It took them eight years to hit version 1.0, and while they could have declared a previous version to be an integer, the complete overhaul of the game’s graphics and sound makes this a major step forward for the game.
It’s a truly impressive transformation – you can read about it here – and we spoke to Milos Jerabek, Development Director, about how it came to pass, what it offers up and what it could mean for the future of the game.
TSA: I’m sure everyone is asking you this, but what makes this 1.0? It’s been eight years! How has it taken you this long?
Milos: [laughs] So, the guys never felt like it was the right time. They always felt like they could change from zero point something to zero point something, but never had the feeling like this was the real leap, like there is with this new one. For me, if you take a look how good it looks, I mean, just look at this. [Milos points to a poster] This isn’t CGI, this is…
TSA: I mean… technically it is CGI. It is computer generated. [laughs]
Milos: Actually, technically that is correct, but it’s not a render… actually, it is a render! It’s in-engine!
If you think about it, it really feels that different; all the music, all the graphics. When we started looking at the first remade maps, our publishing team said you know what? This will be it, this is the version where we can finally say this is a new era for World of Tanks.
I’m so proud of actually being a part of this.
TSA: There has been this long, long build up to this, because you’re making this leap and instead of doing it one map at a time you’ve decided to overhaul the entire game in one go.
Milos: Yeah, for sure. We didn’t want to end up the same way as when we started doing the tanks, where it was one tank here, ten tanks there. We felt like this was the right way, and there was the possibility [to do it one at a time], but this time we would do it properly. We want players to get the new stuff, all of it.
TSA: Have you seen in the past when you updated something and then everybody wanted to try that tank out because the others look rubbish in comparison?
Milos: Exactly, or my favourite one: “Why didn’t you change my tank? Why did you change that one?”
Well, I felt the pain of the players. I’m one of the players, and I actually only joined just two years ago, so when we started discussing, I said we have to do it in one go. It’s what the game deserves and what our players deserve.
TSA: One of the impressive things is that it doesn’t just look great on top end graphics cards – and actually, the top end specs are really, really reasonable! – but also to see how it’s changed for the minimum spec cards as well. It feels like this is through not just the graphics engine that’s being improved, but also that you’ve taken the time to consider the art style and how the maps themselves look.
Milos: Yeah, so the art director and our art manager spent countless hours reviewing every single map multiple times. I remember Vitaly said he was going to review every single object, and I said, “Vitaly… 15,000 objects! No!” And he said, “No, I have to review!”
Every single time we going through a map and he sees something he doesn’t exactly like, he goes “See? If you let me review that object, I wouldn’t let it pass!” […]
These two guys together with the team did an enormous job, and they spent countless hours at the office. If it had been done just in house, it would have been much easier to manage, but we had eight different partners…
TSA: Yeah, and I was going to ask about that. This was marshalling a huge number of people. I’m not sure it’s quite at Ubisoft levels, but it’s pretty up there!
Milos: Not yet, but I was actually stealing some ideas from Ubisoft and Andrey [Biletskiy] was actually working at Ubisoft before. So yes, it was almost that level. It was multi-culture and multi-lingual: our guys went to Vietnam for two months, to Romania for a month, they spent some time in the States, the guys from Minsk actually lived for three months with us. We had a lot of variety, like Certain Affinity guys in the States who were working on games like Call of Duty or Halo, and now they’ve actually helped us with World of Tanks.
It was an enormous push because we knew we would never be able to pull it off alone. I’m pretty happy to have so much talent joining out team.
TSA: Coming back to the art, I think one of the interesting things you can do with that is improve the readability of the maps. One before and after screenshot transformed a particular scene just by showing dirt tracks around a rock, where it was in this featureless greenery around it before.
Milos: But funnily enough, you need to be really careful with that, because the readability of the details is a little bit of a devil. I think we added five times more objects, or something like that, but the thing is that if you do it too much, you would lose the same feeling.
Where we need to be really careful was that our players know how to play the game. 120 million players is a big number, and we didn’t want to piss them off – we knew they wanted to play on Malinovka, they love Malinovka. We were working really closely with the level designers so it wasn’t just the art style, it was the design behind it as well to make sure that if you were going to that corner to hide behind that rock with a specific tank, you would be able to do it again after 1.0 with the exact same spot and the exact same tank.
This was a huge push on that side also, to make sure that we are not breaking our own game.
TSA: I guess there’s a different between breaking and reconsidering and revising some things. I think it’s interesting that you’ve gone back and brought all the 29 maps forward with you, trying to preserve those and also make them look nicer.
Milos: Yeah, most of them were preserved, but we changed some of them like Fishing Bay or Erienberg. We’ve done lots of design changes because we knew the maps were not on par. When we were thinking we had to rework them anyway, but does it make sense that we have to rework them if we don’t feel right about them? If players are saying these maps are not good, it probably doesn’t make sense, so we went with the level designers and fixed some of the issues that were reported by players and that they themselves felt were problematic, and making sure it’s done right.
TSA: And obviously there’s now a 30th map, Glacier. What can you tell me about that map and how it was brought back from the dead, almost?
Milos: So the map was there for a really long time. I joined two years ago, and not so long after I joined we were working on Swedish tanks and Glacier is sort of Nordic…
TSA: Yeah, it’s cold and snowy. That checks out!
Milos: And we were discussing if we should release it or not. The thing was that the map didn’t feel right with the old engine and technology, so then we looked at Monastery, because we already had Monastery on Core [engine], and thought, can you imagine how fricking cool this would look like in the new engine? Do we want to release it in the old one? And the answer from the guys was that we should wait.
The guys were actually working on it after hours, because I told them we have to focus on the existing ones. But they were like, “Are you going to stop us from working on Glacier?” and I said, “I’m not going to stop you, you can’t do it in front of me! You can do it after work!”
It’s beautiful. Once I got lost on top of the ship and the guys asked why I’m not playing, but I was just staring from the ship and going and trying to get there, and the hot springs, and the ice… It has a completely different feel and it felt like the right choice to wait and wait in a beautiful setting, rather than do something that, gameplay wise, was there, but the experience just wasn’t where we wanted.
TSA: It does really feel, with all of the engine updates, that it’s building the foundations for the future with what you can get the engine to do. The global illumination and dynamic lighting, dynamic wetness and snow could be turned into weather, into day and night maps. Is that something you’re considering?
Milos: Nobody knows… Of course, it opens up lots of opportunities. We still have a lot of work there, like glass doesn’t look exactly the way we want, and so we’re working on glass shaders and stuff. We have a huge list of stuff, and I’m not saying that this is not there, but I can’t say anything more.
Of course it’s tempting, but I believe the time needs to be right, the same way the time was right for this update.
Thanks to Milos for chatting to us, you can catch our write up of World of Tank 1.0 here, which really transforms the game in a major way, and which is out… today!