Released just this week, Take On Helicopters is a civilian-helicopter sim from Bohemia Interactive; you know, the guys behind the excellent ArmA series. Last week we sat down with Joris-Jan van’t Land, Take On’s Project Lead and Jay Crowe the Creative Lead to ask a few questions from a Simthusiast perspective.
RipTen: Okay guys, the question of the day is… why now and why a civilian helicopter sim?
Joris: Some of the people on the team had already been talking about the idea for a while having seen how cool helicopter flight in our previous titles was. After the PMC DLC for Operation Arrowhead we finally had the opportunity to take it from concept to a real game.
Jay: Focusing on delivering the experience of (non-lethal!) helicopter gameplay has been a refreshing (and quite challenging) change for us as developers and, we hope too, for our players!
Joris: One of the more interesting opportunities our engine allows us is to have gameplay outside of the helicopters as well. Even when looking at the currently available helicopter experiences on the market, this is something they do not offer. It completes the package.
Jay: There’s definitely a place for a civil helicopter game like Take On. We’ve presented at both gaming-media events like E3 and GC, and also at simulation expos, such as Paris. The feedback has been very encouraging.
RipTen: What has the experience of marketing TKOH been like? Have you had any resistance or incredulity (like my opening question)? In a scene that is now dominated by hardcore flight-sims, who in particular are you looking at to buy TKOH from release day?
Jay: ArmA has a strong reputation in combined arms warfare, but hardcore flight-simmers have often remarked that the flight model is too simple for their taste. By extension, we’ve encountered some of the same perceptions, so it’s been up to us to show players that Take On is a new experience.
Joris: It has been hard, and still is hard, to make people who know our games understand this is a new Intellectual Property, a new brand. We have both positive and negative traits associated with our past releases and even when we change in these areas, some people are blind to the changes.
Jay: However, some players and reviewers have really ‘got’ what it is that Take On is all about, putting their pitch-forks and burning torches aside for a moment, and have enjoyed the different challenges and experiences, and recognised the potential that this game tries to offer.
RipTen: You guys have proven to be capable of delivering highly moddable sandbox experiences, how strong are the tools players will have to create their own scenarios in TKOH? And just how complicated can people make them?
Joris: This is what we’re really excited about. The possibilities are endless. Think Arma 2 plus all the new technologies, script commands and features. Even just our team still has a never-ending stream of ideas of what to do with civilian helicopters. Add combat to that and you open yet more options. Use the engine’s capabilities of doing non-helicopter gameplay and pretty much anything becomes possible.
Jay: Documenting the new features is on-going, and finding ways of presenting and teaching them to new players is what we’ll be actively working on post-release. One way we’ll do that for sure is with the community wiki (http://j.mp/TakeOnBiki), another is with support on our official forums (http://j.mp/TakeOnEditing).
Joris: We’ve already seen some custom scenarios during the Community Preview and Pre-Order Beta and are really curious whether the first real add-on will be a helicopter, or something completely unrelated!
RipTen: What sized team do you have working on TKOH? Has it taken any resources away from delivering ArmA 3?
Joris: We are a different team than the one working on Arma 3 in Brno, so no, it’s not like everyone at Bohemia Interactive is just working on one active project anymore. Of course there is cross-over, when we share technology or a particular skill-set. We’ve had about 20 active developers on the team, but there’s a lot of support staff like marketing, distribution, legal, consultants, etc.
Jay: Since January, it’s been a pretty solid core of developers, with numerous other people contributing with their skills or expertise at various stages of the project.
Joris: Also, quite some of the new tech will be redeployed in A3, so in fact it’s been beneficial to that game.
RipTen: Is this a mere side project or an attempt at a lasting franchise?
Joris: We can’t predict the future, but as the name implies we see the potential for taking on other themes.
Jay: The new technology alone attests to our investment in the project, with the integration of completely new flight dynamics and new engine features, which, while deployable across our studios, have their heart in this game.