World of Warplanes Interview -- The World of Tanks Goes AirborneBy Jake Gaskill - Posted May 04, 2012
Wargaming.net took the MMO world by storm last year with its wildly successful World of Tanks, and now the company is looking to repeat its success with its upcoming flight-based MMO, World of Warplanes. We chatted with producer Anton Sitnikau via email to find out more about what the team hopes to bring to the ever-growing genre, and how it’s using the proven WoT formula to give flight to its latest online effort.
Give us a little background on how World of Warplanes came about. Had it been in the development cards for a while, or was there a spark one day of, “Planes! Online! Go!”?
Anton Sitnikau: We loosely discussed making a flight MMO game when World of Tanks was merely a concept. Most of the development team shared love for flight sims as well as a shared view on what most of them are lacking. From there we decided to make a game we would eagerly play that would not leave us feeling bored or frustrated. That was the seed of World of Warplanes.
The spark that finally drove us to get down to development came with understanding that many World of Tanks players also dream about soaring in the skies. They kept writing to us with requests to make “something like World of Tanks, but with warplanes instead”. We couldn’t resist the temptation.
We knew we had a proven concept with World of Tanks, so we took the basic ingredients that have made it so popular and off we went!
What is the overarching story of the game? When/where is it set, what nations are involved, what are the theaters of war?
AS: The whole story comes about from our decision in 2010 to switch from strategy games to MMOs. We wanted to make a special MMORPG with maximum freedom to a player without adding another clone to the saturated MMO market.
For that reason, we scaled down all works on our “elfish” project and took a risky move towards the mid 20th-century war setting--the terra incognita for the whole MMO genre. We used it for World of Tanks, and it fit in perfectly.
With World of Warplanes, we have gone with a similar historical setting. We picked the 1930s-1950s time-frame because all aircraft developed and used during this period utilized “traditional” equipment and weapons. With these aircraft, the outcome of a battle depended on a pilot’s skills, rather than automation and hi-tech gadgets.
The game currently includes warplanes from the U.S., Germany, and the Soviet Union. We will eventually introduce aircraft from other nations such as Britain and Japan. All the warplanes will be mixed up in short 15-on-15 battles that will unfold over multiple battle arenas. Each battle arena will resemble a certain theater of war. As of now, we have the Harbor (typical coastal industrial city with mixed landscape), El Hallouf set in North Africa, and the Pacific (the name speaks for itself).
How did you go about deciding which types of planes should be available to players? Is there one particular plane that you were especially excited to bring to life in the game?
AS: As soon as we prepped the gameplay concept (outline combat tempo, max and minimum speeds, ways players would cooperate, how long one session would last, etc.), we went about selecting aircraft for World of Warplanes that match the spirit and intent of the game. We considered the different aircraft classes to determine which would fit into the gameplay and which wouldn’t.
For example, horizontal bombers and reconnaissance planes were left out as there was no way to work them into the standard battle. It’s next to impossible to include everything that’s in the lore while still making the game playable and fun, although I wouldn’t mind being wrong on this point.
Finally, we ended up with three plane classes--fighters, heavy fighters, and ground-attack aircraft. Each type of vehicle gets an original and engaging form of gameplay--fierce dogfights for fighters, wiping out ground targets for ground-attack planes, interception and defense for heavy fighters.
How is leveling handled? What are some of the options for improving your squadrons?
AS: As in World of Tanks, leveling involves upgrading your aircraft by researching and installing better modules and eventually, new vehicles. Planes of different nations form massive tech trees where each branch incorporates a certain class of machines. Every tree will start with a tier I vehicle and finish with a tier X machine. Also, each plane has a research tree of its own featuring upgradable tech modules (engines, canopies, etc).
The leveling goes like this: you participate in battles, earn credits and experience points for each session. Your personal achievements will be presented in the form of vehicles spotted and planes/ground targets destroyed or damaged. Earned experience is then used to research modules, upgrade armor, and unlock new tiers. A supreme plane alone won’t guarantee you a victory as the crew’s skills and level of expertise will also be a factor.
How do players go about earning/spending credits, and how does that system function within the game itself?
AS: Each warplane will have its own profitability rate that will determine the amount of credits and experience you will earn per battle. This rate will become a coefficient that will be multiplied by the aggregate number standing for the amount of useful moves you’ve done throughout a battle. Here everything counts: how many enemies you’ve spotted, the number of hostile warplanes you’ve killed, the amount of damage you’ve delivered, the amount of damage your allies delivered to your enemies while you were tracing them, etc. All this is united under a single in-game economic balance system.
How does the combat play out? How will people be working together/challenging each other, and what will they be doing to achieve their goals?
AS: The most important thing is cooperation. You analyze the objective, define team roles (each vehicle class is good for particular tasks) and work out overall strategy, split into smaller groups (if it makes sense), and throw yourself into the tussle.
As for the battles, you’ll start in the air above your base and pointing toward the enemy. Regardless of the game mode, you will always have two ways to win: by destroying all enemy planes or by destroying the enemy ground defenses before the enemy wipes out your base. As an option, you will be able to land your aircraft at the end of a battle. A successful landing will give you additional experience, but if you fail and crash, you’ll have to pay for extra repairs.
What are some of your post-launch goals? Do you have a set schedule that you’ll be following for addition content releases?
AS: We will launch with a solid core game and will continually improve and add to it with regular updates. We have a tough schedule split into two major aspects: visual content and technical optimization. Every update will enrich the tech trees by introducing new aircraft and new nations. Gradually, you’ll get more combat arenas and game modes (both in terms of random battles and platoons). The matchmaking will be polished every once in a while, too. Also, there’s a pile of work to do on server capacity and visual representation as we are planning to implement multiple cloud schemes, dynamic weather effects, etc.
World of Tanks has obviously been a huge success. Where do you see World of Warplanes fitting into the MMO space, and what does it bring to the table that other MMOs don’t?
AS: The combination of the setting, payment model, and gameplay that we used for Tanks proved to be attractive, and we’ll stick to the same concept for Warplanes, with attention to the crucial differences between ground battles and aerial combat.
World of Warplanes will be all about maximizing the rush of an aerial fight and striking a balance between an in-depth flight sim and a relentless shoot-‘em-up. Does this mean we’ll simplify the game for the casual new players? Not really. We’ll make it easy to jump in yet satisfyingly tricky to master. Along with its emphasis on authenticity, quality graphics and an eye for detail, World of Warplanes will be absolutely free to play. All you’ll have to do is create an account, download the game, give it a try, and decide for yourself. Once you are comfortable with game, you’ll find that there's plenty of content to keep you actively battling non-stop for weeks.
When do you expect the game to launch?
AS: At the moment, we're in the Global Alpha phase. Its outcome will determine when we proceed on to the Closed Beta followed by the Open Beta. Initially, we were aiming for late 2012 and as of now, everything is going according to plan.