May 7, 2012
Thomas Voss of Desastersoft
by Fred "HeinKill" Williams
German developer Desastersoft has dug deep into the code for IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover, worked out how to bolt on a new interface, and started cranking out extension modules, the first of which is now available in an English language digital download version named Fighter Aces! Wick vs. Dundas. SimHQ spoke with Desastersoft founder, Thomas Voss.
Fred: Hello Thomas, just who is Desastersoft?
Thomas: Desastersoft was formed in 2003-2004 after I left X1 Software where I had created the IL-2: Sturmovik add-ons, Case Blue and Banzai. I formed my own company. I continued as a one man company until the 2009 IL-2 project, Fliegerasse! Der Eismeerjäger - Walter Schuck, when a second mission designer came on board for the campaign work. With Cliffs of Dover, three good friends came together as freelancers. Christian Koller for maps, skins and plane ID cards and other graphics, like medals, ranks, background pics; Olaf Binder for mission design, in-game pictures and the fantastic object groups on the airfields and targets; and Dimitri Kirillov, a real wizard for scripting and programming. To them go all the thanks.
Fred: Did the team get any help from 1C, or the Cliffs of Dover developers?
Thomas: No. Not one thing. All the time we spent in working out the third party interface, with a little help from some friends, was without a word of help, and total lack of documentation. The most time spent by Dimitri was to find out how to “plug in” our own structure in-game. I think Ilya and his team are much too busy with their engine. It was for sure not “bad will” that they didn´t answer us when we asked for some documentation.
Fred: You and your team have clearly spent hundreds of hours on researching and crafting a new career system and campaigns, tell us about the work that went into Wick vs. Dundas, and how you did it.
Thomas: Yes, we spent more than 3,000 hours on Wick vs. Dundas. The main challenge was “how to to do it”. First, we looked at how 1C Maddox did their campaigns. And next, how they did the scripting. Our problem was that the included campaigns are not historic and not large enough to provide lasting fun. This has had a very bad influence on players. You know, if the game you bought does not work online and the offline stuff is not good, you will throw it away and won’t play again. This means that customers will not buy IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover because of bad reviews at Amazon and in game magazines. Its very bad here in Germany, with a warning: “Do not buy this game!”.
So we had to produce Wick vs Dundas as fast as possible and at the same time to learn how the game engine works. That is why we built an update service into our modules, so that we can keep the add-ons updated each time we learn or add something new. With this feature we update the scripts, DLLs and database. In Germany, we came out with Wick vs. Dundas in August 2011, but without the career system. We had hoped 1C Maddox would integrate their own, as they promised one week after release. But in October 2011 it was clear: they would not invest time, money and manpower into gameplay elements like this, because they needed first to fix errors in the engine. So we came to the conclusion we must do it ourselves. Dimitri found the way to do it, and that meant we had to update all scripts, DLLs and the database, which cost both time and money. But we made it. In December 2011 we were ready for the open beta career system test, with two quick mission campaigns. It had some bugs, but they were squashed quickly, so that we could release the final German version in March 2012. In December 2011 we started the translation for Wick vs. Dundas. This takes a lot of time, because Robert, the translator, does it in his spare time for us.
Fred: What is different between the Desastersoft campaigns, and the stock or default Cliffs of Dover campaigns that ship with the game?
Thomas: Firstly, the gamer has a new interface with a few more options. You can choose which mission you want to begin a campaign with. You can choose your Rank, if it is not given by the campaign designer. You also have now complete statistics, medals, ranks and promotion, plus a log book (archive) and so on.
Next, if you play our missions/campaigns, you will see, the air fields you use look like authentic WWII air fields. Often you will start with a complete “Gruppe” (wing of 36 planes). You also have historic formations of bombers and fighters. Than you have RDF, for the RAF, working like RDF did in 1940, with chain home messages and fighter command messages. And last but not least, these campaigns are between 25-42 missions in Wick vs. Dundas.
As one player stated, “1C Maddox did the engine, you did the game!”
Fred: Your second Cliffs of Dover add-on is Channel Battles currently only available in German. Tell us about it.
Thomas: In Channel Battles there are 4 main campaigns, which continue from each other. The German Main Campaign (now 70 missions) begins with I/JG20 which on July 4th 1940 is renamed to III. Gruppe /Jagdgeschwader 51. This campaign can be played in two parts: I/JG20 Battle of France and III/JG51 Battle of Britain. Similarly in the British main campaign (70 missions), you start at No. 87 Squadron in France and will be sent to No. 74 Squadron in the Battle of Britain. But you can also play No. 87 and No. 74 Squadron as “stand alone” campaigns.
Next you have the ZG26 Campaign. Here you are flying the Bf 110 C Series in combat over Dunkirk, in the Battle of France and then the Battle of Britain. This is my favorite, because in building this campaign, I learned to love the “One Ten”. At the moment, the ZG26 Campaign has 30 missions.
For Stuka fans, Olaf has designed a I./StG. 77 Campaign, with 25 Historic Stuka missions over Dunkirk, the Battle of France and Battle of Britain. Extremely detailed for Stuka pilots! You have to fly like a real Stuka pilot. It is a real challenge! It is like the ErpGr. 210 Campaign in Wick vs. Dundas, very historic.
Also some new technical elements have been implemented. For example, you now must land on your start airfield or a friendly airfield; the career system will check this and if you land somewhere else it will give you a penalty.
Last but not least, the Campaigns of Channel Battles - 1940 will be continued with Channel Battles - 1941. So at the end of the series you will have, if all goes fine, a career with about 300 missions in the campaign.
Fred: Will Channel Battles be offered in an English language download version?
Thomas: Yes, I think at the end of summer, when we are ready with translation.
Fred: What is your next project?
The next project we start will be Fighter Aces! Adolf Galland - The Gentleman. It will also contain some new technical features like the Knickebein System for guiding bombers to target, a new radio menu, where you can call for cover for your airfield or your position. Alert groups will take off, when you call them to your position, and so on. And of course, a Heinkel 111 Bomber Campaign to use Knickebein.
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