Q/A Session Regarding Latest Mod Updates
Q: Hello there, so what's the latest on MW Mod development for World in Conflict?
blahdy wrote: We're currently working on two tracks during free time. First is finish touches to our existing Open Beta 8, to bring it into Release Candidate 1 (RC1) status for next public release. There will be 3 new maps and numerous bug fixes, some balancing updates and new features.
The second track we're simultaneously working on is looking beyond MW Mod 2 -- we're talking for future 3.0 stage. The core of MW Mod 3.0 is the FLINT project, which stands for "Flexible Interceptor", to be used in realistically simulating guided projectile munitions in the game, everything from guided missiles to rockets and guided shells.
Q: Great! What are the new maps we should expect in RC1 release?
blahdy wrote: 3 new maps will be added. First map is Libya by our own in-house map creator, Jose. It will be based on Libyan desert highway. It's a very huge map, allowing helicopter players to operate without huge fear of SAM being too powerful on them, and it's also very wide open map, allowing both armor and SAM players to work together in Desert Storm style mechanized warfare.
The other two maps are by a well known WiC custom map creator, Fischuppe from Massgate forums. He had created Eurorock and Riverside, which are some of the most highest quality custom maps ever created. Unfortunately, the demise of WiC custom map community has made his maps rather hard to find. We had reached out to him to request permission to include his maps in our next mod version and he was kind to let us do so.
Q: Okay, could you tell us more about couple or so new features being added to RC1?
blahdy wrote: Sure. They're rather simple changes, but add a fun dimension to gameplay regardless. The first change is the TOW missiles.
Players had suggested in the forums that Bradley and Stryker TOW vehicles are rather useless because they can only fire 1 missile per minute and missiles miss more than they hit (which is rather expected).
So to improve the usefulness, we have programmed in an abstraction layer software script that interacts with MassTech engine's Homing Shooter projectile system, that will live inside the launch vehicle unit. This script is called "Launch Control Unit" or 'LCU' and it allows the player to launch homing rockets as rapidly as possible until his ammunition runs out.
Since Stryker TOW and Bradley vehicles have two ready-to-launch missiles, the ammunition clip size is 2. So players can launch 2 TOW missiles in a rapid succession now before being forced into reload.
The other new feature is the VLQ-6 MCD and Shtora-1 soft-kill active protection system (APS). The last update of the mod had deleted the old hard-kill APS for main battle tanks, as a matter of balancing, and because the old system did not work as well as we wanted. The deletion of old system created some complaints from players that their tanks are too vulnerable to some anti-tank missiles.
With the new soft-kill APS in the main battle tanks, a software script runs inside the tank. Some anti-tank guided missiles, such as Semi-Automatic Command to LOS (SACLOS) based missiles will trip the APS script to warn the player of incoming missile against his tank. When defensive ability smoke screen button is available, the APS software will automatically pop smoke to attempt to jam or divert the incoming missile. This greatly improves survivability against numerous anti-tank missiles.
Q: Let's talk about the FLINT / Flexible Interceptor project. There seems to be lot of talk about it amongst mod devs but not too much info available out there.
blahdy wrote: FLINT is a new abstraction layer software written in Python to replace MassTech Homing Shooter projectiles. The goal of FLINT is to provide very realistic simulation of missile/projectiles in motion and their guidance systems, in an RTS game environment.
When we started working on MW Mod, we had initially found it impossible to make the game realistic. Entry-level modders tend to think that simply making an AA missile powerful to kill a chopper in one hit should make the game realistic. Unfortunately this is not true. In real-life, there are lot of factors that get into the way of missile's probability of kill. This includes skilled pilots making smart maneuvers, countermeasures, wind and gravity drag, etc. There is a lot of moving parts involved when a guided missile is flying that you can't simply raise damage value in a simple homing rocket, then call the game realistic.
With FLINT, a typical maneuvering missile flies out of your unit when you fire it. As soon as missile is launched, the FLINT software kicks in and starts driving the guidance and propulsion simulator behind the missile projectile. Missile's inertial velocity, rocket fuel, drag resulting from gravity, wind, G constraint and other factors are all considered. You'll see a FLINT missile accelerating real fast upon launch, then slow down as it "coasts" toward the target at long range. It is truly a realistic rocket projectile that has a variable speed (instead of constant speed) that accelerates and decelerates based on aerodynamic conditions.
The second component of FLINT that is more complicated is the guidance section that drives the "missile seeker." Initially, three individual modes of guidance will be supported by FLINT engine and they are: "Active Radar Homing (ARH)", "Semi-Active Radar Homing (SARH')" and "Semi-Active Laser Homing (SALH)". More guidance modes, such as Infrared-Band Passive Homing (IR homing) and TERCOM navigation for cruise missiles will be supported later on.
The missile seeker inside a FLINT rocket has a field of view just like you do. If the missile misses and flies past the target, then the target will no longer be in the seeker field of view, and thus missile will self-destruct or go ballistic. You will no longer see "circle jerking" missiles that is so common in World in Conflict and Call of Duty games.
The FLINT missile seeker uses inertial navigation auto-pilot (with data-link) for much of the flight. During terminal stage of the flight, as missile gets closer to its target, Proportional Navigation (PN) guidance will be used to lead the target. Proximity fusing can also be provided, where if the missile comes close enough, it explodes regardless of whether it physically hit the target or not.
Q: You had mentioned about 'network-centric' capability for artillery units in MW Mod 3.0. Could you elaborate?
blahdy wrote: Yes. The MLRS will see a complete rebuild to bring heavy firepower to a degree never seen before. And when we're talking firepower, we're not talking about support player earning all the kills. It's the infantry player that does it. Let me elaborate:
The MLRS unit will sit behind the battlefield, and support player has to enable offensive special ability to have it join the "network" -- this is just like the Heavy SAM units. Once MLRS is on the network, a behind-the-scenes software script kicks in to run the "Fire Direction Center."
There is a separate unit called "Forward Observer (FO)" infantry that support and infantry players can both purchase. Infantry gets it cheap obviously, as this is infantry's role. The FO infantry carries laser designator and radio to submit 9-LINEs and fire mission requests over the battle network.
Once the player has FO infantry in position behind treeline, use the offensive ability to "laze" the target he wants to kill -- it could be a tank, enemy emplacement or could be even blank terrain that has nothing on it. Once lazed, a fire mission request is transmitted over game engine to the Fire Direction Center. All MLRS units participating in battle net will hear the request and software will assign an MLRS unit to execute the fire mission. The support player will notice his MLRS starting to fire on its own, even though he did not give any command to it -- this is because your infantry player put out a fire mission request using FO infantry.
The MLRS rockets will have Semi-Active Laser Homing (SALH) missile seeker in them (M30/M31 GMLRS munitions). Since lazing a tank will give away your position, you can quickly cease lazing the target as soon as fire mission is accepted. Remain hidden in the forest and wait until the MLRS rockets come near to your area. As MLRS rockets come near, laze the target tank again, then the semi-active homing seeker in the rocket will acquire and "lock onto" your modulated laser signal. This means, you can even switch target for the rocket before it locks on, by lazing another target nearby. This "man-in-the-loop" terminal guidance really gives infantry player the authority to command a projectile that's flying in the game.
Q: That is quite extreme :) This is going to make infantry really really fun to play.
blahdy wrote: Yes. And to make offline games fun to play as well, support AI bots will also spawn fire direction center-enabled MLRS units, so they can provide fire mission to infantry players.
Q: I assume it's going to take a while for this to work?
blahdy wrote: Yes. It's still in the early design phase in terms of how the coding is going to work. Initial concept tests have proven that it is definitely possible to do in WiC engine, but making it work the way we wanted to is going to take lot of design, coding and testing work.
Much of it will be borrowed from the Patriot Weapons Control Computer (Patriot WCC) code, to provide network-centric capability to both infantry and support players. And, the Patriot PAC-2 missile seeker is excellent reference to write the new semi-active laser homing seeker for M30/M31 MLRS rounds.
Q: What has been the most hardest part to code for both FLINT and network-centric capability in game?
blahdy wrote: The hardest part has always been the Semi-Active homing seekers, such as the semi-active radar homing (SARH) guidance for missiles.
With a semi-active homing guidance, the missile unit cannot target whatever unit game tells it to target -- it has to home after the "illumination" provided by the host unit that fired the missile in the first place. This requires two individual units in game to work simultaneously together to achieve a kill, making it a complicated process.
Then you have systems like the Patriot WCC, where there are so many moving parts involved to properly simulate the guidance. In case of Patriot system, you have the missiles themselves, and the multi-function radar that the missiles report back to. In addition to that, the radar has to multi-task and search for new threats and targets while guiding missiles to existing set of targets. This complicated routine is called "Track While Scan" or 'TWS' in real-life.
To make it a bit more complicated, the radar has to simultaneously guide several semi-active homing missiles to 9 individual targets. Then it has to track inventory of available munitions in missile launcher units, and pick and choose the best missile round (i.e. whether to use PAC-2 or PAC-3) based on the threat level.
It also has to maintain an eye on every single target the radar is currently tracking, and constantly monitor what kind of threat the target poses. For example, when you fire a ballistic missile toward the Patriot battery, at first, the ballistic missile boosts slow and starts from the ground -- the radar thinks it is a helicopter, based on its speed and altitude. The radar has to constantly track it and every other target (up to 100 of them) every 0.1 second and "re-classify" it to say that it is a ballistic missile, as its flight profile changes.
Q: I think a common question will be, is this complication really necessary for a game of this level?
blahdy wrote: Right now, it is not necessary, no. But with the FLINT missiles in the near future, reliability and accurate simulation of missile seekers and guidance control is very important to make projectiles behave realistically as possible.
Moreover, having the proper data networking and guidance system allows us to port it over to other applications, like infantry forward observer unit for working together with artillery and such. Since guidance is the hardest part, especially with semi-active homing seekers, we're taking the time to do the hard work now, before FLINT gets ready.
Q: Last question. Will there be data flow diagrams showing how everything is going to work? Most people don't care, but I'm sure some may find the diagrams helpful to understanding the inner workings.
blahdy wrote: Sure absolutely. We already have a FLINT diagram for Hellfire missile available below. More diagrams for artillery-infantry interaction and propulsion/guidance will be made available soon, as work continues slowly.