We only got a brief glimpse of it at last year's GamesCom, but Wargaming.net's latest MMO - World of Warplanes - appears to be coming along in leaps and bounds. We talked to Anton Sitnikau to find out more...
PLEASE NOTE: The screenshot showing the inside of the cockpit is not actually from World of Warplanes. We've deleted it and all similar screenshots from our database. Sorry for any confusion.
Strategy Informer:So, World of Warplanes – is it proving as easy/difficult/ etc… to adapt your tank engine to use with planes as you thought? Any particular challenges that have come up?
Anton Sitnikau: We knew from the initial stages of development that it wouldn’t be a snap. We never intended to make a game that is like "World of Tanks, but with warplanes." Our goal was to make a satisfyingly deep standalone game that will make players say, "I want to go back and play it again!"
First, we evaluated the entire scope of work, developed a detailed calendar and defined what challenges we would have to face and how we’d be able to handle them. From a game design perspective, we went through all the things you do when designing a title, starting with solely technical issues (e.g., server and render adjustments) and ending with crucial air combat peculiarities such as accurate aim, terrain and weather effects.
Of course, things don’t always go to plan, and we ran into several problems that needed more attention that we initially thought. One of the hardest parts of development was the economic integration of WoT and WoWp and creating a single account between the two games. WoWp will also be more ping-sensitive than WoT due to its dynamic character, which also required some extra development.
Strategy Informer:You had a playable build of sorts at GamesCom last year, how has the game progressed since then?
Anton Sitnikau: The game has come a long way since GamesCom. We’ve finalised the main game mode and are now working on several more. We have also built nearly 70 historically authentic vehicles with a detailed damage system. We’ve been working hard on the game engine to deliver kick-ass graphics, accessible controls and a balanced flight model. Right now we are focusing on balance, game engine enhancement and addressing issues connected with server capacity, which is why we’ll need massive scale testing.
Strategy Informer:In the course of designing the game, have you had to change anything about your original design plan? Did you find out that something won’t work after all, or something else works better than you thought it would, for example?
Anton Sitnikau: The game has gone through many iterations over the course of development, but I can tell you we’ve already converged on core ideas that will make it into the final version. We are constantly polishing the gameplay and testing out new features.
Some test features fit into the game right away. For example, we didn’t have major difficulties implementing vivid eye-candy camos, frags, and tail numbers. However, several little things took us months to do. The weaponry firing rate was a bit of a pain to perfect. Think of a standard 15 vs. 15 battle: 30 planes, where each can have up to 6 machineguns! The server was about to fail due to the damage calculation system, but we managed to tackle it with some small changes and get it back on track.
Strategy Informer:World of Tanks operates on a Free to Play model – how is that working for you? Are you planning on making any fundamental changes going into Warplane? We know you’re making the in-game currency shared between all your games, for example.
Anton Sitnikau: WoT Free-to-Play model and its monetization system has proven to be flexible and efficient, so we are going to keep them in WoWp. The game will require no investment into it, and micro transactions will only help to save time on leveling, allow players to unlock rare premium vehicles and purchase premium consumables. We won’t sell “God Mode,” invisibility or ultimate weaponry. In-game gold will offer awesome options in terms of style and customization, but it won’t grant you perfect tactical thinking or top-notch skills. A combination of the free-to-play model and monetization made WoT enticing for a rather mature audience, which is unusual for online games. We are hoping for the same success with WoWp.
We are also planning to draw together WoT, WoWp and down the road, WoB in terms of in-game economy and level of clan wars. The first will allow you transfer Gold and Free Experience between the titles, while the latter will bring the diplomacy on the Global map to a whole new level. We are sure integration will significantly add fun to the gameplay.
Strategy Informer:Are you still on track for a beta in the spring? What release window are you aiming for?
Anton Sitnikau: We’ve been in closed alpha since last autumn and have been getting very positive feedback from the testers. We’re nearing the Closed Beta now and the game is really shaping up. The CBT is tentatively scheduled for the first quarter of 2012. Its outcome will determine when we run the Open Beta, and the outcome of that will determine the release date. We want to make sure the game is balanced and polished before we release it, and feedback from our testers is crucial.
Strategy Informer:Do you think your audience for Warplanes will be the same was WoT? Or do you think a different kind of gamer will be attracted to your new game?
Anton Sitnikau: We are aiming at a rather wide audience with WoWp. The basic controls will be accessible to make sure casual players will feel comfortable in the game, while the flight model and damage system will be complex enough to meet the interests of a more hardcore audience. We want WoWp to cater to anyone that likes warplanes, not only hardcore flight sim fans and actual top aces. We want anyone interested to have the chance to pilot a fast fighter or a powerful ground-attack plane!
Strategy Informer:Is there proving to be just as much interest in Warplanes as what was with Tanks during its development?
Anton Sitnikau: There is tremendous interest in World of Warplanes due to the global success of World of Tanks. The community now has a vision for the type of gameplay we offer, so there are higher expectations and a deeper level of interest than what we experienced prior to the release of WoT. We were a bit unproven in the online space back then, but now the team has the experience to deliver another action-packed Wargaming product that sets us above others.
Strategy Informer:As a Brit, I’m rather upset that there won’t be any British aircraft at launch. We did kind of stall Hitler for ages during the Battle of Britain, you know. How soon do you think it will be before you start rolling out the extra vehicles and other DLC?
Anton Sitnikau: The Battle of Britain is definitely among most memorable air conflicts of WWII, and we just couldn’t pass by iconic British planes and not give dues to the aces and aircraft designers. We’ve announced that WoWp will feature 3 nations, Germany, the USA and the USSR, and two branches for each national tech tree. I’m not supposed to disclose any more details in regards to dates and upcoming nations, but let me say this: we are now reconsidering the schedule, and the number of nations at launch may change. There's some very fascinating work going on right now, and there’s still lots left to do, so I’m not promising you’ll see the British tech tree upon the release, but you will see it down the road.
Strategy Informer:Any thoughts about Bringing World of Tanks to a console? Is that an audience you’re interested into courting?
Anton Sitnikau: Yes, we are considering it. It might sound like a simple thing, but you’d be surprised at the amount of resources, discussion and man hours which go into deciding that sort of thing. Not to mention technical estimations and preliminary tests. This is because of the gameplay. Although WoT gameplay nicely fits into the console control schemes, PC gamers will, most likely, have an edge over those that prefer gamepads. That’s why we first want to tune up and polish the current gameplay and then we’ll be seriously thinking about bringing the title to a console.
Strategy Informer:Obviously you also kind-of announced your intention to so World of Battleships as well – has work started on that yet? How long do you want to leave it after Warplanes is release before you seriously start pushing Battleships?
Anton Sitnikau: We're still very early in the development stage for World of Battleships, but everyone is really excited for the third title in our trilogy. We are only interested in making good games for our fans and want to make sure each title is balanced and fun before release.
Thanks to Anton for taking the time to answer our questions. Whether you're a Tank-man, a fighter man or even a Battleship man, Wargaming's franchise seems to be doing very well for itself. Stay tuned as more information becomes available.