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World of Tanks: 360 Edition shows what goes into making a proper PC-to-console port (preview)

Above: World of Tanks: 360 Edition

Image Credit: Wargaming.net

All my daughter wants is to learn how to spell her name. Unless her name is Aufkl.Panther, her education is going to have to wait for me to get tired of blowing up tanks first.

At a serious detriment to my parental availability, the beta version of the World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition has been available for the last couple of months to select Xbox Live subscribers. Developer Wargaming is using the beta not only to make sure a port of the PC version transitions over to the Xbox 360 as bug-free as possible but also to experiment with making a more console-friendly experience

On top of putting in a ridiculous amount of time neglecting my family to demolish tanks in the Xbox 360 beta, I got a chance to ask TJ Wagner, the executive producer on World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition, about the sort of alterations being planned and the thought process behind their console-centric tweaking decisions.

“Every feature in World of Tanks for the 360 has been carefully thought-out and user-tested to make sure it’s the best console tank game, hands-down, and not simply a port,” Wagner said. “You’ll find navigation of the garage and all its features quick and easy to navigate with the controller. The Platoons feature utilizes the Xbox 360 friends system so you can join and chat with people in the garage. There are more features yet to come that will differ significantly from the PC that we haven’t announced as of yet.”

One thing I definitely noticed while toying with my tank customizations in the 360 Edition garage was the introduction of packages. In the PC version, every individual tank has its own parts tree in which you can buy upgrades for your turret, cannon, treads, engine, radio, spotting capabilities, and armor. Like most games with this sort of customization, you can play a game of “tank Legos,” snapping together various compatible parts while analyzing the data charts to try to find the best combination that suits your playstyle. Wargaming is attempting to simplify this portion of the game for console players by wrapping these parts up into special loadouts.

“The thinking behind the package system was to simplify and streamline the [user interface] for the players and remove the possibility of making bad builds that you couldn’t take into battle or were just not effective, resulting in a poor playing experience,” said Wagner. “Every package in the game is a viable upgrade the player can be successful with.”

World of Tanks: Xbox 360 packages system

Above: The World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition packages system.

Image Credit: WarGaming

This simplifies my long-term upgrade goals in World of Tanks and enables me to leap into the combat portion of the game without spending too much time fumbling around tank parts. Combat design also received some thoughtful tweaks that take full advantage of pad-based controls. Tank movement with the controller feels like it provides for a bit more finesse, unlike the abrupt nature of tank driving with WASD keyboard controls. Aiming with the 360 controller doesn’t feel hindered by the analog stick either, which can be a tricky transition for games designed for the responsiveness of mouse control.

Wagner said, “We’ve put a lot of time and user-testing into [the 360 controls], and the response has been great. Implementing analog movement took quite a few tweaks to the under-the-hood numbers in order for turning and acceleration to feel natural and be controllable.

“For some tanks, we extended or added range of movement numbers that weren’t necessary for a digital on\off control like a keyboard. Aim assistance is necessary in all first-person shooter games on consoles due to using an analog stick. It is not nearly as heavy-handed as most first-person shooters since look and aim speed is also limited by the tanks’ turrets. There’s an option to turn it off for players that like complete control, but we’ve found most users never even notice there is aim assist in the game at all.”

Aiming in World of Tanks is not hindered by pad controls

Above: Narrowing my aim over an enemy tank using an analog stick.

Image Credit: WarGaming

While the game’s design and content are progressing nicely through the life of the beta, there is an obvious question about Wargaming’s choice of platform. With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One kicking off the next generation of consoles, why choose the Xbox 360, and why now?

“The 360 install base currently is greater than all the registered users of the PC game — 70 million — so it was a natural choice for us to target the game for the Xbox 360,” said Wagner. “Naturally, though, we’re always looking at new opportunities for World of Tanks and will be closely watching next-generation consoles in the future.”

When developing for multiple platforms with a game like this, the question of allowing players to use the same account between versions eventually comes up. Obviously, World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition is going to be a separate entity with its own marketplace and economy separate from the PC version. So players with a PC account can’t bring their gold, silver, and buff tank collection over to the Xbox 360 version.

“Security and fairness is extremely important to us,” said Wagner. “This was the biggest factor in keeping World of Tanks: Xbox 360 in its own ecosystem. Xbox Live has developed a great, secure online service for its customers, and we wanted to take full advantage of that. Opening up the game to play with PC would allow for an all sorts of advantages\hacks\mods\cheats with the 360 users on the losing end.

“We’re already building a fantastic community in the beta, and we want to protect the players and stay true to this version of World of Tanks.”

Wargaming still has some things yet to be implemented into the beta. Although the German and American tanks are available, it is still working on bringing in the Chinese, Japanese, British, Soviet, and French tank trees. Also, the Crew section, which enables players to level up a group of tank operators assigned to specific tanks, is currently unavailable. Wargaming is obviously implementing all of these things in due time and their absence has not affected the beta’s sizable pool of active players. Registration to the beta has also been open to the public on special occasions, such as this passed Veterans’ Day weekend. If you’re procrastinating at work or your family has been complaining that they don’t see very much of you, signing up for this beta the next time it opens up may not be the best thing to happen to your free time.

As for me, I’m grinding for a M46 Patton. I’m sure teaching my daughter how to read and write can wait.


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