World Of Warships Hands-On: Overcoming Skepticism

World of Tanks makes sense. It’s Counter-Strike with moveable turrets; angry houses hiding behind placid houses, streets like corridors, cannons like machineguns, machineguns also like machineguns.

World of Warplanes makes sense, sort of, on paper. Planes. They’re like tanks but they fly. Except there’s no cover in the sky, and enemies could be in front, behind, beside or above you. So you sort of just wheel around in circles forever and it’s alright.

World of Warships? That doesn’t make sense at all. How the hell would you make a multiplayer game out of something like that?

That’s what Wargaming have been asking themselves since World of Warships was announced, prematurely, back in 2011. It’s what they’ve been asking themselves since the closed alpha launched back in 2013. Evidently it’s what they’re still asking themselves now, as the build I played at Gamescom this year had changed significantly since E3 just two months prior.

All this skepticism expressed, there’s hints of answers in what I played.

The first issue of making a multiplayer game from warships is that warships are huge, slow to turn, and even slower to stop. Wargaming have got around this somewhat by simply making the ships far nippier than they would be in reality. Using WASD, you can stop faster than inertia would technically allow, turn in surprisingly tight circles around your targets and quickly accelerate from a standing start. The goal, I’m told, is to encourage players to slow down of their own accord by making reckless maneuvers a sure-fire way to get yourself shot and sunk. That sounds good to me, in theory.

The second way the game might run aground is that the ocean, like the sky, doesn’t naturally lend itself to the systems of cover, sightlines and chokepoints that normally make competitive multiplayer interesting. For the demo I saw, Wargaming sidestepped the issue almost entirely, as right now they’re focusing on PvE. In the encounter I played, a wave of ships spawned on the horizon near a coastline, and I and some other players fended them off. Then another wave spawned further out to sea, giving shape and momentum and a changing frontline to what, in competitive multiplayer, might have felt shapeless and confusing.

There are at least systems in place that might offer a similar structure to competitive multiplayer. For example, fog of war plays a role, and if you spot a ship then everyone on your team can now see that ship. That forces the need for scouting, and perhaps helps shape battles in lieu of massive sea-crates to duck down behind.

The third problem facing World of Warships – the biggest, which I have saved for last – is that these vast sea-faring titans can’t be easily abstracted into a single point of control like planes or tanks can. Tanks are operated by a crew, sure, but as a player it makes some sense that you’d be both driving and shooting. You can do both with the camera fixed in a single position.

That’s obviously not the case when your vehicle is an armored platform a hundred meters long, with half a dozen turrets along its surface. Yet weirdly, this is the part of my playtime that most impressed me.

Your warship is controlled via a camera hovering above your ship, which can be zoomed and slid around various points-of-interest with small flicks of your mouse. I thought this would be cumbersome but in practice it feels elegant to move between different cannon types, aim down their sights and volley cannonfire towards your floating enemies, then flick your mouse to move back, or zoom out, or to press a button to have the camera track your artillery off towards its target.

I had some fun sinking some boats, but there still remains more that’s unseen and unknown about the game. During my session, there was mention of aircraft carriers which would completely change the nature of the game, turning it into an RTS for whoever was ordering about planes. There’s obvious opportunities for teamwork here, as those planes could be used to scout the watery battlefield, spotting enemy ships for your slower destroyers. Without seeing any of that in action, or playing for longer, I’ve no idea if any of that will feel worthwhile.

All that’s left then is what we can assume. My session with the game started with a quick tour of the garage from which you choose your ship, and the UI looks just like that for World of Warplanes and World of Tanks. Wargaming aren’t yet ready to talk about payment models, but I’d bet all the angry floating houses in my fleet that it’ll be extremely similar to those other games. They’re promising dozens of vessels from America and Japan at release – they’re aiming for a beta by the end of the year – with other nations to be added later. Each of the carriers, destroyers, cruisers and so on will also have skill trees to follow, abilities to upgrade and loadouts to customise. Given the similarity in structure, it seems inevitable that you’ll be doing all of the above either through devoted playtime or through microtransactions.

How do you make a multiplayer game out of warships? Wargaming are halfway towards an answer.

38 Comments

  1. Ross Angus says:

    How about a cross between The Ship and Space Station 13? Forget all that shooting nonsense, who’s going to cook dinner?

  2. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    Despite these (admittedly mild) reassurances, it’s hard to imagine how this is going to stay afloat very long. Typical naval games require either extreme time compression (up to 8192x in Silent Hunter!), extremely small scale, or ludicrously unrealistic arcade-style control. Trying to end up somewhere inbetween all three of those seems like a perfect means to alienate everyone, not to entice them.

    Still, best of luck to them. The world needs more naval games.

    • Cinek says:

      This one goes for Arcade-style and rescaled world.

    • Koozer says:

      “…extremely small scale, or ludicrously unrealistic arcade-style control”

      World of Tanks has done pretty well out of it. For example effective gun ranges are minuscule compared to real tanks so maps and travel time can be smaller, and it uses health bars instead of using individual component damage to give players a better sense of when they are about to go kablooey. T-34s also get radios, and the Maus can actually turn its turret and doesn’t get stuck in mud holes.

      (War Thunder doesn’t use health bars and a lot of people swear on their grandmother’s Panzerkampfwagen IV that it’s better, but I’m sure there are just as many people who prefer the simplicity of health bars.)

  3. Asurmen says:

    Navy Field made a multiplayer game out of warships. Whether anyone reading this enjoyed it is another matter. FWIW I did except from the grindy nature of the game, but I had fun while doing so.

    • Mr Bismarck says:

      I enjoyed Navy Field. Particularly the way that even when I got into the BB line, I still didn’t feel massively overpowered.

      Although I’d frequently go into the big battles in that British CL that could mount all the AA guns and I’tried to annoy the opposing Japanese CVs, by refusing them any ability to scout the battlefield… err battlewater… Whatever.

      With early torpedo rushes, scouting, subs, AA cover, carriers and the battleships booming away, there was always something going on.

      But, yes, that grind…

    • Doganpc says:

      I think that is the current problem, how do you make a naval warfare game without it being a rip off of NavyField.

      How do you balance DD, CL, CA, BB, CV’s?
      How do you maintain your business plan (apparently E-Sports)
      How long will it be before the players figure the systems out and the game is rendered into BB’s and CV’s only.

      Personally I think War Thunder has most of these questions answered. Provided they can figure out a way to integrate the Air, Ground & Water and stick with it.

    • Osi says:

      I’m really hoping this is a decent successor to NavyField. A lot of younger gamers would have no idea what Navy Field is/was. It isnt exactly mainstream. I like that it didnt baby you. It caused you to have to become proficient and level up your crew.
      While I’m looking forward to World of Warships, my fear is it will become very arcadey like Battlestations Midway.
      I’m waiting for the beta/demo.

    • Stargazer86 says:

      I enjoyed NavyField for quite a while. Oddly enough, the most fun I got out of the game wasn’t piloting the biggest BB’s or CV’s. No, what I enjoyed the most was nipping about in a Light Cruiser equipped with AA and providing escort for all those bigger ships. If World of Warships can conjure up the same level of fun that NavyField could, it’ll be great.

  4. MrFinnishDude says:

    Well I think the concept is interesting. I usually pick my games based on that. Boats are cool and people have made multiplayer games about other odd things like Napoleonic Wars about musket warfare and Guns of Icarus about airships.
    I guess normal boats are quite boring when compared to airships, you know, not being able to go up or down. But the basic idea is still there. It would also be cool if they had also had boats from other times like Ironclads because those sadly almost never show up in games.

  5. P.Funk says:

    “World of Warships? That doesn’t make sense at all. How the hell would you make a multiplayer game out of something like that?”

    Easily? Maybe I’m a bit dim but the actual mechanics of naval warfare lend themselves well to team work and fighting together. The real problem I see with it is that it requires a level of cooperation to make it work that most gamers are simply incapable of without being… above average in maturity and will to not be idiots.

    • Chuckleluck says:

      Are we talking multiple players per crew? I’m no expert on naval warfare, but when I think of ships doing battle (before airplanes ruined everything) I think of two craft pulling alongside each other and firing.

      And I agree that most people online (aside from notable exceptions like Guns of Icarus Online) have the teamwork skills of a potato.

      • Behrditz says:

        Well, yes, that would be how someone who doesn’t know any better would do it. Kind of like how in a lot of FPS games, people think gunfights are just running sideways while shooting at each other until one person falls down. There is a ridiculous amount of co-ordination involved in naval warfare. It was different in the age of sail when you also had to worry about wind, and not turning your large ships into it and completely stopping them, but there is still a lot more than just “get next to him and shoot until someone stops.”

        • tormos says:

          “No captain can do very wrong if he places his ships alongside that of the enemy” -Horatio Nelson, who presumably knew what he was talking about

  6. Jason Lefkowitz says:

    World of Warships? That doesn’t make sense at all. How the hell would you make a multiplayer game out of something like that?

    I actually thought Eidos’ mid-2000s title Battlestations: Midway and its sequel, Battlestations: Pacific, did a pretty good job of demonstrating how this could work. The ships were definitely sped-up and given abstracted controls, but they still had heft and weight; commanding a PT boat felt different than a destroyer, and a destroyer felt different than a battleship. Targeting required judging the fall of shot optically via binoculars, which gave smaller ships a credible chance to take on larger ones by outmaneuvering their gunnery. And torpedoes gave little PTs and DDs a sting that larger ships couldn’t ignore.

    Their multiplayer wasn’t persistent, of course, so it wasn’t a 100% complete model for how to do something like World of Warships. But they did a lot of things right that hopefully are done right in that title too.

  7. DrollRemark says:

    But can you bunnyhop?

  8. Chaz says:

    “The first issue of making a multiplayer game from warships is that warships are huge, slow to turn, and even slower to stop.”

    I thought battleships and what not actually had quite good turning circles for their size.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      “for their size”

      They’re pretty much the largest moving machinery man has ever made.
      Gneisenau’s was (depending on speed) something like a kilometer in diameter, more when going faster.

  9. Hebrind says:

    I’m actually far more interested in World of Warships than I am in World of Tanks/Warplanes, or War Thunder’s effort. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good games in their own right (if you don’t mind a bit of Pay To Win) but I’ve always preferred to command large ships, where I have more time to think about what I’m doing. In my ever-increasing age, I’m getting a bit less twitchy and I always steer towards bigger, slower, beefier ships that can take a pounding in games.

    Case in point, when I played EVE Online, the first ship I was figured out to play and utilise well was a tanky Drake. Another instance of this would be when I’m playing something like Starmade or Space Engineers or any other kind of Sci-Fi ship game – I understand that the fighters are awesome fun for rattling around and dogfights, and I understand that smaller vessels are going to turn on a dime and have the advantage of speed and evasion – but for me, nothing beats the feeling of pitting your primed battleship into a toe-to-toe barrage-fest of destruction against another equally well-thought out style of ship.

    I loved it on Battlestar Galactica when Galactica fought against a basestar or two and all those tactical nukes were flying around, and all that flak was popping off like an explodey halo. I enjoyed the battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi for its huge ships battering each other with salvo after salvo. I’m really hoping that Star Citizen or Elite: Dangerous get bigger ships, like Destroyers or Cruisers, so I can be host to all my friends’ fighters and a launching pad for their adventures.

  10. SophiaButler says:

    I think my main worry here iz the time I figured out that World of Tankz waz very pay to win; You can buy premium ammunition that’z better than the none-microtranzaction stuff for every single tank, turning the previous illuzion of a balanced PvP game on itz head.

    I’ll probably enjoy War Thunder (eventually) and (when it’z back up) Navyfield 2 more if that’z how this game will bee too.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      s

    • JimmyG says:

      @SophiaButler, I’m looking forward to the day that you can make a comment and then no one else comments about your phonetically accurate lifestyle choices. I can see the pattern, and I tried to explain it once in a reply comment, but got told that my explanation was wrong by someone demonstrating that they didn’t understand my explanation. I’ve always assumed you do it just for fun and an appreciation of the letter Z, coolest in the alphabet.

      About the game: I’m feeling Graham’s careful, mildly bewildered optimism. I especially like the carrier-RTS scheme and other ideas for asynchronous (but well-balanced) play. But with F2P multiplayer games like this (Tribes: Ascend, Hawken), I usually just download them and play for a weekend, then never go back.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        I was assuming a broken keyboard was to blame, but I see a few S’s in there.

      • Caerphoto says:

        If someone’s going to write a comment, the intention is likely to communicate their thoughts. Poor/weird spelling, grammar, etc. gets in the way of that, and is just a distraction. It’s even a little arrogant, making people work harder to decipher their words rather than making the effort to convey them as clearly as possible.

      • SophiaButler says:

        I can relate to the weekend thing, they do rely on community a lot, but rarely throw that at you az a big part of the experience :(

        Also, thankz for the first half of your comment (and for actually understanding how it’z phonetically accurate).
        ._.

        • thebigJ_A says:

          It’s distracting, it makes your comments actually harder to read, and thus is rude.

          Please stop being rude to me. I’m genuinely interested in the content of your comments.

          (It’s not even phonetically accurate anyway. It depends entirely on regional dialect. “It’s” in most places is a very clear ‘S’ sound)

          • tormos says:

            look if we can suffer peoples whose gimmicks are “hates women” and “is just a really terrible poster” we as a community can probably deal with “places their z s in a not funnily gimmicky way”

          • thebigJ_A says:

            Except I can’t suffer people who’s gimmick is that. Nor should you.

  11. NegativeZero says:

    I’m really interested in this, much more so than Tanks or Warplanes.

    One thing that I’m curious about is the mention of using aircraft to scout. It’s interesting because the navies involved in the era the game is meant to be pulling its vessels from had different philosophies about scouting. America had aircraft that were designed to be able to act as both scouts and fighters or bombers and operated reconnaissance aircraft off their carriers. In contrast, Japan had aircraft that were dedicated to recon only, and generally didn’t devote any aircraft on their main carriers to recon at all. Instead, recon floatplanes launched off their heavy cruisers and some battleships provided fleet scouting.

    Which begs the question: do the JP cruisers in the game have the ability to launch scout planes? I’d imagine that managing them alongside the torpedoes and cannons and general maneuvering you’d need to do would get pretty hectic…

  12. thebigJ_A says:

    Give me something sim-y, like Silent Hunter 3 (modded to be more realistic), but with lots of (accurately modelled) ships, and I’ll give you all my money.

    This arcadey thing, meh.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      I thought you would actually be the crew of a ship, in first person, with different classes like loaders, gunners, boarding parties in launches, bridge crew etc. That would be quite cool. Like Artemis on a real ship.

  13. WiggumEsquilax says:

    Honestly, I doubt that there’ll be any entirely aquatic maps. Otherwise, battleships and carriers would absolutely dominate. Same reason there aren’t any truly open plains on world of tanks, so that heavies and artillery don’t win by default.

    The whole game will almost certainly be coastal operations, to artificially reduce weapon ranges. The island in Warships will be functionally identical to the indestructible cliffs and buildings in Tanks

    • Premium User Badge

      Biscuitry says:

      That’s not such a huge stretch. Despite the focus of navies at the time, the 20th Century saw few large-scale, open water naval battles. The bulk of it was coastal actions, submarine warfare, and convoy raiding. For all that HMS Dreadnought supposedly rendered every navy in the world obsolete, Dreadnought type battleships rarely took each other on directly, and usually the outcome was inconclusive.

  14. -Spooky- says:

    Naval Action Test PvE 25v25 // link to youtu.be

    Can´t wait to lay hands on this game ..

  15. Ham Solo says:

    It’s similar to world of tanks, just longer shot distances and islands as cover. But it’s not that different.
    “So you sort of just wheel around in circles forever and it’s alright.” Confirmed for never having played War Thunder or Il2 or any other game of that genre.

  16. redwing6 says:

    If you want an idea on how to play WoWS? Play the game NavyField. While it’s not a perfect game, it’s a decent naval battle game. Try it, WoWS is supposed to build upon that…just as WoT has a competitor in tank fighting genre with one of the competitors turning out a modern era based game.