Ever wondered what controlling almost 8000 tons of one of the most lethal machines ever
invented? With Modern Naval Warfare you will get your chance to command some of the most
advanced submarines in the world: The Virginia class fast attack (or hunter killer) submarines.
Your very own Virginia class sub idling on the surface.
However, as many navy veterans say, a ship is never better than its crew and that is certainly
true in Modern Naval Warfare. Despite the cutting edge sensors, weapons and quieting
technology it is you, the captain that decides the outcome of each mission.
In this first log book we will make a quick tour around the sub, see how the interface works and
see the difference between the various blocks of the Virginia class submarine.
Getting to know your boat
MNW includes the following rooms/areas for the player to move around:
- The control room
The radio room
The ESM room
The various areas for a block 1 Virginia class submarine. From left radio room, control room and
Within these areas there are several stations that the player can take control including:
- Pilot station
Command station (where the captain and the officer of the deck usually stand)
Sonar suite station
Fire control station
Nav station (the large digital table at the center of the control room)
Most of these stations span several displays and include many modes and submodes.
The player can also monitor several working displays and gauges scattered around that include:
- The two large displays in the control room
Analog depth gauges
Digital ownship status displays
Analog and digital UTC clocks
separate room but is integrated in the control room (on the port side).
As the Captain you can move freely around the various rooms interact with the various stations,
monitor information displays and gauges and give orders. In real life the radio room and
especially the ESM room is considered off limits for the majority of the crew.
How to interact with your surroundings
As a hardcore simulator MNW does not include any health bars, magical god view minimaps,
underwater radars and other games like mechanics. The player has to collect information and
assemble the tactical picture from the ship's sensors through the various stations just like real
We wanted to make the user interface as seamless and fast as possible while keeping the
controls familiar. After a lot of trial and error we settled to a combination of FPS controls with
world space interactions as you move around the ship and a basic mouse driven control when
the player is working on an actual station.
With the player located at the command station a quick look around can give him/her all the vital
information for the ship. The information includes speed, heading, depth of your ship and the
whereabouts of the various contacts (that means the possible targets) if a geoplot or a time bearing plot are open on the large displays.
Then if the player wants to dive further (pun intended!) most stations, displays or gauges are
just a left click away.
Monitoring an analog anglemeter.
On the other hand, a right click will open a station relative menu to allow the player to monitor,
get the status, give orders or anything else useful for the particular station. Each of these
actions are just two clicks away. It is difficult enough having a torpedo chasing you while
jumping from station to station to get the complete picture, the player should not have to fight
the interface too.
Context menu for the command station.
When the player takes control of a station then the control scheme changes to a normal point
and click mouse driven interface that mimics that of the real-world submarine system. The
player can look around the various screens of the station and control as a normal crew member
would. The interface for each station might differ from all the others (since a different
subcontractor made each component in the real world) and there are also differences between
the various blocks of the Virginia class (more on this later).
These are some of the displays and menus of the pilot station.
We tried to model the operation of each station to the maximum level that usability and
unclassified sources would allow. Although for the later part, in some cases we might have
pushed it a little further, but don't tell anyone.
Differences among the class members
As most military hardware the submarines of the Virginia class are being built in batches that
are called blocks. In total 5 blocks are planned. From these blocks the first three have been
completed and are in service while the first members of the block IV have just been delivered. In
MNW we model blocks I to III and we hope to include further blocks in the future as information
Comparison of the control room of the three blocks I to III (left to right).
One of the initial project specifications for the Virginia class was that it should be easily
upgradeable through the use of COTS (commercial of the shelf) components and software
upgrades. As of today, the first member of the class the SSN-774 USS Virginia is more than 20
years old and 18 years in service. Obviously, technology has changed a lot since then. In order
to keep the class members relevant the US Navy upgrades its submarine systems on a biennial
basis. The hardware is upgraded every even year through the TI program and the software
every odd year through the APB program. The latest upgrades are installed on each submarine
during the next refit (usually between 4 - 8 years). These refit cycles roughly coexist with the
block construction cycles. So, in essence a recently refitted submarine is at similar technology
level with the latest block member being constructed.
In MNW and for gameplay purposes we decided that each sub will be modeled with the APB/TI
level at the the day of its commissioning.
Comparison of the radar station (left) and photonics station (right) for each of the three blocks I
to III (top to bottom).
The differences in each block are not just cosmetic. Most aspects of each system improve
incrementally. The improvements range from the display type and resolution of the station to the
software and of course the performance of the sensors. The end result is that while stations like
the pilot station are almost identical in all classes there are stations like the photonics that have
significant differences between blocks both in terms of UI and actual sensor performance.
We could dig into the nuances of each block but we would need a lot more space (and time!)
and anyway, that is what manuals are for. So, this is it for the first Navy Log Book.
Till next time…
NOTICE: All images in this dev diary are still WIP