September, 2012 Q/A Session
Q: MW Mod 3 seems spectacular with Heavy SAMs and just about every missile using the FLINT system. Does this complete the initial vision for modding WiC you've had since 2008?
Absolutely, it certainly does. We've now achieved everything we wanted to see in WiC, from fixed-wing aircraft, to player-launched ballistic missiles and ballistic missile defense.
Q: Out of all the features that were implemented for WiC MW, what is the single feature that you'd feel most proud of?
That would be the Semi-Active Laser Homing (SALH) done for Hellfire missiles. It really has brought a ton of fun to play co-op between air & infantry. The ability for an infantry unit to redirect and take ownership of air player's Hellfire missile guidance requires a close teamwork between the two players.
Contrary to popular belief, infantry is the single most important role in the mod -- sure, not a whole lot has changed in terms of unit composition from vanilla game, but MW Mod infantry's ability to direct tactical firepower from air players has really turned the game around. Of course, Combat Engineer infantry's ability to repair front line armor is very fun too (as long as armor player is not stupid..)
Q: Obviously the versatility of JTAC infantry is quite promising. Will we see JTAC's role expanded in the future?
Yes. In the near future, JTAC infantry will be able to also provide terminal illumination for EGBU/Laser Guided Bombs dropped from F-16 and A-10 aircraft flying overhead.
FLINT code base for simulating gravity/glide bombs is under design stage right now; once that's completed, we can easily integrate them into the existing Joint Targeting & Designation System (JTDS), which runs the game's JTAC and fixed-wing aircraft system.
Q: With infantry role's ability to direct tactical firepower in MW Mod, how will this be expanded for the infantry role? Lot of players have asked us about what we're doing for ground forces, with particular interest in the infantry role. It'd be nice to shed some light in this area.
Yup. Just before we started FLINT project, there were some concept ideas put together to create Nework-Centric Artillery, based on existing code previously made for IADS. The idea unfortunately was too ambitious at the time and didn't really take off. A lighter version of it was made afterwards, which ended up becoming Joint Targeting & Designation System (JTDS) for controlling fixed-wing aircraft, but not artillery.
Now that FLINT is pretty much completed, the next project is to revisit the artillery. Currently, the way artillery units are portrayed in game is very unrealistic, and as a matter of unrealistic balance, their damage values are very low. In real-life, artillery is very devastating, but simulating such damage in an arcade game is pretty hard to do.
With the new Network-Centric Artillery (NCA) concept, support players would no longer have direct micro control over division/regimental level artillery assets (including MLRS). These artillery units will have an offensive ability that's similar to IADS SAMs where you "switch it on" to join the in-game Fire Support Network (FSN). Once the artillery batteries have joined the FSN, you will now need what we call an "FSN Supplicant" that uploads fire support missions. The Supplicant unit will be an infantry Forward Observer (FO) to direct artillery fire.
Rather than support player sitting in the back and arty-noobing with artillery units, instead, an infantry FO would be directing the artillery fire. Support will be more focused in Anti-Aircraft Warfare and ensuring that division/regimental level artillery assets are always available to infantry for use.
There may also be a C2 (command & control) and "FSN Authenticator" unit that routes all fire mission requests from infantry to artillery batteries, but this idea is being reviewed for gameplay applicability, so I'm not sure whether it'll be implemented or not.
Q: This sounds epic. It'd provide so much fun to playing infantry!
That's the idea. Rather than redoing the old concepts that's been tried by previous mods in the past, such as bunkers, trenches, etc, we want to instead simulate infantry on a modern warfare setting. In the modern doctrine, infantry has to be light, nimble and versatile -- it has to move fast. There is no time to dig trenches and setup bunkers that's going to get blown up anyway.
Instead, the US military doctrine of a modern Full-Spectrum Dominance calls for "maneuverable firepower" -- dominant maneuver with precision engagement, by applying tactical firepower to any location on the battlefield, anytime, anywhere. In order to do this, infantry units must be mobile, flexible and more expeditionary in their roles. There is no time to dick around with trench digging and setting up TOW launchers, only to get bombarded by enemy artillery -- instead, you need to wage a mobile doctrine.
This will be the path that infantry role will be taking in MW Mod going forward. Network-centric artillery, FSN and expanded JTAC/JTDS capabilities will play the most crucial role in revitalizing the infantry role for MW Mod. Enhanced JTDS and FSN programs will allow infantry to direct and apply tactical firepower at their finger tips at will, as they maneuver around the map.
FSN will be available to Russian side as well -- Russians historically have had extremely massed firepower with artilleries, so it is important that we not forget that. The only exception to all this would be the Russian BM-21 short-range rocket batteries. BM-21 will be available more on a corps/company-level for armor / inf players to cover their advance individually -- so BM-21 is likely to retain its existing player-commanded firing capability.
Q: I think other benefit of FSN is that playing artillery becomes much more challenging, because in order to direct artillery fire, you need to push an infantry unit to harm's way and make sure he survives (where as before, support could arty-noob all day long in their safe spawn zone). Would artillery units also correspondingly get more powerful munitions as a result?
Absolutely. By putting in FO infantry into the processing-chain for artillery functions, game magically becomes more balanced. If you kill the FO, there is no more artillery landing around you. So, yes, artillery shells and explosions will do much more damage. For the first time, you'll see a true devastation of what raining metal would look like.
Also planned for Phase II of FSN is Counter-Battery (CB) capability. As enemy artillery units open fire on your positions, Counter-Battery radars located on the map will be able to pick up incoming artillery fire and track them back to the firing location. The CB radars will also act as "FSN Supplicant", automatically uploading fire mission for your team's division/regimental-level artilleries to automatically return fire on enemy firing locations.
The CB capability will not be available immediately, it'll be more for Phase II. We'll also need 3D models for CB radars for both sides, which are very hard to find and we don't have an active modeler in our team anymore at the moment.
Q: All of this sounds exciting. So how did all this JTDS and FSN systems come about? The mod obviously didn't happen overnight, but which previous project helped you the most in bringing about these new breakthroughs in World in Conflict gameplay?
The protracted year long development of Integrated Air Defense System (IADS) for Patriot had single handily resulted in all of these developments. The work done for IADS is responsible for the Apache Longbow, JTDS, the new upcoming FSN, as well as the FLINT missile system itself.
Q: Will we see artillery shells get intercepted someday too? After all we have the Phalanx C-RAM now.
That's unlikely for performance reasons. Making projectiles interceptable requires FLINT tech, which is CPU demanding. Having several missiles and ballistic missiles using FLINT is one thing, but having dozens and dozens of artillery barrage using FLINT would flat out lag the game to unacceptable levels.
In reality, anti-artillery systems like Iron Dome and C-RAM are designed to counter specific artillery threats. C-RAM for example can only deal with limited amount of mortar/rocket attacks directed at point defense areas, such as an FOB from insurgent threats with low tech artillery capabilities. Against a capable opponent, C-RAM will be overwhelmed before it even gets started.
Iron Dome on the other hand, is a much more capable area defense system using IADS model with SAMs. While Iron Dome can handle saturation attacks (unlike C-RAM) and have a big protection footprint, it's mainly designed to protect civilian areas within designated 'protection gates'. It's not economically nor tactically sensible to use Iron Dome to protect point military targets from incoming heavy barrage of raining shells. So from both technical + game performance reasons and doctrinal reasons, there is no reason to have interceptable artillery shells in game.
The best way to counter artillery for MW Mod and in accordance with conventional doctrines is Counter-Battery fire, rather than trying to intercept incoming shells. Interception of projectiles is best left to ballistic missiles.
Q: Sweet, well I'm really excited at where WiC is going now. We started modding this since 2009 and yet it feels like modding has just started for real. With that said, we'll come back with more updates to the community later on.
Yup, the advancement of FLINT and JTDS code has unleashed a new era in WiC modding that like you said, we're just getting started now. Technology has substantially improved. It wasn't until very recently that MW Mod had excelled to this level.