Anatomy Of A Tank: How Obsidian Entertainment Are Creating The Most Detailed Tanks In A Game

By Robert Ward . April 3, 2014 . 9:30am

 

At GDC this year, Siliconera had the chance to catch up with Richard Taylor of Obsidian Entertainment, the developers behind Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and Fallout: New Vegas. During our meeting, we talked about Armored Warfare, Obsidian’s new tank-based MMO.

 

Wait, come back! Yes, “tank-based MMO” doesn’t sound like the most exciting—or original—thing in the world at first glance, but what I discovered at GDC is that Obsidian are putting an absurd amount of care into the design of the game’s tanks, even going as far as modeling the insides, and allowing you to damage the innards by shooting a round into them.

 

While playing through the demo’s single “neutralize all threats” sortie (which more or less involved blowing up just about everything in sight with great delight), I spoke to Taylor about what exactly makes a “tank,” in-game and out.

 

So in the demo, you have three tanks available for use—one from Germany, one from Britain, and one from Russia. Just how many tanks are you aiming to put in the game? Can a tank from, say, World War I really stand up to a tank from the modern age?

 

Rich Taylor, Project Director: Well, we don’t have an exact number to give you, but I can say that we’re looking at Tanks from the 1950s on. In Armored Warfare, the tanks will appear in form, of course, but maybe not all in character, right? Each tank will have its own weaknesses and strengths. Some will specialize in firepower; others will specialize in speed, or taking hits, and so on.

 

There’s a fine line between fun and realism. Obviously, if we just put the tanks in the game as is, there are obvious power differences. You know, a few tanks [in real life] are amphibious—but it takes up to an hour to set them up for that sort of travel, and you don’t really want an hour-long mini-game to display that realism, right, so you make the change that makes that process more fun. That’s the kind of thing we pay attention to while we’re designing the game.

 

You mentioned that each tank is specialized, or emphasizes a particular kind of combat. Does this mean that damage is calculated differently for each tank, or…?

 

Yes! Both damage received by and damage dealt by tanks is calculated differently. For example, If you look to the right of the screen, you’ll see some small boxes. Each box represents a different stat. These show you where and how you’ve taken damage, but there are also a large number of latent stats used to calculate damage beneath those—stats that the player never sees. These take into consideration the design considerations

 

These design nuances sound like they’re in line with your desire to recreate these tanks as realistically as possible. How do these latent stats fit into that mold?

 

Yeah, so, like I mentioned before about taking damage, the damage you receive is filtered through not only those ten stats you see, but about 40 or 42 stats total. It takes into consideration the architecture of the tank. If you can damage their treads, for example, you can prevent them from moving. If you can get behind someone, you can shoot a round right into the vent in the front and totally mess up the gears and such inside.

 

Wait, tank “architecture”? So there is more to the tanks than meets the eye in Armored Warfare. Can you tell me a little more about that?

 

Right! We stay true to the architecture of each tank. One of the guys of in the studio used to ride them, so we have some great input on top of research! Also, each of those latent stats I talked about isn’t just what hits the surface—it’s what goes through and hits the inside. As I mentioned, shots will pierce the tank and affect its inner workings. The tanks we build have an inside, it’s not just empty space. In some cases, every little part is reconstructed.

 

Now that you mention it, I noticed that there’s a log strapped to the back of the T-80. Can you explain to me why a giant log is relevant to tank warfare?

 

I’m glad you caught that! (laughs) Why don’t we ask around? There’s quite a bit of speculation as to what the log attached to the back of the T-80 was used for.  The designers might know more than me.

 

[Taylor calls over a few employees and asks for them to weigh in on the log, we chat for a bit and finally come to a conclusion].

 

A lot of terrain in Russia is frozen, right? Tundra is a pretty dominant landscape type—and the military knew it. Well, when that frost thaws, the dirt turns to mud, so they’d take this log and lodge it under the tread to give it some traction if the tank got stuck. I guess it’s a one-use item!

 

Ah, but you have no intention of making a T-80 exclusive “stuck in the mud” mini-game?

 

Right! (laughs) Skirting that line between realism and fun, remember?


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