Couldn't do a live transcript due to spotty internet in a hospital waiting room and a lack of pencil & paper, so it has arrived with a substantial delay.
Sergey, who are you, and what do you do?
I'm a Senior Museums & Military Relations specialist, and I represent a small (him, 3 historians, some consultants, 1 museums liaison and an actual Russian Navy veteran) department in the St.Petersburg office, where they help several other departments in WoWS, and build/maintain good relations with historic institutions. He starts the search for blueprints, photo's, make appointments for visits to make photo's or investigate plans, fix visits to museum-ships, forts,… for the video-crew,…
What is your favourite ship, historically and in game
Historically: it has to be our hometown ship, the Aurora.
In the game: he's fond of German BB's like Kaiser, and ships with a real history to it, like Belfast & Haida, the latter manned by tough & rough Canadians.
How do you decide for names for the ships in the game
They only need to figure out names for paper ships, and there are 2 options. Either they were planned & scheduled, for which they follow the naming suggestions which were suggested by the navy itself and the shipyard upon the initial planning. The other one, for truly paper/fantasy ships is more complex, but also for that there are rules & conventions. The team follow these conventions. For example for the German Navy: Battleships of the HSF were named after German "lands" (Nassau, Bayern,…) names related to the dynasty (Kaiser, König,…), the name of family of the monarchs like Friedrich der Grosse, Prinz Regent Luitpold,… The easiest was for the light cruisers, as they were named for cities: Emden, Köningsberg, Nürnberg. For paper ships, there are rules they adopted & adapted. They tried to avoid giving names of ships that were actually laid down in the early 20th century, of ships that were already well-known and (obviously) for politicians of the 3rd Reich.
The naming of République: why is it named like that, since it's not a usual name according to the conventions for a French BB, as it would be something like Verdun, Ile de Paris,…
They decided to name the T10 after something truly important for the French people, so that's how the name was conceived.
Where there any preconceptions or thoughts the team had regarding certain navies and their doctrines, which were proved wrong when actually visiting the archives themselves?
Sure, as for misconceptions: they mostly appear when the team doesn't know a whole lot about the history of the navy on their own. For instance the Imperial Japanese Navy, for which there are only a handful of good, trustworthy authors who wrote works about that subject, let alone in English. The history of that country, the navy, its shipbuilding history is a tough topic, and not easily accesible. The history of Soviet shipbuilding is also an interesting one, and after visiting the Russian archives, the team discovered a whole lot of interesting stuff about shipbuilding between 1930 & 1950. For example: when you ask ship-fans about the Soviet cruisers, stuff like the Project 68b, Kirov,… will turn up. But the team has uncovered a whole tree of ship-designs, all part of families, of which each specifically suited for a certain task, which did shed a whole different light on their perception of Soviet naval design. They modified those plans a bit and adapted them into playable ships, which you can play in WoWS, like Budyonny(project 94), Shchors (project 28), which are added in the game.
Conway said that he knew that a lot of end of WW2/early fifties documents from the Russian navy are still classified as state-secret, how difficult was it to obtain these informations about ships?
The issue is that there are 2 major archives: a public one and a military one. The public one isn't such an issue, but the military one is, since it stores everything from 1941 until present day, and is located in a very small building. So the team had to work hard and find ways to "circumvent" that non-availability by using a lot of different sources & archives and puzzle stuff together, working from paper to paper. You can still get the info, but it's a whole lot (more) of work.
As for other nations, how do you gain access to the archives of let's say the US Navy. Is it free to visit, or was it more like a collaboration between WG & the Navy, or?
98% of these archives are completely open to the general audience, where you "just" have to follow the rules and regulations for obtaining the equivalent of the "researcher card", which grants you access to the archives and its contents. So almost all the data for the USN is just there, and can be harvested really easily. Some archives even have a service where you can request a researcher to do the research in the archives for you, you don't even have to be physically present. But WoWS has their own team, so they didn't need it.
Do you have much access to archives of small navies?
It depends, while he can't say which archives they visited, as that would shed a light on which navies might or might not appear in the game in the future, but most of them are as open as the archives of the large navies. The biggest problem is the language-barrier.
What are the weirdest, most impractical or downright laughable designs you encountered, and are there plans, if feasible, to include them in WoWS?
The designs for ships were not as ridiculous as for tanks, but there were some strange designs like British & French designs for submarines with heavy-cruiser guns mounted to it. In a Russian archive, they found a design of a shipyard, it was called "Project X" in 1935, which was inspired by the pocket-battleship, which was a heavy cruiser with 4 triple turrets with 240mm/60cal rifles, with heavy armour, triple torpedo tubes… And also had to carry 2 midget submarines and carry 9 planes. The Soviet Navy rejected it (after reviewing), finding it too costly and not fitting the goals the navy had. The ship had enough offensive power to conquer a small African country on its own (new FreeXP T9 Heavy cruiser confirmed!). The ship itself wasn't built, but the submarines called "Flea" were, and were actually tested in the Black Sea.
Why do some French warships have "park benches" on the decks?
It's a very simple answer, and I have a book with me to prove it. They were actually there in reality, there are a lot of pictures of sailors sitting on them,…
Have you ever accessed the original documents, or do you only use books, copy's & photo's?
It depends from archive to archive. Some archives have everything digitalised and don't allow visitors to handle the originals, others allow you to take pictures of the originals or of photo's,…
What do you do when most of the original sources & blueprints during the war? For example the Japanese designs
They do some research behind that, and while there only a few blueprints left, they can always count on the "shipbuilding school" of that nation, and it shows clearly in which way the designs went, which allows you to pretty accurately guesstimate the black holes the blueprints don't cover.
What is the actual design of the Hakuryu? It's known to be a modified Taiho, but what's more to it, how do you came to it?
The team planned to build a larger carrier than Taiho, so they used the G.15 project they found in an archive, also named Taiho-kai. It's not being pulled out of thin air.
What is your favourite CV-moment in the WW2 pacific theatre, what part of CV-history you find the most interesting and tell me a bit more about CV-design, architecture,… you are passionate about.
There were a lot of cruel battles there, as a historian I like the small facts that happened there, like USS Robin, which was a loaned by the British carrier in 1942 for half a year since the US hardly had any carriers of their own. The Japanese were surprised by its presence, since the Japanese knew exactly how many carriers the US had, and all of a sudden there is a new carrier they hadn't accounted for.
What was your favourite project (you can talk about) to work on There were several, like the working in Japan on the Japanese archives without any knowledge of the language. He also loves working with veterans, since first-hand knowledge is invaluable and very important to him. Apart from those:the firing of the guns on Belfast they had the privilege to do in May.
What features of Hakuryu made it that she was included, and not the Shinano
It's gameplay-related, with balance. You'd have to ask the balancing team. The historical team only suggests, the designers decide which ships they include and which not.
How are previously non-existing designs made for the game, like Henri IV, République,… The first & foremost rule is: they have to follow real pipeline, so the progression of ships would be logical. They don't simplify or adapt stuff, since they use the real knowledge of the WoWS-shipbuilding department they have on-site to make a ship that would actually float if it were to be build. They also analyse the real ships & plans from the adversaries' navies, to come up with a ship that would be able to counter those,… There was a race going on to come up with the better ships, so that also has to be translated in WoWS. For HIV & République, they work with what they knew of artillery systems, and if there were non-applicable, they would "modernise" an existing rifle to make it fit a more modern warship. That also means simulating and recalculating the ballistics of that new modernized gun to get a plausible result of performance. For more info: click
If you could get one historical captain in the game, who would it be, and why? He doesn't have a quick answer for it, but if he got to chose: it had to be a Canadian, so the first captain of Haida: Harry DeWolf, who did considerable damage to the Kriegsmarine. But there are a whole lot of historical commanders in WoWSLegends, which may or may not come to WowS in the future. The issue is that the rules regarding portraits & names differ wildly from country to country, and it's a legal hassle, so that's why they thread carefully regarding this matter.
Do you have any ideas for a historical female captain in WoWS? That's a tough one, since there were no female captains on warships at all, in not a single navy in the timeframe WoWS is set in. There were woman commanding civilian vessels during WW2. In the Soviet merchant fleet, there were quite a few woman who held command on their own ship.
How did you get this job? Were you interested in it, did you study for it? He has a historical background, his mother was a historical, and father & grandfather were in the merchant navy. He also likes games, so 1+1 = 3.
How do you do research on archives which are written in a language not spoken by anyone in the research team? Do you hire translators then?
It's actually relatively easy to read the international symbols for plans & ship designs. If you understand Russian plans, you'd also largely understand German, Italian,… languages. For the Polish navy it's not hard either, since they understand Polish. They also visited some Dutch museums in Den Helder, on invitation of the Dutch ministry of Defence, and while they don't know Dutch, the representative there helped greatly with impromptu translation. While nothing is guaranteed to come out of it, they found a lot of interesting stuff in there.
Has diving to known wrecks been considered to find missing information?
Most of them are considered protected graves, and are protected by law which prevents unauthorised visits. To actually get to visit it, you'd have to have a REALLY good reason to be granted a permission, and it will cost a lot both in money & resources. It's easier & cheaper to scour the archives than to organise a diving expedition.
What was the very first ship researched in WoWS? He only joined the team later, so he doesn't know, but he'll ask around.
What is the deciding factor what ship you are going to research, and what not?
The decisions made in the counsel between historical consultants and game designers. They have an initial vision of a techtree, and then they'll do a dig which fits in that vision well enough.
How is the research done for the carrier planes? The same as for the ships, but the planes are covered in more detail, since there are more books about it and other resources. Research for planes is way easier. Not all countries had enough actual carrier-borne planes, so they also dig in army-archives for possible adaptations for carrier-ships.
Where do designs like Izumo & FdG come from? They are a mixture of materials from archives, and what the WoWS ship designers come up with.
Do you know if the Soviet government was investigating carriers in the 1930's & 1940's. Yes, they had quite a lot of projects for those. Maybe not enough for a complete techtree, but still enough of plans & projects to be interesting. The same applies for the Germans.
What is the most impressive naval port you have researched, if you worked on it? I don't work on ports, that's what the historical consultants do together with the art department. My favourite port is (obviously) the St.Petersburg port.
How tough is it to be critiqued about historical inaccuracies when you made such a lot effort in making them Just have a tough skin.
What ship in-game is the furthest away from the original plan, which had to be adapted for balancing-reasons
The aircraft carriers mainly, since the mechanics have to be adopted to the gameplay, which demands sacrifices to the ships and their layout. It's the same for fictitious historical refits like for example on the German ships. Those refits are needed so the ships can compete with ships from the 1930's, and fight against planes, so they needed to adapt the ships to make them competitive. They use a plausible method though, for instance the AA on the Deutschland-class ships were used to "invent" the AA for the refits on the ships scuttled in 1919.
What are other gems of yours of the special designs you encountered?
The Japanese aircraft-carrying submarines, designed to sabotage the Panama-canal was also very interesting.
What about the Churchill-supercruisers?
It doesn't mean if it will be implemented, research is done pro-actively. But yes, I did look into these ships… maybe.
And Project Habbakuck, for PvE
They thought about it, because it was fun, and ridiculous.
How much fun did you have in researching the Kitakami, and how much joy it would bring to the game? Do you know Star Wars? Do you know Emperor Palpatine? That's the face we had 🙂
On HMS Hood, is the in-game armour scheme for the decks the historical one, or the 1942 refit one?
No idea, I'll have to look it up.
Was there a reason the Iron Duke was given a single funnel instead of the double funnel it historically had?
It was a decision made by the game designers and ship-builders.
How long did capital ships take to be build?
For HMS Hood, in-game it takes the better part of 6 months. In reality, it depended from navy to navy. Some where really fast, others slower. But around a year. The issue is that they were launched as empty hulks, and only then equipped. And shifting priorities and wars could interfere with the actual fitting out.
is there still secrecy involved to the archives
As already said: for the Russian navy there still is: either you have access or not. That's why we went for alternate methods of prying away information. For other nations it's readily available. Especially the French are very helpful, they have small plans for modellers readily available especially for them.
Have you used 3D-scanning techniques?
No, we use simple 2D camera's to take pictures, and then stitch them together on the computer. The subjects are too big to be 3D-scanned. In WoT they do use that technique in Bovington, Kubinka,… But for ships, it's easier to work with photo's and use plans.
Did you do some reseach on the German O-class?
It doesn't mean if it will be implemented, research is done pro-actively. But yes, I did look into these ships. For German ships, there is a truckload of stuff available to research.
How specific does a blueprint have to be to be considered?
We do research in the feasability of the ship, it ain't no use to "build" a ship if it would sink/collapse on itself. They found errors in blueprints in the USN, minor ones, but still errors.
Is the rumour true that getting plans for British ships were difficult to obtain?
Not at all, they could just buy the plans in Greenwich. The staff there was very friendly & helpful as well. Very inspiring to talk to them, work with them,…
© Post "[transcript]Warship History Stream, with MrConway, Crysantos & Sergey Gornostaev (Sr. Museums & Mil. Relations specialist)" for game World of Warships.
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