Sometimes the biggest explosions onto the mobile gaming scene come in the form of the newcomers. Wormhole Games is a new mobile development studio formed by two ex-employees and visionaries of Funzio, the studio responsible for smash successes like Crime City and Modern War before being sold to GREE last year in a multi-million dollar deal. I recently had a chance to speak with Jamil Moledina, CEO and Creative Director, and James Kelm, COO and Executive Producer at Wormhole Games, to find out about the studio’s debut game, Tank Nation, and what it was like to start over from scratch with all of the vigor and innovation of a brand new startup studio.
Now working within a small development team of only 12 people, Moledina and Kelm are embracing their new status as a startup company, as they prepare to release their first game into the world today. As they tell me, startup companies like Wormhole Games have an extra advantage being new to the scene: in that they are better able to take calculated risks, and to experiment with new and different ideas that seasoned companies might start to shy away from once a few titles get under their belts.
But rather than trying to recreate something that’s already been done, or copying the latest game to hit #1 on the App Store, Moledina and Kelm’s goal with their first game was to take an already successful concept in gaming, and introduce it into a brand new area of the industry: in this case, the mobile platform. They point out Rovio’s Angry Birds as an example of taking a gameplay mechanic like artillery firing and making it so simple that everyone from your grandma to your little nephew can understand it within minutes of playing. To this end, their first game would need to be broadly accessible, while still offering a long-term level of depth to satisfy the hardcore gaming crowd.
So enter Tank Nation, a strategic one-on-one tank battling game, with the aim of raising the bar for premium gaming experiences on the free-to-play side of the App Store. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic alternative future, where the once-desecrated nations of the world have just begun to rise to power again. But instead of going back to traditional weapons and means of warfare (which is what probably got them into that whole “apocalyptic” status in the first place), everyone in Tank Nation agrees to settle their differences via one-on-one tank battles, just like our ancient ancestors had always intended.
The mantra of the game is incredibly simple: “Blowing stuff up is fun,” and everything that’s been incorporated into the Tank Nation experience is aimed at giving players a sense of this fun. For Moledina and Kelm, the characters and their stories are an incredibly important piece to any memorable video game, and so they made sure to give each specific tank its own unique personality in the game, through a colorful cast of highly stylized drivers. Players will begin the campaign as a rookie commander in this volatile world of armored war machines, and can play as any number of unique character classes, such as Road Warrior, U.S. Military, and Eastern Medieval, each of which boasts their own special ability.
The gameplay itself is centered on an elemental system that governs the tanks, which Moledina and Kelm describe to me as a 5-way rock-paper-scissors match of sorts. Each of the 50+ battles in the single-player campaign mode will feature multiple waves of enemy tanks, and so the experience can vary every time that you come back to play. But the best part about the strategy gameplay elements is that players will actually be able to engage in the action themselves, using highly intuitive touchscreen controls. Bypassing the clumsy virtual d-pads, everything in Tank Nation is controlled through simple gestures, like drawing back your finger to fire your weapon, or dragging your finger in the direction that you want your tank to move.
The creators describe it as “a little console action experience boiled down to a mobile experience,” and like any engrossing console game, Tank Nation also boasts an impressive multiplayer component. The team invested a lot of their time and behind-the-scenes resources to accommodate for this higher-end multiplayer, and to provide users with a strong connectivity so they can keep the focus on the tank battles themselves. The game is launching with a basic PvP multiplayer game mode, but Wormhole Games already has exciting plans set in motion to expand the world of Tank Nation and push the envelope for mobile multiplayer with future live events and an official Tank Nation Tournament.
But you shouldn’t just take my word for it: Tank Nation has officially launched on the App Store today, so you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the stylized world of warring tanks right now and see the action for yourself. It should also be noted that the game is launching exclusively for the iPad first, as the entire battlefields will be visible on the iPad’s larger screen, although an iPhone version will also be following shortly after.
In the end, Tank Nation is simply a game that was made by a small group of people who just love video games, and that really shows through in everything that this blend of strategy and action looks to offer. It is especially impressive considering that it is the studio’s very first effort. Just remember that the next time you get into a disagreement with one of your friends, nothing says “I was right” better than winning an explosive one-on-one tank battle that leaves nothing but destruction where you stand!