Who doesn’t like the idea of massive battleships? Well.. perhaps the people said battleships are aiming at, I suppose.
A little over two weeks ago, MMOGames attended Wargaming's UK based launch event for World of Warships at the Historic Dockyards Chatham, the birthplace of many of the Great British World War II destroyers that helped keep the oceans free for the Allies. The current home of the Cold War era HMSubmarine Ocelot, the HMS Cavalier, last of the Royal Navy destroyers, and the steam and sail powered HMS Gannet.
As the site's resident Brits, Destiny columnist DanRyyu and myself made the trek across the country to see what Wargaming's latest historically accurate battle game had in store for us. But also to see the ships and, in a way, the people who inspired it.
Not Just Game Developers
The day was off to a great start after an early morning fire alarm saw everybody evacuated from the hotel. MMOGames, despite industry rumor, does not set fire to their hotel rooms. Just getting that out there.
And so the day began. Rather than start the day playing World of Warships and drinking coffee like many assumed, Wargaming flung us right into the whole purpose for hosting a World of Warships launch event at an English dockyard. By taking us on a guided tour of the aforementioned historic vessels stationed there.
The Royal Dockyards have a strange air to them. A thick blanket cast over the entire massive structure. A history of sacrifice. From these docks sailed hundreds of boats crewed with thousands of men, many of whom never returned.
At the very forefront of Chatham’s trio of great ships lies a beautiful memorial carved with the names of all of the ships lost during the six-year hell that almost cost Britain everything. Listing the names of all of the lives lost on board these ships would have taken up more space than the shipyard had. A staggering 11,000. A number so harrowing, and more so when you realise it’s a mere drop in the bucket compared to the total cost of humanity the war demanded.
This fact is not lost on Wargaming. A later interview with Wargaming’s resident military expert, Richard Cutland, revealed that Wargaming’s products make great strives to be not only fun, but also teach and preserve the history of these great vehicles for future generations.
Fire in the Hole
First on our itinerary was the HMS Ocelot. Used primarily for recon during the Cold War, the last thing our tour guide Barry joked before we descended into the sub was that people “only” had to spend 3 months in there. Within about 30 seconds you realise exactly what he meant. The entire place is cramped. At an eye, the sleeping compartments give about a foot of space with the top bunk giving about half that at the back. At 6”1, Dan soon realised that “mind your head” was less a suggestion and more a way of life, and after a few minutes we all started to realise that claustrophobia is the king in here. But of course, that is nothing compared to what it would feel like when deep in the ocean. Dan, of course showing all of the coordination and skill 10+ years of tanking in MMOs has given him, promptly fell over attempting to get through a dividing hatch. As amazing as it was touring the sub, we were all rather relieved when we reach the airlock and set foot back on the dry dock.
Of course, the vessel everybody was dying to take a look at was the HMS Cavalier, the last WWII Destroyer class left in the UK. The ship was one of many quickly built to replenish the dropping supply of ships after 4 years at war. For a ship so hastily constructed, only intended to last a few years at most, it had a damn good run, ending its time at sea in the late seventies. The ship now stands as a monument, fitted out to appear as close to the way it would have looked during the Great War, if you can ignore the more modern weaponry such as the Squid launchers and Tiger missiles. The Cavalier stands as a reminder of the lost lives of the men who gave all for their country.
Wrapping up the morning, we hunkered in to the seaman’s mess for a lunch of traditional fish and chips, and capped off the first half of the day with Wargaming CEO Viktor Kislyi firing one of the Cavalier’s huge deck guns. Footage of this was somewhat ruined when acting cameraman Dan jumped about half a foot off the ground and swore loudly, despite thoroughly knowing it was coming. None of us were quite prepared for how loud the ‘bang’ would be.
World of Warships Press and Play
And then on to the meat of the whole day. The World of Warships press conference, followed by a chance to have some hands-on time with the game on a row of gorgeous and enviable new PCs.
It began with the ringing of the bell - yes literally - and a talk from the big man himself, Viktor Kislyi. He told us about Wargaming’s success, beginning with World of Tanks which began its life as a huge gamble. An MMO aimed at a slightly older audience than the market was used to at this time with the aim of being historic, fair, and very engaging. And entirely free-to-play. Sixty updates later, with 110 million registered users playing clients in 34 different languages, it is safe to say that World of Tanks has been a huge hit.
But can World of Warships follow in its footsteps? Well, Viktor revealed to us that Warships has already gained over 3 million players who play an average of 3 hours per day, and this was just a couple of weeks since Wargaming’s latest MMO venture officially launched!
Wargaming, of course, want World of Warships to become a serious competitor to World of Tanks, and they seem to be well on their way with the game’s first major update already live, introducing German cruisers and Soviet destroyers.
One of the main points that kept coming up again and again was the idea of preservation. With the world changing and education evolving with it, the work Wargaming are doing is priceless. Preservation through digital media is the next great step and with the Worlds of Wargaming, the preservation of the machines that drove the war can be forever kept in a digital museum with no restrictions. Try to take the Cavalier for a spin and several heavily armed men and women with sticks will politely ask you to leave. But in Warships, and the educational software it will likely fuel, it is a matter of unlocking the ship and then just sailing. For the next generations of young historians, this work will be vital.
This Chatham-based adventure has taught us that Wargaming sure know how to throw an imaginatively themed party, and that surely bodes well for the future of World of Warships. We will have interviews and a review of the game up on the site for you to devour in due time, so stay tuned to MMOGames!