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Second Anniversary Celebration with Aleksandr Nikolaev

World of Warships Interviews - By Suzie Ford on September 15, 2017

Second Anniversary Celebration with  Aleksandr Nikolaev

It’s hard to believe that Wargaming’s World of Warships has cruised to its second anniversary. The game has undergone regular updates based on community feedback and has kept growing and is ready to grow some more. We had the chance to speak to North American Publishing Director Aleksandr Nikolaev about the second anniversary and more.

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MMORPG: Congratulations on the 2nd anniversary for WoWS! How is Wargaming celebrating the big event both in game and in office?

Aleksandr Nikolaev: We don’t have much time to celebrate in the office: while this anniversary is very important for us, right now we’re preparing a major update to the game, which will bring some long-awaited content for clans, and as always, we’re already working on several further upgrades. There’s still a lot of work to be done until the end of this year. Then, we will have some time to celebrate.

However, we have launched a set of in-game events for the playerbase to have fun with. There’s a special in-game collection, dedicated to various events and updates over the last year, and it is tied to secret achievements that can be completed on various ships and tiers. The rewards for completing this collection are 5 permanent camouflages for tier 8 ships – which is quite valuable within the game economy. There are also additional rewards for our veteran players, based on their total battle count and the number of top-tier ships they have. Overall, we wanted to focus on having fun and reminiscing on different past events we went through together.

MMORPG: Give us a brief rundown of some of the big numbers players have racked up during the past 2 years.

AN: Over the past two years, all players have travelled a combined 69,996,678,436 miles in the game. 113 players have achieved Rank 1 in all of the 7 Ranked seasons. And in terms of individual games played, the record belongs to a player from RU who has played 30,790 battles.

MMORPG: Overall, what are you most proud of with in regards to WoWS?

AN: Well, over these years there were many achievements and many mistakes. I think the most important and strategic decision was to switch to a three week development cycle. For the team, that means a lot of pressure and hard work, but for the players that means a major update every three weeks. This way, we can keep the game fresh and entertaining, while quickly working on some issues here and there.

MMORPG: What new features or additions have had the most impact since release?

AN: It depends on the type of impact. Every feature can impact one of three major things: new players (acquisition and learning curve), current players (retention, engagement, entertainment) and monetization. While the monetization model is more or less clear, being a part of Wargaming’s “World of” trilogy, the content for new and current players is very diversified. We launched new ships that changed the meta, like German Battleships. We included some long-term goals, like campaigns and farmable high-tier premium ships like the Missouri. There were some one-session improvements, like daily containers with various loot. There were also fun game modes for Halloween, PvE Operations with new game mechanics, and Ranked Battles seasons for competitive players, not to mention balance changes to the existing content. And every feature impacted some project metrics and, of course player sentiment. The trick is to keep them coming, and to keep them data-driven and community-friendly.

MMORPG: What things presented the most challenges and how did you address them?

AN: The toughest decisions are often connected with balancing the game. World of Warships is living, changing, evolving with every update, and of course that means that both player experience and some ships are changing as well…or have to change. Sometimes, it can be quite stressful for the players, because they can be actually comfortable with the current state of the game and don’t want any changes. There were cases when we reverted the changes that players did not like in general, and this is fine. However, the main challenge is when something must be done and we know it for sure. So, what we’re doing is keeping constant information flow and reasoning, so the core players are informed. We have built quite a comprehensive information workflow – we have Dev bulletins for new updates to be tested, very detailed patch notes, sometimes separate articles for complex changes, we have regular Q&A sessions on all regions and Reddit, and recently we launched a Dev Blog to tell players about work-in-progress stuff. Overall, it works fine, but we’re more than willing to improve.

Another common challenge is combining gameplay with historical accuracy. This challenge is rooted in the very concept of the game – we’re based on actual naval warfare, but we want players to have fun instead of going through a very detailed simulation. So, most of the game mechanics are a compromise between gameplay and IRL facts. For example, we have a very accurate ballistic model, but the speed and size of everything in the game is scaled for better dynamics. We have four in-game classes, that are more or less equal in both balance and economy (not without some issues of course), while IRL they were absolutely not “balanced” in terms of combat capabilities, duties and productions costs. The list can go on forever, really.

MMORPG: How integral has community feedback been during the initial 2 years?

AN: In terms of sentiment it’s been different, of course, depending on a given update’s success. However, the most interesting thing is the division within the playerbase itself. There are high-skilled guys who know everything, play like gods, min-maxing everything, and there are guys who are here to have fun and relax. Surely the numbers of skilled players are smaller. Surely both “camps” are important to us. It’s very interesting to see the different points of view of these groups. Additionally, there are some regional difference on several topics – they come from players’ mentality and local meta. We’ve always tried to develop the game alongside (if not directly with) our community and to use their sentiments as our general compass. Over time we’ve also added many a community mod to the game, since mods grew from being a small widget some people were using to real quality-of-life improvements that simply made the game more enjoyable.

MMORPG: Where will WoWS set sail for next?

AN: In the remaining part of 2017 we’re determined to launch a few more big features – clan versus clan combat, at least one more ship line, a fun in-game event and probably something more.

MMORPG: Please add anything else you'd like.

AN: We have a special player who I wanted to shout out. In Ranked Battles: Season 5, NA player GeneralDort was able to reach Rank 1 on each regional server, including RU, EU, NA, Asia, and China, which was unprecedented. Amazing level of dedication and something that I wanted to mention because it blew us all away! 

Suzie Ford / Suzie is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. An avid gamer, Suzie lives in the desert Southwestern US with her own personal minion.
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