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Interview: World Of Tanks (Yes!)

World Of Tanks! Three words that just make so much sense. It's a free-to-play MMO that's already doing well in Russian-language lands, is heading Westward. It really does sound splendid: a garage full of tanks, destructible surroundings, a global map for clans to fight over. But what of the details? Fortunately we've got some of those, right here. We recently spotted Mike Zhyvets, the game's technical director, coming over the horizon and so we positioned our self-propelled 40mm word-cannon to land questions squarely in his mind. Read on for a full examination of his response crater.

RPS: Tanks? Really? How does that work? Do players have garages full of different tanks?

Zhyvets: The choice of the concept for World of Tanks wasn’t random. We knew that millions of tank enthusiasts around the world were looking forward to playing a team-based MMO featuring authentic panzer models, something that could fully feed their tank driving thirst. So here we are with World of Tanks focusing on tense online warfare and historically accurate models of fighting vehicles that were designed and produced from the 30’s and up to the Korean War. We’ve chosen that era as it’s the most interesting period of tank building history. And 20 thousand beta testers we have so far in Russia prove that we were right with both the concept and the setting.

World of Tanks gives players a chance to command nearly 150 historically accurate models of fighting vehicles from America, Germany and USSR as well as explore their strong and weak points in battles. We will gradually add panzers from other nations like Britain, France, Italy, Japan. All in all World of Tanks will include about 500 models of fighting vehicles.

By the way, it is not only the tanks that the game features. Anti-tanks and SPGs are also included in World of Tanks. Moreover, we are planning to add rocket artillery after the release. Our first attempt in this direction is the premium RBT-5 Soviet tank — the light tank that hosted a pair of large artillery rocket launchers.

The players can fill up their garage with all these toys, drive different panzers and see how they work on the battlefield. The garage can hold from five to dozens of panzers. Avid tank buffs can get up to 100 tanks in their collections.

RPS: Can you tell us a bit about what the tanks get up to in World Of Tanks? I understand that it's PvP-focused, but how is that packaged for the player?

Zhyvets: Your tank is the main character of the game. One panzer refers to one player on the battlefield. Thus, you are a tank commander of your steel monster, fighting shoulder to shoulder with your brothers-in-arms against your enemies in intensive team deathmatch battles. That is why team cooperation and tactics play an immensely important role for success in every fight. World of Tanks is not just a run-and-gun game, although solo players will be getting tons of fun and thrill in duels as well.

The gameplay differs depending on the type of a fighting vehicle a player commands. You can choose a light tank and help your team as a scout by breaking into the enemy’s rears, spotting the enemy tanks’ positions or destroying SPGs. Medium tanks are ”jacks of all trades” while heavy tanks like IS-4 or the Royal Tiger represent the team’s crushing power. Tank destroyers are perfect defensive units. With powerful weapons and thick frontal armor, they are capable of engaging enemy vehicles from relatively long distances. The role of SPGs is slightly different. They work in tense cooperation with light tanks that scout the map and unveil enemy vehicles for them. Their extremely powerful weapons may cause a one-shot lethal outcome for any opponent.

As I’ve said, the basic mode is the team deathmatch, however, more exciting modes like Survival or Garage Wars will be added as well. We didn’t intend to introduce AI, except the training mode only, as it is always much more challenging to fight against real players in online wargames.

RPS: How do modifications to tanks work? (And how do players progress?)

Zhyvets: A player will start with a small and funny 1st level tank, which will be Leichttraktor for Germany and MS-1 for USSR. By taking part in battles the player earns experience and credits to modify his tank, research and buy a fighting vehicle of a next level. Every unit has got about 10 modifications with different historically grounded specifications (sorry, no chance to install a turret from Tiger on your T-44). An average tank normally has 2 modifications of turrets, 2 versions of tracks, 3 engine models and 2-6 modifications of the main gun. Having obtained enough credits and experience, the players can buy new vehicles and place them in their garage. There’s no limitation on nations or types of panzers to have at one’s collection. The German SPG “Hummel” can be a neighbor to the Soviet T-44 at your depot.

Your tank crew levels up as well. With every new battle, your crew members gain more and more experience, which improves your panzer’s performance in the battle. For example, with a veteran gunner aboard, your tank will be more accurate in shooting, while an experienced loader will increase the panzer's firing rate.

RPS: The destruction model looks fun - are there any practical limits to what you can blow up?

Zhyvets: We have to put up with some certain technical limitations typical for MMO games. Moreover, we are very precise about the ballistics in the game which leads to additional loads on the server. Players can’t destroy absolutely everything in World of Tanks, so landscapes remain practically untouched. Still, all other components of the ingame environment will be totally destructible — cars, hedges, trees, etc. Buildings can be ruined into splinters with some showy effects as well.

Concerning fighting vehicles, we have implemented multilevel damage system that accounts for tank models’ various parameters like armor thickness, amour slope, “soft spots” typical for a particular panzer, etc. However, there are some modules like tracks or guns that can’t be knocked out completely. We have added the repair function to prevent nasty situations when two damaged tanks are stuck on the opposite sides of a map having no chance to engage each other.

In case the engine is 50% damaged it works at its half power. The same refers to other modules and your crew — damaged tank radio will provide a reduced communication range, the loss of your gunner will lead to firing accuracy decrease. We will add repair kits that can be used only once per battle in order to keep the proper game balance.

RPS: Just how many players can you have on a battlefield at any one time? Any problems with lag with high numbers? (And how big are the battlefields?)

Zhyvets: At the moment, the number of players in a team is limited to 15 and will be increased to 30. Thus, up to 60 panzers can clash in tense fights on the World of Tanks battlefields. The size of a standard map is 1 square kilometer. Maps’ size is specified by technical and gameplay demands. However, a desert map with lack of huge objects on it may be much larger and we will definitely add such locations into our game.

We had no serious lags so far. The closed beta we held in Russia helped us reveal some bugs and errors that will be removed by the start of the European beta.

RPS: Can you explain a bit about how the global war part of the game will work? What would an RPS clan get out of playing together in that mode?

Zhyvets: To make a long story short, let's imagine a global map with persistent world divided into hundreds of provinces. At the very beginning, we will start from the eastern boards of Germany to Volga and from Scandinavian countries to Romania. There are several economic categories of provinces, from basic ones to “capitals” that will give most monetary benefits to their owners. Once per day clan masters declare attacks on neutral or enemy provinces and a corresponding number of battles are scheduled and take place accordingly. The bigger your clan is, the harder it gets to repel attacks and expand your empire. Clans can sign treaties, non-aggression pacts or become vassals. Having a couple of solid alliances will help protect the clan’s flanks and rear. But we also expect a lot of treachery, changing alliances, double-agents, stubbing in the back and other political tricks. New clans enter the map by having a chance to fight a battle for one of the “coastal” provinces. If they kick the owner out, that province will be their new home, from where they will expand deeper into the continent. The more panzers you have, the more powerful your clan is, but in order to start fighting and capturing the provinces you should gather a team of 15 players. Clans can also participate in clan tournaments that will last for much shorter time: from a couple of hours to a couple of days.

I’m fairly sure that RPS clans will have some hilarious time in World Tanks clan wars. Just interesting to see how good they are at diplomacy and tactics against hundreds of other guilds fighting for global domination.

RPS: So fun and games, but how much real history is in there?

Zhyvets: We have no story-driven missions. But we definitely will introduce historic campaigns — series of battles set up on the maps close to their historical prototypes where only specific models of tanks will be allowed.

Historic Campaigns have the same mechanics as in Clan Wars, however, they will have less diplomacy and building options. Holding such events on the regular basis, we will give players a chance to recreate the history of WWII and we are looking forward to seeing how they’ll deal with that.

RPS: I understand the game is free, but with micropayments? What sort of stuff will players be asked to pay for?

Zhyvets: World of Tanks is based on the free-to-play model. Download the client, install it and join tense online warfare straight away. We believe that the majority of players will be getting tons of fun from World of Tanks without investing a penny into the project and we are calm about it. The leveling-up doesn’t take ages and lasts extremely fast comparing to other MMO projects. However, the player will have an opportunity to invest money into some bonus content. First, this is a premium account, which gives +50% to credits and experience per battle to the owner. The premium account is a very comfortable option for players who don't have enough time for their favorite game, therefore, it will give them a chance to progress faster. However, this account will not give you any advantages in battles. The only advantage here is your saved time. Second, players will also be able to purchase premium tanks. We are very cautious about the game balance and will prevent “war of wallets”. That’s why we are not offering top-level tanks as premiums. These are some special tanks with prominent history like Churchill or Matilda in the Russian tech tree or Lowe for Germany. These panzers will be jewels in the crown of any tank lover’s collection. And finally, we will offer our players to use some custom features for their pets like personal drawings, insignias, clan emblems or custom camos.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

Expect a beta this summer, with the full launch to follow by the Autumn.

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