Wargaming, the studio behind the hit, now wants to see if it can duplicate that PC success on mobile, with World of Tanks Blitz.
A few other studios have tried to put their own version of World of Tanks on iOS, but no other studio has the tank-based experience of Wargaming.
Dmitry Yudo joined Wargaming in 2010 and has worked on several projects since.
In the early days of World of Tanks, Yudo oversaw the establishment of the company’s community department. After working on World of Warplanes as producer, Yudo was the perfect candidate to fill the producer role on Blitz.
The development team behind Blitz joined Wargaming in 2011, having previously been known as DAVA CONSULTING. The team was an independent mobile app developer and released their first app in 2008. Before joining Wargaming, DAVA CONSULTING’s apps amassed an install base of over 10 million.
"With World of Tanks, Wargaming has created a new niche in the MMO market," says Yudo. "Once we saw how successful the game had become, we decided to bring the experience to other platforms.
"The first step was World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition, which introduced the team-based tank PvP combat to console gamers.
Taking our signature gameplay to mobile was the logical next step.Dmitry Yudo
"Taking our signature gameplay to mobile was the logical next step. Recent technological advances in mobile game development had improved mobile hardware productivity, internet connection speed and opened doors for midcore gaming on mobile.
This was the perfect opportunity for us to bring World of Tanks to mobile."
Trying to squeeze a behemoth PC MMO onto mobile obviously comes with the need to make a few sacrifices. The trick is in knowing which units can be spared to still have an effective army.
Keeping the core
"We decided we needed to develop an MMO PvP game for the mobile devices while staying true to original World of Tanks gameplay," recalls Yudo.
"We worked diligently to make the game controls as easy and intuitive as World of Tanks, while providing stable server performance and internet connection.
"Minor gameplay differences were introduced to retain the essence of the mobile platform, so we’ve put ourselves at risk of being rejected by the fans of original World of Tanks. Fortunately, the final product was able to satisfy expectations of the PC gamers and make World of Tanks Blitz easy to play for the beginners and mobile gamers alike."
Development was focused on retaining the essence of Wargaming’s PC hit.
"I wouldn’t say that we lost anything, as we never intended to design a straight copy of World of Tanks PC for mobile," says Yudo.
"The master plan was to make a dynamic title with shorter game sessions while developing around the technical restrictions of mobile devices.
"That made World of Tanks Blitz a bit more of a simplified and intense MMO action with smaller teams - 7 versus. 7 instead of 15 versus 15 - smaller maps, simpler crew upgrade system, no SPGs, high-level light tanks, depots and barracks."
The shrunk down multiplayer is as smooth as any console experience on iOS. The choice to first launch on iOS was an easy one according to Yudo, with iOS being "less fragmented" than Android.
"This gave us the opportunity to test the game thoroughly on all possible iOS devices and deliver a triple-A product in a shorter time," he recalls.
"The other reason is that the DAVA team was very experienced in developing apps for iOS and their game engine was initially adjusted for iOS devices. Finally, the iOS market is larger than any other mobile market, so with the launch of mobile tanks we received direct access to a wide audience."
The most difficult aspect of development was in translating the feel of the game to touchscreen devices. Usually at home on a mouse and keyboard, this was no easy task.
We significantly increased the in-battle to in-game time ratio.Dmitry Yudo
"The touchscreen is considered to be less responsive than gamepad or mouse," says Yudo. "To shrink this gap and come up with a quality control setup, we tried several schemes and used multi-stage focus-group testing in many different countries.
"The current control system received positive feedback during the testing period and after release. Even with the favourable feedback we received, our plan is to continuously improve controls and will have enhancements to introduce in the near future.
"The setting and nature of the vehicles in World of Tanks Blitz helped with control development a lot. Tanks themselves are rather slow and inertial game units, so the number of taps per minute was easier to work with. We also created a number of additional control systems to aid new players.
"'Smart Auto-Aim' makes following the target and shooting in motion easier. 'Smart Sniper Mode' automatically calculates zoom level based on distance to the enemy. The current control scheme is intuitively understandable for beginners, yet flexible for experienced players."
Another aspect that had to be tweaked to suit mobile was how the game respects its players’ time.
"We designed World of Tanks Blitz as a lot more 'concentrated' game than World of Tanks, with minimal wait time and short, dynamic battle sessions.
By doing so, we significantly increased the 'in-battle' to 'in-game' time ratio. All the enhancements are based on the idea that the game is usually played on the go and players don’t have much time to wait for the next battle or to play a battle for 15 minutes."
All of this was achieved using the BigWorld server engine and the DAVA Framework engine.
The server side of Blitz is actually 95 percent identical to the one used in the PC game. The client side engine was created from scratch by the team and is a multiplatform solution. Both server and client engines are integrated with Wargaming.net ID and payment system.
Not everything was so identical throughout development, though; there were a few different prototypes for Blitz before Wargaming settled on the classic 3D game model.
We call it the free-to-win business model.Dmitry Yudo
Early on, there was a ‘sniper-mode-only’ and a ‘top-down’ prototype. After these early stages, the game stuck to its vision rigidly. It was all about translating the feel of World of Tanks to mobile, including Wargaming’s take on free-to-play.
"We have our own vision about the way free-to-play games should be designed," says Yudo.
"We call it the free-to-win business model or 'free-to-play done right'.
"World of Tanks, World of Warplanes and World of Tanks Blitz leave it up to players to decide whether they want to invest real-life money to purchase in-game items or invest time to earn in-game currency that also pays for the items.
"In Blitz there are no timers and players don’t have to pay for energy or fuel to proceed playing. We eliminated all the obstacles, and players may choose for themselves when and for how long they want to play. You can pay for extra comfort, but we sell no overpowered, ultimate weapon."
The next steps
When it comes to the many other games that have tried to ape World of Tanks’s success on mobile, Yudo says Wargaming didn’t worry about the competition - instead focusing on the strengths of its own giant.
"I don’t think it’s correct to compare our game with other mobile games about tanks. In many aspects, we introduced a game on a completely new level," he says.
"There is no other product on the mobile market that created tanks with such a degree of historical realism and meticulous attention to detail.
"World of Tanks Blitz has a precisely calculated physics model, elaborate damage system, huge volume of in-game content, a 100-percent security, and a polished PC-quality gameplay.
Of course, launch was only the first step. Updates, ranging from graphical and content enhancements are planned.
"We are focused on growing and evolving the game. We plan to introduce new content every few months and gradually add new combat modes including Missions and Events - similar to World of Tanks PC - along with original content for mobile as well as the Clan Wars meta game," Yudo says.
And the 'another' big step for is to release World of Tanks: Blitz for Android.
Although Wargaming is still analysing statistics, it looks like there’s a market for free tanks on mobile. World of Tanks Blitz has already made it onto the top 10 grossing apps in more than 20 countries for iPhone and more than 50 countries for iPad.
It’s safe to say the game hasn’t tanked.