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World of Warplanes Hands-On Preview – More than Just World of Tanks in the Sky
Post by nachosjustice @ 12:20pm 09/09/13 | Comments
AusGamers' NachosJustice has been racking up cockpit hours in Wargaming's World of Warplanes beta and even had a chance to chat with senior producer Sergei Ilushin about the current horizon for the game, and what lies beyond. Read on for our full thoughts and what Sergei had to say...

Following in the tank tracks of the mega-success of World of Tanks -- which now has more than 65-million registered users -- it would have been easy for to logically expand its ground-based warfare mentality. After all, this is what it did with the preceding turn-based Massive Assault series. Instead, Wargaming has turned its sights to well above the horizon for the sort of sequel to World of Tanks, World of Warplanes.

World of Warplanes is scheduled to take flight at the end of this month, and I recently had the opportunity to take the open beta for a spin in Minsk, as well as chat to senior producer Sergei Ilushin about Wargaming’s lofty vision of “the golden era of aviation”, which he described as, “knights in the sky.” Forget about HUDS, lock-on tones and air-to-air missiles; World of Warplanes is all about dueling aircraft, where speed and maneuverability trump the idea of launching a guided missile from kilometers away from a target. The selection of planes range from the 1930s to the jets of the 1950s, across four currently playable nations (German, US, Japanese and Soviet), with British fighters joining the fleet at launch, and French aircraft to eventually follow.

At the moment, anyone can jump in and play the World of Warplanes open beta, with the caveat that they’ll be contending with North American server clusters and, therefore, North American ping (around 400-600 in my tests). While I’ve put more time into the open beta since returning from Minsk, and while it is still somewhat playable at higher latencies, higher pings really don’t do justice to the faster pace of the combat.

During my hands-on time, Wargaming was kind enough to unlock all currently available planes, as well as provide enough in-game booty to pimp the planes to their extremes. But even in the un-rendered cockpit of an experimental jet that never made it past the blueprint stage, it was clear that aerial victory wasn’t as simple as selecting the plane with the highest stats and automatically winning. As for the cockpit-less first-person view, there is still hope of a more realistic experience in the future.

“We will not release a 3D cockpit,” Sergei revealed. “But in the future we will provide some tools for mod developers to create a realistic HUD, with realistic parts of the cockpits. We haven’t done this for the game because elements of the cockpit cover part of [the] screen and hide information from newbie players.”

Even though Warplanes isn’t a simulator, per se -- as evidenced by the aforementioned un-rendered cockpit, for starters -- there are still realistic considerations that need to be taken into account before you can start painting those kills on your fuselage.

What World of Warplanes attempts to do is pilot a drifting line between arcade fun and simulator realism. While it often errs more on the side of the former -- particularly in its pick-up-and-play approach and newbie-friendly learning curve -- there are smatterings of the latter to try and tempt hardcore flyboys out of the fully rendered cockpits of their IL-2 Sturmoviks. As would be expected, realistic depictions of aerial tactics such as elevation advantages combined with military aerobatics can mean the difference between chocking up another kill or being spread all over the landscape like strawberry jam.

For instance, you’re going to have to beware of the Hun in the sun, while clouds can be used to temporarily hide from pursuing foes.

“You can actually fly through the clouds,” Sergei says. “They’re not just flat particles. You cannot hide there for a long time, but you can get away from the enemy behind you: they break line of sight and get rid of the [enemy’s targeting] reticule. You can also use the sun as a tactical element. If you fly directly to the sun, the enemy on your tail can’t recognise your exact position because the sun makes them blind.”

Diving attacks, evasive barrel rolls and even the odd, cheeky Immelmann turn are all welcome knowledge in Warplanes, and it’s strongly advised that you pick your foes before entering into their airspace. To push the accessibility angle, tracking reticules automatically appear on targeted fighters, while a handy bottom-corner box displays a tracking camera and offers at-a-glance guidance as to how you will fare in a duel. Aircraft are rated in terms of three categories: firepower, maneuverability and speed. If these stats come up green, dive in for the kill; if, however, they’re red, you don’t really stand a chance of going toe to toe with this particular enemy and it’s best to withdraw before you’re noticed.

This is why the bare-bolts training missions and opening tier has new players flying in biplanes. These older fighters are slower, which tends to mean you get to the fight after your higher-tiered brothers. While Sergei was quick to mention the training missions will be expanded upon in future updates, the gentle learning curve acts as a sound temptation that may move World of Tanks fans away from their treads and into the skies. To further incentivise the transition, World of Warplanes key mode is, in many respects, a modification of the tried and proven Tanks gameplay formula.

Two teams start on opposite sides of a particular map, with the objective of shooting all of their opponents down, destroying key enemy ground targets, or a combination of both to score team points that determine the winner at the end of a 15-minute round. In my experience, games never hit that 15-minute mark, and even if you’re shot down in the opening minutes of a match, you can switch back to the hangar view and take another plane for a spin in another round. This is the same as World of Tanks, and means that you’re constantly playing, experimenting and accruing all-important flight time and in-game currency to spend on those better planes. But World of Warplanes isn’t simply targeted at arcade flyboys that list the likes of Crimson Skies as their favourite ‘flight simulator’.

Refreshingly, for simulator aces eager to try their flying hand at World of Warplanes, there’s an option to forego the accessibility of keyboard-only, mouse-assisted or gamepad control methodologies in favour of Top Gun-friendly keyboard and/or rudder options. In many respects, this offers a competitive edge, as manually controlling both pitch and yaw offers greater control over your aircraft, and negates the otherwise automated rudder controls of other control methodologies. Automated rudder is great for first-time flyers, and the bulk of aerial combatants I came across seem to have this option switched on, but the master of manual rudder controls will make short work of you in a dogfight.

Wargaming makes no apologies for the emphasis on accessibility over realism, though, as Sergei expanded on this point.

“We do have a realistic flight model,” he explained. “But with some simplifications. For example, we have automatic rudder controls, and that means autopilot will correctly control your rudder to help you fly. But if you would like more realistic, more precise flying and shooting, you can turn it off. Some of the features of the flight model, we just restrict. For example, we restrict spin, because it really doesn’t help players fight. Players should fight against the enemy’s aircraft, not against their own.”

Perhaps the best thing about World of Tanks, World of Warplanes and 2014’s World of Warships is the Wargaming standard that these titles are more services than traditional game offerings. It means that even though heavy bombers aren’t currently part of World of Warplanes or on the foreseeable horizon, they may become part of the game in the future. Likewise, even though certain key fighter types are missing from particular nations, such as German Focke-Wulf fighters, they can fly into battle down the track. And just because World of Warplanes only currently has one playable mode, Sergei hinted at the possibility of more modes in the future. Perhaps most excitingly of all, CEO of Wargaming Victor Kislyi said there are currently active discussions about the potential ways to link all three ‘World of’ titles into a united experience, with clan wars in mind.

At the very least, Victor assured fans that a single account will be required for current and upcoming titles in the “foreseeable future”, while investing in a single premium account will cover all games. Furthermore, experience earned in one game can be transferred to another ‘World of’ game to invest in new tanks/aircraft/ships and subsequent upgrades. As far as free-to-play models go, Wargaming has proven its willingness to do things differently and change with the input of its audience, and World of Warplanes has the potential to attract the kind of subscription numbers that its preceding title enjoys.

To learn more or sign up for the open beta, click here. And in case you missed it, AusGamers also has an in-depth interview with Wargaming CEO, Victor Kislyi, you can read or watch here.
Read more about World of Warplanes on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

Latest Comments
Posted 02:34pm 09/9/13
This preview is full of falsehoods and was obviously written by someone who hasn't spent time in the game.
Posted 02:41pm 09/9/13
sounds very much like a fancier war thunder
Posted 03:00pm 09/9/13

Players should fight against the enemy’s aircraft, not against their own.”

However this was an essential part of WWI/II era dog fighting, being able to keep control of your aircraft whilst out manuring the enemy, in a way it takes away a chunk of the ability to force errors on your opponent.

Also World of Tanks felt like a massive grind, the last time I played World of Warplanes it still felt like a grind. I want to play a game and enjoy it, not feel like I have to play another 20 hours just to unlock the potential plane that I like..
Posted 05:48pm 09/9/13
This game is not even CLOSE to the same level as War Thunder.

Seriously, don't bother if you're looking for a game about arcade dogfighting. It runs poorly, has s***** planes and controls terribly (input lag due to latency anyone?).

If you ARE looking for an arcade dogfighting game in WW2, War Thunder > WoWP in pretty much every possible way.

And yes, I have actually played WoWP.
Posted 10:03pm 09/9/13
I read your comments on Steve's Victor interview, HurricaneJim, and was looking forward to hearing your thoughts on my preview. As it stands, you have yet to provide those. Can you expand upon these supposed "falsehoods"?

Agreed on the historical context of plane control, Tollaz0r!, but Wargaming is clearly going for an arcade feel. For the record, I'm a fan of Crimson Skies, because that sort of arcade flight stuff is fun. That being said, I love the satisfaction of coming out on top in a dogfight in a realistic WWII flight sim (not that I've played one in years). World of Warplanes is not that kind of game.

I really want to take War Thunder for a spin, WirlWind. I've had it recommended to me by several people. I had the same input latency from World of Warplanes, but I put that down to the 400-600 ping gameplay I was getting. When I played it in Minsk with 40 ping, it handled like a dream.
Posted 06:34am 10/9/13
war thunder enough said
Posted 07:00am 10/9/13
I tried WOWP once, the imput lag was bad and there was no point in playing if its like that. If you are in Euroland you would be fine or the US if they have servers. Playing WoT from here on the US servers works alright though, why, my guess is that it does not have to handle flying in 3D space like WOWP does.

I am currently taking a break from WOT and playing War Thunder more.
Posted 07:14am 10/9/13

WT Full Real Battles is where it's at.
How does WoWP even compare to some energy fighting:

The first kill is not exactly my best display of marksmanship.
Great thing about FRB is doesn't take much to knock about control surfaces enough to force a crash on subsequent passes or render them combat ineffective or even just shoot them down outright.
Any hit is a good hit in FRB :)

My headtracking made with $1.50 worth of parts and some time soldering
Posted 07:55am 10/9/13
.I really want to take War Thunder for a spin, WirlWind. I've had it recommended to me by several people. I had the same input latency from World of Warplanes, but I put that down to the 400-600 ping gameplay I was getting. When I played it in Minsk with 40 ping, it handled like a dream.

I would REALLY suggest you try War Thunder if arcade plane DM or flight sims make you tingle in your pants at all.

It looks better, plays better, plays smoother (even with 250+ latency it feels like you're playing singleplayer, that's how smooth it plays), has a far better selection of planes, has a far better damage system (no HP, it's all about shooting out engines / pilots / etc).

Plus there are 3 different levels of match you can play (Arcade, which is arcade. Historic Battles are more realistic and have larger maps + limited ammo and Full Real battles where if you don't know what you're doing, you'll end up in a flat spin and crash.)

The only really big downside to WT is the economy. It can become a grind to get some of the higher tier planes, but the upside is that it's actually really fun to play so it doesn't feel like a grind. And the low tier planes work as well as the high tier planes, really. (I've shot down a T14 plane in a T1 bi-plane before).

There are also single-player missions and training missions you can do if you're not feeling like you want to play online right away.
Posted 09:21am 10/9/13
Sounds ace, WirlWind. I believe I have it installed on my desktop, so I'll have to check it when I'm back home. Shoot me down if you see me online!
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