GDC 2012 Day 2: World of Warplanes
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
I had high expectations dragging myself out of bed on March 8th as I was finally going to have time to step onto the main showroom floor of the convention! And I have to say for a convention dedicated mostly to talent recruitment, some of the companies at the show spared no expense to outshine the competition. Wargaming of course spared no expense (at their after party or at their booth) to prove that close to a year after the launch of their flagship title, World of Tanks, they were now one of the top dogs in the industry.
PR Manager Arthur Pratapopau led me through their wonderland of WWII props and explosion sound effects to a private room where I was grilled on all the wonderful details of World of Warplanes as well as my first look at actual alpha gameplay. One of their team members was actually playing the game on the test server in front of me and it looked beautiful yet intense. The maps seemed designed to be just the right size where you’d rarely feel you were alone on the battlefield and yet still large enough for sprawling dog fights and epic dodges to occur.
A Philosophy of Fun
They made it very clear that their design philosophy for the game favored fun to play as a higher weighted factor than capturing real world physics. In addition they would stick to their policy in World of Tanks and allow planes of different nationalities to be able to compete on the same teams. This made perfect sense as I bit my lip watching daring maneuvers where jets would skim through narrow valleys a mere 20 meters off the ground to lose the boggies on their tail.
Of course this philosphy carries through all parts of the game as each match is set to be rapid fire 5-7 minute occurences in which both sides start in the air ready to do battle rather than dealing with a dull take-off and landing experience. Instead you will be in a race with your foes to either destroy all of their planes in the sky or take out their land based objective points to gain a point advantage for when time runs out. Of course when destroying planes you’ll have ground based defenses targeting you, and when destroying ground based targets you will have planes chasing you so the objective is really one and the same.
If you’ve been following our coverage you will already be familiar with the three types of planes available in-game. To summarize them basically you have speedy fighters specialized in dog fighting, slow fighters specialized in concentrated fire in front of them, and anti-ground bombers that are slow and tanky but deliver an exceptionally devastating blast to any ground targets they can get close enough to attack. The developers claimed that their testing so far has been too limited to establish an official meta of how many of each ship is ideal, but they claimed that different ratios are more valuable depending on the map objectives.
In terms of balancing each match, they do this based on player experience as well as tier of airship they are flying. Airships are broken down into ten tiers starting at basic World War I bi-planes and concluding with Korea War era generation 1 fighter jets. Ideally this elo system will prevent biplanes from having to dog fight with jet fighters because it’s just unfair no matter how you look at it.
Controls and Customization
I was assured that one of the founding principles that made World of Tanks a grand success was the accessibility of the game. World of Warplanes is trying to offer the same kind of complex simplicity that made WoT so easy to pick up but difficult to master. Your warplane is controlled with just the touch of your mouse along with 7 to 8 keyboard commands for special weapons and other tricks. Of course you can also expect joystick compatibility for that awesome dog fighting experience.
If you’ve played World of Tanks you will be familiar with the between mission routine of repairing your plane, spending points to buy new parts, and purchasing new more advanced planes as you gain experience. This part gets interesting though when we start talking about mixing together WoT with WoWP! Although not all features will be available during the summer beta, Wargaming is set on uniting WoT and WoWP together by the end of the year. This will mean that experience gained on your account will be spendable in either game! Now players will have to decide if they want to upgrade their tanks and planes together or specialize their efforts towards excelling in one or the other.
Clans and PvP
If you’re wondering why someone would choose to specialize, look no further than the combined clan war system. Currently territories on the world map are controlled and fought over by various tank clans. World of Warplanes intends to join the fray by allowing you to fight for your clan in both the sky and land! The future of clan wars will begin with an aerial dog fight rather than a tank brawl and the winning side with have NPC controlled air superiority that could impact the outcome of the tank battle that decides control of the territory.
I’m excited to see the clan dynamics involved as casual players will likely need to focus on one game or the other to be able to bring their A-game to clan wars while more hardcore players can split their earnings between both games to be able to support their clan by both air and land. Of course a little cash shopping could help, but Wargaming promises to not sell anything that you won’t be able to earn with playtime.
With over 100,000 potential players signing up to play beta on day 1 of sign-ups, I expect a bright future for the Wargaming franchise. World of Warplanes is set to be only the second in a trio of MMOs once they release World of Battleships. Clan warfare will then become even more complicated with all three game types joining together to decide the outcome of a battle. OnRPG will keep plugging away and try to get into an early beta test to bring you a closer look at how Warplanes handles itself later this year.