Wargaming is about to introduce submarines in World of Warships, the multiplayer World War II naval ship shooter that has more than 1.5 million monthly active players. The developers will also redo aircraft carriers in a way that makes planes and ship combat more accessible to players, according to a briefing by Alexander Nikolaev, publishing director for North America for World of Warships.
The changes represent a lot of risk for Wargaming when it comes to the reaction from the 28 million players who have registered since 2015. More than 300 developers in Austin, Texas, and elsewhere are working on the updates. World of Warships players will get a taste of submarine combat with a Halloween update that includes the fanciful Nautilus submarine from Captain Nemo and Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
The Halloween update will include some zany Halloween gear and a new port with a haunted mansion theme. Nikolaev said at a briefing in San Francisco, near the USS Pampanito, a World War II-era Balao-class submarine turned into a floating museum on Fisherman’s Wharf. The team will collect feedback and prepare a major update for 2019.
“We thought this was a good way to diversify the gameplay,” Nikolaev said in an interview with GamesBeat. “We think the balance should be in a form such that any ship should be universal. Any ship should be able to fight any other ship. The key to victory should be teamwork. As long as you know your weaknesses, and you know that there might be submarines going after you, you need to cooperate and play as a team with your teammates. They need to protect you from the classes that counter you.”
Wargaming will also toss out how aircraft carriers work. Right now, the carrier captain gets a top-down view of the real-time action, controlling multiple squadrons at the same time. In the new version, the viewpoint will shift to a third-person view from one of the planes in a full squadron. The aircraft carrier player will control a single squadron of bombers or torpedo planes, dropping payloads on ships. Nikolaev said dogfighting between fighters will be de-emphasized.
It’s too bad that Wargaming was never able to link the gameplay of World of Warplanes, World of Warships, and World of Tanks. That would have settled the interaction between ground, naval, and air forces. But Nikolaev believes the games are better because of the “corporate decision” to keep the gameplay in each title separated.
With the carriers, Nikolaev said that not enough players were playing aircraft carriers across all tiers of combat, at level 10. Nikolaev said all is being done in the name of keeping the game realistic, balanced, and fun.
“After three years, we’ve noticed that unfortunately, the design concepts around carriers and the way they’re used by our players — at the lower part of the learning curve, the population of carriers is becoming very low,” he said. “For example, on tier 10, it’s very hard to see any carriers playing at all. At the same time, in high-level competitive play, carriers become a must.”
World of Tanks debuted in 2010 and it has garnered well over 100 million players. It was dubbed a “first-person shooter for old people” because the action was slower than the infantry combat of Call of Duty. But the combat for World of Warships was even slower still.
Subs cause big changes
With the addition of submarines, the gameplay will go through big changes. Battleships and carriers will now be vulnerable to submarines, which can sneak around anywhere on the map. But the visibility for submarines will be limited. Subs will be able to see ships at periscope depth, but surface ships will also be able to spot subs that are barely below the surface. Subs can move fast on the surface, but they are pretty slow underwater.
So Nikolaev said that the game will preserve its “rock-paper-scissors” balance between the different types of ships.
The submarines are a major effort. It has 180 ships across seven different nation trees. It also has 100 premium ships that are available for purchase. Each can take as much as six months to fully design and test. Even the insides of the ships, which players almost never see, are fully built into the designs. Wargaming had to delay the launch of British destroyers until this week, since a lot of the documents related to the designs were still secret.
Players can purchase cosmetic additions such as flags, camouflage, skins, containers, patches, and emblems.
Along the way, the game has kept changing. Updates happen about once every four weeks. The weather is dynamic, and it can affect parts of a map, where a squall can affect some ships but not others. Now the water will be three-dimensional, to accommodate subs, and that will be a big change for the graphics.
“We had over-powered destroyers at first, but now cruisers have radar that can counter the stealth of the destroyers,” Nikolaev said.
In June, Wargaming announced that World of Warships will debut on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 next year.
If players really don’t like the changes that Wargaming makes to the carriers and submarines, then they will be eligible for refunds. Details of that will be worked out later.