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.:: Knights Over Europe - Interview (ENGLISH) ::.
Friday 26 December 2003

(La version française de cette interview est disponible dans cette même section articles)

Knights Over Europe has been timidly unveiled during the past months, and only little information had been spread until now. After a first interview given to Simhq, the developer - Aspect Simulations - has accepted to answer several questions from Check-Six.

First "full" WW1 simulation (with both solid one & multiplayer mode) since Dynamix's venerable Red Baron II (1997), Knights Over Europe will have both to face the shadow of his glorious predecessor, and be his proud and deserving successor. And if we understand well Aspect Simulations team, KOE has got off to a good start on this hard way. All we can do is to wish the team a delightful success!
But now let's listen to them while they are talking about their quite promising creature...

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Firstly, thanks to have accepted to allow us to steal you a little of your precious time!
* Check-Six: Can you tell us about the Aspect Simulations company story? How did it start?

Aspect Simulations: Part of the team actually worked together on a separate project, albeit briefly, for another company. As those team members moved on we laid the groundwork for Aspect Simulations. Since then, we’ve brought on some very talented individuals to help us flesh out the team.

* C6: Why did you choose a WW1 sim as your first product?

AS: A World War I combat flight simulation seemed like a natural choice considering that a stand-alone high fidelity product hasn’t been offered in years. Plus, the era carries the added bonus of freeing us up to focus on key areas that make for a great simulation. Namely: precise flight models, sophisticated AI, campaign/mission dynamics, advanced graphics and solid multiplayer. Without having to worry about complex avionics and weapons systems, we can achieve higher degrees of quality than would otherwise be possible.

* C6: Which is the targeted people with Knights over Europe? In the announcement, you say both "both hard-core flightsim fans and novices alike". Does it mean that difficulty settings will be very customisable, or that you plan to lower a little the realism in order to make the simulation more easier?

AS: As the saying goes, “You can’t please everyone 100% of the time.” We’d add, “…and trying to produces dreadful results.” Using this as a guiding principal we intentionally designed “Knights Over Europe” to be a ‘study sim’ at heart. However we haven’t forgotten that all of us, at one time or another, were just discovering the thrill of flight simulation. With this in mind, we are putting a lot of effort into making KOE accessible to newer pilots through scalability. However, scalability only goes so far…and that’s where World War I simulation comes into its own. Simplicity.
Without a glass cockpit to ‘manage’, new players with even limited experience will be able to get into the air and begin developing the skills that made WWI aces legendary. It’s our hope that these players will internalize the lessons of early success and failure to press on, becoming seasoned pilots. Players who already have a lot of experience will quickly learn that simplicity and high fidelity aren’t always at odds with each other. Take the Nieuport 17 for example. Its design was simplicity, bordering on Spartan, but flying at the edge of its performance envelope required a great deal of skill and experience. That holds true for all of the aircraft of the era. Accomplished pilots will find that the tactics employed during the Great War were intricate, engaging and above all…deadly. Being able to fly an airplane is one thing, successfully employing it in combat requires more discerning skills. We feel that this marriage of simplicity and realism will appeal to a broad range of tastes and skill levels.

* C6: Which information sources did you use in order to model the flight models and the sounds?

AS: To help ensure that we are creating a sturdy framework for KOE, we are using a variety of recognized sources to build the underlying data that drives the game. As you might expect, gathering detailed information for: aircraft, squadrons, men and airfields nearly a hundred years old requires great patience and perseverance. Thankfully there are some dedicated World War I enthusiasts and historians out there that make our job a bit easier.

* C6: Can you tell us more about the shooting/damage systems? RBII used a hit bubble for simulating the hits, which is generally seen now as an old-fashioned concept. Have you more details about what you call KoE's "precision damage modelling" in the announcement? Can it be compared, for instance, with Forgotten Battle's way to model the damages?

AS: The damage modelling system for KOE has come a long way since the days of hit bubble detection. In fact, it is one of the industry-leading technologies that we’re developing. Many readers have picked up on this from screen shots of the game.
By rendering damage in a very precise way we’re able to produce stunning results. For example, rounds that strike the skin of an aircraft at low aspect angles produce a lacerated look while those that strike at higher angles produce a punctured effect. Keep in mind that this is just the visual component of the damage modelling system. Resultant holes and tears have an affect on the aerodynamic properties of an aircraft. There’s also ballistics at work that governs the damage imparted by, and behaviour of, a projectile after it has made initial contact. The coupling of visuals, ballistics modelling and aerodynamic affects ensures that players will see and experience something different every time they get into the air.

* C6: A few words about the graphical engine, and its abilities? Is the artwork in the screenshots already definitive, or is it still subject to many changes?

AS: We are definitely pleased with the capabilities that our graphics engine provides us. Based on the DirectX9 API, we have already implemented such advanced capabilities as vertex shading, pixel shading and more. This has allowed us to develop features like self-shading aircraft and photorealistic terrain, to name a few.
One of the conundrums of development is that nothing is ever finished; you always want to add a little more here or touch up something there. So the answer to, “Is the artwork…already definitive” is, “No.” Everything in the game, including artwork, will improve as we continue to work on the project. Readers will see marked improvements in all areas of KOE before we ship.


* C6: You say that you have planned a dynamic campaign system even more evolved than the RB2's one. What will be the innovations? Do you think you'll be able to keep up the charming WW1 aspect and feeling of RB1 & 2 campaign modes?

AS: First, KOE will offer players two dynamic campaign modes to choose from, one is historically authentic and the other allows deviations in a historically plausible way. Potentially allowing Germany to even win the war. Second, each individual will embark on a career path that is unique to his or her own skills, interests and abilities. One that isn’t limited to the role of a pilot. Lastly, players will have the chance to man aircraft that have traditionally been available only as computer controlled aircraft. We feel that the combination of these elements, and others, will earn KOE a place in player’s ‘campaign hall of fame.’ We’ll release more information on this topic as time goes on.

* C6: Is the Western front will be the only one to be simulated (something which will be understandable, of course), or are other fronts (Northern Italy, Russian and Balkan for instance) already planned?

AS: The first installment of “Knights Over Europe” will focus on the air war over the Western Front. In fact, we already have high-resolution terrain data in place for the entire theater, from the English Channel to the Swiss border.
We aren’t ready to discuss projects beyond KOE at this time.

* C6: Can you give us some details about the Multiplayer mode please?

AS: “Knights Over Europe” will ship with support for both LAN and Internet play, including the ability for players to cooperatively man multi-crew aircraft. We know this has been a popular feature in past simulations that has been neglected of late.

* C6: Have you an idea of the freedom you will give to the 3rd party add-ons makers?

AS: We can’t comment on the specifics just yet but we know how important this is to many players. We’ll have more information on this topic as we come closer to release.

* C6: Have you already an idea of the computer we will need in order to have a perfect and full-detailed KoE?

AS: We haven’t set the exact system requirements just yet. However, readers can rest assured that while this project is built on industry-leading technologies, we won’t require cutting-edge hardware to get KOE running smoothly.

* C6: Are you looking for a publisher, or will you distribute Knights over Europe by yourself?

AS: We have secured a publisher for “Knights Over Europe” and a press release announcing the relationship will be made in the future. In the meantime it’s business as usual for us as we continue to work exclusively on the project.

* C6: And now about your next-coming warplanes simulations "Victory at Guadalcanal", have your already some info about it? Are you already working seriously on it, or do you rather plan to finish KoE before starting the real work on the Pacific theater?

AS: At this time we aren’t releasing information on other projects.

* C6: Finally, can you tell us the planned release date of KoE in Europe? Anything about a possible demo?

AS: Our publisher has scheduled KOE for release in the latter part of 2004; we initially projected that the project would be complete in late Q2 2004. The extra time will give us the opportunity to make sure that KOE is as stable and bug free as possible.
With the final release still almost a year away it’s too early for us to spell out any plans for a demo.

* C6: Thank you very much for the interview and best wishes of success to the team!


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You can visit Knights Over Europe official website by clicking here
http://www.aspectsimulations.com/Prod_KOE.htm

  Alain-James
   
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- ©2003 Bernard Valencelle 'Benhur' -