Military games always strive to make their in-game equipment as true as possible to their real-life equivalents. I’ve visited the offices of both Obsidian Entertainment (for Armored Warfare) and Wargaming (for World of Warplanes) and on each trip, their staff told me great stories about the steps they took to make their combat vehicles as close to the real things as they could. Both stressed that they take every legal means possible to obtain specs for their chosen vehicles, poring through declassified documents and sometimes even going to fans to hash out the finer details.
But what happens when a fan offers up classified intel? Well, that’s when the government comes along and, in no uncertain terms, says, “Knock it off.”
The UK Defense Journal reports that a War Thunder player who claimed to be a real-life Challenger 2 tank commander and gunnery instructor took issue with the specs for the mantlet (armour housing around the main gun) for the game’s version of the Challenger 2. To prove his point, he posted to the forums the UK’s Army Equipment Support Publication — essentially a user manual for the vehicle — which showed the exact specifications of the area in question.
One problem, though: As should be obvious by the forum poster’s claim of his profession, the Challenger 2 is still in service with the British military, and those specs are treated as classified info by the UK government. This is the case despite the scanned document having its “‘UK RESTRICTED’ label crossed out and a stamp of ‘UNCLASSIFIED’ added,” as UKDJ put it.
Soon afterward, his post was deleted and a forum moderator informed everyone that Gaijin Entertainment had been in contact with the Ministry of Defence, which confirmed that the manual in question was indeed still classified. Illegally disseminating it could carry up to a 14-year prison sentence, the moderator said. There’s no word on whether the forum poster has faced any consequences for his action — and it’s likely we’ll never find out.
In any case, let this serve as a lesson to all aspiring developers looking to make a game about real-life vehicles: The next time someone offers you what could be classified information, just respond, “No, tanks.”