By Jim Rossignol on December 21st, 2011 at 1:20 pm.
A giant V-formation of free-to-play air combat is on the horizon: World Of Warplanes from the makers of World Of Tanks. To find out a bit more of what to expect from a persistent dogfighting game, I had a chat with Wargaming.net’s Anton Sitnikov, and he explained exactly whether a Spitfire could take a jet-propelled plane in a fight.
RPS: Hello there. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and then also about the studio you work for?
Sitnikov: My name is Anton Sitnikov, Producer of World of Warplanes. I started working for Wargaming.net in 2005 as a Software Engineer on the position of Game Logic Developer. Later I have been working as Game Designer. Wargaming.net was founded in 1998 and has a solid portfolio of TBS and RTS games. For example, Massive Assault series and Order of War that went over big. Our recent title – World of Tanks – was our first acting experience on the “Online stage”. Recent years have passed under the aegis of intensive expansion of our company: apart from our development center in Minsk that has more than 350 employees working on World of Tanks, we have a 200 people strong team dealing with World of Warplanes and 100 professionals working on World of Battleships. This year we’ve also established offices in San Francisco, Berlin and Paris – the last-mentioned office is currently hiring people for different positions with plans to build up full-scale community and support service in the very near future.
RPS: What’s perhaps most interesting about World Of Tanks is that it manages to balance a sort of vague stimulatory realism with the limitations of being a fun videogame, are you taking the same approach with World Of Warplanes? What does that mean in terms of how it plays?
Sitnikov: To keep the balance between simulator and arcade, we stick to two main principles. First off, players should struggle with the enemies, not with the vehicle they control. Second – deep and complex game mechanics and physical model are behind the arcade gameplay and user-friendly interface. We consider both principles hit the spot in World of Tanks, so we are sticking to them while developing WoWP. Of course, we will follow the historical patterns of the real vehicles. Let me explain: we do not reconstruct historical characteristics, but try to sustain comparative capabilities between in-game vehicles. This is a good way to balance between historical accuracy and arcade gameplay comfort.
RPS: Tanks are clearly a bit different from planes, but to what extent is Warplanes based on the way World of Tanks worked? Is all the out-of-combat stuff going to be similar? How does that work?
Sitnikov: To be honest the progress system will resemble the one we use in World of Tanks. Players will be able to train crew members, research new modules and unlock better vehicles. But sure we cannot just copy-paste the system from our previous project. Since we are developing an aircraft combat action, some aviation rules influence our decisions. Let’s examine, say, crew training. In World of Tanks your crew can be up to 6 people, but in most of aircrafts all the actions and decisions are made by a single brave pilot. Due to that reason, his training progress will have a different pace: pilots will be able to level different skills at the same time. And I think it is not a secret that crew in World of Warplanes will have a totally different set of available skills.
Talking about other elements of the two titles: experience gain, vehicle profitability, consumables and equipment cost – we are going to draw out-of-combat systems together as much as possible. A little hint to explain why: projects will have integrated player profiles, including common in-game currency balance and Free Experience pool.
Global Map integration also deserves some attention. In the frames of Ultimate Conquest, clans are fighting for territories that bring gold profit and … (in dreadful voice) global domination! Frankly speaking World of Tanks, World of Warplanes and World of BattleShips clans in the future will have an option to help each other in many different ways. For example, a tank clan will be able to request an AI-controlled air strike from a warplane clan and use it in one of the forthcoming battles to sway the balance in its favor. That will implement a new level of diplomacy, so Clan Wars will be even more intriguing. Badass, don’t you think?
RPS: Badass. Exactly what will be able to pay real money for in World Of Warplanes?
Sitnikov: I think it would be nice to clarify briefly our progress system for those, who have no idea about our games. After each battle players gain some experience and credits according to their battle activity. Experience points are used for crew training and research (new modules and vehicles). Credits will cover repairing expenses, ammunition costs and will allow purchasing of researched modules and vehicles. Besides credits, players can purchase gold for real currency and spend it to obtain some content mentioned below. Like in World of Tanks, players will be able to spend their gold for Premium Account, premium vehicles, additional slots and some consumables. Speaking of the gold, it will help to spend less time on leveling, unlock rare vehicles, but don’t fool yourself by thinking that we are going to sell God Mode, invisibility or ultimate weaponry. We provide every player with the possibility to enjoy the game without spending a nickel. Apart from warfare needs, users will be able to customize their warbirds a lot. Some customization elements (camos, shark jaws, etc) could be acquired only by spending gold. However, most of customization tricks will be accessed through in-game credits earned in battles.
RPS: Can you tell us a bit about the range of planes that we will see in World Of Warplanes?
Sitnikov: We are going to introduce a wide range of aircrafts: starting with biplanes of 30’s, up to Korean War era jets. We have chosen that very period due to impetuous development of aviation and the fact that numerous aircraft types participated in real battles. In other hand, the effectiveness of warplanes was a result of pilots’ skills, leaving computers and homing missiles out of account. Yeah, spoiler – we won’t have homing missiles. We have logically divided all our warplanes into national tech trees including branches of three vehicle classes in each: fighters, heavy fighters and ground-attack planes. Every branch will end up at tier 10. We are planning to create several branches of each class for every nation. So yes, there are going to be lots of vehicles.
Right after the release, players will be able to taste more than 60 aircrafts of the three nations: USA, Germany and USSR. Release tech tree of each nation will reveal 2 branches. We will extend all tech trees and the number of available nations: Japan and Great Britain will be the next aircraft building schools introduced in World of Warplanes. Every vehicle will have different characteristics, similar to the behavior to its real prototype. All classes will have strong and weak sides what will dictate their role in battles and primary targets.
RPS: Will I be able to take on early jet aircraft in a Spitfire and win?
Sitnikov: You know, dogfights are more complicated than tank combat: crazy pace, lack of armor, no time to aim carefully and three-dimensional battle theatre – all that gives an advantage to skilled players. Sure, if you pick a Sabre, it will be easier to press heavily on an enemy Spitfire, but if your opponent is an experienced pilot, the odds may turn against you. The point here is that the battle Sabre vs. Spitfire is not likely to happen. We’ve got a matchmaking mechanism that will balance vehicles to achieve fair combat conditions for players. The system will compile both teams to have equal chances to win. Also it defines the vehicle tiers for each team. In our case we have got tier 6 Spitfire and tier 10 Sabre, so both vehicles will have much more chances to fight against tier 8 airplanes than against each other. Explaining our matchmaking mechanism I should mention the fact that equipment also counts. After the release we will have different scenarios, so the system will pick vehicles with equipment, suitable for the scenario action. For example, if you have chosen torpedoes, you will be chosen for marine mission, not for bomber interception in a desert country.
RPS: Is it just about dogfighting, or will there be any other kind of aircraft action (bombing runs etc?)
Sitnikov: We are planning several game modes for the release. I can reveal only brief information for now because we are still working them over and have already dropped some of them.
Let’s talk about two main modes for the moment. In the first mode your role will be to support ally ground forces. You will fly over the battlefield full of ally and enemy forces clashing on it. The objectives will be either to destroy all enemy aircrafts or a certain number of ground objects (vehicles, structures, etc). The second mode: interception or defense of ally bombers or transport aircrafts. I think everything is clear: defend your VIPs and destroy hostile ones. All VIPs will be AI-controlled with some self-defense abilities.
RPS: Are joysticks going to be supported? If so, will they provide an advantage?
Sitnikov: World of Warplanes already supports joystick, gamepad, keyboard and two modes of mouse control. We are aiming at covering almost all known types of controllers. Moreover, every controller will have at least two modes to choose from: simulator and arcade. Your success will not depend much on the type of controller – we want to provide fair conditions for all the types. I prefer joystick, because it feels as if you control real airplane, but I have been defeated many times by players that used keyboard and mouse.
RPS: How do you feel the free-to-play model World Of Warplanes (and World of Tanks, if they are similar enough!) compares with other free-to-play games?
Sitnikov: World of Tanks Free2Play model has proved to be flexible and efficient, so we are going to keep it in World of Warplanes as well. Players will have access to an integrated profile including all benefits of common gold wallet and Free Experience pool for both projects. The most important thing is that we will not sell critical combat advantage to any player. Also we will not implement any limits for non-paying players, so everyone will be able to play World of Warplanes for free and get to the top-tier aircrafts. The game will be about skill, not about donation amounts. Donations will help to level faster and avoid lack of credits, so you will get more profit from victories and suffer less from your defeats. We hope everyone will enjoy the upcoming air combats and the unique experience that we are going to share with you.
RPS: Thanks for your time.