Wings of Honor
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Over Flanders Fields - Interview




Over Flanders Fields Phase 3: Between Heaven And Hell - An Interview with the OFF Development Team


by Gremlin, Wings Of Honor Staff
on 21-Nov-2008



Introduction

Phase 3 - SPAD XIII in front of a dogfight - Screenshot by Makai (03-Nov-2008)

The OFF Development Team is currently preparing the release of its long awaited Phase 3 of their W.W.I flight simulation 'Over Flanders Fields' (OFF) titled 'Between Heaven And Hell' short 'BHaH'. Phase 3 is based on Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator 3 but there will be very little that resembles the original W.W.II flight simulator. In fact 'Between Heaven And Hell' is not just a Mod but it is a Total Conversion removing all W.W.II elements from CFS 3. Even game code changes could be made within certain limits. Phase 3 will have the most changes to the basic flight simulator since Phase 1 which came out in December 2005 and Phase 2 which was introduced in March 2007.

The Team has spent countless hours to change, tweak and hone their newest product 'Over Flanders Fields - Between Heaven And Hell'. Wings Of Honor has talked with the Team to unveil some information prior to the release.

Our interview partners were Mark 'Polovski' Rogers, Ted 'Shredward' Harrity, James 'OvS' Romano and Mike 'Sandbagger' Norris.

Wings of Honor: When did the project initially start and how (pre Phase 1)? Who were the 'founding members'?

Mark 'Polovski' Rogers: Around 5 years ago, Mark "Winding Man" Andrews and David "Davo" Payne where the original starters.

WoH: You are all doing this in your leisure time. You have families and day time jobs. How did your families cope with your dedication to such a project?

Polovski: It has been tough for everyone. That includes the families for everyone. I think they are all are very relieved we are finally near the end.



The Team

Phase 3 - SPAD goes down in flames - Screenshot by Polovski (09-Nov-2008)

WoH: What is OBD Software, who are the founders and who are the employees?

Polovski: OBD stands for "Old Brown Dog" and was founded by Mark Andrews. That is the umberella company that Between Heaven and Hell (BHH) will be sold through.

Each team member is doing this in their spare time so until we start taking sales there are no employees.

WoH: Are there free-lancing contributors to OFF?

Polovski: Yes, various people contributed along the way and some continue to - these will be listed in the credits movie in the Phase 3 release or on the website.

WoH: Who are the team members and how are the responsibilities distributed?

Mike 'Sandbagger' Norris: The OFF team are not professionals in flight sims, but have amassed a wealth of experience over the years with their involvement in other sims. There are 10 primary members of the team who are located around the world.

A basic outline of the team is:

  • Mark 'Winder' Andrews (OBD Originator, software, models, skins, terrains, effects etc)
  • Mark 'Polovski' Rogers (Software, models, skins, web sites)
  • James 'OvS' Romano (skinner, squad data)
  • Ted 'Shredward' Harrity (Skinner, research, squad data)
  • Paul 'Nod' Norris (Models)
  • Mike 'Sandbagger' Norris (not related) (skinner)
  • Arto 'Paarma' Karttunen (skinner)
  • Rob 'Capt. Winters' Stevenson (skinner, models)
  • Terry 'Makai' Kerby (skinner)
  • Tom 'Rex Hannover' Milligan (software)
Phase 3 - Bristol F2b - Screenshot by Polovski (09-Nov-2008)

WoH: That is a relatively small group of people in regard to such a big project being a Total Conversion of an original game. Maybe some of you could introduce yourself: who are you, what are your daytime jobs, how did you get hooked up to the W.W.I flight simulation genre and did you work in other projects for other W.W.I flight sims before?

Ted 'Shredward' Harrity: As a boy, I became fascinated with the Great War, as so many of us did, by reading the accounts of 'Biggles' flying off the pages of dusty tomes and into the skies and cloud castles over Flanders. Soon, I was building plastic models - they hung from the ceiling, swirling and looping in imaginary dogfights as I drifted off to sleep at night. Other interests and pursuits gradually pushed that world to the back of my memory, but the interest was still there. Trips to Europe, to revisit places where I had lived, to visit places special to my Father, who jumped into battle as a paratrooper, and whose friends lie there still. And in the course of that, I visited quiet places where you can still feel the presence and shadow of the Great War.

At about that time computers came along, and Red Baron I. And I was hooked. I became a member of the RB community, and eventually teamed up with OvS, who was starting to mod "Hells Angels" for RB3D. I helped him with skins, research and historical data for that wonderful mod, a work which still gives great pleasure to many, and of which James can be very proud.

Other projects started up, and several members of SWWISA (Society Of WWI Sim Artisans) became interested or involved - Pol, Rabu, OvS and myself, but they always seemed to fizzle for one reason or another. That should have served as a warning to us lol, but we heard of yet another very small project starting up - and got interested. Mark Andrews invited us to help, and we jumped at the chance, never realising how big this thing would get - little dreaming how much work would be involved. Yes, we all have day jobs - (I'm a welder, and spend long periods in the Arctic away from home) - but I think we all regard our real work as building Over Flanders Fields.

James 'OvS' Romano: I'm OvS, known as Otto von Stachel, or James Romano in the real world. By vocational trade, I am actually a Commercialy Licencsed Aircraft Mechanic (I even taxiied the Concorde once!). But I have since put down the tools, some 8 years ago, and have resorted to fixing computers and working on Telecomms as my primary income. Airplanes were more fun, but the industry is terrible.

My WWI simming started way back in my college days during the early 90's. I attentded Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Universoty where my love of aviation grew. We had a great library of WWI books that I read, and enjoyed. Many of my written reports for certain clases were about WWI planes, and the aces that flew them. For entertainmnet, I had an Amiga, so when I picked-up a copy of Cinemaware's 'Wings' is was a no-brainer for me. The flower had bloomed, and it smelled GREAT! From there it was PC's and Red Baron, Knights of the Sky, Blue Max… etc. Eventually to RBII and RB3D on the old Voodoo 2.

My 'career' with RB3D started when I began flying RB3D MMP for a while with Jasta23b. I met some great guys there, I guess my love for the German side of the fence was obvious. My last RB3D work, and what I am known best for, was the Hell's Angels series of 'homebew' patches for RB3D, which started simply as 'nothing more than my simpatch folder' (that's a personal dig on my long friend DeltaK. wink.gif ) The Hell's Angels series took me from being an average player, to a 'designer' of a game. It was a lot of fun editing millions of files and saying to myself "why the hell am I doing this?!?!". But all laughs aside, it was a lot of fun. And to say the least, it opened huge doors for me to meet great people of like interests. I met Shredward, Rabu, Pat Wilson, Uhlan, DeltaK, and most importantly, Karel Dooms who inspired many of us to climb new heights, and take new risks with our beloved game.

Phase 3 - A F.E.2b during dawn - Screenshot by Polovski (Nov-2008)

Shred became my 'right-hand man' in our quest to bring Hell's Angles to those new heights. We worked long nights together and forged a new sense of history in a WWI game. Keeping it simple for the users, however, immersing them deep into the linage of WWI combat. We did it, and Hell's Angels was a stunning success. Not for profit, we enjoyed literally years of thanks and appreciation from the WWI Simming Community. Along the way, we teamed up with Rabu, whom I always kept in touch with, but as it turned out, had a helping hand from Shred as well. So all three of us formed up the finishing touches on Hell's Angels Super Patch which would turn out to be one of the 3 most important patches from RB3D, offering a new scenery, a new look and a TON of history.

Moving on as Shred noted, we got together with several SWWISA members including new member Polvoski (which is where our relationship bloomed) to form-up the 'European side' of a joint SWWISA-Russian project called Sikorsky Project. It was a bold venture and from the start was very rocky at best. But we were desperate for something toally new, using new technology in a WWI sim. The members of the Russian team split with us and some members went on to form Glenndich (spelling?), which now works on the KOF project. The rest of us disbanded, however, Rabu, Shred, Pol and myself stuck together. We'd been through too much with the Sikorsky project, Polovski had his feet deep into a new Albatros D.III model that looked great. We needed a new project … but what?

After a few months, I drifted off, kinda saying good-bye to the RB3D Community and sealing the fate of my now dated Hell's Angels venture. I got an email from Polovski to check-out the new "Over Flanders Fields" project that was going on. I was interested from the get-go. It looked really good. I asked Winder if I could try-out and see if I fit in to the project. The skinning technique was something I never experienced with, but it was well worth trying to do. For the first time I could make a plane look like I wanted without dealing with a 256 color palette! So it was new ground for me personally. Pol sent me the Sopwith Triplane template to experiment with and off I went. Winder liked it, and I asked if I could be a part of the team. I then requested to work on Pol's new Albatros model, and make skins for it, which sealed my fate. It's been a great time for all of us. We have a terrific team of guys that may have taken us a while to form up, but after 3 years, we still are at it with the passion we started with.

Over Flanders Fields will be a special accomplishment for us all, not just the OFF Team, but the entire WWI community. I remember many an email asking if I could do this, and add that, and make more of these.. etc.. but with RB3D's lousy Voodoo graphics engine, it simply was not possible. With OFF, everything you wanted… is there. It really is WWI as real as it gets. Winder did things to this game that I never thought possible, and we surrounded it with skins of aces that are long dead and forgotten on both sides of the front. For the first time ever, you won't feel restricted by a scripted story-line, or playing arena… you can do what you want, and every mission is a new experience. It's a Rubik's Cube of WWI excitement that you'll spend hours trying to live through.

I'm proud to have been a part of this, regardless of whatever fame or fortune may or may not lie ahead for us. It was a great opportunity to try our best to get it right. On a personal note, I have relished in knowing so many people, even to this day, loved the experience of flying my Hell's Angles Super Patch. I wait like a child on Christmas Eve for what all those crazed WWI Simmers will think of what we have done. The team we have is really the 'Cream of the Crop' with experience, love, passion, dedication, and perserverence, and a deep sense of knowing what we've all wanted from a true WWI Flight sim.

Mike 'Sandbagger' Norris: I'm Mike 'Sandbagger' Norris and for the last 14 months have been a member of the team. I'm married with 2 daughters and at the moment, 3 grandchilderen. I live in the village of Coningsby, in Lincolnshire, UK. After I left school I served at an apprenticed Toolmaker with the Phillips company. I ended up doing a 6 year apprenticeship followed by a year 'on the shop floor'. I'd always been interested in flight and the Royal Air Force. So, I decided to sign up and joined the RAF in 1971 as a propulsion mechanic. I continued to serve and was 'de-mobbed' after 27 years and attaining the rank of Chief Technician. Since then I've been employed as a technical writer for the military aerospace industry.

Like others, I got into flight sims early on, playing such as Red Baron, Flying Corps etc. I also became heavily involved (and still am) with the WW2 flight sim 'European Air War', creating a host site 'Tally-Ho' for all members of that community.

My involvement with 'Over Flanders Fields' (OFF) began after I decided to try painting skins from the then current Phase 2 version of OFF. Although I'd never attempted anything like this before, I followed a basic tutorial made available by one of the OFF forum members. Once I'd mastered the basics I started creating specific skins and made them available to the OFF community. Mark (Winder) spotted these skins and contacted me about maybe joining the team. After I'd 'passed the test' I was accepted as a team member and since then have skinned Allied and German aircraft for Phase 3.

I have to say I'm honored to be a part of this project and like everyone on the team, hope the release of OFF Phase 3 lives up to our expectations. The campaign depth, historical accuracy and general look of OFF make it stand apart from other so called WW1 flight simulators. This is not a shoot em' up arcade style of flight sim and is not restricted to only a few flyable aircraft.

We hope that OFF will be received as it was intended to be - a fully immersive re-enactment of WW1 arial combat.



Features

WoH: The features list is far too rich to talk about in detail thus I will pick some main features. Which main features did you generally improve on?

Polovski: Well I can't really shorten the list on what we improved ;o) best to check out the main features, and the detail list of features added on our website as it actually says "New for Phase 3" for totally new features, or "Enhanced for P3" for improvements. But some of the top enhancements very briefly are …

  • Much better AI
  • Better higher resolution scenery,
  • More flyable 2 seaters aircraft and 2 seater missions, including Escort missions as fighter pilot or 2 seater pilot
  • Better textures all over aircraft/objects/scenery
  • Much better campaign, in which squadrons can change behaviour depending on status
  • Better atmosphere and much more immersion from more polish
  • Mission review is in there now too. We know where you have been and what you did ;o)
  • We also fixed or improved many annoying glitches from CFS3
  • Improved installer
  • Vista support
  • Unicode support (so can run on other language PCs without changing regional settings)
Phase 3 - Hannover CL.III on patrol - Screenshot by Polovski (14-Oct-2008)

WoH: The features list is too big ;o) So you did not focus on some parts for the next release instead you improved all parts. Sounds more like a revolution in contrary to an evolution.

What about the AI? In Phase 2 they were W.W.II pilots sitting in W.W.I planes hence they could not fly the old crates on their limits. Did you improve on this and if so how did you do that?

Polovski: Vastly and in many areas. Basically Tom, our code expert, has found means to improve their behaviour in various places and you will feel their hot breath on your neck now much more often. We can also improve even more in future.

WoH: We could see that also in the Phase 3 Preview Videos you released.

While Phase 2 AI was not that good at flying it was by far better at shooting. Will the 'head shot from 2 kilometers' be gone?

Polovski: Yes, as part of the improvements above we have stopped that.

WoH: Ok, seems I will suffer less from great marksmanship ;o) Let's talk about planes. How many different plane models are simulated?

Polovski: 39 variants all flyable. Again a full list is on our website features page.

Phase 3 - S.E.5a cockpit - Screenshot by Polovski (Nov-2008)

WoH: Are there plans to expand the variety of planes in the future?

Polovski: Depending on how well BHaH does yes, there are many craft we can add. It's tough as we all have a favourite craft but it has to be balanced, it's carefully thought through, for example it may depend on what is required to make the campaign work or whatever. We also have many craft almost done, or partly done for the future.

WoH: The list contains 2 seaters like RAF BE2C and Roland C.II 'Walfisch'. What about heavy bombers like Gotha, Handley Page and what about … Zeppelins?

Polovski: No none of those made it into Phase 3, maybe a future add-on. Although it may be possible to use some of the older models released in P1 and freeware Gotha ones since.

WoH: I am sure the OFF community on the Sim-Outhouse OFF Forum will be helpful when it comes to the installation of those community made planes.

Phase 2 is pretty good when it comes to historical accuracy. What is improved in Phase 3 in that respect?

Polovski: Everything, we have overhauled fields and squadrons, aircraft assignments medals, aces, skins, anything we noticed needed adding or improving as sanity and a simulation allows. Obviously it's almost impossible to reproduce the detail that can happen even in one squadron but we have enhanced it. For example take off with Ace flights even with other aircraft types. Some squadrons for example may have had a new aircraft, then for a while gone back to using their old ones because of shortage or problems with the new craft - and you will see this.

OvS: Yes, this has been vastly improved. Shred was able to really pin-point many aspects of squad placement, proper drome names, who is present, and where they go. What ace flys with what squadron. Etc. He did a great job on all the datafiles that we use to create this effect.

I helped him with the German Air Force, paying strict attention to the naming of the Jastas, and trying to bring out that missing aspect we've never seen before… some German aviation history. Winder gave me the 'nod' to run with this, knowing my background and taste for the GAF. It worked well, and in Phase 3, if you fly for the Boche, you will see it from a different point of view. All new indignias, the names are correct, the Jadgeschwaders form up and are colored correctly in Berthold's group. You will even see Jasta 15 and Jasta 18 pilots swap as they did in 1918 when Berthold took over JGII. Also thanks to some programming prowess on Winder's part, we also have the German insignia crosses changing on the proper date from Maltees to Balken.

Phase 3 - Fokker D.VIIs and aces form up - Screenshot by Polovski (04-Nov-2008)

WoH: That sounds very promising. Will we fly alongside historical aces with their historical paints and will they exceed the average AI pilot?

Polovski: Yes, ace flights used to be above your field, but now will often take off at the same time as you on the same field. You can fall in behind or get on with your mission. Sometimes they will turn up at the same location as you other times not.

WoH: That surely adds to the impression of a living environment in the sim. How did you find out all that historical stuff? For example where all the airfields were located at a certain date?

Polovski: All sorts of places like anything, mostly books, rare books, help from experts or the web etc. We also have guys on our team who are experts in various parts of WWI so that helps :o)

WoH: Did you need to make a lot of sacrifices regarding historical accuracy for the sake of gameplay?

Polovski: Sometimes, it is inevitable, or we would release in 2020 and no one could run it then ;o) More on this later.

Phase 3 - A Hannover CL.III dropping bombs - Screenshot by Makai (04-Nov-2008) Phase 3 - Pfalz D.III and a convoy of A7V tanks - Screenshot by Makai (04-Nov-2008)

WoH: Ok, release it now. We could sustain the suspension for the 1 1/2 yyear since the release of Phase 2 but I think we could not up to 2020 ;o)

The ambient is pretty living already in Phase 2 with soldiers advancing through villages, truck convoys populating the roads, artillery firing. Will we see more of that in Phase 3?

Polovski: Yes, there are more vehicles and objects available and more convoys (plus now you can blow them up :o). Also the front you will see more action at the front, smoke, and now gas attacks.

WoH: Mark Hutchinson did a great job with his Moving Front Patch for Patrick Wilson's Western Front Patch in Red Baron II/3D. What could you do in this regard?

Polovski: Phase 2 already had a moving front! In fact we have 12 different states already working in Phase 2. This is a tremendous amount of work and research as effectively bases move, ownership moves, targets move so we have 12 sims in 1! Regarding your previous question two back, of course this is a compromise, the front may have moved all across in various places at various times, but 12 is a good number to cover all the main changes. A LOT of work to cope with this, but it's in there already, and of course improved for Phase 3. Damage spreads, towns get "swallowed" in the fighting and become devastated. We have a full war going on.

Also the front is now much more realistic, matching real states of the front. It wasn't a clear obvious defined line as often depicted. But sometimes the battle would move beyond the tired dug in trenches, so you can sometimes become confused as to exactly where you were (as The Red Baron himself no doubt did in his last moments).

WoH: I must admit that due to time constraints and the language problem with my German Windows XP I never got around to play an OFF campaign. Speaking of campaign: what about a dynamic campaign? As I understand you are able to influence the basic CFS 3 game engine by external programs like the OFF Manager. Could you improve on the campaign system?

Polovski: We have already totally replaced the CFS3 campaign with our own completely independent campaign engine in previous phases. People often don't appreciate the detail in there already. Phase 3 is improved as discussed earlier many enhancements. Also now you go to straight to mission to on the field, and straight back so much more immersive and complete.

Now you can fly not just as leader in a flight but as a wingman having to keep up with your leader for more immersion. Also keeping a look out for enemy and your escort perhaps.

One big improvement is no more random craft - all other AI squads are flying missions from their historical location with the historical paint work on their craft - som may engage you some may choose to ignore. With all the targetting aids off you really have o keep your wits about you.

There are many more improvements too many to go into here.

Phase 3 - S.E.5a is downed - Screenshot by Polovski (09-Nov-2008)

WoH: One of them is the aim for having changing wetter conditions. I heard there will be better weather effects? Could you tell us some more about it?

Polovski: Weather has several modes, but the default is "historical". If the weather stopped you flying on a certain day for real in WWI then it will ground you too. It will be poor on a day that historically was poor. Also it can vary as you fly, so for example it may be dark and overcast, then begin to rain and maybe later the rain will stop again and be brighter.

WoH: That will help a great deal with immersion. What about the plane textures? How many plane textures had to be created and who were the poor souls to fulfil this task?

Polovski: So far (it keeps going up) we have more than 3200 researched authentic skins. Just take a moment to take that number in and imagine the colour in the air.

Aces have their skins, and some may have several as their squadron changes or craft type changes, or their paint changed just as it did! The vast majority were done (in no particular order) by James "OvS" Romano, Mike "Sandbagger" Norris, Terry "Makai" Kirby, Arto "Paarma" Karttunen (also some great Nieuport skins from Robert "Rabu" Hoag will be in Phase 3). Also we have a newer higher res mode and the skins look stunning.

OvS: Ah yes … 1 of 7 poor souls here … ;o) Fulfilling this task was enormus. It took us many months, and countless hours to get it right… and even today we still want to tweak but anymore I think Winder will have us all shot! ;o)

We broke up the work effectively though. I took Makai and Paarma and we all worked togther on the German skins, while Sandbagger, Rabu and Capt. Winters took on the Entente. The German's as you know, were more colorful, while the Entente had more insignias. So the work was even. With Shred providing us with the best chances to be correct using many good quality profiles, we worked to get it right. But what is more amazing about OFF is it's not just about aces. Some of the skins you will see where not aces at all, but pilots like you. That's what was so great about this venture. Not only do you get Udet, and MvR but you get hundreds of nameless pilots as well. Piel, Grimm, Gilly, Fritzie, Auer, Festner…etc.. etc… they're there. The Jastas are loaded with them, as are the Entente. It's really a full-house up there, we did not just pick certain aces to make skins for. If we had a black and white photo, we tried it. Some we even made up using circa designs and colors. It was fun for all of us being artists at heart. :o)

As far as a number? Pol has a good estimation. We had no present number, we simply kept working until our eyeballs fell out. LOL!

Phase 3 - An aerodrome - Screenshot by Polovski (Nov-2008)

WoH: Wow, what I huge amount of plane textures and what a huge effort. And there are other textures too like the terrain textures. The Phase 2 terrain was quite amazing. Compared with the stock CFS 3 terrain this was nowhere near. What could you do with the terrain and scenery in Phase 3. Who worked on the terrain and scenery and how much did/could you follow the historical references?

Polovski: Phase 2 was much better quality than CFS3, but Phase 3 is now also high resolution and totally revised. Even low slider settings it looks good, but in max quality it is beautiful, compares to the best flight sims out there and in some circumstances better than. Mark "Winding Man" Andrews did the terrain, and yes as described earlier he has studied closely real aerial photographs to get the authentic feel.

Importantly we also have distinctive terrain for the different regions I'll let Mark "Winding Man" explain:

"I have carefully studied typical landscape pics so as to render accurate terrain tiles for Flanders/Marne/Verdun and Alsace.

Now CFS3 normally has only one global land based tile set i.e. the theatre is covered with the same tile set from stem to stern. In OFF I have 6:

  1. Southern England
  2. Flanders
  3. Marne
  4. Verdun
  5. Alsace
  6. "Rest of theatre"

More could be done but it's a lot of work, maybe for a future addon or Phase if P3 is well received.

WoH: Speaking of improved terrain: in Phase 2 you set the historical landmarks so that one could navigate by looking at those marks just like real pilots. What made this problematic were the built in maps which were pretty fuzzy. Did you improve the maps a little bit?

Polovski: Yes we have some in there, WM is keen to add a lot more in future versions. Map is slightly better, but it's very difficult as CFS3 uses one huge map for the whole of the theatre then shows you the section you are in so 1 giant bitmap basically. If we make it much more detail it will take more texture memory. We are looking on other ways to provide maps to fly by, such as external maps etc.

Phase 3 - Better stay away from armed two-seaters - Screenshot by Makai (05-Nov-2008)

WoH: I had already a set of your maps printed out maps for reference during flying. That helped a lot.

The Phase 2 main music title gave me goosebumps. Will your music artist amaze me once more?

Polovski: You can hear Matt's music in the recent videos written specially for us to capture the feel of the epic air war.

WoH: The Phase 2 flight models felt pretty good. While I am not a real pilot I thought there were some quirks for example the Dr.I picking up speed very fast in a dive. I am not sure if that is right. As I understand you improved the flight models and you also had feed back from real pilots?

Polovski: Yes the FMs have had another overhaul, some have major changes others less so. Most comments have been very favourable regarding Phase 2 flight models, including several real pilots commenting on P2 FMs being good. The Camel I am proud of, and more so in Phase 3 it's more dangerous but more deadly now but has the main quirks. You may find craft stall or spin more now. Some may take more time to get the best out of, and I think some will need relearning.

WoH: I am looking forward to the improved flight model. Now about damage models. I find it quite impressive seeing bits and pieces flying away when a plane gets hit and the simulated control structure failure. Is Phase 3 even better in that respect?

Polovski: Effects have been revamped and you will see more more smoke, fire, bits flying off, smoke, and other effects. It's much more immersive.

Phase 3 - SPAD cockpit - Screenshot by Polovski (Nov-2008)

WoH: Who worked on the flight models and the damage models?

Polovski: Mostly myself for the Flight Models with testing by Rob Stevenson and the team and also based on knowledge and testing from Phase 2. Damage Models myself and Mark A. worked on throughout, also help from Tom as code expert.

WoH: So a lot of work has been invested into that area also.

Phase 2 is more focussed on the single play aspect. After Microsoft switched off the CFS 3 servers I presume Phase 3 can not improve on multi play handling. Are there plans to improve on the multi play aspect or are the technical possibilities of the CFS 3 engine too limited.

Polovski: Maybe for the future, most players tend to set up their own games and using direct IP connections fly missions together, and talk via teamspeak or other voice comms. Yes it was disappointing MS turned the general servers off, but they tended to be every-man-for-himself type games. Multi-player is still possible and several guys in the forums intend to build this up after P3 is released, they fly co-operative missions and now against the enhanced AI ;o) There are also other possibilities but we'll look at after release.



Installation and System Requirements

WoH: We all know CFS3 is an old game so there may be certain limitations. Which operating systems are supported? What about 64-bit operating systems.

Polovski: MS does not support CFS anymore, but OFF Phase 3 will run on Windows XP SP2 or SP3 (NOT Windows XP 64), Vista 32, Vista 64.

WoH: Does Phase 3 run on Windows XP and Vista with other languages than English?

Polovski: See above, and yes it runs on other machines. Only English (and some parts in German) languages are there though, but there is no need to tweak regional settings anymore just to get it to run as it uses "unicode".

Phase 3 - Attack on a train - Screenshot by Makai (04-Nov-2008)

WoH: That sounds good and will help people immensely when setting up OFF.

How much hard disk space will be consumed after the installation?

Polovski: About 15GB!

WoH: OUCH!!! ;o) Ok, 3200 plane textures and such need to be stored somewhere.

The base for Phase 2 installation was Combat Flight Simulator 3 installed on hard disk with at least patch 3.1 applied. I heard there are two possibilities for OFF Phase 3 installation now. Could you elaborate a little bit on that?

Polovski: More will be clear, but now P3 can either use your current (clean) install of CFS3 patched to 3.1 - or - optionally it can ask for your original CFS3 CD or DVD and copy files off there needed, if you have no CFS3 installed. If you use the 2nd method it must be a newish purchased of CFS3 that is usually already 3.1 anyway.

It will also check your CFS3 disk for you and if it's not suitable let you know so you can install it yourself first.

WoH: The installation of OFF Phase 2 sometimes failed because users did not follow the instructions. For example starting a flight in CFS 3 at least once before installing OFF. Could you improve the installation process?

Polovski: It is dramatically improved most things are automatic which has been a lot of work for the team but we hope it will make things as smooth as possible.

WoH: An improvement in this area would help those people who do not know about the interals of a computer immensely. Do we need the CFS3 disk in the drive to play OFF?

Polovski: Of course OFF checks you have a valid install or DVD before installing. If you need a CD normally then you will afterwards. Some recent versions of CFS3 on DVD do not require a DVD inserted anymore so OFF will not.

WoH: What are the system specs for playing OFF Phase 3 with reasonable graphics, sounds and framerates?

Polovski: "Reasonable" is subjective for me the fastest possible ;o) but for others if your system ran OFF P2 well then it should be OK for P3. P3 does like high CPU speed (does not care regarding multicore) and good amount of GPU memory (over 512MB preferred).

8600GT Intel 2.8Ghz CPU, 2GB RAM should be OK on lowish settings. 8800GTX+ 3.0 Ghz for good for medium high quality. GTX 280 preferred as it has 1GB of texture memory, 3Ghz+ CPU, 4GB (or more if you have Vista) OFF will fly very nicely fo ultimate high res quality and experience. I don't have examples for ATI but a good recent card would be OK. Note 1 video card with 1GB ram would be preferable to 2 x 512MB in SLI or Corssfire.



Commercial

WoH: I am not asking for absolute numbers but are you satisfied with and did you expect the amount of pre-orders?

Polovski: Yes. People aged 15 to 85 too!

OvS: Yes, I think we were shocked too. We really didn't think there was THAT much interest. To us, this was fun, a hobby and a 'club' of sorts. We just kept going, trying to impress each other in a fun way, how far we could go. Thankfully there is this high-level of interest, and to be honest, it gave us the 'fear' that fueled us more.

Once we saw that our game was being taken seriously, I mean in the sense that so many people wanted it, we took the extra time to go back in and correct MANY skin, model, and other minor tweaks that really brought out the best of what OFF was meant to be. We took it VERY seriously, sometimes arguing with each other what was best for us and the game. It was very good and probably the most productive project I've ever been a part of.

We really have to thank the OFF Community for giving us the drive and desire to hammer this baby out. Once you've got BHAH loaded, you're in for not only a combat lesson … but a history lesson as well.

WoH: How big is the size of the distributed files and with which medium will they be distributed (CD, DVD, secure download, etc.)?

Polovski: Around 4GB currently.

WoH: Then it will fit on a single DVD. What will OFF Phase 3 cost (in Euro or US-$), what will shipping cost?

Polovski: Currently set at $50 + Shipping as per our pre orders page.

WoH: That sounds reasonable for the amount of time you have spent and the bills you need to pay for your own server. What means of payment will be possible (credit card, PayPal, international bank transfer)?

Polovski: All we hope but still final decision to be made.

WoH: What is the expected delivery time given the fact that pre-orders will get served first?

Polovski: Not sure yet, a few days from order likely rather than weeks.

WoH: Great then I will get my pre-ordered copy in a foreseeable future ;o) Will you distribute the expected orders to different team members to reduce work load for a single person? Means will Europe customers be provided by a Europe based distribution for example?

Polovski: Depends on who or what we go with. 2 main options we will decide very soon either way it will be covered world wide.

Phase 3 - A flight of Halberstadt D.II on patrol - Screenshot by Polovski (09-Nov-2008)

WoH: Will there be a manual of some sort?

Polovski: Some guides have been written for the CD. No printed manual.

WoH: And again the OFF community on the Sim-Outhouse OFF Forum will assist us with our questions.

What will your update policy look like? Will there be smaller updates/hotfixes for free bigger ones with new features as additions liable to costs?

Polovski: Bug fixes will be free if released as a patch. Add-ons still to-be-decided depending on response to initial release. More features, new aircraft, new skins, squads, whatever. Yes, there will likely be a charge. We may also do special offers or freebies depending on how happy we feel ;o) Many options at the moment.



Conclusion

WoH: One important question I did not ask so far. Will you release OvS from his imprisonment in the basement? Insiders know what I mean ;o)

Polovski: He escaped but like all long term prisoners he returns from time to time to paint another crumpet as he calls them.

WoH: So he will bee seen in the skies Over Flanders Fields bringing chaos and devastation to the enemy ;o)

Will you take a break for a while from development and just doing work on P3 that is absolutely necessary like producing hotfixes (and sending the DVDs)?

Polovski: We will probably keep going but at a lesser pace for a while - so we may actually get to sleep and wonderful things that other people do ;o)

WoH: That sounds as if you would get a life again. Last question: did you have fun doing this or did it get hard at times?

Polovski: Both of course, we get to play all the way but it is very tough to keep going sometimes. Also tremendous amount of testing re-testing oh and re-re-testing goes on which can get very tedious. For example off 200 times from the same field and same craft looking for the same issue can get a little dull ;o) We have to keep the ultimate goal in our thoughts and keep going.

WoH: Thank you all for bringing us this great W.W.I flight simulation and thank you for taking the time to talk with Wings of Honor. I wish you all the best for the future.





There is also a release movie (#11) published by the Over Flanders Fields Development Team. Download it here.