Understanding the anti-air guns mechanics used in World of Warplanes is not easy even for the skilled players who have several thousand battles on their profile. How does the AA gun pick a target? How does it deal damage? How can I evade fire? Read on for some answers!
In the Closed Beta test days the AA guns used the same mechanics as the forward-facing armament on the aircraft. That was realistic but created several problems for gameplay. Since the anti-air damage scales with the tier of the battle, at higher tiers it could shoot down an aircraft with a single hit. That’s not a player-friendly behavior at all, won’t you agree? On the other hand when the aircraft maneuvered the AA guns missed constantly and dealt no damage, which again was a cause for concern. Finally, a dozen or so AA guns that need the server to calculate all their shooting algorithms in addition to 30 aircraft already in the battle caused too much load on the game server.
As a result we designed a drastically different mechanics that is used today.
First of all, every AA gun has a so called “table of priorities” which contains all the aircraft in its shooting range. The gun picks a target from this table based on its class (for example, the Attack Aircraft cause more “aggro" on the gun than other classes) and distance to it. The gun proceeds to shoot at the chosen aircraft until one of three possible things happen: the target is destroyed, it leaves the shooting radius or another aircraft with double the “aggro” value enters the shooting radius. For example, when an AA gun is shooting at a Fighter that’s flying far away from it while an Attack Aircraft is closing in on it – eventually it will switch targets.
The main interesting thing to know about the anti-air guns is their shooting. They do so using mechanics totally different from aircraft armament. In fact they don’t shoot at all! Instead the server picks a lead compensation (similar to the aiming point marked by a targeting reticle on the enemy aircraft you see in dogfights). This aiming point is calculated based on the target’s speed, distance to it and flight direction. AA gun’s rate of fire, projectile velocity (as we already mentioned, virtual “projectile”) and distance to the target are used to calculate the delay, and then at the aiming point’s location a pseudo-explosion is generated. If the aircraft was flying at constant speed and didn’t change direction during that time – the AA gun will score a direct hit and deal maximum possible damage. Here’s the interesting part: if the target is maneuvering, the system will recalculate damage dealt to it depending on how far it actually was from the point the AA gun was aiming at. You will not be able to evade damage completely, but active maneuvers can reduce damage your aircraft takes quite significantly.
The usual AA “machineguns” deal damage only to the target they were aiming at. The high-altitude AA guns damage all the aircraft inside the blast radius of their “projectile”, but still they aim at a single target. The said radius, similar to the AA gun’s base damage, scales with the battle tier. Different classes take different amounts of damage from AA fire: the Attack Aircraft take less due to their armor, while Fighters take maximum possible amounts. The AA fire can cause critical damage: if a maneuver leads to a situation when the only part of the aircraft in the pseudo-explosion radius is a wing or a tail – it will soak up the damage instead of the airframe, and might get critically damaged (enter the yellow state). The Attack Aircraft pilots might have noticed that the AA guns damage their tanks quite often – that’s because they fly straight and low, so the gun is pounding the plane’s belly and wings. Bear in mind that AA fire cannot destroy wings or tails, wound the crew or cause fires.
And finally a third nuance: every AA gun needs time to take aim. Once they do – they start dealing maximum damage. You might have noticed that first several seconds when a gun is firing at your aircraft – you take virtually no damage, but than your machine starts taking more and more hits. That’s exactly what’s happening – the AA gun corrected aim. Also all the guns have certain rotation speeds – after targeting an aircraft it will need to spend some time to “reorient” itself to face another target before starting to take aim.
You can use all this in your battles to stay relatively safe. First of all, never fly in a straight line under AA fire, maneuvers will save you precious HP points. This relates both to attempts to leave the AA fire zone as well as flying approach vectors to destroy the gun: straight route means you will soak up all the shots the gun fires at you. Try to form up behind an allied Attack Aircraft before entering the AA fire zone – it will become a priority target and other classes will be safer. And finally when you have low HP and hear the distinct “knock-knock” of the first AA shots – try leaving the area as soon as possible, you have a small time frame before you start taking damage.