It’s my great pleasure to introduce a four part series featuring two members of the 1C Game Studios team: Jason Williams and Daniel Tuseev.
Jason Williams is President of 777 Studios and Executive Producer at 1C Game Studios and hardly needs introduction to regular readers of this blog. Jason’s one of the driving forces behind the current direction of the IL-2: Great Battles Series and a frequent presence in the community.
Daniel Tuseev has been a Project Manager and is currently the Technical Producer at 1C Game Studios and has been involved with the IL-2: Great Battles Series stretching back to the very beginning of the project.
This first part of this interview is focused on IL-2: Great Battles in 2019 with questions on everything from hardware and VR to new content and new features for the series. There are three more parts planned on specific topics covering everything from IL-2: Battle of Bodenplatte, Tank Crew – Clash at Prokhorovka, and Flying Circus Vol 1. We’re also going to talk about the future of the series so look out for follow up segments coming in the next few weeks!
Part one: The IL-2: Great Battles Series in 2019
Let’s start by talking about your history with flight sims. How long have you been involved with flight sims and what were some of your old favourites?
Jason Williams: “Oh wow…this could be a long answer, but I’ll try to give a short one. My first exposure to a proper flight-sim was F-15E Strike Fighter at a friend’s house when I was a kid. I think it was on an IBM PC with a monochrome screen. A computer teacher of mine also demonstrated the very first MS Flight Simulator in class one day. That was 7th or 8th grade.
Later in the early 90’s my uncle had one of the first Falcon games. Then my family got a 386 PC and I played F-117 Stealth Fighter which I got as a Christmas present. In college I bought my first PC and started playing other sims/games including all the titles in the Jane’s series like ATF, USNF, Longbow, WWII, IAF etc. and anything else that piqued my interest including European Air War.
In 1997 I worked as a legislative intern at the state capital building. All the staff was invited to the Governor’s mansion for a big party. They would be hob-knobbing with the Governor and other powerful political people who could give them jobs after graduation. I was like meh… I want to go home and play my sims. After college I played Jane’s USAF and then Falcon 4.0 quite heavily. I also played Flanker a bit, but it didn’t grab me like Falcon did. I remember sitting in a cubicle at a big law firm I worked at in Silicon Valley just day dreaming about going home and playing my sims. Then in 2001 I dove into the original Sturmovik and that was a life changing event for me. My passion for the hobby became an obsession.”
Daniel Tuseev: “While my Grandfather was an aerospace engineer in USSR (he have participated in S-75/SA-2 SAM and “Shkval” torpedo development) and I’ve spend many time in talks with him about aviation in times even before school – aviation is my hobby and my love as far as I can remember myself. Flight sims was my first love in gaming from the moment I’ve received my first Sega Mega Drive.
My first sims were F-117, LHX, Janes ATF. And always I’d love not only just to play them, but to investigate the sim world, do something unplanned, study how the things works. My first “adult love” in flight-simming was Flanker 1.0. I’ve decided to study for an aviation engineer while I’ve played it. This game have allowed me to start to understand how the combat aviation works. After that, when I’ve started my study in Moscow Aviation Institute, I’ve spend many times in study of aviation in LO:MAC and MSFS. These days were awesome.”
The IL-2: Great Battles Series has expanded in scale and scope significantly over the last two years bringing a lot of new ways to play. What are some of the standout new features that you think are drawing new players into the series and at the same time satisfying the veterans of the series?
Jason: “I think our move to abandon the original design and go back to the classic formula of QMB, SP and MP content without unlock gimmicks has helped and the addition of great new content like Kuban and other improvements in the graphics department and good VR support. The Career has also been a popular addition. The big survey we did a couple months ago helped to clarify what attracts virtual pilots to our sim. It’s a wide mix of things that bring people in, but we got some useful data. Thanks to all who took it seriously and participated.”
Daniel: “I’m sure that the reason is consistent with the fast evolution of the project. We have performed several huge steps forward like switching to X64, moving to DX11, VR support, several major improvements in aeroplane physics and damage model, improvements of landscape model, adding Career, Cooperative and Scenario Campaigns game modes. All this was done so rapidly and with so good result that this have really addicted players attention and interest. Plus huge changes in gaming strategy – moving back from leveling system to classic sim gameplay – it is also have bring many positive from our community.”
What kinds of improvements are you hoping to see from PC hardware (GPUs, joysticks, etc.) that might make your job easier?
Jason: “Good question. Better VR goggles are on everyone’s list and I’d like to see large monitors with higher refresh rates for a reasonable price. How about a 32, 35 or 43 inch 4K 240hz monitor that is not just a stripped down television? And the video card prices are ridiculously high. There are a few joystick makers that really could benefit from committing to the North American market in a more serious way. All of their supply problems could be solved by now and sales would be enormous relatively speaking. The creativity is there that is for sure, just not the business vision. I have some experience in this department, which I won’t get into, but until they move west in a more serious manner their ability to grow will be limited and supply will continue to be an issue. I don’t want to see Thrustmaster be so dominant in this space forever simply due to supply and logistics issues.”
Daniel: “IMO one of the great misses on controllers market is lack of medium-cost reliable joysticks and rudder pedals with force feedback. In previous times there was a great choose of FFB joysticks on the market – now we have too lack of it. Of course it would be great to have 4K VR devices with wide field of view which will allow you to use your peripheral vision. Also, I believe that there will become a time when 6-D moving seat platforms combined with VR will be standardized and will have acceptable cost to be widely used in flight-simming. So as you see – all my dreams are around player sensoring and feedback systems.”
VR has become a selling point for serious combat simulators like IL-2. What do you see in the future for VR?
Jason: “I predict higher res units, but difficulties with framerates. I hope, hope, hope there are some tricks we can use to boost framerates at higher resolutions.”
Daniel: “As I’ve said above – for VR it is very important to have wider field of view which will allow you to full-use of peripheral vision. Also, virtual gloves technology is a great perspective.”
Are there areas where you’d like to improve performance or add additional features to VR within IL-2?
Jason: “The key to VR nirvana is higher FPS at a higher resolution. How we get there is still a bit unknown. With a custom engine like ours and a small team, solutions take longer to figure out.”
Daniel: “I’d like one day to have VR gloves support in IL-2. It is the main one.”
The team has been implementing new network related code over the last few patches. Are there plans to keep working on that area? How difficult is it to find and fix some of the issues that players have reported over the years?
Jason: “Yes, but it’s difficult. We have a small team as everyone knows and re-writing and improving netcode is pretty complex. Our only option is incremental changes, gather feedback and then tweak more or dump the changes. It’s not ideal, but it’s what we are forced to do. We agree it can be better and we are working slowly, but surely in that direction.”
Daniel: “Yes, we will not stop our work on that issue. It is very difficult area for debugging because most of the issues which we have fixed and improved I the recent past are related to situation of high population of game server. This fact has put serious restrictions on variety of methods which you may use for investigation and debug. In these circumstances the statistics and analysis become the main tool of the finding the reasons, this why these issues can’t be improved rapidly and requires time for develop.”
The issue of cheating occasionally comes up (and has again recently) in the IL-2 multiplayer community. What is the team doing to try and prevent some of these efforts? What can the community do to help report the few that decide to cheat?
Jason: “First, if we see concrete evidence of cheating, we ban the player, which we have done already to some. Second, we have built some experimental tools to try and stop more advanced cheating, but they need more testing. And finally, we have already plugged some exploits that most of the public didn’t even know about. Cheaters are assholes who don’t just stumble upon cheats. They create them and it forces us too divert resources to that instead of building the product you want. And “off the shelf” anti-cheat tools don’t necessarily work in a custom engine like ours. Remember, we have a custom engine built from scratch. I hate this subject with a passion because it’s complete intentionally caused destruction of our product. It’s malicious and wrong. Just play the game fair and square.”
Daniel: “While flight sim with complex flight model and 80+ players on one game server can’t be developed in the way of shooter (where all physics, weapons and damage are calculated on game server) – this problem can’t be solved “once and forever”. In this case it always will be a competition of the sword and the shield. And as you know, sword is always is on the step ahead. But in combine with administrative methods we doing good job in moderating such cases. Also, of course we work on methods of cheating detection and cheating prevention – but methods which we’re using can’t be told to outside because this will give new arms to hands of cheaters. So what I can really say – we continue our work on that.”
The ‘Havoc over the Kuban’ campaign is the first community created Scripted Campaign sold on the IL-2 store. Are more campaigns like that planned in the future?
Jason: “Yes, I hope so, but the quality needs to be there. That can be hard to judge sometimes and Scripted Campaigns take a long time to test and development can take a while. But I have two more that I know will happen, but for now I’m taking a break from greenlighting any more. And don’t forget there are some AWESOME free ones out there posted on our forum. Check them out! Some very talented mission makers in our community.”
Daniel: “Of course. The main reason of developing the Scripted Campaign game mode was to open the way for community to develop to distribute their result to players. Also, we are working closely with guys from community who doing really serious job on campaigns development helping them sometimes with advices and sometimes with specific changes in the game.”
The U-2VS was the first aircraft developed by a third-party developer. Are there plans to continue with that model in the future? Related question: Is the Li-2 (or C-47/DC-3) still planned?
Jason: “Yes, that is correct. The U-2VS was built by our friends at Yugra Media. They have a contract to build the Li-2 and maybe a C-47 if that works out, but we’re a long way from that at the moment. The U-2 was a very intensive process that took more of our own time than we had hoped. I’m still hopeful the Li-2 will happen as planned, but until I know for sure I can’t say more. Yugra is also making our Flying Circus planes and they are still learning how to make them efficiently and with high quality. Making planes from scratch or revising older ones up to our standards is a challenge even for an experienced team like Yugra. But they are making real strides.
And don’t forget our tanks are made by DigitalForms and that was an entirely new type of machine to for us to support technically and gameplay wise. Daniel, Mike and Sergey have done a tremendous job making tanks possible along with DigitalForms who are giving it there all. It’s been fun to watch the progress.”
Daniel: “Yes it is. We working hard to open our doors for everyone who is capable and interested to create content for IL-2 Great Battles. At the moment we have two studios in collaboration with us, we hope that after time it will be more. So, anyone who interested and capable in this – contact to us, we waiting for you. Of course, it is still requiring some work from our side because control, implementation and physics model development is on our side anyway, but this is means that anyone can be calm about quality and accuracy of the result.”
Fans of the series have also wondered about future Collector Planes that continue to add to the Eastern Front experience (the Yak-9/9T, IL-4, Tu-2, I-153, Hs123, Bf110F and others come up frequently), are there any plans to do those or work with a third-party team to build those in the future?
Jason: “Probably not third party for any of those. Those would be best built by us due to the subject matter. We do hope to make more collector planes in the future and we still like the Eastern Front. I’d like to see all those planes flying one day. Out of all of those the Yak-9T would be the most likely one.”
Daniel: “At the moment only ideas are kicked around, it is too early to say what exactly we or our partners will do next. But yes, some of these planes are inside of the circle of possible variants.”
You’ve talked about building an Air (and Ground) Marshal feature for a couple of years. How is the planning for that mode coming along and what are you hoping players will be able to get out of having a feature like that once it’s complete?
Jason: “We’re in the initial stages of development now. We’ve agreed to a design and begun optimizations of the GUI which was needed before we start the main building process. The design, if it works, has been improved from my early concept into a really neat system. Our hope is that it will make MP more interesting and increase teamwork as it was in real life. It will be an optional feature for servers if they don’t like it. It could be a game-changer for online wars and all forms of MP if the community takes such a feature seriously and tries to fly like a real coordinated air force.”
Daniel: “Marshall mode design is established and it is already in development. It will be a huge gameplay feature, comparable to Career by complexity of development. If everything will be good – this feature will be done before release of Bodenplatte. This feature also requires many GUI based improvements and optimizations, some of them you will see in 3.010 as a “bonus” from Marshall mode development which is still in progress. In result players on populated multiplayer game servers will have a new layer of gameplay and cooperation. First of all – this feature should bring an obvious and dynamically changed vision to each player of what multiplayer mission objectives are and what is the player coalition strategy and current tactical tasks. Also, it should bring a new proximity to immersion of real aerial battle to the players.”
You’re currently working with Pat Wilson and his PWCG software to add a co-op career experience for players but you’ve also talked about building the IL-2 Career mode into Co-op as well. Is that a long range goal or something you’re hoping to add in 2019?
Jason: “No, it’s a long-range goal for us. Pat is a very smart guy and when he said he could do this in a reasonable time frame I jumped at the chance to have him try and I’m confident he will succeed. For us to do it inside the game will take some serious time and right now we have other goals and things to build for MP. Fingers crossed Pat hits a home run with his implementation. Remember he has been working with his code for years now which is different than how we work. Sometimes, it takes one guy with a singular vision and a lot of time to build something super special. “
Daniel: “It is a long-range goal as Jason has stated. Our engine is designed around a central core and different modes of gameplay all share the same basic architecture, so different features of SP and MP can share things to make such hybrid features possible. It will be mostly a question of lobby and GUI design when we eventually focus on such a feature.”
Improving the multiplayer lobby is one of the goals that you’re hoping to tackle this year and you’ve previously said that it won’t be easy. What kinds of features are you hoping to have and how much of a challenge is it to build this in?
Jason: “I can’t say right now what the exact shape it will take. Obviously, people want chat and a lobby of some kind. Everyone remembers old Hyperlobby and how that worked. So, something that can make match-making easier, but with features users want. We haven’t sat down to draw a final design yet, but that time is coming soon. We briefly mapped it out over a year ago, but it was just to understand the resources we would need to do it. And yes, everything about MP is difficult. A very tough crowd to please. “
Daniel: “While exact design is in development now, now I can only say what we want to have there. We supposing to have common chat, chat rooms, friends, server pre-start lobby where players will bring together and start server when they will be ready and so on.”
The team is going to be very busy building a lot of previously announced content in 2019. Are there any surprises we should be watching out for this year?
Jason: “Mmmm… if I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise? Time will tell if there are any surprises. Right now, I don’t know of any… or do I. Hmmmm………”
Daniel: “I think you will have some.”
Three more parts coming
I hope everyone enjoyed reading part one of my interview with Jason Williams and Daniel Tuseev. The next three parts are currently in the works and I hope to be able to share them with you very soon!