• Santiago Cuberos

Interview: The Making of Ace Thunder Zero

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

War Thunder is a game well known for a lot of reasons. From its impressively extensive line-up of vehicles to the drama that happens from time to time in the community from unbalanced tiers or broken features that eventually get patched out, until the next patch where the cycle repeats.

But inside of the War Thunder community there is a smaller group that strives to use the game in other ways, to modify it and use its engine for their own community creations. The modders of War Thunder always try to push the boundaries of what is possible in this free-to-play game by creating everything from their own custom missions to more complex mods like custom aircraft and vehicles and sharing them for everyone to enjoy.

To date, the most complex mod of them all is Ace Thunder Zero. This mod is, in my opinion, the single most amazing piece of content that the War Thunder community has ever put out. Today we talk with its main developer and the person behind the vision that made this project possible, Avarik, to get a little more perspective as to how complex this mod really is and what it took to make it a reality.

Q: What made you get into modding War Thunder or just modding in general? Did you have any help or someone that helped you learn the ropes?

A: I've got into modding in War Thunder from my desire to create cinematics.

I first started to learn the ropes of the Mission Editor back when Gaijin Entertainment opened up user missions to online custom battles, I joined the group of mission creators who were the first beta testers of that functionality, from then I played around a lot with the mission editor and learnt to utilize actions and conditions more efficiently, and I have lightly touched at modifying existing units in War Thunder for some of my earlier cinematics.

But my first true experience with modding the game was when I was making Battle Thunder 1944, a recreation of Battlefield 1942's intro cinematic, it was my first attempt at exporting a model to War Thunder and my first true experience at modding the game, where I modified and created custom units so that I could create most of the scenes using both myself and the AI to make them as accurate as possible. It took me about 3 or so months to finish, but I learnt valuable information from it and from there I continued to develop my experience and knowledge of the War Thunder CDK and the Dagor engine in general.

I did have help to learn the ropes from another guy who I was working on the mod with, RideR2, but also other fellow people in the CDK community, Gallonmate in particular who taught me how to export 3d models into War Thunder, and when I couldn't find some answers I turned to datamining and reverse engineering existing configurations, which helped me develop my own methods for more serious modding.

Gaijin Entertainment themselves have also been fundamentally involved in helping me learn how to us their tools, when I didn't know how to do something that wasn't available on their wiki or I failed to datamine myself, I turned to them directly, their developers are amazing people who love to share their knowledge, I wouldn't have known half of what I know if not for them.

Q: This has got to be the most complex mod out there for War Thunder as of now,

congratulations on finally getting out there. But I have got to ask, with so many features, for

how long were you working on this mod? Did you ever think about giving up at some time?

ADFX-02 Morgan with Pixy's livery.

A: It took me approximately 1.5 years on and off to create this mod, I work in the gaming industry myself and my job takes a considerable amount of my time so I spent most of my free time developing Ace Thunder Zero, it was a long ride but I feel it was worth the effort.

I didn't really think about giving up, but my original pitch was actually to just continue to create cinematics, but when I saw the overwhelming amount of people who wanted to play with the exported models I figured I might as well try to make an actual proper mod for War Thunder with a higher production value than most mods, RideR2 joined me in this endeavour after showing interest in creating an arcade-like game mode for War Thunder, and Ace Combat was clearly the best choice for this game mode.

It isn't a secret that I've invested both time and money into this, I didn't want to just create a visual mod or a simple one, I wanted to create a mod with a story-line and completely new game mechanics, that is what kept me forward from giving up.

Q: Where there any features that were particularly hard to implement or ones in which you had to take a creative approach in order to make it work?

Promotional material for the mod.

A: The one thing that ended up being hard to make it work properly were the SAM, TLS and MPBM. Originally, ground and naval units in War Thunder could not fire rockets or missiles properly without some workarounds, and this is to an extent true to aircraft as well.

Me and RideR2 discovered that, if we bind the weapon group of the missile to that of a standard weapon, and make the AI also fire a dummy gun, it will make them fire a missile too, that is how we were able to get SAM units to work.

The TLS was mostly an easy implementation, but as more patches came out for War Thunder, the more broken it became, at some point the laser stopped doing damage and we were forced to add another invisible weapon to compensate for that, which worked out well in the end as we were able to more easily balance the damage the TLS did. It also currently only renders in cockpit view, yet it still functions normally in any other view and will damage enemies correctly.

The MPBM was mostly an easy implementation, but we ran into some issues with the blast radius until we figured out we can override the game's normal parameters by removing the explosive type the weapon would use, making it purely dependent on blast radius and explosive mass.

Q: As far as I understand there were other people involved in the making of this mod. Who are

they and what did they do?

A: Originally it was just me and RideR2, me being the 3D model/animation guy expert who created custom assets and also the one who used the CDK for asset utilization and the main mission creator, while RideR2 was the guy who did most of the configuration and template creations and made all units and weaponry behave the way they did, he also created The Gauntlet mission. I've also received major help from RythusOmega and Dantofu when it comes to handling models from Ace Combat 7, if not for them I wouldn't have started doing Ace Combat cinematics and later on the Ace Thunder mod.

Besides me and RideR2, there were a lot of other people who contributed the following:

  • Net-Zone: Broken Accord's OST

  • GaMetal: The Gauntlet's OST

  • Pandramodo: Trailer creation

  • njmksr: ADFX-02 skins

  • leroyonly: Dracul, MiG-21 & Potato skins

  • reyhael: Normal mapping

  • mobiusu14: Briefing Screen

  • mothman47: Briefing Narrator

  • Flipped StuG: AWWNB Pilot 1

  • Essi: Escudo 2

  • Ronan Yakowitz: AWACS

  • Sick2Day: Savage 1 & AI skins

  • The Iron Armenian aka G.I. Haigs: Savage 2

  • Michiganon: Osean Army Platoon

  • Optical Ilyushin: Halo 1

  • Yimie Yu: Halo 4 and Grau Team emblem artwork

  • Lt Rainbow Slash: Dracul 1 -

  • Ac3ofNight: Grau 3

  • Flaschengeist: Grau 2

  • Dane Ewell / SwissChicken: Grau 1

  • Eclipse: Grau 4

  • Atsuk0: Tester

  • lnVader: Tester

  • Killerofal: Tester

  • Vulpinaut: Tester

  • MikeGoesBoom: Tester

  • Roach: Tester