Learning to fly: The story behind World of Warplanes

With World of Warplanes having taken off, Wargaming’s Sergei Ilushin tells Will Freeman how the game came to be
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With World of Warplanes having taken off, Wargaming’s Sergei Ilushin tells Will Freeman how the game came to be

Sergei Ilushin is senior producer on Wargaming’s newly released MMO World of Warplanes. He and his team at Wargaming’s Kiev-based Persha Studia have been toiling on their recentl project for a number of years, travelling the globe in pursuit of realism. Here they tell Develop the story of their game.

So how did World of Warplanes come to be? It started life in your studio in the Ukraine.
Yes, that is correct in a way. The idea of this game was born in Minsk here in Belarus. Wargaming had already had their success with World of Tanks, and they were thinking about how they could expand on that success more. They came to us in Kiev with an idea around a small demo of a game about planes. They asked us to created that demo, and that was about three years ago. After that we made what was a good demo, and decided to combine the ideas of our studios and create World of Warplanes.

From a game design respective, you've been faced with creating a game that appeals to a fairly broad audience with very different requirements. How did you tackle that challenge?
The main challenge of our game was making a good balance of arcade and simulator games, because we have a huge audience from World of Tanks, which is a pretty casual audience, but we also have the aviation fans who expect a more simulator-like experience, so we really had to balance a race and simulator. I think we did find that balance, and you can see it right now in the game.

What about the pressure as a developer of trying to match the quality of World of Tanks, which now has a vast team behind it?
Before World of Warplanes we had already had a great experience collaborating with the World of Tanks team, so we were already creating some parts of that game. In fact, we'd created the tank models and things like that. Also, the main Wargaming guys like Sergei Burkatovsky, the World of Tanks producer, and Slava Makarov, VP of producing also work across both projects, and that brought us a lot of understanding of how everything works within World of Tanks, and what we could use in World in Warplanes.

And are you building the game using the same middleware as the World of Tanks teams?
Our technology is originally based on the BigWorld engine. Of course, currently BigWorld is part of Wargaming, so it's now internal technology, and we are using the same server parts of the Wargaming technology, but as for the client part; that is absolutely different. For example, we really stripped down the rendering part of the engine for World of Warplanes, because it is a very different game. For World of Tanks, for sample, the game maps are small – as small as one kilometre by one kilometre. But World of Warplanes, we have locations that are 16 kilometres by 16 kilometres, and also we have the sky, clouds and environment, so the rendering part of World of Warplanes we had to rebuild completely.

So the Ukraine studio reworked the technology for your needs?
Yes. Each Wargaming studio works on the client-side technology in that way for each different project.

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You've also been faced with making sky; giving it feeling and avoiding the emptiness players experience in bad games. How have you approached that design challenge?
It wasn't easy. We just took our lead rendering programmer, put him in a plane and then took him to fly. He spent many hours in the air in that real plane. He then spent time creating the sky, with a lot of the rest of the team who have experience flying aircraft, so that was important. It was a lot of effort and very hard.

Moving onto your team, how many are working on World of Warplanes?
We have about 200 people in the Kiev office working on World of Warplanes, and a big support and producing team in Minsk.

You mentioned that some of the team have experience flying. Is a passion for military history also something core to the team?
Well, many people in the team we have a lot of people that are really fans of aviation, with a real interest in aviation and military history. And we are really devoted of realism because of that. So, for example, we visited real WWII planes in the United States and used microphones to record the real engine sounds. That was really important to the team.

That's a lot of effort to put in real detail for a game targeting a very broad audience.
People really love detail, and the small things put together give that real feeling of war. They maybe small details, but they have a big impact on the player experience. So while we may simplify controls and so on, the detail of the models and environment is very important to us.

Your CEO Victor seems very devoted to making people more aware of military history and having an awareness of conflict through World of Tanks. Is that part of what World of Warplanes hopes to contribute to?
Yes. A lot of people really love aviation, but not a lot of people have much knowledge of the role aviation plays in real battles in WWII. There's a lot of different tactics and planes with different characteristics, and we hope our game can help our players understand how those tactics are important. We give players a chance to use real tactics and manoeuvres from WWII in our game, and then, if they wanted to read an article about a real battle, the tactics they would learn about they would have experience of.

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