by Guest Writer “Dolph”
Recently Community Member “Dolph” had the opportunity to interview Oleg Maddox. This is a reprint of his article.
“Dolph”: First of all I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to expose more of yourself to this community that adores you. Actually the biggest part of them adores you, but there is also a part that doesn’t hold the best feelings for you. They take this game too personally and they believe that the developer is behind their failure as virtual pilots. Is there something that you want to address to them?
Oleg: Pilots win dogfights. Not airplanes. If a pilot is not particularly good, regardless of a plane, he’ll always have a sinking feeling that something somewhere is wrong… and not everyone is willing to admit that the fault lies within.
Most of the drama arises from high expectations. People have grown-up reading the memories and watching movies based on the exploits of the best of the best, and they somehow expect their gaming experience to be the same as it was for a few very lucky, very capable, unique individuals. But since most of virtual pilots have average skill and luck, they instead experience combat as it was to an average historical pilot. And an average historical pilot did not shoot down 352 enemy planes, approaching every combat with ease, and escaping every battle without a scratch.
Most of all, people have to always have fear and respect of their opponent. They can’t approach a dogfight with preconceived propaganda notions of the other side being inferior. A better pilot in an inferior plane will still shoot you down 9 out of 10 times. Plane characteristics have nothing to do with it.
It’s quite funny actually to visit flight sim forums in various languages, and read on a Russian site that Oleg sold out to imperialists, and made Russian planes inferior to Germans; and then go on a German forum and read the exact opposite, about the exact same planes.
“Dolph”: And this discussion brings us to the balance arguments that have been alive from the first day of the game. Can you tell us who has been taking the balance decisions and what mattered most in order to change one or another attribute of a plane in order to balance things? And were the results of online gaming used for balancing the planes, or was it only the offline mode that mattered?
Oleg: We do not artificially balance anything. We recreate planes as exactly as possible, and whether their relative performance benefits one side or the other, we do not care.
Even if we had the desire to balance something, that’d be quite an impossible task, since we’re covering such a huge variety of aircraft across such diverse theaters and across such a wide time period. There’s so many potential match-ups that balancing anything is plainly impossible. How do you balance P-51 vs Spitfire vs Bf-109 vs FW-190 vs La-7 vs Yak-3 vs J2M vs N1K vs Ki-84 vs F4U, where any combination of the previous is possible? And we have 300 planes.
So the only question we ask ourselves is, what’s the most reliable data we can find on the performance of each given plane, and then we make our plane behave as close to the data we have as possible. How that plane compares to others doesn’t even enter our minds.
With the incredible scrutiny all our work is subjected to by the community, there’s no room for bias.
“Dolph”: Some people say that you have been flying incognito in various online wars. Is this true? And if yes, in which ones did you fly and which one did you enjoy most?
Oleg: I mostly flew on dogfight servers. Sometimes I fly incognito, but most of the time I prefer to fly under my own name (“Maddox”). But right now I’m very busy with SoW:BoB so, I fly only offline and only in the new sim. However, I am occasionally made aware of an impostor here and there.
“Dolph”: Do you have an opinion about known online pilots? Are there any of them that you admire or respect as virtual pilots?
Oleg: I respect those that can win a dogfight in any plane; or at the very least lose without complaining about their mount.
“Dolph”: What do you think was the secret behind IL-2s success? And by the way, was there any “special” Russian technology that was used in the development of it?
Oleg: We had lots of innovations in IL-2, which by now have been copied by everyone left and right. But their sims are still nowhere near as successful, and that’s because innovations are not the most important thing. IL-2 is successful because of the experienced and dedicated core team, and the monumental effort by the developers and 3rd parties that spans nearly a decade.
“Dolph”: There is a known issue where, if a bomber pilot drops a bomb and he dies before it hits the targets, then the targets won’t explode. Is this happening for a reason?
Oleg: No, this wasn’t done on purpose; but when it was discovered it was already impossible to change due to previously written mass of code. The only way to change that would be to rewrite the online code from scratch, and that was simply impossible. And I say online code because online code is used offline too with virtually no difference, save for some traffic-related details.
“Dolph”: What do you think is the most important thing in developing a flight sim? What was your top priority when you first started developing IL-2?
Oleg: Everything is important. While it’s impossible to make everything perfect, one has to try. And the key here is to be able to compromise. That’s the greatest skill of all, to find compromise between all the equally important elements, so that it satisfies everyone, the developers, the publishers, and of course the players.