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GDC Online 2011: Chatting planes, tanks, and battleships with

Karen Bryan

Just a year ago, was at GDC Online to promote World of Tanks. At the time, it was still in closed beta, with open beta still a month away. Nevertheless, the team was enthusiastic and excited to share its plans for the game.

What a difference a year makes. Today, World of Tanks has weathered a successful launch, surpassing five million registered players in August and setting a Guinness World Record for simultaneous player connections at 91,311. Retail boxes are now arriving in stores, and game updates have come at a steady pace. On top of that, the company is working on World of Warplanes and World of Battleships as it expands on its wartime MMO series. This week at GDC Austin, Massively had a chance to talk to Vice President of Public Relations in North America Bryan Davies and PR Manager Arthur Pratapopau, and they shared some news about all three titles. Read on for highlights from the interview.

Gallery: World of Warplanes | 81 Photos

World of Warplanes was on display first, and while it's still only in closed beta testing, the demo seemed very smooth. It will have 15v15 battles, similar to World of Tanks. Winning conditions are the same, which are either to destroy the enemy base (protected by anti-aircraft guns) or to eliminate units. The world map probably won't be in at launch but will be in the game soon after.

Initially, the game will start with 60-70 planes from three nations: The United States, Germany, and the USSR. The devs have plans to expand even further after release, adding planes from Japan, Great Britain, and more. Davies mentioned the iconic planes, like the Messerschmitt and P-51 Mustang, single- to double-engine, elegant, sleek, fast planes. The era is similar to that of World of Tanks, from World War I to the Korean War era, so you have planes ranging from bi-planes to, at the high end, jets. This era was centered around skill, not radar -- you have to see whom you're shooting at, and you have to be pretty close.

There will be co-pilots in some planes, and they'll be AI-controlled and will level up and learn side skills, similar to the tank units in World of Tanks. As for controls, the devs aren't trying to make a pure flight simulator. They want to make it as accessible as possible for many players, so the UI is more focused on being intuitive and easy to learn. In the demo, Pratapopau was using a joystick, but the game is also playable with keyboard and mouse.

As you get attacked, wings take damage, engines gets hit, and the plane slows down, making targeting even harder. You can't kill the pilot, but you can injure him, and that's key because he's the heart and brains of the plane. You can stall out, and you can also make use of the clouds and terrain to hide from enemies and shake pilots.

You can also run out of fuel and ammo. The idea behind ammo limits is to make it a challenge and make sure players are spending their shots wisely. Davies said that if you run out of fuel, you're basically flying around hiding and not really engaging in the battle, so the fuel system is a way to discourage that. In short, with World of Warplanes, it's all about speed and firepower. Currently, there is no auto-targetting in World of Warplanes, but it will be added very early on.

The nice thing is that the games will be connected, so you can take your experience and gold from one game and spend it in another. If you prefer to spend some time playing World of Tanks, you can do that and then transfer and use what you earn in World of Warplanes and World of Battleships.

That also goes for clan wars. In your clan, if your tanks win a battle for a certain region, you can then place anti-air guns in that region so that when the planes go into battle in that area, they have extra protection. While the games are all stand-alone, there is some cross-over that will help give you an edge from one game to another. Davies added that players will have one universal account, so they can quickly switch between titles.

As for the overall timetable, the tentative plan is to move to open beta by early next year, with a target of launching in Q3 or Q4. Nothing is set in stone, though, and as Bryan Davies stressed, it will be done when it's ready. The team wants to make sure that people love it, that it's balanced, that it's fun, and then it'll launch.

As for World of Battleships, initially there will be small, fast torpedo boats, looming battleships, and mid-range fighters, and the artillery will be on aircraft carriers. The game will start with the same countries (the U.S., Germany, and the USSR), but the team will bring in countries like Great Britain and Japan later on. As Davies put it, the maps will be more historical and will focus on the same era as the other two games. Battles will take place close to islands and will involve protecting naval bases and capturing. World of Battleships is still early in development, but Davies hinted that we might get to see it showcased at the next E3 if things go well.

In World of Tanks, there is a new game mode called Garage Mode on the way. In this mode, players can choose up to five tanks, and if you die in battle, you'll spawn as the next tank in your garage. There is also a VIP mission coming, a "king of the hill" scenario. Universal camouflage is also planned; right now, if you add camo, only you and your friends see it, but soon desert, jungle, and other types of camo will give you a bonus that allows you to hide a bit better and requires enemies to get closer to see you. Later, in update 7.1, French tanks will finally be available for players.

As for the future of, Davies coyly said there's more exciting news on the way, and while he didn't give hints, he said that the devs "have a lot more in store... there's a lot of things happening, so stick around!"

Thanks to Bryan Davies and Arthur Pratapopau for speaking to Massively!

Gallery: World of Tanks | 187 Photos

Gallery: World of Battleships | 15 Photos

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