At a time when the phrase “flying game” invokes images of irritated birds, you might think you’d see a new ultra-realistic flight simulator when pigs fly. Well, get ready for aerial bacon come September, because that’s when 1C Game Studio will be releasing IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle Of Stalingrad, a realistic World War II flight simulator for the PC. And while it won’t have any annoyed fowl, 1C’s Anatoly Subbotin and 777 Studio’s Jason V. Williams do say this latest installment in the IL-2 Sturmovik series might appeal to more than just wannabe pilots.
For those unfamiliar with this series, what is IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle Of Stalingrad?
Willliams: Like 777 Studio’s previous game, Rise Of Flight, IL-2 Sturmovik is what would be considered a hardcore flight sim. Which means real-world physics, ballistics, flight modeling, damage modeling, historically accurate paint jobs, etc. It’s not an arcade game, it’s not a shoot-’em-up, you’re actually learning how to fly a plane and using real-world tactics to complete your mission and survive.
Does it go as far as Microsoft’s Flight Simulator?
Williams: It goes further than that. Flight Simulator is a little different. It’s a civilian simulator where they simulate the entire globe and you can fly from point A to point B and look at the pretty scenery. With a combat simulator like ours, you don’t simulate the entire globe. You typically have a historically accurate theater that you fly mission in, and you shoot down enemy airplanes, bomb targets, and attack tanks and artillery. You’re basically fighting a virtual war on your computer.
But there have been IL-2 Sturmovik games on consoles that were…
Williams: Yes. IL-2 Sturmovik came out over ten years ago on the PC and was a huge hit. It was made by 1C Company. Then another company made a console flight sim for Xbox and PlayStation called IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds Of Prey…
Subbotin: Well, they were working for us. And it wasn’t actually a flight sim. It was more like an action game packed into a flight sim environment.
Williams: There was also a PC game called IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs Of Dover in 2011, but it came out broken. But 1C love this franchise, so they came to 777 Studios, my company, and said that they liked Rise Of Flight and asked us to relaunch the IL-2 Sturmovik series.
Subbotin: You see, flight sims are not the easiest games to make. They’re actually the most complicated games to make.
Mr. Williams, when 1C came to you about making IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle Of Stalingrad, were you working on Rise Of Flight II: Electric Boogaloo, and then just took what you were doing and turned it into IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle Of Stalingrad, or did you start from scratch?
Williams: Yes and no. Rise Of Flight’s engine was worked on for many years. IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle Of Stalingrad uses a modified version of the Rise Of Flight engine, which allowed us to shorten the development time by many years. But we had not started work on a new Rise Of Flight, and we jumped at the chance to make Battle Of Stalingrad because Rise Of Flight is set during World War I, and we’ve always wanted to do a World War II game.
The IL-2 Sturmovik series is known to older gamers. What are you doing to appeal to younger players?
Williams: There’s a couple different things. We have a story-driven campaign and multiplayer, but we also have a really quick mission builder where, if you don’t have a lot of time, you can create a combat scenario and just fly for half an hour or an hour.
You also don’t need a lot to play this game. You don’t need multiple monitors and a high-end flight stick. You can play this with a flight stick that under $50.00, like the Extreme 3D Pro from Logitech [motions to an Extreme 3D Pro from Logitech sitting on the table]. You can even play with a regular game controller. Though I can’t tell you how successful you’ll be.
Will you also be supporting the Occulus?
Williams: We will. We already have it implemented, we’re just waiting for the final version of the Occulus to come out so we can make sure it works with our game correctly.
I don’t know how familiar you are with the Forza games…
Williams: The racing games, yeah.
Right. Well, they’re realistic racing sims, but in the recent installments — Forza Motorsport 4, Forza Motorsport 5, Forza Horizon, and the upcoming Forza Horizon 2 — they added options that dialed back the realism.
Williams: Right. We have that as well. You can go straight hardcore, or you can dial it back and let our sophisticated A.I. system help you fly.
Subbotin: Think of it like how, in a car game, you can use manual transmission or an automatic one. It doesn’t change how fast the car goes. You can have full control of the plane, or you can let the A.I. control certain things so you can concentrate on flying. You can have unlimited fuel, unlimited bullets, and so on.
Williams: Though if you play with a custom set-up in multiplayer, it won’t go up on the leaderboards. It only goes up on the leaderboards if you play on Normal or Expert.
But, I assume, turning all of the A.I. assists never turns this into an arcade dog fighting game, right?
Williams: No, we don’t dial down the physics, we don’t dial down the ballistics. For instance, you can set it up so that you will start the plane by pressing one button, or you can go realistic and you have to hit all the levels at the right times.
Is there some sort of training mission where you’ll learn this stuff?
Williams: No. We had that in Rise Of Flight, and to be honest, that feature wasn’t very popular. But we have some very talented community members, and they’ve stepped up and made some training videos on YouTube.
Will those videos be accessible from the game?
Williams: That would be great, and maybe for the future, but right now we’re just concentrating on the core gameplay.
Given the name, does IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle Of Stalingrad all take place in Stalingrad, or is that the battle your working towards?
Subbotin: It’s all that battle. This has the biggest map of Stalingrad ever in games. We cover more than 48,000 square kilometers.
Williams: This has all the famous buildings, all the landmarks, the street layout is accurate. Though at this point in the battle, the city was largely destroyed. We don’t have the same level of detail in the buildings as a shooter…
Right, but if you were close enough to see that kind of detail, you’d be crashing.
Subbotin: True. But every single object is a physical object, and it has a collision model. There’s a collision model for every tree.
Williams: Some flying games can’t even figure out how to make a tree with a collision model, you fly right through the trees. In ours, the tree’s trunk is stronger than the branches.
So what years does this cover?
Williams: November 1942 through February 1943.
Do you just play as a Russian pilot?
Williams: No, you can play as a German pilot as well.
Subbotin: Though you won’t be able to win the battle as a German.
Williams: People like flying German planes.
Subbotin: Well, the German planes was pretty good at the beginning.
Let’s talk a bit about multiplayer. Obviously, given the set-up, you have a mode that will be like Team Deathmatch. How many maps will there be?
Williams: Well, there’s just the one, Stalingrad, but it’s really big, as we said, and you can decide where to put the airfields. You can put them really close together, or really far apart.
And what other modes do you have?
Williams: With our mission builder, you can do a lot of cool stuff. You can design a scenario where each side has a mission, like taking out a tank factory. But you have to make those missions yourself.
So you have to create those mission-based games, you won’t include any when you buy the game?
Williams: We’ll provide some options, but the reality is that when people get a hold of the mission builder, they’ll build their own stuff. We saw that with Rise Of Flight. When it comes to multiplayer, it’s best to just provide them with the tools and the technology, and let the community decide what it wants to do.
The game also has a single-player campaign. Are you doing anything new with that?
Subbotin: Yes. One thing that’s unique about the campaign in IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle Of Stalingrad is that the missions are not pre-programmed.
Williams: No two missions will be exactly the same. For the campaign, you have to be connected to the Internet. And we have a master mission server that generates the mission for you every time. You objectives will stay the same, but the position of the ground forces and the numbers and types of planes in the sky will be different. But all within the realm of history. If your mission takes place in February of 1943, and it was usually rainy or overcast in Stalingrad during February of 1943, but it was never sunny, then it maybe rainy when you play, or it may just be overcast, but it won’t be overcast.
Finally, it seems like every World War II is legally required to include a mission where you kill Hitler…
Subbotin: No, we don’t have a mission where you kill Hitler. We’re really proud of the fact that we’re producing what we call “documentary games,” where you can actually learn about history.