While working on World of Warplanes Update 2.0, we made changes to a lot of in-game mechanics and made them more intuitive and logical. One such mechanic was the visibility system that defines how pilots detect their enemies.
You can find details about how the visibility system used to work here. One of the main drawbacks of that design was unnecessary complication: we used a set of sectors and ray tracing to calculate detection distances. Even though it was more “realistic”, this mechanic barely ever affected real gameplay situations. Additionally, other than finding out how it worked from the Forums or Blog, a player had no possibility to learn them in the game itself and then use that knowledge to help their gameplay.
So how does the visibility system work today?
Every aircraft has two invisible spheres attached to it. The external larger sphere with a radius of 1-2.5 km defines the basic maximum distance at which this aircraft can detect an enemy. The much smaller internal sphere defines the aircraft’s visibility. It is affected by the aircraft tier and additional factors that we will cover below.
Once an enemy aircraft’s visibility (inner) sphere intersects a player’s aircraft’s detection (outer) sphere, the enemy gets detected and highlighted on the screen and radar.
Neither of two aircraft can detect one another
Enemy aircraft is detected by an undetected player
Both aircraft can see each other
Additionally, there is a radio mechanic: once a player detects an enemy, all other allied players within a certain radius will see that enemy too.
Once the enemy leaves the detection distance, it will not disappear immediately, it will stay detected for 3 seconds more.
There are additional factors that affect both detection and visibility sphere radiuses.
The detection range can be improved with pilot skills: both Eagle-Eyed and Cruise Flight increase it by 20%. Obstacles inside the detection sphere change its shape and effectively decrease its range. A cloud inside the sphere decreases its range by 30% in that direction. Keep in mind that clouds don’t provide total cover: if a target is inside or behind them, but the 30% decreased detection range is still enough to reach its visibility sphere — it will be detected.
Hard obstacles like terrain or objects, naturally, cannot be seen through, so in those parts of the sphere the detection range will be equal to the distance to them.
On the other hand, an aircraft’s visibility is affected by its loadout — a masking camouflage provides -10% to the visibility sphere radius and status effects. There are three of those: aircraft on fire, boost active, and forward-facing armament shooting. Each adds 10% to the radius.
The new system does not have the old mechanic of altitude camouflage. In World of Warplanes 1.x, if you were flying really low, your aircraft would get an additional masking bonus against enemies overhead. We also do not use separate settings for the detection and visibility sphere sizes of different aircraft classes currently, they all have the same numbers across their respective tiers. We might change that in the future, though, especially in more PvP dogfight-oriented and tournament modes.