With 11 offices around the world and over 1,000 employees, Wargaming.net has rapidly emerged as a big-time (if not the biggest-time) developer / publisher in the MMO space. "We control our own technology now," CEOVictor Kislyi stated with trademark candor, citing their recent acquisition of BigWorld - creators of the core engine behind World of Tanks (which just topped 35 million registrations worldwide) and other core properties. "We don't send them customer requests anymore, we tell them what to do. This is relatively expensive, like 35 mil, but it's worth it. It's for the ultimate good of World of Tanks, Warplanes, Warships, and maybe some other games to come."
We briefly discussed WG's latest announcement, the new World of Tanks: Generals trading card game, or what Victor described as a fun experiment arriving before the end of the year. Generals will be available at retail in physical form and online with the same rule set. There are thousands of TCGs out there, of course, but the World of Tanks twist is that players tier up their tank cards as in the core game and pull out special tactics and event cards to throw the battle in their favor.
Victor also talked about World of Tanks 8.0, which besides being confirmed for September will bring significant rendering improvements, better movement physics (allowing more realistic movement and hopefully no more getting hung up on cliff sides), and a host of goodies like the first British tank and adaptive camouflage to WG's flagship game.
We were also able to learn something new about World of Warships as Victor confirmed that carriers will be in the game. "He wasn't supposed to do this," PR Manager Arthur Pratapopau said, shaking his head, referring to the premature disclosure.
"How can you do Pacific war without carriers?" Victor responded, smiling. "They will be sending aircraft to bomb the other guys," he said, adding that the aircraft would be automatically controlled, not player piloted.
But the core of our discussion centered on the ongoing development of World of Warplanes, which is currently in closed beta. "The new patch for closed beta literally came out three days ago," Victor explained, citing update 0.3.2, and while visual tweaks abound (a newly fancied up hangar and the fact that modules now appear on planes), the major feature is something called presets.
Presets work something like the "sidegrades" explored in MMOs like PlanetSide 2. Few offer general improvements, but all presets provide better specialization for specific play styles. For example, if a squadron mate wants to try out his new ground attack plane and you're working on your fighter's double xp bonus, for example, you can quickly swap into a configuration with better stall characteristics and ground attack munitions like rockets if you want to help destroy ground targets. Or if you want to be the best escort you can be, maybe you'll choose a preset with an excellent climb rate, high top speed, and agile turning characteristics. And you can do this all with a single click on the stylish new hangar interface between matches.
These presets are based on historical variants and prototypes of every plane currently in circulation, and most (if not all) tweak flight characteristics - this is not just a handy way to swap modules, though swap modules it might. One Wargaming.net developer noted that the plan is to allow players to modify these presets to their liking with different modules, but at present these presets are set in stone.
The visual changes conveyed with swapping presets can be drastic. Victor pointed out the P-51JP1 variant of the legendary P-51 Mustang, which swept the wings forward (instead of backwards, as you might think) on the plane and streamlined the canopy. "It looks like Michael Phelps," he said with a smile. "I think one day in history, some mechanics and designers were really drunk and decided to make a plane like this." If that was the case, all hell must have broken out at trials!
Thankfully, presets are not a separate research path from modules: if you research all the modules a preset requires, you get the preset, and vice versa. Wargaming.net hopes to make the game much more accessible to casual players, who can simply research presets instead of finding the right mix of modules, making favorite planes more easily adaptive and attractive to play for longer periods of time.
We were also able to follow up on a recent announcement about the addition of Japanese planes to World of Warplanes, and Victor confirmed that Japan will be the fourth nation at launch. "This is good news for the Americans because they now have an enemy," Victor quipped. As far as what makes Japanese planes distinct, WG is keeping that info close to their vest. "Zeroes will have some special capabilities, but that will be released later on." I didn't have a chance to ask about kamikaze aircraft (real purpose-built ones, not the unintentional ones we find in low-tier matches), but given that suicide has never been rewarded as a valid play style and knocking out one ground object is hardly a back breaker, I think it's safe to assume that the divine wind won't be blowing into World of Warplanes.
After a few questions about trends in recent premium vehicle offerings, Victor closed with some surprising thoughts on the Wargaming.net's future business model. "We don't have problems with monetization.There are a lot of ideas from guys in the office, saying 'let's monetize this.' No. 'Let's monetize this.' No. The only challenge we'll have in the future is to keep people in - stay, play, free. There is no way we will be squeezing more money. We will be squeezing less money in the future, because our business depends on people staying and enjoying and playing for a long time. Peak CCU, monthly usage, daily usage - that's what matters for us. Money comes statistically."
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