lines of code



minutes of sound and score
By contradiction
Sometimes to do something good, you need to go through a bunch of fails. Which in our case came in the form of the game about two warships battling each other. At the time, we were asked if we could make a VR game that would not be a shooter but still would be somehow related to the games Wargaming is famous for. My colleagues still are trying to forget that nightmare, and I'm sure if there were a way of wiping out their memories of this particular episode, they'd gladly agreed to it.
BattleForce VR, may it rest in peace
Our warships even sank silently. We failed to spark interest in players, but the shock and disappointment from this project served as good preparation to have another go at a game about tank battles in VR.

And that is how the work began.
Dizzying prototyping
The results of the first prototyping were scathing.

Since you can't even think about making a game about tanks in VR without knowing for sure that you do know how to solve motion sickness problem - that was our first task. So we created a moving platform, put it on uneven terrain, put our VR headsets on and there it was.

"See! I told you it's impossible," I said.

One of our first ideas was to increase the number of details. I assumed that dizziness might be diminished if there were more visual details. We added some rocks on the terrain, planted a few trees, and built a railing around the platform. The effect was encouraging, but we had to do better than that. So we experimented with the density of details and different types of environments. For example, in a stylized world the brain was less affected by motion sickness than in a world pretending to be realistic. We then spent quite a lot of time coming up with the next clue. The fantastic thing about our brain is that it prioritizes every task. So if you give it a simple and relatively easy objective, it will switch to it — given the environment is immersive enough — and for a while forget about the dizziness.

"And when were you going to think of testing the actual game?" my inner voice gloated.

Jokes aside, this was a groundbreaking discovery for us. From that moment on, we started to tackle the problem of motion sickness in all directions at once, combining different approaches both in visual style and gameplay mechanics.

We tried almost everything. Putting players inside the tank didn't work out well: looking through a small window in the armor was destroying all our tricks found in previous iterations.

We experimented on the very process of shooting: in one of our prototypes players had to load a projectile into a cannon, then take aim and then pull the lever. As close to the real things as it was - that was hardly appropriate for a game.

We even tried to figure out how to put the whole crew in a tank, but that was apparently a fantasy: we failed to find a way to create equally interesting gameplay for all crew members. In addition to the fact that different roles meant different types of tutorials, every crew member who was not in control of the movement was inevitably getting sick.

The resulting formula of our experiments said this:

we are riding a tank, "mounted" to its tower, cross-country, aiming with our heads, and trying to kill everything that moves

The benefits of telepathy
Our first idea about how the vehicle should be controlled was using levers.

In the process, we found that there is merely a universe of opinions on how those levers should exactly work. At first, right and left controllers were respectively bound to right and left tracks. The game became a struggle with the tank rather than a fun experience.
Watching those poor souls trying to tame our tanks, we showed compassion and came up with the idea of a joystick in VR. Easier said than done: We never got tilt-controlled direction combined with angle-controlled acceleration to work in virtual reality. It was too hard to distinguish unnecessary movements from those meant to control the tank, so we went back to the idea of levers.

But this time each lever was responsible for the rotation of tracks: forward or backward, whereas the direction of movement was bound to the player's line of sight. Mastering the movement of the tank became much easier. It took us a few more iterations to figure out how we shoot, how we aim, and how different speeds of the tower rotation work. And the easier it was to control the tank, the less motion sickness we had. But right when we thought that it was over, we changed the whole system again.

And here is where I should thank the father of PC World of Tanks - Slava Makarov. Although the initial idea was born somewhere in our "Slytherin" R&D department, it was Slava who came up with the right formula: Why rely on a tilt, when we can mount both the acceleration and direction on the triggers. The one on the right controller would drive you forward, the other - backward. Since that final touch, the controlling of a movement became almost telepathic. Our players stopped thinking about how to control the damn thing and focused on where to go and who to kill.
Part IV
The Tank
Every now and then we had entirely unexpected setbacks.

One of those was finding the right tank model. Now, if you ask people what the model of a tank should be in a Russian PvP VR tank battles set somewhere around WW2, ten out of ten will say the T34. Well, I've got bad news for you.

You see, in our prototypes, we used a T76 model. And a T76 looks like pretty much everyone's image of a modern tank. It has very, well, tank-like proportions. And when we changed it to a T34, it was a disaster. Its proportions make impossible for a player to see the base of the tank. So when the tower turns while the tank is moving, and there is nothing to catch your eye, motion sickness strikes back.

Once we got over an overwhelming panic attack, we started researching every Soviet tank from those years. Light tanks were too high and too fast. Heavy tanks were to slow. So we ended up with the medium tanks, and finally found T44-100.

In spite of never having taken part in actual battles, this tank was perfect for us. Its proportions were almost like those of modern tanks, which meant players could always see the movement direction, and its speed was ideal for the map we had by that time.

As you can see, among hundreds of models, this was literally the only tank that could work for us.
The map is the key
Our initial idea was that we stick to the maps that PC players are used to in World oF Tanks, which meant a rugged terrain, warm colors, a bunch of trees for players to cut through, and that's it. We had neither time nor the resources to go with more than one map, so we had to make sure that the map we provided at the start would have everything we needed: enough landmarks and a landscape that was not going to make rounds too messy or too dull.

"And the range?"
"What about it?"
"Well, how big a map are we talking about?"
"For Christ's sake, man, three ranges of an arrow? How would I know?"

Well, it may not have been arrows, but the diameter did depend on the projectile's speed, the tank's pace, and the average time we intended players to spend heading into active fight zones.

And if that were not enough, we got into a fight on what time of the year it should be. While our Slytherin aesthetes wanted it to be winter and snow, I was adamant on bringing players into bright autumn or summer which, as I thought, would be more fun.
"Are you out of your goddamn mind? These are tanks, for God's sake. This game should be about darkness and fire and death and despair" they resented.
We met halfway and made it fun but set in the winter.
Dr.Freud's ghost
When it comes to making VR game, one of the biggest headaches is the problem of how a players see themselves, and how other players see them. In our case, other players should have seen each other as tanks. Although at earliest stages we argued about that too:

"And how do you think it 'd work out? Behold, here goes a tank with a couple of hands and a helmet floating above its tower"
"What if we show a person's torso coming out of fade?"
"Well, good luck having tankish centaurs!"
"Guys, if those are centaurs then what does it make a gun sticking from... Oh, wait!"

Freudian mention of a gun sticking out from right where player's legs should have been put an and to the dispute. Our final decision was quite elegant: no torso, no helmet, just a pair of hands holding the tops of the levers, with all the controls player might need. The button on the left controls the locking view and zooming in, the one on the right controls shooting.
"I consider Experience experience"
Loki of Asgard
All too often, (Russian) game developers get stuck at the prototype stage and then wonder why it didn't work out in the end. That must come from our school education mindset over here. Our parents teach us that if we solve a math problem with a minor mistake in calculations or formatting, it's still okay as long as we get the answer right. Well, moms may love us for what we are, but the rest of the world doesn't really care about our brilliant ideas or insights. What it needs is a tangible result.

User experience and impression comes not only from beautifully designed tanks, thunderous shooting, explosions, and a snow-covered terrain. The user also needs a comprehensible and predictable environment. That usually means (especially in our case, where we are squeezed by the LBE limitations) the following

  1. A clear declaration of the basic rules and targets: That's your tank, that's how you operate it, your goal is to shoot as many enemy tanks as you can;
  2. A timing system: Users won't enjoy the game if they have no means of understanding how much time is left until the end of the game or the round; and
  3. A reward and instant gratification systems, which usually includes two components:

    1. In-game instant gratification system: You want to clearly see how much damage you have inflicted, how many enemy tanks you've shot, what your position in the rating is, or, well, who has killed you right now. The same system allows you to track the achievement of the goals set in the beginning
    2. A final reward: The more you enjoy a game and get thrills and excitement in the process, the more you expect from the finale. You need an adequate final reward to make you want to try again and top the leaderboard

    Somehow, game devs seldom go through these mundane points. They simply lack the motivation for it: What's the point of going into all these details if you have already made a game — let's improve the explosion visuals instead. But here we really tried to follow the checklist with the precision it deserved.

    We first introduced WoT VR at WGFest in December 2017, with one tank, one map and only one deathmatch mode available. By the spring of 2018, we had two maps and we could have up to 8 players instead of 4, which made the newly-made team deathmatch mode even more engaging.

    In May 2018, we hosted the WoT VR tournament at our largest venue - VR Park City in Moscow. A month after that, at the finals, the winner took home an SUV with an exclusive World Of Tanks design as the first prize.

    And finally, at this year's Gamescom we introduced a grown-up version of our game: three different classes of tanks, a new map, and the foundation for the progression system. Not to mention another bunch of cheesy details like a completely revamped UI, or a new starting hangar lobby.

    As a result, WoT VR has been awarded with Best AR/VR experience at Gamescom'2018 by Dualshokers.

    We have a roadmap for more than a year. We plan to add more different tanks for each class and a progression system
    (here are some of our concepts to progress our T44-100 up to 10th level, along with the player's avatar)
    beNext comes AI, which is going to make available in both single-player and coop modes.
    Later this year, we are going to introduce PvE scenarios, and finally, new PvP modes.

    Stay tuned
    Evgeny Nesterovskiy
    game design & UI
    Denis Bichyn
    game & level design
    Alexey Levakov
    knowledge base
    Vlad Timolyanov
    3D modellling
    Leonid Nikolayev
    3D modelling
    Vlad Laryushin
    3D modelling
    Dima Khuzin
    concept art (V1.0)
    Sergey Svistunov
    concept art
    Alex Matrinsen
    UI animation
    Lisa Sapozhnikova
    Ilya Nikulin
    sound & score (V1.0)
    Nikita Mikhailov
    sound design
    Alex Vasilyev
    technical artist & optimization
    Grigory Pasechenko
    VFX (V1.0)
    Alex Semenov
    VFX (V1.0)
    Emily Vakhrusheva
    Vladimir Shirshov
    architecture & code
    Vlad Betretdinov
    Denis Agranat
    Ramil Nurlyev
    Dima Khabarov
    Maria Merenkova
    Artyom Kreynes
    project management
    Creative lead & User Experience
    Special thanks to Wargaming, and especially
    Slava Makarov
    for his ideas, encouraging and advise
    Anton Kolkovsky
    for his credit and trust
    Kostya Netyliov
    for his help with assets and cooperation
    WoT VR 2.0 is available at every PlayVR venue
    All rights of content reserved by Wargaming | Neurogaming.