What we learned from the IL-2 December Q&A session

Yesterday, Jason Williams, Han and others from the IL-2 team joined fans on the official TeamSpeak server for a great Q&A session.

The session went for over 3 hours with plenty of great questions and some equally great answers from Jason Williams, Han, and other members of the team. If you missed it (like I did) then you can listen to a complete recording available on YouTube courtesy of IL-2 community member 6./ZG26_McKvack.

My Summary

Don’t have time to listen to the complete 3 hour Q&A? Don’t worry, I did and I summarized the whole thing.

Game features

  • New features will be rolled out over the next 12 months
  • New campaign mode, new coop mode (similar to Rise of Flight)
  • SDK for maps, vehicles and other objects
    • There will not be an official SDK for aircraft
    • Willing to work with third party on map development but only if they can work without a lot of supervision from the team
    • Right now: Have one third party person/small team working on Odessa map while main map team works on the Kuban map – this keeps them completely busy
  • Currently no time in the project timeline for Battle of Kuban to have torpedo carrying versions of aircraft (i.e. Ju88, He111, A-20)
  • Pacific aircraft will certainly have air dropped torpedoes (i.e. TBD, B5N)
  • Built in-VOIP
    • Both Jason and Han think it would be a great thing to add but its not going to happen soon
    • No idea how long it would take to build and what impact it might have on the netcode system
  • AI improvements
    • The issue of AI ganging up on the player may be a quirk of the AI system, will be investigated
    • There is not a full-time AI programmer
    • Jason hopes that over time, as other items are improved, there will be much more time to focus on AI improvements
  • Creating tutorials and information for new pilots
    • Two ways to approach: Video or interactive training mode
    • The community has been very helpful in providing these kinds of tutorials (i.e. Requiems videos)
    • With the new campaign system that is coming, it would be possible for a third party to create a training campaign
  • Map display improvements: Would like to, at some point, be able for players to put rulers on the map to figure out distances and vectors

Air Marshall

  • It will be a special screen on multiplayer servers that enable it (on/off mode)
  • Marshall can direct friendly forces to fight the enemy
  • Limitations on what a friendly unit can see, what an observation post or spotter can see, what information flows back to the marshal
    • Info provided on a certain interval based on spotters, recon planes, friendly forces in combat, airbase forces that can all report to the air marshal what is happening
  • Not an all-seeing eye that sees everything on the battlefield
  • Jason thinks it will make online battles more interesting, add more strategy and tactics
    • Expect there to be bugs, things you like, things you don’t like
    • Will probably be some growing pains
    • Excited to build it, good discussion about features to be included

Game engine, DirectX 11, and VR

  • DirectX 11 development is going well
  • DX11 allows for the possibility of increasing the fidelity of the maps, increases in texture resolution, and other graphical improvements
    • Possible that these changes will filter into the Moscow and Stalingrad maps
  • Jason: Certain aspects of visual presentation hope to improve under DX11
  • Next patch: Will enable 4K texture support
  • Performance improvements under DX11:
    • Performance has approximately doubled for people in the test team
    • Older cards may not see as dramatic an increase in frame rate
    • 90% plus users should see an increase in performance
  • VR performance
    • Will be much better under DX11
    • Plan on supporting three avenues: Steam VR, Occulus SDK, and open source VR
    • Working with a Vive and Occulus unit right now
    • Confident about a good experience from the cockpit, but not confident about the GUI right now
  • The team decided on DX11 over DX12 or Vulkan for a few different reasons
    • Engine already programmed in DX9 and transition to DX11 is easier than to 12 or Vulkan
    • Han: Very hard and expensive to move from current DX engine to something else, maybe in “IL-2 Three”
    • DX12 move would cut out non-Windows 10 users, team does not want to do this right now
    • Hoping to build support for these later down the line and see if there are any real advantages
  • Performance improvements in the dedicated server are possible
    • Theoretically the physical engine performance can be boosted including objects such as vehicles, ships, tanks
    • Performance could be three times more efficient than now on the dedicated server
    • Improvement mostly to be found from multi-core usage,
    • Implementing this will be a tremendous amount of work and require revision of the network protocol to accommodate these changes
    • Changes will come after Battle of Kuban

Timeline

  • First Battle of Kuban content comes in December
  • Roughly a new plane every month and a half for the next year
  • The tentative plan:
    • December: Bf109G-4
    • January: Bf110G-2
    • February: He111H-16
    • March: FW190A-5 with flight model fixes for the FW19A-3
    • May: IL-2 Model 1943
    • June: Spitfire V
    • July: Kuban map (without career)
    • October: Yak-7B + open beta on Kuban career
    • November: A-20B + P-39L-1 + Hs129B-2 + new free historical campaign for Kuban
    • December: Final release of Battle of Kuban
  • Reasons for the timeline:
    • It takes a lot of time to build a fresh plane from scratch
    • Work has already started on the A-20B (the most complex new plane), it takes many weeks of research and work just to get it started
    • Even the Yak-7B is mostly a new plane, very different from the Yak-1
    • A lot of content will come towards the end of the cycle

Aircraft

  • The He111H-16 is not likely to have the R1 ball turret modification
  • Bf109G-4 is confirmed to have the 1.42ATA engine modification (extra boost over the G-2)
  • Other Collector Aircraft
    • Jason would like to offer additional Collector Aircraft if time in the schedule allows
    • Hard choices have to be made each time the team decides to do or not do an aircraft
    • Jason would like to add the Bf109G-6 and feels that the team would have to add the La-5F or FN
    • Other aircraft mentioned: IL-4, Po-2, IAR80/81
    • Jason would like to see all of this but it’s a matter of time that the team doesn’t have very much of
  • On the engine duration issue
    • Three options:
      • 1) leave it as it is right now and explain how it works, its not as rigid as you think it is, but not as random as you may want it
      • 2) tweak the current system, add more randomness
      • 3) to give servers or players the option to turn off engine limits
    • Many variables are at play here and there is more randomness than some players give credit for
    • Question remains: how these restrictions should really work. A lot of missing data on what should happen if the engine limit is exceeded.
    • There is randomness and there are restrictions already: Example, if 5 minutes limit on an engine. It may break 2 minutes after or 10 minutes after. We would like to add more variation after the engine limit is spent including pre-ignition and detonation.

Future products

  • The plan is to finish with Kuban and then, assuming the go-ahead, move to the Pacific
  • The Pacific requires new technology including ships and aircraft carriers that may take some time to put together
  • Chosen Midway because of well balanced and well known aircraft sets and it being a great example of the classic carrier battle
  • Jason thinks Midway will be a very compelling product and the best representation of the Midway battle ever done in a video game
  • Okinawa is an area that the team wants to explore after Midway
  • Okinawa gives players some really cool late war aircraft, land, air and sea battles, kamikaze, a more traditional campaign than Midway
  • Jason thinks that Okinawa has been underserved in the market – Pacific Fighters did it but not too many others have and thinks there could be even more detail to the Okinawa campaign
  • Han really wants to do Okinawa, Jason wants Midway
  • Han’s long range personal dream is to do the Korean war and Jason thinks that Korea will be doable with their technology by the time they can potentially realize that (this would be well into the future)
  • If development continues and people continue to buy, team will definitely come back to the Eastern front, other fronts

The big picture

The overall message coming from the team at 1CGS is that development continues and the team is committed to producing an excellent World War II air combat experience. They want to recapture the greatness of the original IL-2 series taking the simulation to that kind of hardcore level that players want. I sense that they are aware of the fine line they walk between what kinds of things they want to simulate and what they want to leave in the background – there are differences in the approach to DCS for example but its more of a philosophical choice. Both are, to my mind anyways, nearly equally hardcore in different areas.

I get the sense that there are enough sales at the moment ensure the continued development of the series. There is, however, little chance for expansion of the team without a bigger change in the numbers of people buying the product. Jason repeatedly told us that if everyone who purchased the original IL-2 bought into the next generation, they would be able to have a bigger team and be able to do so much more.

There is a lot of optimism going forward with the series. With Jason at the helm, there is a renewed sense of direction and an alignment of the communities biggest hopes and wishes with that of the development team and what is realistically possible over the next couple of years. With some continued sales, a little luck, and good fortune… things should continue to go forward for a long time.

Fingers crossed!

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