IL-2: Cliffs of Dover: An Interview with Oleg and Ilya

Back in November 2010 SimHQ asked readers to submit their questions about the new flight sim know at the time as “Storm of War”. We are happy to now present the responses from Oleg and Ilya. Some of the answers have not been announced before, some information has only recently been released, while some details are yet to be discussed.

The interview is broken into the following sections:

  • Single Player
  • Multiplayer
  • Aircraft and Object Capabilities
  • Beyond Fighters and Bombers
  • Artifical Intelligence
  • Future Development
  • Terrain and Weather
  • Technical
  • DRM, Copy Protection, and Release Dates

Single Player

Q. Could you discuss the single player campaign features? How is the campaign system different from existing linear campaigns in the IL-2: Sturmovik series?

A. The campaign system isn’t much different, but the mission structure is. Since we now support a very versatile system of triggers, our missions are much more “alive”.

Q. Any more hints regarding the controversial renegade pilot plotline? Will eye-patches be included? What is the name of the character played by SpitGirl? We’ve seen how she limits the view when riding in the cockpit, but will the range of motion for the joystick be equally limited?

A. You’ll just have to play it to see it, sorry.

Q. What support will there be for 3rd party dynamic campaigns? Will there be data output at the end of each mission?

A. Yes, third party should get everything they need in future.

Q. Do the moving front lines, the capture of bases and territory have the same capability in both single player and multiplayer?

A. Currently, no. In the Battle of Britain the front lines were not moving.

Q. Will there be fully voiced mission briefings for campaigns? Will this be possible for 3rd party mission creators?

A. For third parties, it’s possible. There is such a function.

Q. Is there support for importing animations in order to great cut scenes within the game engine?

A. Yes, you can play back movies at any time.

Q. What is the maximum number of bombers we will see in a raid at the same time? How will this be affected by computer specifications?

A. This is greatly affected by your computer specs. The largest stock mission we are shipping has, I believe, about 50 planes in total — bombers and fighters from both sides. There is no built-in upper limit on number of aircraft in a mission, of course, and the only stress tests we have done ourselves was for the overall plane limit on minimum specs. It is about 50, regardless of plane type.

Multiplayer

Q. What multiplayer modes are included?

A. Just one — unified Multiplayer mode.

Q. There was talk about multiplayer working “in a new way”. Can you elaborate?

A. New missions can be loaded into the current game world at any time, creating new plane groups, ground object, objectives, etc. Players can join the game at any time. If server options allow it, players can also take over any computer-controlled position at any time. This creates a very fluid online environment, a mix of old dogfight and co-op modes, in which players never have to take off and land if they don’t want to. The gameplay is of course much more determined by the server than before. The server chooses whether to allow players to switch aircraft at will, when and how to load new missions, or spawn new aircraft groups, etc.

Q. Will there be an AI radar controller in both co-op and dogfight modes that will give you vectors to the battle?

A. It is possible.

Q. Regarding using bombers, will the bombardier seat be a separate position in multiplayer, or still only available to the pilot?

A. Separate position.

Q. Will we see player controlled anti-aircraft guns? Will they have realistic sighting devices?

A. In the release, no. There was no plan to make it manned by crew like in real life. The goal is to make it more easy for novices (one gun by one player, controlled by mouse), however the conditions that define the speed of targeting and reloading must be realistic.

Q. Will there be dedicated publisher game servers?

A. No.

Q. Will the dedicated server be able to run as a service under Windows?

A. No.

Q. Will the dedicated server be able to run 64-bit?

A. Yes.

Aircraft and Object Capabilities

Q. How much does the higher fidelity flight model (FM) add to the sim? We’ve been told that we should be able to get used to it quickly, but that aiming will also feel quite different.

A. It is depending on the flight conditions, however transfer from the IL-2: Sturmovik Series to IL-2: Cliffs of Dover will be easy for most users.

Q. How much does the higher detail modeling of aircraft systems add to gameplay? Will it add interest on the way to the target and back, or will we primarily see the effects when damaged?

A. From our experience at exhibitions: Advanced IL-2: Sturmovik Series users tried to set all settings to maximum realism and then most of them usually got a damaged engine; Or… on the Br20 is modeled separate piston engine compressor under the seat of the pilot; Also cockpits are clickable. So interest is present. As for the effects… yes, some of them are visible. But most… you should watch the instrument panel.

Q. Will the aircraft have individual G-limitations, and suffer progressive damage and lowering of the airframe’s G-tolerance? Rather than the IL-2: Sturmovik Series model of instant failure at one G-limit?

A. Yes.

Q. There is an impressive new system for customizing the cargo of ground objects. Will it be possible to add this system to aircraft (ie.have a menu to customize details of aircraft to model different sub-variants as part of the loadout)?

A. Loadout is customizable. Even belts.

Q. Will radar controlled flak be included and functional? I know the Luftwaffe Trip A batteries splashed a few British bombers in zero visibility at the beginning of the war according to Galland.

A. In terms of radar controlled flak with the targeting gun by radar automatically — this system wasn’t yet developed in 1940. It was present later — close to 1945 on German side.

Q. Will it be possible to disable tanks?

A. There is the feature to select the fuel tanks.

Beyond Fighters and Bombers

Q. Regarding the damage model for ships, will it be possible to light fires on the deck through strafing (but obviously not sink the ship)? Is it possible to disable parts of a ship — like rudders or the cabin?

A. Ships in IL-2: Cliffs of Dover have roughly the damage model of an early IL-2: Sturmovik Series aircraft, so yes, you can damage them in lots more interesting ways than before.

Q. Will we be able to create rescue or re-supply missions using transport aircraft? Are there supports for loading/unloading cargo at a destination for transport aircraft, similar to the system which allows fighters to be rearmed?

A. Not yet.

Q. What are your thoughts on recon flights?

A. Very complicated to do right, need lots of additional features — and still extremely boring to 99% of the community in the end.

Q. Will we be able to get out of the aircraft and walk around on foot?

A. No.

Artificial Intelligence

Q. In the IL-2: Sturmovik Series, some of the AI used simpler flight models than the player aircraft allowing them to fly “more perfectly” than the best players. How are AI flight models optimized for IL-2: Cliffs of Dover? Will AI make more mistakes? For example, not always choosing the best radiator and engine settings possible?

A. AI of the low level doing more mistakes. Say, one of examples, will do non optimal control of the propeller pitch.

Q. Is there a noticeable difference of tactics between AI controlled RAF and Luftwaffe (with RAF using Big Wing, turning, and the Luftwaffe using boom and zoom, Schwarm)?

A. Yes, Luftwaffe will more prefer boom-zoom, RAF — T&B, but hard restrictions are not present. Tactics is more depending of the aircraft technical parameters and doesn’t matter which side of war.

Q. Does the Luftwaffe fighter AI know to turn back home in time when low on fuel?

A. Yes.

Q. Will radar controlled flak be included and functional? I know the Luftwaffe Trip A batteries splashed a few British bombers in zero visibility in the beginning of the war according to Galland.

A. Currently, no.

Q. Will AI return to base if separated or outnumbered?

A. No, at the moment AI turn back when low fuel or damaged.

Q. What modifications will we be able to do with the AI?

A. The skill for each crew. There are many options for AI behavior tunings in the Full Mission Builder.

Q. Have the AI “conga lines” been eradicated?

A. No.

Future Development

Q. There’s been speculation that the new engine might be used as a basis for other sim genres such as tanks, surface ships, and submarines. Is that still a possibility you envision could happen? Could a player driving a T-34 co-op with players flying an IL-2 in a combined armament battle?

A. Right now, the game engine potentially allows the player to control any object regardless of type. You could control a cloud or a building or a tree, i.e. literally anything. Of course, releasing this to the world requires some extra work, of actually making it interesting and realistic. But purely from the point of view of possibilities, the game engine has always been designed with a combined battlefield in mind.

Q. You’ve mentioned that you are trying to attract former developers from a well known civilian simulator, but that you aren’t planning on entering the civilian market due to the avionics required. Do you think a civilian simulator, focusing on early mail routes, record setting flights, air shows and air-races during the first forty years of flight (when avionics and air-traffic-control was simpler) would be viable?

A. It’s a difficult question to answer. We like doing what we do. Civilian simulations are viable, of course, but do we want to abandon combat flight and switch to civilian sims? Probably not.

Q. Can we expect flyable 1930-1940s era gliders in one of the add-ons? This was once announced during the period shortly after the release of “Forgotten Battles”, but then cancelled.

A. Maybe… in the future.

Q. Will the Lysander, He-59 and Cierva Autogyro be in a patch or in an add-on?

A. At the current stage of development, we can’t say anything definite about future patches, other than that all future updates are highly dependent on the success of the initial release.

Q. You mentioned earlier that you felt night combat was uninteresting — but, if enough interest is shown, will you be willing to program new game-engine features in order to better support recreating this part of history?

A. Enough interest is a very subjective term. We can look at the success of night-fighting theme add-ons for other simulations and gauge the relative interest that way. At this time, it simply does not look like the night aspect is commercially viable. This isn’t a very popular thing to say perhaps, but we simply cannot operate if we don’t turn a profit. We just can’t gamble on the unknown any more like we could 10 years ago. Flight simulations have now become such a niche that we have to have wide commercial appeal with each release.

Terrain and Weather

Q. Will the water height be able to be set at a height other than zero to make a realistic waterfall effect?

A. Water height can be anywhere now, not just at sea level. Waterfalls though? That’s a whole different object with a set of special visual and sound effects, and we don’t have that at the moment. Water just flows smoothly regardless of landscape underneath. Of course, waterfalls can be added to the game rather easily. We just haven’t thought we needed them, until just now!

Q. Will the regularity of the sea waves be disrupted by an impact of a plane/wing/parts and produce real (not as an overlay) circular waves from the impact spot?

A. No.

Q. We’ve heard that the dynamic weather system is being rebuilt (although a version of the old weather system will be included if players are clever enough to find it). What features will the interim weather system have? Will there be thermals for gliders? Or will we have to wait until the new complex weather system is ready?

A. The existing weather system is shipping with the game because we simply couldn’t take it out of there, it’s ingrained too deeply. So virtually everything that we’ve worked on is going to be there in an unsupported state. The word unsupported is key here. We don’t want to advertise anything weather-related at this point, because that would just lead to disappointment. Please wait for a future patch with optimized, working weather instead.

Q. Is it true that IL-2: Cliffs of Dover will use 2D decals for bomb craters? Will craters be persistent? Are there plans to add 3D bomb craters at a later time? Tell us about the new trench system and the ability to create tunnels.

A. 3D bomb craters are a huge liability when they intersect with other objects. We played with them and found that we just couldn’t make them work. Craters within crates, craters intersecting with water, or going underneath buildings, etc, all that just looks horrible and we have absolutely no additional resources to improve on them.

The trenches and tunnels, since they can be placed and adjusted manually, are fully 3D objects that slice into the landscape and place a “false bottom” underneath.

Other objects can be placed inside trenches and tunnels. We don’t have any kind of automatic object placement to other objects, but you can manually set object height above (or below) landscape. This makes the feature even more flexible — not only can you place an object in a trench, you can put a flak gun on a roof, or a tank in a tree!

Q. The new grass is impressive. It has been shown to be tied to different types of ground texture. Existing pictures show the grass type changing abruptly at the edge of tiles. Will it be possible to have a transition which isn’t a straight line or which smoothly mixes different types?

A. Anything is possible given enough computer resources. At this time, we feel that our grass is resource-intensive enough as it is. Making it more perfect would make the game slower, and at this time we don’t want to make it any slower.

Technical

Q. Can you comment on what type of system configuration is generally best for flight simulators? Should we upgrade our CPU, RAM or Video first?

A. IL-2: Cliffs of Dover taxes your system to the max on all fronts. Physics and AI use up tons of CPU; landscape and buildings and trees fill up RAM; and detailed textures and all sorts of bells and whistles go to town on your graphics card. So what you upgrade first depends on what your system’s weakest spot is. If you only have 2 gigs of RAM, upgrade that first. If your CPU is older than your graphics card, upgrade it — or vice versa.

Q. Do you have any guesses about what system would meet the “recommended system requirements” (at release or a year later)?

A. We plan to improve on the game at the same time as we optimize it. Hard to say about a year from now, but it’ll probably run at the same FPS on the same hardware in a year, just with more features.

Q. Will there be offsetting parts of the calculations to PhysX or OpenCL if the user’s PC supports either technology?

A. No. We aren’t using these or any other 3rd party programs, other than SpeedTree.

Q. Two recent flight simulators (by other developers) are too sensitive to work easily with older or cheaper joysticks. Will IL-2: Cliffs of Dover require a high-end joystick to play properly? What support is planned for older controllers?

A. A lot of our developers still play with the same 10+ year old joysticks they developed the original IL-2 with. I don’t think you’ll have an issue on this front.

DRM, Copy Protection, and Release Dates

Q. Will the copy protection system be the same for both publishers?

A. The general system will be the same, the DRM vendors will be different.

Q. Could you clarify how the copy protection system will work?

A. Ubisoft published a detailed overview here.

Q. Is the Pre-purchase, Open Beta approach a good idea for future IL-2: Cliffs of Dover titles?

A. It’s always a good idea when trying to stress-test multiplayer. Otherwise it just overwhelms the developer with hundreds of copies of the same bugs.

Q. Will there be a delay between the Russian release and other territories? If yes, can you estimate approximately how much the delay time will be?

A. The Russian release is set for March 25. International is March 30th. USA is April 19th.

SimHQ would like to thank Oleg and Ilya for taking the time to complete these responses about IL-2: Cliffs of Dover.

We would also like to thank “Avimimus” for his help in compiling the questions and sections.

 


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