After he visited China, Napoleon is said to have remarked, "Let China sleep, for when China wakes she will shake the world."
Wargaming.net, developer of the free-to-play massively multiplayer online World of Tanks, has no such fear. Beginning today in Europe and tomorrow in North America, the developer will unveil title update 8.3, which deploys a battalion of 17 of tanks used by the Chinese People's Liberation Army, each with its own accompanying tech tree.
"It's the addition of Chinese tanks, which is the first time they'll appear as a full, fleshed out tech tree in the game," Caleb Fox, Wargaming.net's head of eSports, told Polygon in a recent interview.
Fox describes the Chinese tanks as occupying "a middle-of-the-road tree, balance wise." The mid-twentieth century models encompass a wide range of vehicle types because many Chinese tanks of the era had direct links to existing tanks from other countries.
"Historically speaking, the Chinese borrowed a lot of models from the U.S., from Russia, from [Great] Britain and Japan, and then they made some of their own as well," Fox said.
The communist takeover of mainland China took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Because the 8.3 expansion focuses on tanks from the middle of the twentieth century, players will see influences from the Soviet Union, mixed with Chinese ingenuity.
"Because of the nature of war, you take what you have, and you throw whatever you need on it to make it more effective," he said.
"[The Chinese] based a lot of their design — a lot of what they received was Russian tanks. As they designed their own, they based them off those tanks. So we see a lot of similarities with the Russian designs, plus differences, too, in some ways.
"Some of the tanks look like they tried to combine a medium and heavy tank that the other nations didn't really attempt to do. They ended up, to use a couple of examples, with very large tanks with very large engines, but they were fairly light. They weren't as weighed down as other tanks."
Historical accuracy is where Wargaming.net starts when it designs tanks, and when placed in the game "everything kind of balances itself." There are also aspects that don't make the cut, suck as real world tradeoffs in which tanks used less ammunition to increase mobility, Fox said. Perhaps the most famous example is that of Germany's Tiger tank, which had a reputation for breaking down. Neither is a simulation that translates well to the battlefield.
"Because of the nature of war, you take what you have, and you throw whatever you need on it to make it more effective."
As the head of eSports at Wargaming.net, Fox is most excited about watching the community learn the tanks and put them through their paces.
"Within the first week, a lot of our players — pro-level players — will figure out what tanks they want to use," he said. "Usually, when a tree comes out ... the first response from a lot of our pro players is 'Alright, we need to test out every tank and figure out which ones we're going to use competitively and which ones we aren't' because some are going to fill a role that maybe hasn't been filled before and some are going to be more versatile in one way than another tank."
Over the next days, players will get to test out World of Tanks' newest weapons of war. Deployed in China and now in the virtual battlefield, Fox said that Wargaming.net designed this point update with a simple goal in mind.
"Ultimately, we want our players to enjoy it as much as possible. To put it simply, we're going to make the change we feel are going to make our players happiest."
You can check out a trailer showcasing the tanks in action above.
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