World War 3, a game set in modern times, has been a hot topic over the last few weeks. Although the game’s developer a Polish studio The Farm 51 faced some problems, fans did not abandon the authors during hard times.
World War 3 was released on October 19th. Despite the fact that the game is still in development, The Farm 51 decided to share the fruits of their labor and give the players the chance to co-create the game with the developers. Over a month after the release their audience is quite large and the authors are preparing new improvements and attractions for the fans. That is why we decided to make an interview with the game’s director – Kamil Bilczyński.
Grzegorz Cyga, WP SportoweFakty: Why is your game entitled World War 3?
Kamil Bilczyński, director and lead designer of World War 3: We wanted the title to suggest clearly that our game is about modern warfare. If you hear “World War 3”, you visualise your own image of how such a conflict would look like based on books, movies or games you played.
There are many smaller studios which use controversy to become popular. Isn’t the title “World War 3” an attepmt to create a cheap sensation?
It was never our intention – we were looking for a title which will both relate to the game’s reality, and fire the players’ vision of a new IP. The purpose of a title is to create an image in a player’s head before the game is released. It’s crucial for new games which are not that recognizable yet. During the development we’ve had many ideas for the title, but when we discovered, that worldwar3.com domain is available we immediately decided to stick to this title. Keep in mind that World War 3 is a multiplayer game and our goal was to create an amazing online FPS game, not controversy. Anyway, I’ve been cooperating with the military for years and I know that this subject is not that shocking for them. Since the cold war they have been preparing strategic simulations, so called “war games”, so we can assume that our game is telling a story about one of their world war 3 scenarios. It doesn’t even have to be the most probable one, rather one of many possibilities.
What kind of experience is World War 3? Is it a real-life operation simulator or rather your creative vision of what could happen?
The idea we’ve had since the very beginning is to create playable realism and tactics. We wanted to make a neither military simulator like Arma, nor an arcade shooter. What we wanted to do was something right in the middle between realism and arcade. So that every player playing World War 3 would feel the authenticity of modern warfare and have a lot of fun of the gameplay at the same time. Like in any other great game you need to learn gameplay nuances, teamplay, get adjusted to the maps, shooting mechanics or the customisation system in order to become a skilled player. According to our vast community we already managed to achieve this playable realism. However, we don’t want to rest on our laurels and will continue to work on the project so that it will be even more attractive in the future.
Will World War 3 have a tutorial explaining the game’s mechanics, customization and so on?
Yes, we are working on such tutorial. To be honest, we had it prepared for the EA release, but we decided to polish it up a bit more before publishing.
Currently, there are small pop-up tips which help new players with their first contact with the game. However, we are planning to add video materials which will describe the mechanics in various popular languages.
Why doesn’t World War 3 have age classification? Is there a chance that the game will have to be censored to be available for younger audience, also teenagers?
According to the law, games in Early Access cannot be classified permanently. Even if we wanted to do it, the game is a product that is constantly during development and at the moment it cannot have a final PEGI rating. To answer your question less directly, our goal was not to dazzle with brutality or exaggerated realism (like decapitation). It never was and never will be because it’s not necessary for us or for our the players. Our goal was to show the mechanisms of a modern battlefield where tactics or for example drones and cyber reconnaissance is crucial to succeed. I think that for the moment our game’s age classification won’t differ much from other popular games of the genre.
World War 3 has a so called Global Score, and after each match the players receive points according to their rank. How does this process exactly look like and how does it impact the game and player’s experience?
The whole system was added more meaning to the battles and individual player scores. It’s constantly tested because we’re facing a significant challenge when it comes to balancing the whole metagame. In most FPS games you just enter the game, start a match, win the first or the last place in your team and all you get from this is player progression which no impact on the world in the game. Then you finish the match, leave and start another one and everything starts from the beginning. We want to show how deftly you can combine individual score with a global metagame in order to motivate the players and to reward them with bonuses. The Global Score mode was added to show them that all their games have a meaning and are reflected in the metagame. That’s why we have two alliances which gather points and win or lose control over locations/territories. Moreover, we have mini-campaigns in which the players can gain an additional magazine or faster acces to artillery during the game. We’re planning to make few-hour, week-long or monthly campaigns for which players will be rewarded with exclusive gifts or in-game gadgets.
Was this system designed for entering the e-sport market in the future?
We would want to implement elements important for e-sport players in the future like a clan or ranking system. These elements are currently not present but they will have to appear in future updates as well as a separate e-sport mode. We are convinced that our game has a huge sport potential and we are planning to address it in the future.
How much influence did the cooperation with Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa have on World War 3 development? Was it just meritorical or did its representatives made some important decisions in the project?
The cooperation with the military industry has definitely helped us create World War 3 in its current shape. However the game is entirely our creation and was never made in cooperarion with the military, rather it was based on experience gained from that cooperation. Maybe in the future it will become something like Americans Army for Poland? The opportunity to contact real soldiers is of great value itself and getting to know their point of view gave us a lot of knowledge to transform into a computer game. We are trying to use it wisely in order to translate it a virtual competition the best way and achieve our “playable realism”. Let’s take for example tank destruction. Thanks to the military we have learned that the way to fight with armed vehicles (like tanks) is not simply bombarding it with hundreds of RPGs so often seen in games and movies. You can destroy also their optics which is cheaper and faster and the result is that the vehicle cannot open fire effectively and has to back down and return to the base to get repaired. These are the small details which are the fruit of our cooperation with the military and the knowledge we gained whe developing military simulations of infantry vs vehicles combat. There are quile a lot elements like these in World War 3 which give more opportunities to choose from during battle. That is both realistic and extremely fun to play.
The Farm 51 has developed several FPS games but World War 3 is the first multiplayer production. Can you tell us why did the company decide to take this path?
There were three foundations for this. Firstly, we are fans of the genre and spend a lot of time playing FPS games, especially the ones like Battlefield, Call of Duty, Arma or Insurgency. Despite great fun we always have with them, we believed that a modern battlefield can be shown in a different way – this is where our first foundation “playable realism” came to life. Secondly, thanks to our cooperation with the military we gained knowledge which we wanted to use in a game. While playing various military games you can sometimes get the impression that you know everything about the army, tanks or guns, but is turned out that there are tons of authentic tactics and techniques which, apparently, have never appeared in modern military games. The third foundation was to bet on multiplayer mode and cooperation between the players because we see huge potential in them to expand and achieve quality impossible to get in another way, which is through co-development with the community.
At the announcement of World War 3 the studio was working on several productions like Get Even or Chernobyl VR Project. How were you able to manage all these projects without neglecting any of them?
When we started working on World War 3 these productions already had their dedicated teams working on their development. Whereas World War 3 team was basically build from scratch because at the time we had no man power adequate to the scale of a project like World War 3. That is why I am even more proud that we managed to build a team, which achieved such a success and created a game which already sold in hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide.
World War 3 offers rich customization system – are all the elements available temporarily and will be blocked in the future?
We’re not planning to introduce any microtransactions during Early Access. And certainly we will never want to sell any gameplay elements for extra money. Maybe some cosmetics like skins for weapons or camos will be infroduced in microtransactions in the future, but now we want to focus on polishing the game itself and not on microtransactions. Eventually we aim to create a fair-play system dedicated to microtransactions, so that it will be well balanced in the eyes of both the players and the developer.
Introducing regular content instead of premum DLCs has become a trend in the game industry. What is your plan for the development?
First of all, that is what Early Access is for, to polish the project and add new functionalities and new content. We published a roadmap for the game, which clearly presents our further development plans. There will be new weapons characters, maps, vehicles, game modes and all sorts of improvements. Everything will be given for free to everyone who bought the game. The roadmap itself will be updated regularly along with the players.
Will World War 3 receive a story mode or is this title focused only on multiplayer?
We are not planning a singleplayer campaign for the moment, but we will try to tell the background story of our game. For example why there are certain locations of units in the game. To be honest, there are many people interested in geostrategy and understands our game well, but there are also many players who may need some explanation. However this wasn’t a priority for us at the moment, because playability is no. 1 for us and we consider it the essence for a good FPS.
What were the criteria for choosing the cities for the game?
On the one hand these are the places where fights could actually take place. On the other hand they were the battlegrounds in the 18th century or duging WW2. When it comes to Warsaw it looks like that if we ever wanted to see the city in an FPS game, we had to make it ourselves… and, for sure, it is something which distinguished us from the competition. On the other hand we are aware that moving around an area you know well can be something very attractive. Since the beginning, we wanted real locations to give more fun to the players from various places around the world. And we can say that this idea turned out great.
World War 3 does not have a stylized graphic design, rather photorealistic one. Are you not afraid that the media will confuse fictional Warsaw with the real one?
We believe that every person can tell the difference between a computer game and reality. The graphic design is photorealistic, because we wanted to preserve the realistic foundation of the game and strenghten the immersion. But it was never our intention to create a simulator in which the player would not be able to see this difference.
Two years ago one of the studio’s representatives said: “We don’t want early access to be harmful to the players and to the project. In my opinion public alpha or beta tests should focus on polishing gameplay elements, so that the game will not be unplayable or broken”. So why was World War 3 published in Early Access?
This is exactly our intention and we did our best to polish the game before the release the best we could – despite the fact we conducted vast tests, it was impossible to avoid some problems which have been already resolved. The idea of an early access and cooperating with the community has been with us since the beginning. We have our own, precise vision of the game, deliver a solid foundation and then improve it with the players. In our opinion this is the only way to do it in 100%. We can call it a form of a game as a service formula, in which the game has to evolve in cooperation with the community and our role is to improve it constantly according to the demands.
Before the release, World War 3 was tested many times. Why weren’t these tests open for everyone?
In our opinion, conducting tests which over 100 000 people signed up for is a scale large enough to prepare the game for early access. We organised six test phases and included more and more players to each one to test the game in every aspect. Unfortunately, we were not able to avoid some problems at the start for which we are deeply sorry. Today I can say that all issues which appeared at the release are fixed. We have implemented eight patches improving the game so far.
Despite the initial problems the fans did not leave you hanging and you were in constant contact with them through social media. Was this a result of a panic or rather the strategy to listen to the public?
We’re trying to look at such situations from the player’s perspective, who we also are and treat our fans the way we would wish to be treated ourselves. And what we would want to see is a developer who does everything in their power in problematic situations – who responds to emails, answers questions and simply does everything possible to fix the bugs and issues as soon as possible! It is also worth mentioning that for the first three days the dev team were literally sleeping under their desks and working 24 hours a day because we knew that this is what you have to do. That time was very challenging and we had to show great strength and determination to achieve our goals… but it was worth it and after three days the main problems were resolved and today there are no signs of them. We are simply people and we are not bullet-proof but we hope to make the players feel that we are doing everything in our power to solve the problems. We can do it only with their feedback and fix problems we haven’t found before.
Why didn’t you make an official statement like other companies and instead appear in public streams explaining what happened?
This was something natural for us and we would want to be treated the same as fans – if a player bought a game is having technical or any other problems, it is our role to help him. It’s amazing how many people appreciated this and expressed their support. It gave us so much positive energy without which we would not be able to handle the problems in such a short time. I would like to take the opportinity and in the name of the whole team thank everyone who supported us in those hard times – you guys are AMAZING and we could not do this without you.
How did the fact that people were refunding the game impact the team’s morale?
To be honest, it was stressful for us. We completely understand the players’ frustrations when they bought the game and had issues with connection, but on the other side there was a group of people supporting us and defending from exagerrated hate. It’s important to stay calm and do your job in such situations and solving the problems will be just a matter of time. The scale of the problem was overwhelming but one cannot bury your head in the sand in times like this but try to identify the problem immediately and implement solutions. We did it and, believe me, we learned our lesson. However we are also convinced that with such a great community we have Worl War 3 can definitely improve and become more and more attractive. We have an amazing team and community, and this is the key to success. We are fully aware that our task now is not only to improve the project in the following updates, but also regain the trust of people who faced problems at launch and show them what World War 3 is fixed and that the game is really great. Great enough to try it out one more time.
We know that fans can suggest their own ideas or point out problems. What will be introduced to the game as a result of their feedback?
We were given a clear signal from the community what they want shorter matches with smaller teams. That is when we decided to introduce the TDM (TeamDeathmatch) mode. We were considering it before, but we did not expect that so many people will find it attractive. We get a clear sign and we act on it – this is how it is going to be. Currently TDM is in testing phase and will be introduced in the next major update soon. Another thing is shortening the matches in Warzone because many players considered it too long. Initially we thought that 45 minutes is enough but after we heard the feedback we reduced it to 30 minutes (and balanced all mechanisms accordingly). The last aspect was improving the spawn system which is problematic in many online games. At the moment, we are implementing new solutions which will fix this. This is the way we work – we get a signal, analyze the problem and improve the game. We’re planning to intensify the process in the future through in-game surveys and expanding the report system.
We want to show that we’re not just making promises but that we are also able to fulfil them. The fans can see how their opinion can influence the game and which way the project evolves. Our roadmap is mostly based on our community’s feedback.