Source: WoT Portal
This year’s seen us fix the game’s core, resolving long-standing issues with the matchmaker, arty, and light tanks, and revising vehicles to establish unique gameplay narratives for classes within each nation. We’re finished with fundamental changes to the first three, but there are a few improvements waiting to be made (the most crucial of them being Premium vehicle and Tier VIII matchmaking). Vehicle rebalancing is a much longer journey, but we’re steadily moving forward with your help and feel ready take on the next mission: enhancing World of Tanks’ visuals and gameplay.
Our focus for 2018 is delivering greater visual and sound fidelity, enriching the game with new vehicles and new ways to experience tank combat, as well as new fun-fueled events. We just dropped some juicy details on the game’s future at WG Fest 2017, and wanted to share them with everyone who couldn’t pop over to Moscow for an intimate gathering of a few hundred thousand fellow tankers.
New Graphics Engine
One of the biggest newsbeats at this year’s WG Fest was the announcement of Update 1.0, which is less than three months away! Slated to hit production servers in March, it reimagines the game with a new graphics engine and over 25 ultra-realistic maps.
This impressive revamp has been over four years in the making. It all began from our desire to bring the game’s visuals to modern standards, and was continuously fueled by three things: your feedback, technological progress, and performance optimization. We wanted to give the game a modern look, while also ensuring you can enjoy it on your rig. Simply tweaking the original engine to improve the game’s looks just wouldn’t cut it: technology evolved rapidly, and the BigWorld client engine simply couldn’t keep up.
Much like we all do in a battle, we needed to plan a few steps ahead. In our case, it called for a solution that would support the latest technological advancements while having enough capacity to let us advance graphics in tandem with it. Also, we needed a technology tailored to World of Tanks. Hardly any graphics engine (both now and then) would fit these three requirements. So we brought client development in-house, created something specifically for World of Tanks, and named it for what it was: CORE, as it’s literally at the core of everything you see in game.
What might look simple on paper definitely wasn’t that way in real life. It took our team three years to make it happen. Another year (and a crew of several hundred people) was needed to overhaul the game’s maps, recreating all in-game content from the ground-up using the latest technology for graphical content processing and rendering.
25+ Redesigned Maps
Terrain textures, a water rendering system, skyboxes, a lighting system, shadows—we went over every single map element, redesigning them to add greater depth, beauty and realism to battlefields. Each map now has a distinguished flare and provides even deeper immersion thanks to a variety of new and improved technologies and effects.
- Vast expanses: We designed miles upon miles of outland so you can see beyond a map’s borders like you would in the real world.
- Realistic terrain: The new graphics engine let us blend 16 textures so that terrain looks truly volumetric, detailed down to the smallest blades of grass.
- Soaking and responsive water: Tanks and any other environmental object that interacts with water get wet, just like in real life. When a vehicle crosses a river, it disrupts water as it moves, and firing a shell creates circularly spreading 3D waves over its surface.
- Rich volumetric flora: Foliage reflects the seasons, and trees no longer resemble flat images. We added a good amount of volume to them and designed over a hundred unique trees and several variations for each ecotype to add diversity.
- Photorealistic skies: We added moving clouds and created photorealistic skyboxes for every map to give them a unique and dynamic feel.
- Advanced lighting: The lighting system features realistic shading/lighting models, environments, improved dynamic shadows and global illumination technology that accurately follows the natural lighting laws of physics, adding harmony to the picture.
- Destructible objects: The reworked maps get long-awaited Havok® Destruction technology. So now you can gloriously crash environments, rolling over them as you rumble into battle.
- Post-effects: Bloom, god rays, chromatic aberration, and screen space reflection effects improve image quality and clarity of detail.
We injected maps with extra detail, while also trying to keep gameplay-defining elements where they were for most maps. It’s a tough balancing act, but we believe that a few rounds of testing with you will get us there. At the same time, we used this opportunity to fix gameplay issues you reported to us over the years about Fisherman’s Bay, Ruinberg, Pilsen, Erlenberg, Steppes, and Kharkov. For example, Fisherman’s Bay is getting a more balanced frontline. It will offer both teams equal chances at pushing key directions. The middle area on Erlenberg is getting a solid makeover: it’s much easier to read now, with visible lowland, denser forests, and fewer environments that have little tactical value.
The enhancements didn’t end with visuals. We teamed up with over 40 composers and musicians from all around the world and recorded over 15 TB or rough audio data to improve your immersion in battle with authentic sound.
Starting with Update 1.0, music will resonate with the map setting, creating a unique atmosphere for each battlefield. Kazakh musicians will play traditional musical instruments as you roll over Lost City. Arabic composers will bring their musical aesthetic to Sand River, Airfield, and El Halluf. Gregorian chants will echo on Mountain Pass.
You can sense map’s unique “character” well before the action begins with unique loading screen themes. Then, the sound will change depending on what’s happening to your team in-game.
So, what stopped us from adding new maps and sound the minute they were ready? A few things. First of all, graphical advances naturally up the pressure on your rig, which wasn’t in our plans. We put in extra work to optimize stability and framerates on mid-range and older PCs, reduce the memory load even further and give you the headroom to enable extra effects.
- A special procedural virtual texture was introduced to deliver realistic landscapes with no added pressure on performance.
- The Adaptive Shadow Maps technology calculates shadows from static objects and saves them in a special reusable shadow texture, reducing the load on the graphics card and processor.
- Graphical subsystems were reworked using streaming technology to reduce the overall memory footprint of graphics.
- The heavy-on-performance reflection generation process was replaced with the Screen Space Reflection algorithm, significantly lowering the load on the graphics card.
- We implemented multi-resolution particles to smooth out FPS drops when multiple particle effects are being simultaneously rendered on screen (e.g. explosions and fumes).
Besides, it was technically impossible to add redesigned maps in batches, we had to switch to the new engine for it, and it doesn’t support old graphics. Now imagine having several maps in rotation and playing them over and over. You’d get sick of them quite soon, regardless how sleek they look.
However, that’s all in the past. With several optimization iterations, a few internal tests, and another round in Sandbox (thanks again for joining us there!), we’re nearing the finish line. We’re already 25 maps down, and almost ready to go! “Almost” stands for several more internal and open tests.
Our mission to fine-tune maps and the sound system shouldn’t prevent you from exploring the reimagined game—not to mention how excited we are to let you in and hear your thoughts! That’s why we created a special demo program, World of Tanks enCore. It gives you some early hands-on time with the enhanced visuals and music. There’s a prerecorded battle you can replay to look around the redesigned maps. While you take in the sights, World of Tanks enCore will test your game station and tell you how the overhauled game will perform on different configurations.
Head here to check if your system’s ready for the reimagined World of Tanks:
If you’re playing on Normal settings, you might have to switch to Low or Minimal with the new graphics engine. It won’t affect the framerate or picture quality, though: they’ll stay the same or even improve.
Also, please note that custom configurations won’t transition to the new engine. So you’re likely to notice changes in the visuals and performance when playing for the first time. Take a few minutes to redo your custom settings, and things will return to normal.
Stay tuned for more details, and on behalf of the whole World of Tanks team, thank you so much for all of your time and feedback on the game!