It is my great pleasure to announce that the next Community Q&A is with 1C Game Studio’s Black Six. He’s a historical researcher for the IL-2 series and campaign builder and you’ll recognize his work on past campaigns including Ten Days of Autumn (read the review), Blazing Steppe (read the review) and Sea Dragons (read the review). Black Six is about to release another campaign for the series, the newly announced Fortress on the Volga!
Black Six has also provided help and guidance to other mission builders and worked with the community to collect historical data. Some of that data has helped to influence the Career mode for all of the current titles and for the future IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte.
And now, let’s get to the Q&A and check out some exclusive screenshots for the campaign in the gallery at the bottom.
A Q&A with Black Six
How long have you been interested in World War II history and how long have you been involved with flight simulators?
Let’s just say, I had no chance to avoid an interest in aviation and military history. My grandfather was interested in the World War II aviation and his house was littered with military memoirs. Also, my father worked in the Yakovlev bureau and developed anti-icing systems for the cockpits. Unfortunately, the aviation industry in Russia was in very poor condition in the mid-1990s and I was forced to receive engineering education in another specialty.
Around 1992, I saw the “F-19 Stealth Fighter” on PC and this determined my playing addictions once and for all. I played all aviation simulators coming out in the 1990s and I switched to the long-awaited “IL-2: Sturmovik” in 2001. The following year, I discovered the first self-made campaigns for “IL-2” and decided to try making them myself. In 2003, I was already invited to work at 1C: Maddox Games as a mission designer. You could play my single missions in the Aces expansion pack, Pacific Fighters and three add-ons for the “IL-2:1946” edition but unfortunately my campaigns were published only on the Russian market in that period.
The new “Fortress on the Volga” I./JG 52 campaign coming up next is your fourth scripted campaign for the IL-2 series. Has your process for creating these campaigns (scripting, research, approach, etc.) changed since your first campaign (Ten Days of Autumn)?
I began to study the current mission editor at the beginning of 2016. In the middle of the year I created 10 single missions for the “Battle for Moscow” career and I was able to finish my first campaign “Ten days of Autumn” at the end of 2016. Of course, the technical progress has been tremendous over the past two years. I managed to solve most of the problems, studied a lot of user requests and made some important changes in the game process. Also, I created a template library allows me to construct the missions much faster.
The creation of each mission still takes about a week of working time, but now I can spend much more time improving the gameplay. One of the main problems of the scripted campaigns is that they have low replayability. You already know everything that happens in each mission.
In the new Luftwaffe campaign “Fortress on the Volga”, I significantly increased the variability of the most missions (if they don’t reconstruct some very famous episodes). Also, now air battles will continue another 15-20 minutes after the end of your task and it will reduce the impression that “this world exists only for you”.
Where do you look for inspiration for different types of missions in each campaign?
First of all, I carefully study the unit history and try to select the most interesting missions. Several times I have made attempts to reconstruct the unit operations day after day, but each time such campaigns turned out to be very boring.
So, I have a huge list of possible missions for each aircraft type and war period and I mix them with real tasks from historical sources. This allows me to create a memorable and balanced campaign which at the same time doesn’t contradict the history behind it.
How long does it take to research a campaign before you start the creation process?
Usually preparation takes about a month. This includes searching for all of the necessary archive data, reading military memoirs and historical research related to the campaign period and ordering additional literature. Usually the books are the largest item of the financial expenses.
How do you plan missions for each campaign? Do you prepare notes for each mission before creating them?
Yes, I do. I’ve to see full list of all future missions before creating the campaign. This is required to avoid repeating the same tasks, time of day, and to vary missions by duration. It’s also necessary to ensure that the dates of missions are evenly distributed over the selected time period. It’s much easier to detect unsuccessful repetitions, inconsistencies, errors or weak points in your future campaign when you can see such detailed table.
How do you balance the historical notes about a fighter squadron and their operations with producing something interesting for players to fly?
The balance between historical data and high playability is the most difficult point in the campaign сreating. For example, years of experience tell me that most users don’t like long flights or long patrols over any objects. Also, the need to replay the mission several times in order to fulfill some task (if it happened during a real fight) is very bad for the impression of the campaign. In this case, common sense, careful study of the players feedback and your intuition can help you in such work.
How closely do missions that you build correspond to the histories as written and how often do you need to take historical license to fill in the gaps?
All ground battles and the front-line positions closely correspond to the real history. The campaign consists of known episodes involving this unit and missions invented by me with standard tasks that were usually performed during this period.
The campaigns you’ve released so far are not just missions but also episodic stories that are included in the briefing of each mission. What’s your approach to these and what historical research do you do to help you get the details right? (i.e. you sometimes write about the pilots living conditions or events that happened to them between missions)
I try to read several dozen military memoirs each year. This allows me to copy the style of these texts and recreate the atmosphere of the era of the 1940s. Thus, the briefings are a mixture of the description of the real situation at the front, the real events taking place in this unit and the personal history of the main character. I scoop the ideas for such stories in the memoirs and try to apply to the current situation. This approach allows to avoid any problems with copyright (if you try to directly copy any memoirs) and at the same time allows to create authentic and historical texts.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
I’d like to thank you all for your interest, support and valuable advice for my campaigns. I’m also very pleased that we’ve such an active community creating so many user missions and campaigns. Perhaps some of my thoughts or working methods can help you in your hobby.
Thank you to Black Six!
I wanted to thank Black Six for taking part in this Community Q&A. I learned a lot about how Black Six creates some of the great campaigns that we’ve had from him (and 1CGS) since they introduced that feature to IL-2. I also found it really interesting to find out what kind if depth he goes into to be able to write some of the stories that lead you from mission to mission.
I hope everyone found it all as interesting as I did!
Fortress on the Volga campaign
Fortress on the Volga is a 15-mission scripted campaign for IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad that follows the missions of I./JG 52 from September 24th to October 10th, 1942. The unit, flying Bf109G-2s, was heavily involved in the fighting in the air above the Stalingrad battlefield.
The campaign is newly available and being sold through the IL-2 store for $9.99 regular price with $7.99 as the pre-order bonus price. Look for a future review after I’ve had a chance to play through all of the missions and see what the new content is all about.