Speculating on IL-2’s future

Earlier today, Jason Williams, IL-2’s Lead Producer, took to the forums and Facebook to say that the future of IL-2 would be announced this Friday. In the subsequent hours the community has been rife with speculation and its my turn to take a shot at what is coming next and how things might go. Buckle up!

Everything up to now

bok_cover_enIn September 2016 we got a big announcement on the future of IL-2 at that stage with Jason Williams taking over as Lead Producer and announcing a course correction for the series. Unpopular unlock features were removed, major single player systems like Scripted Campaigns and a new Career mode were promised (still waiting on that last one), and a grand vision for the series was announced.

The ‘Spirit of ’46’ was the goal. Of course this was referring to the IL-2: 1946, a release generally hailed as one of the most complete and authentic World War II flight sim experiences around. Nothing short of recreating that experience in the next gen product was the goal. Part of that was to expand the horizons by introducing new theaters and move away from the East Front for a while.

At the time the goal was to do one more Eastern Front release with IL-2: Battle of Kuban. Kuban was ideal utilizing shared assets from earlier titles while allowing the team to develop new technology – ocean, complex warships, and torpedoes were all part of that development.

bf110g-destroyerstrike
Adding complex ships for aircraft to attack such as destroyers was high on the list for IL-2 if it were ever to go to the Pacific or another theater.

The next stop after that was to shift away from the Eastern Front to the Pacific and do one of the key battles of that series: Midway. Jason announced that despite caution from higher-ups that they were intending to go for the Midway battle first doing one of the biggest carrier battles of the war and follow that up with a late war Okinawa title immediately after.

At the moment, this is what we know of the future from official announcements. Now you’re caught up. Let’s read between some lines!

Is the future in doubt?

There are two parts of doubting the future of the series. The first, and the most pessimistic viewpoint, is that development will cease on the IL-2 series. I’ve seen people in the community worry about that since the announcement and at this point I think its unfounded. I have enough insight to say that its extremely unlikely and if you read between the lines – there’s plenty of evidence that its likely not the case either.

What about the shift to the Pacific? That future is in a little more doubt and I’ll start with a statement from Jason back in May that has stuck with me:

So, let’s talk about what happens after Kuban for a moment. When we announced battle of Kuban I made it clear that our intention (assuming it is possible) was to do something different, something many have asked for that would shake up the norm – The Pacific Theater starting with the Battle of Midway. It’s been over a decade since a new Pacific themed product was developed and I hope we can change this. After much research and thought we have come to understand that this will be an extreme challenge for us on every front.

It is such a challenge because we need to create large capital ships like aircraft carriers and their accompanying technology as well as create Japanese built airplanes. The Japanese airplanes pose the greatest challenge because we know little about their operation and there is not a lot of detailed documentation in either English or Russian. There is quite a bit in Japanese, but that means we need translators who can helps us which adds to our budgetary expenses in an already tight budget. This has added a new level of complexity we have not dealt with before. This is important to understand because the community has certain expectations of what level of fidelity we can achieve based on our previous products. Meeting those expectations with our Japanese airplanes might be very hard both in the visual realm and in the flight dynamics. For us to make the Pacific product a reality and worthy of the Sturmovik name we need your help. We cannot possibly locate everything we need ourselves.

There’s a possibility that the developers have been unable to locate all of the resources they need to build the Midway battle. In the past I’ve done research on Japanese aircraft and aircraft armaments and the resources are extremely hard to come by – at least, in English. Translators can be very expensive too.

Pacific Fighters got away by not being quite as high fidelity as it could have been and when it launched it was rife with errors that took months and years to correct (the Ki-61 for example didn’t have the right armament for the first two Pacific Fighters patches). Not everyone noticed but many Japanese aircraft were carrying around slightly erroneous armament for ages (the Zero had MG-FF from the Bf109 instead of the related but different performing Type 99-1 or Type 99-2 cannon – small differences add up). And those were the easy things. Modeling detailed flight models need drag models, wing planforms, and untold number of details to get right.

n1k1-jungles
It took years and a dedicated third party modeler to find enough resources to make the N1K1 series flyable. The N1K2J was added soon after Pacific Fighter’s release.

 

So what might be coming in the future

There are a couple of possibilities. The first is, of course, that the series will carry on the intended route as laid out by Jason in September 2016. If it doesn’t, I think its only fair to say that the developers made a credible and honest plan for the future and that issues outside of their control made that route untenable. We don’t know if that’s true or not yet but its one possibility.

If Midway goes ahead according to plan then that’s one thing for sure. Expect a detailed recreation of the Midway battle with carriers, cruisers, destroyers, support ships and the like fighting it out over mostly open ocean and of course the Midway island itself. Aircraft like the A6M2 Zero and F4F Wildcat, SBD-3 Dauntless and D3A Val, B5N Kate and TBD Devastator would likely be the aircraft that line up for this possible future.

But what if its not?

There was a little hint dropped that could be nothing but it might be something. You’ve heard that old tale before probably.

In Developer Diary update 178, the developers detailed a new metal rendering feature.

The second new feature is related to the look of the bare metal parts on various aircraft – in the future, we plan to make planes that weren’t painted and had a polished or matte aluminum finish. The metal parts on lend-lease planes P-40E-1, Spitfire Mk.Vb, P-39L-1 and A-20B and Italian MC.202 ser.8 (which also has a bare metal skin) will look even more realistic and authentic.

The example used was the MC.202 which was a great test-bed for the technology given its essentially all-metal construction.

mc202-metal1
Could the all metal, unpainted skin on this MC.202 portent what scenario is coming next?

You can easily read this update to say that they are improving the metal rendering now for some project further into the future but you can also read it to mean that its something they are planning to do now.

So, what aircraft do you tend to see that are typically unpainted? Really this leaves me with two potential possibilities. Western Front 1944-45 and Korea. Right now I feel like Korea is less likely – the series has prided itself on doing World War II and the fan base is more centered there. Jason and Han both talked about potentially doing Korea in the future but that they wouldn’t go there until they were satisfied with their work on World War II related scenarios.

photo-mustang-doubletroubletwo
One of my personal photos. P-51D Double Trouble Two as seen at the London Airshow in 2016.

That leaves us potentially with a Western Front scenario. Normandy? Battle of the Bulge? Italy? These are potential scenarios and they open the door to bare-metal Mustangs, Thunderbolts, and Lightnings as some possible aircraft.

That would make me pretty excited. Equally exciting would be the potential to fly the later versions of the Spitfire like the definitive Mark IX an the high performing Mark XIV. Being a British-plane lover I’d also love to see the Typhoon, Tempest and Mosquito as potential types as well. The door also opens to other aircraft like later models of the A-20 like the G variant with the solid nose and 6x.50cal machine guns. Or what about the B-25 (in RAF service) and the B-26 (in USAAF service). These are all tactical aircraft that would easily fit into the IL-2 series.

Heavy bombers like the Lancaster, Halifax, B-17 and B-24 are less likely given their enormous size and the research required to do them. They are also strategic weapons and the IL-2 series doesn’t support the kind of maps that would be required to let you fly one on a multi-hour mission. More importantly, do people want that experience? Maybe some but a lot don’t though I can’t discount either the concept of flying abridged missions – the 1CGS team can do a lot here depending on their vision and the resources they have available.

A20B-1CGS-wipflying
Could we see more versions of the A-20? Possible given the hard work the team has already done on this attack bomber.

Even without a heavy bomber, the series West Front jump would likely interest many (this guy right here for sure) and the tactical air war over France, Belgium and Germany during 1944 and 1945 were just as intense as the fighting in the East. The Luftwaffe was on its back heel to be sure but still dangerous. In multiplayer battles the historical numbers would matter a less while the popularity of aircraft types and the backdrop itself would matter that much more.

We’ll know soon

All of this speculation is fun but it will quickly become out of date as the major announcement comes at 12:00 GMT this Friday. We’ll likely learn about the release date for IL-2: Battle of Kuban, potential info on pre-orders for the Bf109G-6 and La-5FN Collector Planes, and very likely the immediate future for the series will be known.

Is the future in doubt? A little bit but not in a bad way. I think Jason Williams and team have done a superb job of bringing IL-2 along in the last year and a half turning the corner on some troublesome issues and making this into an incredible simulator. It’s become more compelling a product with each patch and each major release.

I’m optimistic and I’m excited. No matter what happens I have a lot of faith that we’ll see some really cool things coming soon.

TL;DR? The series future isn’t likely in doubt but its direction might be.

What do you think? Excited? Disappointed about a possible change in direction?

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. gflinch says:

    Great info, and speculation

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Thanks! Any thoughts on what we might see tomorrow?

      Like

  2. Michael Dwyer says:

    I don’t give much credibility to the comments of doom and gloom. The recent news that a 3rd party is working on the Po-2 would probably never have been something Jason would consider if the future of the series was in question. You only plan things like that when you feel your at a point you can start expanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Completely agree. I’ve also noticed that the IL-2 announcement on Facebook was a sponsored post meaning that they paid advertising money via the Facebook Advertising system to make sure that people saw it. You don’t pay ad money when you’re closing up shop.

      Recent developer updates have also focused on new features including mention of future projects.

      They have something in store to be sure!

      Like

  3. superetendard3 says:

    I wish they keep up with Midway but replace Okinawa with a more favorable scenario like a mid war New Guinea or Burma. Some others I have heard of as candidates by forum users are either Battle of the Philippine Sea or the Battle of the Leyte Gulf, both of these battles had this late war feeling to them like Okinawa but have the advantage of having less complications than the originally intended Okinawa from the air point of view (not as big travel distances for the japanese planes, less total number of different models which participated in the battle, etc).

    There is also the speculation that Midway might get replaced or complemented with another early war scenario more focused in land war mostly because of lack of a dedicated long term single player campaign in the case of Midway.

    Me personally, if I had to take a different direction from the Pacific, I would choose something that’s both interesting for Western audience and makes use of the tech developed in Kuban and their ambitions to model WW2 carrier operations in a modern sim: The Allied invasion of Italy (or Sicily). If i’m correct these campaigns had a good deal of tactical support of ground forces similar to that of the Eastern Front, also makes use of a good number of German planes already done in the sim, leaving the possibility to complement them with more Italian planes, and some American/British for the Allied team. Planes like a later P-40 variant, Seafire, Barracuda, an early P-38 or P-47 come to mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kenrh123endo says:

    Incredible piece of detective work in this post.

    I first read it before the BIG announcement came through, and I didn’t really buy it, but you got it almost perfect.

    Great blog. I enjoy reading it!

    Liked by 1 person

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