World of Tanks: Behind the Tanks
Earlier this month myself, and fellow Game Hyper, Daniel, were lucky enough to be invited by the guys and gals over at WarGaming.net to join them at a super secret underground location in London. The objective of our mission was to learn about some exciting new content on its way to console later this month; you heard me right, Wargaming are releasing a new addition to the World of Tanks family, and it looks to be the most exciting release yet!
Let’s be really honest about this, we had an amazing time getting to know the faces and minds behind World of Tanks. The game has taken the world by storm, being downloaded and played by millions of gamers across the world on PC, tablet and mobile devices, not to mention the near 15 million players who have also played on console. I have great admiration for the crew behind it, it is obvious that this game is a massive hit; however, whilst Daniel was already a fan, I made the trip because I am always interested in getting to know the creative minds behind any game or narrative experience. Having said that, I was impressed with the extensive historical context explored and the sheer passion that the crew from WarGaming.net all showed for the existing and future projects in World of Tanks.
World of Tanks: Mercenaries explodes (exclusively) onto consoles on the 26th June 2018!
Launching exclusively to PlayStation and Xbox on 26th June is the impressively designed World Of Tanks: Mercenaries. Bringing multiple overhauls to World Of Tanks on console, including a new mercenary nation, war torn maps and the contract system. We were super hyped to meet some of the incredible team behind the game, and Daniel managed to swindle a personal and in-depth discussion with the narrative lead, Darold Higa; A self-confessed history buff and expert in all things tank. Higa spoke of alternate history concepts influencing the narrative of both Mercenaries and War Stories. Expressing his interest in the idea that the events that unfolded within global conflicts such as The Cold War, could have resulted in a completely different outcome if the actions of individuals had changed. This is what inspired the stories behind World of Tanks’ PvE experiences. One particular story stood out to him, as a key moment that could have progressed the war, when a Soviet Sub-commander was ordered to fire.
“So he was under orders to retaliate – with a nuclear torpedo, which the Americans would have assumed was a nuclear weapon […] it wasn’t, it was a nuclear tip, it wasn’t like a ballistic missile, but it would have had a nuclear explosion and the Americans would have interpreted that as a nuclear attack. […] So if he was under orders to do it because they thought he was being targeted by a nuclear weapon, he refused to fire it. Turns out the Americans didn’t fire and those actions stopped what could have caused a nuclear war. That’s why the Cuban missile crisis was another interesting one.”
This butterfly effect style of thinking (which was later the basis of the Nuclear Deterrence Theory) inspired Higa to think up a fresh scenario for World of Tanks, something he believes is lacking in modern gaming. When asked about how and why he chose this narrative arc for the new World of Tanks: Mercenaries, Higa responded:
“It’s almost as if you had a whole history book and you tore out five pages and those are the only ones you go back to; they are important pages but there is a whole lot of other things. So I said, you know what, I’m going to identify a whole bunch of historically significant but not well talked about battles, especially from the western side. And then I’m also going to say, why don’t we talk about alternate history? Let’s talk about the what if. And so I did that.”
So War Stories was born, now World of Tanks: Mercenaries is on the way. Similarly, this game will work with a twist on the reality of what happened during World War II. What if it hadn’t ended? The outcome of the war is the same, but Higa designed this game on the basis that it had lasted three years longer. The plausible reality, as estimated by Higa, gives a realistic and dark twist to the world we now know. Conceptually excellent and well thought out, imagine now that the world had begun to turn to chaos. Mercenaries are searching the debris and destruction left behind and salvaging what they can to create the best tanks possible. Building from the ground up.
“Technically speaking we couldn’t make a mercenary line where you’re buying existing tanks, but the idea of salvaging stuff from the battlefield and putting it together to create their own versions of tanks also had an appeal. We have community members who were proposing hundreds of these hybrid tanks.”
Daniel asked Higa about the process behind designing the mercenary line, what the challenges were and how they will work alongside the pre-existing tanks from War Stories. Higa felt confident that the team have worked to their best ability trying to prevent any difficulties and imbalances.
“We looked at a lot of historical ones and some of them had some fundamental gameplay challenges. So we decided, okay, we’re going to take the spirit of this and we’re going to under tank this and listen to the feedback from our community. Generated a bunch of ideas and we thought we could make them very cool without throwing off the balance of the existing tanks.”
He continued to say:
“So for balancing, what we did is we took kind of middle of the road components and use them as the basis so that they’re not over performing and then we put them together and then super test. So we went through a process […] you will look at some of the aesthetics and say, ‘Oh God, that’s a cool looking tank.’ Some of it would make sense because on the battlefield you’d have this type of chassis in this kind of nation of those things. Then they ran it through our super test again. We’ve done a lot of data mining on this and ironically, although we cannot see how each combination works, we know the performance of each individual part and get a good sense of balance.”
Not only did logistics and historical context play a large part in the production of this new release, Higa also discussed the difficulties you face when creating such a widely played game. He is clearly very passionate about his role in the World of Tanks community, this shone through as he expressed his appreciation of the fan-base, stating that he accepts any feedback as a sign of enthusiasm. Even when there are complaints he feels that it shows how much the players care and is an opportunity to improve the game, even if it isn’t in the way the player expects. When asked about his feelings towards this feedback and the world of game development Higa responded:
“There’s that loyalty, and that kind of support motivates us and it kind of kicks us in the butt, man. You do care. It’s not just a job, you know, and I will say this because I think game development is romanticized: For some people it does turn into a job, which is unfortunate when you start doing things by the numbers, but for us, I think our community engagement really keeps us on our toes.
We have to think of something good. You know, we don’t always succeed, but we try every time.
First of all, you need to have a thick skin to be a developer nowadays. That’s the reality of it. […] We are also pretty confident about our data collection. We had community members say ‘you’re lying.’ But we gain nothing by lying to you about the hit rate on this gun. I mean it’s like why would we? Why is that a conspiracy? But I understand people are passionate.
The fact that people are that passionate about it, it’s still motivating. I mean we understand that what they’re saying may not make any sense. […]So for instance, let’s say that they’re saying, “I didn’t understand why I should go through that door. Get rid of the door.” So what they’re asking for is get rid of the door what we hear is why don’t they know this? I need a better visual cue. Maybe the lighting is bad. Or maybe people are looking in a different direction for some reason so we need to get them to look in that direction instead. That’s the way I look at it.”
The process for Higa and the rest of the team has been a long one, with each individual scenario taking three to four months to produce, leaving the team having to make difficult decisions. He made it clear that they are not by any means running out of ideas or slowing down, stating that the alternate histories are all there, but the difficult decisions are choosing which ones to develop into the stories in the game. There is only so much time to develop new stories whilst maintaining the freshness of the game, refusing to let it stagnate and keeping it constantly evolving. So for those of you out there panicking that there couldn’t possibly be any way that the World Of Tanks team can keep up their success, fear not, they are full of bold and innovative ideas!
Myself, Daniel and the rest of the team at Game Hype want to express our gratitude for the opportunity to explore the world behind the tanks.
World of Tanks: Mercenaries will be available to download for free on your console 26/06/2018!
Be sure to follow @wargaming_net on twitter for updates regarding the games release!
It was a pleasure guys <3
Thank you to my amazing friend and fellow Game Hype colleague: Daniel Scott, not only for accompanying myself to London, but for doing most of the hard work in conducting the interview and coming up with some great talking points for the team.