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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Oleg Maddox Interviews: in full, uncut

In 2013 SimHQ writer Fred Williams conducted a series of Q&As with former IL2 developer Oleg Maddox (left, in 1999), which were included in a series of retrospective articles on SimHQ.

The interviews were broken up over 4 articles, but they are collected here in a single post for greater continuity.

The structure for the interviews, was to look at the top 10 most discussed topics on the forums at SimHQ regarding IL2, over the last ten years. Thanks to access to the SimHQ forums back-end, we were able to see that the following were the hot button topics:

1. SKINS (Did you know there are more than 4000 now available on M4T?)
3. HARDWARE COMPATIBILITY/QUESTIONS, especially TrackIR support, or lack of
6. MODS (not Oleg’s favourite topic)
8. TEAM DAIDOLOS PATCHES/COLLABORATION (the 'sanctioned' modders)
9. AI especially TACTICS and BOMBER GUNNERS (criticism Oleg was never willing to accept)

So using these to guide the journey, Fred went on a walk back through time with Oleg Maddox.



Fred Williams: When I look at the 'most discussed' topics on the IL2 forums, by far the most discussed topic is aircraft skins: IL2 made it very easy for users to skin their own aircraft, and there are now more than 4,000 skins available on alone. Did you expect that this part of the game would be so popular?

Oleg Maddox: Definitely. We put a lot of thought into making our games accessible and expandable. If anything, we probably should have opened up more things to the users. There is of course always a fine line that has to be walked here. If you open too much to the user without putting certain limits of other types, you open your game up to hacking or to vandalism. I’m sure some people who flew Il-2 in the early days still shudder at the memory of “funny” skins many users used online with horrible colors, curse words, or inappropriate pictures or photographs on their planes with no regard for historical accuracy.

I think that things should be open to the users to modify, but the developer should also try to ensure that user content stays within certain guidelines.

FW: One of the most controversial and most discussed elements of skinning was whether or not to use the hakenkreuz or swastika. There are legal, political, and philosophical arguments around this and many users were not aware that use of the symbol was banned in some major countries like Germany. What are your reflections on all this debate?

OM: There’s a Russian saying, “you can’t take a word out of a song.” In my opinion, history is history.I would have preferred not to get involved in any philosophical or political arguments and just recreate things as they were. However, other people seeing parts of history in their own light, such a thing would be impossible. Any decision like that would be viewed by some as a reflection of my beliefs. To me, a swastika on the tail of a 109 is just that, a part of history. Swastika today of course is a completely different thing. It’s a symbol banned in many countries. We really could never publish a game with a swastika among game assets because no publisher would allow it, simply because they want to avoid any possibility of legal troubles. So it was never philosophical or political for us, or was not even my decision. It was simply “guys, by the way, you can’t have swastikas” from above, with no option to discuss.

FW: Did you ever consider commercialising the ability to make skins eg by releasing skinning tools, or skins packs for IL2 aircraft?

OM: Not really. If users have tools for free, they release more user-made content, and user-made content draws more people to the game; so by keeping the tools free you are in fact making more money.

FW: The original IL2 was designed to run on a PIII 600Mhz PC when Open GL was a the new video standard. Can you comment generally on some of the challenges you faced and managed in creating software for such a wide variety of PCs and peripherals: what worked, what did not?

OM: The biggest problem was simply the fact that we never had enough resources to do testing internally. We rarely had any kind of variety of hardware available to the team. Most of the time, we worked on obsolete machines with older cheaper hardware. We often had to rely on fans to do our hardware testing for us, which often made things very difficult, as doing back-and-forth diagnostics with the only fan with a particular device, located across the globe with an 11-hour difference, often meant that a simple problem took forever to figure out.

IL2's cockpits, state of the art in 2001. 
Some images courtesy

FW: One of the topics which generated the most discussion was Track-IR/6DOF support. Looking back, did you anticipate how popular use of this technology would be? The new equivalent is a virtual reality technology called ‘Occulus Rift’ which flight sim developers are watching with great interest – what would be your advice to developers trying to manage emerging technologies like ‘Occulus Rift’?

OM: As soon as we saw TrackIR, we knew it was a perfect fit. We knew right away that it would be big. It worked great, the price was right, it was basically the perfect product for the perfect niche.

Occulus Rift looks great as well, but I’ve only seen videos of it. Never played with it myself. So it’s hard for me to tell how it would feel. Flight sims are a unique genre that takes the kind of head movements that don’t usually happen in other games. So I’d be very interested to see how it works, especially with our new DCS WWII project where an implementation could be very cool if done correctly.

FW: Another area of much discussion was the entire emergence of, and management of, online gaming with IL2. Online combat flight simulation came of age during the life of the IL2 series – how early did you identify that trend? What was the main focus of your team in optimising IL2 titles for online play? What were the difficulties or successes you would highlight?

OM: We played many games online in the 90s. We made some pioneer games with ground-breaking multiplayer functionality before Il-2 that were very popular in Russia. We already knew what people wanted, and we could really see what was missing from other flight sims.
Multiplayer has to be open and varied, and allow a large number of people to experience exactly what they want. We knew it had to be blazing fast, offer many options, user mods, user missions, of course dedicated servers, good interface, and a quick way to find exactly the kind of match you want. It was also very important, and almost no one was doing it at the time, to allow the user to feel unique in a game. Not just a copy of the same model as everyone else with only a different name tag. To allow the user to create himself in the game, to put his own face on the pilot, that did a lot to make online feel more real and more personal.

IL2 2001

FW: Hardware/bandwidth advances mean that massively multiplayer combat flight simulation is now possible. Advances in 3D and virtual reality technology will also make the experience even more compelling and realistic. Do you have any thoughts about the future of online flight simulation?

OM: Advances in technology also mean that budgets have grown exponentially.

At the same time, the genre has shrunk. There are not that many flight sim fans out there anymore. That means that if anyone has the budget to make a really big online game, they will probably not make it a flight sim. And if anyone tries to make an online flight sim, they will not have anywhere near the budget they need to compete.

There is probably a future in massive online flying games, but not in realistic MMO flight sims.

Finally, advances in technology mean that computers become more capable of complex physics. And today’s flight sims are still ways off from doing full complex aerodynamics. We’re years if not decades away from doing real-time wind tunnels on complex 3D shapes. Even today’s supercomputers can’t do anywhere near fast enough. So, with all advances, people doing realistic flight sims will probably spend their resources on making flight more realistic, meaning there will not be that much left for massive online. If you have a thousand planes in the air, each is probably using a lot less bandwidth, and therefore is much less realistic, than a sim capped at 32 online players.

So the future? I think there’s a fork in the road. There is a path towards more accessible, more massive, less realistic online – or towards less accessible, smaller, more realistic games.

FW: You introduced with Forgotten Battles, the ability for a player to use their own skin in a campaign and for the game to keep track of it. Did you ever discuss going further and make historically accurate skins for all staffeln and squadrons yourselves?

OM: We never had enough resources to do something like that. That was another reason for opening things to the user. We knew that collectively our fans will be able to do a lot more and a lot better than our small team could have done.

Forgotten Battles introduced the ability for offline players to skin their own aircraft

OM: All our projects have always been done on a shoestring budget and with no time to spare. I really wish we had the luxury to do more, to make more skins, more aircraft, more features. But we simply never had anywhere near the budgets to do everything we wanted, to hire enough people, to spend enough time. I sometimes look back on my own work and feel amazed at how much we did achieve. It’s only due to the talent and incredible dedication of my guys that this was possible. They really poured their hearts and souls into our games.

FW: Which was your personal favourite aircraft and what made it your favourite?

OM: I really liked flying the Bf-109K-4 online. I was unstoppable in it.

If you met this machine in the online skies, maybe OM was behind the stick!

FW: In a 1999 interview you only talked about the IL2 being flyable but two years later the first release of IL2 Sturmovik included Lavochkins, Migs, Airocobras and Yaks, FWs and 109s… and the IL2 series eventually became legendary for modelling in high fidelity nearly every production warbird of world war II – was this a deliberate marketing strategy or something that just developed?

OM: Definitely not a marketing strategy. Il-2 was the love child of the team’s passions. We spent all our time working on that game, and not because we had to, but because we wanted to. If we worked for a paycheck, we could have gotten it by just making the one Il-2 flyable. We’d have still had our jobs, and the game would have been forgotten long ago.

But because the guys, myself, everyone in the team, really really wanted to do this, and because we loved aviation so much, we went and made more flyables just for ourselves. We really were just making a game for ourselves, and we really enjoyed it, and that enjoyment made us do even more for it.

FW: Obviously the aircraft featured in the IL2 series, and their various flight models/damage models/cockpits/instruments kept people engaged for years. In the early days, there was huge debate about your decision to focus so much work on little known aircraft from the Eastern Front. What do you think of that debate now?

OM: We are very proud of the work we did. I believe that it was due to Il-2 that so many people are now aware of the Eastern Front, that so many other developers are doing it, and that people in the West no longer think of the Russians as the mindless horde that defeated the Germans with nothing but endless human waves.

We are very proud of Russian contribution to WWII and of Russian fighting machines. Bringing them to the audiences that never heard of them before was a wonderful thing to do.

Forgotten Battles featured a plethora of 'exotic' machines

FW: There was much discussion of your development decision to feature so many ‘minor’ aircraft (the infamous 'crap planes') in such detail, which obviously required a lot of time and research and effort by your team. In hindsight, would you rather have focused more effort on fewer aircraft, and perhaps been able to execute more releases and expansion packs, or accelerate the time between ‘chapters’ in the IL2 series?

OM: I really try not to spend time rethinking past decisions. There’s never one right way to do something; there’s only the right way to do something at the right time. If I was doing a flight sim today, and you know now I’m involved with one at the moment, I would do a lot of things different than I did in Il-2. But not because I did something wrong with Il-2, but because the world is very different today than it was back then.

For example there was some criticism of the damage model of the IL-16 and a couple of other German planes, which was later corrected. This happened because in these aircraft we used a more simple damage model that was done before we turned to more complex damage model (DM) during development of first Il-2.

I heard requests to decrease the durability of many German, Russian, American, English aircraft. In such cases I listened only to those users who were able to give me some real historical documentation that something was wrong with an aircraft.

There were for example claims that the IL-16 had a climb rate better than early BF109s and FWs … but I didn’t correct it because it was like that in reality.

FW: There was some criticism of the combat AI in this and later titles. Looking back, do you think that criticism was fair?

OM: I don't agree with the criticism of the AI - a lot of the AI was invisible to players but very important. By default in all missions, especially in dynamic campaigns, the AI level was set to middle. In general the behavior of Rookie and Ace AI was very different. The AI for its time was really great and I would say is still great when I play other games. The level and experience of the AI pilot was also tailored to several main groups:

- Fighters

- Fighter bombers

- Ground attack planes

- Bombers

In addition, for example if normally a fighter was carrying bombs, then the AI changed to fighter – bomber and it would not cover you until it had dropped its bombs on target or was under attack, etc. It was also dependent on plane type. So for the FW-190 there was a more complex picture than earlier fighters as it was a more capable aircraft.

If the player issued the command “Cover me” then it would depend on many factors, firstly on the AI level that was set in mission for your wingman or the whole wing. Lets say if the wingman was a rookie, then the “angle of his view” was more narrow, he may miss you more often or never see you at all. Or he could really make some stupid mistakes. And while a bomber would never execute your command to cover him, the AI bomber gunners would shoot any enemy planes near you.

Another example of the skill levels in action was that if the enemy was rookie and you tried to escape at low level then he would lose you because he was not as good at looking around and under his aircraft as pilots at higher levels. AI at higher levels was also better at managing fuel and trying to find a nearby base if low on fuel.

But there were some issues if the AI level was set to Ace. We did not have different AI for the Bomber pilot and AI gunners of that bomber. So we had the problem that ace gunners were shooting like snipers. We were going for compromise – decreasing in principle the skill of the pilot also decreased the skill of the gunners.

The work on AI was constant basis throughout development of Il-2 series and we listened always to feedback from our users.

For example, the AI was also able to see through mountains. This was a known issue and we planned to change it a future non Il-2 named series.

FW: In 2007 you estimated that a non flyable AI aircraft in IL2 Sturmovik took 1.5 months to develop, and for Cliffs of Dover (Storm of War), this had changed to six months! Ilya quoted last year 1 year of development time for a flyable aircraft. Why did development times change so much as time progressed? Software and PC capabilities improved, but I would have assumed your own processes became more efficient, and you would have had access to a greater number of people to execute the projects.

OM: That’s how much complexity has grown. It perhaps got a little too complicated for ourselves, and was probably more complex than people could even tell.

We really did get better at doing things. Il-2 aircraft were really rather simple, and ingenious in how we cut many corners without sacrificing realism. With Cliffs of Dover, we decided not to cut any more corners, and that added a tremendous level of complexity to everything! We actually modeled the entire internal structure of each aircraft, and that wasn’t even something people would ever see. That alone, the internals, took more time to do properly than one entire aircraft in Il-2. If we guesstimated it instead, the results would be almost indistinguishable, but we liked doing it properly because that was how we wanted to do things, how we saw ourselves.
I really wish we had more time and more resources to properly finish what we started.

FW: When you were developing the IL2 series, you still had access to pilots who had flown these warbirds in WWII or later, for technical assistance, advice and testing. But most of these pilots are unfortunately no longer with us. Modern flight sim developers will have to live without them (just as WWI sim developers have to do today) – does this mean the flight models of sim aircraft in the future will be ‘less real’ than those you developed for IL2?

OM: As you may know, we are now starting a project with my good friends at Eagle Dynamics. We’re running a kickstarter for a WWII sim on a DCS engine. The good thing about that is that they are partners with the Fighter Collection, a huge collection of flyable WWII planes. That means that we actually do still have access to these machines and to the men that fly them. '

Of course, there is no substitute for the real thing. The men who were really there are almost all gone today. We still have their stories fresh in our minds though. We are very fortunate to have met them when we had the chance. Even if we heard a story 10 years ago, we are probably in a better place to do it justice today than back then. Of course, from a certain point of view sims are becoming less immediate, less connected to real living history; at the same time they are becoming more accurate and precise because computers are more capable today.

FW: Which was your personal favourite theatre (both the most interesting in a historical perspective, and then in IL2) and why?

OM: The Russian Front of course. It’s what I grew up with. Nothing can compete with childhood impressions or fantasies. I’m sure this is the case for everyone around the world. Things that happened in their country, things they grew up hearing about, are always more interesting than anything else.

FW: By the end of the IL2 series, most of the great theatres of war in World War 2 had been addressed, from Eastern Europe to Western Europe, the Battle of Britain, and the Pacific. But some significant theatres were never addressed – such as Africa or Malta. What drove your development or choice of theatres of conflict during the series? For example, why Bessarabia, and not Africa?

Pacific Fighters expanded the IL2 series to New Guinea, Midway...but never the Med (officially)

OM: It’s a very hard question to answer. We always talked about the Mediterranean and it was always in some plans somewhere. I guess it’s just that, for some subconscious reason, most of the team members were never too excited about it. There was always something else that drew more enthusiasm and pushed Africa just one step back.

FW: Why was the Battle of Britain left to last? In an interview you stated that it was partly because the IL2 engine could not draw the Cliffs of Dover? Was this really the reason?

OM: We started with 1941 aircraft with the original Il-2, so going back to 1940 always felt a little strange. The iconic cliffs were also an important consideration. It’s hard to say. I guess by the time we were seriously considering Battle of Britain, we already felt that we needed a new engine, and so it just naturally fell into the “start a new series with it” file. Seemed to make sense to start a new series early in the war and progress into the future from there.

FW: Did sales or download numbers give you an indication of which theatres/maps were the most popular with combat flight sim fans?

OM: Definitely. We did look at sales, but we also considered general fan interaction, which was probably more important than sales numbers. Our decisions were certainly not all marketing and sales based, which is probably why we always had such a tumultuous relationship with those departments. It was always more of a dialogue. We’d look to see what excited our fans, then figure out if that excited us too.

FW: Before IL2 1946, which was a merger of many other titles and expansion packs, which titles sold the most - the original Forgotten Battles with its Eastern Front focus, Ace expansion pack with its Western Front (Ardennes, Normandy) focus, or Pacific fighters?

OM: Ace Expansion Pack sold the worst. FB and PF both sold very well.

It was a mistake to make Aces Expansion Pack (AEP) as an add-on. The content of AEP was greater than in you found in full sim products of other developers at the time. I told our publisher it should be a separate sim with the possibility to merge with FB. But the publisher said “No…”.

However, with Pacific Fighters we did a stand alone sim ourselves, at our own risk. Luckily the sales volume was much greater, so it was the right idea, to make one big merge-able sim for each new title release."

FW: Which campaign or expansion did you/your team never get around to, that you still wished you had? There was much talk about a Korea expansion after Cliffs of Dover – was that just wishful thinking by Ilya or did some work actually start?

Luftwaffe concept planes, but never Migs over Korea. They remained a dream on the IL2 team's wishlist

OM: Korea was actually half-way done for Il-2, and then scrapped and half-way done for the Cliffs of Dover engine. There was a tremendous amount of research done for it, and a large collection of references, 3D models and other work is still gathering dust on Ilya’s hard drive. I know he’s still very sad because all that work went to nothing. Unfortunately, as it is today, most of the art done for the Korean project way back then is hopelessly obsolete, so it would not be usable in today’s world. We briefly considered doing a DCS project around it, but it’s just not up to the same standards. We’d have to redo it from scratch.

A very sad story.

FW: The next most discussed topics on SimHQ forums revolved around user developed content: missions, campaigns, dynamic campaign generators etc. In an interview in 2007 you said ‘IL-2 is successful because of the experienced and dedicated core team, and the monumental effort by the developers and 3rd parties that spans nearly a decade.’ Were you also thinking of user made content when you said this?

OM: That’s exactly what I meant by 3rd parties! User-made content, missions, campaigns, skins, user-run servers and online wars, all those were a huge component of the game’s success.

FW: A full functioning mission builder has been a part of the IL2 Sturmovik concept since the very first chapter in the series was released in 2001. Did you foresee how important that feature would be, in building a huge community around the IL2 sim platform?

OM: Yes. That was one of my main priorities from the start. I knew what was missing from other games I was playing. I knew the exact reason why they had such little replayability and why I stopped going back to them; or why I kept coming back to some other titles. Both the quick and the full mission builder were absolutely one of the main ways I saw to make Il-2 popular for many years.

FW: There is always a risk that if users make low quality products, it will damage the ‘image’ of your own work. How did you regard the general quality of user made content for IL2?

OM: I really did not like seeing some user skins myself, especially those with various rude images. Hated the fact that I could not dare to show a part of my own game to friends for fear of offending them with user-made content.

Still, the situation kind of settled by itself. Vandals lost interest quickly, and the fans that stuck with the product were at least as demanding as me and the team. Eventually, the quality of user-made content became so high that it amazed me all the time.
If to speak about third party 3D models… sometime we reworked them on 70% or completely that to achieve our standards for Il-2 series…but still keeping the name of original developer, who sent us that model… I remember just 4 cool third party modelers that made really excellent aircraft models… and it was fans of Il-2 that were working professionally in other games companies.

FW: It could be argued that by creating such good mission building tools, you restricted your own ability to make money by licensing 3rd party developers to develop ‘campaign expansion packs’ for IL2? Many developers do not do this and keep the rights to make new campaigns/missions/maps to themselves or to companies they license. Why did you go the other way?

OM: That again was not a marketing decision as much as a personal one. That simply was the kind of game I wanted to make, and the kind of relationship I wanted to have with my fans. It paid off in the case of Il-2, and I’m sure it’d pay off again. I would not change it in any future project I may make.

FW: The Team Daidolos series of patches has been a strong discussion point since official development of the IL2 1946 game stopped with patch 4.09 beta, and this collaboration between a software developer and an unofficial group of enthusiasts was quite unique at the time. What principles did you establish with Team Daidolos to guide your collaboration?

OM: This is a hard question to answer because a lot of the decisions about how things were done did not come from me. I did not personally own the Il-2 engine, and the decision to give it away was not taken well. I had to fight a lot to give Daidalos as much as we did, and that was nowhere near as much as I wanted to give them.

I think any developer in the world would be proud to have such an incredible team of enthusiasts do so much with their engine once the team itself has moved on; of course their opinion would not be shared by most business suits running their studios.
My primary drive was very simple. I loved Il-2, I really loved what it became, and I had an incredible relationship with my fans. I wanted them to have the best product they could have, and if I myself could no longer work on doing it for them, I was happy to have someone else work on it, and thankful for the opportunity. It was not about the money at that point.

The Slot - one of dozens of new maps introduced by Team Daidolos

FW: The Team Daidolos collaboration was seen in many discussions, as an attempt to compete with work being done at the time (and since) by other modders. Was this in fact a motive? Surely the modded versions of the game enabled you to sell even more copies of 1946, because they all required the player to own a legitimate copy of the game? Or was it more a matter of securing the quality of future work on the game?

It was rather simple. These guys just really wanted to do things with the game, and they would have done it either way, with our or without our support. With our support, they could do things easier and they could do more. We were extremely impressed with what they were doing. Since there was no commercial conflict at all, and we really liked those guys on a personal level, the relationship formed very naturally.

FW: Team Daidolos has continued their work, with version 4.12 now released and a wish list started for version 4.13. Has that development met your expectations?

OM: It more than exceeded it. I am absolutely amazed by what people were able to do with my old Il-2.

Current 'state of the art' - a reworked P40 from Team Daidolos

FW: The wishlist for version 4.13 on the Team Daidolos 1C forum is now up to 51 screens long: does it surprise you that a) there is still so much interest in the game and b) that there is apparently still so much that can be done to make the game even better?

OM: It does not surprise me. Il-2 is still the most comprehensive sim on the market, and it holds up rather well. I wouldn’t be surprised if it will forever remain the biggest most complete simulation of WWII ever built; hard to imagine anyone making more theaters and more planes under one roof. And of course, there’s no limit to perfect. As hardware continues to grow, so will the opportunities to improve old software.

FW: IL2 Sturmovik Cliffs of Dover after the final patch is now a highly playable, impressively detailed and very entertaining game. Now that you are looking back from a distance, what are your reflections on that episode in IL2 history?

OM: If only we had more time and more money to fully polish the game before release, and do a lot more than ever made into the final patch, everyone would have been a million times happier today. Us, the fans, and especially the management. It could have been a great hit. It should have been a great hit. Of course, no one is blameless, but really releasing it in the state it was released in was a very bad decision. As you can see by the final patch, we were fully capable of doing a good product; the final patch was done purely out of personal desires of the team, while the team was supposedly fully engaged in working on a sequel. If we did not work on the sequel, and just worked on improving Cliffs of Dover, we could have done the work we did in much less time.
This is extremely painful for me to write. I really wish we had more support from our management, more understanding of flight sim realities. With only a little more investment and a little more time, Cliffs of Dover would have been a huge hit and made everyone involved very rich. Well, it’s all in the past now, and it’s best to keep it there.

The level of internal structural detail modelled in IL2 Cliffs of Dover. Level of detail in this final IL2 sim in the series is often described as 'insane', and no doubt led to many delays.

FW: You watched some strong competitors come and go over the years - like Microsoft Aces Studio - do you still follow the flight sim category and if so, what do you think about the current health of the flight sim category?
OM: I do follow it very much. As you may know, I’m now involved in a new flight sims with Ilya and DCS guys, so I’ve been doing a lot of research and playing a lot of flight sims lately, even more so than usual.

Q. How did the DCS WWII project with Eagle Dynamics and Ilya Shevchenko come about?

Very naturally.

I’ve been friends with Ilya for almost fourteen years now. My relationship with the folks at Eagle Dynamics goes back even further; as my old studio and theirs were based in the same city and had the same publisher for most of our titles, we all knew each other.
I kept in touch with Ilya throughout the birth of the new project. He often came to me for advice and I myself was always interested to learn about what was going on in his life. I was very glad to learn that Ilya was able to start a new project with the folks at Eagle Dynamics. And as I myself have always been and will always remain a fan of the flight sim genre, my involvement was kind of a given. There was never really a courting process or discussions. The way the project was starting, and the way my relationship is with the people involved, my participation was always a given. The only question was, how public would it have to be.
All in all, I’m very happy that this project is progressing. There is hope for the hardcore flight sim after all.

Q. It is a little unclear whether this is an independent 3rd party project which has licensed DCS code, or if it is a Fighter Collection/Eagle Dynamics project for which you and others are developing content - can you clarify?

It’s a very close relationship between two separate companies.

The project is definitely its own thing, ran by Ilya, for which he primarily is responsible. He designed it on paper, licensed the code and hired and managed team members. However, Eagle Dynamics is doing a lot more than just handing over the code. First of all, many ED employees are huge WWII aviation fans, so they try to get involved even if that means doing something on their own time. Secondly, the current DCS engine could use a few new WWII-era features, and part of the deal means that ED will work to develop those as part of the engine hand-over process.

So, it’s a little bit of both.

Q. What did you think about the Kickstarter result, raising 158,000 USD?

The result is pretty much exactly as I predicted.

There were many who were certain it would never raise even the 100K. There were others who were hoping for much larger numbers. However my experience in the industry and my analysis of the current state of the project and the campaign we were trying to do always made me think that we were most likely to get right around that number.

That’s not to say that it’s not a huge accomplishment! It certainly could have been a lot worse. As we’ve never done crowdsourcing before, there was definitely a degree of uncertainty. It would have been disastrous if we did not meet the goal. I’m very happy with the results. Also very happy that even in this new thing my analysis turned out to be exactly right, as always.

Already flying in DCS World, the P-51D and we just need a Western Europe map, WWII objects, vehicles, guns, a few extra flyables, cockpits, weapons...and...and...

Q. What will be your role on the project?

Kind of a behind the scenes mastermind.

My biggest contribution to past projects, and the thing that I most enjoyed doing, has always been setting the course. I read flight sim forums all the time, and I speak a lot to many of my life-long friends who are also fans of the genre spread across the globe. I play all the games. So my main job is making sure the project evolves in the right direction. I definitely see many things that can be improved in the current DCS titles. I help set up the overall vision, to make sure the team is doing something the fans really want.

Q. Will anything be different about this project compared to your previous flight sims? Shevchenko speaks about having a greater level of control over this project than in previous projects.

I don’t know what that means. Shevchenko had total control in the past, and I think his control is a bit less now that the game engine isn’t actually his.

Anyway, the difference is huge.

We have a different engine. We have an established product line with an established fan base, and their established ways, goals, and requirements are quite different from what we were doing in the past.
The project right now is a lot smaller than most things we’ve done.

It’s also a lot more complex in many ways, and a lot less in others. We’re doing so much more in terms of visual fidelity, and spending a lot of time finetuning various internal aircraft systems that we barely touched before.

So, while the overall goal is the same, to set up a long-running flight simulation series that can eventually encompass all theaters of WWII, the path we are taking now seems very different.

Q. The flyable aircraft list, if all are done to DCS standards, is very impressive, including Republic P-47D-28 Thunderbolt; Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX; Messerschmitt Bf-109K-4; Focke-Wulf FW.190D-9 (from DCS: World); North-American P-51D Mustang (from DCS: World) and Messerschmitt Me.262A-1. Which do you think will be the hardest for the team to model accurately?

The one with the least amount of available historical data.

That’s another thing by the way that’s very different in DCS. The amount and quality of source data needed to model an aircraft to DCS standard is eons beyond what we used in the past. We now work with nothing but primary sources, whereas we often relied on secondary sources or even our own guesswork in the past.
There’s very little room for guesswork in DCS.

As the German planes have in general poorer documentation than Allied planes, doing those perfectly will be a challenge. Or, more frankly, it’ll be impossible to get it to 100% because there’s literally no way of knowing where that 100% is.

The DCS P51D, already arguably the most accurately modelled P-51 in a combat flight sim.

Q. The series will start in Normandy in 1944 with British and Luftwaffe fighter campaigns, and a US ground attack campaign. Shevchenko and yourself have said you are most motivated by working on the Eastern Front and VVS aircraft, so this is a major departure.

...If successful, will we see this new series move to the Eastern Front in the future?

...If successful, will we see this new series move to the Pacific Theatre in the future?

Clearly. There’s not too many directions a WWII simulation can go.

We see a clear progression through the theaters over the next few years. We however don’t have a specific plan yet. It’s too early to decide whether the very next one is going to be Russia or Pacific or the Med. We’ll see how the first one goes, and we’ll see what the people most want.

Q. Are you hoping to recreate the long term success of IL2 with this new sim, or do you view this as a one-off, single project?

Oh no, we definitely want to have long-term success. There’s no point in doing one-offs. I think any successful game deserves a sequel. And we’re definitely working to make a successful title.
FW: Do you still enjoy the hobby of remote control aircraft flying? Do you ever fly a flight sim in your personal time, and which one(s)?

OM: I don’t do remote control aircraft any more, just for fun every once in a while. Not as much or as complex as before. I do still fly both Il-2 and Cliffs of Dover, but pretty rarely, it always brings up too many things. I fly other flight sims for research, but not for much fun. Of course, been spending a lot of time with DCS.

FW: Thanks Oleg Maddox, and good luck with the new project.

For the full articles on SimHQ, go here:

DCS WWII Jan update: a screenshot of---a manual

From the Devs desk...he's working on...a user manual (say what?):
On the development front, the Me.262 cockpit shown last week has had the last few kinks straightened out and is considered finished. Just waiting for the flight dynamics programmers, currently hard at work o the Bf.109K, to finish that plane and get on the 262.

The P-47 is also nearly there. The cockpit is virtually ready, while the external model is a bit farther along. The general pipeline for this project is a bit strange. Our cockpits are built a lot faster than our external models, and the programming time that comes after the 3D models are complete is even longer.

The order in which the planes will be completed is as follows. The FW.190D-9, in the development of which our team is also taking part, will be completed first (no ETA, not up to me too announce). The Bf.109K-4 will come next. Then the P-47. Then the Me.262. Then the Spitfire. The plan is still to release these piece-meal to all alpha-access backers as they are being done.

The landscape is also moving along. The most important part of the process is engine integration, that is, getting the DCS aircraft to fly over the new terrain, and all the other objects, vehicles, ships, and so on, to properly interact with it. This task is in late testing stages, and in the meantime creating the landscape itself has slowed down a bit. Once that task is complete, we’re going to dump an entire large team onto landscape creation, and will be looking at an alpha of a Normandy chunk in a matter of weeks.

As for myself, well, I have been doing a whole lot of writing and graphic design, and brushing up on my German as well. I’ll just show a single screenshot for now.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Team Fusion hotfix 4.01 unofficial update

Still no news on exactly when the much needed update to the busted 4.0 mod for Cliffs of Dover will actually be released. Clearly they are taking no chances that this release is as buggy as the last, which can only be a good thing!

From Team Fusion's RAFBuzzsaw:

Just to let people know, we will be releasing TF 4.01 in the near future, and that release will include a complete revision of the ground handling, and takeoff/landing modeling.  This will include more accurate ground Centers of Gravity, spring stiffness, oleo leg characteristics for the different types, as well as enhanced propwash effects.  This will coincide with the implementation of more of the game's very complex layered wind modeling on the servers, to provide a more challenging landing and takeoff experience.

TF 4.01 will also include a fix for the 'lawndarting' issue with AI, although a complete revision of AI behaviour is going to have to wait till TF 5.0, as it is quite a considerable undertaking.

There will also be quite a number of other revisions to graphics and FM's, with a special focus on bombers and attack aircraft, all of which you will be able to find on our updates thread tomorrow.  (Friday 17th)

We do expect to continue to improve the game, and hope it can be one of a strong trilogy of games available for Flight Sim enjoyment, CoD, BoS and DCS.  :salute:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Final Oleg Maddox interview published

The final in Fred Williams' series of articles about the IL2 series of sims has been published on SimHQ, including an interview with Oleg Maddox covering subjects like mods, the Team Daidolos collaboration, the Cliffs of Dover debacle and his future project, DCS WWII.

The level of internal structural detail modeled in IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover

Read here:

Monday, January 13, 2014

New flyable aircraft for Cliffs of Dover

Team Fusion, the unofficial mod team working on Cliffs of Dover, has confirmed they are working on new flyable aircraft for inclusion in the next major update of the game.

Cockpit for the Wellington anyone?

Both cannon armed Spitfires and Hurricanes are priorities for TF 5.0

Along with 109F's, 109E-7's, etc.

Some of these are quite easy, some are not.

And since we need to release these aircraft as pairs according to their historical dates, the easier ones have to wait for the more difficult.

So for example, while the Spit IIb is relatively simple to create, no code work required, the 109F is not.

The 109E-7, again, relatively simple.  Hurricane II's, not so.

We can't say at this point when they will be available.

No mention here of  the Wellington, which is currently the most requested new flyable by ATAG forum members, followed closely by the Spit IIb and the Beaufighter.

World on Fire

ED DCS World Forums are ablaze with speculation, consternation and perturbation.

If you backed DCS World War II on Kickstarter for USD 65 or more, you were expecting to receive a key to the DCS World P51 either at the completion of the Kickstarter project, or latest October 2013.

Hard to see that there could be any question or confusion. The rewards are laid out on the Kickstarter page:

  • Pledge $65 or more
     37 backers
    DCS World Tier 1. Everything at the $40 level, plus a digital copy of DCS World P-51D Mustang (on successful kickstarter completion).
    Estimated delivery: 
Those keys, like the project Developer, have gone missing in action according to the DCS ED forum members who note the last time Shevchenko, I., was on the forum was in November 2013.

Fair balance would suggest the dev team has been rather active with regular project updates, though rather quiet on the issue of when Kickstarter backers will get their promised P-51 keys.

If you want to check details for yourself, here is the Kickstarter page which lays out the rewards...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Combat AI concerns for DCS WWII?

One of the critical elements for any WWII prop fighter sim is the combat AI for offline play.

Single players want computer AI that reacts almost like a human...yes, it makes mistakes, but it isn't dumb and doesn't defy the laws of physics. It isn't suicidal, but it is aggressive, and if you get on its tail, it will try to shake you off first, and then turn the tables on you and get on your six.

The vanilla IL2 couldn't do it, and it wasn't until Team Daidolos came along and worked on the AI routines that it started to put up a fight. Cliffs of Dover couldn't do it either - the only way you were going to get shot down in CoD was by friendly fire!

BOB2 did it. The BOB2 AI routines gave the AI situational awareness coupled with skill based access to hundreds of possible manouvres. You could config not only the skill levels but the level of aggression of your opponents. The only time I broke into a heart pounding 'holy fark I nearly died' sweat was in a long drawn out dogfight in BOB2. But BOB2 is showing its age now.

How about the upcoming DCS WWII platform? Will it deliver the goods?

Well it is way to0 early to tell, because the devs are still in the early stages of making 3d models and cockpits, let alone getting them flying or fighting.

Or is it?

You can already take to the skies in one of the DCS WWII machines, the P-51D, against an AI FW190 Dora.

The AI Dora was released early last year, and Youtube abounds with dogfight videos of the DCS warbirds duking it out.

And not that I want to worry you, but those fights are very, sided. Have a look at this one, for example. You will see it is pretty typical if you google others.

Once he gets the Dora in his sights, and gets on its six, it does very little to try to shake him, and certainly doesn't even look close to turning the tables on him.

This is also my experience in the DCS World P-51D vs Dora. The only time you are likely to die is in the merge. Same applies if you engage in a P-51 vs P-51 fight. Sometimes you'll get a kill quickly, sometimes it takes longer, but it is very very rare the AI will clobber you.

Don't want to sound alarm bells too early...but...

There is a good pros and cons discussion on the AI here:

Old vs New, could you survive?

by Fred 'Heinkill' Williams

As a lad who dreamed of flying fighters, I had this recurring daydream where I was thrown back in time in my WWII fighter, and had to do battle with the (then cold war era) jets of modern times.

And of course, by sheer awesome pilotage and deadeye shooting, I would win. Spinning my Hurricane/Spitfire/Mustang on its wingtip to avoid incoming missiles and fill my opponents full of .50 cal or .303 lead.

Then DCS gave me the chance to see if I could at least do it in the DCS world, when they put a P-51 into their cold war era sim.

The answer?

Uh, nope.


For my first attempt I took to the skies in this...

Against this...

Yes, it might have missiles, I reckoned, but the Frogfoot was no dogfighter. I would spin away from those missiles, pirhouette onto its tail, and perforate its hide with my .50s.

I didn't even see it coming. A black dot, a swooshing noise, and every merge looked like this.

Round 2

You can't fight what you can't see! Even with all the HUD cheats enabled in the Mustang, I got swatted.

So, I figured I needed to even the odds a little. How about taking on a heavily armed/armoured, but at least slower moving, Soviet chopper? Easy odds right?

At least I could see it (up close)! I would do a bit of BnZ, a bit of Up and Under, and finish him off with a little slashing dash.

Bu the result was no better. I think I actually got a few hits, but its hide was too thick for my .50s to do anything except sting, while all he had to do was stand his machine on its nose as I pulled away and those autocannons really give a virtual Mustang pilot a fearsome blow to the pride...

So much for daydreams.

Can't wait until DCS WWII gives me a Spit IX to try it in though. I am sure it will be a totally different ballgame!

DCS WWII cockpit work races ahead of schedule

Despite the devs warning that with so many Russians involved in the project, the New Year celebrations would likely set the project timelines back (!), the latest dev update indicates all is well and cockpit development is even ahead of schedule.

Heres the current state of the P-47 cockpit. Looking to be completed by late January. 


And for comparison, the Wings of Power P-47 cockpit, and a real cockpit photo or two.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Team Fusion 4 Jan update: no bug fix yet

Nice update from Team Fusion on work in progress on their Cliffs of Dover modding efforts.

But if, like us, you are patiently (or impatiently) waiting for them to fix the bugs in their last update, don't hold your breath! The news is that the 4.01 hotfix is not ready for release yet because they are working on...wait for it...not the bug fixes, but adding better ground handling behaviour to the sim. Because, let's face it, the forums have been flooded with people complaining about the current ground handling.

Or, not?

Oh well, we are never ones to complain about the work of volunteers. Whatever keeps you motivated boys! Here is the update:


So now we start the New Year and behind the Team Fusion doors, many advances and improvements have and are being made. The new theatre is progressing well as are the objects and new aircraft and it's amazing to see how talented the members in our small team really are. As of yet, we are still not prepared to announce the Theatre or new aircraft/variants/flyables as there is still some work to be done that is crucial to their success, currently that's being worked on and is the final stepping stone in moving forward and us progressing much more efficiently 

Please appreciate that the last two-weeks have been, as they have for many, a time where we take the Christmas break and relax. I know, everyone wants us working non-stop...but blimey, we just took some 'chill out' time.

That said, some of our members didn't! We are very keen to get v4.01 out to the Community and there has been a lot of work ongoing to fix bugs brought on by v4.00 and also new features that are to be included. Yes, not only have we been fixing bugs, but also adding even more features. In the next week I hope to have more details about the new features but I feel happy in saying that take-off and landing will be much more realistic than before with a complete revision of the ground handling. More details will be released soon, but behind TF doors, many aircraft have been lost on the digital runways in an effort to bring this feature to you... 

As always, it's difficult to show you what has been done because so much of it is in the coding and inside the engine than is easy to visibly represent. Hopefully as we get nearer to finishing testing, v4.01 will be online very soon....but as this will most likely be the last release before v5.00 (many months off), we want to make sure it is as complete as we possibly can before it goes live. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

How old are we?

Poll on the ATAG site shows simmers are a...ahem...mature bunch. Very very few under 30 and quite a lot over 50.

The bad news for game and kit developers is that the typical console gamer is under 30, so that huge market of 'transitionals' (gamers moving from console to PC games) is not interested in sims. Simmers are also time poor, with strong competition for gaming time from career and family.

The good news is that these guys are cashed up, in the prime of their earning lives. So outlaying a few hundred for the latest GFX card, game, add ons, joystick and pedal combo is doable and makes them a nice segment to target, if a small one.