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Silent Hunter IV: The Course Ahead

Dev Team Interview by Neal Stevens,
SH4 Survey Questions by the Subsim Community
August 23, 2006

Silent Hunter 4: Wolves of the Pacific takes players to the depths of the Pacific Ocean as the skipper of an American submarine. Immersed in this intense environment with the help of amazing graphics and sound, players will engage in massive battles with enemy units, manage and evolve an entire submarine crew, and earn promotions and commendations to ensure victory in the Pacific.

Subsim: welcome back to Subsim. Let’s get the introductions out of the way, what are your titles and roles with the latest in the Silent Hunter series?

SH4 Dev Team: Dan Dimitrescu - Lead Game Designer and Cristian Hriscu-Badea - Game Designer & 3D Artist


Subsim: It’s been over a year since Silent Hunter III left port. Looking back, what is your overall impression of the game, the players’ reactions, and the critical acclaim?

SH4 Dev Team: The game was well received by both reviewers and community. We think that we pushed the Naval Sim one step further and at this moment SHIII owns its place in the Naval Sims Hall of Fame. Of course, there is room for improvements in terms of game play, realism and quality of design but an important step was made and we are happy that the game was successful in the end.


Subsim: Back in June 2005 CNN quoted the NPD Group’s April sales numbers at 26,600 units. Is that accurate? What does Ubisoft claim for sales numbers for SH3 to date?

SH4 Dev Team: The best thing about a simulation title is that the amount of sales tends to remain constant each month. SHIII sells well even one year after its release. We estimate Silent Hunter 3 sold over 300,000 copies worldwide.


Subsim: At some point was it imperative to the dev team to modify SH3 to include a world-wide dynamic campaign, and even more importantly, for Florin and the dev team to sell this idea to Ubisoft management and marketing. How does Ubisoft’s management view the decision now, considering the dynamic campaign was embraced by the subsim community?

SH4 Dev Team: To delay a project for 6 months to build in a dynamic campaign was a risky move but after serious consideration both the team and management accepted it was needed in order for SH3 to become the benchmark submarine simulation. Of course, no one is pleased when a delay of six months is involved, but in the end the results were worth it.


Subsim: What feature or aspect of SH3 do you feel has been overlooked—what part of the game have players and reviewers seemed not to notice?

SH4 Dev Team: It’s hard for even the slightest feature to remain unnoticed with a bunch of deep-digging players such as the Subsim community. There are features--such as the realistic and complex TDC--that are noticed but rarely fully understood. But even for those, there is the exceptional player who will take the time to dig in, write a tutorial on it, and spread the news to all the rest.


Subsim: Players have found a few Easter eggs in SH3—the guy fishing on the pier, the worker having trouble placing a bucket on a scaffold; are there still some surprises out there?

SH4 Dev Team: Look at the box with the U2 Irish band logo near that weird submarine that appears on quay without any reasonable explanations. The weird submarine is an Easter egg in itself cause we can’t see any crane that can lift those tons of metal on a dock in front of a small peaceful house.


Subsim: How about the Captain’s locker? Who has the key?

SH4 Dev Team: We have the key and inside it are two bottles of cognac and a rusty gun. So far, the captain has found no reason to open the locker, but who knows what the future will bring?


AI Bot running SUBSIM, what could go wrong?!

Subsim: Let’s talk about Silent Hunter IV. Producer Florin Boitor has struck out on his own now. Over the last year the SH3 dev team has been split up and working on other projects. Now Ubisoft is gearing up for SH4. How many of the SH3 vets are assembled for the new game? Is Mihai Enescu aboard? Tiberius Lazar?

SH4 Dev Team: Many of the veterans of the Atlantic campaign are still with us and yes, Mihai Enescu is one of them. As for Tiberius he is now assigned to a new mission on another project. As is the case with all us veterans, the experience of a project of this complexity will serve him well in the future.


Subsim: SH4 returns the subsim player to the original Silent Hunter theater…the Pacific. American subs. Fighting the Imperial Japanese Navy. Gato Fleet class subs racing through shallow harbors to torpedo Marus. Does that describe the overall scope of Silent Hunter IV?

SH4 Dev Team: What is there to say? Silent Hunter IV is indeed about American fleet boats in the Pacific and we aim to give them a representation at least as good as SH3 gave the U-boats. As an all-encompassing goal, we try to make the game more interesting and spectacular to players of all levels. So, while keeping our well established historical accuracy levels, we’ll boost the atmosphere, improve the way the campaign unfolds and enrich player’s experience.


Subsim: Will SH4 be a full game or an add-on to SH3?

SH4 Dev Team: SH4 will be a full, separate product that will not require SH3 to be played.


Subsim: Does SH4 use the game engine from SH3?

SH4 Dev Team: The base of SH4 is the SH3 engine but some parts of the code had to be re-written from scratch. This will ensure that the game is easier to upgrade later and extend through expansion packs or further products. And, of course, there are dozens of improvements. We have the next generation here.


Subsim: Now, I know that actual work on the game is in the early stages so there may be features that are planned but do not make the game. With that in mind, what new features are you planning for SH4? Additional compartments? More engineering functions? New crew interaction and management activities?

SH4 Dev Team: First of all, crew management will have a different approach. We’ll go into detail on another occasion but it will require much less babysitting while still providing interesting choices and give depth to the men "powering" your submarine. It’s based on three watches system, a simplified version of what was in theory taking place onboard US fleet boats of the time.

There are many other features to be discovered but one of the most important we think will be the addition of a new multiplayer mode. We are very excited about it and believe this will boost interest in online games immensely.

Last, but not least, we’re aiming for a different campaign experience. Special objectives, events and many little (or not quite so little) things will serve to make each patrol memorable and unique.


Subsim: So, what's the main improvement planned for multiplayer?

SH4 Dev Team: The addition of an adversarial multiplayer mode – escort’s commander vs. player wolf pack – will greatly enhance the competition feeling and the online appeal. Also, we feel that multiplayer will be more stable overall.


Subsim: What other improvements can the players expect?

SH4 Dev Team: The most striking improvements will be in the graphics department, where the water and weather have gained a facelift. The ships are totally out of this world, so to speak. Multi-channel rendering with normal and occlusion maps, combined with higher poly counts and larger textures have greatly improved the look of our game.


Subsim: How about port activity? Do you plan to make changes there? Bolster commercial ship activity? Home port activity? Pilot escorts?

SH4 Dev Team: Pilot escorts on the way out are difficult to do but we have not written it out. Port activity, as a whole, should be better. It should also be easier to edit through several new editor features that we’re developing.


Subsim: The original Silent Hunter included special missions such as pilot rescue and reconnaissance. Are these type of objectives planned for SH4?

SH4 Dev Team: SH4 will have both lifeguard duty and photo recon missions. And these will not be the only special missions in the game. You can expect commando insertions or supply drops to be required by HQ.


Subsim: SH3 was roundly criticized for the paucity of varied radio messages and traffic. Players familiar with the history of the US sub campaign in the Pacific will expect to receive Ultra messages and occasional directives from HQ. How is this being addressed in SH4?

SH4 Dev Team: The radio will be much more active this time around and the radio interface will be better, too. Players will be able to tune their radios to different stations (Tokyo, Moscow, Washington, etc), listen to music and receive news when the time is right. Concerning patrols and interaction with COMSUBPAC, we’re developing a mechanism to ensure feedback and directives from HQ without resorting to heavy scripting. We expect no one will feel alone at sea anymore.


Subsim: Will the SH4 player be able to tune in to Tokyo Rose?

SH4 Dev Team: To Radio Tokyo, yes, not sure if the Rose will be on, though.


Subsim: Which class of US subs are planned to be included?

SH4 Dev Team: The main types of subs we’re putting in are P-class, Salmon, Tambor and Gato. Obviously, the variations of these classes will be represented in detail, as with SH3.


Subsim: Will Japanese subs be included?

SH4 Dev Team: With the current time for development we are not able to model Japanese subs, so we are very sorry to announce that this feature will not be available in the game.


Subsim: Describe the campaign feature. Will SH4 have the same style dynamic campaign that was successful with SH3?

SH4 Dev Team: No, of course not. We’ll have a much better campaign this time. We’ll do this, among other methods, through more varied patrol objectives and constant interaction with COMSUBPAC and special events that serve to keep you on your toes even in the middle of nowhere.


Subsim: There are geographic aspects of the Pacific war that are distinctly different than the U-boats Atlantic war, such as numerous shoals and reefs, uncharted areas (marked on the maps as "dangerous ground", etc.), and countless islands. Describe how SH4 will capitalize on these areas.

SH4 Dev Team: You can’t have most of the special missions without wading in shallow waters, where there is not much room to dive into when trouble comes! The game will take players close to land on many occasions, especially, but not only, in the SUBSOWESPAC command area.


Subsim: Another thing that US subs had to contend with that was not a factor for U-boats was the phosphorescence of sub and torpedo wakes. In certain areas, at certain times, US subs at high speed would leave a glowing trail. Does the dev team want to get this in the game?

SH4 Dev Team: It is not clear at this time if we can fully implement such a feature --meaning that it would have an impact on AI in addition to visual effect. It would be cool, though.


Subsim: Will the player begin the game on Dec. 7, 1941 in Pearl Harbor?

SH4 Dev Team: Pearl Harbor is the start line of SH4. It is not decided at this moment whether we’ll allow the player to go on patrol a few days early – as it would be historically accurate.


Subsim: Unlike the German U-boat war, the US Navy was involved in a number of large-scale naval engagements, such as Midway, Battle of Coral Sea, Battle of the Philippine Sea, the Okinawa Invasion, etc. To what degree with major battles be a part of the SH4 Single Missions and Campaign?

SH4 Dev Team: All the major battles in pacific theater of operations will be represented and player may have a role in them. We’re not forcing him in the area in any way, but very successful players may receive orders related to those operations.


Subsim: Which languages with SH4 be localized for? English…..and ?

SH4 Dev Team: English and German for sure. The other localizations will be decided later.


Subsim: There has been a tremendous amount of mod activity in the Subsim forums. Which mods have given the dev team ideas to improve and refine SH4? Any mods that the dev team would like to adopt?

SH4 Dev Team: The dev team has been in contact with select members of the subsim community and provided feedback and/or advice regarding certain mods. We feel the community has done a great deal to improve the world of the game and adjust the game play to suit certain realism-oriented players. We appreciate all effort put into our game and are especially looking at the interface mods to see what the players felt was needed and missing in the game.


Subsim: What target release date has Ubisoft set for Silent Hunter IV?

SH4 Dev Team: Q1 2007



Player questions from Subsim SH4 Survey


Henk Wissink, 62, Nederlands: How is the escort sonar degraded in case of speed, convoy noise level, and depth charge explosions?

SH4 Dev Team: We already made some escort sensors alteration in SH3. Here you have a short list with parameters that are took in consideration by various sensors:


  • Range
  • Wave height
  • Exposed surface of the searched unit

Visual sensors:

  • Range
  • Fog
  • Light (positions of light and searched unit)
  • Wave height
  • Exposed surface of the searched unit
  • Speed of the searcher


  • Range
  • Wave height
  • Noise level of the searched unit
  • Speed of the searcher


  • Range
  • Wave Heights
  • Exposed surface of the searched unit
  • Speed of the searcher


Txema, 32, Spain: Could you make SH4 compatible with SH3 in such a way that the engine improvements introduced in SH4 could be used in the SH3 campaign and missions?

SH4 Dev Team: The engine of SH3 is not compatible with improvements from SH4. There are parts in SH4 that needed to be rewritten in order to improve and add some game play aspects.

AI Bot running SUBSIM, what could go wrong?!


Duchiron, 41, France: Did you plan to add a human manned destroyer (aka Destroyer Command 2) to SH4?

SH4 Dev Team: Not direct control, but as you can see in another answer above, we plan of giving command of enemy escort forces – during multiplayer – to a human.


James Kidd, 48, Great Britain: Does Ubisoft plan to have any feedback from actual submarine veterans during the game’s development?

SH4 Dev Team: Historical and technical accuracy, where it can be achieved, is one of our goals with Silent Hunter IV. Therefore, we’ll always look to obtain feedback, information and advice from real life submariners and veterans of the war that the game portrays.


John, 45, Great Britain: Given the long transit times between port and the front, how will time compression be dealt with in, say, the central Pacific?

SH4 Dev Team: At this moment we make some test with 4096X but the player will need a powerful PC to deal with the amount of calculation involved. We need to make more tests and checks in order to be sure that this 4096X time compression is crash free and accurate.


Ken Ho, 31, Japan: Can a Japanese submarine be controlled?

SH4 Dev Team: Negative, Japanese submarines will not be player controllable for SHIV.


Ivica Paulisic, 30, Croatia: Will we have the opportunity to attack within a wolfpack and meet AI subs, too?

SH4 Dev Team: We know this feature is highly important for the community and so it is to us – even though Wolfpacks were more prominent in the Atlantic than in the PTO. We have it on our list for additional features, we are studying it, and if time allows, it will make it in the game.


David Drysdale, 28, Canada: I loved the 3d rendered control room, it really added to the atmosphere. Will you be expanding the amount internal 3d locations in the sub?

SH4 Dev Team: For now, the stations will remain the same. We still believe that captain’s job keeps him in the command and attack center of the sub most of the time. Would it be cool to be able to walk the whole sub and watch Torpedomates do their job? Yes! But at what cost in development?


Michael Patton, 53, US: Are you going to start the war prior to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor & is Pearl Harbor going to be an operating submarine base?

SH4 Dev Team: The war will always start with Pearl Harbor, we can’t change that. And so will our campaign. The full list of bases to be included as starting points for player’s campaign sorties is not decided yet.


Eric Thornton, 31, US: I would like to see Radio traffic, Fox broadcasts, Tokyo Rose, and Ultras from ComSubPac as well! Will this be in the game?

SH4 Dev Team: We will have an improved radio traffic and also Tokyo radio. Further details will be known at a later date.


Brent Scharbor, 34, US: I trust others will have better questions than what I can come up with. Thanks for bringing The Hunt to the common man!

SH4 Dev Team: Well, thanks for making SH3 a success and keeping it alive all this time!

Cristian Hriscu-Badea
Education: Arts University "George Enescu" of Iasi (Acting - Drama Class). Started working in the video games industry in 1996, joined Ubisoft in July 1999. Involved in Ubisoft's projects concerning the game design, 3D modelling and VisualFX. Suzuki rider. Keeps leaving his Subsim Battle Mug where others steal it.
Dan Dimitrescu
Dan joined Ubisoft at the start of 2004. His previous work experience includes four years as journalist for the Romanian magazines PC Gaming and XtremPC, and three as game designer for the Romanian developer FunLabs. Dan is mostly a sim and war-game guy, with favourites such as Falcon 4, EAW, Close Combat and OFP.


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