When World of Tanks makes its PlayStation 4 debut, jumping in for the first time might be easier than you think.
World of Tanks is a complex game. Its authenticity and competitive luster have attracted a passionate eSports scene, and the extreme differences between tank classes means first-time players are confronted with roles they may never have considered in other multiplayer games. Approaching my hands-on time with this weekend’s open beta, I felt a little overwhelmed by the weight of the game’s history and nuances, so I imagine other PlayStation faithful might feel the same.
There’s an adjustment curve like that in every multiplayer game, of course. But in over five years on the market and through multiple platform debuts, developer Wargaming has constantly returned to the question of the new-player experience.
“That’s one of the lessons that we’ve learned on the other two consoles,” says Arlette Resendiz, Player Experience Specialist with Wargaming. “When we launched on 360, we prepared for the Xbox One players, and now we are beyond superb for the PlayStation 4 players.”
Wargaming has to strike an interesting balance here. How much autonomy should players be given to peel back the game’s layers on their own? If left to their own devices, will players notice and appreciate the game’s depth or understand what strategies are required for success? Externally, at least, Wargaming is of a mind to give players all the tools they need to learn the game without shoving any of it in their face. “We have Proving Grounds [a single-player practice mode], we have guides, we have the Tankopedia, all the stats and all the portal services are up,” Arlette explained. “As we transfer to PlayStation 4, all of the social media portals are going to be available for them to connect right away. So they’re going to pretty much be given all the doors, and they just have to poke through them.”
The wealth of knowledge available online is truly impressive–everything you might want to know about Heavy Tanks, playing the Scout role, and using the environment strategically is available for studying up before heading into the fray. But with any downloadable title (and Free2Play ones, especially), there’s an urge to leap right in. It’s free, it’s there, and any time you’re not spending in-game is time other new players are using to unlock new tanks and weapons.
Because most players will jump right into World of Tanks without doing the homework, Wargaming is pushing to make the first in-game hours as comfortable as possible. Again, it’s the player’s choice–you can jump right into PvP matchmaking, or spend some time getting used to your new tank in Proving Grounds. Lead Game Designer Jeff Gregg says that players who play a couple matches in Proving Grounds first tend to enjoy multiplayer more and stick around for longer. The challenge, then, is giving you interesting things to do, as soon as possible, without overwhelming.
“Currently, we find that once you’re about 20 battles in, you’re going to stick around. It is something that we constantly are realizing could be better,” says Gregg of the beginner’s experience. “It takes time to get to, and I think that’s part of why it’s exciting when you get there.”
“That’s something I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with. We have plans, and we’re constantly having plans and features we’re discussing, to keep people around and realize how exciting this game is.”
Part of the game’s thrill comes from unlocking new tanks and modules–there’s a progression hook to almost every modern multiplayer game. But to get there, you need to triumph over the initial frustration of any trial-by-fire competitive experience.
“The goal is, ‘I understand why I died.’ Not, ‘I died because this sucks,’” says Gregg. “One is a player that’s frustrated, and it’s our fault, we didn’t teach you why it’s happening. And the other is a person that is going to strive to be better. As long as we’re transparent with the communication of how to be better, that’s what we’ve been putting most of our focus on.”
Thankfully, the game’s matchmaking system strives to pair opponents in similar tank tiers, so you’ll never face off against tanks that are significantly better than your own. Depending on what you’ve unlocked, you’ll also experience different map variants. As you build experience, more complex maps and more efficient opponents await. In an ideal world, you’ll learn new strategies from your losses and have balanced opponents perfect to test them on in the next match.
“As long as you understand why it’s happening, I think loss is a learning experience,” says Gregg. “. . . You’re gaining knowledge to learn how to be more successful without being completely unsuccessful along the way. Yes, you can always be better, but the way the matchmaker works, the way it tries to form balanced teams, we want to make sure you’re having fun, you’re playing multiplayer, and you’re being successful while learning all of these nuances about how and why to pick which class, which nation, and all that stuff.”
So what’s the most important lesson for a brand-new player, the PlayStation 4 owner who wants to give World of Tanks a try over the beta weekend, or when it comes out?
“Teamwork is so key to the way World of Tanks is successful. You can beat a team that has the statistical advantage over you if your teamwork is solid.”
For more on the power of teamwork in World of Tanks, and how this multiplayer mayhem feels on PS4, keep it locked to PSU as we play the open beta.