MORE MAPS! Five Revamped Maps Return!
We can’t say it any better than Brenden McCormack, game designer for World of Tanks: Modern Armor, recently said himself:
“I know what the players want: more maps! And if we have an opportunity, we’ll do the work on our end to deliver that.”
That’s why we’re excited to announce that on June 29th, we’re adding five classic maps that have received massive overhauls back into the gameplay mix:
- El Alamein
- Halfaya Pass (formerly Skorpion Pass)
- Ghost Town
Brenden recently sat down for an interview to discuss what went into each map’s update. Take a look at what he said! (Interview edited for length and clarity.)
Let’s talk about the first of the updated maps! For Overlord, were there any visual or terrain changes to the map?
This was much more on the Art side of improvements. On the Design side, it was a matter of playtesting and reviewing eligibility—saying, “Does it work in Cold War Eras?”
Overlord of course is heavily based on D-Day, so it’s very appropriate that we’re releasing it in the month of June.
We went with a grittier look, heavier theatre-of-war haze and fog. By no means does this affect vision range or cause any kind of distraction that would prevent being able to see tanks from a distance. It just sets the scene and mood to feel as though you’re there in the moment. You’ve got the artillery battery fire coming, and you’ve got the gunner nests firing out to sea at the battleships.
Along the beach line of the map, you are more open and left with little cover unless you hug the cliff walls. In fact, this area of the map should only be considered a last resort option if tankers need a quick getaway. We added some additional run offs from the cliff tops that allow for players to slide down with less risk to damaging their tanks.
Otherwise, there are just more war-themed improvements, like fires in the town and such. And of course, as with all of our releases since the new visual updates, there are new lighting improvements, texture improvements, and more culturals. We’re going with the micrograss, which isn’t as tall and doesn’t interfere with your sightlines.
What about the tiers and Eras that can fight on Overlord?
We knew that Overlord didn’t work [in Cold War mode] for Era 3 [Détente] or Era 2 [Escalation], and it was debatable whether we should squeeze it into Era 1 [Post-War].
Our playtests have shown that technically it could work in Post-War, because you don’t see the enemies right away and there is some distance on the map. But people tend to clump up right toward the middle almost immediately, and the battles just become more or a less a shotgun fight, where it’s anybody’s game at that point and it’s not very fun.
So, Overlord is going to be restricted to World War II, tiers V through X.
Let’s move on to Westfield! What can you tell us about this map?
It’s one of my faves and was an easy inclusion.
I believe a Community Contributor held a map poll a couple months back. Liam [a.k.a. Community Liaison MintoVimto] forwarded this poll over to me, and Westfield was leagues ahead of everything else in there. And I was like, “Well, I had Westfield scheduled for a later update, but the players have spoken! Let’s move it up!”
On the Design side, again, not a lot of changes. Per Supertest feedback, they weren’t too fond of the Team Destruction spawn arrangement. If players recall, both teams spawned on the hill in the northwest corner of the map. It was decently balanced, but it was like the Overlord situation I just spoke of: it became a quick-to-confrontation shotgun fest that was notably not very fun. So we’ve moved the spawn locations basically to match where Standard Battle is, the northeast and southwest corners.
Other things I can talk about: Foliage density has been increased. There was some discussion about adding more foliage to the southeast corner, which is kind of that sniper hill. Given that the map is so foliage-heavy, though, we ultimately decided not to add any extra bush cover on that hill because maybe that encouraged too much sniping up there.
This is also the return of the cherry blossom trees. With the new art updates, we’ve redone all the trees in the game, so there had to be a checklist of, what can the artists accomplish in time for each update to get the new tree visuals in? Other maps had the cherry blossom trees as well, but Westfield is the first to get the return of the cherry blossoms!
What about the tiers and Eras that can fight on Westfield?
I can say for sure that we do have Westfield in World War II in tiers V through X. For Cold War, Era 1 (Post War) will also be supported on Westfield.
We chose not to do it for Escalation and Détente, which actually hurt my heart a little bit. I wanted to see Abrams and T-72 battles! But it’s a smaller map, and those tanks go so quickly that you’re right in each other’s faces within the first 30 seconds.
On to the next map: El Alamein!
El Alamein is another historically based battle.
Early on in the map planning process, not only did we want to consider the player-favorite maps and squeeze those back into rotation; we also had to be mindful of other content releases that coincide with the maps. I was challenged with trying to pick out a map that would fit well with other content in the game, and El Alamein was a direct winner across the board for a lot of new content that will be coming in.
Going back in memory, El Alamein was simply an open desert map with some dunes and ridges. There was a lot of long-range sniping fun with that. But trying it out in Cold War, it was a winner.
If I had to give the players a warning about the map, it’s to be mindful of where you are driving on the map. It’s a very dry, sandy map, and you might not realize that there’s a dropoff that’s a little bit steeper than you thought. Even in our internal playtests, our better tankers will still tumble to their deaths.
The Art team decided to revisit the rock formations, which used to be these large mounds with nothing too significant about their appearance. They stripped away the big mounds—there are still giant rocks there, but now they’re more like arches, and it creates a nice kind of portal that you look through toward the sky and also offers some neat shadow-casting onto the ground.
They also added extra grass to break up the monotony of the desert; there are patches of weeds and shortgrass areas out there, and even some oasises. Oasi? Is that the plural?
We always want to make people feel like they’re in the middle of battle, and the theatre of war elements on this map—there’s a lot of dogfighting going on overhead with this map, but the thing that always catches my attention and will pause the fight for me, personally, is seeing one of the planes struck down in the dogfight. You see it careen and crash right into the large rock formation in the middle of the map. I will disagree if players say they find it distracting and it’s like an arty strike coming against them. Hey, that’s war!
What about the tiers and Eras that can fight on El Alamein?
It’s going to be available from tiers V and up, all the way up to Détente. [Edit to clarify: Yep, this means that you can play El Alamein in tiers V – X in World War II mode and in all three Eras in Cold War mode!]
The next map up is Halfaya Pass, a.k.a Skorpion Pass. Let’s open with, why the name change?
The goal was that we wanted to restore the original, large-size version of Skorpion Pass. This map debuted when we got the game running on PS4. At the time, it was 1.5 km square, even larger than any of our other current Cold War maps. We scaled down the map some years ago to accommodate the fact that the World War II tanks couldn’t cover the ground that was being asked of them.
So not only do we want to deliver an updated map that can cater to the Cold War eras; this is content that can be provided to the World War II tankers as well. But we don’t want players to feel they’re stuck playing a map that might feel slow in any direction they try to engage.
So, this one we’re treating more as the next Community Map. We shot it over to Supertesters to get their thoughts and suggestions on the map first. And we took this opportunity to see if this could also be a chance to rename the map. One of the suggestions that came from our Supertesters was Halfaya Pass, which can also translate to “Hellfire Pass.”
Because we are treating this one as the next Community Map initiative, we’re choosing not to go live with it in the regular map rotation but instead in Custom Games. What we hate to do is throw a map out there and discover that it doesn’t play as well as we’d hoped. And I know players wanted to see the large map after it being scaled down for so many years, but let’s make sure we do due diligence and deliver something that’s exciting to play.
And again, with the success of the original Community Map that became Vineyards, I think there is improvement and a sense of positive engagement that the community can provide. Players love the way that Vineyards plays, it’s a well-balanced map… let’s see if we can get Halfaya Pass into that same category.
One other thing I’ll mention is that since this map plays so well in the Cold War, we did shift the visuals more toward the ‘60s, toward a Cold War theatre of war.
How many passes do you think the Development team will give this map as a Community Map?
It’s difficult to say because Vineyards was made from the ground up. That was a lot of getting bare-bones feedback from the player base and trying to sculpt and mold this idea into a playable map. That went back and forth about four or five times. For Halfaya Pass, we already have a very good template. We have a playable map, and it’s a map that players are very aware of.
So I don’t have a definite timeline for putting a final version into rotation, but I’d like to say as a personal goal that I’d like to see it done quicker than we did Vineyards. Just to stick that timeline in there, Vineyards was about a year and a half.
Last but not least, we have Ghost Town! Why was this map chosen to add back into rotation now?
This was a favorite one and a very well-balanced one.
We gave the artists the four other maps as the initial pitch, and then they had some bandwidth to start work on something for a future update. Lo and behold, here we are just a week before the lockdown date for our June 29th update, and they’re telling us, “Well, Ghost Town, art-wise, has wrapped up, and we can actually ship earlier if this is desirable.”
I’m for the player base in that we do want to get more maps into rotation. Not only does this give us more variety, but it also helps mitigate the players hitting some of the same maps a little too frequently.
Which tiers and Eras can fight on Ghost Town?
Ghost Town will be available in World War II game mode only, tiers II through X.
Does the rotation percentage for new maps change? Is it slightly higher for them the first week or two after they’re released, or is the rotation the same across all maps?
With Modern Armor, we got a new system for how we do our map rotation. Prior to that, our map rotation was completely based on weighting, where if we wanted something to have greater frequency, we’d just increase a value in a file.
What we’re doing now is that we have a pre-set map rotation. We actually manually set up the exact rotation of the maps that we want, and every four minutes, the server will change what map is hit.
We no longer deal with the weights, but this does allow some manual tuning for the frequency. When we went live with Modern Armor, we got the four brand-new maps: Dezful, Cao Bang, Fredvang, and Mannheim. What we had to do to increase their frequency is just duplicate them in the pre-set map rotation.
So, you can expect that when the June 29th update launches, you’re going to have maps like Westfield, El Alamein, Ghost Town, and Overlord in higher frequency, but we are going to dial back now some of the Cold War maps just to give those other ones a little more attention.
Anything else you want to say to the community before we close out this interview?
We’re still working; we still want to deliver content, and we’re still keeping on our promise that we are restoring World War II maps. This is our confirmation that we’re keeping that promise, and it doesn’t stop there.
This update is bringing back four maps, five if you want to consider Halfaya Pass in Custom Games—please try that one out, because we’re very excited to hear feedback on what we can do in the future with the community to better develop that map to a state that everyone loves.
Thank you very much! As always, be patient with us—we’re going to be working hard on delivering maps throughout the rest of the year. We have a whole schedule even going into 2022, so these maps are not going to stop coming in. Just look forward and keep on tanking with us!