In December, I watched as World of Tanks was introduced to a whole new audience at G*Star South Korea, and it was obvious to me then that the game's only going to get bigger. Proof of my conviction came this week at San Francisco's Asian Art Museum where the press was treated to an early look at the centerpiece of patch 8.3: Chinese tanks. Surrounded by priceless Asian art and artifacts, we members of the media went to war with the Wargaming.net guys—and had our game-reviewing rear-ends handed to us on an armored platter.
To be fair, we journos weren't as well-versed in the game. We were told which tanks to choose, had little time to look at the tech tree and the teams were stacked against us. Yeah and um...we also weren't feeling well that day—yeah, that's it—and the tables were rickety. And the sun was in our eyes! OK, maybe we just weren't any good at the game but even getting beaten was fun. We started with a rousing game of capture the flag after being told to pick a medium Tier X, Type 121 tank. Like many of the tanks in the Chinese tech tree, this tank is based on a Russian-based prototype that in real life, didn't see widespread usage.
Set up in our 121s, we rolled easily through the village of Himmelsdorf and within minutes of navigating its narrow streets, were handily outmaneuvered. The 121 is easy enough to steer and has good stopping power (if you don't panic and start firing at inanimate objects). I was taken out fairly quickly though, and then sat back to watch the rest of the team get slaughtered. There wasn't a whole lot of flag-capturing happening here; it was more like a collective trouncing that got a little silly in the end, due to some tight corners and one high ledge. The last few minutes were spent watching the two remaining tanks get stuck on top of each other and swing their turrets back and forth in a spastic attempt to take each other out. (Note: tanks are not great at hand-to-hand combat.)
The second match went slightly better; we were instructed to choose a medium Tier V, T-34 tank for a standard destroy-the-enemy-base battle. (The T-34's a lighter tank also based on a Russian design, although unlike the 121, it enjoyed widespread use and went on to become the second-most produced combat tank in history.) This battle we traversed the concentric streets of Ruinberg toward our enemies' base and made a more strategic attempt to stick together as a team. The T-34 felt easier to maneuver and things were looking good for us until the dev team got us in a pincer movement and again, it was all over. This battle also had an absurd end, as four enemy tanks converged on our last tank, rolled right up on him and proceeded to turret-bash him but good. Picture a slap fight between barflies on the Jerry Springer show, only with more metal.
Anyway, in between having my dignity bruised, I spoke to Content Manager for Wargaming.net, Paul Hobbs, who indicated that the Chinese tech tree consists of a collection of hybrid Chinese/foreign tanks—like those based on Soviet and American tanks—and even includes a Japanese tank, the Type 97 Chi-Ha. He mentioned that developing this patch was interesting since it required the cooperation of the Chinese government, as well as a Chinese publisher-like liason within China itself.
Producer Mike Zhivets explains:
“Wargaming’s partner KONGZHONG helps us to operate World of Tanks in China. In creating the Chinese tech tree they employed special consultants to help make sure each tank model was historically accurate. They provided video footage of Chinese modified tanks, in museums, and also visited archives to document data and statistics for us. Naturally, we based a lot of our work on the Chinese tanks from this information.”
Patch 8.3 not only features this exciting new tech tree with seven light, seven medium and four heavy tanks; it also contains a wide range of important balance tweaks, including the across-the-board knocking back of some previously overpowered artillery.
World of Tanks is already big and could grow exponentially now that South Korea's gamers have been invited to the party. When asked where the game's headed next, Wargaming.net staff at the event seemed to think that with a world of possibilities, there's really no telling. Fine by me. After all, it's WoT's world; we're just living in it.