Wargaming at E3: Tanks, Planes, Ships, and Explosions
If there’s one thing the Russian game company Wargaming knows how to do, it’s how to be bombastic.
Wargaming’s E3 booth this year is a spectacle — a geometric black space of sleek lines and cool hardware. The main stage has huge presentations every so often, complete with CGI cinematics filled with explosions and a presenter who is far too enthusiastic about Wargaming’s products. Most tellingly, booth babes are everywhere, with the highest concentration being right outside the show hall entrance. It’s a sight from a different time, and one we moved through in order to get interviews with Wargaming’s staff.
Wargaming showed us three of their in-development titles: World of Tanks 360 Edition, World of Warplanes, and World of Warships. Only Tanks and Warplanes were playable; Warships was delegated to a presentation governed over by a constantly-swearing commentator. On the bright side, Warships showed actual, minimally-edited alpha footage rather than CGI, which is a rarity for a game in pre-alpha.
First off was World of Tanks 360 Edition. This is likely to be Wargaming’s next launched title, as the demo we were shown was very full-featured and there were plenty of 360 consoles on the floor demoing the hard work of Wargaming West. It seemed to be the pride and joy of Wargaming this year, which is unusual given how close Warplanes seems to be to completion.
World of Tanks 360 edition is still World of Tanks, with all its vagaries and flaws. Realistic damage models, esoteric statistics, and punishing team-based matches are all still present and accounted for. However, Wargaming is making a push to make World of Tanks 360 more appealing to the console user. In the words of Chris Cook, Wargaming wants World of Tanks on the 360 to be an “eight-foot experience” (as in, played from 8 feet away while looking at a TV) rather than a “two-foot experience.”
One concern the devs had was with accessibility. World of Tanks is a notoriously difficult game to get into and understand. This is partially due to the esotericism of the game mechanics, but it’s mostly because of a lack of a real, effective tutorial to train players in the way of tank combat. Rather, you are expected to learn to play through YouTube videos, spectating, and guides.
Since you can’t browse the internet effectively while playing on the 360 (it’s hard to alt-tab a console, after all), Wargaming is beefing up the in-game tutorials. New tooltips adorn loading screens, and they offer useful information like how to cripple tank treads or what deflection does. Additionally, there is a greater amount of vocal feedback in the game telling you important information, like “You are hidden,” or “You are being flanked.” This focus on accessibility lead to Wargaming’s General Manager to say that Western audiences are used to a bit of coddling; Russians will “crawl through broken glass” to play World of Tanks, but Americans “like to be hand held.”
After World of Tanks 360, we were shown World of Warplanes. It was an in-game demonstration on the beta servers, and as such wasn’t (or didn’t appear to be) staged. The presenter was shot down in both matches.
World of Warplanes is a typical combat flight sim, but it also looks to have a unique model for controlling flight. Rather than going for a more involved, difficulty simulation, players simply point to where they want to go and the plane adjusts automatically. If that’s a bad spot, so be it. It’s an interesting system, and smacks reminiscent of space sims like Freelancer or Descent. It was probably the most interesting aspect of Warplanes.
Plane tiers in Warplanes will apparently function much like tank tiers in Tanks (the higher you go, the stronger they are), with the added caveat that high-tier planes are going to be quite difficult to fly, much like a normal flight sim. They will still be controlled as normal, but their physical handling will be more difficult to compensate for their greater power. Only one control scheme was shown off, but three were mentioned: mouse and keyboard, throttle and joystick, and gamepad.
When asked directly how they were going to handle War Thunder’s attempt to take on their turf, Wargaming’s General Manager Jeremy Munroe mentioned that he looked forward to the competition. Afterward, all the presenters agreed that Wargaming would win such a competition easily, thanks to their established player base and quality of work. However, unlike War Thunder, World of Warplanes has no plans for the near future of integrating with any other Wargaming titles on an in-battle basis. Tanks, Warplanes, and Warship players must all play separate matches.
Finally, there was World of Warships. Set inside a domed theater, the World of Warships presentation was a half hour of CGI and raw pre-alpha footage, narrated by a constantly-swearing member of Wargaming. The number of F-bombs dropped in what was primarily intended to be a professional event was a bit comical. Two battles were shown: one in the Pacific, and one in the North Sea. Both matches had a decent selection of units, ranging from Aircraft Carriers to Destroyers, and a number of game mechanics were shown off including buoyancy, recon planes, and indirect fire.
World of Warships follows the same formula as its two brothers: two teams, one map, duke it out. Where it differs is in execution. Warships is more about recon and indirect fire than Tanks or Warplanes, as every ship except the Aircraft Carrier has the ability to perform indirect shots on enemies. The interface looked a bit clunky, but being pre-alpha, it was excusable.
Unfortunately, it was revealed that Warships would not have small ships (like Patrol Boats) or submarines. Destroyers are the smaller class of vessel the fearless captains can man, and submarines were said to be too oriented for stealth gameplay to be effectively added into the game. This seems like a big issue; many interesting fights come from submarine engagements, and some of the most popular naval simulations – like Silent Hunter – are focused on submarines. It’ll be interesting to see if Wargaming recants on their assertion.
Of all the ships shown for Warships, the Aircraft Carrier looked the most interesting. Instead of being a direct combat boat, the Carrier must send out squadrons of planes in an RTS-style interface to attack other ships and planes. This interface appeared to be quite simple: select squadrons, send them on the attack. It’s the part of Warships I’m personally most looking forward to, if just because it’s different.
Finally, all three games will have unified accounts and metagames. Specifically, you will be able to use your Wargaming account in all three games, premium carries over between titles, and the Clan Wars system will take into account all three games rather than being separate. However, there are no plans to merge them, so players looking for a full battlefield simulation will be disappointed.
Wargaming’s showing wasn’t stellar – there was a distinct lack of Gas Powered Games – but it wasn’t awful either. Each of the games shown had promise, and Wargaming seemed genuinely excited to talk about their work. Despite all of the fanfare – of which there was plenty, as Wargaming loves to throw a party – developers and staff gave some great, human insights into their games. That’s a rarity at E3, and it’ll be great to see how that personability moves over to the management of their new titles.