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The Evolution Of World of Tanks

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Even if you’ve never played World of Tanks, chances are that you’ve heard of it through reputation. 

A vast, free to play online game with millions of registered players and hundreds of beautifully rendered tank models to choose from, all wrapped up in a game that favours team-based strategy over mindless button bashing?

It’s certainly easy to see the appeal, and easier still to see exactly how World of Tanks became such a hit across the world – WoT has far more depth than any free to play game has any right to offer.


With version 1.0 just around the corner, bringing with it a shiny new graphics engine and 29 ultra realistic redesigned maps (plus one brand new map) to cause tank-based chaos on, now seems as good a time as any to look back over how this wonderful little title has evolved over the years to become what it has today…

The team at Wargaming originally envisioned a strategy game with more of a fantasy vibe, orcs scrapping with elves and mages, that kind of thing.

Thankfully, it was decided that one: fantasy had kind of been done to death in the world of gaming, and two: the Wargaming crew were damned good at making tanks, thanks to their experience on previous games- after deciding on the Big World engine to develop the game with, work on World of Tanks began in earnest.

After a couple of years, countless late nights, endless playtests, and lots of hard work, the small team at Wargaming launched World of Tanks on August 12, 2010.

Graphically the game was – at the time – actually pretty good, but it seemed that visuals were the last thing on Wargaming’s mind at the time. The modest team were instead faced with a problem they weren’t really expecting: an overloaded server from the sheer number of players.

As far as development issues go, an overloaded server is (I assume) a bit of a pain in the arse, but it does come with the silver lining that lots of people want to play your game, which has to be a cool feeling.

As early as September 2010, just one month later, Wargaming reported that over 10 million battles had already been fought in World of Tanks – pretty damn impressive, whichever way you slice it. One year after release, more than 5 million players were registered in the game.


At this point, a lesser developer might have rested on their laurels and celebrated a job well done, but the guys and girls at Wargaming decided to keep pushing. Their goal? to make the game as visually resplendent as it could be.

The early incarnation of World of Tanks was easy on the eye, sure, but it lacked dynamic shadow, a normal sky, flora, water surfaces – the kinds of details that can really pull you into a world (you know, before you blow it up). As such, it was decided that the engine be revamped.

Enter update 8:0, which introduced a serious visual overhaul. Improved lighting, terrain, water, particle effects, and much more – the difference was absolutely staggering (provided you had a decent PC that could handle the new rendering), and an undeniable leap forward for World of Tanks.

If the only criticism fans could hold against the game at that time was that it didn’t look great, they no longer had that particular leg to stand on. World of Tanks 8:0 was bloody gorgeous.

At the time of update 8:0, around ten maps had been reworked to make the most of the fulsome visual overhaul, while the rest were roughly converted to better work with the lighting. Predictably, the team at Wargaming were still not done.

Over the next few months, the team worked to deliver a number of incremental updates, making quality of life improvements, introducing new content, and reworking maps. By the time update 8:10 rolled out in 2013, all maps had been fully reworked and looked better than ever.


Around the same time, the engine itself was also being quietly, consistently improved. Lighting got better, colours got richer, everything got noticeably more attractive – once again, at a point where another developer may have left their free to play game, Wargaming still thought they could do better.

With the environments themselves looking absolutely resplendent, the team set about trying to make the tanks themselves look as good as they possibly could – obviously, for a game called World of Tanks, the tanks themselves were kind of a key aspect.

While there was talk of simply putting together HD tanks, it was agreed that the team could do much better, so they set about trying to create photorealistic models – tanks with reflective surfaces and realistic shadows.

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By the time update 9.0 was rolled out, everything looked better than ever. The tanks looked incredible: fearsome, hulking machines made of metal that gleamed in the sun as they trundled across the ground, while improved lighting helped to make buildings and environments look more natural.

Ironically enough, now that the tanks looked better than ever (in an attempt to match the maps), the feeling among the developers was that the environments didn’t quite look as good when compared to the tanks.

So, true to the clearly incredible passion behind the Wargaming team, work began on creating maps in true HD, powered by a completely overhauled engine to create stunning environments, some of which frankly, put many AAA games to shame.

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It was essentially the start of HD map development that brought with it the beginnings of what would become known as update 1.0 – possibly the most substantial upgrade to World of Tanks yet and due to be rolled out to players everywhere in March.

You can expect 29 ultra realistic redesigned maps – plus one entirely new map – in a gorgeous new graphics engine, with much of the content recreated from the ground-up – you can also look forward to remastered sounds, post effects, destructible objects, advanced lighting, and so much more.

If you haven’t seen what the revamped engine (developed in-house, no less) can do, take a look at the video below. It really is stunning. As if it didn’t already look good enough, it’s been confirmed that the engine absolutely has the capacity to further push the visuals in the future, though I can’t fathom how much better looking the game can get.


This humble free to play game has come a long, long way over the past seven years, but crucially, if you’ve ever played World of Tanks at any point over the last decade, it’s still the same easy to pick-up experience with plenty of depth.

Whether you were there at the beginning, or you’ve never played before, World of Tanks Version 1.0 is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a fantastic game that has never looked better, played smoother, or offered more, and you can check it out right here.

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