17 September 2014

Interview: Command: Modern Air Naval Operations - Exclusive interview with Warfare Sims

Michael Mykytyn of Warfare Sims talks exclusively to The Wargamer about the soon to be released Command: Modern Air Naval Operations

Published on 23 SEP 2013 10:20am by Wargamer Staff
  1. air combat, real-time, tactical, present day / near future, naval combat, advanced, pc, english, yes, moddable data files

I guess most of our readers won’t actually know who the Warfare Sims team are, so can you give them all a name check and a bit about who does what in the team.

There are 4 of us and our principles roles are as follows:

Dimitris V. Dranidis (“D”): Project Manager, Programmer, Scenario Designer

Ragnar Emsoy (“Rag”): Database Architect, Programmer, Database 3000 (Modern Database) Designer, Scenario Designer

Paul A. Bridge: Cold War Database Designer, Scenario Designer, Content Designer (Imports)

Michael Mykytyn: Quality Control, Scenario Designer, Content Designer (Imports), Public Relations.

 

At Historicon you mentioned that the game is the culmination of over 10 years of work, which is amazing. Just how much time over that period do you think you have spent on research, coding, etc.

I think research started for this at least 15 years ago. Our interest was born by reading the great technothrillers in our youth (Hunt for Red October, Red Storm Rising, Flight of the Old Dog) as well as technical books and magazines, and playing amazing games of the era (Steel Panthers, F-19, Fleet Defender, Gunship, TOAW, Harpoon, Tornado, Falcon).  Our involvement in the Harpoon Community and helping AGSI develop the Harpoon’s cultivated it. It brought all of us all together and we really started reading more (Milan Vego, Zaloga, Sweetman, Gunston, Spick etc.)  to learn how things work and to start building the various models of how we think they should work in a game. Ragnar was developing the DB2000 for Harpoon and we were all building highly realistic scenarios for it and having massive forum debates on things from missile telemetries to realistic sortie rates. Dimitris actually developed a game system (Europe 88) using several different video games to game out a large WWIII engagement. It is really at that point that I can confidently say that research for Command was likely started along with the ever-present desire to learn more.

I had to dig through email but I think sometime around 2008 is when we actually started coding what started as Project Red Pill and later would become Command.  Our early versions were actually very spartan but were all learning as we went along.  Looking back on it I think what really helped us was that we weren’t driven by a deadline or the prospect of making money, but that we were building the game we always wanted. To a large extent we still think that way today.

 

Another thing you mentioned was that the team had never actually all met face to face during that time. So how did you manage to work successfully together to produce the game given that you are so geographically separated? What were the big challenges and obstacles you had to overcome?

In terms of team dynamics we benefitted from the experience of running a successful fan website and eventually helping AGSI with Harpoon 3.  We walked away from it with a pretty good education in game software development and a team that had the skillsets, motivation, work ethic and trust in each other. That put us in a good position to come up with a clear vision of what our modern air and naval simulation should be, and able to push through the numerous challenges along the way to see it through…. and we aren’t done!

I think the biggest challenge for all of us was balancing development with our work and family lives. We learned very quickly to be understanding with each other when something was up on the home front, or when to let somebody blow some steam or when they needed to hit the beach for a few days. Obviously it is harder to see that sometimes with differences in time zones, language and culture, but you learn.

In terms of the low level challenges... I think D’s project management skills and D and Rag’s command of the English language helped elevate most of the things you would expect.  Paul’s extensive real life experience, his calm personality and ability to teach and explain kept things from going over the top. Obviously the differences in time zones meant a late night or early morning for somebody but everyone was always willing to take the hit. It is fair to point out that we benefitted greatly from communication tools on the internet.

 

Looking at the pre-release information it appears to me that apart from the time, the only limit on a players ability to set up ever larger and more complex scenarios to play through will be the power of their PC. Isn’t there a risk of disappointment here for players with more modest PCs?

Absolutely and we are 100% on their side on this one... Command has a lot going on under the hood that does require some processing power, however we have done many things to improve this and will continue to. We have tested and do feel that all the included scenarios run well enough on a most modern systems, and this includes scenarios with 1200 + units. Our beta test pool was huge, and although there were a few issues with older systems, it wasn’t an issue that bugged them much. Once our forums go up we’ll post some things to help scenario editors keep things efficient and do our best to help players with older systems.  We will continue to work on performance as well, because the better it gets the more we can do with Command.

 

The game can be truly global in scope. When do you think we will see the first player developed global war scenarios? How long, realistically, do you think somebody would have to spend to set one up? 

Depending on the scope and scale they could set one up in about an hour. This is mostly due to our import file feature which allows them to import prebuilt air bases, air defence systems and many other installations into a scenario with a few clicks. We have included thousands of these files (I’m not joking) at release. Our objective was to give editors the ultimate sandbox to play in but we also came at it from the perspective of trying to save them a ton of time researching and/or building the same things over and over again. Editors can also create and share their own files as well which will help them and others down the line.

 

Are you in a position to reveal to us what the shipping scenarios will be?

Advanced ASW Exercise, 1979 - FOST units vs. Redfor off UK

Battle of Chumonchin Chan, 1950 - North Korea vs. United Nations

Battle of Latakia, 1973 -  Israel vs. Syria in Mediterranean Sea

Down Town, 1967 - United States vs. North Vietnam over North Vietnam

Duelists, 1989 - UK vs. USSR in Norwegian Sea

First Contact, 1957 - Norway vs. USSR in Norwegian Sea

First Contact ,1973 - Norway vs. USSR in Norwegian Sea

First Contact, 1986 - Norway vs. USSR in Norwegian Sea

First Contact, 2016 - Norway vs. Russia in Norwegian Sea

Green Tide 2016 - Spain vs. Morocco in the Canary Islands

Iron Hand, 2014 - Russian vs. Azerbaijan

Khark Island Raid 1985 - Iraq vs. Iran in the Persian Gulf

Maria and Victoria, 1982- Argentina vs. UK in the Falklands

North Pacific Shootout 1989- US Navy vs. USSR

Operation Brass Drum 2017- US vs. Iran in Arabian Gulf

Operation Lightning Strike 2014- US vs. Pakistani Belligerents and maybe Pakistan

Operation Lion’s Den 1972- US vs. North Vietnam

Operation Market Time, 1968- US/South Vietnam  vs. North Vietnam

Operation Trident 1971 - India vs. Pakistan on Indian West Coast.

Operation Vantage 1961 - UK/Kuwait vs. USSR and Iraq in Persian Gulf

Raid on Dwarka, 1965- India and Pakistan on Indian West Coast

Raid on Kismayo 2013- US vs. Somali in Somalia

Raven 21 is Down, 1976-US vs. USSR and Somali Forces in the Gulf of Aden

Sea of Fire 1982 - UK vs. Argentine off the Falklands

Shamal 1991 - US Navy or USAF/Coalition vs. Iraq

South China Sea Clash 2013- US/Philippines vs. PRC/Chinese Coast Guard

Stand Up 2011 -  UK vs. Argentine off the Falklands

Standing Naval Force Atlantic 1979- NATO vs. USSR in the Norwegian Sea

Tee Up, 1971- US Navy vs. Soviet Navy off Cuba

The Battle of Dong Hoi, 1972 - US Navy vs. North Vietnam

The Four Horsemen 1987 - USSR vs. NATO

The Shark 1971- India vs. Pakistan

The Tiger And The Dragon 2019 - Indian and Chinese Navy in the South China Sea

Trapped Under Ice 1999 - US Navy vs. Russian Navy under the Arctic Ice Cap.

Wooden Leg 1985- IAF vs. PLO in Tunisia

 

3 Tutorial Scenarios

Basic Training Air Operations- 1983

Basic Training Submarine Operations 2013

Basic Training Warship Operations 2013

 

A bit of an unfair question perhaps, but what do you think the coolest feature of the game is? Would the other team members agree, or would they each have their own?

The coolest feature is the event editor in the scenario editor. This is a tool that allows players to add variability to their storylines and scenarios which means that they do not play out the same way every time. In at a very close second is the ability to import in image overlays. Players are able to grab satellite imagery from somewhere else and bring it into the game so it’s possible to display an actual target on the GUI. Really cool.

Everybody has their favourite feature depending on our interests but we are all very happy about how it came together and still have regular conversations about what could be implemented in the future.  An example would be an advanced strike editor we’d like to add to give players a really neat tool to plan and execute airstrikes. I think we all have an individual vision of what it is but in the end it will be a mix of all of our ideas and input from the players.

 

Game development inevitably involves compromise, are there any features that you wanted to include in Command: Modern Air Naval Operations, but that didn’t make it to the release version?

Yeah sure.  An example is I’d like a deeper land combat and amphibious model but in the end we decided that its best to set aside until we can devote significant time and effort into getting it to the level of detail we like. It is programming a separate game in itself and given the modular design of the application we could do this.  Right now our focus was just getting the air and naval stuff correct which I think we did a good job at.

As a side note D did everybody a favour by implementing a light land combat and movement model and started the amphibious model by adding boats and giving the ability to move land units in the event editor. So we do often compromise to make something happen. The end result was not only these things but the ability to host UUV and smaller combat vessels on ships.

 

Lastly, although the game is only just finished players are always wondering what the future for a game might hold – are there any ideas for the future, any planned additions you can tell us about?

Yes we have lots of ideas of where we want to take this, but nothing has been pounded into stone just yet. I’ve mentioned our advanced strike editor and land combat models but multiplayer is something we’ve discussed since day one.  We also have a substantial list of small and low level items we’d like to look at as well as a massive desire to dig down into the scenario editor ourselves and produce some amazing scenario packs. Much of the direction will depend on how things shake out with the players and the feedback we get from them. Their opinions absolutely count as they help us figure out what really matters.

 

Thanks you for taking the time to answer our questions.

No problem. Thanks for asking them!