Bomber Crew devs: “surreal” success means 3 add-ons planned, including what “everyone’s asking for”

Released in the eye of the silly season storm, and crucially getting in there before the bigger, noisier World War Twos of Wolfenstein and COD arrived, Runner Duck Games’ airborne “strategic survival sim” Bomber Crew has done the business. Its success has far outstripped the expectations of this two-person Brighton studio; as such, its co-designer and artist Dave Miller tells me, “we’ve got plans for the franchise which we will now definitely be able to do.”

In the far future, there’ll be another game that is “not just the obvious thing”, but ahead of that, a bunch of free updates followed by three clumps of DLC – one of which is something the game’s audience has been clamouring for. Bomber Crew will quite likely continue to be the Memphis Belle of the ball.

Disclosure: I’ve known Dave Miller for a few years as he’s an old friend of my partner. I did not cover the game myself before and around its release for this reason, but it seems less problematic now the game’s hit it big (its publisher Curve having announced that it brought in $1m in revenue during its first two weeks on sale). Please click away if concerned, however.

“The reception for Bomber Crew has been really good”, Miller tells me, something borne out by its 1500 Steam reviews and ‘Very Positive’ rating. “We were hoping that we’d do well enough to make another game – that was really our grand ambition. But it very quickly became apparent that it’s better than that. We’re definitely going to be able to make another game.”

He’s not letting on what that game will be, but does hint that “We’ve got plans for the franchise, not just to take it sideways and do the obvious things. We will now definitely be able to do the next big thing. That’s another title, but it’s quite a way off.”

In the shorter term, we’ll see “lots of quality of life updates” in response to player feedback. The first of those arrived not long after launch, intended to address some players’ concerns about difficulty in the heat of battle. “It’s this slow time feature where you hold Control and it slows things down, so that when things are really hectic you can give orders, which makes it a much easier experience for people that don’t like to panic.”

Even with that, a balancing act had to be struck – how to make the game accessible without undermining the challenge for those who more wholeheartedly embraced the unforgiving simulatory aspect. “Half the audience really appreciated the chaos of it, and the other half really wanted a pause function. So we did this compromise where it’s a rationed slow down time with a cooldown, which really keeps the pressure on, and if you don’t use it you get a little bonus at the end of the mission. And you can just switch it off in the options menu if you really don’t like the idea of it. They were really happy with that.”

More free additions in this vein are planned, and so too is paid DLC. “We’ve got one before the end of the year which will be more content, then next year we’ve got a big one. It’s probably easy to guess what it is because everyone’s asking for it, but I’m not going to say what it is just yet.”

I will note here that the name ‘B-17’ comes up an awful lot on the Steam forums, and as such will make an educated guess that a few people’s Memphis Belle fantasies might yet get fulfilled.

A further piece of extra content is also planned for next year, though no hints as to that one just yet.

As to why Bomber Crew stuck the landing like it did, Miller has a few theories. “I think the subject matter is something that is really interesting, and it hasn’t really been mined that much. You had Memphis Belle back in the early 90s, everyone remembers that, and the Spielberg film Amazing Stories – The Mission. And kudos to Curve to pushing us for the October 19th release, because it means we just got in before Wolfenstein, we just got in before CODWW2, so that was a smart move.”

Bomber Crew has also benefited from a fair amount of streamer attention – something that, by his own admission, Miller, a late 30s family man, did not previously entirely understand. “It was something my stepson watched and I would just hear it, and it sounded confusing because there was all this shouting. But because it’s my game I’ve been watching this stuff, and actually it’s really funny and I find it really engaging, and I get that they’re doing this clever performance.”

Particularly effective for Bomber Crew is that “On Twitch they can name the crew after people in comments, and the audience is engaged because they’re part of the disasters that unfold in the game.”

With console versions due in the first half of next year too, Runner Duck have dodged disaster themselves – success from new-name games without a vast marketing budget attached is a rare thing these days. So what would have happened if there’d been a failure to launch? “If it was a complete flop we might have done just one DLC to try and rescue it and see how it went.” To B-17 or not B-17 would have been the question, I suspect.

25 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    I’m just imagining this on PS4 with my two boys — it’s going to be eeeepic!

  2. Someoldguy says:

    I’m glad they’ve had a success with this. it’s too much arcade and too little simulation for my personal taste, but it’s nice to see something different doing well.

  3. Kakrafoon says:

    Oh boy oh boy!
    I think I left a few pleas for B-17 missions with the 8th Air Force in the forums, and now those magnificent men are going to deliver! I can already imagine blue skies and dozens of majestic Flying Fortresses leaving contrails over Berlin!
    Hats off to a wonderful game.

    • JohnnyG says:

      The thing is there have already been LOADS of games about B-17 crews, and the ONE time Bomber Command gets to be shown in anything like a positive light and all my cousins across the pond do is shriek for is ANOTHER B-17 game. This game is so clearly designed around a, albeit admittedly cartoony, representation of RAF bomber crews, why change it to pander to others? I don’t get it…

      • Premium User Badge

        Solrax says:

        I can’t blame you. I’m glad they started with the Lancaster.

        Personally (and speaking as an Yank) I’d like to see a B-24 Liberator over a B-17 – it played just as large a role in the war as the B-17 but is under appreciated and under-represented in movies and games. In fact many more B-24’s were flown than B-17’s!

      • Kakrafoon says:

        Well… yes, you are correct. I don’t want daylight B-17 missions because I’m not happy with Bomber Command’s representation in game (starting with the Lancaster is brilliant, I agree), but I actually wanted this for gameplay reasons. The Lancaster missions let us intrude over Germany as a single plane, and I wanted some gameplay diversity and be part of a big formation bristling with guns. Maybe their other expansions will put even more spotlight on the RAF.

        • crigby46 says:

          On that note, although it would take some redesign (no gunners for example), I’d like to see either a Mosquito expansion or perhaps a flight of mossies. Use one aircraft’s crew as pilot and navigator, the second’s as radioman and bombardier/gunner. This would probably work best with the B marks or the FbXVIII in coastal command. I think it would work well by avoiding the B-17 altogether too and using the B-29 in the Pacific theatre.

  4. poomanchu says:

    I’m still having a lot of fun with this game. I won’t allow myself to use the slow-time function, but the hotkey support they added for first-aid, ammo, etc. is really useful.

  5. Synesthesia says:

    It’s such a shame the balance is so out of whack. Losing a crew in the second or third act is a 100% guaranteed game over, after losing all upgrades. I could stomach about 4 runs before giving up.

    • JohnnyG says:

      As you progress through the campaign the replacement planes get more upgrades by default – so this really isn’t an issue IMO.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      Should’ve stuck with it. If you don’t rush the critical missions and build up a bit of the eyeball-shaped resource, you can protect your crew reasonably well so that losing them becomes more rare, if it happens at all.

      I don’t mean grinding for hours and hours, either. Just making sure to do 3-5 side mission in-between each major one is sufficient.

      And really, the only high-level skill you absolutely need for late-game missions is night navigation. I would personally have balanced the game differently, but it isn’t that hard to make sure you keep this one crucial crew-member alive, once you figure out how important he is.

  6. Some_Guy says:

    So; why are people so interested in an area southwest of birmingham.

  7. palhanow says:

    I’m so happy that this game is a huge success. We need to keep supporting this kind of indie developers. They do a much better job than many AAA companies.

    And i’m a little proud of myself because I’ve been a active member of the official Forum on Steam, putting all my feedback. A recommended review of course, for all my brazilian public (i run a small news website).

  8. Universal Quitter says:

    I’d much rather see new mission types, than just get an American bomber that mostly does the same things, with a couple more crew and gun slots.

    2-engine tactical bombers (e.g. B-25 has a 6-man crew and would fit the current game nicely) would be more interesting to me, but if B-17s are what the people want, I guess that’s what they’ll get.

    • mcnostril says:

      Same here. Before the patch the grind to recover after losing a crew was pretty brutal, and one of the things that made it really frustrating was having to replay the same missions over and over. The patch alleviated some of that grinding, but it’s the limited mission selection still gets repetitive after a while.
      Even just the same missions with procedural placement of assets would be an improvement.

  9. Budikah says:

    ♪ Killing machine, thunder in the sky
    B-17, flying home ♪

  10. buzzmong says:

    Truth be told, although I’m enjoying the game, if I was to wish for one change, it would be for the manual tagging of enemy planes to die as a mechanic.
    Sure, your radio/radar dude eventually gets an autotag skill, but in general I think the mechanic is a bit rubbish.

    It’s a very jarring view change where you do nothing, and the 2-second-per-aircraft forced focus means it’s very easy to get into a failure state where you simply cannot tag enough planes for your gunners and manage critical internal issues, resulting in taking a bunch more damage and having the bomber go down.

  11. zulnam says:

    Hate to take a cheap shot, but…

    Anyone remember lawbreakers? 🙈

  12. mikepp says:

    “I did not cover the game myself before and around its release for this reason, but it seems less problematic now the game’s hit it big”

    I hate that the legacy of the gaters lives on in these over dramatic clarifications. I couldn’t care less if you know them, feel free to big up your friends games, it’s your publication – you’re not on a medical board deciding the fate of someone’s life, you’re reporting on video game entertainment. It’s all bias and opinion anyway who the fuck cares.

  13. sapien82 says:

    im 28 missions in with my crew at level 9 or 10 and i have to say now that ive selectively chosen missions to last this long.

    Id still like a secondary plane and secondary roster to switch out crew for training etc , and the ability to call in a fighter support crew of one or two spitfires would be really nice. That way you can manage multiple crews and planes , this gamne is actually really good fun ! and I cant wait for more

  14. shaw815 says:

    I cant believe i haven’t seen anyone mention the game “B-17 Flying Fortress” by Microprose, which is clearly what this game has taken a great deal of inspiration from.

    I am not slating it, i am going to buy it, i just think B-17 deserves some credit because it was an exceptional game.

  15. kombatunit says:

    On my first mission, I absent-mindedly threw my mechanic into the channel without a parachute because I decid to maneuver while he was fixing an engine. I felt shame and laughed my ass off at the same time. Bomber Crew is tops.

  16. Wolfram86 says:

    Although I’m already bored of the game, it was well worth the small cost. I played nearly 20 hours the first weekend I owned it! It’s very fun to play and learn, but the lack of diversity in missions and a few other little issues make it start to feel like a grind once you’re a competent player.

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