Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Monday, September 9, 2013

[WG] Interview with Slava Makarov: What’s Ahead.

The 3rd interview of the series.

— Slava, what’s your role in WG now and how did you become part of the company?

— I joined Wargaming 4 years ago and I was one of those who initiated World of Tanks. Now I am VP of Producing (Head of Producing Department) of the company (and my boss - Overlord). My major task is to make sure that our new projects reflect the global strategy of the company and satisfy the quality standards of Wargaming. To put it short, I make sure that all our games are cool!

— Where are you heading now? All your “Worlds…” are well-known and the plans regarding them are pretty clear: new vehicles, new modes… What about World of Tanks Generals, for example? 

— It’s more difficult with Warplanes and Warships than it seems. The games differ not only in terms of vehicle types. They both have their unique battle pace and the gameplay itself. World of Warplanes is the most dynamic out of the three. 3D battles require good reaction and the ability to adapt to a fast-changing situation. World of Warships is a more strategic type of game with relatively slow gameplay. When all the three projects are out, every user will be able to satisfy their preferences.
The success of Tanks was partly due to the fact that we slowed down comparing to Counter Strike and shooter fans found something slower and more technically accurate than CS. Now we have two new products – one of them is faster than Tanks, the other one is slower. Warplanes are more about skills. Warships are about strategy. Thus we tend to widen the horizons of game experience for our players.

— Do you think this choice might lead to the audience’s splitting age-wise? Warplanes’ players will be younger than the ones playing Tanks and those who prefer Warships will fall into an older category. 

— I am 100% sure that the Warplanes’ audience will be younger than the current Tanks’ audience. And it’s okay. I don’t see a problem if Warships will attract an older audience than the Warplanes. By the way those who came to like Tanks in 2009 will have grown 4-5 years older when we release the Warships. Hopefully they will be old enough to appreciate the Warships’ appeal. I personally prefer World of Warships because I am pretty old now ☺
I’d say that World of Tanks requires a lot of strategic elements to play successfully. However, we do understand that “digging” into strategy we would ruin the good old gameplay. It’s unlikely that most players will be happy about that. That’s why we’ve decided to develop a completely new project where strategy is crucial.

— What about WoT Generals then? Are they for grannies?:)

— Nope! The uniqueness of WOT Generals is in its individual confrontation with other players. In addition, this project is aimed for less powerful devices.

A lot of users wouldn’t mind playing something related to Tanks but they can’t do it during breaks of a working day for example. For them we are going to offer World of Tanks: Generals and World of Tanks Blitz. These projects will be available on tablets and smartphones and in any browser. The main goal is to minimize playing time. If a player wants Tanks, some kind of them will be available all the time.

— Wives will start hating you! You will occupy all the niches of a player’s life! 

— Is there anything bad about it?:) We have got our load of comments from angry wives with World of Tanks already. A little more of hatred won’t worsen our karma seriously.

— All the Worlds… are using the same engine - Big World. What about WoT Generals? Anything new will be used for them? 

— The “exterier” – something that a player sees – it’s not Big World, it’s a browser application on HTML5. It was chosen because we are more or less sure that all browsers will support this version in a few upcoming years. One can’t say the same about Flash, on the other hand.

— There quite a few browser games where outstanding things are made using Flash? 

— Nobody knows how many years they will support Flash in Safari for Macs and other devices. The confrontation of Apple and Adobe Flash is no secret. The interest of other companies to the multimedia platform has faded greatly. We don’t want to face the situation when we lose audience just because they cannot play because of technical reasons.

— You have recently made a few big acquisitions: studios with good expertise which developed popular games. Are they going to work on porting your World of trilogy and WoT Generals to different devices or are you going to use their potential otherwise? 

— Our acquisitions is a different story. We felt that at some things we are not as good as we’d want to be. The first issue was definitely the engine. We needed full control over the server part of the technology to ensure stability. Big World was an expected and reasonable purchase. Acquiring Day One Studios is also about technology. The studio can boast great expertise developing multiplatform projects. They guys know how to develop games for different platforms, devices and controls.
It’s different with Gas Powered Games though. First of, they are a source of gamedesign expertise for us. They have great experience in world-renowned titles development and they simply know a lot about about game development as such. The aim of all these purchases is expanding the company’s knowledge base. Possibly as a result we will have other projects that are not Tank-related. Sooner or later they will be announced.

— Gas Powered Games included?

— Gas Powered Games included. Chris Taylor smiles all the time he is interviewed. We are not announcing anything as we are still discussing with Chris what kind of game we are developing in detail. It’s not a two-week discussion. Everything has to be counted accurately: cost of development; whether we have enough resources and whether we are professional enough. If all goes well, we’ll come out with a few products that will blow the industry!

— One question only: reality or fantasy? 

— No comment.

— Talking about Gas Powered Games… World of Tanks as well as other Worlds are European games mostly. The topic of World War II is not very popular in the US. Maybe you acquired Gas Powered Games to learn to develop games for the USA? 

— As I have already mentioned, we want to boost our expertise, including the regional markets specifics. We are currently working on organizing the process of how to teach our teams  those things which the US guys – old good developers - are good at. The reciprocal training process is currently going. We aim to increase the professionalism of all our teams.

— How do teams from different countries interact? Their mentalities are different as well as their experience. How are the new teams doing? 

— I went to the US where I communicated with the Chicago team from Day One Studios and Chris Taylor. They are very cool and comfortable to work with. Seriously! I’d say that the barrier between the American mentality and ours is exaggerated. On condition of mutual respect and understanding, everything goes perfectly well.

Of course there are some specific moments. For example, I tend to be outspoken and they used to think that I was being aggressive. It might be not our national mentality but my personal feature. WOT team had to also get used to this characteristic of mine. To tell an American that their idea is not that great means to give offence to them. We should be softer. In my case everyone had to adapt. The guys understood that my criticism doesn’t lead to firing someone. And I also started to be more attentive when I had to say something which was not a praise.

— What about the contacts between teams? Do they communicate via a top manager? Or is there a horizontal scheme of communication? 

— The devs communicate with each other directly, they discuss technological issues using their own language that only they can understand. Managers communicate directly too as well as game designers. There are not many horizontal contacts on day-to-day basis, but it hasn’t been long since the acquisitions took place.

— They say that in Wargaming America employees attend the Russian Language courses?

— Yes, there are people learning English. For instance I work directly with Chris Keeling, a western game designer who has been cooperating with WG since Operation Bagration. He speaks a little bit Russian.

We mostly communicate in English with our colleagues. Our European and American offices employ Russian speaking colleagues too. It’s nice and somehow useful in terms of building rapport.

— Shall we expect a new WG title about gigantic marching warrobots – Massive Assult resurrection or something like that? 

— I’ll give you our traditional answer – we’ll let you know ASAP ☺

Originally posted here

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Real Operation Sealion

Disclaimer: The following article is a hard one for me to write. Almost every account I have found has had some errors in it, and many vary wildly from each other. Some of the accounts are from sources that I wouldn't normally give credence to, and may well have an agenda.
So if hard evidence later shows up pointing to a particular comment of from this article being wrong, then bare the above in mind. I suspect that the actual truth lies somewhere in the middle ground.

As we all know Operation Sealion was the German's plan for the invasion of Great Britain. There is no question that such an operation would have been utterly crushed within 24 hours. However some say that there was a battle between Germans and British forces, on the ground during 1940. So today we take a look at that encounter.

On September 27th 1940 things were beginning to look up for the men of A Company, 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles. The Invasion scare was over, They were winning the friendly rivalry between units about who could capture the most shot down German air crew. At least two German bombers had crash landed in the Marsh near their billets. To top it all they were billeted in a Pub on the edge of Graveney Marsh. Of course the concern about the developing Blitz aimed at London may well have played on their minds. So the Troops just remained watchful and occupied a working bar.

Things should have been as rosy for the crew of a JU88A5 some miles away. The wireless operator, Unteroffizier Erwin Richter,  a knights cross winner, which he was able to wear to his recent wedding. Equally they were flying a brand new aircraft, which had only been in service for two weeks. However on the morning of the 27th, I Gruppe, Kampfgeschwader 77 had launched 55 planes against London. The JU88A5 was flown by Unteroffizier Fritz Ruhlandt, and nicknamed Eule. As it flew over Medway the German formation was fired upon by flak. With a bang, one of the engines of the JU88 was damaged. The crew of the bomber watched the other planes from their squadron fly past, as they slowed. During the battle which followed KG77 lost another 5 planes. But for the moment Eule was on her own.
Unteroffizier Ruhlandt

Unteroffizier Richter at his wedding

Unsurprisingly she was soon found by fighters from the RAF. In this case No66 and No92 Squadrons. However the planes didn't immediately try to destroy the JU88A5. Orders were to try and capture one of the new bombers for study, and the pilots had identified the wounded bomber as the new model. Although the rear gunners Gefreiter Reiter and an unnamed airman tried their best to keep the fighters away the fighters put in an attack as Ruhlandt tried to dive away from them. The bursts of machine gun fire from the RAF planes knocked out the bombers last engine, and wounded Richter in the foot.

Hearing the commotion the men of the London Irish Rifles looked up to see the damaged JU88A5 splat down into the marsh only a short distance away. Grabbing up their rifles about 12 men rushed from the bar and headed across the boggy ground to capture the German airmen.
Ruhlandt might not have seen the approaching soldiers, however he knew capture of his plane was inevitable, and its secrets lost. Luckily German planes were equipped with demolition charges for just such this eventuality, the crew quickly set the timers.

As the British soldiers approached the plane a sustained barrage of gunshot rang out from the downed German plane. Here's where all the accounts differ. Some say the Germans were shooting at their own plane to try and cause more damage, others say they where engaging the British. Even the weapons used vary, from one machine gun (still mounted in the plane) to several machine guns, dismounted from the plane, and a sub-machine gun. Either way the London Irish Rifles believed the shots were aimed at them, and dived prone in the swampy ground. One group set up a base of fire shooting at the Germans, while another used a nearby dyke as cover to close with the plane. The crawling soldiers found themselves about 50 yards from the German plane.
When this second group opened fire the Germans were pinned in a crossfire and quickly surrendered, with another one of their number having been shot in the foot.
The British troops moved forward and found and disarmed one of the demolition charges and marched their captives off towards their billets.

Again things become confused in the historical records. What is certain is one of the Germans made a comment to the rest of the crew about how the plane would "Go up at any moment". One of the British soldiers spoke enough German to know what he had said. What is also certain is that Captain John Cantopher found out about it, and raced over to the stricken plane. He hunted through the foreign plane and not knowing exactly what he was looking for, but knowing it could explode and kill him at any moment.
Eventually he found the second charge set under the wing near one of the fuel tanks, grabbing the ticking time bomb he raced away from the plane and heaved it into a nearby water filled ditch.

Location of the bomb?
Cpt Cantopher then rejoined the POW's and their captors in the Pub, where pints were ordered for all. The Germans sold items such as badges to the soldiers to get the money to buy their pints.
The JU88A5  was taken to be studied at  Farnborough, and was said to have "provided highly valuable information". For his actions in ensuring the pinnacle of the Luftwaffe's technology was captured intact Cpt Cantopher was awarded the George Cross.