Interview with the World of Tanks Blitz Art Team
In the run-up to the global release of World of Tanks Blitz we conducted a series of interviews with the teams involved in the development of the game. First we had the chance to talk with two guys from the Art department: Andrew Nikolaenko (Team Lead 3D Artist) and Alexey Korzenev (Level Artist). They told us about their work and gave us some info on the peculiarities of mobile game development.
Andrew Nikolaenko Alexey Korzenev
Please tell us what the specifics of your work in the World of Tanks Blitz team are?
Andrew: There are three of us in the team and we are involved in the creation of game content for World of Tanks Blitz and, in particular, the creation of 3D models of tanks. In fact, we do not create content from scratch but take the tanks, which are available to World of Tanks PC edition players, and rework/adjust them to our mobile platform. Sometimes our colleagues from Kiev help, especially with some urgent tasks.
Alexey: My colleagues and I create maps and the content for them: trees, fences, buildings, hangars, etc. In brief, we create the ambience that surrounds the player and what that player sees. Five staff members work with maps and one additional member of staff is in charge of the effects. One employee from the Game Design department also works with us; he helps during the entire work cycle, starting with the creation of the design document, up to the final release of the map.
What are the peculiarities of game development for mobile platforms?
Andrew: At first glance our work is simple: make the tank 2-3 times smaller compared to World of Tanks PC version. In reality, the scope of the work is the same as if we were developing the tanks from scratch. Here there are many specific hidden pitfalls. Mobile platforms have a much lower performance than modern PCs and we have to take this into account. Some things we omit, some things we rework and we often change textures, resolution and model details.
Alexey: The behavior of the in-game camera on our maps became a major aspect of our work. It is completely different in the mobile version of the game. We had to find the ideal balance between “beautiful” and “playable”. At first we created very beautiful detailed objects but the in-game camera kind of clung to them. Therefore, when working with urban maps, for instance, we had to carefully and accurately develop all the small objects (such as balconies and offsets) and make them in such a way that the camera moved smoothly without spoiling the game’s processes. One more point to mention here is the difference in lighting when comparing World of Tanks Blitz and World of Tanks on PC. During our work with World of Tanks Blitz, we first used the technologies that PC game developers used way back in the distant 2000s. But in the last half a year we had the opportunity to implement dynamic lighting in World of Tanks Blitz. Now everything looks much better.
Could you please tell us more about map creation?
Alexey: The process takes roughly a month or two. At the beginning, we select the location for the battles: China, Europe, the US – the things we will need to add to create the map depend on this initial choice of setting. Then we make a draft model of the map which we test and on which we drive the tanks to see if all the details are functioning and if we are happy with them. After that, the map is sent to development; items are added to it and, in their turn, textures are put on them which we take either from our library or design from scratch. The entire process of one map’s creation is within the responsibility of one staff member only.
How are tanks added to the game?
Andrew: It is as easy as “1, 2, 3”! We create a model of the tank, put textures on it and, with the help of a resource editor, add the tank on the map. If we see that tank reviews and adjustments are needed, we continue making corrections so that we and Alexey’s team are satisfied with the results. We also have special programs which check the accuracy of the models during the process of their creation. One such program checks if our models correspond to the tanks on the PC version of World of Tanks. Additionally, we try to use effects from World of Tanks PC version, like mud from the tracks, blazes of fire, flashes etc. Players coming across from our World of Tanks PC version will want to see the same tanks which they got used to playing in that game!
Do you interact and communicate with other teams from Mobile Development?
Andrew: Yes - it's necessary and important. When the model of a tank is prepared, we pass it to our QA team for checking and testing. The QA guys send us bug-reports which we use to fix the bugs. Moreover, we communicate not only via e-mail and various instant messenger programs but also meet each other face-to-face.
Alexey: On a daily basis we converse with all sorts of people, from the Framework department to the QA team. During our interaction and work on maps, we come up with many new ideas. It often appears that in 50% of cases we are the requesters of new “features” from the programmers department. We ask them to add additional options and tools to our editor, which allows all content to be created.
How do you manage to include all those small details?
Andrew: We constantly pass each other models of tanks for quick review. If one person misses a particular detail, another colleague might notice, fix and add the missing part.
Alexey: We also share the results with each other. Sometimes we arrange special play-tests: we get together at the end of the day and play World of Tanks Blitz for an hour. It's really easy to find out about bugs this way.
How is it possible to achieve such realism in World of Tanks Blitz taking into account the relative low performance of mobile platforms?
Andrew: The normal technology and specular map embedded in the World of Tanks Blitz engine by the Framework team helps us with realism. For example, with help of a norm, we managed to make our tanks look solid and dimensional. Apart from that, dynamic image effects are present in the game. While in motion, tank looks much more realistic than if they are static.
What is the most distinctive thing about working in your department?
Andrew: It just so happens, that our team is like a second family for each of us. It is, in fact, one of the most important factors for the successful work of the entire department.
Alexey: I completely agree with Andrew! We try to keep that family atmosphere which we developed over the years. We have such a friendly atmosphere in the department so that guys from other teams come round and see us often.
Have mobile games changed the world?
Andrew: Yes but I don’t know if they changed it for the worse or for the better. I can definitely say that they have become more available. For example, my children like to play World of Tanks Blitz, they even take away my tablet. Maybe I would prefer to see my children playing outdoors with other kids or riding a bicycle but that is our modern world: there are a lot of gadgets surrounding us. From another perspective, there is a positive quality to all this – there are more opportunities to learn things. So time will tell how the world will be changed with all these mobile devices.
Alexey: Due to the mobile devices, games themselves have become more available for a wider circle of people. Before the situation was that only few people had PCs on which they could play; the whole thing has become even handier. I’m glad that we live and work in such a world.
Do you dream about tanks or maps?
Andrew: That's actually happened to me! I remember when our functionality and opportunities were extended, we had to rework all the things that were already completed in one go. When I closed my eyes, I saw nothing but tanks, many tanks. Now I feel much better and I don’t have dreams like that any more.
Alexey: I had my university exams in my dreams earlier. Tanks and maps haven’t yet visited me or at least I don’t remember it happening.
In their free time, Andrey plays in our hockey team “The Wargamers” as a defender and Alexey is involved in building the house where he lives with his family.