Dev Diary: Creating Battlefields
Welcome to the first of a new series called “Dev Diaries,” where we’ll be giving you an inside look at the development of World of Tanks Blitz. Today, we’ll be sharing some insights into our map creation process, with level designer Konstantin Chernyakov.
The battlefield should be unique, entertaining, and well-balanced for both teams and individual vehicles.
Vehicle classes in Blitz differ from each other, but maps should be equally playable for all vehicle classes. This is a key factor that has to be taken into account when we design maps and why we divide our maps into different zones that work for some classes more than others.
A Field with Hills
Split-second decisions, firing on the move, high rate of fire—these features are what make battling in light and medium tanks so dynamic. Map zones for these vehicle classes are somewhat detached from other zones and always have places for maneuvers, but no solid cover. As a result, tank destroyers and heavy tanks don’t perform well in these areas. At the same time, medium tanks can use hills to compensate for limited depression angles.
Heavy tanks, slow but well-armored, seldom rush into the middle of battle. The ideal zones for this class are towns, bridges, solid structures, and folds in the terrain suitable for going hull-down or waiting out a long reload. Heavy tanks attack gradually, by moving from one cover position to another. Their zones are placed close to respawn points and are protected from enemy fire until enemy medium tanks change direction.
Bushes on the Mountain
Tank destroyers rarely rush to the front lines but instead hide out somewhere they can lend support fire to their allies. We try to place tank destroyer zones further apart, so that they’re vulnerable after being spotted and only cover a certain section of the map. To be effective, tank destroyers have to change their positions and move back or retreat behind large cover, which, in turn, blocks their own fire.
All Together, Now
Though maps are divided by the vehicle type zones, sometimes all players move in the same direction. Why? First and foremost, it’s psychological: players feel safer in a pack. Secondly, medium tank zones on some maps are currently advantageous for other vehicles or give you an advantage in case of breach. We’ll try to fix these balancing issues while reworking locations and keep them in mind when creating new maps.
Destroying all enemy vehicles is the simplest way to win a battle, but it isn’t always the easiest. Capturing the neutral base isn’t just a way to win, it can also be a useful tool to provoke the enemy. Say your team has two vehicles left against one fast-moving enemy. Their speed may force the match into a draw if you’re unable to catch them. That’s why you need a base: it can grant you an easier victory or force enemies to confront you head-on.
Maps don’t always work the way they’re originally envisioned. Our game is constantly being improved and expanded, meaning that new vehicles can change once-familiar tactics. We closely monitor how maps are doing and revaluate how to improve locations and make battles more dynamic as the game evolves.
Let’s have a look at the following example. Here are two vehicle position heat maps from a battle on Winter Malinovka. The map on the left shows vehicle positions after two minutes, and after four minutes on the right.
Early on, it seems that the majority of players rush toward the mountain, ignoring other parts of the map. Some vehicles take the hills around the village, but all of them are tank destroyers. The fight for the mountain continues until the middle of battle, and, as you can see from the map on the right, the village and its surroundings are partially used for maneuvering only after four minutes have elapsed. Looking at this we can conclude that the zoning on Winter Malinovka doesn’t work as planned. This map should be reworked to make all its territories playable.
To rework locations, we collect player feedback from different sources, analyze dozens of heat maps with different data, handle hundreds of auto and play tests, and improve visual effects. Only when everything is completed can a map be included and released in an upcoming update.
That’s all we have time for today. We’ll tell you about changes to Winter Malinovka in another article. For now, you can compare the previous and current map design from a bird’s-eye view.