Alex Shilyaev: Making of World of Tanks Blitz

What prompted you to launch the development of mobile MMO project?

There are many reasons for our expansion into the mobile space. The first being the recent trend in the mobile games industry—shifting from casual to more complicated and engaging games. The growth in gameplay and graphics quality has raised barriers to entry for new projects. It’s almost impossible to get to the top of mobile games with a simple and somewhat transient project.

World of Tanks Blitz, with its meticulous attention to detail and realism of both physical model and tactical battles, is a comprehensive project in line with the most recent trends of the industry. The game is based on the “easy to play, hard to master” principle where the control scheme is easy to use and understand, but true success within the game requires commitment.

Another reason is today’s technological advancements. The global advancements in both mobile hardware and broadband speeds allow 3D PvP gameplay to be implemented in real time, which is a rare feature for mobile games. BigWorld server technology has been a big boost for us in this department. The network part of the engine is highly productive and scalable, which allows even those with mediocre internet connection, a glitch-free game experience.

Finally, it was the success of World of Tanks on PC and World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition that inspired us for further exploration of platforms that used to be new for us. Our console version of World of Tanks was released back in February, so the time for the mobile version was now.

Why did you choose iOS, not Android, for primary launch?

When developing a technically complex game like World of Tanks Blitz, you have to account for a wide segmentation of devices on different platforms.

For Android, there is a huge variety of processors, screen resolutions, and OS versions that all need to go through the proper testing process. The range of iOS devices is much smaller, which allowed for a shorter testing period.

The second reason is financial: iOS market is larger than Android or any other mobile market.

What are the benefits of using Apple platform for both developers and users?

Developers find iOS attractive because of its low hardware and software fragmentation, which leads to a reduction in use of QA resources. Besides, iOS is a thriving platform—the recently announced Swift and Metal frameworks appear promising. We have already started to study Metal.

Users benefit from the polished iOS ecosystem that provides an excellent software-hardware bond with an intuitive interface, security, and wide variety of applications. I think this is the reason that makes so many users choose Apple products.

What are the strategic advances of your presence in App Store and on iOS devices?

The release of an iOS project is our second (after the launch of World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition) major step to the multiplatform paradigm of product development. Our presence in the App Store lays path to the massive audience, and launch on iOS gives us ultimate access to the innovative ecosystem with unrestrained opportunities for further development of our project.

How long did it take you to develop the game?

The idea to develop an MMO action game for the mobile platforms was first introduced in 2011; the development process itself took us two years.

Why so long?

The average development time for a mobile application is usually much shorter, but a project with this magnitude of detail and sophistication requires a much longer development timeline.

We encountered a few technical challenges on our path to release. For example, we had to integrate our server engine BigWorld with client DAVA Framework engine. It has been a challenge of exceptional scale.

Another challenge was the implementation of a faster registration via GameCenter. It was really time-consuming and required prolonged cooperation of a number of our departments. We are now proud to announce that it takes just one tap to register in World of Tanks Blitz.

Moreover, the quality of our products is always top priority, so we pushed back our deadlines to improve on the game’s elements and ran focus tests to ensure players like those new features.

How did you manage to adjust game controls to touch screen capabilities?

Controls are the most complicated element of mobile action games while developing, especially the online games. We were lucky enough that tanks themselves are rather slow and inertial vehicles, so the gameplay is not that hasty. Reflexes and sleight of hand are important, but not crucial to win. It’s far more important to dig in the battle tactics, work as a team, be familiar with a particular location and its key advantageous positions, and know the strengths and weaknesses of your vehicle and the vehicles of the opposition.

Controls themselves have a number of innovative solutions that will provide maximum in-game comfort for the player.

There is a “Smart Auto-Aim” mode that allows players to follow the target with the least amount of effort required that provides grounds for efficient shooting in motion.

“Smart Sniper Mode” automatically defines zoom level depending on a distance to the enemy.

The user interface can be manually adjusted. Based on personal preferences, users may set up the size and location of each battle interface element, switch off certain additional functions (that might be helpful for the more experienced players), and choose right or left hand configuration.

While working on screen controls for World of Tanks Blitz, we aimed at creating a system that is both easy-to-play for the beginners and fully flexible for the game pros. I believe we have managed to find that balance. Our work on game controls is not over and we will continue to deliver enhancements in future updates.

What is the principal difference of the gameplay in World of Tanks Blitz compared to World of Tanks (PC)?

Compared to the PC version of tanks, the density and intensity of combat in World of Tanks Blitz has increased at least twofold—player’s battle 7 versus 7 on scaled down maps. Game sessions are by far more dynamic: pre-battle waiting time is reduced from 30 to five seconds, and an average battle rarely lasts longer than four minutes with seven being the limit.

In World of Tanks Blitz, there are neither SPGs, nor fast high-level light tanks, which gives any battle a more positional and real-world-tanks slant compared to the PC version. At the same time, detailed server battle mechanics and unique maps designed from scratch allow us to achieve gameplay diversity and tactical depth comparable to the one of the original World of Tanks.

What are your plans for the further development of World of Tanks Blitz?

As soon as the game launches we will begin to compile user feedback for analysis. True to the nature of our company, we will follow the same update pattern that succeeded in World of Tanks: every few months the game will be upgraded by new locations, vehicles and gameplay elements. Eventually, we plan to add Clan Wars, skill system for tank crews, camouflages, and extended missions and events.