skins? Will there be a recorder for mission playback?

A: KOE will definitely ship with a mission editor, with all the features you’d expect, like flight plan editing, asset assignment, etc. There won’t be built-in support for creating your own squadrons (that would conflict with historical accuracy) but skins are another matter. Regardless, the user community always finds a way, so I’m sure people will be creating their own squadrons, if they want.

As for a mission recorder, I’m glad you referred to it that way. Older pilots may recall that the original Red Baron had a “VCR” that recorded “everything” and let you play it back, even jumping in at any point. That was a nice feature, but only practical in a game that had a handful of planes, flying around in a small area, with little else going on. RBII did not have a “VCR” because the scope and complexity of its “world” was too complex. KOE will be even more complex, but we’re still planning on having ways to “review” missions and, more important, to tie missions together in the campaign. This will be done in ways that are historically accurate.

Image 3This doesn’t mean we’re opposed to adding “features” that people expect, but don’t really add to the authenticity of the experience. However, the campaign and missions will be extremely dynamic in KOE and have that “one more time” quality about them. Thus, we expect people to spend far less time reviewing old glories in favor of getting up there and creating new ones.

Q: Will there be multiplayer options for Internet and LAN? If so, will there be a co-op option? What's the maximum # of players supported in multiplayer?

A: KOE will ship with multiplayer support for both LAN and Internet play. We aren’t ready to reveal the specifics yet, however we can confirm one key feature that many fans have already picked up on from our screen shots — the ability to “hot seat” into crew positions during a flight. This feature will be operable in both single and multiplayer games.

Q: How large will the dogfights be (i.e., number of planes in the air)? Will there be any historic battles on the ground? If so, will players be able to bomb targets or strafe infantry in trenches?

"...the game will be historcally authentic..."A: The size of dogfights will largely be a factor of how many planes are operating in a given area. Since the Western Front was a densely packed area, we expect some dogfights to become quite large, especially later in the war, just as they really did.

As mentioned earlier the game will be historically authentic, this will be reflected in both the action on the ground war and aircraft ordinance. As a result, there will be plenty of action for players who prefer the air-to-ground role.

Image 4Q: Have the number of planes being modeled fixed yet? If so, how many different aircraft can players fly in the game? How much work/research is being done to model individual flight characteristics of the different planes?

A: We can’t divulge all the specific airplanes, just yet, but players can expect to fly planes in KOE, which heretofore have only been seen as computer controlled “targets” in other WWI simulations.

Faithfully recreating the flight characteristics of each plane has been one of our fundamental goals for the project. We take our hats off to the way our flight model accomplishes this. It starts with fundamental data that has little ambiguity like: weight, physical dimensions, airfoil, etc. That data is then processed by the flight model using very sophisticated aerodynamic and physics formulae. This allows each aircraft’s characteristics to “fall out” naturally without forcing each to conform to sometimes-contradictory performance plots. This also means that aerodynamic fidelity extends beyond the normal flight envelope and into departure realms.

The net result is that each aircraft ends up with its own authentic personality, very accurately modeled. The Camel is a nimble, borderline unstable fighter while the Albatros is a steady weapons platform. To make sure we have everything correct we compare our results to actual pilot accounts whenever possible. Obviously, the approach is far more complicated than we can describe in a paragraph, but the effect is truly amazing.

Image 5Q: How advanced does Aspect Simulations feel the graphics engine will be compared to other modern sims? Does it support any advanced features? What APIs does the game support? How much detail will be present on the terrain for low flyers?

A: Our graphics engine is based on the recently released DirectX9 API and we feel it is quite competitive with other current sims. We have implemented many advanced features and take full advantage of current technologies such as vertex shaders, pixel shaders and more.  The aircraft of "Knights Over Europe" spent much of their time at relatively low altitudes and we have designed our terrain engine with this in mind. 

Q: Has Aspect secured a publisher for Knights Over Europe? And, last, when is the game currently expected to ship?

The Blue MaxA: We are pleased to announce that we have secured a publisher for “Knights Over Europe”. A press release announcing the relationship will be made in the near future. We originally projected a late Q2 release but our publisher has already scheduled KOE for a Q4 2004 release. Very nice! Aside from the seasonal advantage, the extra time will allow us to include additional features and polish KOE to a much more glossy finish.

Thanks again team for taking the time for these questions. We definitely look forward to learning more about Knights Over Europe as the group progesses with the sim's development.


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