World of Tanks has been around for quite a long time now. In fact, the team over at Wargaming are celebrating World of Tank’s 10-year anniversary! We recently had the pleasure of asking Max Chuvalov, Publishing Director for World of Tanks PC, all about the history of the game and where he sees the franchise going in another 10 years.
Congratulations on the 10-year anniversary, what’s it like keeping a game like World of Tanks new and exciting for players over ten years?
Yes, ten years is quite a decent age for an online game. Yet we plan to go even further and prolong the active phase of World of Tanks for another ten years or more. By ‘active phase’ I mean that the game is being actively developed and supported. And even after it ends, we presume that World of Tanks can survive for another 5 years due to the fantastic loyalty of our audience. All in all, that makes a quarter of a century.
To make it possible, we’ve been working on the game constantly. We can’t get behind the approach when a developer studio releases one DLC per year, with no support in-between. Instead, we offer new content every month or two: modes, tank branches, nations, maps, special events, etc. This is what keeps the audience involved. There are 2,000 people working on World of Tanks, constantly improving and refining the game, and fleshing out the ideas to be implemented in future.
In those 10 years, World of Tanks has grown from just a PC audience to embracing a console and mobile audience too. What’s it been like bringing the game to new platforms and is the team looking ahead at the next generation of consoles?
Bringing the game to various platforms, from mobile to consoles to even VR, was quite a feat. Yet it seemed an absolutely logical step, and rather easy in terms of implementation, given that the PC version had already had everything it needed: tanks, maps, lots of content, an understanding of what new modes can be done, and above all the clear gameplay adored by numerous players. The biggest challenge for us was controllers. In order to find the right solution, we had to work really hard for quite a while, but we managed to deliver.
As before, we are keeping a close eye on trends, studying different platforms and technical innovations to see whether the game can benefit from them. As an example, World of Tanks VR is now available to play in arcades across Russia, Belarus, Japan, and other countries.
Players often request tanks, and you’ve just introduced the Sturmpanzer VI Sturmtiger as part of the celebration. What’s it like bringing a tank like that to the game?
Vehicles of this kind can only be introduced in a special game mode, not in Random Battles. A remarkable piece of military engineering and a legend of military vehicle history, the Sturmtiger is powerful and thus rather poorly balanced, which made it very hard to seamlessly fit it into our game.
We introduced it in a time-limited event with Sturmtigers being the only type of vehicles available. The gameplay was fun, and it was the only way to bring this monster into World of Tanks. To our delight, players enjoyed the mode immensely and joined in celebrating the anniversary.
Are there other tanks that the team would love to put in but feel they’re just too unbalanced?
In World of Tanks, the overwhelming majority of vehicles are based on real-life models created before the mid-1960s. Later, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the tanks became completely different. They featured smoothbore guns, auxiliary guidance systems, composite, active, or dynamic armor. So vehicles of the previous generation, like the Maus, could not compete with them. These tanks instantly became OP (overpowered) in comparison to the older models. One tank from the 1970s era could easily cope with a dozen tanks of the previous generation, even though the latter had thick armor and other excellent stats. Of course, these overpowered vehicles cannot be introduced into the game simply because they cannot be balanced in any way. As for the tanks that fall into the game’s era, we can bring them to balance, but they need to have something to appeal to our players.
The celebrations are only just getting started too, with two more acts scheduled for the rest of the year. What kind of things can players look forward to, any hints?
To celebrate World of Tanks’ 10th anniversary, we launched a string of thematic events tied to the game’s history. They started in April and will go on into December, each offering special gameplay options, modes, and of course, rewards.
I cannot put everything on the table at the moment. But rest assured, we’ve prepared something very special for August (the 12th being the exact date of World of Tanks’ birthday). And even after that the celebrations will continue, with lots of surprises for all commanders!
Can you talk about the process of designing and developing such a large, several months-long event like the 10th anniversary one?
The preparations started about a year before the release. First, we set the goal which was to celebrate the anniversary together with our players. We wanted the celebration to bring positive emotions while recalling the history of the game’s dawn, its ups and downs, its missteps and successes. Our players are part of the story, so we wanted to remind them of the past, evoke warm feelings, and generally make the celebration a memorable event, with festive atmosphere and lots of presents.
Anniversary is not just one day of the year, but the whole year, in fact. So, we wanted the event to last long and be remembered. After the goal was set, we proceeded to brainstorming sessions, asking creative design teams to come up with ideas of how that vision could be brought to life. Upon choosing the ideas we took a liking to, we focused on one creative direction. Further, it was elaborated into a concept suggesting that the long-term event should be cut into 5 parts and that each of them should have its own gameplay and story to instill the sense of nostalgia. Next, we had to create unique content for each stage.
After getting all approvals, the pre-production stage started. Here we involved an army of analysts, system designers and other specialists who helped us with interfaces, sharing their insights on all kinds of stuff: what to take into account, how to deal with interconnections and transitions from one menu to another, how the progression should perform and look like, how many stages should it contain, how to make the event both challenging and fun, and so on and so forth. Simultaneously, a dedicated team created the storytelling part for each episode. Another team was behind the art.
After we were done with preproduction, the prototype stage began. We had to write code, test the prototype and put it into the game, as well as create loads of content for each episode to render them memorable. All this was done literally by hand using the prototype showing the whole logic of the event and the appearance of each given stage, and much more. Then everything went to production. That is when the development stage began, then testing and finally, release. All this was accompanied by miscellaneous articles, news, videos, press releases, interviews, offline events, etc. Unfortunately, the celebration has been held predominantly online, as we had to cancel our huge offline event due to the pandemic.
Summing up, it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to arrange and bring to life festivities of such scale.
Community is such a big part of what makes World of Tanks unique. How has the community grown and evolved over the past ten years, and how has it impacted the development of the game?
During the alpha and beta stages of the game, a tightly knit core of our community formed, made of WWII armored vehicles aficionados, military history enthusiasts, simulator and strategy fans, students of history, engineers, etc. They boosted us immensely by spreading the word-of-mouth, helping the newcomers learn the basics and improve further (as the game didn’t have a proper tutorial then). What’s probably even more important, they also instilled those who came later with their passion for the game. Some of our top managers come from that group of early adopters, and that’s just awesome. Keeping the flame, you know.
After the release, we immediately found contact with a larger audience, and it sort of snowballed, first in the CIS and then around the world. The game hit two Guinness World Records for the most players simultaneously logged on to an MMO server: on January 23, 2011 - 91,311 players and on January 21st, 2013 - 190,541. We also snatched four Golden Joystick awards, two of them relatively recently (and as you know, these are won by popular vote so it’s a sign of Tanks’ enduring popularity).
Now we’re at 160+ million registered users globally. New people continue to come, and they stay: our players belong to very different age cohorts, and every group from 12 to 60 has a large representation. Sometimes, three generations of a family will play World of Tanks. It is true still that an overwhelming majority of our players are male; but we’ll find a way to entice more women into the game.
As the audience of World of Tanks is large, dedicated, and lots of people have been with us for years, they are very demanding. And this is just great. They know the game well, and because of that they know exactly what they want. They willingly participate in sandbox testing of new features and changes to the mechanics, and we get tremendous amounts of finely structured feedback (not speaking about tons of data). We listen to what they have to say, and this helped us take the right road more than once, avoiding some major pitfalls.
And of course, the ways we engage with the players have evolved over this decade: for example, the key developers now regularly stream with tank vloggers. Some of the latter even joined the team. We look forward to establishing even greater cohesion and better rapport with the players because without their dedication and assistance, we wouldn’t be where we are today. And we will always remember that we owe our success to our audience.
Where do you see World of Tanks in another ten years?
Like I mentioned, we expect World of Tanks’ active phase to last for another decade at least. As for our current ideas, it would take a couple of years to implement them all. Most of them come from the game itself, including all sorts of wishes and suggestions from the player base. Many ideas are born as a response to challenges triggered by in-game situations. Our game is akin to a living organism that is constantly changing and evolving.
More specifically, we envision the future of World of Tanks as bright and expansive. Players will be treated to a huge variety of new content, including fresh tank branches, new maps and HD remakes of old ones (those phased out before the Update 1.0 of 2018), as well as unprecedented mechanics, game modes and celebrity campaigns. We always shoot for the stars, because we are moved by our passion, and it’s immense.
Thank you to Max Chuvalov for taking the time to speak with us about World of Tanks and what makes it such a special game. It’s certainly an exciting time to be a World of Tanks player. With so much happening in-game, and so much in-store for the future, there’s plenty to keep you hooked. Be sure to check out the Shacknews World of Tanks page for our ongoing coverage of this epic franchise.