Maxim Chuvalov (Wargaming): The new crew system is the most important thing that World of Tanks lacks right now

By: Igor Nikitin | 04.09.2020, 15:25
Maxim Chuvalov (Wargaming): The new crew system is the most important thing that World of Tanks lacks right now

In August World of Tanks celebrated its 10th anniversary. During this time, the project managed to attract gamers around the world, and in Ukraine and the CIS countries the game of Wargaming has become a people's game, getting into the list of classic men's entertainment along with fishing and football. Still the way to glory consisted of ups, downs, lots of patches and 800 major upgrades. Global publishing director "tanks" told Gagadget about the first big problems of the game, what WoT lacks now, who are the "tankers" and what Wargaming plans to surprise in the future.

In your opinion, what is the most important update World of Tanks received in 10 years? Apart from version 1.0.

Probably, it is the update 0.8.0, which was released in 2012 and was the most voluminous at that time. In it, we have added World of Tanks physics, which has given the game a completely new gameplay, improved lighting, sounds, added shadows, and introduced a fifth branch of tanks - British. New features have changed the game for the better, added realism. The tanks themselves gained mass and certain movement characteristics depending on the type, speed and mass. For instance, light tanks were able to easily climb high hills, which previously were impossible to climb, and heavy tanks were able to easily move forward vehicles. That year we also received our first Golden Joystick - a prestigious award in the Best MMO category.

Another of the most important was version 1.10, which was released very recently. This is one of the biggest updates to World of Tanks since the release of 1.0. In it we've completely redesigned the equipment system: expanded the selection of new equipment and the ability to change the parameters of already present in the game. This allows players to experiment and customise equipment to their own tastes. In the same update we added seven Polish medium tanks to the game, brought back the redesigned Pearl River map, which was removed from the game in 2015, improved the communication system between players, making it more informative, and made many other major and minor innovations.

What do you personally miss in World of Tanks that you would like to add?

We have long lacked a new crew system - this is a topic that has not been touched at all since 2013, and even then we touched it rather conventionally. Now the crew system - and this opinion is shared by our entire team - needs to be redesigned. We've already shared the first drafts, gathered a lot of feedback, talked to bloggers and are preparing to release our overall vision for the crew system changes to the Sandbox soon. This is the biggest thing that the game is frankly lacking right now.

Speaking of mods, up until just a couple of years ago I myself had a game with a bunch of modifications that allowed for different sights, logged tank damage and so on. Since then, many of these solutions have already moved into the game, including session stats and others - most of the mods that are needed in "Tanks", at this point in the game already have. However, we're not stopping and will continue to add to the "Tanks" the most successful custom modifications, because it makes the game more comfortable for the players.

As for me, I've been playing a clean client without any modifications for over a year and a half now. From time to time I use Armor Inspector, with the help of which you can study weak and strong points of tanks right in the Hangar. In fact, knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of vehicles - this is the main thing that the player must accumulate and be able to use on the battlefield. Armor Inspector also helps in the study of new tanks, their armor. We really miss this modification in the game, and we're working to implement it. As of now we are only working on this idea, as it has many pitfalls, but it's very useful and convenient, and we will find a way to add it into the game.

Every game has problems that don't show up on internal tests but show up on release. What was the biggest problem the developers of World of Tanks had to solve?

There were enough flaws that were revealed in the release, now they are minimized. And the reason for that is exactly the solution to our biggest problem - Rubicon. The update that we had planned to make the key for the last couple of years ended up losing 80% of the planned innovations and had to be cancelled. This frustrated the players to say the least and demotivated the team. How did this happen?

At that moment the game was at the height of popularity, we were winning one award after another - and at  we didn't notice how we went into a creative crisis. There were a lot of ideas, and we rushed to share them with the players - not yet knowing how these ideas would be received and whether it was really what the "tankers" needed. In general, we made a lot of big announcements and started to develop what we promised. And here it turned out that, firstly, the team is growing at a breakneck speed, and not all new employees have time to join the work of experienced team members; secondly, it turned out that not everything we want to do, players want to see in the game. Or at least not always in the same form in which we see a new feature or mechanic. The result was as follows: the mechanics that we were going to introduce into the game turned out to be not what players needed during tests, we had no time to improve them, and the major part of the update must simply be "cut out", abandoned. This led to the fact that the release of the loudly announced Rubicon did not happen.

Of course, that was shock therapy for the team. It was a realization that we had to change everything from our development processes to our approach to announcements. We learned the lesson, came to our senses and began, step by step, to win back the players' confidence. We revamped processes of new features development and specified the rules of announcing updates: now we never announce the exact dates at early stages, we just say that the work is in progress. In fact, that's how other game companies work, too. On the subject of processes: today before we roll out a new feature or mechanic, we first test whether everything works correctly and then allow the players to try the innovation on a special test server - in the Sandbox. After that we collect the feedback, make the necessary changes and only after that we release the innovation in the game.

How many people are currently working on World of Tanks and who makes the key decisions on the game?

Only over 1000 people in several countries work on the development and operation of World Tanks on PC. Our divisions in Paris, Austin, Tokyo, Singapore and Seoul are exactly what we need for operations, communication with players and support. The biggest development center is in Minsk and we have large teams in Kiev and Prague. Each area - development, operation, marketing, design etc., - has a head. In turn, the heads and key employees of all divisions working on World of Tanks are members of the so-called board, a governing body which makes key decisions on the strategy.

How much has this "key team" changed? Are other people making World of Tanks in 2020 or are they still the same developers who pioneered it?

From those 70-80 people who were involved in the release, most are still working for the company today (and the tank team itself, as I mentioned earlier, now consists of more than 1000 people). Today they watch the development of the product like parents over their child, give advice and help develop the game with their knowledge and experience.

The game industry is a business and a pretty risky one at that. Did Wargaming "" have a plan B in case World of Tanks failed, or did World of Warships and World of Warplanes later become such?

No, at the time of launch only World of Tanks was in development. At the time of its launch we only had enough funds to produce this game and in the end we even ran out of money. Therefore, to say that we were counting on the fact that "if the Tanks doesn't shoot out, the other game will" is impossible: we had one prototype instead of two or five.

The team was on fire with the project, everybody worked very precisely and in a well-coordinated manner. Already at the stage of alpha and beta testing we began to realize that the game would be a hit: we were so fast in gaining an audience. We promptly translated the game into English and started preparing backup servers: we felt we would definitely need them.

World of Warships and World of Warplanes we decided to play later, although the idea of the game about ships was in our company for quite a long time. We realized that the military theme is something we are good at, so we decided to expand our portfolio. These two projects became games with their own audience: not a replacement for "Tanks" but a development of the lineup.

Which version of World of Tanks is more popular now - the PC version or the mobile Blitz version?

World of Tanks on PC remains our most popular product with more than 160 million registered players worldwide. In terms of profitability, World of Tanks and I first made it into the Superdata reports in 2011 and since then we have hardly dropped out of them, finding ourselves in the top 10 games every month.

World of Tanks Blitz also shows very good results. In June "mobile tanks" turned 6 years old, during this time the game has been downloaded more than 137 million times. For a mobile game this is a considerable age, which not many people reach, and I know that the colleagues have big plans for the development of the product.

With the latest console update, WoT players from PS4 and Xbox One can play together. When will the PC join and what's stopping the developers?

Even though console Tanks is out of World of Tanks on PC, it's still a separate game. Other people on another continent are working on it. The World of Tanks Console team has its own vision of the project with its own gameplay events and customizations. It is not the input method that plays a role here, but the players: the console audience is different from that of PC games. And World of Tanks is no exception.

Why are World of Tanks for PC and consoles so different in terms of content? 

The difference is in the audience. First, players of World of Tanks on PlayStation and XBOX on average. younger than "tankers" on PC. Second, console tanks are more popular in countries where the popularity of consoles themselves as a platform is higher. This is also why the game is more oriented towards other console games than its "big brother". Yes, World of Tanks on PlayStation and Xbox has a lot of its own game events, customization elements and so on. Players love it.

Both the console and mobile versions of World of Tanks have strayed far from the original, each in its own way, according to the demand of their audiences. If you compare "Tanks" on PC to the mobile game, World of Tanks Blitz is different: different maps, different tanks, a 7×7 game, not 15×15. The console "Tanks" is closer to that, but they too have their own content, their own progression.

The engines in all three games are different, so the physics may be slightly different, although it certainly insists on similar parameters. Shell physics, for example, the same, but the progression, the diversity of the vehicle fleet from game to game are different. World of Tanks Blitz is a mobile game and can afford to go into such cartoonish, fantasy. The console version is bigger, the maps are all different there. From a technical point of view they differ a bit less, because they are all made with the same scope, but on different engines.

About crossplay: in 2013 - early 2014, when we were launching console projects, there was no talk about crossplay at all, particularly about crossplay between mobile and PC. The only crossplay we had back then was Tanks for Xbox 360 and Xbox One. And World of Tanks was the first game to get such multiplayer crossplay. And now that technology already allows it, the games are so different - in content, maps, progression , etc. - that combining them on the same battlefield is simply not possible. In fact, today they are three completely different games.

World of Tanks is partly a historical game, which uses the symbolism banned in some countries. Which countries have had to "censorWoT, and what has had to be changed or removed?

All information related to organizations and people convicted by international tribunals or recognized as terrorist, socially dangerous and illegal is banned in the game. This includes Nazi symbols, Nazi terms and designations (e.g. "SS") and the names of Nazi leaders. German equipment in World of Tanks is marked with the German tank cross.

Many countries in the Asian region have banned the Japanese imperial flag in the form of the rising sun with its rays. When releasing the game in these countries we replaced it with the current national flag of Japan - a red circle on a white background.

We also had to replace the flags when releasing in China. In China, it is generally forbidden to use real symbols of any state in games. So instead of flags, we used conventions that are associated with the country, but are not its official symbols. For example, a red lion on a white background was used instead of a flag for the UK.

Who is the biggest WoT fan who has played the most hours in World of Tanks?

We are not counting the time, but the number of battles played by one player, because match times can vary. To date, the player sashapobedit has the most battles - more than 255,000 battles.

The most striking or memorable rink in WoT from your own gaming experience.

Of course, always memorable are the tascher battles. Almost all of Kolobanov's medals are great to remember: it is hard to forget the battle when you are alone on the map against an overwhelming number of opponents, and it is certainly impossible to forget how you destroy the last vehicle with the last shell. Most memorable battles are from the very early days: at that time emotions were running high, not so many battles have been played yet. Now, when tens of thousands of games have been played, emotions are mixed, even the most memorable ones are forgotten.

If we are talking about one of my most memorable fights, the context is probably the most important. I just remembered this battle. When we presented World of Tanks at the first exhibition in America, at E3 2011, we had an activity at our booth for players, personal scoring. We had to show the best result in terms of the amount of experience earned per battle. This result went to the top and the best players during the day received various prizes.

We were at the exhibition as developers and the press interviewed me. And right during the interview the journalists suggested me: "Would you like to play the game, show it to American players, give some tips? At that time in the top already had a few winners who took first place during the day - they had about 1700 experience units per battle. I took an interesting German VK 36.01 tank, with the famous Konik gun, sat at my computer, equipped it as we know how - and in the first battle, right in the air, while telling along the way what I do - essentially playing for fun - I managed to gain over 3400 experience, destroyed 7 or 8 enemy tanks and damaged the rest in a good way. That said, I got to the bottom of the team list, meaning I played with tanks of higher levels than mine - that's why I got to score so much.

And then just the whole crowd from this stand did not tear away watching my game. After that, another hour I probably did not let go: asked questions, what tactics, what kind of tank, how to play it - and then all went to equip these VK-cats and ride them. The guys were really euphoric, because the guy sat down - and oops, twice as much as the winner of the previous day scored, sitting chatting with the press, on camera playing.

I would not say that it was my best fight on this tank, but like that, you know, to sit down to play for the camera - usually difficult, I do not get anything. But I did it, the audience applauded, so perhaps this battle is one of my most memorable. That was in 2011, nine years have passed, but I still remember it very well. It was, of course, phenomenal.

World of Tanks demographics:

What's online in 2020?

  • Anyone can look online in any region every day, it's open information. As for peaks, the CIS region this year recorded a simultaneous online presence of about 700 thousand players, and in Ukraine, the maximum was almost 150 thousand.

Male to female ratio

  • 98% male and 2% female.

What is an average player in WoT?

  • It is a working married man of 32-35 years old with two children and higher education.

In which country is the game most popular and in which country least popular?

  • World of Tanks is most popular in Russia and post-Soviet countries. Ukraine is among top-5 by the number of registered players in the world - more than 8 million. The least registered - in Macau.

The best-selling tank in the history of World of Tanks?

  • Recall that our game is free, 70% of players do not make any contribution to the game and explore the tanks, rather than buy them. The most numerous premium tank in the game is the Soviet heavy tank level V Churchill III.

I can't help but mention here the legendary vehicle - Type59. This tank was the first "Chinese" introduced into the game, although there was no Chinese branch at the time. The Type 59 was level VIII premium machine, with good damage, fast, maneuverable, bringing good income. Literally everyone wanted it, so they began to buy it actively. And then the abundance of "tipes" began to break the balance - so the tank had to be withdrawn from sale. And this is only a month and a half after its appearance! "Pipe" and today remains the dream of many, a collector's tank.

What tank do players most often complain about, calling it "imba"?

There is no one constant "hero": new vehicles are constantly appearing in the game, players learn how to play against them, and we monitor the statistics and balance technique.

The most "imbovymi" tanks, which we award players for clan activity: T95/FV4201 Chieftain, which is issued for getting into the top of the Global map, or Object 907. Of the ones that can be pumped up, the British X level heavy tank Super Conqueror is very strong. High performance in combat also has Object 279 - a tank that players can get for completing personal combat tasks. This is the top machines that stand out according to statistics. Yes, and we ourselves see that, according to the impressions of the players, they are the most "cool". Again, we try to maintain a balance of vehicles by making changes. It's a dynamic process.

A "Combat Pass" has recently appeared in WoT. Why and why did they decide to add it, and how successful was the system?

We constantly add different challenges and LCP (Personal Combat Tasks - ed.) to the game. Thanks to them, players may receive additional content: vehicles, customisation elements and bonuses that can be used to level up existing vehicles. Someone performs them for the rewards, someone - for the pleasure gained from completing the challenges. "Combat Pass" is one big challenge that can be done in parallel with others, getting more rewards.

We've been thinking about the concept of such a pass for a long time. In contrast to console tanks, World of Tanks on PC had no pronounced seasonality, so it was hard to tie it to something specific and make it relevant to our audience. The main difference between "Battle Pass" in World of Tanks from other games is that it has a free part available to all players and premium part - the usual incarnation of "Battle Pass" on the principle of other games. Wanting to adapt Battle Pass as much as possible to the realities of our game, we wanted to allow non-paying players to take advantage of this functionality. As a result, the Battle Pass in World of Tanks looks different, and one of its parts is available free of charge to all users.

The effect for the company was good: "tankers" began to play more on a variety of vehicles, and the players themselves perceived our pass option positively. Their reaction is important to us, and we are happy with it. Now the team has a lot of ideas on how to develop this functionality, and we will implement them in the next seasons of Combat Pass.

"I'm a fan and I want to get to work for you, how do I do that and who is most often missing from the team?"

In fact, a lot of Tank fans have joined our team over these ten years. One example - Anton Pankov: everything began with the fact that he wrote to Slava (Makarov - ed.), asked the key to the closed beta - or alpha, no one remembers anymore. And Slava Makarov gave him the key. And now he is the chief product officer of World of Tanks. Anton tells this story in Developers Online - a new format of communication between developers and players.

Wargaming has 17 offices worldwide, each of them working on different parts of one game and different projects. Accordingly, they need different specialists. For example, in Kyiv, where they also work on World of Tanks, we most often search for game-developers, game-designers, 3D and 2D-artists. To apply just go to wargaming.com/careers/ and select Kiev office - you will see all the current vacancies in the company. If a person wants to get into the "tank" team specifically, product knowledge will be a big plus.

What do you plan to surprise the players in the upcoming updates?

In addition to the grand celebration of's 10-year anniversary, which does not end in August, we are actively working on new maps and new tank branches. I've already mentioned about the polish vehicle branch above and a new branch of italian vehicles is planned for the new year.

It is important for us to entertain the players with entertaining events. We keep developing new in-game events and modes which appeal to our community. Recently the Battle for Berlin event was held, where players fought with artificial intelligence on three specially redesigned maps and the new Berlin map. The mode was actively worked on by the Kiev studio Wargaming, and the players were satisfied. Also, tankers periodically participate in various events in the "Front Line" mode.

We are working on a relaunch on a periodic basis of the game event "Steel Hunter", so called in World of Tanks "Battle Royale" (Battle Royale). It became available to tankers again as early as August 17. In addition to it, we are also preparing new seasons of "Battle Pass".

Last year we didn't release a gaming event on Halloween, this year it's sure to happen, we'll work it out well. By the way, our colleagues from Kiev are also working on it. At the moment we are working on a number of improvements and changes in functionality: we are working on reworking the crew to make the skills system more varied, it will greatly diversify the game.

And of course we are already working on the plans for 2021. We have a lot of ideas, more than can be implemented in a single year. But we are all very passionate about the project and want to make it even better, so we try to accomplish the planned maximum. We would like to give special thanks to our community and bloggers who also generate interesting ideas for changes and share them with us.

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