One of things people love about flying games (and racing games, and motocross games…) is the opportunity to get behind the wheel of many different vehicles. But in the upcoming World War I flight simulator Ilya Muromets, due out on PC later this year from 1C Game Studios, you’ll mostly be behind the wheel of one vehicle: the Sikorsky Ilya Muromet, a Russian bomber built by iconic helicopter designer Igor Sikorsky. But while the titular game lets you fly other planes, in talking to two of the developers — 777 Studio’s Jason V. Williams and 1C’s Anatoly Subbotin — it doesn’t really sound like you’d want to.
How did the game Ilya Muromets come about?
Williams: 777 Studios previously made a World War I flight simulator called Rise Of Flight, which was set on the Eastern front of the war. Recently, 1C Games Studio was approached by the Russian Military Historical Society. They loved what we had done with Rise Of Flight, and they wanted us to make a stand-alone game set on the Western front that would feature the Ilya Muromets. So what we’ve done is make a game, using the Rise Of Flight engine, about what is probably the world’s first strategic bomber.
Subbotin: It was a really impressive bomber. It flew 4000 missions during World War I, and was hit only three times, and only one of them was ever shot down.
Where does the game take place?
Williams: In an area that, today, is known as the Ukraine, but was Russia back then. We’ve actually modeled a rather large area, and we have detailed buildings, bridges, trees, airfields, and other landmarks. We even have collision models on our trees and everything else.
Though I’m guessing the area doesn’t look like this anymore.
Subbotin: No. Everything we did is based on old maps.
Given that you’re mostly flying a big bomber, will Ilya Muromets have different modes?
Williams: Yes. Much like Rise Of Flight and our other upcoming game, IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle Of Stalingrad [which you can read about here], Ilya Muromets will have a quick mission mode, where you can create your own missions, competitive multiplayer modes, and a campaign. Though the campaign in Ilya Muromets will be different from the story-driven one in IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle Of Stalingrad in that you’ll just be flying a series of missions that are representative of what the Ilya Muromets did on the Western front.
Besides one of the Ilya Muromets, you can also fly other planes in this game. What do they do?
Williams: We’re throwing in a half-dozen or so fighter planes so you can escort the plane or, on the other side, you can try and shoot it down. Which is not easy to do. Though you can also play as a gunner on the Ilya Muromets and help defend the plane.
Can you play the entire guy as the guy on the top of the plane with the machine gun?
Williams: Yes. If you really want to.
And when I do, the computer will fly the plane where it needs to go?
Williams: Yes. Though I’d suggest only being the gunner when there’s enemy aircraft nearby. Otherwise, you’ll probably get bored.
Can you switch between being that guy and the pilot when there’s no enemies around?
Williams: Yes, you can switch positions whenever you like.
Given how cool this plane is, will there be a multiplayer mode where two Ilya Muromets go head-to-head?
Williams: You could. People have. There’s actually a couple of gunners on the plane, so in testing, we’ve had multiplayer matches where a plane is full of people working together. But it’s something you’ll have to set up yourself.
That must play out like when big ships fight in a pirate game. Because this plane doesn’t look too maneuverable.
Williams: It’s not. It’s like steering a bus.
So did you get to see one of these planes?
Williams: There are none. There are none left in the world. We actually had to use old pictures to design the one in the game.
The amount of information on World War I is limited, to say the least. Thankfully, we have resources around the world, people who visit museums and archives, and help us find this information. So, in a sense, this isn’t just a game or a flight sim, it’s also a teaching tool about history.
Obviously, being a historically accurate combat flight sim, you’re going for realistic physics, and so on. But will you be able to dial them back or turn them off?
Williams: Yeah, you’ll be able to dial back the realism a bit. The flight physics will remain realistic, but you’ll be able to decide whether you want, say, a normal amount of fuel or an unlimited amount.
Will Ilya Muromets support the Occulus?
Williams: We will. We have support for the current unit, but we’re waiting until the final version is done so we can make sure it works right with this game.
Subbotin: Though we’ll also be supporting mouse and keyboard controls.
You say that like it’s a big deal.
Williams: It is. Neither Rise Of Flight not IL-2 Sturmovik let you use them. But in recent years, there’s been a move to use mouse and keyboards on flight sims. So with Ilya Muromets being a whole new game for us, we’re going to introduce a mouse and keyboard system. But unlike in other flight games, where using the mouse and keyboard give you an advantage over people using a flight stick, because you can turn faster, our game will be designed so that people using a mouse and keyboard won’t have any advantage over people using a flight stick.
Hopefully this will end the complaints people make, “Ah, you’re a mouser, I’m a better pilot than you.”
Subbotin: Ha! “Mouser.”
So then, if letting people play with the mouse and keyboard is so controversial, why do it?
Williams: Because some people really want it. And since this is a new game, it gives us the opportunity to explore the idea of mouse and keyboard controls without pissing off the fans of Rise Of Flight and IL-2 Sturmovik.
And maybe, if it’s successful, maybe we’ll retrofit our earlier games. Or maybe not, depending on the response. We don’t want to upset our fans.