Saturday, 8 August 2015

“So you want to build a WoT tech tree?” – CZ Tree part 0

Hello Warriors,

SilentStalker has written the "Pilot" part of  "So you want to build a WoT tech tree?" series.

Here it is:

Right, where to begin. As you already know, in 9.12 we’ll be getting the Czechoslovak tech tree. In this text series, I’ll be going over each vehicle of the tree, I will also give you notes and explain why this tank and no other was selected and the logic behind some of the decisions I proposed and Wargaming took. This first part will be long, the rest will be considerably shorter. You've been warned.

How it all began

Actually, it began in January 2012 with my first proposal for a "branch" in the Czech section. It was of course complete crap (fake tanks, T-54 on tier 9 etc. - back then there were no tier 10 medium tanks!). I wasn't really serious about it but Tuccy (current World of Warships community manager - I think, maybe he's a producer now, I don't know) caught up on that and made his own proposal in March 2012. He said he passed these proposals to Minsk but later on I found the developers in Minsk never even heard of it and so this went nowhere. But it caught my attention, I started writing about the tanks, then came FTR... you know the rest.

The next part is a bit hazy and I don't remember it in exact details but... remember how the developers asked the Japanese experts from the American community (Daigensui (Kankou back then) and SoukouDragon)? Well, basically, these guys did put me in touch with one of the open minded developers who worked on the Japanese tree with these members of the community before. And that's how the information started flowing directly to Wargaming RU in Minsk. This was very late 2013 (December if I recall correctly) and it was in January 2014 when the work began in earnest. Notice that at no point of development was WG EU involved in ANY way, it was completely bypassed and did nothing for the Czechoslovak community (quite the opposite on occasion, I still remember the charity affair).

At this point it's worth noting that unless it's some bug feedback, there is absolutely no point in making any suggestions on EU forums (NA has it a bit different but that's a story for another time), the developers will not get it, it will always get lost in communication between the middle men. It was only this direct connection to Minsk that allowed this idea to happen. It is logical in a way as I can confirm that 99,9 percent of all player-proposed tech trees are utter crap.

The tree as a concept was approved very long time ago (I am thinking mid 2014) with late 2014 being the deadline for supplying the data necessary for the tree (a creation of a new tree takes roughly a year including all the phases from the first decision). I'll continue the storyline a bit later - but let's look at the first decision a bit closer because you might be asking: "Why Czechoslovak tree? Surely there are other trees worth considering, why this one, why not Italians or the Swedes for example?"

On tree building

In late 2013 it was clear that at one point a new nation will appear after the Japanese. The initial (obvious in a way) choice was Italy. The way I saw it, Wargaming's historical expert, Yuri Pasholok, was working directly with an Italian Wargaming employee (Raptor_Fulcrum) in order to actively find vehicles in the Italian archives. Another strong contender was Sweden - you might know of the efforts of Renhaxue and sp15 who are digging up projects from Swedish archives - this amazing work resulted in a large Swedish tree proposal, which will very likely - well, one branch anyway for now - be implemented in 2016 (yea, the branch with the S-Tank).

There are several logical Wargaming rules that you have to follow when creating a branch/tree proposal (at least you did back then).

- first of all, the branch must be logical with suitable vehicles. The requirements for historicity were in early 2014 VERY strict much to my frustration. That wasn't the worst part though, the worst part were the double standards. The proposals had to be very historical all the while WG implemented fake shit such as WT E-100. There were also some rules (that got broken in the end anyway) - such as "the branch must not contain completely imbalanced vehicles such as megaderp FV215b 183 style" - months later FV4005 came along. I was lucky in this way that the Czechoslovak branch I proposed was pretty standard and required no additional programming. This was a major problem for the S-Tank and at first the entire S-Tank branch was scrapped just because it would require to model the hydraulic suspension. This requirement was lifted later on but it delayed the Swedes considerably because the alternative branch that was supposed to be "main" was the KRV branch (heavy tanks with autoloaders resembling the French).

- secondly, there has to be an attractive candidate for tier 10. By "attractive" I mean - players will want to play it! Slow and undergunned tanks are inherently unpopular and so are pure clones. This is where Hungarian and Polish branch proposals fail. Both Hungarians and Polish can build reliable branches up till tier 6 (Polish) or 7/8 (Hungarian) but without a suitable tier 10 candidate (that's not fake - and no, paper drawings of young Mr. Lem don't count), it's pointless. This is why there will never be a Polish branch in World of Tanks (partially this is also due to the hum... let's say controversial opinions of certain developers on Poland but that's not something I want to delve into).

- thirdly, you have to have a market - players who you know will like that branch inherently. This was a MAJOR boost for the Czechoslovak branch (and possibly the decisive factor) - there are many Czechs and Slovaks playing (like third largest community on EU) - but there are only a few Swedes and Italians playing. Without a market, there's no hope of appearance for the tanks. Another interesting candidate with relatively large userbase would be the countries of former Yugoslavia but compared to western nations their revenue per user is probably very poor so there's that.

As I said above, Sweden has very strong candidates for an entire branch (many branches actually). It's the only former "European tree" country that can build a full solid branch of every class (including heavies!). Next is Czechoslovakia with all the branches except for heavies (well, the TD branch is a bit of a stretch but still). Last is Italy. Italy can somewhat build only a medium branch but everything from tier 7 above is either a huge stretch (borderline fake like the Italianized Panther) or a total clone. Vehicle-wise Italy was always least attractive.

So, in total, we have:

- Swedes with solid branch proposal but no playerbase
- Italians with poor branch proposal and no playerbase
- Czechoslovaks with solid branch proposal and solid playerbase

Based on the combination of these factors the Czechoslovak branch was selected for implementation with Sweden being next. As for Italy... seeing what they did with the Turán prototype, I daresay Italian tanks will appear as event tanks or premiums in German tree as well but the full branch will not be implemented, at least not in 2015 or 2016.

Continuing the story...

I left off in early 2014 and the "work". Basically, this included assembling and scanning everything that was available on each vehicle from the proposal. The way the branch looked was practically set from early 2014 onwards - only some of the vehicle names changed (like V-8-H into ST Vz.39 for example - the first being the factory designation, the latter the military one). This took several months of discussing and assembling and several fits of rage (an example: at one point in 2014, one of the producers seriously proposed no new branches to be added AT ALL, only premium tanks from that point). There were also several "changes of the decision" where certain developers rooted for Italy but at at one point SerB himself said he wants Czechoslovaks and I suspect that was the "final decision". Another major boost worth mentioning was the petition organized on the Czechoslovak forum section with over 3000 signatures and the support of the portal.

The biggest problem for the Czechoslovaks were always the high tiers. Tiers 8 and 10 were in theory "fine" but tier 9 was a huge pain in the ass (I'll get to that in the part about this tier). I was quite lucky however to have met and become a friend with two of the best Czechoslovak armor historians - Mr. Vladimír Francev and Mr. Jiří Tintěra. I cannot stress enough how helpful both gentlemen were by scanning previously unknown materials from their personal collections and scouring the archives for more info, finding entirely new things in the process (the T 40 tank for example). This collaboration culminated in the Autumn of 2014 when Yuri Pasholok came to Prague, we all sat down in a pub and hammered things out from historical point of view. The drawings were then given to the modellers and WG started implementing the tree on their side, that was early 2015. Unfortunately some things came way too late (such as the drawings of the early stages of T 50 and T 51 medium tanks) but c'est la vie. In the end the tree came to fruition.

The future of WoT trees

So that's the medium branch then. The question is, will we ever see any other branch from the Czechoslovak tree?

I think it's unlikely - and no, that's not a good thing for anyone and here's why. You probably noticed that the amount of vehicles appearing slowed down considerably over the course of last year and it wasn't only due to the entire work with HD models. WoT is simply slowing down. No, don't take it as "the game dies" or whatever, that's nonsense. If anything, WoT revenues are bigger than ever. But apart from WoT becoming the cash cow to finance other projects - simply put: Wargaming is running out of things to add. Here's a couple of my personal guesses and speculations, take them as you will:

- it's unlikely that more than two branches will appear in 2016
- these branches will be the Swedish S-Tank branch (my estimate - late 2016) and... something (my guess: they will revive the second French heavy branch)
- it is extremely unlikely that the Americans, Germans or Soviets will ever get any full branch again, those trees are simply done (it's possible some minibranches will appear, a vehicle here and there but still)
- new Chinese vehicles will definitely not come in 2016, new Japanese TD's? Maybe, but I think it's unlikely as well
- 2017 is pure guessing but I think that the theory that no new branches will appear after 2016 AT ALL is completely plausible

Producing tanks for WoT is very expensive. It costs a lot of money not only to model them but also to assemble the materials required. We'll just have to see.

Now then... next part: tier 1 (and yes, it will be shorter)

 RG: Hope you enjoyed! :)

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