It's been a while since we hosted Gaijin CEO Anton Yudintsev on Wccftech. As you probably noticed if you're a regular reader, we've been checking up with several different game studios since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with more interviews planned in the coming weeks.
Given the recent first public playtest of Enlisted, the studio's upcoming World War II themed first-person shooter MMO game, we thought this was the perfect time to catch up with Yudintsev. As usual, we discussed a wide ranging number of topics with the Gajin CEO, from the latest technologies and upcoming hardware releases to the state of the studio's discussion with Sony regarding cross-play and cross-progression functionality. Brace for a rather lengthy, yet extremely interesting read.
We can't begin a conversation nowadays without discussing COVID-19. Can you tell us the impact of this pandemic on Gaijin Entertainment? What do you think of the game industry's outlook as a whole?
While our servers are quite crowded and the overall concurrent player numbers set new
records, we should stress out that this does not necessarily convert into revenue. People
stay at home and play games more, but they do not have enough spare money to pay for the
premium content. Having said that, we’re quite happy that people choose our games to relax
and have fun during these sad times. War Thunder is especially popular and the April
month-to-month average CCU growth is already crazy.
Cancellation of trade shows and the introduction of quarantine measures would probably
have an impact on premium game sales and will speed up the process of moving everything
online and switching to digital sales. Unfortunately, it’s still uncertain if those trade shows
would be allowed even when the strict quarantine measures are lifted. It’s also uncertain
what will happen to the online players spending habits in the coming months. The whole
world moving into uncharted waters and the gaming industry is no exception.
On the other hand, videogame development does not require a physical presence in the
office. Our internal teams at Gaijin started to work from home even before the governments issued the orders to do so, and right now everything is proceeding smoothly. For example, we’ve organized the first public playtest of Enlisted, our new game, exactly as planned, and the major content updates for War Thunder, Crossout, and Cuisine Royale are also right on track.
How did Enlisted change in the last couple of years from its original concept and vision?
While we started with an idea to create a realistic, massive and fun WW2 shooter featuring
infantry, the core vision is still the same, there are numerous features that we’ve added or
updated during those last couple of years. Tank gameplay is the feature that immediately
stands out, but there are a lot of others, like the grenades of various types and the artillery
strikes, that have been built from scratch and now enrich the overall Enlisted gameplay
experience. We’ve also updated the list of available weaponry and tweaked the leveling up
You recently conducted a public playtest for Enlisted. What kind of feedback did you get from the community, and when do you expect the next test to take place?
The playtest of Enlisted showed us that we were right about the key feature of the game
which is the AI squad system. While some players said they prefer traditional multiplayer
modes seen in Call of Duty or Battlefield where everyone is controlling just one soldier,
others enjoyed the new gameplay experience provided by Enlisted. People loved the idea of
really massive battles where each individual player kills a lot of enemies and can influence
the outcome of the clash in a significant way. That was the single most important thing we’ve
checked via this test.
I should also stress that this was just a playtest of the early pre-Alpha version of the game,
so we got a lot of feedback on specific bugs to be fixed and features to be improved. For example, AI soldiers will obviously become smarter and we’ll work on improving the weapons' recoil. That’s just a part of the development process that has to be done and we’d like to thank everyone who provided feedback to the team. We’re also working on features that were not present in the Alpha version, like the mortars and Molotov cocktails, as well as the air component of the battles.
We cannot give you specific times for the next public playtest or whether there will be one like
we did on April 1st. Right now we’re planning that Closed Alpha, Closed Beta and Open
Beta tests will happen sometime this year. Thankfully the game production has got to the
final stage, so everyone will be able to play Enlisted quite soon.
Do you plan to add controller support before the game's launch on Steam?
Controller support was in fact present at the playtest, so it’s already there. On the other
hand, we’re not sure whether Enlisted will be launched on Steam at all. The game will
definitely be available for download from the official website and will use the same Gaijin
Account as War Thunder or Crossout.
Why did you add an AI squad for each player? I believe that wasn't mentioned earlier.
The main reason for making squad members AI-controlled is our intention to raise the input
of each player in the team victory. Despite the massiveness of the battles, the result in
Enlisted is significantly defined by the performance of each player (they control 1/10 of the
team force, while without the AI-controlled squad system this figure would fall to 1/70). So
the actions of just one player can turn the tide in a whole massive battle.
Any chance we could see a 'World War Mode' in Enlisted at some point, akin to the one Gaijin had conceived for War Thunder, where battles actually count towards the territory control on the world map?
It’s too early to speculate about that. In theory, something like this could be possible, but right
now the team is quite busy with the core game modes. Only after that work is finished will
the developers think about building something over those key modes.
How many war scenarios do you reckon will be available with the game's 1.0 version?
Players have already seen the Battle of Moscow during the playtest. Normandy is also
almost ready and will be available at some point. Both of these war scenarios host a number
of maps for various game modes, so that’s already a lot of content to explore and enjoy.
While we have some surprises for the players also in production, we cannot disclose them
this early. All new content will be introduced gradually to make sure that the players will
always have something new to wait for and try.
When Gaijin first unveiled its Real Time Global Illumination technique at Gamescom 2018 for Enlisted, it was using the NVIDIA RTX platform and you mentioned you were 'super impressed' by NVIDIA's ray tracing on Vulkan. However, later you rolled out a DX11 version of RTGI in War Thunder that does not take advantage of the RT cores available in the GeForce RTX graphics cards. Why? Do you have any plans to support DX12/Vulkan eventually and exploit hardware RT acceleration in GPUs?
Unfortunately, the DirectX11 API doesn’t have any access to RT cores. But DirectX11 API and DX11-level hardware have a very big market share, so we cannot just abandon it (actually even DX10 hardware is still rather popular, but we can’t go there).
And even on Vulkan-enabled hardware, vendor support still requires a lot of improvement. While it is possible to use RT cores in the Vulkan API, general performance and stability can be lower on some devices/drivers. It was our first public test, and we wanted it to run as smoothly as possible for all of our players, that’s why we decided to create a public test with the broadest HW support i.e. with only DirectX 11. Of course, during alpha and beta tests DirectX 12 (and probably Vulkan as well) support with RTX features would be added.
Were you able to improve your own RTGI technique since it was added to War Thunder? Beyond RTGI, are you working on any other use of ray tracing (reflections, shadows, ambient occlusion, etc.)?
RT cores generally improve the quality (or performance) of our GI solution. Beyond GI we
are working on other improvements using RT hardware, including the ones you mentioned,
but also on audio.
NVIDIA recently revealed DLSS 2.0. Not only the new version of this technique does not require per-game training anymore, but it should also be relatively easy to implement in those games and engines that already support Temporal Antialiasing. Is that something Gaijin is looking to add to the Dagor engine?
We are very interested in DLSS 2.0 and already working on its support. It is a huge step
over the first version, and we see its usage in the future, especially with the growing install
base of 4K monitors.
Microsoft also unveiled the DirectX 12 Ultimate set of features a few weeks ago. Are you going to support any of those features if so, which ones?
Yes, we do, we are now working on all of them basically. The new generation of RT, sampler feedback, mesh shaders and VRS.
Enlisted was scheduled to launch on Xbox One via its Game Preview program. Are you still planning to do that or would Gaijin rather just release the game on Xbox Series X at this point?
During development, HW requirements have been increased. While we will potentially
explore if we can stretch the game to Xbox One hardware, at the moment our first goal is to
finalize the game for PC and next-gen consoles.
The last time we spoke, you said you were very excited about the features and capabilities of next-gen consoles. Now that the specifications are official, can you disclose your thoughts about PS5 and Xbox Series X? It looks like Sony went for a faster SSD and variable clock frequency, while Microsoft preferred more TFLOPs and fixed clock frequency.
While currently there is a lot of public information available, developers are still limited to
what they can comment on. Obviously, a fast SSD will speed up the gameplay session
loading (that is already very quick in our games) and higher processing power will make the
game look better. Let’s say, each platform has its own perks and both of them are rather
powerful and will certainly provide a new level of gaming experience.
If you compare the current generation with previous generation hardware, and then public
information of next-gen tech with original current generation, you will notice it is a
significantly bigger leap on numerous fronts. So it is exciting times for developers and
Do you plan to optimize and enhance Gaijin games for next-generation platforms? What do you think about their ray tracing capabilities?
Yes, it’s highly likely that we’ll do the optimization and enhancing. It’s just too early to talk in
detail about what we’re planning to do with the next-generation consoles.
In the last interview, you also revealed talks were still ongoing with Sony regarding cross-progression functionality. Were there any developments in this regard? Will it take a long time still until your dreams of crossplay, cross-progression, and cross-voice are realized?
We’re working hard right now to finally bring this cross-progression functionality, but we
cannot give you the exact dates or terms before getting the final approval. So keep your fingers
crossed and stay tuned for the news.
Lastly, any update on porting War Thunder or other recent Gaijin games on the Nintendo Switch?
We are planning to do it this year, but I cannot disclose which game or when exactly.
All our games are live-ops online games and besides technical difficulties of porting the
game to a weaker platform we need to have a certain level of vendor support for all of
them, for example, a reasonable update approval cycle.
In the case of War Thunder, it wouldn’t be reasonable for all PlayStation, PC and Xbox players
to wait for Nintendo approval for an update, and we are used to being able to release
updates quite frequently.
Thank you for your time.