Building World of Tanks’ competitor

World of Tank’s success has been so widespread that at least one developer thinks the online multiplayer tank combat game has spawned its own genre and is working to create a direct competitor.

Armored Warfare, which is approaching alpha and is expected to go into beta in Russia this year, will bring realistic tank combat into the modern era, offering post-Korean War vehicles and a modern setting, for the mechanized warfare shooter.

“In some ways, really what we are, we’re the modern World of Tanks but we’re also putting some of our own spin on it,” said developer Obsidian’s CEO Feargus Urquhart. “World of Tanks has almost created its own genre, so we know it needs to have the feeling of that game, it can’t feel like Call of Duty, it can’t be total deathmatch, it has to be a strategic shooter.”

Obsidian is a studio best known for it’s work on role-playing games — most recently South Park: The Stick of Truth. But when Mail.ru, one of the biggest internet companies in Russia, approached the studio, Urquhart realized they had the chance to explore not only a new genre with the studio, but free-to-play games.

“Mail.ru is one of the biggest internet companies in Russia,” he said. “Because there seems to be so much money in free-to-play games, every [studio] wants to jump at them. Hooking up with someone like Mail.ru, they have an audience and they can get us the players.”

When the studio sat down and started examining the only real title in this new genre of free-to-play, online realistic tank battles, they decided they wanted to create a direct competitor, but have their game pick up where World of Tanks leaves off: the Korean War.

World of Tanks goes up to about Korea, we want to start at Korea,” Urquhart said.

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That decision, he said, had a much deeper impact on the overall game than one might think.

Chief among them was the need to revisit game balance.

“When you put two main battle tanks about 200 yards apart, they can shoot at each other and neither will blow up unless one of them gets a lucky shot,” he said. “So you have to figure out how to make that work with game balance. And then you have to balance main battle tanks with other tanks.”

And on top of that, Armored Warfare isn’t just a tank game.

“We’re called Armored Warfare not Modern Battle Tanks because we have artillery, armored fighting vehicles, fast jeep units, light tanks and tank destroyers.”

The inclusion of a those other vehicles adds a neat twist to the gameplay, he said. Some vehicles seem to match up neatly with what would be a player class in a game like Call of Duty. For instance, artillery vehicles play like snipers.

The game’s push into modern warfare also brings with it an enormous amount of new tech like guided missiles, smoke grenades and explosive reactive armor all of which change the game.

All of the things that the modern setting brings to the game will be one of the main attractions for players, Urquhart said.

“We are going to attract some different people than World of Tanks, but we’re still going to attract the same types of people who love the realism, love the accuracy,” he said.

He also thinks the studio’s attention to detail will eventually be a differentiator.

“It’s crazy how much we put into the tanks,” he said. “For one of the vehicles it’s three months from when it starts to when we get it into the game.

“We are a pretty good studio, but there is a lot of stuff we have to do. We have to put it in front of military experts. We have a library from Jane’s Information Group. We have a guy who is a tank driver.”

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The modern setting also means battlegrounds different from ones found in a game set in World War 2.

“We’re going to have conflict zones like ports and oil fields, so it’s going to have a different vibe,” he said. “For modern times we need to create something that feels like a modern military setting without being too political.”

And, of course, Urquhart wants the game to still feel like an Obsidian title.

“We will create some fiction for the game and the commanders will tradable characters, like tank companions,” he said. “So all of these characters will have background stories and can level up skills.”

The game will also feature player versus environment missions which will allow teams of players to join forces to take on an AI-controlled challenge.

While Obsidian has a clear road map for the development of Armored Warfare, the studio also knows that — especially with a game like this — it needs to listen to the community.

“We want to listen,” he said. “Just because we have an idea of what we want to do doesn’t mean we’re right about everything.”