The universe of World of Warcraft has accumulated millions of fans across the globe, with the PC installment of the game being the best-selling game of both 2005 and 2006. In addition to this success, the franchise has a dedicated community across its games and collective miniatures.
Fans finally got a taste of the Warcraft universe on mobile when Hearthstone was ported to iOS and Android, but there's a new mobile game packed with Warcraft IP to dive into.
Blizzard Entertainment's Warcraft Rumble is a mobile strategy game set within the Warcraft universe where players can collect iconic minis and bring them to life in battles against popular bosses and characters from the Warcraft world.
Warcraft Rumble was due to be released today alongside their popular BlizzCon event. However, the game was released a day early and was made available on iOS and Android yesterday.
We had the chance to chat with Warcraft Rumble’s senior animator, Carin Huurnink and senior game designer, Brendan Farrell, to discuss the creative process behind creating a mobile title set in the much-loved world of Warcraft. We also touch on the advantages that mobile brings and what to expect from future content in Warcraft Rumble.
Pocketgamer.biz: Warcraft Rumble was announced in 2022, but how long has the game actually been in development?
Brendan Farrell: We can’t give an exact amount of time but it has been something that people at Blizzard have wanted to see happen for a long time now. A lot of our teammates have been very excited to be working on it, and we’re really passionate about the time we’ve spent on it!
It’s really exciting to bring traditional things from World of Warcraft into Warcraft RumbleBrendan Farrell
And what has it been like for the team to work with the Warcraft IP?
Carin Huurnink: I was super excited to be starting on a game with the Warcraft IP because I’m a big World of Warcraft player. To be able to put that world that I’ve been part of since I was young into a mobile game, which is something you can play on the go, is super exciting to me and a pleasure to work on.
I’ve loved trying to get little anecdotes from World of Warcraft into our game. For example, the bark beasts in World of Warcraft have this little idle animation, which for me, has always been an iconic movement to see - it’s very recognisable, and I really wanted to transfer those little anecdotes into our game.
Brendan Farrell: I absolutely share Carin’s feelings. I’m really passionate about the Warcraft universe. I grew up playing it, as did so many on the team. World of Warcraft has these massive talent trees that are very complex, and they’re a great way to express how you play the game and how you want your character to interact with the world, so we brought those to Warcraft Rumble. These work with the minis that you collect, and you're able to play on the field. There are three talents for each mini, so it’s really exciting to bring traditional things from World of Warcraft into Warcraft Rumble.
We have a lot of entertaining modes and features that take the excitement of the Warcraft Universe and distil that down into a mobile experience.Brendan Farrell
How well do you feel the Warcraft IP fits this format on mobile? Does the existing Warcraft audience suit this genre and style?
Brendan Farrell: I know everyone on the team feels that it’s very compatible. It’s been a challenge to take World of Warcraft and say, how do we take that and make it fun and accessible for the mobile platform, but we always find a way to do it, and we’ve had a ton of fun with it. In Warcraft Rumble, we have a lot of entertaining modes and features that take the excitement of the Warcraft Universe and distil that down into a mobile experience.
Are there other advantages to having this as a mobile title?
Brendan Farrell: In the past, if you wanted to play World of Warcraft, you had to do that on a PC. Hearthstone came out, which was a great way to take bits of World of Warcraft with you. Rumble is another way to do that. There’s also something really nice and tactile about taking these minis and tapping and dragging them onto the field. It feels like it's an actual arcade machine in front of you, and you’re actually picking them up and placing them on the field. I think that sort of sensation would not be as apparent on a PC or console.
How about creative design? How do you handle the Warcraft universe when making design and narrative decisions?
Brendan Farrell: It’s a lot of fun. There are so many things to pull from in this IP and so much content and inspiration to take from. It’s fun to have these little bits of lore from World of Warcraft like we have Mograine and Whitemain, two bosses from the old Scarlet Monastery dungeon, and we put those into a mission. There are lots of fun little jokes and nods to the original World of Warcraft.
Carin Huurnink: One thing I especially like about the strategy part of our game is that there is not one single army that you can simply blast through the campaign with. You could if you really want to, but it’s best to make a variation of your army and find new synergies. Every mission has its own puzzle that you have to solve with the minis you have available in the game, which is really fun to explore.
One thing that is pretty challenging from the beginning is developing an art style that is both appealing and readable on a mobile device.Carin Huurnink
Were there any particularly challenging aspects of the design of the game?
Carin Huurnink: On the art side, one thing that is pretty challenging from the beginning is developing an art style that is both appealing and readable on a mobile device. We started with a very detailed look, sort of similar to Warcraft Three, but once you see that on the device with tons of units fighting each other, it’s tough to tell which unit is doing what and even what unit it is because the style isn't fitted for a mobile device.
So we really dove into that and eventually developed a style that has clear silhouettes and colour blocks. So, in the beginning, it was a challenge to develop, but I think we really succeeded in that because now it’s effortless to distinguish units from each other.
To expand on that, how are the advances in mobile devices helping you craft your vision for the game?
Brendan Farrell: It’s been great. I remember working on mobile games in the past, and there are always limits, right? But to see those limits get higher is fantastic. There are things in our game that I feel like ten years ago on mobile just wouldn't have come across as well.
Carin Huurnink: Absolutely. Years ago, I couldn't have imagined having facial expressions on characters in a mobile game. The skeleton that we use to move our 3D model used to be very simple, and over the past ten years, it has evolved so much that we have far better control over the character and can add many more details to the animation. It makes me very happy as an artist to have more tools to work with.
We have seen other high-profile games of this genre attached to big IPs, but what makes Warcraft Rumble unique? Where will it find its success?
One of the things that’s great about being able to develop this game is bringing the Warcraft Universe to a mobile device because it allows players to enter the universe in a new way.Carin Huurnink
Brendan Farrell: I think it being based in the Warcraft Universe is, of course, a way to draw people in. We hope to bring in a lot of fans who have been playing with Warcraft and already have love for that to our game. But what we also hope is true is that it’ll be accessible and approachable to people who love mobile games in general, even if they’re not familiar with the Warcraft Universe. We hope those players find this an enjoyable entryway into Warcraft.
Something that I think is really important about Warcraft Rumble is that while we do have options for items you can buy with real money every piece of content is accessible for free. So all you have to do is play the game, and eventually, you will have everything available in the game, and you can unlock it without spending any money.
In addition to those accessibility aspects you mentioned, are there other things you are doing to onboard totally new players?
Brendan Farrell: So we do this in a couple of ways. I think a really exciting thing to talk about is our tutorial guide. Her name is Nomila. She is there to greet you when you first enter the game, and she’s your tutorial guide who takes you through the basics. On the very first level, we show players who may or may not have any understanding of World of Warcraft a boss and some enemies that have different qualities about them, and then we show the player how you counter each of those qualities. So, we’re hoping this experience guides players to slowly get a better understanding of the different mechanics and strategies available to them.
Our goal is to continue to have the game like a living, breathing place for players to come and have fun.Brendan Farrell
Carin Huurnink: I think one of the things that’s great about being able to develop this game is bringing the Warcraft Universe to a mobile device because it allows players to enter the universe in a new way because not everybody has a computer at home. I just think it’s great that I can play it on the go wherever I’m travelling.
And finally, what is the team's approach to live ops? How will the team continue to support the game?
Brendan Farrell: Our goal is to continue to have the game like a living, breathing place for players to come and have fun. We intend to always come out with new content, whether that’s new minis, talents for those minis, or new dungeons and missions. So, we plan to keep coming out with that type of content. We’ll continue to listen to players and feedback when we add new features.