Since its release in June of 2013, World of Tanks Blitz has been taking the mobile world by storm, and with its recent release on the Android platform complete with cross-platform play, we wanted to figure out what it was exactly that makes World of Tanks Blitz a unique mobile and tablet experience.
We recently spoke with Dmitry Yudo about what it took to bring World of Tanks Blitz to Android, and now we’re looking at how the team extracted the raw elements that makes World of Tanks such a hit and crafted them into a standalone game on a mobile and tablet platform.
What was the most difficult element while developing World of Tanks Blitz? How is that different from World of Tanks PC?
Sure thing. Designing controls was the most difficult thing for us. It’s always the case with mobile action games, especially in real time. The fact that tanks in their essence are slow and sluggish vehicles did help us a lot. We intentionally tried to slow down the pace in game to make it comfortable to control the vehicle on a touch device. Player’s precision and reflexes are still important, but they are no longer a decisive factor. This is what makes the game so unique. It’s far more important to understand battle tactics—know the map with its lanes and choke points, coordinate with the team, take advantage of your vehicle’s strong sides, determine the weak spots of the enemy team, etc.
Back to the controls. We’ve done a few innovations that were supposed to “ease user’s pain” when controlling the tank on touch. The game has an auto-aiming system, which helps lead the target minimizing the number of swipes and fire on the move more effectively.
The smart-zoom system automatically determines zoom level depending on the distance to an enemy tank. Selecting zoom level manually on touch would have been painful.
We’ve designed controls to be flexible and adjustable—a user can change HUD layout, enable/disable some auxiliary functions (useful for experienced players—secondary fire button, look-around area), switch between right-hand and left-hand. At the same time, we wanted the controls system to be as friendly for newcomers as possible.
During the development we studied what other PVP action games on mobile have to offer and verified our intermediate results using usability testing. Eventually, we’ve got one of the best controls in the genre out there. The best reward is the very few complaints about controls we received after the release, and on the contrary players often say our system is excellent.
Does a mobile platform like iOS or Android allow you to try and implement more features/mechanics in World of Tanks Blitz and would this be more challenging on a PC format?
From a development standpoint, World of Tanks Blitz is rather close to its elder brother, World of Tanks PC. And World of Tanks Blitz has comparable architectural complexity—it’s the BigWorld engine on the server-side and proprietary cross-platform engine Dava Framework on the client side. There’s multiple auxiliary web services, SDKs, and integrations. I think there are very few mobile games on a similar scale, quality and complexity out there.
As far as our development approach is concerned, in World of Tanks Blitz we tried to be bold, and ready for experiments, adaptations, and mobile-specific features.
The game is tailored to the needs of a mobile player who is used to short game sessions. That’s why in Blitz we’ve implemented 4-times smaller maps and 7x7 battles up to 7 minutes each (usually 3–5 minutes).
We’ve also made a number of simplifications to make the game friendlier to new players, especially to those with no prior World of Tanks PC experience. This includes:
- Support for quick, single-tap registration native for mobile platforms
- Focus on battle and garage tutorials to smooth onboarding
- In Blitz, players can get x2 victory experience up to 3 times a day
- In Blitz, we don’t have barracks and depot
- There is only one crew in-game that drives all vehicles, no retraining and switching between tanks.
We have recently added one-time offers—specially triggered offers with heavily discounted premium tanks and premium accounts. A similar offer is displayed when a non-premium player just had a good battle.
Generally, World of Tanks Blitz conceptually is very much the same as World of Tanks PC; however, there are a lot of differences when it comes to detail and exact implementation of particular features. Players with prior World of Tanks PC experience will definitely understand Blitz much quicker than complete newcomers, and at the same time they will notice all the changes we’ve made.
What were some of the most significant changes to World of Tanks Blitz from World of Tanks, and why did these changes happen?
I’d say the most significant changes comparing to PC version are the following:
There’s a focus on a smooth onboarding experience, from single-tap registration to the garage tutorial. Right now we are working to improve this part further, especially registration and the early game experience.
The overall presentation has been simplified; it’s a cleaner, “designed for touch” UI. We’ve reworked the entire HUD and garage interface for touch to fit nicely, even on rather small 4 inch iPhones.
We definitely had to simplify some game concepts like crew and barracks. While doing so, it’s of primary importance to maintain instant feedback on actions users do in the game—with animations, sounds, notifications, tips, etc. As for the presentation part, that’s one of the things we will be improving in the coming updates. The goal is to create the right mood in the game for players: whether they win or lose, they’ll want to jump right back in.
We also slowed things down while increasing density. Compared to PC battles, in World of Tanks Blitz, we have approximately two times more tanks per map square unit. The battles have generally become more dynamic—less wait time during starting counter, quick first contact, 3–4 minutes of fighting (with a 7 minute cap). Balance-wise, we slowed tanks down a bit to make it more comfortable for players to control them using touch. That’s why in Blitz battles tend to be more “tankish” and there are no fast scouts.
What features/design choices are important to people who play mobile/tablet games like Blitz?
You’d better ask the players! Well, definitely the majority of them appreciate easy, intuitive controls. Usually they don’t even pay attention to controls at all, which is a good sign. Also, automated help systems do a good job aiding new players to get used to the game.
Our 7vs7 7 min capped battle format on smaller maps worked out perfectly. It fits a mobile play pattern nicely, and allows for quick, engaging battles. Even though World of Tanks Blitz is not exactly a “starbucks queue” type of game, it’s perfectly playable in short breaks, during wait times, both at home and on the road.
Both garage UI and battle HUD are designed with a high quality user experience in mind. This is a really big deal. Since World of Tanks Blitz is a rather complex game (in a good way), we wanted to translate this complexity to players in the most efficient manner, ensuring we have as smooth a learning curve for all players as possible. I think we succeeded on this front as well.
These are probably the key ones.
World of Tanks Blitz owes a lot to its predecessor for laying some exciting foundations that the team have built upon to create a unique and engaging mobile game, which they’re continuing to expand on. And there’s still lots of cool and exciting stuff in store for our users in the future.
So if you want loads of great news and info on World of Tanks Blitz, check out the website.
Or why not jump right in to some fast and furious tank warfare?