This year's Game Developer's Conference was quite exciting for me as I got to spend time with Obsidian Entertainment and My.com to check out some of the new stuff they had in the works. One of the games I had the privilege of seeing was a title called Armored Warfare which was actually announced at the event itself. I'm not going to lie, I thought I heard "Armored Core" at first and had MECHs on the brain, but I digress. While I did not get towering MECH warriors, I was still given a nice treat when I found out AW was all about the tanks and I love me some tanks.
Throughout my session, I had a few of the game's developers stand behind my back to answer all of my questions. Convenient, no? Either way, it was definitely a necessary part of the experience. The demo itself was fairly lackluster in the sense that it was a tech demonstration merely available to present the idea of the game, I felt. Under no circumstances am I going to use the demo as a basis to fully talk about Armored Warfare because it was clearly not optimized as evident by constant FPS lag and a handful of the key features I asked about in my conversations were not implemented yet.
Armored to the bone
With that said, I did take the time to engage the developers in the room in full-on game talk (about Armored Warfare of course) so that way, I don't have to sit here and write about the basics of the demo-experience since you can read all about it on other sites. My natural curiosity had me wondering what the difference between Armored Warfare and the very familiar World of Tanks was since at an immediate glance, both games seemed the same. I was then told "Armored Warfare uses tanks from the modern age." said Richard Taylor, the game's Project Director, "We've put it a lot of research into what's available and we're pretty excited about it. At first, I thought there were only like five tanks in the world or something but once we've began to break it down, turns out there are hundreds of new tanks from all over the world. It's not as limited as I thought. Also, the modern stuff appeals to a different audience of players as well and new technology is always cool. It's also less limiting on what we have in store for the future since tech continually improves."
Looking at the demo in front of me, it was very apparent the game had a modern look to it. I sat there starring into a garage with three playable war machines at my disposable, all loaded with missile pods and machine guns built directly into their design. I was excited because this was my kind of style at least when compared to WoT's line-up of pre-1950s machinery. "One thing we really had to think through was the engineering that went into each tank so we went out and did a ton of research. With that, one of the big features with our tanks is their inside mesh layer" Richard explained as I was staring at my available vehicles, “While the exterior of our tanks are really important, we wanted to make each tank unique in-terms of strength and weaknesses. We made sure each tank has points where their armor is naturally thinner or thicker and have compensated for that within the system. While you're in the game, your target reticle will glow different colors to signify where you should hit certain tanks." Turns out each tank has its own unique hit box that has weak points and strength points. While the interior was cool, I'm big on vanity so I asked about exterior customization and whether or not it will affect gameplay.
"The game is free-to-play. We don't want a pay-to-win system at all so we had to think customization through. As you progress through the game you'll unlock individual tank parts to deck out your tank and even some custom decals and what not. I can't go into too much detail but you'll be happy with what you can do with your tanks." I didn't want to end there so I was interested in knowing if you could cater your tank to certain missions or maps and Richard answered "yes" but he could not go into further detail from there. There's definitely a lot of thought that goes into your tank in this game. I predict the ability to adjust the treads for certain terrain or maybe add some mesh camouflage for certain areas. The little stuff like that adds depth and I can't wait to see more.
Once all the media members in the room were ready, the game transitioned from the garage where you could view your tanks and moved into the battle zone. During this transition Richard explained, "This demo is not meant to be difficult so if it's too easy, well then it probably is, heh. Either way, you're loaded up into the cooperative mode with your fellow press." The first thing that came to mind was 'cooperative mode' since I expected this game to be a serious player versus player title. He continued with, "One of our biggest focus is on cooperative play. We want to give players who aren't really interested in PvP something to enjoy. More often than not, maybe you're just tired of competition since you have been on all day and maybe just want to run some casual missions or speed runs with your friends. All of that will be available to you."
It's no surprise at all that Obsidian went this route. They have a very good history with their RPG titles so creating an online experience that involves missions and achievements is something, I feel, is second nature to them. Honestly, I'm going to give them kudos for the idea since everything these days are just all about killing each other. Of course, what's healthy mission-going without healthy competitive co-op? I asked what kind of leaderboard system they would have. It was then Matt Festa, Senior Designer came on to help me with that. "The game will have a leaderboard system of some kind." Festa exclaimed, "but we can't go into too much detail right now but there are a lot of achievements you'll be able to earn that involve running certain missions faster, or killing more bad guys and a lot of this can be done with your friends."
Turns out Obsidian's big focus with Armored Warfare is cooperative play and all the achievements you could earn. Festa began to continue by saying, “We didn't want the achievements to mean nothing but profile eye candy so we'll reward players with cool tank skins and decals and what not for their completion of certain things. We want players to see you in-game and be like 'man that guy has such a cool tank skin from getting that really hard so-and-so achievement!' so while the game has a strong PvP aspect to it, we want players who lean towards PvE to also have something to brag about and compete for."
As a quick note, I asked if there would be daily challenges as well and Festa said yes.
PvP and Balacing the scales
Of course with a tank game, it's only normal to wonder more about the player verses player tank warfare aspect of it too. I questioned how many tanks there would be, how balanced things could be (especially thinking about how you can only do so much to the design of a tank), and what the gameplay feels like. Festa stayed to answer my questions and he started off by saying the game would be 15 vs 15. That's a lot of mayhem but since Obsidian is a very experienced company, I wondered more about their map design and how large-scale they would be more so than the overall chaos of 30 hell-bent players.
"Because of what CryEngine 3 is capable of doing, we can definitely get creative with our maps. Virtually everything in the environment is destructible and through the physics engine, we make each individual projectile true to life as well. You'll be able to pierce through objects with your tank and ammo and really use every aspect of the terrain, no matter how big or small, to the advantages of whatever tank your using. We had to do this right because there's a different kind of strategy and power in tank warfare than there is in like Call of Duty where it's infantry based." explained Festa.
You could tell the game was using Cryengine 3. It was much prettier than other F2P games I've dabbled with in the past. In terms of gameplay, it would seem they are aiming for a real world tank experience with armor piercing shots, physics, and all that jazz and of course, Festa read my mind and mentioned a lot of the gameification aspects of Armored Warfare. "We really don't want players to have to micro a whole lot or be stressed over every mechanic of the tank and terrain so of course, there's a lot of gameification. Also, you asked if different parts of the tank can take damage and become broken and well, yes they can. Tank sights and gunner sights can be damaged and so can your "tires" and cannons. You don't have to do anything intensive, just click on your repair kits and viola you're healed up and ready to jump back in."
I continued by asking more questions like if whether or not there will be bullet drop to see if I could lob shots into their base at spawn and how they would handle trolls and friendly fire. Festa thought for a moment then said, "These are modern tanks of war. Their projectiles will be travelling at insane speeds and while there is bullet drop without a doubt, the scenario you asked about isn't likely. However, we do have a different set of tanks available in different class tiers that were designed with artillery, mortar kind of fire in mind. Remember, we have access to all sorts of tech here, we're not just limiting players to say... the Abrams tank and all those just like it." That has me excited because now I feel there will be a lot of strategic element into what classes players choose before a match. Perhaps they want to do support artillery? I think that's a thing. I wonder if we'll see light vehicles that are designed to scout and give radar. That would be cool.
"Now with player management, that's something that we will have to modify and check once the game is actually launched. The game does have friendly fire so I can see your concern. Right now, we're just going with a warning system or something similar to that of League of Legends... was it their tribunal system? Something like that. Regardless, this is a question I wish I could answer with confidence but with the way different players behave, this system could be something we will be modifying every single month if we have to till we get it right."
At least they're thinking about toxic behavior already. I'm confident the system they will have in place will be good. I'm not sure about some of you other readers out there but the audience in WoT is much more mature than other games I've played and I feel that's because of the audience that is attracted to that type of game. Maybe I was just lucky, who knows.
The cash shop
Backtracking a little bit I went off on a tangent and asked more questions about the cash shop. As far as I’m concerned you can only buy vanity pieces from the shop and customization items that are completely balanced with everything that can be earned. Those words sort of scare me in the sense that I don't know how much in-game work = a cash shop item equivalent. I also asked if I could buy tanks and Festa told me, “Yes, you will be able to purchase tanks from the shop but we really have to look into strengths and weaknesses before they are approved. We want to stray as far away from the pay-to-win thing so with tanks you could buy from the store, they'll mainly do something unique and be practically equal to another tank in your line-up." I got a lot of relief from that since with 'doing something unique' I’m going to assume it's very similar to premium skins in LoL. While tanks in AW act on their own, having a tank that maybe makes an awkward sound upon firing would be fun but I hope it's very discrete since they do need to keep the sense of realism in the game.
"Are you guys looking into eSports?"
Esports is something I always have to ask about when looking into a new game, especially if that title is similar to an already existing eSports title: *cough* WoT *cough*. I was delighted to know that they have been looking into it but they didn't want to design the game around competition. "Part of what makes these existing competitive titles so great is that they were great to begin with. We want AW to just be there. To be great. To be balanced. And if the timing is right, maybe we'll host some big competitions and see where it goes from there" Festa said and he's right. Esports is a very underground market despite how big it has gotten. The players themselves tend to decide if a game is competition worthy and then the devs start to notice a short while after communities have already hosted their own tournaments.
Just looking at the game, AW screams eSports but like Festa said, it will come down to what the community thinks of it and not what they do to eSports-ify it.
"Going back to Cryengine 3, what kind of computer will it take to run?"
This is another question I generally ask developers because I feel, and I'm sure they feel, it is important to get the game into the hands of as many gamers as possible, especially if it's free-to-play.
"The one thing cool about Cryengine 3 is how easy it is to tweak for varying computers. The game should be able to run on a lot of different computers, even some old ones. Right now, I don't have any specifics for you however."
Unfortunately, I did get a vague response but it is still too early to make any judgments on the game. I'm going to be realistic and say any computer made within the last 5-6 years should be able to run it nicely. Though, I feel the game will be heavily based on CPU with all of the physics calculations going on.
That's all I know about Armored Warfare. The game has a pretty cool concept, even if it's been done before, because it uses modern technology, a good physics engine, and caters to both PvP and PvE players. Sign-ups for the beta are going on right now so if you want in, you'd best get yourself over to their website. Hopefully, I've answered any questions during my write-up. If you have any more, comment below since I might have missed something.