With World of Tanks' PS4 release looming, the Midwestern branch of the Wargaming.net empire is cranking away on the game, making sure it's all that it should be. I visited the Wargaming Chicago-Baltimore office recently and discovered that having found their feet with the 360 and Xbox One versions, the team exudes confidence about the PS4—so much so that despite the demands of crunch, they had time to talk and show off their hard work.
Due on January 19, World of Tanks for the PS4 is for the most part, the same game players have seen on other platforms. Lead Designer Jeff Gregg emphasized that both the Xbox One and PS4 content start from the same place before branching to their respective consoles. That said, he and Senior Designer Chad Steingraber were visibly excited about the new content heralded by the PS4 release. Steingraber in particular has reason to be enthusiastic since he's the man responsible for creating for the newest (and biggest) map World of Tanks has ever seen.
The new map, Skorpion Pass, is set in the desert and based on a real world passage in Tunisia. This passage was the setting for a World War II military battle between the Germans and the British, and was said to be littered with dead tanks. Its World of Tanks counterpart is 1.5 kilometers (that's just under a mile for us “Mericans) and consists of three distinct zones.
“We said we really need more desert maps and so I focused on this one area that I thought had an interesting back story to it,” Steingraber says. “This map is over 90% traversible. You can go anywhere. And there's so much content in it, that makes it really unique.”
Not only does the new map offer a new sense of scale and a new terrain type, it posed new challenges for the design team. As Jeff Gregg said, “It was tricky to manage so we had that sense of scale without it being frustrating. Each game mode is in a different part of the map and so when you play the different modes it almost feels like you're in a completely new map.”
Of course, before players can take on the biggest World of Tanks map ever made, they have to learn the basics. I remember three years ago, the first time I tried World of Tanks on the PC. The interface was complicated and the dual aiming/firing reticle thing threw me for a loop. I had a humiliating game, getting my tank stuck on a rock and spending the whole match struggling to un-stick myself while not understanding why my cannon kept firing the wrong way.
After that unsuccessful trial by fire, I was pleased when the 360 version simplified the interface. Things became a bit more intuitive then, but still didn't address the intimidation factor of being a novice and getting thrown right away into competitive play. Then Xbox One hit and Halleluiah! World of Tanks finally addressed the issue with a tutorial PvE mode called “The Proving Grounds.”
The PS4 version benefits hugely from this feature, which will help initiate PS4 gamers into what's heretofore seen by them as something outside of their comfort zone. The tutorial PvE mode walks you through buying, equipping and upgrading a tank and pits you against bots so there's no fear of being trash-talked or shouted at. It—along with the behind-the-scenes load system that gets players into the game faster—should go a long way toward selling the game on PS4 players.
The way World of Tanks has evolved from PC to PS4 is emblematic of the way Wargaming views its games and its audience. For years, the company has emphasized its focus on evolution and its “game as a service” philosophy. With that in mind, the upcoming PS4 version means for them the chance to entertain an entirely new kind of gamer. It also means the potential for new ways of playing to emerge. As Jeff Gregg put it:
“When you throw a bunch of console players in that environment—console players like to get in there and blow shit up and that can work if you're not expecting it. The community is used to one way of playing and all of a sudden you have these disruptors coming in. It'll be interesting to see how tactics evolve.”