An interview with Victor Kislyi.
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World of Tanks latest update isn't trying to reset the long-running MMO, but it is a numerical refresh. Update 1.0 is live now on PC, and it introduces a big graphical update for the game as well as a re-imagining of the game's music. But to get a better feel for what World of Tanks is up to, and what the developer has in store for the future, we talked with Wargaming CEO Victor Kislyi at GDC this year.
According to Kislyi, the team has shifted from a "now obsolete visual engine" to an in-house project called Core that the developer's engineers have been working on for over two and a half years. "Up until now, we've had give or take 70 updates," Kislyi says. "Of course, there are some bug fixes. But this is new content, new tanks; 500-550 different tanks from something like nine nations. Maps, now we have more than 40. 40 maps, two or three square kilometers each...that's something like 100 square kilometers of juicy stuff. This was all in-game, and you have a level of detail almost like in Avatar."
The core game experience isn't changing, according to Kislyi, it's just getting better. "This is our message to the players. At the end of the day, it's all about them. We're a private company, so we don't have share price or quarterly reports. If you stopped playing World of Tanks one year ago, two years ago, it means you've missed like 10 or 15 updates. This one, the king of all updates, is a good reason to go and update the game, and see what hundreds of working people have been doing for the last year, or two, or even three. That's our very simple message."
Here are his answers to a few other World of Tanks related questions.
GameSpot: Will players have to worry about the game becoming obsolete on older machines?
Victor Kislyi: We're good at old machines. The core of our business is in Russia, Eastern Europe, China, and we have to make sure all the tanks work there. If you have even old machines which today run World of Tanks, with this update it will run it; and most probably will run it even better.
How do you see the esport of World of Tanks progressing?
Well, for like four, maybe going on five years, we've had this Wargaming league, which was professional teams clashing on stage, and it was relatively successful for us. Our viewership, be it physical venues or online, was growing. There are some companies, and I know my PR people will hate me, but League of Legends is the example of how it should be done for that kind of game. We want and we need World of Tanks esports closer to our actual players. Who are our players? Middle-aged gentlemen.
So, the esports tournament we had before was little, 7v7, and extremely fast action. The actual game is 15v15, with a little more strategic setup and movement. So, now we are evaluating different internal ways to upgrade our esport version to be closer to the game that our players play at home.
Let's not forget, World of Tanks is about guys after work, being home and blowing stuff up. That's the bulk of our players, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
Have you thought of introducing anything like battle royale to World of Tanks?
Actually, if you think about this, a bunch of tanks, or small tank teams like platoons fighting each other, the last man standing, something like this, would make sense. We would seriously think about this. But, the truth is we're not making a Battle Royale tank game as of now. There's quite a bit of hustle going on without us. We know what our players like, and we keep doing this. But that's a good idea.
What are the things that are going to bring in people who have never played it before?
We have already around eight years of experience with World of Tanks as well as World of Warships, World of Warplanes, World of Tanks Blitz, World of Warships Blitz now for the mobile and console versions. We can see our full following.
Russian players, they can be a little more forgiving as to the hardships of the game, and they're more patient when it comes to 15v15 straight, pure, PVP kinds of things.
Western players, it's not good or bad, it's just...it's entertainment. So they're less forgiving to being killed quickly, and learning curve, et cetera. That's why for the West, and we're very, very serious on this crusade, it has to be a way better onboarding experience. Maybe some PVE elements, stuff like that. We're working hard now. ...On the console, as an example, we have War Stories, which is kind of PVE-like campaign style things, which were appreciated on PlayStation and Xbox, which were appreciated very much by the players. So, we're moving towards being a little more Western-style, even more triple-A experience. That's starting from onboarding and some PVE elements.
Where do you guys go from here? Where do you see World of Tanks going in the future?
Eight years ago when we started, nobody would've thought it would be so successful and then run for such a long time. I myself would have given it three, four, maximum five years. Eight years later, since the D6 numbers and trends--we're here for a long time. I compare it with, football, or Simpsons, or Family Guy. Some of those TV shows run for like 10, 15, 20, even 30 years, right? They do a good job at understanding their audience, really employing the best talent to make those jokes. Or special effects when it comes to Game of Thrones or Star Trek types of series. That's what we're doing here. It's a little more sophisticated because it's interactive, but that's what you do. You have statistics, you study them. You have your players, you have your community managers pretty much all around the world in major regions being very close to the players, listening to them. Through forums, yes, but also through personal meetings.
By the way, some of our employees, and top ones, are from our players. Like Anton Pankov and Miloš Jeřábek. Miloš is the head of development on World of Tanks. Anton, is the head of publishing on World of Tanks. They used to be just players, and from time to time we do this forum-like announcement: "Hey, thanks players! We looking for this, this, and this." They showed up, and now they're top executives on World of Tanks. We work for our players, and sometimes our players work for us.