IL-2’s patch 3.008 came out as a surprise last week and it brought with it some significant under the hood changes – notably to the damage model. Normally I don’t talk too much about the details of flight models and damage models because its hard to be precise about them, however, I’m making an exception here as it pertains to your actual flying. The changes here have some impacts on how you may approach WWII aerial combat and so I wanted to offer up some thoughts on how this affects you and maybe some advice for dealing with the changes.
The basics of a damage model
Inside each aircraft in the IL-2 series are a number of modeled systems. We’re talking about things like your engine, oil cooler, fuel tank(s), radiator(s), the pilot, control rods and cables. There also some of the aircraft’s important parts like the longerons that run lengthwise along the aircraft’s body (in many cases), and spars which run through the wings.
Each aircraft has a different arrangement and some have a single spar holding the wing together while others, like the P-47, have two main spars plus auxiliary spars. The added weight of the construction can make some aircraft quite sluggish (which the P-47 overcomes with massive horsepower) but it can make them resistant to battle damage.
There are some aircraft in the sim that are made of almost entirely aluminum and steel and some that are made of a mix of steel, aluminum, different types of wood, and fabric. Making all of these types of materials respond appropriately to battle damage is no doubt a challenge – and players understanding of how these types of materials hold up are often not always a perfect match with reality either. To say that this area of the sim is interpretive by both players and the developers is probably an understatement.
Steady improvement and community reaction
The IL-2 series has improved over the years. In the original IL-2, a complex damage model was employed featuring interior components – an innovation over earlier flight sims which had until then used more primitive hit boxes. The original IL-2 was advanced for the time but by modern standards was lacking in system complexity.
The current (and third) generation uses a much more complex system that tracks interior components, interconnected systems, and structural strength can become weakened without the aircraft disintegrating all at once (i.e. where a wing becomes partially detached before a high G maneuver finally separates it from the aircraft). In another example, damage to the radiators and oil coolers ultimately will affect the engine.
All of this is to say that although damage models are highly interpretive, they are getting better and more sophisticated over time and certainly on the third generation of the IL-2 series we’re seeing some pretty interesting impacts that meld the underlying physics of the simulation with some beautiful visual effects that help communicate what is happening to the player.
Though there may have been some criticism recently over how the new damage model works, a recent poll on both the Russian and English speaking forums for the series shows that players are overwhelmingly in-favour of the changes that arrived with 3.008 with players voting 88.89% in favour at the time of this post.
What has changed?
The IL-2 series at present have what I would consider the best damage model in the industry at the moment.
Eagle Dynamics is currently working on a more sophisticated system, starting with their WWII warbirds, to be introduced sometime in the future (possibly 2019), but until that comes along… IL-2 is the king. It doesn’t mean that it’s perfect either and so tweaks to the system are often welcome.
One of the greatest complaints recently was about the P-47, with its dual spar and three auxiliary spars, holding the wing together still separating quite quickly. 1CGS responded quickly to those concerns and have introduced some changes.
Wings on the P-47, Spitfire, and Yak-7b are now less likely to detach due to battle damage, hit angle is now taken into account, tuned damage modeling from high explosive rounds on air frame skin, ammo explosions are based on the available explosive power, and the P-47 specifically received some updates to its wing loss mechanisms. There’s more on the patch notes but I think those are the key points.
What’s it like in practice?
Tuned modeling, upgraded features, and changes to specific aircraft are all well and good but how does it actually feel in practice? I can sum that up by saying simply that it is very similar to before but with some subtle differences that help add up.
Wings do not detach from aircraft quite as quickly as before. So a glancing blow with a cannon on an enemy wing will often result is heavy damage but without the wing fully detaching and that may make the difference between getting a guaranteed kill or needing to go back and attack the same plane again.
Explosive weapons do seem to feel like they have been taken down a notch but only slightly. When testing the German 20mm against the P-47 I found that even hits that didn’t appear to do much from my perspective in the cockpit, when viewed externally showed damage to quite a few components – and crucially an aircraft that was stricken from the fight and liable to crash sooner than later. The same goes for the MK108 cannon, which some feel is not powerful enough, but my experience and expectations have been met.
A single 30mm hit from a MK108 can damage a wide area of a target aircraft making its chances of flying for more than a few minutes unlikely. A couple of successive hits, something that the MK108 can easily achieve with its high fire rate, will melt fighters and critically damage bombers. In one case a single pass with a 1 second burst split a Pe-2 into pieces.
My suggestion on how to adapt
Good gunnery is always important no matter what state the damage model is in. If you’re struggling under the new regime I have a few pointers that may help you out:
- Make sure your controls are setup in such a way to allow you to fly the aircraft smoothly and precisely. A good joystick, the right sensitivity curves, and a deadzone if required, all tweaked to your personal preference is worth the time spent to have smoother flying and precise gunnery.
- Some players envision the entire aircraft when they aim at it while others aim for individual components. I advocate to always aim for individual components. Look for the engines, fuel tanks, ammo boxes, and other vulnerable parts. Pouring fire into less critical areas takes longer while a short burst can secure a quick splash if its an important component.
- Practice, practice, practice. I spend a fair bit of time just practicing gunnery and that sometimes means against maneuvering targets in the QMB or sometimes up against large targets like the Ju52. Focus on trying to land your first shots on target as often as possible. Better deflection shooting and gunnery in general helps you deal with sturdy targets as a virtual WWII pilot.
I hope this helps provide a good overview of what has changed, the reactions, and how to adapt to the changes. From what we can gather, these changes are here to stay, but it doesn’t mean that 1CGS will ever be “done” with this feature and future tweaks to the model are almost a certainty. It’s why this sim keeps getting better!
Updated: Developers add new video showing some MK108 damage effects
Want to see some of the improvements in action? Check out this video test from 1CGS