Thoughts on IL-2’s bigger picture in 2018

Back in November of 2017 we had the big announcement on what future titles were underway for the IL-2 series. We also got a list of items that were part of the “bigger picture” and I thought now would be a great time to start thinking about what’s coming next.

Titles but also features

We know that three titles are currently under development for the IL-2: Great Battles Series. IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte, Tank Crew: Clash at Prokhorovka and Flying Circus Volume 1.

The three combined will add dramatically to the IL-2 series bringing World War I, Western Front 1944 and 1945 air battles, and a serious tank sim for a potentially all-new audience.

Those are the titles and the content that 1CGS is going to be focused on (along with some third party partners). But there are also bigger picture items that are core to the gameplay such as IL-2: Battle of Kuban’s Career Mode that really change the way that we play the game.

Here’s a list from Jason’s IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte announcement back in November:

  • New MP matchmaking system and lobby with chat
  • Improvements to aircraft fuel systems and add drop tanks
  • Oxygen masks for pilots at high attitude
  • Jet engine technology and associated physics of higher Mach numbers
  • Improvements to AI
  • Option for 4K skins by default and preview pics in the GUI for Custom skins
  • In-Game Model Viewer (hold over from Kuban)
  • Mods On/Off (hold over from Kuban)
  • More attractive GUI and better GUI optimization

I’d like to break this down and go over some things that are coming plus a couple not on the list.

New matchmaking and lobby

Since IL-2 released we’ve been asking for a lobby system to help enhance multiplayer. IL-2: Sturmovik through to IL-2: 1946 never had one but a popular third party software, HyperLobby, filled in the gap with favourites/friends lists, chat lobby, and a co-op hosting line-up that helped build that game’s community.

Other tools are available such as a community Discord server which help but enhancements to the multiplayer UI are essential at this stage. Player lists, server settings, sorting and favourite server features are all on my wishlist to see and it looks like the developers will likely be able to accommodate some or all of this.

Droptanks and fuel systems

P-51-361.jpg
A P-51D-5NA with 75-gallon drop tanks

Plenty of WWII aircraft carried external fuel tanks that could be dropped in combat. Drop tanks were popular especially on fighters like the P-47, P-51, and Tempest Mark V. Bf109s and other German types also sometimes used these tanks.

While some Eastern Front aircraft had simple fuel systems, many on the West had more complex ones. The P-51D Mustang famously required pilots to draw from the rear tank first so as to prevent handling issues due to a centre-of-gravity that was too far to the rear of the aircraft.

Oxygen masks for pilots

The 1944/1945 Western Front scenario requires more in the way of high altitude support and adding this simple feature still requires time and effort on the part of the developers so that it looks good and functions well.

Jet engine technology

IL-2 currently simulates radial and in-line engines fairly well. There are multiple subsystems that keep these engines running and improper operation or battle damage cause all kinds of issues.

Jet engines, particularly WWII era ones, are finicky and troublesome at best so getting a good model of these will be a great enhancement to the engine technology. This is also, I think, a precursor to what may eventually be a future title centered around the 1950-53 Korean War scenario that the devs have mused about. It’s a long way off but its never too soon to start building underlying technology and especially when it can be leveraged almost immediately.

Because this means extra work, I suspect the Me262 will be the last aircraft to be added to IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte.

AI improvements

We’ve already seen some of this work pay off. AI is far more adept at ground attack than ever before. Taxi and takeoff are generally improved too as is the ability to avoid hills and mountain sides.

No doubt some of you, as your reading this, are thinking to the last silly thing that the AI did in patches 3.001 or 3.002 and you would probably be right. The AI will hopefully continue to improve as it has already done.

4K skins and preview images for custom skins

IL-2-43-bright-sun
An IL-2 Model 1943 flying during an early Sea Dragon campaign mission. 4K textures enabled.

The first half of this bullet point has already been implemented and 4K skins by default are now on. Only the IL-2 Model 1943 and the A-20B have 4K textures (to the best of my knowledge) but future aircraft will have them by default and we’ll likely see 4K textures spread through the “back catalogue” of aircraft as time goes on.

What the GUI currently is missing is a preview picture for what a skin looks like when you pick one outside of the developer skins. That is on their list to improve.

In-game model viewer

I think this is going to be a cool feature. Jason talked about, during a Q&A, having a in-game model viewer that would let you look at aircraft and probably vehicles and other objects up close. Custom backgrounds or scenes may also be among the features.

I love these sorts of features because, as the product matures, it shows off the great work that’s been done on things you may not necessary look at closely. But it also shows off how much the developers care about the subject matter.

Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation on X-Box sucked me in precisely because everything in that game, including an object viewer, told me that the developers absolutely loved aircraft and modern jet combat. This I think would be a great feature for IL-2: Great Battles as well.

Mods On/Off feature

Since November of 2017, this feature has also been implemented. Mods On/Off is now available (arriving with 3.001) and a small community of modders has been busy creating all kinds of different changes. Check it out if you’re interested.

More attractive GUI

This is an interesting one. IL-2’s current GUI is a fairly simple take on a game interface. Without a lot of extra frills, IL-2’s current GUI is functional and effective but it doesn’t have much artistry to it on its own.

To be fair, a lot of artistry has been sunk into things like awards, squadron logos, and so forth. When IL-2 first released it was also under enormous time constraints going from an updated Rise of Flight engine to a completed title in about 18 months. That is short for a flight sim and you can see where compromises were made.

Rise of Flight had a good looking GUI that was still very functional but also thematic. That GUI helped draw players into the World War I world and many years later still holds up because of it.

RoF-MainMenu.jpg
Rise of Flight’s GUI still looks good years after release. Simple yet thematically based.

Other games going to back to Aces of the Pacific and Aces Over Europe used limited computer resources with surprisingly good GUI design to make you feel like you were part of the historical moment.

I can see IL-2: Great Battles potentially having a new GUI experience that would meld that Rise of Flight model with something that would fit the East, West, armored battles and World War I themes well enough to meld all of those titles together.

This isn’t a feature that is necessary but its a nice-to-have that helps put polish on the experience. No doubt the developers will leverage their already excellent work with VR and ensure that the GUI also works well for VR players.

Air Marshal

Not on the list above but having since been mentioned, the multiplayer oriented Air Marshal feature has still been talked about. In a previous Q&A session, Jason detailed a system where a player could act as a battle commander coordinating flights and lending itself to larger scale server events.

This was meant to work in a semi-realistic way in that the Marshal wouldn’t have access to information unless spotted by an observer unit (AI) or human player. This is a cool idea and I’m excited to learn some more details about it when the team is ready to talk about it.

Multiplayer experience improvements are due

Co-op (already released), Air Marshal, and enhanced match making and multiplayer GUI overall should help enhance IL-2’s multiplayer above its current state.

In the same way that the last 12 months have seen the IL-2 single player experience make several leaps forward with the new Career and Scripted Campaign modes, I expect that the time spent developing Bodenplatte, Flying Circus, and Tank Crew, will be partially spent making IL-2’s multiplayer as strong its as single player.

I also hope during that process we see some improvements on some things that aren’t so exciting but are important such as enhanced dedicated server support, server stability, join queues, and other small yet important features.

A lot on their plate

1CGS has a lot on their plate for 2018 and 2019 with three titles due and third party aircraft potentially making their first appearance into the series as well. It’s going to be an interesting year watching the series evolve.

I’m excited by whats planned and I’m looking forward to seeing these features come to fruition. It takes time but 1CGS has turned weakness to strength in many features within the series so far and I think they will do the same here and then some.

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. 1_Robert_ says:

    Another good read Shamrock-thanks. We all desire different things as far as development priorities and for me it’s multiplayer stability. I will continue to keep my fingers crossed that we’ll see a MP revamping with the next Battle series release.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      My behind the scenes guess is that Jason came in and decided that the team needed to solve some pretty big weak areas and that they would have to do these over a prolonged period of time. Their efforts on single player have turned that area into a huge strength for the series. I think we’ll see them turn to multiplayer.

      If I’m right… in 12-16 months we’ll see IL-2’s multiplayer leap forward in some big ways. Probably slowly.

      Like

  2. Custard says:

    We can already see the first glimpses of a new multiplayer lobby system in the new multiplayer scoreboard. Which has a functionality to add other users as friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Really good point Custard! I had forgotten about that but it definitely gives us a small glimpse!

      Like

  3. Francesco Kasta says:

    Nice article, thank you! They stated the first BoBp plane should be released next month but… do we know anything about the actual map??

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      We have a sense of the size of the map and what’s on and not on it but nothing officially stated yet. Something for a follow up article!

      Like

      1. Francesco Kasta says:

        So no hints at a possible release date. 😦

        Like

      2. Francesco Kasta says:

        Perfect timing: the devs have just posted on their FB page about this very same topic. There’s also fourteen pics… looks good albeit it is pretty empty at this stage. Hopefully we are NOT too far from release.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Analysis on today’s update and some other items coming later on!

        Liked by 1 person

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