Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

Engineer's Workshop: Developing for Mobile and PC (Official Preview)

Recommended Posts


Blizzard provides an insider's look at the development process of creating the new Shadowlands Adventures auto-battler feature simultaneously for mobile and PC platforms.

Blizzard Logo(Source)

As Shadowlands ramps up into Beta, we wanted to provide an insider’s look at the development process of creating some of the great features that you’ll see in the expansion. In this Engineer’s Workshop, we’re focusing on developing a feature simultaneously for mobile and PC platforms with the new Adventures feature, our new offline progression system for Shadowlands. Adventures is a spiritual successor to Missions & Followers systems from previous expansions that allows you to send parties comprised of five adventurers to fight enemy encounters in an auto-battler format.


Every feature begins in system design where our designers take a set of goals and hammer out the framework to create what’s known as a feature pitch, which then becomes a playable feature. For Adventures, we wanted to retain the things that worked well from previous Missions & Followers systems and iterate on the other aspects. Specifically, we liked that the system presented frequent rewards and goals to the player, allowed for progression while the player was logged out, and providing another avenue for storytelling while emphasizing the fantasy of the game. The major aspect we wanted to iterate on was to make the gameplay more engaging and the determination of mission success more fluid. Previous iterations of the Missions & Followers system were solved somewhat trivially, especially with the use of AddOns. On the other hand, Adventures is a system within a game, not a game on its own. New players should be able to jump in and be successful without having to read guides, but there should be enough depth to reward those that invest more time into it. In addition, we don’t want to create a system intended for offline progression that takes a significant piece of a player’s time while at their PC.

In this stage of development, the designers’ best friends are spreadsheets. Spreadsheets allow designers to bridge the gap between ideas and data. They can get a rough picture of whether or not an idea resonates well, apply different data curves for things like experience and attack power, and allow rapid iteration when it’s still inexpensive to try wild things.

In the end, we landed on an “auto-battler lite” model utilizing turn-based combat that is automatically resolved. Players place five adventurers on the board, strategizing ideal placement based on each adventurer’s abilities. As long as all enemies are defeated, you win and reap your rewards. However, through careful adventurer selection and placement, efficient players can minimize the amount of damage adventurers take during combat so that they can be sent on the next adventure without waiting as long to recover.


Adventures is a feature that is a natural fit for the WoW Companion App and developing the feature simultaneously for both mobile and PC platforms allowed a close cooperative working environment between systems and user interface (UI) design, as well as providing a singular UI vision for both platforms. One of our UI design pillars for the Adventures feature was to strive for parity between PC and mobile as closely as possible. However, the Companion App is a companion to the PC experience, so parity shouldn’t be enforced at the expense of the main game.

Mobile Graybox

Mobile Graybox

PC Graybox

PC Graybox

While PC faces complex challenges like rendering the 3D world on a wide variety of hardware and balancing live player concurrency, developing for mobile has a different problem set to work through.  Phones can be a wide variety of aspect ratios and sizes and the UI and user experience (UX) need to account for this. The app’s data footprint must be minimized so that we can support as many device models as possible. The biggest hurdle to overcome when developing features for the mobile platform is that the game was not originally built for mobile. If you think back to 2004 when World of Warcraft was originally released, the phone of choice was the Motorola Razr and the mobile game of choice was Snake. Needless to say, the frameworks being developed at the time didn’t have mobile compatibility in mind. Even the simplest features can require large amounts of PC framework to be implemented on the mobile platform first.


Luckily for Adventures, much of the framework from previous iterations of Missions & Followers could be reused; at its core, players are picking followers from a collection and assigning them to a mission.  We chose to implement both mobile and PC platforms simultaneously rather than serially due to the tightly coupled nature of the design.  Developing both platforms from the ground up provided another boon in that we could write server messages to explicitly support both platforms. Until we could get the major UI elements in game, we used some prototyping software to get the adventures from a spreadsheet to a more interactive and iterative representation in game.

GUI Client

Client GUI


One of the larger challenges to solve on both platforms involved the special effects (FX) used during combat replays. We discovered early on that the FX were critical to making the combat read clearly and pace well while providing a more immersive, visceral feel to the experience. However, this involved breaking new grounds in UI; both platforms had a piece of the pie. Although the PC platform had a robust library of existing FX, the existing tech to put these FX into UI frames was not quite sophisticated enough for combat animation. The mobile platform had a good animation framework, but the FX were not optimized for mobile use. In the end, both platforms decided to invest in developing their missing piece knowing that the framework would be reused in many features to come.

For the mobile platform, we already knew that app size was going to be a concern. Adding FX for a full suite of adventurers and encounters on top of our existing content was going to be a memory challenge.  On top of the visual portion of the FX, we also went from having just a handful of sounds app-wide to a set of sounds for each spell effect.  We were able to consult with both our WoW FX team as well as the Hearthstone FX team to see what lessons we could learn and incorporate into our workflow. We settled on an approach that chose the spell effect to play based on spell school and adventurer type and introduced some additional framework that we’ll discuss in another article to help break apart data.


Once an implementation is far enough along, it’s important to do playtesting sessions early and often. Your game may be technical perfection, but if players don’t find it fun, it’s missing its mark. The current work from home situation provided an additional hurdle to overcome for the mobile team; the traditional playtest is to put a build on several mobile devices and playtest together in a room. In the work from home world, we needed a way to reliably and securely distribute mobile builds to personal devices, and we only had a couple of weeks to do it before work-from-home began in earnest; Due to the quick collaboration of multiple teams within Blizzard, we were able to get enough of a distribution framework in place to support mobile playtesting. This is another piece of framework that has already paid dividends in not only being able to coordinate playtests, but also in distributing app builds to other WoW team members and providing avenues for future features.


We’re not done developing the feature by any means and will continue to iterate and polish Adventures as we transition into the Shadowlands Beta and beyond. Hopefully, this peek behind the curtains provides some insight into the process, challenges, and solutions in developing features like Adventures for World of Warcraft. As critical as playtesting is, our testing forces are nothing compared to the number of players in our playerbase; if you have feedback for us that can help improve the Adventures experience, leave it on the Shadowlands beta forums; Thanks for joining us and see you in Shadowlands!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks like a precursor to a Warcraft themed Galaxy of Heroes. That would be something I would be interested in, especially if it tied in to actual in-game rewards. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Similar Content

    • By Starym
      More hotfixes arrive, as both retail and the WoW Companion app get improvements.
      June 26 (Source)
      Creatures and NPCs
      The Guardian of the Dawn NPC outside Dawn’s Blossom will no longer generate an error message when warning strangers not to cause troubles in town. Items and Rewards
      The Earpieces of Tranquil Focus toy now correctly tunes out the death yell of a player transformed by the Transmorpher Beacon toy. WoW Companion App
      Fixed an issue where some characters were not displaying mission icons and/or enemy portraits on receiving a new batch of missions.
    • By Staff
      Blizzard have added some clarification and detailed recent changes to the Season 4 Fated system, from the reduction in boss kills per quest, to a catch-up mechanic later in the season, as well as  confirming new portals to the S4 M+ dungeons for +20 keys, and stating the endboss mount drop rates for the Sepulcher and Sanctum will actually remain until Dragonflight launches! 
      Season 4 (Source)
      Hey folks! Just a quick update - with Season 4’s release date finally announced, I wanted to circle back to this thread and talk about how some of these experiments will be tuned/updated based on your feedback. Thanks again to everyone in this thread & elsewhere for your thoughts!
      I won’t give exact numbers here as we’re still talking about them internally, but:
      As written above, players clearing 10 Fated bosses per week would acquire their season’s limit of Dinar (the currency used to buy Fated raid items) by 6 weeks at the earliest. We’re going to lower the number of kills required on each quest such that it’ll land somewhere in the 4.5/5 week range instead. We’ve also heard a lot of feedback about how if you joined late into Season 4 or had alts you wanted to play, you’d be met with a pretty large wall of Quests/Boss Kills necessary to access the system, which felt like it ran counter to the lessons learned with the Creation Catalyst. Exact details TBD, but after a certain period we’ll be heavily reducing the requirements for these 3 quests. This way the initial progression experience of early Season 4 is intact, but that the later it goes, you’ll be able to raid on a new character or with a new friend without being so far behind. Just to mention it, we’re not currently looking at changing the rate of acquiring the materials to upgrade a Fated item to Heroic or Mythic. It’ll stay as a 100% droprate from Heroic & Mythic bosses, and then require 20 to transform. Lastly, while this thread is specifically about the experimental Raid Rewards systems coming to S4, there’s been some questions elsewhere about Mythic Plus we can answer here. As many of you may know, Shadowlands Season 4 is changing the dungeon pool to both halves of Tazavesh, the Veiled Market, Operation: Mechagon, Return to Karazhan, and the Warlords of Draenor dungeons Grimrail Depot & Iron Docks - along with a new seasonal affix. We’ve seen it speculated, but to confirm: the Keystone Hero achievements for these dungeons (obtained by completing them on a +20 Keystone or higher) will give Hero’s Path Portals to these locations, and operate just like the ones that exist in Shadowlands at present.
      Thanks for reading, thanks for your feedback, and if you have major questions that haven’t been covered in this post (or the ones before it in this thread), let us know and we’ll do our best to clarify.
      P.S. While the ‘Ahead of the Curve’ & ‘Cutting Edge’ Feats of Strength are going away when Season 4 launches, the Carcinized Zerethsteed (from killing Heroic Jailer), as well as the 100% Droprates from the Mythic Sylvanas and Mythic Jailer mounts aren’t going away until Dragonflight launches (The Sylvanas and Jailer mythic mounts will stay in the game, but be significantly reduced in droprate as with previous expansions).
      See you all in Season 4!
    • By Stan
      If there's a horn stuck on your back since Patch 9.1, here's what you need to do to remove it.
      If you're running around with this horn on live servers and wonder how to remove it, there's a simple solution for the issue.

      The horn is part of the Patch 9.1 questline that revolves around Odyn and disabling the Eye of the Jailer and its effect in the Maw. Therefore, you must complete (or abandon) related campaign quests! Open your Quest Log and search for any of the quests listed here:
      A Show of Gratitude Ease of Passage Grab Bag Hearing Aid Birds of a Feather The Caged Bird Claim the Sky A Hate-Hate Relationship Fury Given Voice Wrath of Odyn Mawsplaining Anger Management Tears of the Damned Focusing the Eye You can either complete or abandon them to remove the cosmetic horn.

      If that didn't help, try dying or entering an Arena or Skirmish which removes any hidden buffs from your character.
    • By Stan
      Here's a huge batch of the best transmogs from Reddit submitted by the community!
      We have another round of carefully curated transmogs for you! We're including a list of items for each set to make it easier for you to mimic the desired appearance. Let us know which transmog is your favorite in the comments down below.
      Arcane Wanderer (Cloth) Transmog

      Exotic Pet Collector Transmog

      The Wulfen King Transmog

      Piercing Quarz (White Druid Leather Transmog)

      Celestial Knight Transmog

      Titanforged Paladin Plate Transmog

      Smashing & Slicing Rogue Leather Transmog

      Red Samurai Transmog

      Mercenary of Stormwind Transmog

      Hunter Mail Transmog

      Corrupted Shaman Mail Transmog

      Beacon of Retribution Plate Transmog

      Holy Hamburger Plate Transmog

      Elder Ronin Transmog

      Ren'dorei Blademaster Leather Transmog

      Bear Belly Transmog

      Fallen Knight Plate Transmog

      Archdragon Transmog

      Ancient King Cloth Transmog

      Transcendental Huntsman Mail Transmog

      Rocky Leather Transmog

      Venom Plate Transmog

      Blood Ranger Mail Transmog

      Fire Survival Hunter Mail Transmog

      Dark Ranger of Lordaeron Mail Transmog

      Darkener Cloth Transmog

    • By Starym
      Here's an old but still very weird one, as a player recently remembered an old and somewhat obscure Warlords of Draenor incident. Haji-me remembered having "Darren's Bombing Run of Awesomeness" developer/GM-only quest shared to them and wondering what exactly was going on, as hundreds of siege cannons started floating around as the quest asked them to slay dudes. But that's not the weirdest thing, as the player is actually invulnerable while it's all happening!

      Luckily XYAYUSDYDZCXS in the comments had the answer as to what was happening, as this quest somehow reached players back in WoD, with the original source being unclear (possibly a GM initially shared it and then it just spread). Everything that's happening is just client-side, so no one is seeing it but the player accpting the quest, and the character is actually standing in place, but is also invulnerable - so apparently some enterprising players were using it to capture points in battlegrounds and similar.
      Why exactly a developer would even make this is quite the mystery, and it seems unlikely the quest still exists in players' logs as the issue almost certainly got addressed back when it happened, but it sure would be cool to see it again today (minus the invulnerability exploit, of course)!
      Did you know about this little piece of WoW trivia? It came as quite a bit of a cool surprise to me, as I had never heard of it back in the day, but it certainly is a fun one!
  • Create New...