The free-to-play shooter World of Tanks Xbox 360 Edition is receiving the first map ever made exclusively for the console version of the hit PC game, and it draws its inspiration from one of the darkest times in the history of the Philippines.
Chicago's Wargaming West was inspired to design a map where tanks could do battle on a tropical island, but armored engagements on such small landmasses are fairly rare in the historical record. Getting tanks onto islands, especially during World War II when the World of Tanks franchise is set, was an arduous process and keeping them supplied with fuel and ammunition was more difficult still.
Senior game designer Chad Steingraber lucked out when he discovered the Philippine island of Corregidor, the site of not one but two major WWII battles between U.S., Filipino and Japanese forces. Armor just happened to play a big role in both of them.
"We really wanted the map to be special and very unique," Steingraber told Polygon. "Sort of unlike any other map that we've seen in World of Tanks so far, and that's where the island concept came from — an in-game island completely surrounded by water and filled with very rough terrain. Everything about it is the opposite of the maps exist in World of Tanks so far."
U.S. general Douglas MacArthur fled Corregidor in 1942, leaving the fortress island under the command of lieutenant general Jonathan Wainwright. His departure signaled the beginning of the end for American forces in the Philippines. Corregidor Island was soon surrounded by the Japanese navy, which landed tanks and troops and overwhelmed the bastion on May 6, 1942. The island was not liberated by American and Filipino forces until February of 1945.
"One of the original concepts that came out of designing the map," Steingraber said, "was that historically ... the Americans had significantly better tanks versus the Japanese when the Japanese invaded. What happened was the Americans lost because they were unready to do battle on such rough terrain. And that kind of rough terrain was a cornerstone of what the map was going to be."
The map, called Pacific Island, features many depressions that allow tanks to go "hull down," a position that exposes only their turrets to fire. Additionally, the hilly layout of the map makes it play very much like an urban battle, with long, narrow fields of fire and blind corners.
The Xbox 360 version of World of Tanks has done well in the past year, with 5.4 million downloads, more than 34 million battles and more than 52 million hours played.