She thinks my tank is sexy....

"World of Tanks" is an upcoming "Massive Multiplayer Online" (MMO) tank battle game that we should be seeing later this year. My impression is that it will be similar in gameplay and tactics to the better tank battles in "Red Orchestra" and "Battlefield 1942" tho' without the "loonytunes" jeep and bike bombers that bedevilled those great battlefields, and with upgrades and repairs possible. Team tactics will be the order of the day, and we all know how that improves online shooters and acts as a "Force Multiplier". GameDebate recently had the opportunity to score yet another GD scoop by interviewing Sergey Burkatovskiy. This is what he had to say about his highly anticipated groundbreaking game:  

GD: How complex will tank operation be? A simple forward, back, left, right and fire affair, as in "Red Orchestra", "Call of Duty" and "Battlefield games" or a more complex setup like "Panzer Commander"?

You're right, it's basically all about moving forwards/backwards, turning right/left and firing, though the player will also have to switch between different types of ammo, deal with repairs and perform a couple of other functions when in battle. We are not trying to work out 100% realistic controls with sophisticated system of levers, on the contrary, our aim is to make the game as accessible as possible. Thus we shifted all challenges and complexity armored warfare has from the field of controls to the tactical level - and seems like thousands of our beta-testers do appreciate our decision.

GD: Can players take different positions in the tank such as driver, gunner, commander etc? Can they switch from one position to another, or is the game restricted to one player per tank?

Well, there will be no chance to take different positions in the tank as the player operates the vehicle single-handedly being the driver, gunner and commander himself. However, we have a "virtual" crew system with certain leveling options. With every new battle the crew gains more and more experience which leads to improved performance of your "steel steed" on the battlefield. Say, having a veteran gunner in your tank will result in + n% increase in fire accuracy. When the main skills of your crew members are maxed out they are free to acquire some side-skills e.g. the driver may learn the ropes of maintenance so in case of emergency this will let you reduce repair time.

GD: Do you plan to incorporate an in-game voice over internet protocol? Will there be different channels for vehicle intercom, troop level comms, company comms and per-team?

At the moment there's a text chat integrated into the game with some shortcuts for frequently used commands like "Attack", "Back to the base", "Follow me" etc. In-game voice chat is being developed now and significant importance is placed on it, as World of Tanks gameplay is based on close cooperation and teamwork.  However, we are not going to split the chat into separate channels and consider team format to be the best option as the size of teams is not really big - we currently have 15 players per team and the number will increase up to 30 in future. We've already run a tourney among beta-testers who used Teamspeak and Ventrilo to coordinate their tactics within a team and their feedback was quite positive. What's more important, is that the action in World of Tanks is rather fast-paced and dynamic with constantly changing situation on the battlefield meaning a delay of your message  - caused  for instance by choosing a wrong recipient and sending it to "arty" only instead of "all" - may lead to some serious consequences for your team.

 GD: Will there be recon vehicles and air spotters, such as Fiesler Storches, with better visibility of the battle, or even interactive battlefield-overview maps for team commanders with features like artillery and air-strikes? Or will we be seeing a free-for all furball with little concealment and "Fog-of-war"?

We have light tanks performing recon functions on the battlefield as they are fast and maneuverable enough to avoid enemy shells and spot enemy units or as we call it "give eyes" to artillery. We are going to introduce air recon units (that will let you disperse "fog-of-war" over a certain area for a certain time), off-map artillery barrages and air strikes as well, however, these options will be available for Clan Wars only because a strict hierarchy within a team is required (with team leaders and their deputies), otherwise we run the risk of ruining the gameplay as every battle might turn into meaningless exchange of off-map strikes.

GD: I see limited repairs by the crew will be possible. Will more extensive repairs, battle-damage repair be done in the field by "Bergepanzer" and maint crews or do you just respawn a new tank back at the jump-off point/ depot?

Crew members will repair damaged modules of the tank by using special repair kits (each kit is designated for a certain unit, e.g. engine repair kit, gun repair kit etc.) that can be used once per battle. Some critical shots will lead to inevitable death.  There'll be no respawns as we think this will diminish the feeling of achievement. Imagine, you and your brothers-in-arms spent a while of time and loads of ammo on "taming" a Maus and in a second this beast respawns somewhere near you. So when your tank is destroyed you are free to either spectate a battle or exit it and join a new one taking a different tank.  As for maintenance vehicles, we are not going to introduce them until Clan Wars are launched as in random fights that we have in closed beta their role is vague and unclear.

GD: Which will take center stage realism of gameplay? Or are we looking at a blend? If so what sort of split should we expect, 50/50, 20/80?

A good balance between realism and captivating gameplay - that's what we are looking for. However, it's rather hard to tell the proportion of each component in the game. As I've already said we're not going to create absolutely realistic gameplay or introduce realistic controls as it's just impossible. Alternatively, we are focusing more on tactics and cooperation within a team. We already see our beta-testers setting up well-coordinated attacks or making ambushes according to military guidelines of the day with flanking maneuvers, encirclements of enemy groups and strict distribution of roles in a battle, even though Clan Wars have not yet been implemented. That's where realism is preserved. Regarding combat characteristics of military hardware, they are close to those of real tanks, though not completely identical, because the tank is not just a combination of such features as speed, armor plating or rate of fire... It has an enormous number of parameters that can be hardly modeled or even estimated.  If we take a look at two T-34 tanks - one produced in 1942 and one in 1943 - we'll see vehicles with different characteristics because they undergone changes almost every month.  So we use a generalized image (or a "legend") of a tank and construct its digital prototype.  

GD: What online connectivity tools will come with the game to help friends find one another? When joining a battle is it easy and quick to get to your friends? Do you spawn right alongside them or do you potentially have to drive across a warzone to reach them?

In the current beta we have no "Friends" system support - all battles are created randomly. The functional part is under development now and is likely to be integrated into the game later this summer. This will enable the player to form a tank squad - from 2 to 4 vehicles - and play shoulder to shoulder with his comrades, support each other and take part in co-op raids or setting up defenses. For instance, there'll be an option of creating a "2 light tanks + 2 self-propelled guns" unit where two players will act on the spearhead of the army as scouts while two other guys will provide artillery support.  Moreover, players will be able to invite friends to their team so that they can train together, try different tactics, explore peculiarities of maps and take part in tournaments.

GD: What sort of payment method will players likely face?One time payment, monthly subscription, ingame purchasable equipment or a combination?

World of Tanks is a free-to-play game. Download the client, install it and jump right into the action - there'll be no need to pay a cent for the right to play. However, we offer the player an opportunity to invest money into the game and purchase some bonus content. The first option is a premium account that will let you boost your experience and credit gaining speed by 50 %. This feature will apply to those people who do not have enough time to level up in battles, but still want to drive some of the top vehicles. Premium tanks - is option #2. However, if you take a look at the development trees designed for each nation (USA, USSR, and Germany) you'll see that we are not offering top-level tanks in order to prevent a "war of wallets".  They are introduced only to let the player have a feel of a given tank class and decide on further investment in this branch of a tech tree is worth or not. For a certain amount of money the player will also be able to buy premium ammo and customize their "iron pets" - put personal or clan emblems on sides of his tanks, choose camouflage color and some other things. 

GD: Can players earn and keep levels/ranks ingame? Does the player earn a level or is it the tank that gains it?

Let me explain it this way. Every player starts with some basic tanks of the 1st level (as presented in our tech trees). Then, by earning experience in battles and purchasing upgrades he researches and buys a new tank of the 2nd level. It is not the same vehicle he started with but with enhanced characteristics - it's a different model of tank. This way it goes with each nation. For instance, in closed beta I have a German tank of the 6th level and a Soviet one of the 8th. Regarding the player,  he is not leveling up - he is a commander operating his vehicles. However, in future we'll add player's Avatar/Profile with a specific level up system as well. On gaining a new level he will get bonuses to his "managerial" skills - like, -5 % to repair costs.  

Do tanks gain extra equipment when extra levels are gained and if so what sort of stuff can we expect?

This option has not yet been developed, but we'll probably let our players install extra armor plating on gaining max levels. 

What sort of purchasable equipment is there likely to be ingame? Does this happen inbetween games, will we have to stop at our depot to upgrade or can it happen automatically in the field?

The player will be able to research and install certain modules of a tank - engine, gun, radio station, suspension etc. All upgrades will be carried out in between battles in the garage. Normally all matches are rather fast-flowing and last 5-10 minutes so there's no need to install anything in the field. 

Are you planning any DLC for World of Tanks that regular players can look forward to?

Wargaming.net knows how to support online titles. Our turn-based strategy game Massive Assault Network 2 (released back in 2006) is updated and patched on a regular basis as we integrate some new features, add new maps and arrange year-round champs and tourneys. World of Tanks is a long-term, evolving project that will be supported by our company for years.  It is not like with box games where a couple of DLC's is enough to keep up fans' interest until a sequel appears. With World of Tanks we are actually providing a SERVICE, that's why we realize that the hardest part of our work will begin after the release. We are going to gradually expand the fleet of tanks planned for the release version by adding some prototype models and, of course, we'll introduce new tank nations, so there'll be a chance to operate British, Italian, French and Japanese vehicles. New maps, extra PvP modes (like Survival or Garage Wars) and tons of other content will be added as well.

What is the main highlight of the game, the one you are most looking forward to?

The answer is obvious - tanks! Tanks are cool... When you see tanks moving (no matter whether they are modern vehicles, WWII tanks or first tanks like Anglo-American Mark VIII Liberty ) you can not help admiring these powerful creatures and we are trying to do our best to carry over this magic atmosphere of two steel avalanches clashing into our game.

Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Oh yeah, I'd like to share a couple of words about Clan Wars - the mode I've already mentioned today.  We are going to launch a huge never-ending Global Campaign with hundreds of clans from all over the world taking part in it and fighting for global domination. Imagine a World Map (like in Total War series or Hearts of Iron) divided into hundreds of provinces that provide certain revenues and preferences. The rules are quite simple - challenge you neighbor, conquer his lands and expand your territories. There'd be a big deal of politics and diplomacy involved along with espionage, double agents, treaties etc. In a word, there will be lots of juicy stuff we are currently working on.

I'd like to "tank you" :-) for the interesting questions and your readers for the time they spent on this interview.

Thank you too Sergey for taking the time to talk to us, and may we wish you every success with your very promising new game. 

Sergey Burkatovskiy from World of Tanks