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The Firing Line: World of Warplanes producer talks matchmaking, progression

Jef Reahard

Last week I talked a bit about a couple of flight sim shooters coming soon to a PC near you. One of them is World of Warplanes, the followup title to's ubiquitous World of Tanks hit.

The World War II action MMO masters are slipping the surly bonds of earth with a new lobby-based battler that's currently flying through the early phases of its global alpha test. I had a few burning questions for the devs, including specifics on the matchmaking system, progression, and the possibility of historical scenarios. Producer Anton Sitnikau was gracious enough to answer those and more, so head past the break to see what he had to say.

World of Warplanes - The newb machine
Massively: Can you give us some details on how crew progression in WoWP is going to differ from that in World of Tanks? You said in a recent article that WoWP will contain greater RPG elements; can you talk about some specific skills?

Anton Sitnikau: The heart of the game's fun will lie in its frantic combination of flight sim action and RPG, but World of Warplanes will have a more visible focus on the RPG component than World of Tanks. The main difference is that aircraft crew sizes are smaller, and with only one or two people on board, it means a greater focus on each crew member.

Your pilot's relative skill will determine how close your warplane can be pushed to its limits, while the tail gunner's expertise will determine your accuracy. Quite often the crew will consist of a single pilot performing a wide range of tasks, and in this case, you'll be able to improve several skills at the same time.

The list of skills and perks under development is shaping up nicely. Some are still in the consideration stage, so the list will continue to grow. For example, we are now mulling over a skill that improves the gunner's accuracy regardless of the plane's position, g-forces, or maneuvering.

The Firing Line - slightly more advanced
Is it safe to assume that player skill will be more of a factor in WoWP than in WoT? If so, how challenging is it to balance that (and will we see any new matchmaker mechanics as a result)?

We are very aware that air combat has a very specific rhythm, tone, and style. You are always moving, the rate of fire is tremendous, and the balance of forces changes every second. You are also in 3-D space and need to constantly check vital parameters like the warplane's height and speed. This is a significant change from the two-dimensional arena of World of Tanks, where you can take your time behind cover, camp in bushes, or even go AFK for a while.

We do acknowledge that, potentially, the learning curve in World of Warplanes is much tougher than in World of Tanks. For this reason, we've drawn a strict line between rookies and veterans to make sure new players will never get into a battle against experienced pilots. This will allow players to gradually get used to controls, tactics, and cooperation so they will be led toward top-level aerial combat step-by-step.

There will also be a training section for rookies, which will help them grasp piloting basics and master aiming skills during training battles with AI warplanes.

The major work on the matchmaking system is yet to begin, as it requires extensive feedback and therefore won't start until open beta testing. I can't give too many details right now, but I can give a few hints on the planned matchmaker mechanics. Most likely, the game will feature four groups: novice players (tiers one to three) on fairly slow pre-war biplanes, medium-tier battles on WWII vehicles, upper levels with several jet models included, and top-gun battles with tier nine to 10 jets and prototypes.

World of Warplanes - Top gun (minus the bad acting)
Is there any gameplay advantage in using a joystick versus a mouse/keyboard setup?

We will offer a variety of control schemes to ensure maximum in-game comfort, and players will get to choose whichever input device they prefer. Those who are going to opt for a realistic feel will most probably use a joystick, while gamers less familiar with air combat will play with mouse plus keyboard or an arcade mouse. We'll make sure all of the control schemes available in the game are equally efficient.

Any plans for in-game voice chat for either clan play or public matches?

World of Warplanes global alpha pilots already have voice communication capabilities. The chat is built into the interface; it allows players to communicate both before a battle while forming teams and during battle. Right now we are working out security mechanisms to prevent insults and harassment via voice chat.

Has the dev team thought about basing any maps or scenarios around historical air battles? If not, are there any in particular that serve as inspiration in the making of the game in some fashion?

We are planning to introduce historical battles as a separate game mode. It will come with a strict set of rules and its own balancing system. These constraints will determine the list of vehicles appropriate for a certain historical battle and regulate the way planes confront each other. We are currently compiling a preliminary list of legendary battles to incorporate into the game.

However, the historical battle mode won't be featured in the release version of the game. First we need to tweak the game balance, fix any bugs, and finesse the music and sounds. Once the game is polished until it shines, we will release it. Only when it's live will we turn our full attention to creating a realistic and enjoyable historical battles mode.

Sounds great, thanks for updating us!

The Firing Line's Jef Reahard has a twitchy trigger finger, a love of online shooters, and an uncanny resemblance to Malcolm Reynolds. OK, maybe not, but at least if he ever kills you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing him, and you'll be armed.

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