World of Warplanes – Interview with Anton Sitnikau
World of Tanks from Wargaming.net has proven to be an MMO phenomenon. Soon, gamers will be able to soar with the company’s next release, World of Warplanes. Set in "the golden era" of military aviation, it will cover everything from 1930s biplanes to Korean War–era jets. To give our readers more insight into what to expect in the deadly skies, Armchair General asked gamer and journalist Paul Glasser to put a few questions to World of Warplanes producer Anton Sitnikau.
Armchair General: Other than operating planes instead of tanks, what differences will players notice between World of Warplanes (WoWP) and World of Tanks (WoT)? Will the game be more fast-paced?
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Wargaming.net: It certainly will! We’ve put deeper emphasis on fast-paced combat for World of Warplanes, but it isn’t the fundamental difference between the two projects. More importantly, you get a three-dimensional battle space, which directly affects control difficulty, and with warplanes you find yourself in constant movement, which doesn’t let you stop for a moment to think over your next move. World of Warplanes will make you think, decide and act on the go. Also, you won’t have any buildings or bushes to hide behind. There are clouds, which vaguely resemble the aforementioned elements but realistically, these will only be used for cover as you try to drop a pursuer off your tail.
ACG: Will WoWP and WoT be integrated? For instance, can players share Free Experience, Credits, Premium Status and Gold between games? Will Clan wars be integrated?
Wargaming.net: The games will be integrated on two main levels. With the launch of World of Warplanes, players will get a unified account that will allow them to channel Free Experience and Gold between the two titles. As soon as World of Battleships is live, it will be integrated into the common economic system as well. On the meta-level, Clans from World of Warplanes and World of Tanks will have connected missions on the Global Map. For example, World of Warplanes players struggling for air control over sectors of the Clan wars’ map will be able to buy ground support from tank clans, while tankers will be able to call in airstrikes and both will have a chance to pay and arrange for bombardments from warships off the coast. This is going to become the circle of mutual help.
ACG: Where does WoWP fall on the scale between simulation and arcade? How do you balance the competing demands of realism and ease of play?
Wargaming.net: We expect that the interface we have developed will make the game both fun and accessible. World of Warplanes will present the golden medium, with a finely struck balance between simulation and arcade. We will provide a simplistic UI, and at release the game will offer multiple control schemes. The game already supports mouse, joysticks, keyboard, keyboard + mouse and gamepads, so players will be able to choose the one that suits them best.
Simple and user-friendly controls will allow rookies to grasp piloting basics after several battles without requiring them to learn advanced flight mechanics. For instance, we won’t implement starting procedures and take-offs. Take-off procedure for some real-life planes require 20 or more lever manipulations, and we feel that this would be an unnecessary waste of time. We want players to focus on the combat, not on operating the aircraft. Also, we are planning to introduce an online PvE-oriented tutorial (Player Versus Environment, i.e., the player vs. computer-controlled opponents) to assist players who are completely new to aerial combat. It will guide them through the learning process to help them grasp piloting basics and master aiming skills during training battles with AI warplanes. Plus, the matchmaker will be tweaked to prevent fights between rookies and top aces.
Behind the simplified controls and unobtrusive interface, players will get deep game mechanics. For example, the game will feature gyroscopic moment, tailspin, aircraft alignment change during the battle and several other non-arcade features. Along with making it easy to control the plane without crashing, a complex flight model will offer a lot of options for some really tricky maneuvers. Players will be able to perform breaks, Immelmans, yo-yos (high/low), barrel rolls, loops, and vertical and horizontal scissors.
ACG: Some players in WoT have complained about the lack of game modes. How many different kinds of battles or missions will be included in WoWP?
Wargaming.net: World of Warplanes will launch with more game modes than its predecessor. Most probably, players will get two modes right away and we will continue introducing new modes after release.
The main game mode is similar to the WoT fundamental Team Deathmatch and is called "Superiority." It’s already featured in the Global Alpha. It will consist of two teams, 15 players each, trying to eliminate enemy ground targets and/or destroy all the enemy planes. Ground targets will have different levels of protection, sizes and relevance: e.g., vulnerable lone fuel depots can be destroyed with machineguns but you’ll require no less than cannons and rockets to eliminate heavily-armored factories and battleships. The greater your team’s advantage, the faster you are assigned "superiority" points that will eventually grant you victory. In the end, "Superiority" mode will provide two options to win: by getting 100-percent superiority or by crushing all enemy planes. The second game mode, called "Escort," will require eliminating any enemy aircraft that jeopardize the flight of your VIP unit or alternatively intercepting and destroying hostile VIPs. This game mode isn’t featured in the Global Alpha yet, as it needs to undergo some final polishing first.
In short, eliminating all enemy machines will always grant your team the victory, while specific scenarios will considerably diversify the gameplay.
ACG: How many different national factions and different types of aircraft will be included—will there be bombers, for example?
Wargaming.net: Yes, there’ll be heavy bombers but all of them will be AI controlled. Gameplay-wise, we feel it would be much less exciting to control a large bomber as compared to flying the other classes of warbirds.
We have divided all in-game warplanes into national tech trees including branches of three vehicle classes in each: fighters, heavy fighters and ground-attack planes. The game will launch with 60–70 planes from three nations: the United States, Germany and the USSR. National trees will come with a branch of light fighters and a class of warplanes unique for every nation, such as ground attack planes, heavy fighters and naval aircraft.
Additionally, we are developing original and engaging gameplay that is relevant for fighters, heavy fighters and ground-attack aircraft.
ACG: How do you decide which types of aircraft and which nationalities to introduce initially, which will be in the first upgrade, and so on?
Wargaming.net: When we decided upon a historical setting for the game, we also got a broad-brush picture of the nationalities that would be included. For us, the World War II period neatly presented us with a preliminary list of nations. However, dealing with their priority was a totally different and by far trickier thing.
Working on the plane roster, we have followed the strict guidelines from the archival documents that we have been able to uncover, trying our best to be historically accurate within the limits of our engine. There was a large amount of study, which encompassed several months of hard work for each plane. We needed to gather historical references, develop a 3D model, prep authentic textures and core customization items (camouflage, coloring schemes, etc.), and tweak the primary combat setting. Of course, the team was working on several planes simultaneously and our resources aren’t limitless. Also, when it comes to the game balancing, the process slows down because the stats analysis needs to be done with maximum accuracy and precision. So, in working out a realistic and detailed gaming experience we occasionally had to sacrifice some initial plans to ensure each feature that we’ve developed is top-quality. That’s why we decided to introduce three comprehensive national trees upon release instead of developing several fabled models for a wide set of nations.
Also, we had to decide what plane classes we would develop first; this was probably the easiest part. As we had the list of nations by then, we only had to pick and choose their most prominent models. In the early stages, we did plan on introducing reconnaissance planes and horizontal bombers but they didn’t fit into the gameplay concept so we have left them out of the tech trees.
As I told you earlier, we will continue to add new content and features to optimize the game after release. Nation-wise, British and Japanese aircraft development will be next on our agenda. We will gradually extend all tech trees and the number of available nations. Eventually, every branch will go all the way to tier 10, and every nation will feature several branches of each aircraft class.
ACG: Will pilots be able to train to gain additional skills and perks like in WoT (repair, firefighting, etc.), and if so, what kind of benefits will be offered?
Wargaming.net: At release you’ll see a sizable list of additional skills for gunners, pilots, etc. We haven’t yet nailed down the final version, so I can’t give you much information at this time.
All in all, the process of crew training will differ considerably from World of Tanks. In aerial combat the crew often consists of a single pilot performing a wide range of tasks. That’s the reason why World of Warplanes will get a more pronounced RPG element. For example, players will be able to train for several perks and skills at the same time.
ACG: Thank you for taking time to answer our questions. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Wargaming.net: Thank you very much for taking an interest in World of Warplanes! We hope you enjoy the game!
The testing is continuing in line with the internal schedule. The game is past the early closed alpha stage, and a more public global alpha is now running. We feel almost ready to proceed to a wider and more massive closed beta. It is scheduled to begin this summer, and we are confident that will occur.
About the Interviewer
Paul Glasser works as a political journalist in Kentucky. He holds a BA in history from Purdue University and spends most of his free time reading and writing about military history. He writes and edits freelance articles for a number of online publications but focuses mainly on miniatures gaming. Among his articles for Armchair General was last November’s "Suggested Mods for World of Tanks."