August marks the 10th anniversary of World of Tanks and it is being celebrated with the release of Update 1.10. This update will introduce 6 new Polish medium tanks, the return of the fan favorite map Pearl River, and a dynamic new system for tank equipment that will change many players strategies on the battlefield.
To help in celebrating the tank warfare game, which I personally love, we got the chance to interview the Publishing Director of World of Tanks, Max Chuvalov. We’d like to thank both Wargaming and Max for providing the time and access to make this interview possible.
GS: Happy ten years! What do you attribute to the success and longevity of World of Tanks?
MC: Thank you! It’s a crazy milestone to reach as not a lot of games make it to 10 years, let alone continue to expand. The success behind World of Tanks stems from a combination of a few factors. When we launched in 2010, F2P wasn’t particularly common, maybe because the premise was seen quite negatively. However, our home market (the CIS) was now ready to have a F2P online game thrive: broadband was widely available with affordable unlimited plans and online payment systems were beginning to appear (yes, we might have been playing catch up). We entered this promising market with a quality title with a free-to-win ethos at its very core. Additionally, tanks and WWII heroics are an intrinsic part of the CIS culture.
Many of the people who became heavily invested in the game made their way to Wargaming and now spearhead the future of the game, helping us to expand from the CIS to a worldwide hit. Also, we hit demographics which had been almost untouched by video games previously because we had short gaming sessions. You could sit down have a game and know that it was only going to take a maximum of 15 minutes, whereas most MMORPGs at the time required you to play for hours on end to make the slightest bit of progress.
As for the game’s longevity, it’s down to the collaboration between us and our players. It’s their feedback, passion and love for the game which has gotten us to where we are today. If you compare the state of the game now to a decade ago, you’ll find 11 nations instead of 2, more game modes and incomparable graphics. As far as I know, few games (especially MMOs) have managed to introduce a completely new graphics engine like we did in 2018.
And we’re still pushing on today with new content drops every month or two. We continue to do everything we can to make the game and the experience better. It’s why community feedback is so important to us when we introduce new features, tanks, modes, etc. Our work is never done, we will always strive for better.
GS: Going back to the game’s inception, did you all ever anticipate the game being such a hit and lasting this long? If so, what moment or event made that a possibility in your minds?
MC: If someone had told us in 2010 that the game would be what it is now—160m registered users, 4 Golden Joysticks, a couple of Guinness World Records, and more—we’d probably say they were barking mad.
We expected it to be a success, but never in our wildest dreams did we imagine what it would evolve to be. In the early days, we were expecting 100k+ concurrent players would be the best-case scenario. Some of the people in the team were a bit more realistic and believed that this would be nigh on impossible. Probably in 99 cases out of 100, they’d have been right, but not this time. It was pretty soon after we launched that we really realized how big a hit this could be, but that’s not to say we expected it to be as big as it is today. Several months after launch, we knew we had to increase the server capacity; new players were coming in like a tidal wave. It was a special feeling, at that point we believed we could take on the world and the possibilities were endless.
GS: What are the biggest changes you would have to say the game has gone through?
MC: The biggest changes were part of Updates 8.0 and 1.0. The first brought realistic physics to the game. When that update hit, you could suddenly ram enemies, push them off cliffs, and launch yourself off a high area and land your trusty Maus right on top of them, flattening them like a pancake. Also, while not as big, what Update 9.0 brought us is probably fondly remembered by tankers: ammo rack explosions!
Well, Update 1.0. It was the mother of all World of Tanks updates. Switching to the new Core engine allowed us to eliminate the “graphics gap” between us and contemporary AAA action titles. It allowed for more advanced rendering, new lighting and more modern effects. All this was done without making the new graphics taxing performance-wise either, meaning everyone could enjoy the then-latest update.
All the game locales were rebuilt from scratch too; new objects were added and sometimes an entire map’s concept was rethought. An example of this is Cliff. This was a vaguely Southern European map before 1.0, and now it’s Hellenistic, complete with an acropolis and a bunch of destructible marble statues.
Additionally, the new orchestral score: not only was it now more in tune with the folklore for each of the map regions, but it was adaptive: the theme changes depending on how well your side is doing. Altogether, it was one hell of a feat for us. We managed to launch 1.0 overnight, even with its scale and complexity.
GS: What can fans expect going into the game’s tenth anniversary as far as events and celebrations are concerned?
MC: The celebrations have been in full swing since April, with each month since having had its own special mode as the keystone. We’ve had honking tanks, a Sturmtiger-only mode, the return of 7v7 and more. But you shouldn’t be afraid of turning up fashionably late: the real party will be starting on August 12, the game’s birthday!
GS: Have there ever been any vehicles that you really wanted to put in the game but would be too OP for one side? If so, which ones and why?
MC: In most cases we manage to balance the supposedly “OP” vehicles by assigning them to the right tier. For example, the T-34 and the Tiger were contemporaries, but in World of Tanks different versions of the T-34 are mostly Tiers V and VI, and various Tiger models are found at Tiers VII and VIII. They may still meet in Random Battles, but they don’t have the same weight for the matchmaker.
The aforementioned Sturmtiger was one of the very few occasions where you can’t really find a place for a vehicle in our collection. Mostly because it doesn’t have any counterparts in its historical period, being a well-armored self-propelled mortar shooting bunker-busting rockets, and its 380mm caliber is 140mm more than anything we have in the game. However, as the vehicle had been requested for many years by players, we found a way to implement it: a special mode where it was Sturmtiger on Sturmtiger.
GS: Wargaming has always been involved in preserving military cultural heritage. Can you talk about why this is important and perhaps if there are any new preservation projects coming down the pipe?
MC: Our game is dedicated to the golden age of tank building: the mid-20th century. In fact, World of Tanks is the largest virtual tank museum with 600+ vehicles all recreated in stunning detail. The preservation of history is extremely important and working together with museums is a way we can keep history alive.
Since launch, we’ve worked with museums and archives in 9 different countries. Their help in keeping the in-game vehicles true to life (or blueprints, in certain cases) has proven invaluable. They allow us access to documentation and their exhibits so we can photoscan the vehicles in hi-res, and their historians and engineers share their expertise with us. So, as we share a passion for military vehicles and making sure history isn’t forgotten, it makes sense we’ve engaged in numerous restoration projects together.
Last year, Wargaming participated in the restoration of one of the few surviving Panthers, which is part of a collection in the Musée des Blindés. This vehicle has a very unique personal history: it was captured by the Allies in Normandy and later was used by the French Resistance. We also took it to Tankfest, hosted by The Tank Museum, Bovington. It rolled out to the public on June 29, 2019. For those who would like to take a look at this unique vehicle in closer detail, you can find it as the Bretagne Panther in World of Tanks. Even better, you can take it for a spin!
As for new projects in this vein, right now it’s hard to predict when we’ll be able to get started. The current global situation adds a lot of barriers, but as soon as we can and, most importantly, it’s safe to do so we’ll be hard at work on some cool projects!
GS: How has the COVID-19 impacted game development at Wargaming?
MC: Currently almost all of the company’s employees (4,500+ people) are working remotely. We had a contingency plan in place, so we were able to redeploy rapidly, decreasing the risk to our team members and their families. Of course, we’ve had to deal with things like increased server load, but our tech team has done a stellar job in this regard. Laptops, chairs, face masks: whatever our guys needed was delivered right to their doorstep.
Currently the main challenge we are facing is the development for next year. We’ve already started working on the 2021 roadmap, but of course, this is much more difficult to do remotely. Usually, the development of such large-scale plans take place with those involved in the same room; it makes brainstorming and the like much easier. But it’s not a critical blocker: the process might take a little bit longer, but we’ll get it done.
GS: Many fans have always wondered if a World of Warplanes and World of Tanks crossover/joint game mode could be possible. Has there been any research into this possibility and what was the outcome?
MC: It’s a question that comes up a lot, but no, we aren’t considering anything like that. The key reason is that balancing the gameplay would be a nightmare: there’s just too big a disparity between the gameplay of the two games.
GS: Where do you see World of Tanks going in the future? Are there any big updates, expansions, ideas that you can share with us?
MC: We expect that the game will be in its “active phase” for at least another decade. That means we’ll still be supporting World of Tanks with large content updated and introducing new mechanics, modes and events. We still have a lot of ideas and our community never runs out of suggestions. Additionally, as the years go by, more industry trends will appear, and other ideas might be a flash of brilliance.
We would love to have things like fully destructible environments in the game within 10 years’ time, but we also have to make sure we keep to the roadmap. As for 2021, players should expect new tank branches, beautiful maps, interesting mechanics, game modes and special events, on top of the return of some maps removed before 2018. And that’s not to talk about the collaborations we have in the pipeline.
The roadmap for 2021 is quite packed, but we’ll do our best to implement it all, whether it’s from our homes or from our offices.
GS: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say directly to the fans that we haven’t covered so far?
MC: You are the guys who got us to where we are today, so a huge thank you from myself and the entire World of Tanks team. We wouldn’t be celebrating a decade of fierce tank battles if it wasn’t for your passion, dedication and feedback. 10 years, here’s to many more!
World of Tanks is available now for free via the game’s official website. Thanks again to Wargaming for making this interview possible!