The Unapologetic World of Tanks

Here is a ridiculous game I recently stumbled across. It’s called World of Tanks. The name pretty much says it all. Take a look at this.

It calls itself an Free-to-Play MMO but I wouldn’t agree with that label. At least not now. It’s as much an MMO as Call of Duty is an MMO. World of Tanks consists of a series of short matches. There is no persistent quality in the game other than the progress of your characters. Or perhaps I should say Tanks?

Because in this game, what you see is what you get. It is unapologetically a game that celebrates everything that is tanks. You can collect, pilot and upgrade over 60 different war vehicles from World War 2 era. The game forgoes all plausibility in order to maximize it’s tank content. So Soviet, Allied and German tanks fight together in teams side by side. There are no other types of military units. There is no infantry. There are no trucks or armored cars. Only tanks. Well there is SOME variety. Next to tanks you can also pilot tank destroyers and self-propelled artillery. But for a layman (like me), the difference to tanks is pretty much non existent.

When I first heard about the game I was appalled. I don’t appreciate the celebration of the Military. On top of that, the game looks very generic and shallow. Nick Lalone, whom I’m doing the Monster Hunter Podcast with, suggested I should try it anyway. He already played the Beta. While he acknowledged that the game wasn’t revolutionary, he convinced me that there was a certain je ne sais quoi to it.

And indeed there is. Because on the very same evening, I found myself forking out 6 bucks to buy virtual money to upgrade my virtual Tank fleet and looking back on a very unproductive day.

I believe the strength of the game is it’s weakness. It’s precisely the fact that the game celebrates the banal topic of tanks in such a single-minded, unapologetic fashion. It’s like if you meet a person, who is intensely passionate about a very specific, single subject. On the one hand, you may consider such a person a sad nerd. On the other hand, there is something very charismatic about a person willing to summon a great deal passion and dedication for a subject and not being ashamed to express it. It’s still better than a pretentious, boring snob with no interests.

Perhaps it also helps that the game has actually very polished and juicy interface design. Perhaps it’s also helps that the gameplay is boiled down to be very accessible. The game may look like a die-hard simulator, but it’s actually even simpler than a Call of Duty. It’s just a simple game where you can drive around in Tanks and shoot at each other a lot.

Finally, being a Free-to-Play game, I enjoyed how boldly it’s financing model is integrated into the gameplay. A lot of Free-to-Play games hold back a lot with what they allow players to buy. They seem to be weary of the “Credit Card Sword” where the player’s effectiveness against his opponents is directly related to the amount of money money they paid. So they will make only those items purchasable, which are completely optional.

Not World of Tanks. In World of tanks there is ammunition you can only buy for real money. That ammunition is more effective than normal amunition. You can literally shoot money at your opponents.

Of course, that’s an extreme example and the advantage is not overly dramatic. Even if you become a killing machine, the game will just automatically pair you up with tougher opponents. Still, World of Tanks doesn’t hold back with selling in-game advantage for money. Important features are even locked behind a paywall. So you will need a premium account if you want to team up with you friends, for example. But you know what? That’s totally OK. Perhaps it’s another step in the Free-to-Play becoming more acceptable. This can be a good thing it if widens the spectrum of viable financing models for their game developers. As long as the game in question delivers such solid gameplay, I don’t mind at all.

I recommend trying World of Tanks, even if you aren’t sold on the premise. The bold execution of the Free-to-Play model is interesting enough to take a look. And perhaps the almost childish single-mindedness of the game will win you over after all.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

2 responses to “The Unapologetic World of Tanks”

  1. John Krajewski

    I thought the name ‘World of Tanks’ was the most ridiculous game name I could remember hearing, but sounds like it fits the game perfectly. Looking forward to trying this one.

  2. sirleto

    its funny to me, that this is more or less in its principles similar to an idea of mine, i would like to try out later this year.

    but because i have a different set of mind, its actually quite different ;)
    still i wanted to be more or less quite singleminded:
    it would not be about tanks but about abstract drones (lets say hovering tanks/spaceships), and my battles are in an abstract world,
    its a lot about leveling up/upgrading/buying equipment/many different drones/tanks,
    while the main gameplay is “just” preventing tower defense like attackers to reach your “Base” with only one drone/tank you can pilot your own.
    because of my technical basis it would also be only singleplayer,
    and i did not intend to have ingame billing (because of gamedesign and technical amount of work needed).

    so its probably quite far away from WOT for war-gamers, but quite close for more average people.
    nevertheless my intention was to be a single minded as possible, the problem is just that in my head it does typically result in atleast 3 major problem areas, as i just cannot convince myself to stay MORE easy, MORE accessible, MORE simple.
    instead i always want more FEATURES.

    typical creator syndrome, i guess. your brain just wants to create (more), while players just want to enjoy more (with only the right features, with means less than more).

    anybody care to tell me, if WOT would be singleplayer + scifi/abstract (say: retro) what kind of gameplay and or details you would love to see in such a game?

    also interesting topic: controls for such a game on a touchscreen device. if its realtime, you basically want to have move and aim controls, which means WASD+mouse on a pc, i guess WOT uses these? but on touchscreen, dual analog stick touch controls is so shitty (even when everybody does that). so i wonder what to do else. either click where to move, attacking is automatic. or click where to attack, moving is automatic. the game then feels more like RTS than 3rd person shooter, i guess. but this could even help to gather a certain audience?


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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