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TO Insider Series: Meet Vladimir Kovtun

Vladimir “VKSpaz” Kovtun – Lead Game Designer of Tanki Online – “The requirements for a game designer are some of the strictest in the industry”

In this edition of the TO Insider Series, you will be meeting Vladimir “VKSpaz” Kovtun — the man who makes Tanki Online’ heart pound, and its blood flow. Vladimir is our Lead Game Designer. In this interview, he shares with us how at a very young age, he was already crafting ways to entertain his friends with a variety of games, and how he turned this passion into a very rewarding career. Vladimir also gives his insight into what it’s like to take on this challenging role, and what it takes to get there.

Please introduce yourself. What is your job at Tanki Online?
My name is Vladimir “VKSpaz” Kovtun and I am Lead Game Designer at Tanki Online.

What are the responsibilities of a game designer?
This is one of the most controversial questions I can think of! A game designer is like a clown in a circus. He or she must be capable of doing nearly everything — writing technical documentation, developing contests, a game’s economy, balance, in-game items, tuning parameters, designing in-game subsystems and so much more — keeping all of these things in the air without dropping them.

Therefore, the requirements for a game designer are some of the strictest in the industry. You need to be skilled in a number of totally different spheres to be really successful.

How did you get started in the games industry?
Working in the games industry was always my biggest dream as a kid. However, I never considered it an impossible goal, so I set about making it happen as soon as I could. Having said that, I didn’t get into the business overnight!

I started playing video games at age 3. By the time I was 9, I was entertaining my schoolmates with hundreds of different ways to pass the time in real-life games. And by the time I turned 14, I had already been the head of a table games club in my hometown.

The dream was always near and I made it come true step by step without any doubt or hesitation. I wanted to create games, and I created them using anything I could find, even paper! When I didn’t have anything at my disposal, I was busy dreaming up ideas for new games. In the end, I managed to become a member of the Tanki Online team and turned my dream into reality.

How did you get started at Tanki Online?
The story is as simple as it gets. I saw a vacancy on an online forum, the banner caught my eye immediately, I clicked on the link and soon after, I got the job!

What makes Tanki Online unique?
Lots of things! You can’t simply name one or two, but I’ll try! People — our developers and players — are very important. The game simply wouldn’t exist without them. The principles of our company are unique in themselves too. We are very sensitive to the happiness of our players and we spend a lot of time thinking about how to keep them that way. We are committed to creating simple and easy to learn arcade style gameplay that magically transforms new players into really skilled and professional users before they know it.

On the features front, the game is also quite unique in that it uses a single currency, as opposed to the double currency model most F2P games use. It is also fully 3D, despite being browser-based. As for the gameplay, every gun is totally different and unique. And the fact that it’s so quick and easy to start playing, makes Tanki Online really stand out from the crowd.

I believe that every one of these details is crucial, and they all come together to operate as a system in Tanki Online. You can’t name one or two things as the best or most unique, but the game would be totally different without any one of these tiny parts making up the whole.

What do you think the F2P-market will look like in 5 years?
I think it will change. Ideas and discussions have been flying around for a long time now. Many argue that the right path for the future of F2P lies somewhere on the border between F2P and P2P. I think that while the mixing of these two monetization principles may broaden the horizon for game designers, we shouldn’t spend too much time examining the potential of what might be; we need to shape that future ourselves.

Can you offer any advice to gamers who wish to establish themselves in the games industry?
Yes, it’s really simple. Playing games won’t be enough. You need to have the desire to understand how games function, what’s inside them and why they are designed one way and not another.

If you’re already making modifications for games, trying to understand how it all functions, delving into the parameters and values of memory, you are on the right path to your dream career!

How much time do you spend getting acquainted with other games and studying them? Do you spend your free time doing that or do you only do that at work?
I don’t do that kind of thing at work; only in my spare time, which is no more than 2-3 hours a day. Family and kids are just as important to me.

Which of your favourite bands and performers could you recommend as soundtrack for Tanki Online?
I’m not great at sound engineering and things like that so I wouldn’t be able to suggest anything for a soundtrack. But whenever I play Tanki Online, I always listen to ‘Finntroll’ — perfect harmonies and endless drive!

How do you spend your free time when not working at Tanki Online?
I read a lot of fiction and professional literature; in fact, I’m always on the hunt for new books. I also love walking and playing with my kid and am currently creating my own little game as a hobby!