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IL-2 Sturmovik The famous combat flight simulator.

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Old 03-04-2009, 12:58 AM
luthier luthier is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Moscow, Russia
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Default Oleg's Russian Interview Translated

Most of you have probably seen this interview by now. It contains some interesting pictures, including many never before seen. Oleg asked me to translate it into English to save everyone the headache of trying to make sense of online translations. So here it is!

Part I

«The accomplishment I’m most proud of is the fact that people in the West finally began to properly call the Il-2 a Shturmovik and not a Stormovik»
--Oleg Maddox

We have a special guest at «spread wings» today, Oleg Maddox, the creator of the famous IL-2 Sturmovik flight sim. Il-2 entered the lives of many people around the world a few years ago. It set a new quality standard for products of this kind, and we can be certain that no one will manage to meet it in the near future. Now virtual pilots anxiously await a new simulator from Maddox Games titled «Storm of War: Battle of Britain». Based on what we know, it should impress us even more than Il-2. We talked with Oleg about «Battle of Britain», the impact Il-2 had, his future, and many other things that may be of interest to virtual pilots everywhere.

Q: Oleg, Il-2 had a very long lifespan for a flight simulator, probably the longest ever. What do you expect from BoB? Will it break Il-2’s longevity record?

A: Battle of Britain was specifically designed to have an even bigger growth potential than Il-2. Only time will tell whether it does manage to survive as long as Il-2. I would like that very much.

Q: When developing Il-2 and BoB, how do you balance the two opposites, avoiding the tendency to move towards arcade simplicity on one hand, while also not allowing your work to drift into a complicated study sim with every button and switch having to be operated with the mouse?

A: That’s simple. I always keep in mind my huge experience interacting with users all over the world. The overriding principle is this. We would all like to fly an aircraft that's been modeled as close to reality as possible. However, pressing all the little buttons and switches is something only the select few enjoy. I know plenty of real-world pilots who aren’t interested in the minutia. Even the people who are interested in this will usually just try it once, and then they’ll turn it off in the options. As a pilot friend of mine said, “I’m interested in the pleasure of flight, not the masochism of pre-flight.”

Q: Oleg, you’ve previously said that after Battle of Britain is released, you could be open to passing the IL-2 source code to third parties for future development, with your quality control. Are there any updates on the issue?

A: So far we have received no viable offers.

Q: Il-2 offered nearly 300 flyable WWII-era planes from Allied and Axis countries. We would be very interested to learn of the participation of real veterans of the war, what they fought of the sim, and how close it was in their opinion to the real feel of WWII aerial combat. Do you have any anecdotes on this subject? Were there any cases of former enemies meeting in your virtual skies?

A: We have consulted with numerous combat veterans, including many from WWII. However we’ve received the most valuable feedback from contemporary pilots who fly vintage aircraft today and are also experienced with flight simulators. We work with several of them. The feedback we’ve received from veterans across the board was the same. Il-2 was the best out of everything they’ve tried. They of course understand that all flight sims have limitations, and 100% realism is impossible by definition, despite the fact that some other developers attempt to make claims to that… Generally, the feedback from testers and advisors of this kind is most valuable, since only they can describe their impression of the intimate details of the plane’s behavior.
Regarding WWII veterans, unfortunately we only have feedback from them from the West. One such quote is printed in the Forgotten Battles manual. They mostly thank us for the opportunity to go back to the spirit of those days, and to show their grandsons how they fought. One of our fans from Germany wrote to me about how his grandfather took time to learn the PC specifically to be able to fly Il-2. I also have a greeting card from one of the most famous German aces. All the pilots do agree on one other thing, that a table-mounted joystick feels very different from a floor-mounted control stick. They do agree that our recommended control settings are best at minimizing this difference.

Q: We know that BoB will have player interacting with ground-based radar, which should be very interesting. Is there anything being done about setting up online crews for multi-seat aircraft in BoB, something that was sorely missing from Il-2? This would greatly increase the interest in bombers in the game.

A: You will be able to do that, to set up multi crews both online and offline.

Q: You’ve previously stated in an interview that BoB will have 11 [flyable] aircraft. Did that number change?

A: No, it did not change. But this is not counting all the sub-variants.

Q: You’ve also previously stated that BoB will ship with a single gameplay map for all the combat of the period. What set of maps will be provided for online gameplay?

A: We will have addiotional small maps for online. I don’t know how many yet. As many as we can do.

Q: Another question about online maps. As a server host, I’ve never felt I had enough of them with Il-2. Murmansk, Burma, Leningrad: those maps were great due to their huge span, attention to detail, and the number of objects and points of interest. However for the very same reasons they were useless for online servers. Why did you decide not to make small versions of those maps for online games, released simultaneously with large offline maps? And with extra airfields, of course? It would be great if BoB had the possibility of creating your own grass and concrete fields when editing online maps. Will that be possible? Test runways as they exist in Il-2 are, unfortunately, not enough to create a full-fledged airfield.

A: This is actually hard work. However, with Il-2 technology, we couldn't just cut up an exiting map, we'd have to create whole new maps. Our technology did not permit us to easily cut things out.
With BoB, you will be able to create your own online maps. This means entire maps from start to finish, including airfields. But this will happen after the main release. We’ll release authoring tools later, as soon as we can, including map creation tools, object insertion tools, etc. Generally, things here will be much better than with Il-2.

Q: Will the server part of BoB be released simultaneously with the game?

A: Of course

Q: What will change with the ground object damage model in BoB? Ground vehicles in Il-2 do not always act as their real counterparts can be expected to, based on their characteristics, characteristics of the attacking plane, and the specifics of the ordnance used.

A: Calculations will be more precise.

Q: We are also aware of the statement you’ve made a long time ago about rough estimation of system requirements for BoB. You’ve said it will run well on a machine that can comfortably run Il-2 at max settings. Do you have a better defined set of system requirements for BoB?

A: Not yet. It’s impossible to say at this point. Things are very fluid.

Q: When playing Il-2 offline, many commented on inadequate AI behavior. Completing offline campaigns offered little excitement for that very reason. Will the quality of AI change with BoB?

A: Oh really? Have you seen better AI in any other sim? Generally, it was offline gameplay that drove most of our sales, and not the online modes. Of course, it’s more exciting to fly against a live opponent. AI will be smarter in BoB. We’ll even consider whether the pilot is tired or hurt, whether he’s a good shot or a master of aerobatics, and whether he’s a trooper or a coward. Other things, too… I’ve said too much already

Q: Realistic modeling of small details is impossible without original drawings and archival data. How do you work with archives here in Russia and in other countries? Are they willing to cooperate? How is that aspect set up in your team? How important is it to you to work with third parties in Il-2 and BoB, and how interested are you in such cooperation?

A: We probably have much better contacts with people who have their own private collections of data than with government archives. Third party assistance is crucial in our process. Whether it’s international or here in Russia, all work with archives has the same basis: pay money and you can access anything they’ve got. No money, no help.

Q: After the Il-2 code was cracked, how seriously do you approach security when designing BoB? Will this be an entirely new protection scheme, or an improvement of the Il-2 method?

A: Online protection code will be all new. However, the sim code itself will not be protected as much, in order to allow others to create their own add-ons. This will not affect fairness online. We’re taking special measures for that. [Luthier’s note: standard set of features for online games will be protected and unchangeable; each online server will choose whether to only allow these locked Maddox-approved features, or whether to also allow user mods.]

Q: Did you consider gameplay balance when designing Il-2? Did you try to keep all sides balanced, or did you not concern yourself with that, and simply work in stages to add new planes to the game without worrying how they might affect the balance of power? How will this be addressed in BoB?

A: We never thought about balance for a second. We modeled whatever we had good data on that permitted us to have a sufficiently accurate representation in game. There have always been rumors that we specifically fiddle with performance characteristics or select specific planes in order to maintain online balance. We did change things, that’s true. But we didn’t do that for balance, but rather to conform to new more accurate data as we gained access to it.
The same will be the case with BoB. We won’t balance anything to keep the sides equal online. Anyway, it’s not the plane, it’s the pilot. You win by working together in a group, using superior tactics, and knowing your plane’s capabilities.

Q: Online server commanders from external developers are now used online. Are you planning to release an online commander of your own with BoB?

A: We’re planning it. Don’t know it’ll be right away.

Q: What new or different things will be see in BoB online compared to Il-2? Any surprises?

A: Pretty much only the Dogfight mode will remain from Il-2, and even that will be updated.

Q: Oleg, we have some intel that the next add-on after BoB will be the Mediterranean. Can you let us know how soon that’ll be released? And another even more important question: how soon after BoB can we expect the Eastern Front again, and what are you planning for it?

A: Your intel is nothing but a rumor. Even I myself don’t know whether it’ll be Africa or something else. Everything depends on the success of BoB on the market. Of course, no one has done a comprehensive MTO sim, save for a few unfinished or unsuccessful attempts. Eastern Front or the Pacific will perhaps be the most difficult to develop out of all options. So you should probably not expect to fly Soviet planes immediately after BoB.

Q: Is the worldwide economic crisis affecting the development or quality of BoB? Can you generally tell us where you are in terms of progress?

A: Quality will not be affected. Timeline – we shall see. Right now we’re about 60% there, probably even more. [Luthier’s note: not 60% in terms of time, but 60% in terms of features.]

Q: Battle of Britain was a crucial point in British history. We know how the Brits feel about the battle and what it did to showcase their fighting spirit. Is the British government or other British entities aware of your work on this sim? What was their reaction? Are they providing any help?

A: Their reaction was positive. I think we’ll see some support from them in the final stages of development and after the release.

Q: Oleg, many virtual pilots know you as the person who created the most exciting virtual world, as the creator of Il-2. But not everyone knows that you have another passion in addition to aviation in photography, and that you’re a true professional there as well. So is this Oleg Maddox the photographer who also likes aviation, or Oleg Maddox the aviation enthusiast who also likes photography? What’s primary here, and how do you manage to combine the two? Also, do you have any other hobbies?

A: Photography is a hobby. Occasionally it does bring some extra income, when I get published in magazines or calendars. Most of my published work is my underwater photography. I was into photography and diving since childhood. There was a time when I completely abandoned both hobbies and did nothing but work. But thanks to my good friend Gena (Gennadich) I eventually got back into it. My skill with photography and my professional equipment helps me with work as well. For example, if I visit a museum, I’ll note the smallest detail of every aircraft, and know how to properly photograph it from the proper angles to make it easier to model in 3D. Such photographs are invaluable addition to blueprints. Seeing the world with a photographer’s eyes helps me strive for a photorealistic 3D world in my games, as much as possible given technological limitations of course.

Q: It’s no secret that Il-2 introduced many people to the world of aviation and changed their entire view of WWII and the Great Patriotic War. People went beyond simply flying and shooting. By studying historical aircraft they got into the overall time period, going well beyond aviation. For many, especially for young people, Il-2 became a starting point for their fascination with our country’s history and its place in the world. In other words, Il-2 was a patriotic injection of sorts, in the most positive sense of the word. Were these contributions to educating our youth somehow acknowledged by our government or some other organizations in this country?

A: As far as our side goes… Let’s say it this way. Employees of the Monino museum appreciated our work. Some wonderful people in Khanty-Mansiysk in Siberia who hold important government jobs also appreciated Il-2 and organized a large Il-2 competition. The military liked it. Especially in Byelorussia, as far as I know. But the government probably didn’t appreciate our contribution.
I will also add that Il-2 also played an important role in shaping international opinion of the Eastern Front of WWII. I’ve received numerous letters thanking me for this, including such quotes as “you’ve opened our eyes” and “we’ve finally seen the war’s history from a different perspective and learned things that had been suppressed or perverted in the West.” I’ve also received many letters from Germany for focusing on this part of the war that was almost unknown in the West. Generally, there were a lot of letters like that, from people of all ages, young and old.
The global outcome is that many English-language sources, books and TV documentaries, finally begin to call the Il-2 a Sturmovik (pronounced SHturmovik), and not a Stormovik. I consider that my biggest personal accomplishment. I’ve had to explain to western historians why it’s pronounced ‘Shturmovik’ too many times. The only people who said it right were the Germans, because the word Sturm in the plane’s name is of course of German origin. It entered the Russian language during the times of Peter the Great.

Q: The release of Il-2: 1946 added many prototype aircraft to the game, which was an interesting, risky step to take. Why did your team decide to go in that direction, into alternative history, rather than focus on adding some more historical WWII-era planes?

A: First of all, it wasn’t all that risky. We did have to show the world that the MiG-9 was awesome! Secondly, other developers have long promised to do this, but we finally did it right! Then, we needed to set the record straight for those who believed that some Luftwaffe projects could have taken to the air during the war, if only it lasted a little longer. For example with the Lerche we’ve shown, or rather written in the text, that based on modern calculations the plane wouldn’t even take off. It wouldn’t land either without computers and fly-by-wire controls. So we’ve recalculated a lot of specs and added computer-assisted controls. Generally we did try to model those planes that would actually fly, with the exception of the Lerche of course. We’ve also shown that a forward-swept wing would not have worked at the time, I've written about that as well I think. Junkers designs completed in Russia after the war showed just that by losing to Ilyushins. Technologies simply did not exist back then to counter the flutter. Although from the aerodynamic standpoint forward-swept wings do have their advantages, of course.

Q: You’ve mentioned in many interviews that your wife really helps you with work-related matters and inspires you. If that’s the case, can we ask if she’s ever flown Il-2, and if so, is she active online? The thing is, most Il-2 pilots being male, a lot of them experienced relationship problems due to the sim. Initial frustration on the female's part eventually either evolves into acceptance, since it’s obvious nothing can be done, or, which happens very rarely, the wife or girlfriend gets into Il-2 herself. So what does your wife think about this, not about your success, which probably can’t fail to impress any woman, but about your virtual flying and everything connected to it?

A: This reminds me of something. I was in the UK a few years ago attending a Flight Simulator show, dominated by Microsoft Flight Simulator stands and products. I’ve had a press conference on Forgotten Battles a little while before its release. About 300 people attended, which didn’t even fit the small conference hall. This was about 10 times as many as attended the Microsoft press conference an hour before.
I’ve spoken Russian during the conference, on purpose, and my good friend Ian Boys acted as an interpreter. After my speech I took some free questions, again assisted by Ian Boys. There was one question however where I didn’t wait for a translation and answered in English. The question was, what should a poor Il-2 fan do if his wife doesn’t let him play? My answer was very brief: get a new wife. The audience erupted in laughter. In any case, I’m very lucky to have my wife.

Q: Oleg, I understand that everything connected with development of Il-2 and BoB takes up a lot of time. However, do you still fly, or did you fly online in your spare time?

A: I used to fly online almost every day. Now I fly only occasionally, with my son, and offline. I fly about and line him up, then let him shoot. He can’t get enough of it. He can’t master the flying itself, the joystick is a bit too big for him. However, when just flying around, by now he knows what to do even without my help. At work I don’t even have Il-2 installed on my work computer, due to lack of space and all the time I spent on BoB. But some in my team do continue to fly Il-2 online all the time.

Q: Oleg, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. I’d like to wish you continuing good luck and may all your dreams come true. Thank you from all the sim fans worldwide for getting us hooked on the virtual and real skies.

A: Thank you! Good luck!

Questions asked by Aleksandr Kazakov (AleX)

Part II
Make sure to check out all the screenshots, and hit Play on the video down at the bottom of the page!

«Our main goal is to outdo ourselves.»
--Oleg Maddox

Today, Oleg Maddox answered the questions he didn’t have time to answer the last time. He also illustrated his answers with screenshots and a small video.[/b]

Q: Oleg, considering that your progress with Battle of Britain is over 60%, as you’ve said, we’re getting the impression that working on BoB is taking too long, for example compared to Il-2. Is that correct?

A: I wouldn’t say that. Il-2 Sturmovik was in development for 4 years before its 2001 release. First we built the engine, then everything else. Then we continued making various improvements and built a new 3D engine (the Perfect mode that shipped with Forgotten Battles was in fact a whole new 3D engine). All this work took another 4 years before Il-2 1946. That’s a total of 8 years, 4 of them spent on updates and expansions.

We initially wanted to make Battle of Britain on the Il-2 engine. However that would be the last thing we could do with it. And then what? The engine was beginning to show its age by that time, despite many revolutionary features which Il-2 brought to the genre in 2001, and which many developers have tried to replicate since. By 2005 we’ve finally realized that we had to build a new engine. First only one person worked on it, then two, all while continuing to work on Il-2 as well. We’ve really switched over to BoB only after all work on Il-2 was completed, i.e. in 2007. So BoB’s only been in development for 2 years now. It isn’t all that much compared to all the goals we’re trying to achieve. The tasks at hand are enormous. We want to outdo ourselves, and of course all those who claim that they’re better than Il-2 (which they finally get to claim years after we’ve stopped all work on the product). So far we haven’t even spent the time on BoB that we spent making the original Il-2.

Speaking of other developers, we’ve given one team the entire Il-2 source code a long time ago, and they were supposed to release their sim even before 1946 in order to turn a profit. However they decided instead to make their own engine, etc. It still drags on, so how long has that been in development now? I hope this example makes it clear to everyone that anything not based on an existing engine takes a lot of time.

Q: You’ve stated many times in previous interviews that BoB will be drastically different from the Il-2 series. What do you mean by that?

A: Not a very easy question to answer, but I’ll try to respond the best I can without divulging some secret information.

1. The engine and the system we’re developing is built from the ground up to allow future expansions. Each new product can be stand-alone, or it can plug in with the others starting with BoB, following the success of Pacific Fighters which proved that this model can be viable.

2. We’re developing a system that is more than just a flight sim, but can be a sub sim, PT boat sim, tank sim, helicopter sim, etc. By the way, we just might have a flyable autogyro in BoB.

3. We’re also writing a completely new, drastically improved online code with multiple modes and features. It can even support a server-based MMO with a monthly fee. This of course won’t happen with BoB itself, but is possible on its engine, possibly made by other teams that further develop into this direction.

4. Quality level for ground and air objects is ages beyond what was one with Il-2. I don’t think that such a huge leap will be possible after BoB; the only changes that can happen is increase in polycount or texture size, or more detailed interior details. Even Il-2 was often used as a reference by other developers, and BoB will even have uses for movies.

5. We’re working on an add-on and expansion module that will not affect the online playing field. After BoB is released we plan to publish a set of tools that will allow end-users to:
* Create new planes;
* Create new vehicles, tanks, ships, etc;
* Create new static objects, such as building, bridges, equipment, etc;
* Create new maps, with limits on total size. We’ll leave large maps for ourselves, for our own new sims.

Of course, to do any of that end users will need to have experience with other 3rd party software, such as 3D modeling suites. There are a lot of people that have the required skills around the world, of course, including right here in this country.

Even just the few details I’ve listed above should give you an idea of all the possibilities we have with BoB. One of the consequences is that a whole industry can pop up around BoB similar to that around Microsoft Flight Simulator, creating add-ons for it, also considering the online fairness with BoB. We can also expect a large number of new aircraft to become available soon after BoB’s release, including Soviet planes. One Russian plane will even ship with BoB, the Su-26. We’ve built it following many requests from pilots around the world. Many in the West are also asking for the Yak-52. You can see how different BoB will be from Il-2 in this respect. In Il-2 we had to develop or insert all new objects ourselves, specifically for the purposes of maintaining cheater-free online gameplay. Remember that we’ve released a huge number of these add-ons for free.

Q: Will there be free expansions for BoB, like there were for Il-2? Or will all expansions be commercial, considering the current state of the economy?

A: We will definitely continue releasing free expansions. However we won’t be able to do as much as before. We’ll adopt more of other people’s work and include them in the standard cheater-free online list. But it’s a bit too early to talk about this. However, we do have one plane already in the works for just such a free expansion.

Q: Let’s go back to BoB maps once again. This is a very exciting topic. How will they be different from Il-2 maps?

A: First of all, they will be more detailed. This means all sorts of small details you will notice in flight, with terrain, buildings, roads, etc. Not exactly on topic of maps, but we’ll also have moving grass. Secondly, we will have dynamic weather. This is actually on topic of maps. Even though the weather is handled by a separate weather module, it’ll be tied into the gameplay maps and affected by topography. Thirdly, we’ll have more detailed coastlines. We’ll now have cliffs, not just flat painted textures, but with real elevation. Next, our roads will have smooth curves of various profiles, which will immediately make the terrain look more realistic. In conjunction with new photorealistic textures, new technologies, new light and shading, all of the above will work together to create something that from the air looks really, really close to reality.

Q: And now Oleg, please go into more details on your thoughts of the future of Storm of War compared to Il-2, given the potential you’ve built into the engine from the start.

A: Considering what I’ve said already, and given an initial commercial success of BoB, here’s what I see:

1. Some number of developers internationally that worked with MSFS, and probably a large part of them too, will convert to our side. This is especially to be expected considering the recent closing of Aces studio. So these add-on developers might just start making add-ons for Storm of War. I think this might even include jets, including modern ones. At the very least I would expect someone to do Vietnam, not to mention WWI. This should happen too. Generally WWI aircraft are easier to model and program, since they don’t have such complex aerodynamics, no retractable landing gear, propeller pitch, and other advanced devices. There’s also no radio, which means there’s no need to develop and record radio chatter.

2. Korea, in conjunction with RRG. Its development is now in background mode. Their team is now working with us finishing up planes for BoB, and also modeling ships.

3. Africa, Malta, USSR. These are most appealing choices for us. Even though we know for sure that the Pacific is the most interesting subject matter for the international market, besides Battle of Britain that is. Generally the Eastern Front is a bit easier for us to do since we have loads more data on it, and there’s less variety of vehicles and aircraft to model than all the other fronts.

4. Continuing combat around the English Channel, which will largely be made via expansions since we’ll already have the main map.

5. Cooperation with other teams to create other games (perhaps by selling the engine). For example, an MMO with controllable soldiers and submarines etc. Or even a space sim around planet surfaces with somewhat realistic physics

6. Console variants with simplified features.

Q: Virtually all flight sim fans graduate to online modes after first flying offline campaigns and earning their triple HSUs or Oak Leaves. This will probably be the case with BoB as well. So, how different will offline campaigns be in BoB compared to Il-2?

A: I’ll answer briefly for now:

1. An entire new dynamic campaign engine, often with unpredictable results and random elements. So far this still needs lots of testing and fine-tuning.

2. Possibility of creating static campaign missions with random branching, if so desired by the end-user.

We’ll leave the second option for end-user add-ons. Creating campaigns like that is more historically realistic. However even the first option will have some user-modifiable options, and it may even permit users to make their own add-ons.

Q: Oleg, what is your favorite plane in Il-2? In BoB?

A: Hard to say. With the huge number of options of Il-2, I did mostly prefer the Bf-109K-4, if it was allowed on a server. Occasionally I liked to boom-n-zoom in Focke-Wulfs and in the I-185, whenever I saw that I was the smartest one in the dogfight and everyone else was circling around down below.
With BoB, I will probably prefer the Spitfire, at least in the beginning before other planes become available. Out of the more exotic, I’ll definitely enjoy the autogyro with its completely unique flying technique. We’ve even involved a real autogyro pilot in our development. And if we do make the second crewman taking potshots at 109s with a rifle, that’ll be very British indeed! By the way, the autogyro will be very difficult to shoot down due to its extreme low speed.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Oleg! We simply can’t wait for BoB, and look forward for more interviews. Good luck!

A: Thank you!

Questions asked by Aleksandr Kazakov (AleX)
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Old 03-04-2009, 01:21 AM
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Macwan Macwan is offline
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Thanks Luthier !

Best Regards,

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Old 03-04-2009, 02:13 AM
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tagTaken2 tagTaken2 is offline
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Fantastic, thanks a lot!

Sadly, it's become quite rare to hear from Oleg, so a good interview is a real treat.
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Old 03-04-2009, 03:09 AM
=815=TooCooL =815=TooCooL is offline
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Old 03-04-2009, 03:28 AM
96th_Nightshifter 96th_Nightshifter is offline
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Thanks Luthier, much easier to pick up on all the details with a proper translation.

Much appreciated.
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Old 03-04-2009, 04:02 AM
Billy885 Billy885 is offline
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Thanks a bunch Luthier!
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Old 03-04-2009, 06:35 AM
Skoshi Tiger Skoshi Tiger is offline
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Thankyou for all the effort luthier.
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Old 03-04-2009, 06:59 AM
wjc103 wjc103 is offline
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Thanks for the update, and in response to one of the answers, please at some point get us to the Pacific.
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Old 03-04-2009, 06:59 AM
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wheelsup_cavu wheelsup_cavu is offline
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Thanks Luthier.

Much appreciated.

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Old 03-04-2009, 07:21 AM
Feuerfalke Feuerfalke is offline
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Thanks for sharing!

Sounds very promising!
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