Geschrieben von Erik Radtke am 30.10.2020
Following the release of World of Tanks Blitz for the Nintendo Switch, we had the opportunity to interview Thaine Lyman, the General Manager of Wargaming Mobile. Not only did he give us insights in the development process and the challenges the team had to face, he also addresses the pay-to-win claims and discusses his personal highlights of the game. In World of Tanks Blitz you are battling with many tanks from different nations to win short matches. Teamwork and tactics are the key to success.
Erik Radtke: With the original World of Tanks for PC and World of Tanks Valor releasing for Xbox One and PlayStation – why did Wargaming choose to bring the mobile version World of Tanks Blitz to the Nintendo Switch instead of World of Tanks Valor?
Thaine Lyman: Right now, the Nintendo Switch is one of the hottest consoles around and it shows no signs of slowing down. But there’s more to it than that: our core values are very much the same. We both believe you should be able to play wherever you are, whenever you want, and the Switch audience is dynamic, just like our own.
Additionally, Blitz is a “mobile-first” game that has been designed for portable platforms, and our goal is to make our game accessible to every gamer out there, no matter their platform preference.
Erik Radtke: Besides the limited power of the Nintendo Switch, what was the biggest challenge when developing a game for this system?
Thaine Lyman: We spend a lot of our time and effort improving and optimizing the game so that every one of the approximately 29,000 different mobile devices handles the game well, so what’s the harm in adding another platform! Compared to some mobile devices that we support, the Switch has good specs, and of course, one additional benefit is that each Switch has the same base specs, which makes things a lot easier.
Our team has a wealth of experience in creating a cross-platform experience and porting Blitz to different platforms. What really took us some time was digesting all the documentation we were provided and making sure the controls felt natural, easy-to-use and responsive. Whether you play with mouse and keyboard, using touchscreen controls or the Joy-Cons, they all have to feel right. While it was a new experience for us as Blitz is the first game to take to the Switch, Nintendo were really supportive throughout the development process.
Erik Radtke: World of Tanks Blitz was first released in May 2014. The Nintendo Switch hit shelves in 2017. When did you first think about bringing World of Tanks Blitz to the Nintendo Switch and why?
Thaine Lyman: We’ve been watching the Switch since it launched in 2017 as this “mobile console” hybrid looked like something very interesting and ambitious, and we’ve been impressed with how it’s grown its audience over time. Last year, we decided that we were going to port the game to Switch and the process from the discussions to the release took about a year. The preparations started basically right away, and we got our hands on the first dev-kits around January or February this year.
Erik Radtke: World of Tanks Blitz is very different from the other two World of Tanks games. What is special about Blitz? Is there something players can experience in the version that they can't experience on the PC or other consoles?
Thaine Lyman: The main difference between us and the console and PC versions is our more light-hearted approach to historical realism and a bigger focus on getting right into the action. The game’s easy to pick-up and play, it’s dynamic and requires just 3-5 minutes to complete one battle. But it still keeps the depth of progression, the arsenal of iconic vehicles and need for tactics that its PC and console brethren are known for.
We like to let our minds run riot when coming up with new ideas, whether that be a new tank, game mode or event. We like to dream up crazy scenarios or different realities and mold vehicles to fit these innovative concepts. And one other thing we love to do: we love to collaborate with artists around the world. In the past we’ve worked with Peter Pound (Mad Max: Fury Road), Kunio Okawara (Gundam and Brave Series franchises) and Brett Parson (Tank Girl).
In the same vein, we like to bend the rules of the physics in game and really play with our players’ concept of the World of Tanks Blitz universe with innovative limited-time game modes. For example, we allowed players to experience low-gravity and free-flowing physics while battling for superiority on the Moon in Gravity Games and Mad Games allowed players to turn themselves invisible for a short period of time and heal themselves with a vampiric shot. We release new modes like this on a regular basis to give our players new and entertaining ways to play and to keep the experience fresh.
While it may seem crazy to those who’ve not picked up Blitz or know World of Tanks on PC or console, this is the stuff our community loves. They love the weird concoctions and experiments we come up with and we really appreciate hearing how much they enjoy them.
Erik Radtke: What is your favorite aspect about World of Tanks Blitz? Which tank do you like most and why?
Thaine Lyman: Pretty much, my favorite aspect of Blitz is the level to which we push the boundaries. We took the core ideas from World of Tanks on PC but pushed it in a more over-the-top direction and cranked the gameplay speed up to 11. But the core remains the same: players can expect a huge roster of awesome looking, faithfully rendered tanks that make them feel powerful and reward tactical thinking, not just raw thumbskill.
As for favorite tanks, well that’s a hard one. I don’t really have one favorite, but there’s a whole bunch of tanks I like; you could call me a “carnivorous player”. I like heavy tanks: at high tiers the IS-7 is one of my favorites, and anybody who likes to play the heavies loves to jump in on the German Tier X Maus, one of the most iconic tanks in our game! I also really love the French superlights, before they break off into the light-mediums, and the one that stands out for me is the AMX 13 90 (the Tier VIII French light). I can rattle off a few more: The KV-1 and KV-1S mid-tier Soviet heavies, the Jackson and Hellcat American TDs. Honestly, I have found super fun tanks across all of our different lines and tiers, and the interesting thing to me is that some of the tanks I personally hate to play are among other people in the studio’s favorites, and vice versa. There’s plenty of variety to cater to different players’ skill levels and playstyles.
Erik Radtke: Some players consider World of Tanks Blitz to be a pay-to-win game. What do you think about that?
Thaine Lyman: There’s no killer tank in the game that you can just purchase and leave everyone in your path a smouldering wreck. The game is designed in a way that skill, strategy and teamwork will triumph against any “super” weapon, tank or shell. I can say that we are trying to bring value first to our players and that this is the biggest focus for us. We tend to develop new modes, maps, tanks, etc. and we believe that if the players think there’s value here, the money will follow. We want to give people an option to make their tank look cool, offer them more variety with Premium vehicles or allow them to progress faster through our Premium Account. However, you can’t simply make these purchases and become an unstoppable, unbeatable foe.
Erik Radtke: What makes you proud when you think about the World of Tanks Blitz Nintendo Switch port?
Thaine Lyman: One thing we’re really proud of is that we’re the first Wargaming title to ship on any Nintendo platform. And of course, I’m proud of all the effort the team put in: it started as a passion project for some of the development team, they wanted to see if they could make it work. They began experimenting with the console and when we saw what they were able to do with it, we quickly made it an “official” project and started to grow the team to support it. While doing all this, we still continued to go full steam ahead with the core features for the other platforms. And we take great pride in that right from launch, the Switch version of Blitz has every feature that our other platforms have, including full cross-platform play. There were no compromises here.
Erik Radtke: Do you have future plans regarding the Nintendo Switch? Did you consider porting World of Warships Blitz for example?
Thaine Lyman: Right now, we are fully focusing on making Blitz and the game experience on Nintendo Switch the best it can be. This is our team’s biggest priority for this platform.
Erik Radtke: There are some differences compared to the PC version of World of Tanks Blitz. Why did you choose to cut some Swedish tanks and combine them with other European tanks in the Nintendo Switch version?
Thaine Lyman: Yeah, in World of Tanks Blitz we do indeed have a different tech tree infrastructure. Some time ago, we made the decision to cut the number of low-tier tanks, so each nation starts with just one line from Tier I to IV and the splits into multiple lines through to Tier X. By making this adjustment, it really simplifies and standardizes the Tech Trees for all nations, and for newer players, it really helps them settle into the game that bit easier. The tidied Tech Trees also contributes to a more diverse gameplay as we reduced the number of tanks which play very similarly.
Erik Radtke: You have worked for Activision in the past and were part of the Call of Duty team. What has changed the most in your worklife while working for Wargaming Mobile?
Thaine Lyman: Great question! It’s been one hell of a journey from Los Angeles and “boxed product” retail payment model games to the other side of the world and free-to-play, and now mobile gaming. Of course, my teammates now come from many different cultures that I didn’t have much exposure to before and bring different viewpoints and ways of doing things. I think that the diversity of our team, though, has become a great strength for us now. We’ve got people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures in the studio: whether from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, from western countries, from Asia, and others. Having this eclectic mix of people helps us gather different ideas of what makes for great gameplay and how to solve problems and get the best out of the team. Now we have more ideas for how to work and less blind spots about what different gamers around the world like.
Erik Radtke: Do you think the Nintendo Switch version is a success? Are you satisfied with the download numbers so far?
Thaine Lyman: We’re happy with our launch. Nintendo players have shared very positive feedback on the game, and this is great to hear. But you know, we don’t want to rest on our laurels: we’re looking to make it an even bigger success in the future.
In GaaS, the launch of the product is just the beginning, not the end: it’s always a work-in-progress, so we thoroughly collect feedback and already have a list of features we would like to implement for the Switch version later.
Erik Radtke: Do you have plans that will keep people playing? Maybe special events or even a Nintendo-crossover?
Thaine Lyman: Definitely! Our players know that Halloween is always a big and special occasion for us, and this year’s no exception. Players can expect a lot of interesting activities and content in October. As far as crossovers, many of us (myself included) are big fans of several Nintendo franchises, so we are interested in crossover ideas, but we don’t have anything to announce just yet. I, myself, particularly love Advance Wars, it’s one of my favorite Nintendo franchises, and we have lots of ideas for ways we could envision crossovers with other franchises as well.
We’re also planning to continue to surprise players with new Operations, and of course, we’ll keep supporting the game with regular updates featuring new vehicles, maps, modes, customization options and a whole lot more. With Blitz more successful now than it’s ever been, we’re not slowing down any time soon.