Gaijin Entertainment CEO talks about adding the French, working on Xbox One X and much more.
A conversation about free to play games would be incomplete without Gaijin Entertainment’s War Thunder. Released in August 2013, War Thunder is a cross-platform MMO title that focuses on dogfighting in planes, battling in armoured vehicles and even battling at sea. With over 20 million players having tried it over the years and a fairly healthy stream of updates, War Thunder is still very much thriving.
After releasing on PS4, PC, Linux, Mac OS X and even Android, War Thunder will be making its way to the Xbox One and Xbox One X. To learn more about the future – including information on the next big faction – GamingBolt spoke to Gaijin Entertainment CEO Anton Yudintsev.
"We have always envisioned France being added to War Thunder, given that it is home to one of the most important military forces and features many interesting vehicles."
You recently completed 5 years with War Thunder. How is the environment in the company?
Peachy, never better! We’ve been constantly expanding the War Thunder universe. We have transitioned from online flight simulation game to one of the most comprehensive online war simulation titles. With hundreds of vehicles of various kinds all fighting together on the same battlefield. We are also happy to see that our players love the game and have supported us for all these years.
Let me get the big question out of the way. Are you working on any new projects besides War Thunder?
Gaijin Entertainment is not only a developer, but a publisher as well, and we are cooperating closely with our partner studios. We are publishers of the Crossout and Star Conflict action MMOs, both titles developed by Targem Games, and several mobile games. We are also helping the Darkflow Software studio. They are developing Enlisted – an MMO squad based shooter, which is built around some of the most important and famous episodes from World War II. The game uses the same engine as War Thunder – the Gaijin homegrown Dagor Engine. So we provide the team with technical support.
You recently added the French faction. How did this idea come about?
We have always envisioned France being added to War Thunder, given that it is home to one of the most important military forces and features many interesting vehicles. We started working on the implementation well over a year ago, and most of the time was spent searching for technical documents and references. Several French planes, which are now available in War Thunder, never entered mass production. That made the research process long and complicated, and was one of the reasons why Italian aviation became the first to enter War Thunder this year, but we worked on both game nations simultaneously.
Did the idea of adding a French faction give rise to any more ideas and design changes that you would like to bring to War Thunder in the future?
The addition of French aviation hasn’t changed our main concept – all the vehicles presented in the game existed and entered at least a series of test fights. So even there was a gap of 1940-1943 in the history of French aviation, we found enough models to fill the research tree and introduce various ideas of French aircraft constructors to our players. It includes fighter aircraft armed with motor cannons, multi-functional planes which can perform both like fighter aircraft, bombers and other interesting models. Though they do not change the core game mechanics, they do expand the number of tactics available in a battle.
"We have taken every measure possible to obtain to the data we need to recreate the machines we have in game as authentically as possible."
Do you have any plans to add more factions in the future?
Right now we are focusing on further developing the two recently added nations, which currently have only aircraft research trees. With the latest 1.73 Update, we have presented the first Italian tanks and ships. Now we want to focus on adding other types of vehicles for France and Italy, while additional nations are still in our long term plans.
Can you tell us about the kind of research you have done to bring new factions to the game?
We have taken every measure possible to obtain to the data we need to recreate the machines we have in game as authentically as possible. This includes the gathering of preferably contemporary documentation, e.g. design documents, blueprints and technical manuals, from a variety of sources, like archives, museums and private collectors. It also includes the study of any secondary literature available on the topic, e.g. the works of respectable and knowledgeable authors or memoirs of WWII veterans. Last but not least we take every opportunity to visit original machines that are e.g. conserved in museums or private collections, especially if that means we get the chance to record its original sound.
With the advent of World War games like Call of Duty: WW2 and Battlefield 1, where do you think War Thunder stands?
Despite the fact that all of the games mentioned share some superficial similarities, e.g. being “war games” to some degree, there are fundamental differences between War Thunder and the rest. Gameplay-wise, War Thunder is centered around vehicular combat with a high degree of realism and authenticity. Our vehicles are, as much as technically possible, accurate representations of their real world counterparts, giving players the unique opportunity to try hundreds of “real” vehicles on a challenging, virtual battlefield.
Various modes provide players with multiple scenarios and each regular content update, which happen every couple of months, expands gameplay diversity more and more. For these 5 years, the amount of content available in War Thunder has grown dozens of times bigger than we had in the beginning. We already have almost a hundred of maps, a thousand of vehicles – aircraft, ground forces and ships – all available in one game.
And we keep on developing War Thunder, improving the physics, graphics, adding new modes and more. So basically, War Thunder has magnitude bigger scale than those other games have – in terms of battlefield sizes, amount of content, level of detail and realism and improvements development.
"Microsoft advertises the Xbox One X as the “world’s most powerful console”, and it certainly is a huge improvement over the ‘current’ generation, the Xbox One, especially GPU raw power."
What can you tell us about the French aircraft tree?
The French aircraft tree currently available in War Thunder encompasses a variety of very interesting, ingenious designs, some of which saw extensive use in the Spanish Civil War and Germany’s western offensive in the 1940’s. Other machines available to our players were already in trials when France surrendered later that year, or were projects that were developed and tested during the years of German occupation.
After France’s liberation in 1944 and after World War II, the country continued to develop several remarkable jet aircraft, which share characteristics of both fighters and bombers and currently represent the top-rank aircraft available to players in the game. More aircraft for the French research tree are already in development and will be part of future updates.
When are French aircraft expected to release? Will they be released across all versions simultaneously?
We have begun closed beta-testing of the French Air Force on our public servers with Update 1.73. Regularly, we open new machines for all players to research and expect the CBT to be be finished in December. Update 1.73, which introduced France as a major nation to the game, was made available simultaneously to all platforms the game is currently present on – which includes PC, Mac, Linux and PlayStation 4.
You have confirmed War Thunder for Xbox One X. How much more powerful is it than the Xbox One?
Microsoft advertises the Xbox One X as the “world’s most powerful console”, and it certainly is a huge improvement over the ‘current’ generation, the Xbox One, especially GPU raw power. In regards to War Thunder, the Xbox One X is capable of running the game fluidly in 4K resolution, which allows Xbox players to enjoy the epic battles of War Thunder to the fullest extent.
How does it compare to the PS4 Pro?
As soon as War Thunder already supports PlayStation 4 Pro, of course we had a chance to compare the two devices. In regards to CPU power those consoles are roughly similar. The Xbox One X GPU is, currently, truly ‘the world’s most powerful console’. The exact side-by-side comparison will require a lot of technical details and is not permitted by platform holders, but the Internet is full of more or less close speculations.
"It is very easy for developers to fall in a “let’s make this amazing visual feature, and we still can get 1080p/30fps/60fps” way of thinking."
What resolution and frame rate does War Thunder run on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro? Will you have separate modes for 4K and 1080p TV owners?
Currently we run more than 30FPS in 4k on Xbox One X. As for now, there is no separate mode for 1080p TV, but Xbox One X runs with supersampling anti-aliasing on 1080p (providing similar to 4k resolution quality of picture).
Tell us one thing about the Xbox One X that was either shocking or surprising while you were working on it?
It is surprisingly quiet.
Do you think cross compatabilty between Xbox One and Xbox One X will hold back the latter?
I don’t think so, at least not in the moment. Actually it may be sometimes even good for players. It is very easy for developers to fall in a “let’s make this amazing visual feature, and we still can get 1080p/30fps/60fps” way of thinking. Having to support Xbox One as a platform with more or less same gameplay will help to avoid that, meaning that Xbox OneX users will be able to enjoy 4k with 60fps. May be later it could become an issue.
How has the x86 architecture helped consoles in relation to gaming PCs?
Using x86 architecture is very helpful to reduce the gap between platforms and so more developers can work more efficiently on both platforms. In terms of “raw” performance of any of platform it may be helped manufacturers, but I am not very familiar with that part of industry.
Do you want more people to play your game on the Xbox One X?
As a developer, I always hope people will move to better hardware. Unfortunately for developers, a lot of people feel good with what they have already for years. So I don’t expect any immediate changes here. (Although Xbox One X users will have better visuals and/or frame rates indeed).
"Using x86 architecture is very helpful to reduce the gap between platforms and so more developers can work more efficiently on both platforms."
Which PC GPU does the Xbox One X GPU comes close to?
First of all, console developers do have better access to HW, due to a very thin API layer, and can make better and faster code targeting exact hardware (particular console).
Obviously it more correct would be to compare it to one of AMD’s GPU’s (since Xbox One X is actually AMD GPU), but NVIDIA currently dominates the PC market. So, I would say GPU computing power is about GTX1080, however, the amount of video RAM and it’s bandwidth, which is very important for current games (as a lot of them are actually limited by memory ‘speed’) makes it somewhat close to Titan X series.
Is Xbox One X powerful enough to render demanding games in native 4K?
It is very broad question. Xbox One X definitely can render some games in native 4k resolution. However, it may be make sense to improve overall picture and use some shortcuts on rendering resolution. It als depends on tech that the game used. Most of the current games uses so-called deferred rendering, which performance scales linearly or even worth than with resolution area (i.e. as a square of resolution size, meaning 4k is 4+ times more demanding than 1080). Forward shading (or its modern variations) can behave better here.
It is also worth mentioning that actually 4k ‘native’ resolution isn’t really always required for better picture. Most of neighbor pixels would be almost the same anyway, what we (gamers) do need is small details (i.e. antialiasing) and good temporal stability of shading. Unless for benchmarks, “honest” native 4k isn’t actually better. I am sure we’ll see some interesting progress here in the nearest future.
How does the Xbox One X compare to a high end modern gaming PC?
It is definitely better than most of gaming PCs on a market in terms of raw GPU power and developers access to it. Of course, very powerful high-end PCs exist, however, there are pretty rare even for hardcore gamers (and very expensive).