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Interviewer: I’m here at the Game Developers Conference Online in Austin, Texas and with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?
Arthur: Hi, my name is Arthur. I’m from Wargaming.net. I’m glad to talk to you guys.
Interviewer: What’s wargaming.net about?
Arthur: Wargaming.net, well, as our own name says, we’re obsessed with war games. And that’s what we’ve actually been doing for the past 12 years. The company was established in 1998.
Back at that time it was a bunch of college students obsessed by the idea to create a computer game of their own. So, they got it in the garage. They just planned something, and two years after this we released DeBellis Antiquitatis. It’s a computerized version of the famous miniature game. It was 2D at that time.
After that we released quite a successful series, the Massive Assault series, Massive Assault Network. Then, we shifted our attention to Altius Field, and two years ago we released Order of War in cooperation with Square Enix. They’re like the head Japanese publisher.
Arthur: Three and a half years ago we started our work on our current title, World of Tanks. It’s a free to play MMO game dedicated to armed warfare. At first, it was like, the idea was to create a traditional MMO game, fantasy MMO game with orcs and elves. But then we realized that there were a couple of really good games with the same setting already, and thousands of games that were not really that good.
That’s how we decided to somehow stand out in this crowd of fantasy MMO games, and we picked out tanks because war and tanks, that’s what we actually know a lot about and that’s what we have expertise in.
Interviewer: Now, how did you balance developing this game while doing a game with Square Enix? Their standards are all so really high. How do you balance the time required?
Arthur: When you work with a publisher, they normally set some milestones for you. We’re actually publishing this game ourselves, so we’re in charge. It’s our risks because we invest our own money. So, we have to create all these milestones and to organize all this work in process ourselves.
Of course, there is always some desire to add some new fishes, to add something new, to implement some new ideas, and that’s why sometimes we have to shift those milestones. But still we try to keep to the plan that was set two years ago.
Interviewer: And what were some of the challenges you guys encountered while you were developing this game?
Arthur: Like balancing. Balancing was a really big challenge because… It’s not a secret that all military plans were a little too… According to history buffs, they weren’t historically accurate games. So, we made a prototype of a game that was almost 100 percent historically accurate and realistic. But after playing it for a couple of hours, we realized that it was going to be boring.
Then, we decided to find a good balance between realism and interesting and captivating game play. So, we tried to make all the models in our game like historically accurate, the way they look and their parameters and characteristics. But still there were some tweaks to make the game play more interesting and more captivating.
Interviewer: Can you talk about some of those tweaks?
Arthur: Well, for instance, we made the tanks move a little bit faster because we have some really big tanks that existed only on paper, like E-7 or Maus. If we used their real speed, it would take them a couple of hours to cross the map. So, we made them move a little bit faster to make the game play more enjoyable.
Well, that’s just an example. The same stuff with the ? with the loading time. But they are more or less historically accurate.
Interviewer: There are two parts to this game. Can you talk about the two different aspects, the two different kind of game play and parts of the game?
Arthur: That’s right. The game consists of two parts. The first part is like our place called the Counter Strike Tanks. So, it’s all about 15 versus 15 PVP matches, like short assertions that last for 5-15 minutes. Well, it’s actually some death match style. So, your task is to either eliminate the enemy team or capture its base.
The second part is plan wars. So, you can imagine, like, a global war. Think a global war map and total war style divided into hundreds of provinces and thousands of players throughout the world who are organized in clans are fighting for these provinces. Each province will give some benefits, like credit, experience, gold, some unique and special models of tanks or some unique and special parts of tanks. That’s how it will work.
We have this counter strike force already implemented into the game, and the clan war system is still in development and will be implemented in a couple of months.
Interviewer: What’s the most popular part then? Which game play is more popular?
Arthur: Well, actually there are like five classes of tanks in our game, like light tanks, medium tanks, heavy tanks, tank destroyers and self-propelled artillery. Each class of tanks has some different game play. So, for instance, driving light tank you mostly operate like a scout. So, your task is to detect enemy units or to destroy enemy artillery as it’s really big.
Heavy tanks are the main sole power of the team. So, they do the most dirty jobs. So, they annihilate enemy units. Medium tanks are like jacks of all trades. They do both offensive and defensive tasks. They’re good for every purpose. Artillery is a little bit specific. So, its task is to hide somewhere in the bushes or in the forest with a bird’s eye view and do some sniping.
So, different types of tanks meant different types of game play. Well, it depends on you.
Interviewer: So, in the 15 versus 15 matches, is it pretty much people mixing different types of tanks? You know, different people have different game play styles.
Arthur: Of course.
Interviewer: And then, they just work with other people.
Arthur: That’s right. Team work and cooperation, that really matters much in this game. As I already mentioned, team work and cooperation are of really great importance in this game because you need to coordinate your actions with your teammates. As I’ve already mentioned, for instance, you’re in a Nazi unit, but you’ll never get someone for it unless your scout guy goes and detects the shootings on the other side of the battlefield.
The game, at the moment we have some randomly created battles. So, you click this battle button. You join the battle and like this automatic matching system it plays two teams of 15 tanks which have more or less equal levels.
Arthur: So, this is fair. There’s hardly a chance that a level one player will fight against a level nine player.
Interviewer: How do you guys differentiate yourselves with something like Counter Strike? I know you guys have tanks. Is there any other game play element or any other parts of the game to make it feel different?
Arthur: People compare us with Counter Strike because it’s really much about tactics and team cooperation. It’s all about hiding, then shooting and hiding again. But in Counter Strike you have to be… It’s some kind of clique fest. You have to have some crazy reactions not to be shorted in the second half of the Battle of the Stars.
Here it’s more slowly, not that fast. So, you have some time to think of your further actions and stuff like this.
Interviewer: And would you say that your… What’s the demographic then of these players? Is it the same as Counter Strike, or is it something different?
Arthur: 99 percent are men, but we still have some girls playing. The ages range from 12 to 45. Well, we have some veteran players who are 50-55 years old. We have some from Belarus. Back in Belarus we demonstrated this game to World War II veterans, and these guys really enjoyed them. Well, at first when they looked at the graphics, the way the game looks like, they thought it was just like some kind of movie shot of them. Then, they realized it was a game.
Interviewer: What have been surprises as you’ve released this game in the community and stuff like that?
Arthur: Well, the surprise… Well, we were not expecting to have that much people in the game. That’s why we had some serious problems with installing the new servers. Like, I didn’t want to have 185,000 players in Russia where the game was launched two months ago.
And we have more than 110,000 players in Europe and North America where the game is still in closed beta, and the closed beta was launched three months ago.
We had some serious problems because our servers didn’t have enough capacity to hold all these players who were willing to play. At the moment we’re working on this. The situation is fine now.
Interviewer: Why do you have more players in Russia versus North America and Europe?
Arthur: In Russia the game was launched, so it’s commercially operater.
Arthur: And in Europe it’s in closed beta. So, we have to apply and wait for some time until our support staff looks through your application and then sends you a beta code. This closedness of the beta, it stops some players from enjoying the game.
Interviewer: Are you going to target Asia or any of the other countries?
Arthur: I guess today our guys back there in Minsk released an announcement that we’re going to publish this game in China. We’re operating this game ourselves all over the world, but China is some kind of specific market.
So, we decided to partner with Kong Zhong Corporation, and so these guys will be in charge of publishing our game and promoting it and doing everything in China because, well, it’s a specific market.
Interviewer: Yeah. You talked about the server issue. Is it just getting better or more engineers to handle the server issue, or did you have to go to a different company that handles all that scaling?
Arthur: Yeah, of course. Our tech guys, they constantly have negotiations with different companies that provide server equipment. Well, at the moment we have service in Munich and in North Carolina, and we’re going to have some more in different spots of the world.
Interviewer: When do you guys expect to be out of beta in Europe?
Arthur: Well, we’re going to make the beta open first in the middle of November, and the game will be launched on the 11th, so pretty soon.
Interviewer: What’s the business model for you guys? Are you using subscription, free to play, what? You mentioned free to play. So, is there anything else you’re doing to augment it?
Arthur: The game is free to play. So, all you have to do is just download it, install and jump right into the action. But there are some things that players will be able to buy for real money, like premium accounts. Premium accounts will give 50 percent more experience and credits in the battles. Some premium tanks…
Interviewer: Will that piss off the players because… I mean, there’s always been that talk, that you want to make sure that your additional goods don’t give them too much advantage in the game itself, or is that…
Arthur: Well, you see, we didn’t want our game to become a war of bullets. So, it’s impossible to buy a tier 9 or tier 10 tank for real money.
Arthur: With premium accounts you just save your money, not save your money, save your time. Sorry.
Arthur: So, it’s like this. If you do not have enough money but have a lot of time, you can invest your time into the game. For instance, you’re a school boy. But if you have some money but not have enough time, invest your money.
We’re planning to sell premium accounts for $10 per month. Well, it’s the price of two burgers. It’s not that really high.
Interviewer: How do you like this running your own service versus working with a publisher?
Arthur: Of course, I can’t say it was really hard to cooperate with Square Enix or some of our previous publishers, but…
Interviewer: What do you mean your previous project? What do you like more about this project versus your previous project?
Arthur: It’s more freedom. All the decisions, they’re made by ourselves. And all the risks, we carry all the risks. So, there are two sides of publishing the game ourselves.
Interviewer: What company do you guys most admire in the MMO space aside from you guys? Is there any company that you guys look up to and say, “Hey, we should be inspired by them.”
Arthur: We like a couple of games that were some kind of inspiration for us. This was the one I already mentioned, well Eve Online.
Interviewer: Yeah, Eve Online.
Arthur: These guys do fabulous marketing. We do like what these guys are doing. Warcraft’s, of course. These guys are cool.
Interviewer: How are you guys going to do the marketing online? Is it just targeting your demographic? Are you doing anything more aggressive or creative or different?
Arthur: Well, we’re still in the process of finishing our marketing plan, but we said at the moment we received a bunch of really positive reviews from major MMO sites and regular video game sites. The feedback that we get from our players is also really positive. So, we’ll probably do some advertising, well taking part in some huge sites, like Games Free, Games ?. That’s the way we are going to promote our game.
Interviewer: Are you thinking about going on Flash or some of these other platforms where you don’t have to download a huge client?
Arthur: Actually, we got a lot of ideas, plans and propositions from other companies and other platforms, like iPhone and something like this. But at the moment what’s important for us is to polish the basic game play for PC. So, for now on it’s the only one. In the future, time will show.
Interviewer: OK. And where can listeners go to check out your game play, interact with the community, stuff like that?
Arthur: www.worldoftanks.com so they can apply for the beta. Wait a couple of days for our customer service to check out the application forms. Get a key and join the beta.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.