Panzer General Online – A PC Game Design Review for App Developers

Today, we’re going to take a field trip to see what those “other guys” are doing on the PC side of game development, and see – what, if anything, is useful for game development on the mobile side. For this, we are looking at Panzer General Online, produced by Ubisoft. Gaming veterans will remember the original Panzer General as a very popular war game originally produced by Strategic Simulations, Inc., in 1994. It was a turn-based game played out on a hexagon-based map featuring all the varied types of military units from World War II – infantry, armor, artillery, aircraft and more.

Panzer General Online is a different breed of game (or wargame) as it is, essentially, a Trading Cards Game. I never thought I would play one of them. That I would like it enough to sink some money into it? Not a chance in Hell.

So, here we are…

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System requirements:  current browser (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Chrome are recommended), Flash version 11.7 (or higher) and a working internet connection. Additionally your PC should have at least 1 gigabyte of RAM, a CPU with 1,5 GHz and a video card that supports DirectX 9 or OpenGL.

Panzer General Online features worthy of developer interest:

Variety of Play Options:  Loads of PVE (4 campaigns); Endless PVP (Fixed skirmishes, Ranked Play, Survival Mode), plus plans for alliances.

Truly Free to Play: There does not seem to be anything that you cannot get by earning in-game currency. It can be a grind to get the best “stuff” – as it is with any game. It is not “Pay to Win” because there is a difference between having the best stuff and knowing how to use it.

An Interesting Economy: It has 2 types of in-game currency which can be earned through both PVE and PVP play – Prestige and Coins. You can purchase Prestige for real cash. How currency is used involves strategic decisions across a variety of options.

A Monetized Game Market: All players can sell their unwanted equipment on the open (black?) market, but not all at once. It costs Trading Tickets to post something for sell and the number of tickets required varies relative to the quality of what is being sold. Players can buy “expanded” access to the market via prestige. Players get the trading tickets back over time. Personally, I ended up getting 2 Rare Cards of the same type

Strategic Crafting: There are two parts to each card in the game – the Unit Type (like a King Tiger, Sherman or T-34) and there are the “Commands” available to it. A single card can have up to 3 commands. Some commands are very basic, let you perform One Action. Others can apply a global effect, let you make 4 moves, or do something detrimental to your opponent. This adds depth, complexity and a lot of thought because frequently the orders you want are not readily available on the equipment you would prefer to use.

Highly Competitive: Basically, doing PVE content helps you get what you need to be competitive in PVP. As you go up in the rankings, you have a chance to win even more prizes on a weekly basis.

Tangible Daily Reward: You get a small, but steady amount of in-game currency every day you log in. This includes coins, prestige and other valuables which can only be purchased through prestige.

Fast Matches: The vast majority of content can be completed in 5 – 15 minute matches.

Encourages Making Friends: Some of the PVE content would constitute a “grind of unimaginable proportions” if you tried to do it solo. These are “boss challenges” – that need to be completed in a certain amount of time, or you start over. By having lots of friends, these challenges become easier and equate to “rewards” for everyone who contributed.

Good Graphics: However you slice up a World War II game, it all comes back to having little “figurines” to move around – like we had back in the 1970’s and before… The graphics are attractive, maybe not mind-blowing, but authentic. A Panther tank or US Army Jeep in game looks almost exactly like it did in real life – just a lot smaller.

The combination of all of these points makes for an authentic wargame despite its very non-traditional format. There’s always something “more” or “better” to go after and always new strategies to try.

Panzer General Online convinced me to purchase in-game currency first for hitting the sweet spot as a game, secondly for appealing to innate “greed” and “curiosity”. I wanted to see what was in the random booster packs and maybe get lucky.   Okay, call it gambling in a sense. You can “grind” your way to being able to afford “anything you want”. Contrast that with spending a little to possibly get “something you want.” Do I want to spend 800 coins on an enhanced booster pack for 4 random units or do I want to spend it on 1 unit that I could definitely use?

What I think is especially valuable for developers – for PC and mobile, is the “incredible ease” Panzer General Online of bringing players to the point of “wanting something” in the game. It is sometimes easier to write after reading what others have written. So also can it be easier to develop after examining what others have developed. In this line, I recommend Panzer General Online as a game worth investigating to developers.

Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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