An Exclusive Interview with Producer Matt Wagner
SimHQ had the opportunity last week to discuss some additional aspects of DCS: Black Shark with the flight sim’s Producer, Matt Wagner.
Q: Matt, thanks for taking a few minutes to field some more DCS: Black Shark questions for SimHQ readers.
A: Glad to be of help. Since announcing DCS in the fall of last year, we’ve strived to be very communicative and open with our customers. We’ve tried to do this with regular project updates, instructional videos, releasing the manuals early, and answering a lot of questions on the official DCS web site. Our moderators and testers have also done a great job and trying to keep this community informed. We hope this has gone a long way towards keeping our customers informed and up-to-speed about the project.
Q: Let’s dive right in. The Russian release of Black Shark has been out for about a month now. Is the team pleased with the general reaction download sales so far?
A: Given the limited distribution and hoops folks need to jump through to get the game outside the CIS, we are quite surprised by the number of sales. However, we sincerely hope that customers outside of the CIS will wait for the English version before purchasing. While it is surely possible to purchase and play the Russian version, you’ll avoid a lot of headaches, get a good deal more content, and get a more refined game if you can wait for the English version.
Q: What was the toughest part of developing DCS: Black Shark?
A: Although we kept the outward appearance of the Mission Editor similar to our previous products, the guts of it are entirely new. We did this to allow much easier and more rapid changes and additions for later DCS iterations. Re-writing this code and all the associated hooks into other elements of the larger program was quite a bit of work. After that would probably be the AI. Much of the AI code for helicopters and ground units was completely re-written and this in turn required a great deal of testing and refinement.
Q: What part of the development was anticipated to be difficult, but proved to be less of a challenge than expected?
A: Probably the new campaign system. Rather than having a completely linear campaign system as previous products, we wanted to use a staged system that allows the player to move back and forth between stages and not be required to successfully complete a mission before moving to a new one. In the end, we were able to design and implement the new system rather quickly and with good results.
Q: What was the intended target for the graphics with regards to hardware capability?
A: Using our recommended specifications or higher, we target folks using the default HIGH graphics pre-set. During testing, we found this generally provided frame rates of around 30, which is our target FPS. However, in order to “future proof” the game as hardware power advances, we still allow the user to manually up the graphics past the default HIGH settings. This turns out to be a catch 22 though because some folks will of course try to manually max-out all the settings on current system and be disappointed by frame rates. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Q: Isn’t the team on a fast track development cycle? What is your turnaround time from title-to-title?
A: Right now most of the team has transitioned to DCS: A-10C Warthog and development is already moving along at a very good clip. Because many of the DCS building blocks were already created for Black Shark, the development time for Warthog will be significantly less. From the time Black Shark goes into retail, we hope to have A-10C out nine months after that. Note that that is not a promise, just our current goal!