World of Warships: Legends Developer Interview
Over the years, Wargaming.net has brought tanks, planes, and warship battles to PC with great success. They followed those successes with a World of Tanks: Mercenaries launch on console and both World of Tanks and World of Warships on mobile devices. Their latest military campaign began back on April 16 with their newest console game, World of Warships: Legends, entering Early Access on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. With the game set to hit open waters (aka full release) on August 12, we were invited down to Wargaming's Austin studio for a chance to catch up on the progress the team has made over the last few months.
No Resting On Their Laurels
WoWS Legends isn’t just a port of the PC game. About two years ago, after the console version got the green light, some of the first design decisions the team made were around tailoring the game to the console demographic. When talking about the design decisions, Filipp Glushakov, Player Interactions Manager for World of Warships: Legends, had this to say:
“You might ask what is different from the PC game, and there’s quite a lot. In many ways this is back to basics because we did not want to clone it. Many of our players are entirely new, so keeping that in mind as well as that there are two platforms, we needed to make sure that the matchmaker works as quick and provides the same quality level as the PC.”
The game was dry docked, torn down, and rebuilt from the ground up. They were able to salvage pieces of the PC version like the 3D models and realistic soundscapes and then put their own twist on the gameplay. One pitfall they avoided by doing things this way was the clunky controls and UI that players often experience in a direct port. Navigating the many menus and screens between matches feels fluid on a gamepad. This flows over into the action as well. The button mapping is well thought out and players should be comfortable with controlling their ships after just a few battles.
Know Your Audience
Not all changes are on the backend though. With the available player base split between two consoles (no crossplay currently, but the dev team is looking into this for the future), battles have been pared down from 12 versus 12 to a more manageable 9 versus 9. During early access, which started back in April, this resulted in almost all the battles I played filling up in a mere 30-60 seconds. It also shortened the overall length of battles with players showing less caution against the smaller numbers.
Another major difference between the PC and console versions is the number of ships available. Currently, the PC version has over 200 ships to choose from across four classes: destroyers, cruisers, battleships, and aircraft carriers. The console version will launch with just over 70 ships in 3 classes (no carriers, at least for now). This reduction in ships is also being coupled with fewer tiers, dropping from 10 down to 7. Doing so means players will be able to focus on just the ships they really want to play instead of having to grind out ship after ship just to reach the top tier.It also has the side effect of less fragmentation of the playerbase through so many tiers as new players arrive, again ensuring matches start quickly. After all, players want to be in battle, not the queue waiting for a match to begin.
Captain On The Bridge
Lastly, and possibly the best change (at least in my opinion) is the revamped commander system. On PC, commanders were generic leaders assigned to a ship, bringing with them perks chosen from a large skill tree. Each commander gained XP through battles on their ship, and switching them to a different ship meant resetting their skills. This layer of XP grinding found in the PC version isn’t completely wiped out through the reworking of the system, but it is significantly reduced.
In World of Warships: Legends, instead of a generic group of commanders we are given a pool of 30 historical figures, each bringing a skill tree representative of their real life experience. A single commander can be used across multiple ships of their nation and experience gained in any battle goes into a general pool, allowing you to distribute XP to whichever commander you choose.
Overall, these major changes mean World of Warships: Legends is a more focused version of its PC sibling. None of the changes implemented have diluted down the core gameplay of the PC version, and any veteran players making the move from PC to console will feel right at home, quickly reaching top tier ships in no time. New players to the game will be met with a more streamlined experience (aka less grindy) on their way to top tier battles, and the new commander system will help them identify the skills that fit their playstyle.
Some would suggest this paring down of the grind through the tiers will leave less experienced player ill-prepared to handle the ships as they start battling with the big guns, but that is only part of the story. As any veteran to WoWS knows, each ship has its own unique personality. The basic mechanics of gameplay are usually discovered in the first few hours of play, but learning the nuances of each ship’s characteristics can take much longer. Even worse for the casual player, habits learned playing one ship can actually hinder you as you move to newer ones. Reducing the number of ships will give players more time to master their ships of choice instead of becoming frustrated by ships they don’t really want to play.
All of these changes aren’t the only thing that identify World of Warships: Legends as a console title. Several of the typical features of consoles are either in the game or coming soon:
- Voice chat support is in game to aid in team communication
- HDR support will be in the game at launch
- 4k resolution is expected to go live by the end of the year for Xbox One X with PS4 Pro support following soon after
- Achievements will be up for grabs on both Xbox One and PS4 version
- There will also be campaigns, similar to battle passes in games like Fortnite. The first of these will be the Hunt for Tirpitz with the tier 7 battleship being the ultimate prize.
Wargaming.net and the World of Warships: Legends team believe they are bringing a unique gaming experience of WW1 and WW2 naval ship battles to the console arena. They have capitalized off of the learnings from their previous console launch and have made several adjustments to the PC version to make it more console-centric. With over 2 million players already giving World of Warships: Legends a try during Early Access, it appears the dev team has successfully completed this tour of duty.
Full Disclosure: Travel and Lodgings for this event were provided by Wargaming.net.