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Developing in Leaps and Bounds

Guest Writer Posted:
Developer Journals 0

Wargaming is widely recognized as the company that created the iconic game about tanks. It's also known as the creator of World of Warships, a game about ships created in the same historical setting. It represents the largest fleet in the gamedev world to date, and the developers clearly do not spare any effort expanding it further.

Over 300 people work on the game, and that is a major part of the Lesta Studio staff in St. Petersburg. Just recently, the team moved with all their equipment from the office on Obukhovskoy Oborony avenue to the business center in the Carl Faberge square. Even this did not affect the due dates for preparation and release of new updates. Lesta is quite consistent in this regard and always adheres to a strict schedule established over the years.

The game has about three hundred warships which is three and a half times more than was available at the time of its release in September 2015. All ships are designed based on the actual drawings of ships of the first half of the 20th century, and it takes from two to six man-months to create each of them.

In May, the World of Warships team switched to a four-week development cycle, allocating more time for update stabilization. Before that, major updates had been released once every three weeks, and there were 16 of them in 2017. Only a few updates were limited to balance and interface improvements. As a rule, every patch brings new content, and the players have already got used to that.

Considering the pace of the game development, it is not surprising that new entities appear in it all the time. Over the past year, these have included PvE operations, clan battles, historical campaigns and collections, unique commanders and, of course, new ship branches: Soviet and Pan-Asian destroyers, French cruisers, and British battleships.

The game features four ship types: aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and battleships. Each type is represented by a separate branch in a nation's Tech Tree. The ships also differ by tier, the highest being Tier X.

The developers still stick to the rule: each ship branch should have its own characteristic trait. It can be an unexpected combination of characteristics and equipment, or even a new mechanic which was not previously found in the game. We will not dwell upon the gameplay peculiarities of the new branches, but what's most important is that they have successfully fit into the game balance and refreshed the metadata.

The in-game balance is arranged according to the "stone-scissors-paper" principle: cruisers beat destroyers but fear the battleships, the battleships—vice versa, and so on. This principle has underpinned the ships' confrontations since the closed alpha test. However, it has always been partially conventional. The thing is that ships can dramatically differ from each other within one type by their characteristics, functions, and gameplay in general. In World of Warships, you will find battleships equipped with torpedoes, cruisers with a good concealment or, say, destroyers with cruiser-like guns. As the fleet expanded, more of such "hybrids" appeared.

It is also worth mentioning that a single branch may feature ships of different epochs: the lower tiers include ships dating back to the beginning of the 20th century and the First World War, while Tier VI and higher offer ships of the 1930s and 40s. For obvious reasons, the differences between them are significant which only makes the branch researching process more exciting.

In battles, players earn experience and credits. They are needed to research the Tech Trees and acquire new ships. The higher the ship's tier, the more experience and credits are needed.

But you wouldn't call the way to the treasured Tier X a short one, as fighting on such ships with ships of similar tiers requires good skills and understanding of the game. At one time, that was one of the problems, and the developers were repeatedly reproached for the lack of "high-tier" content. Another reason for reproaches was the absence of well-developed PvE in the game. In this regard, the emergence of clan battles and operations became a worthy response and a real breakthrough.

The possibility to unite into clans became one of the first features of 2017. By September, the clans had acquired their own naval bases which could be developed using joint efforts, and in October the Clan Battles battle type was added?the long-awaited "high-tier" content. This is a seasonal competitive mode for well-coordinated teams with combat only on Tier X ships and no aircraft carriers available (for now).

Clans compete for a place on the leaderboard, which any player can view in the game client, and of course for rewards?most activities in World of Warships motivate the player by offering valuable in-game assets.

Every operation is represented by a specifically-configured map where a team should carry out a specific task: defend the base, escort a convoy, save the aircraft carrier, etc. The options are quite diverse, except that you can't rob the convoys yet. Some operations, for example Operation Dynamo, are inspired by real-life events and are literally re-enacted in the game.

World of Warships is a team-based game. A team consists of 7 to 12 players, depending on the battle type, of which there are five: Random Battle, Co-op Battle (against bots), Operations (advanced PvE mode), and two seasonal competitive modes?Ranked Battles and Clan Battles.

The developers' love for history is a whole other story. A lot of content in World of Warships is driven by it, including historical campaigns and collections.

The name "Collections" is self-explanatory. Players can collect rare collectibles, for example, military orders, ship emblems, adapted war years photographs, and so on. These items are provided with informative historical notes enclosed. Gathering the whole collection brings a remuneration.

Campaigns are multi-stage marathons of personal combat missions. By completing them, players earn rewards as well as acquaint themselves with certain historical personalities or events along the way (for example, with Isoroku Yamamoto or the final trip of battleship Bismarck). For completing all missions in a campaign, players can receive truly valuable rewards, including the Japanese admiral himself represented by a unique ship commander.

Commanders are an integral part of World of Warships. Just like ships, they accumulate experience in battles, and this can be used for research of commander skills. Some skills improve a ship's combat characteristics, others bring new abilities.

However, both collections and campaigns may not always be historically accurate. The developers clearly don't perceive the setting as a restriction and are not afraid to add things to the game which, it would seem, may not belong there. For example, a collection, a camouflage, and animé commanders (High School Fleet). This may also include large-scale events dedicated to April Fool's Day and Halloween which have become an annual tradition. The attitude to such experiments may vary, therefore the "Do not display" option has been thoughtfully added to the client.

Summing up: seven unique PvE scenarios, a full-fledged Clans functionality including a competitive battle mode, three historical campaigns, and four new Tech Tree branches—that is what 2017 looked like in World of Warships.

A lot of diverse content has appeared in the game, and this year the developers have managed to introduce a small reform to systematize it. This has been done through the introduction of themed arcs. The arcs consist of two to three updates released one after another and united by a common theme.

The first such arc was devoted to the French fleet and united Updates 0.7.1 and 0.7.2. One arc featured the "Vive la France!" collection and Port Marseilles, another one?the "Gold of France" campaign, the Hermes operation, and a new branch of French battleships.

The recently released Update 0.7.5 has started the American arc. It includes a campaign, a collection devoted to Admiral William Halsey, the first ever night operation in the game, a month and a half marathon with battle missions meant for earning the Indianapolis Premium cruiser and the beginning of a new Clans season. The arc's main event is the separation of the American cruiser Tech Tree, one of the first in the game.

Apart from the large-scale marathons and campaigns, the game offers daily combat missions bringing different rewards: consumables, experience, credits, and much more. Combat tasks significantly speed up the ships’ research process.

It is the American and Japanese ships that constituted the backbone of the World of Warships fleet at the time of the game release three years ago. Today, the number of available nations has increased to ten, and branches?to twenty one. It should be noted, however, that increasing the number of ships, mechanics, and activities is not the primary goal. The developers constantly go back to the roots and update the entities that, it seems, have stood the test of time. In different versions, that was the case with the matchmaker, the commander skills, the spotting system, and other more important mechanics. Another such event, and quite a symbolic one, is the rebalance of cruiser Cleveland (one of the most popular ships since the alpha-test), upgrading it from Tier VI to Tier VIII. The fleet doesn't stand still and a captain who hasn't checked the game for a long time will need to take a good look around to make sense of the abundance of new features.

In other words, World of Warships is not a project to lose sight of. The guys from Lesta Studio work with great efficiency and enthusiasm, and it will be interesting to see what they come up with for the game's third anniversary. 


Guest Writer