It has been quite the year for the IL-2 series and I thought it would be fun to have a look back at everything that has happened.
Road to release: Battle of Moscow
The first part of 2016 started off with quite a few important developer updates about IL-2: Battle of Moscow.
In late January, update 1.107 arrived and brought with it three aircraft for Battle of Moscow. The Bf109F-2, Pe-2 Series 35 and the IL-2 Model 1941. Though we had previously seen each of these aircraft in the IL-2 series before, these earlier models brought their own unique features and quirks.
In March, the Battle of Moscow campaign beta arrived. Similar in features and function to the Battle of Stalingrad campaign, this arrived along with the beautiful Moscow map. Developer updates also went into detail on how the Moscow map vegetation was constructed with real data to ensure that coniferous and deciduous trees were in the right places.
March also brought with it the release of the Ju88A-4 bomber to the German side. Long awaited, the Ju88A-4 was a huge addition to the series bringing an extremely capable and relatively fast and well armed bomber to the Luftwaffe side. Offering flexible attack options (dive bombing or level) the Ju88A-4 made its way into the Battle of Stalingrad campaign later and will be a potent force in IL-2: Battle of Kuban as well.
Also launching in March was the 64-bit version of the IL-2 game client. This was the first of some major upgrades to the IL-2 game engine. Using 64-bit opened up more available RAM memory for many players (anyone with over 4GB of RAM) and solved some performance issues – particularly with the delay in textures loading after viewing new objects.
Battle of Moscow Released!
On May 18, Battle of Moscow was officially released to pre-order backers and made available as a purchase on the IL-2 Sturmovik website for those who hadn’t previously jumped in on the pre-order.
Battle of Moscow had its issues but it improved on everything that IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad was and added plenty of new aircraft to the series. Read my full review of IL-2: Battle of Moscow right here.
In June, the developers added early support for VR with HTC’s Vive. Though early support has not been problem free, future developments to the engine should enable better VR support for both Vive and for Occulus Rift.
More vehicles and objects were also added around this time to the mission builder giving a greater variety and diversity of targets to attack.
August and the Spirit of ’46
At the end of the summer, we began hearing more from Jason Williams who had become the Lead Producer for the IL-2 series. Jason would begin communicating with the community on a whole series of different issues. Questions on what would come next in the IL-2 series reached an all time high.
Some big changes came in August:
- Unlocks were changed to ‘modifications’ and no longer required a grind through the single player campaign.
- Aircraft skins were similarly made available. No more campaign grind to get that favourite official aircraft skin.
- IL-2: Battle of Moscow and IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad campaigns were updated allowing aircraft from each of the products to be flown at historical points in time. For example, the Bf109F-4 could be flown over Moscow and the P-40E-1 could be flown over Stalingrad.
With the dissolution of the unlock system, the series took a turn towards recapturing some of the old spirit of the original series. Jason began to call it the “Spirit of ’46” in reference to the success of the original IL-2: 1946 series.
New Collector Planes: Yak-1B and Ju 52
Tiding us over between the end of Battle of Moscow development and the announcement of IL-2: Battle of Kuban, the team let loose with two new “Collector Planes” (replacing the previous Premium Plane nomenclature). The Yak-1B Series 127 and Ju 52/3m were announced as two new pay-for aircraft with special discounts for those who bought in early.
The Yak-1B brought a much requested and essential fighter for the Allied side. Pound for pound a match with the best of the German fighters at low and medium altitudes, the Yak-1B had great all around visibility thanks to its bubble canopy. It was the type that was flown by many of the Russian aces of the conflict and moving on from the Eastern Front before adding the Yak-1B would have been disappointing.
The Ju52/3m brought something entirely different to the party. An essential and iconic tri-motor transport aircraft that was heavily used by the Luftwaffe during World War II, the Ju-52 was famed for its early paratroop deployments. It was pressed into heavy use during the Battle of Stalingrad in an attempt to resupply German troops trapped in the city after Operation Uranus.
The Ju52 brings something different to the IL-2 series: An aircraft that isn’t primarily tasked with destruction of the enemy.
Battle of Kuban announced
In early September, Jason Williams again took to the community with a statement and a big announcement. The next addition to the IL-2 series would be IL-2: Battle of Kuban. The product would focus on the massive battle stretching from the beginning of 1943 through to the end of autumn 1943 over the Kuban river region. The series would also begin to feature sea battles for the first time.
Jason also announced that IL-2: Battle of Kuban would be just the beginning of the team’s long term plans. Battle of Midway and Battle of Okinawa were announced as the next major projects for the team following the release of Kuban IL-2: Battle of Kuban would be the stepping stone to new sea technologies that would be necessary for the jump to the Pacific.
Battle of Kuban would also add another 10 aircraft to the series. Familiar variants as well as new and oft requested aircraft were added to the roster and many fans are just as excited about a new Bf110 as they are about the A-20B Boston, Spitfire Vb, and the Hs129B-2.
The end of the year
And that brings us to the end of the year. Development is full speed ahead on IL-2: Battle of Kuban as the team works on the new Kuban map, new ships, vehicles and ground objects, and all kinds of new technologies to go along with that.
Ten Days of Autumn arrived as both the first scripted single player campaign for the new IL-2 as well as the first paid campaign. This opens the door to both free and pay for campaigns in the future from the developers and from community members.
Another big update was the DirectX 11 engine change. The patch landed only a few weeks ago and it brought with it a huge improvement in performance for most players. A few hiccups here and there too for players with specific video cards, however, a series of hotfixes has solved some of these problems. The net benefit has been huge with 64bit upgrades early in the year and DX11 engine upgrade late in the year providing a huge benefit for most players.
VR technology is due to be upgraded next year, along with new content (see my post about what is coming and when) and new co-op, single player campaign system, all new air marshall command system for multiplayer, the Kuban map and much more in 2017.
Look for the Bf110G-2, He111H-16 and FW190A-5 arriving early in the new year followed later by the Spitfire Vb and the all new Kuban map by mid-year.
I think 2016 has been a good year for the IL-2 series and 2017 looks to be even better!