I love flying games, and Heliborne was a surprisingly good one. While hardly a realistic simulator, it manages to capture the feel of a gunship quite effectively at times. I liked the game so much that I sat down (over email) with Creative Director of JetCat Games, Raman Ulasau and had a quick chat about the game, from its inspirations all the way to its plans to the near future and beyond. Check it out!
What inspired JetCat Games to develop Heliborne?
Most importantly, we are all huge military games enthusiasts. We’ve met each other a long time ago thanks to our interest in similar games, like World of Tanks and Red Orchestra. It was a while later when we started developing Heliborne together, which is in fact our first video game.
It all came together for us after we’ve noticed that the once popular genre of helicopter combat games that we loved so much became somewhat forgotten. Our artist Diana has motivated us to get started on this path and I’m glad she did, because helicopters are amazing machines! I still remember the first time I played Soviet Strike at a friends house and how it blew me away. Video games have changed over the years, but capturing that magic of piloting a helicopter is what got us to where we are now.
Why have you decided to leave Early Access before version 1.0?
It’s very easy to stay in Early Access for years and keep using it as an excuse if something doesn’t work, but this isn’t us. We felt that it’s time for the game to stand on its own, and I think we were right – right now we have over a thousand reviews on Steam and boast a Very Positive rating from our players, so we didn’t disappoint.
That being said, for us to achieve version 1.0 means that Heliborne is everything we want it to be, everything we have envisioned. By the same token not hitting version 1.0 means that we are not done, that we will keep working on the game. We are very active on our Community Forum on Steam and we listen to the feedback we’re getting. There is more content and more features we want to develop, but it takes time with us being a grand team of 4 people.
Heliborne is constantly receiving new updates and that will continue until we reach version 1.0 and beyond.
Although Heliborne has both coop and adversarial modes, do you see the game more as PvP or PvE based?
We don’t want to pigeonhole the game as “mainly PvP” or “mainly PvE”. Our aim is to develop both modes simultaneously where the features from one mode will appear in the other. We think it’s important that Heliborne supports both head-to-head competitive play as well as a little less intensive co-op missions against the AI.
How long do you plan to support the game?
We have big plans on expanding different aspects of the game in both content and gameplay departments. Much of it depends on the feedback from our community, honestly, but as a multiplayer title our goal is to keep updating the game for at least a few years. We still haven’t reached our base goal of version 1.0 after all, and there are some cool things in the pipeline, like a new sea map and new helos.
How difficult was it to acquire the licensing necessary to portray the several real life choppers in the title? Did the companies provided you with any assets such as models or blueprints?
Sadly we are bound by NDA and can’t talk about it in any detail. It’s all super duper secret stuff.
In terms of content, are there any plans to add more mission types (ground support sorties, air intercept, et al) or make the generational maps available in all time periods?
Yes… and yes! First of all, we want to update infantry behaviour, to make it more versatile and independent. For example, we want you to be able to drop them near enemy base, instead of just in the middle of it, and cover their assault on it afterwards. Things like this will add more tactical depth to the gameplay and let us introduce new mission types as well.
And finally yes, we are also planning to have maps available for multiple generations of helicopters. We don’t want it to be a simple swap of helos, however, we want the generation of helicopters to feel integrated with the map on which you are playing.
What’s the team favourite current aspect of the game?
I cannot speak for everyone – we may be a small team, but everyone has different — and sometimes even pretty strong — opinions. For me, however, it is definitely the tactical diversity.
Players can do different things in the game and still contribute to their team – capturing bases, hunting enemy helos, transporting troops, using mortar crews, marking enemy positions, and so on. Not only that, but we are going to develop this part of the game even further, like the already mentioned tweaks to ground troop behaviour.
Also, I like that it is all grounded and we strive for realism, which for me builds immersion and gets me in that zone where I feel like an actual helicopter pilot.
Of the entire hypothetical roadmap, what’s the planned addition the team looks forward to the most?
For me, it is the detailed sandbox mission constructor — and it does exactly what you think. You will be able to choose the type of conflict (counter-insurgency, attack, counter-attack, and others), its intensity, and so on. This kind of constructors were really popular back in the day, and I enjoyed playing with them a lot. Being part of the Heliborne’s team means that I can say “I want this feature back” and make it happen. It’s just like buying yourself a Christmas present 😉
Many thanks to Rassan for his time. You can check out our review of Heliborne here, on Wargamer.