What 1.0 means for World of Tanks

World of Tanks 1.0 interview

World of Tanks launched in Russia in 2010, then in Europe and the US the next year. It’s been around the block, pitting war machines and players against each other in war-torn cities and pastoral paradises, but today it’s only just hit version 1.0. Eight years after launch. For a long-running, living game like World of Tanks, that 1.0 label doesn’t mean what it normally does.

“It means a new game,” says development director Milos Jerabek. But if it is a new game, it’s one with old guts.

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“The gameplay is the same, sure, but the engine is different, and every single map has changed,” Jerabek clarifies. “The feeling, the music, the audio — the immersion has changed.”

There’s a new graphics engine, new sound design, 29 reworked maps and one brand new one, and now small buildings and objects can be blown to smithereens thanks to the inclusion of Havok Destruction. But the mechanics, the tanks and the strategies players are used to remain the same.

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Wargaming don’t want players to fire up the game today and suddenly realise that they no longer know how to play. They want new players, which they hope a flashy new engine will bring in, but not at the expense of the old guard.

“It’s not a coincidence that only now we have 1.0,” says CEO Victor Kislyi, who can be so animated at times I swear he’s going to wriggle out of his grey hoodie. “We were tempted to call it 1.0 in 2010, then in 2011, then in 2012 and then in 2013, but we are always driving towards perfection. You wake up, you love your game, you have these big numbers of players, hundreds of millions playing all over the world…but it was not yet there, something was missing. Now it’s time to say it’s a good 1.0.”

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After so many years of waiting, 1.0 had to be bigger than even a meaty update. It had to be an overhaul. Kislyi says it depends on how you count it, but development on 1.0 ran between two and three years, all while the live game was being patched as well. Even with hundreds of people working for over two years, Wargaming still needed to outsource work to make sure all the maps, for instance, had been recreated in the new engine.

Despite the tall order, Jerabek believes the pressure could have been a lot worse. “Our director of publishing came to me and said ‘Milos, we ship this right. You say when we are ready. Don’t think about constraints.’ And I hugged him. I needed to hear it.” With only a week to go, Wargaming weren’t 100% sure that it was going to make the March 21 release date, and they were willing to push it back if they had to.

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When it came time to merge the update with the game, a process that normally takes a few hours, this time it took a whole week. It’s an update that’s larger than the game it’s updating. Most of that is down to the incredibly broad nature of 1.0. Every single rock and shrub has been recreated with new textures and physics, and no map has gone unchanged. In most cases it’s purely visual, though some have also been expanded and tweaked.

Some of the almost comical excessiveness of the update must also contribute to its size. As graphics engineer Denis Ishmukhametov walked me through the new engine, he pointed out all manner of ridiculous and impressive touches that you’d hardly notice until they were highlighted. There’s a whole system for how snow acts when it’s on a tank, and how it changes and eventually melts. The same goes for mud and water.

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“The engine actually started as a pet project for the engineers,” Jerabek explains after I mention that these tiny details seem like they’re more for the devs than the players. “For them it was important that they were working on something really cool, and the attention to detail is enormous. That makes the game more unique.”

Jerabek argues that these things do have a big impact on the player experience, however, even if it’s just in terms of immersion. Individually, they’re almost invisible, but when they come together in a battle, I must admit that the atmosphere feels incredibly different. The maps are more lively and reactive, and while that might not affect how a tank battle plays out, it does change how they feel.

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While gameplay may have taken a backseat in this update, at least in terms of big changes, there’s still a lot that Jerabek would like to do, particularly when it comes to the new user experience.

“We still know that we don’t serve them the right way. That’s why we released Boot Camp, the new tutorial, almost a year ago. And we still continue to work on the new user experience because we believe more casual players are joining and they need to learn how to play the game. The original tutorial was horrible, now the Boot Camp gets you through Tiers 1 to 3 and teaches you about skills, perks and equipment.”

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One of the hurdles for new players is Wargaming’s — let’s just say elaborate — business model. All the currencies and systems and restrictions are a nightmare to wrap one’s head around, and while there have been improvements, it can still feel draconian. And even when it’s being generous rather than harsh, there’s a problem with clarity.

The business model is clearly not something Kislyi is eager to talk about. When it’s brought up, he points out that everything you can buy in World of Tanks can also be earned, but that doesn’t really tackle the issues with how it’s all presented and how serious the grind can be. He does acknowledge that some of the premium tanks were unbalanced, but that it was something Wargaming fixed.

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“Right now, especially with influencers and YouTube guys, who really dig into one game, I’m not aware of any big outcry. There were a couple of episodes, we listened, I met with YouTubers myself, we discussed, we fixed, and now we’re back to really, really fair play.”

The balance between making a profitable game and still giving value to free players is a tricky one, but Kislyi seems to take it in his stride… to say the least. “I may sound a little arrogant, but this is what we do. You might also ask how can James Cameron make the dramatic Titanic story into an Oscar-winning movie. That’s because he’s James Cameron. We are James Camerons.”

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Kislyi clarifies that he is not in fact an award-winning director, but that when you spend all these years making a game, working with the tech and developing a player-base, you pick up a thing or two. “This is what we’re good at, and we’ve been learning for many, many years. It doesn’t come overnight.”

It may have taken eight years to reach this point, but Kislyi is already looking far into the future, according to Jerabek. “When I was joining, Victor, our CEO, told me that in 25 years he wanted World of Tanks to be the most successful game on Earth.”

World of Tanks 1.0 is out today.

20 Comments

  1. causticnl says:

    Putin’s favorite game.

  2. Palindrome says:

    The match maker is still just about the worst in all of gaming though.

    • ludde says:

      That’s not by accident.

    • Lord Byte says:

      Indeed. By not making it balanced each player will have times they’re on the rofl-stomping side, and others where they are not… Confirmation bias does the rest and they’ll keep playing chasing that “win”. Even though the individual skill has very little to do with winning or losing until you get above and beyond a certain level, only available to the elusive few.
      This has proven to increase the chances of the low to average players to spend more money in the hopes of getting more wins, than an actual proper ladder and skill-matching.

  3. pookie191 says:

    I used to play it a lot but moving the turret and trying to aim always feels a bit floaty. I really noticed it bad after playing Armoured warfare for a while.

    looks like they are starting to add some more modern tanks, I haven’t played it in years

  4. Mr Bismarck says:

    It’s the second best World Of * game. Behind Warships.

    World of Warplanes is fourth. Out of three.

  5. OmgBiscuitsNomNom says:

    Funny how this PR bullcrap fails to say anything about the facts that:

    -game has gone to sh*t on high tiers in the last year due to introduction of several utterly overpowered vehicles, many of them premiums
    -WG royally failed with 3-5-7 matchmaking and actually made an already worst MM in industry even more awful (sic!)
    -artillery “rebalance” achieved little, as the class is still a PITA to play or play against
    -the game is still blatantly pay-to-win
    -damage model is still utter garbage, with tiny tank tracks eating 175mm shells for breakfast
    -esports side is a complete failure due to the fact that core game is not meant to be fair at all
    -loads more crap that I can’t stomach to go into

    … but yeah, here are the new, shinier maps nao! Shiniestest! Now everything is OK, da, tovarish??

    I know it’s not exactly easy to fire difficult questions at devs, but gaming journalism is going to be an utter joke as long as someone doesn’t man the fuck up and finally start asking them.

    • ludde says:

      The writer of this article obviously doesn’t know enough about the game to call their CEO on his bullshit. A game where you can straight up buy power and they’re the “James Camerons”. Okay then…

      Also, it’s a visual upgrade, not “a new game”. Game mechanics, maps: it’s all the same as it always was other than looks.

    • Fraser Brown says:

      The business model question was raised. It’s right there in the article. It’s maybe not the answer you wanted, but them’s the breaks.

      • OmgBiscuitsNomNom says:

        It was touched on, yes, but not more than that, and in what I feel is inadequate way and a missed opportunity. Let me elaborate.

        First off, that section comes off highlighting the business model issues as a problem of “presentation” or clarity, when it’s really nothing like that. The interplay of currencies is actually one of the easiest to grasp in any modern MMOs! Business model was never a problem for newbies, because on lower tiers, the game is pretty tame, save for sealclubbers. Where it shows its insidious teeth are the higher tiers and more competitive gameplay, where you pretty much need to pay up to be either competitive or grind tanks. Premium ammo makes the game both pay-to-win and breaks balance and enjoyment of many tanks. It’s a huge issue. And I’m speaking of this as one of the players in the upper percent of performance; others have it harder than me!

        “When it’s brought up, he points out that everything you can buy in World of Tanks can also be earned …”

        That’s a straight-up lie. You can’t earn the overpowered premium tanks like the Defender, you have to buy them. You also can’t earn enough silver credits to shoot gold ammo required for many situations just by playing on a standard account … or even premium.

        “He does acknowledge that some of the premium tanks were unbalanced, but that it was something Wargaming fixed.”

        “Right now, especially with influencers and YouTube guys, who really dig into one game, I’m not aware of any big outcry. There were a couple of episodes, we listened, I met with YouTubers myself, we discussed, we fixed, and now we’re back to really, really fair play.”

        Straigh-up lies again! They didn’t fix anything! They never touched Defender, Liberte or any other balancing fuck-up they produced in the last year. Not only that – with the patch before 1.0, a month ago, they introduced not one, but several blatantly overpowered vehicles that should have never left their studio! Practically every YouTuber, even the WG-sellout Quickybaby, condemned the Object 268 V4, which completely destroyed the tier 10 gameplay.

        See, it’s exactly here, when Victor said that about YouTubers etc., that a knowledgeable and competent journalist should say: “But Mr. Kislyi, what you say is obviously not true …” When this starts to happen, we might have some actual progress.

        • battles_atlas says:

          Agree with a lot of what you say, but not the beef about difficulty of playing with a “standard” (free) account. I’d happily see gold shells removed from the game, but for game balance. The fact that it makes the high tier economy harder (note not impossible) for free players I can’t say I lose sleep over. You are, after all, getting a game that others are paying for.

    • StAUG says:

      Playing a ‘standard’ tier 8 and having to constantly fight the likes of the Defender, the Skorpion G, or even (Christ, why did they put it back on sale?) the E25 is what made me quit.

      • OmgBiscuitsNomNom says:

        Yeah, another one of their “stronk” business practices – when they make a clearly overpowered premium vehicle, they don’t rebalance it; instead they limit its sale to a couple of occasions throughout the year, so they still make huge bucks. Is balans, da?

    • Parovoz_NFF says:

      >artillery “rebalance” achieved little, as the class is still a PITA to play or play against

      Oh for God’s sake. I played WoT from the closed beta to probably two or three years ago while the so-called real life started to kick in too much and never was a day in game when nobody bitched about artillery.
      On the topic: it already had alpha, closed beta, open beta, at least two releases and 9.0 аs “A new frontier”, with shiny HD graphics n’such. Point is, for a game like this 1.0 status definitely doesn’t mean shit.

  6. Evan_ says:

    I feel Wargaming / Gaijin are among the few teams that produce good enough games to make many of us forget about the outdated and egregious monetization and grind. For a while. It’s also good to return to after years.

    Though I’m sad Creative gave ’em Total War: Arena.

  7. TotallyUseless says:

    World of Tanks 1.0 where Russian bias is still present with their nigh indestructible armor, OP penetration, and tanks that literally could not be set in to fire.

    All the while the heaviest German tanks have paper thin armor, bounce shots with their high pen guns, and tanks that burn from every other shot. Thank you WG, I see you still love Vladimir Putin.

    Oh did I mention the bland US tanks that could not stand up to snuff against either German or Russian tanks? Yeah WG do love their Russian masters.

    • battles_atlas says:

      There are a lot of legit reasons to have beef with WG, “Russian bias” ain’t it. Because it’s total nonsense. E.g. for much of recent history the US E5 was the most OP tier X. Before that the German Waffletractor. The German heavies in general have suffered from being armour based in a game where gold shells largely negate their purpose, but that is an issue with gold shells.

  8. StAUG says:

    After two years of playing WoT the latest round of buffs to the already *brutally* overpowered top tier Russian heavies and mediums has broken it for me. If there comes a time when the balance is overhauled I’ll give it another crack, but for now I’m tired of being fodder for Russians and wallet warriors.

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