Wargaming layout the reasons and thinking behind some of the map changes moving to HD.
Improvements to Erlenberg, Kharkov, and Steppes
We’re back with a catch-up on level design improvements for another batch of maps being reworked into HD. Today, we’ll go over changes designed to end players “camping” in one space on Erlenberg, give both teams equal chances for control over Steppes, and make Kharkov enjoyable for each vehicle class.
Battles on Erlenberg had a sad tendency to turn into battles of patience, with players choosing to wait in one spot. Though the centre of the map offered a lot of cover, much of the action occurred in the northwest and southeast. Each side knew exactly what to expect: teams would head to the hills early on, set up their defences, and wait for the enemy to rush the centre. However, it rarely happened, leaving both teams frustrated to say the least.
You know why: it’s difficult to organize a rush and even more difficult to make it actually work with bases located diagonally opposite each other and just three bridges across the otherwise impassable river. If you advance to cross by the central bridge, you’re likely to get a few to the hull from either the western or eastern ridge. Try other bridges, and you’ll run into the same problem of gathering a lot of attention.
Besides, the terrain was never on your side: hills prevented snipers from getting a clear shot (unless you were on one of the hills). At the same time, lights and mediums with good gun depression had a hard time leveraging the uneven terrain because of the locations of the hills.
We redesigned the town in the centre and the area along the riverside to add more variety to battles. There are new areas to cross to the other side, while the river banks bridge tightly built houses. The closer you get to the centre, the denser they become. Though there’s not enough space for heavy tanks, well-armoured mediums have just enough of it to thrive, using large areas of hard cover to tear down whoever dares to set foot on their land. Taking over this area will prove instrumental later in the battle or when you brave crossing the river.
We changed terrain a lot, narrowing down fields, creating more pronounced gorges, and making forests dense enough to provide cover. This should make it easier to read the map, predict the enemy’s next move, and plan yours.
Changes to the urban area improved battle dynamics, but weren’t enough to make the town a popular spot. Battles often played out in the same old scenario with teams taking over opposite river banks, instead of leveraging hard cover that the town offered. So we made another round of tweaks to make this area more attractive
- Several streets were blocked to simplify town structure and make it easier to organise defence spots
- There are fewer break-through routes leading into the town now, which should make it easier to control the area
- We reduced the number of shoot-through areas in the central town (cracks in ruined buildings, windows, etc.) by adding tall buildings. You can fully focus on battling with enemies in close-range urban duels now, without fear of getting a few shells from enemies positioned in the hills
- Newly-added and strengthened defence spots on both sides of the riverbank offer a clear view at popular positions behind the mill and castle. Push the enemies out of the city, nest in these new defence spots, and counterattacks coming from there
- The river is no longer an impassable barrier and you can now cross at almost any spot.
Here is the earlier article in the series.
Map Time—Level Design Improvements to Fisherman’s Bay, Ruinberg, and Pilsen
We stand by the promise of boosting game diversity with new maps, fixing imbalances on removed arenas and addressing top community concerns about maps that are being redesigned in HD. You’ve been eager for more information on these, and over the next few weeks we’ll be offering you an inside look at new battlefields and level design improvements to existing maps.
Today’s article details changes to Fisherman’s Bay, Ruinberg, and Pilsen. Gameplay on these raised a few eyebrows over time, and we used the HD redesign as an opportunity to improve your experience. Before we get into details, please note that it’s still work in progress and more changes might follow after testing.
Teams spawning in the south had a rough time working the left flank, since most cover spots on their way (and there weren’t many) were of little use, unless you had good gun depression. At the same time, the team in the north had far better chances at breaking open the flank and setting up a strong defense there, which foreshadowed an eminent loss for the southern team.
After the northern heavies and mediums had pushed the flank, their light tanks advanced further south, while their punchier allies stifled southern vehicles’ attempts to move up to the center of the west flank and counterattack. Eventually, the southern team would gather near the crossroads and camp there. First-line attackers from the northern team continued the push, supported by TDs from the second line. As soon as they owned the southwest, they would systemically destroy enemies positioned in the central area and along the road on the east flank.The push often continued till the northern team occupied a greater area and closed in on the enemy.
Technically, the town to the east could give a decent platform for attack to the southern team. They rarely managed to make it there though after losing the west flank. However, if they succeeded, the northern team were left with no other options except for passive defense.
The map received a more balanced frontline and offers both teams equal chances at pushing key directions. Now, the valley to the west has more cover, giving both teams equal chances at taking over the flank. The team that starts in the north still can win over strategic areas closer to the center of the flank. But they can be stopped now. The southern team can leverage defensive positions in the lower left edge of the map to stifle enemy attacks.
Regardless of the side you’re on, you no longer need to camp in safe zones waiting for an enemy to misstep. Use the mill to support allies as they advance into the enemy territory.
Both teams used to have a tough time in the central area, although the southern team had it a little easier thanks to several favourable spots. The northern team had just one good spot in the center, which wasn’t enough for an active push and left them exposed to enemy artillery. Now, the area is more open and offers many opportunities to scouts from both camps.
Cover positions were redesigned to minimize the impact of gun depression, which made them useful for a wider range of vehicles. Finally, we moved a few bushes and trees, making it easier to detect firing routes, find cover and favorable shooting spots.
We need to fix several more issues to label Fisherman’s Bay ready for release. Currently, the center of the map offers clear shots at key directions, the town to the east, and the west flank. Taking control of it can become a game-changer. So it’s only natural that both camps will channel greater forces there, which undermines the map balance overall.
In addition to visual enhancements, we tried to fix imbalances that made the battle easier for the team that starts off in the northern section of the map.
The team spawning in the north had a big advantage in urban combat, since they could set up in firing spots along the central road. This lowland provided them with solid cover (dense bushes and lower ground). So they could wear down enemies entering the city from the southeast, organize a push to the city and/or support allies fighting in the city—all with minimum chances of being spotted from the city. As a result, the northern team would often take control of the central or upper city, grip the southern team in a vice, and win.
To level out chances at victory, we added a new position at the eastern edge of the city (north of the central road). It’s mostly useless to the team in the north. On the contrary, taking control of it can become a game-charger for tankers who spawn in the south. They can prevent the scenario we just described by taking out enemies positioned in area A and those scattered across the field.
To further strengthen the south team, we also rebalanced the location at (4). Now, you can shoot at tanks advancing from area (3) here.
Pilsen felt too small and gave little in terms of gameplay to turretless TDs and thinly armored vehicles. Medium tanks kept away from the center of the east flank since it offered no cover from arty shells. The west flank had way too many shoot-through zones, which prevented both teams from pushing/defending certain directions and turned battles into a fine frenzy. Once you entered this area, you were effectively stuck there with no way to retreat or advance. Finally, the central area promoted camping since the impassable big hangar there was a death trap for anyone reckless enough to move past it.