There Were Tanks At Tankfest: A Report

By Brendan Caldwell on July 2nd, 2012 at 12:00 pm.

It's good to maintain an air of mystery.

I don’t even like tanks that much. I have honestly no idea what I’m doing here. There are tanks everywhere. Tanks in the lobby, tanks on the lawn, tanks in the gift shop. I walk around hoping to find a Russian tank which inside houses different, smaller tanks, so that I can act bewildered and amused even though I previously suspected its existence. But it doesn’t exist. I look up. There are no tanks on the ceiling, which is a relief. But there is a small helicopter, which is disconcerting. Beneath it a placard reads, “What is a helicopter doing in a tank museum!?” and then goes on to explain the entire history of this particular helicopter EXCEPT the reason it is in a tank museum. I feel a strange kinship with the little chopper. It too has no idea what it’s doing here.

The tank museum is the setting for Tankfest, the annual festival of large, manoeuvrable killing machines held in the south of England. It is very well attended. Tanks are put on display and even rolled out onto a specially built course to rollick around and pretend to shoot things. The festival takes place near the sleepy settlement of Wool, which is a bit like holding an NRA meeting in a town called Carebear, or a nuke parade in a village called Softmint. Nevertheless, people come from all over Europe to see tanks from throughout military history and to buy souvenirs like Airfix models, or soap.

Like I say, I’m at a loss here because I’m not really into tanks all that much. Remember that scene in Band of Brothers when they’re fighting over a couple of hedgerows the whole episode? And then a tank battalion roll in and all the American soldiers joyfully start crying “Sherman!” When I first saw that I thought that the guy sticking out of the first tank was called Sherman and that Sherman was the ‘king’ of the tanks, who had come to rescue them. I believed this for approximately one year.

Still, here I am. “Did you see the tortoise shell in the last room?” I ask the fellow journo walking alongside me through the museum. “The one with the sign above it that said ‘Nature’s armour plating?’” He says that he did, then tells me about his pet tortoise called Tilly, whom he assures me is most definitely not like a tank but is cantankerous. In the other room, lurks what I think is an enormous German Tiger tank. Also, the teddy bear stall.

We take a stroll around the exhibits. We see the Goliath, which was used in Company of Heroes. It’s a small vehicle that was remotely controlled via a wire and could be filled with up to 100kg of TNT. It was used by the German army in WWII mostly to clear minefields but also against enemy tanks “on rare occasions”. It was slow, prone to flipping upside-down, had too short a wire and was generally pretty useless. Very unlike the terrifying kamikaze bastards in the game. We also see the thresher attachment used in the same game by the US army to clear landmines and hedgerows. It’s basically a big spinning cyclone of death made out of heavy iron chains with balls on the end. Think of a combine harvester made out of medieval maces spun at oh-fuck miles per hour. I forget the exact name of this device, but I believe it may be called the ARRGGH.

We stumble across a miniaturised scene of the D-Day landings. Tiny model Nazis hold their hands on their heads on the beach as US tanks roll onto the sands from special landing craft. A single German soldier looks surprisingly calm as one of the machines aims its turret his way. It is possible he has not noticed the invasion happening twenty feet to his left. Meanwhile, in the sea, a US infantryman walks professionally on the water’s surface with his head missing. I am thinking this is an old model.

“I don’t know why I’m here,” I confess to the other journo. “I don’t even like war.” I feel like it might even be true.

“Are you a pacifist?” he says. He asks it earnestly, which is nice considering the word ‘pacifist’ is often said in the same tone of voice as the word ‘paedophile’ or ‘Jar Jar Binks’. I think about this for a few seconds. Images of tanks frolic in my unconscious mind. The mammoth tanks from Red Alert roaring toward an enemy base, the cheat code for the tank in GTA 3, the flap of the machine shop in Company of Heroes fluttering in the wind as sparks fly out, the futile dud-dud-dud of the onboard machine gun in Battlefield 1942 as a Spitfire drops its load. The glee of crushing soldiers on the streets of St Petersburg.

“No,” I say. “I play too many games.”

By now we’ve done a lap of the place and find ourselves in the room that houses the World of Tanks demo. The game’s booths are sandwiched into a room with about six giant tanks, including a weird one the Russians used for training – a big cross section cuts out the back of the turret, which makes the thing look as if it had gone to war with a Mech armed with a laser. Here it is, selling some jewellery.

There are also some other things. An Afghanistan exhibition hosts a desert quad bike and maps of Helmand province, which a looping video of an army man with a posh voice tells us is all under control. A child drops her balloon by my feet and I kick it back to her, whereupon she promptly drops it again and we repeat the whole vicious cycle. This is symbolic. In one corner the most terrifying war machine known to man stands ready to shudder to life at any moment. The deadly US Army COBRA.

I believe it was discontinued for the same reason as the Goliath. The wire can only stretch so far.

All the while the happy sound of World of Tanks players blowing each other up reigns supreme. I guess this is why I’m here – to chat to the CEO of Wargaming, Victor Kislyi, about all the tanks in his game. I never really forgot that this was my mission. But since my first glimpse of Victor Kislyi was of him standing on a soapbox, with a crowd of journalists and WoT fans clamoured around listening to every word he said (and challenging him with in-depth critiques of minor design choices about the game), I had been sort of dazed until this point.

Now, it is my turn to interview him. In the tiny four or so hours I have previously put into World of Tanks, I did not achieve a single kill. I am terrible at this. Gaming. Journalism. Tanks. God, I am terrible at this. But I have my questions ready anyway.

RPS: Exactly how many tanks do you have?

VK: Myself, in the garage? Or in the game?

RPS: Whichever is largest.

VK: In all, either 85 or 87. Almost 90. I was saving one and a half million experience points for the Warplanes to transfer when [World of Warplanes] comes out. But then French artillery came out – because top level has automatic loading – and then the tank destroyer [came out] and I could not hold myself back so I spent all of that – all I had – on French artillery and the destroyer.

RPS: So around 90 tanks. Is that enough tanks?

VK: It’s quite all right. Of course, there’s no way you can play them all in one day. I also am playing sometimes with a tank I don’t like for the sake of double XP or ones that have X3 or X5. I kind of put my family a little bit aside and go and play not all my tanks but a good half of my tanks…

RPS: Do you ever feel like you have more tanks than is prudent?

VK: No no no. Some of the players they have 200. That is not prudent. I’m still moderate.

RPS: Considering the economic and political turmoil affecting the world, do you think there will be another Clash of the Tanks, or “World War” as it is sometimes known?

VK: For real? Of course we all hope no.

RPS: But there might be more tanks if there was.

VK: No no no. We would not be happy to make yet another game about an ongoing conflict. We are a game of chess. Right? Yes, it’s a violent game. It’s a military strategy, like, destructive game, in the same way as chess is.

RPS: But wouldn’t you like some new tanks? That would be interesting.

VK: No, I would prefer some sci-fi tanks in a new movie by James Cameron – but not on CNN.

RPS: Do you ever feel bad about all of the tanks?

VK: The World War II tanks we have in World of Tanks, those are things of the past. That’s like, Roman Empire. Well, not quite Roman Empire but – those are things of the past.

RPS: If people were tanks and tanks were people, do you think that the people (formerly tanks) would ride us around (that’s the tanks, formerly people) and make us shoot each other and hold big shows about us and generally make us do all the dirty war things they wanted to do?

VK: Do you mean, would the Tank Race make a World of Humans game?

RPS: [nods]

VK: I think if Pixar jumps in with the next big hit cartoon like – you know they have Cars? – but with tanks. You know, a small tank town called – I don’t know – Shermanville, and they had lady tanks and boy tanks and old veteran tanks with lots of medals who were teaching young arrogant tanks how to actually drive and shoot, and they’d have the smiles – like Pixar can make a car smile and have eyes – that would work.

RPS: Do tanks appreciate in value over time, like art? Or do they depreciate in value? For example, cars or vegetables.

VK: Here is the answer: I have my Maus tank. I like my Maus tank. I played maybe one and a half thousand battles with my Maus and it has a couple of medals which appreciate and thousands of other medals including very rare ones. If you tell me, “Here is ten thousand dollars” for my Maus, I would say no.

RPS: So tanks actually get more expensive?

VK: When you play with them. If you just have it and don’t touch it, then what’s the difference? But the beauty of World of Tanks is – I’m serious now – that there are all those gold and camouflage and things that you can buy for money but experience and medals and statistics you cannot. There is no way you can sell levelling up. So my Maus and its history and its battle record is worth… it’s priceless. Ten thousand? No. Fifty thousand? No.

RPS: Sadly, tanks are still perceived as a luxury item. But do you foresee a day in which all families own a tank?

VK: I’m sorry, I don’t understand…

RPS: Like 50 years ago not every family could afford a car.

VK: [Nods understandingly] I think we’ll go democratic, I mean ‘mass market’. So yeah, a six-year-old boy could start building his tank collection now. It’s like stamps. Twenty years ago you’d go and buy a twenty pence stamp which might today… or a bottle of wine! You can buy a new one today and in thirty years it would appreciate. If you don’t drink it. So, yeah. You should start building your tank cellar TODAY.

RPS: Ok, we are going to ask a series of ‘alternatives’ now and you must choose only one out of two possible answers. Ready? Tanks or fast cars?

VK: Tanks.

RPS: Tanks or spaceships?

VK: … Spaceships.

RPS: Tanks or dinosaurs?

VK: Oh, tanks.

RPS: Tanks or the Large Hadron Collider?

VK: I’m a physicist myself and I am for the sake of humans going to the stars, so Hadron Collider.

RPS: Tanks or the first day of summer?

VK: I’m a very romantic person, so first day of summer.

RPS: Tanks or the cold side of a pillow?

VK: Oh no, tanks. Come on.

RPS: Tanks or a sense of uneasy yet inspiring awe?

VK: Tanks ARE awe. Tanks.

RPS: Tanks or an entire boxset of Indiana Jones movies –

VK: Ta –

RPS: NOT INCLUDING Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

VK: The last one right? The world of flying refrigerators? No. Still tanks. Wait, let me give you a hint. You will be the first one to get a hint, you will say you might not understand it but probably – most probably – there might be an Indiana Jones style “something” from Wargaming.

RPS: Oh?

VK: Not a game. Not a game. But there is something brewing that people might say is in Indiana Jones’ style.

RPS: Hats for the tanks possibly?

VK: No no, you –

RPS: Whips for the tanks?

VK: No! You just quote me, you don’t know what it means, nobody will. But if it works out we can refer back to this interview. Okay, let me quote it officially… [concentrates]. Something might be brewing ‘Indiana Jones style’ related to our company.

RPS: Okay, that’s quite intriguing. So, tanks or a pleasant trip to Scarborough on a bank holiday weekend?

VK: Scarborough. That is something in England?

RPS: It’s a seaside town in the north of England.

VK: [covers the dictaphone] Off the record, who’d want to go to the north of England? Tanks. The Seychelles islands would be a tougher choice. Tanks.

RPS: Tanks or the smell of fresh rain on a hot day?

VK: Ah, I get so many smells of rain on a hot day. So, still tanks.

RPS: Tanks or world peace?

VK: … World peace.

RPS: Tanks for your time.

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93 Comments »

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  1. Makikou says:

    Okay, as much as i dont like some of the decisions Victor has administrated to World of Tanks game balance, economy and such i did giggle a bit when reading the interview.

    Good stuff.

    • Kdansky says:

      So people are still playing World of Cheating? I refer to the experiments run by Gevlon which put up incredibly strong evidence that WoT is totally rigged, and the random number generator isn’t random at all.

      • shaytan says:

        No evidence of the game being rigged or exploited has been presented. Gevlon has no idea how to properly collect statistical data and make scientific guesses based on that data.

      • Premium User Badge

        Josh Brandt says:

        Gevlon? The guy who proved pretty much ONLY that if you take two experienced players platooned together with vehicles slightly overpowered for their tier that they will win a lot? He’s not totally discredited yet?

        • DarkFenix says:

          How do you discredit that which has no credibility?

        • Kdansky says:

          Nope, the part about “penetration success correlates with match winning way more than it should”, just as if the penetration chance was rigged to allow everyone to win once in a while.

          Ad hominems don’t make you look any good, you know.

  2. Ross Angus says:

    TOO MANY LAUGHS. I want Brendan to write the whole internet.

    • McDan says:

      Yes, more Brendan stuff. This was amazingly funny. Can’t even pick a favourite bit it was so good, love you Brendy!

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Brendan, please listen to this man (or possibly woman).

    • McDan says:

      Man, in fact. But Brendy is pretty good at writing, so he gets my appreciation. Also can’t believe he deny want to cone to Scarborough! It’s a great place!

    • Snargelfargen says:

      This was a great article to nurse my hangover with.

    • Aardvarkk says:

      Very enjoyable to read!

    • syndrome says:

      also awesomely unexpected.. I love the “interview”

    • hello_mr.Trout says:

      also agree: this article was great mr. caldwell! gonzo tank journalism at it’s finest!

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        I feel that “Brendy” isn’t affectionately familiar enough, so I propose we call him Brendington Mc Pootle Bottom The Third.
        Or Brendy Poots Von Fluffenpants. I’m happy either way. Also yes this article was effing funny :)

        Also i didnt mean to reply quite here. I want to be moved one level up.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Best tank article of all time.

      I hadn’t been enjoying RPS quite as much as I used to, and so I’ve been considering cancelling my subscription. But after this? Mind: changed.

  3. Syra says:

    Are you… mocking him? Or Is this… really funny.

  4. Insidious Rex says:

    That Band of Brothers anecdote damn near killed me as I was drinking at the time.

    Maybe next time Brendan

  5. Haplo says:

    RPS: If people were tanks and tanks were people, do you think that the people (formerly tanks) would ride us around (that’s the tanks, formerly people) and make us shoot each other and hold big shows about us and generally make us do all the dirty war things they wanted to do?

    Best question ever. I want every interview to ask some sort of variant of this question.

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      Gap Gen says:

      In all the years of RPS I am still unsure as to whether the men of the Moon will make war upon the Earth. I wonder whether RPS would be considered complete would such a thing be concluded.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      If people were zerg and zerg were people, do you think that the people (formerly zerg) would give us dozens of commands per second (that’s the zerg, formerly people) and make us burrow and do insecty things and generally make us do all the dirty war things they wanted to do?

      • Baggypants says:

        If Soylent Green were people and people were …. hang on, I need to think this one through a bit better.

  6. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    Hating on Scarborough :( What a nasty man.

    As for the Indiana Jones thing I’m pretty sure he is implying that Wargaming.net intend to start abducting lots of children and and ripping out people’s hearts. Which seems a bit controversial.

    • Koozer says:

      Maybe they’re planning to implement a system in which you launch the game, whereupon your face melts as you scream in agony for the rest of your short life.

      But seriously, I sincerely hope they’ll be adding the tank from The Last Crusade. That would be lovely.

      • Skabooga says:

        Maybe they will be making the same tank pun from The Last Crusade? (Who hasn’t?)

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        lurkalisk says:

        Wasn’t that some old Mark I landship thing (or variant thereof)? If so, I think a tier 2 heavy would be a bit odd.

  7. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    Thanks Brendan. Thendan.

  8. buzzmong says:

    Hahaha, articles like this are the reason why I love RPS.

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    Clavus says:

    This is why this website is at the top of my bookmarks.

  10. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    Oh man this was hilarious. Thanks for the laugh.

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    JohnArr says:

    Amazing.

  12. DiamondDog says:

    That interview is the greatest Alan Partridge impersonation I have ever seen.

  13. Nikelspank says:

    What on earth…

    Saw title, expected article about an armour-related game, get trashy ‘teen comedy’ interview that has nothing to do with gaming. :(

    Having been to Tankfest (for the TANKS, by god!) and spoken to the WoT devs that were there last year I can say that both are definately worth the visit; the museum itself is great and really well laid out for even someone that has little to no idea about this stuff, and the displays that run all day with new and old tanks alike frolicking about with pyrotechnics are worth watching. Worth visiting if you’ve ever got excited seeing that panzer come through the trees in Generic WWII Shooter No.87.

    I would have thought sending someone with even the faintest interest in tanks or armour battles would be an easy choice… bad article, RPS. Every good site has their off days though!

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      Okami says:

      I’m very sorry that I have to tell you this, but your opinion is wrong.

      • Nikelspank says:

        You’re right, expecting an article about games and/or gaming on a website about games and/or gaming is completely wacky. I don’t know what I was thinking.

        Please accept my humble apologies for interrupting the stream of “yeah! hilarious! made my day!”, I’ll go and get some gaming news from Kotaku or IGN.

        (kill me now)

        • DiamondDog says:

          Oh dear.

        • mispelledyouth says:

          NEFARIOUSCONVICTIONFACE!

        • Arglebargle says:

          I may have misplaced my humor module, or perhaps I’m ‘not enough coffee’ man today, but I have to agree with the curmudgeonness. Article came across as ‘attempt at funny’. Firing training rounds. Maybe there’s a ratio of liking-tanks vs appreciation-of-article. Dunno.

          Back to the regularly scheduled jollity…..

        • Ultra Superior says:

          I feel you Nikelspank.

          I found the article mildly amusing, but that’s because I don’t care much about its content. If that sort of interview was about a game or topic I’m interested in, I would feel similarly.

          • Elmar Bijlsma says:

            Well, another person here for whom the article did not quite hit the mark.
            Mildly fun, mostly absurd and woefully short of information, it is not what I came to RPS for.
            I guess Tim Stone was busy?

    • bill says:

      Have you ever read RPS before? Because you seem kind of surprised about the style of this article. Surprisingly.

      And also a little cantankerous.

      • Walsh says:

        You mean the RPS that has a glorious sim-related column every Friday?

        Gee, I wonder why he got his hopes up about this based upon the headline.

        • PleasingFungus says:

          There Were Tanks At Tankfest: A Report
          A Subtitle Mentioning Tanks

          I have never heard a more serious-sounding article title in my life.

    • Torgen says:

      It’s ok, Nikelspank, I have your back. The only thing I found funny was the bit about the anti-mine flails on the Shermans. I’d have appreciated some real reporting on the event and game.

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      lurkalisk says:

      “get trashy ‘teen comedy’ interview”

      I’m still just trying to figure out what the hell that means…

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    Kong says:

    Tanks teddies tanks teddies cannot decide which I would miss the most christalmighty

    tanks. I would miss tanks

  15. CaptainHairy says:

    Nobody has said TANKFACE or WARTANK yet. I am moderately disappointed in you, RPS commenters.

  16. Sweedums says:

    Well this is the strangest thing I’ve read all day. Thanks RPS, this is why I’m a subscriber! :)

  17. jonasinlimbo says:

    Long time lurker. This article made me finally register just to be able to say: TANKS!

  18. Chris D says:

    On the Indiana Jones thing:My best guess is that they’re adding a mode where you can climb out of your tank, leap across to someone else’s and then have a fistfight on top.

    Either that or it’s a World of Tanks/Rock of Ages cross over.

  19. Jams O'Donnell says:

    I went to Bovington once! I was too small to be able to drive a tank simulator :(

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    c-Row says:

    I think I need to cancel my subscription just so I can sign up again after reading this article.

  21. Jimbo says:

    Ooo, I went to this about 15 years ago. But it was more indie back then and didn’t have a trendy name like Tankfest. The tanks certainly didn’t sell teddy bears.

  22. WalkableBuffalo says:

    I’m sure those questions were all very important

  23. wuwul says:

    Good to know, I’ll show up with my prot warrior.

  24. Wololo says:

    Roflolparty, that interview <3

    Also,I believe that "the thresher attachment" is actually a crab / mine flail. I remember when a guy I knew spammed shermans in CoH just to get flails and crush infantry with it. Quite effective.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Pretty sure that the flail tanks were Brit designs that were shared out amongst the allies, btw. I think the hedgerow cutters were an American design created by some cranky sargeant, tired of hedge hopping.

      • Wololo says:

        Most likely. Hey let’s hop over to that McDonalds over there, shall we? No can do, sarge. There’s 2 hedges we’d have to walk around or jump over.

        As for CoH, crabs work on mines, you have to get a bulldozer on your croc sherman to take down hedges. Brits only get that forky thing on their Churchills.

  25. Musey says:

    I’ve been to the Tank Museum. I challenge anyone to walk past the half-track full of Wermacht-clad mannequins without pretending to gun them down using an invisible Tommy gun.

  26. Flobulon says:

    Tanks for reminding me why I pay my subscription, I was actually considering cancelling it before I read this masterpiece.

  27. SominiTheCommenter says:

    Soap? How did a muppet like you passed selection?

  28. lynn_kraken says:

    Brendan seems to be a hilarious nonchalant nihilist.
    I never thought I would thoroughly read an article on Tanks. Only on RPS.

  29. Jupiah says:

    I don’t really understand the context of this article aside from “tank museum” and ‘interview with guy that made a tank game” and that interview was frankly surreal in it’s strangeness. But I laughed several times while reading it so I guess it was a success.

  30. The Army of None says:

    Probably one of the funniest articles I’ve read in a long time. Bad journalism as an art form.

  31. Ethyls says:

    I think I’m gonna have children just so that I can tell them about this article.

    Tank you very much, Brendan of the Caldwell variety.

  32. thebigJ_A says:

    It’s a King Tiger, duh! XP

  33. Shazbut says:

    I don’t care about tanks at all, so I loved this article.

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    amishmonster says:

    I love the questions, AND how game Victor is about answering them.

    Except where he chose tanks over dinosaurs.