So when last I posted I was going to expand on why I had returned to World of Tanks. Unfortunately, six months without a good gaming computer meant I’ve spent the last 5 months glutting myself instead of writing. So its taken longer than expected here!
And I do intend to put together a year in review and a time capsule post. I hate that I didn’t get the time capsule done last year, though I spent so much of the year on hiatus that I guess it wouldn’t have been a very interesting or accurate look.
Anyway, on to WoT. I was asked in the comments section about what I thought was good about AW, and in reality what I talked about was some of the things that had driven me away from WoT. And they are, for the most part, things that WoT has improved upon in the last year under their new lead developer.
Less Important RNG. Pull the trigger, and the shot goes where you have aimed. But not *all* the time because that would make for shorter lives and less fun gameplay. But WoT has gotten a good bit of criticism for having a very large RNG – I think at one time it was at 25%.
These days it is closer to 20%, and its not a purely random distribution, but weighted heavily to the center. I still get at least one shot per match that just goes wide by random chance, but I can live with that tension, and with the second chance it sometimes gives players who make bad decisions about movement or positioning. Games that don’t do that (MWO, Call of Duty) just aren’t all that fun or interesting from my point of view. I find that what happens in practice now is that while not all of my shots land where I want them too, most of them land in the area of armor I was shooting at. On the other hand, at high tiers in AW, while the RNG is lower, the spots where penetration is possible are tiny – usually only a few pixels wide. And so even though the RNG is lower, I miss my shots more often. And if push comes to shove in WoT, I can load a premium round and at least get some damage in before I go down. In AW, at higher tiers, I don’t have any options other than to die horrifically.
Improved UI. World of Tanks has made tremendous strides in this area. Viewing and spotting range circles have been added to the minimap, reload timers are standard, shot and damage (and spotting!) counters have been added, shot feedback markers have been added. About the only two things missing that AW does is automatic sixth sense and real time armor penetration calculation. The former is easier to get now that you can use free xp and 100-200 crew training boosts are handed out like candy. The latter is still missing, but that is icing on the cake, and something that might be in the pipe for this year as well. Oh, and one other thing – disabling cross team chat. Wow was that a big one that none of us realized the impact of. It has cut down on the toxic environment by a large margin. Kudos for the proactive move and holding to it despite some criticism.
Class Roles. This really wasn’t about classifying tanks, I realized. It was about helping players realize where they should be going and what they should be doing in a match. While AW tried to solve this through active abilities and clearly defined tank classes, their horrific game balance through things off. AFV’s that were supposed to scout and then mop up, like their WoT counterpart LT’s, actually became dominant flankers *and* spotters *and* burst DPS masters. TD’s were supposed to snipe, but their hideous aim time, fastest in game top speed, and large alpha meant that they often became close range flankers. High calibur autoloaders entered the game at high tiers as well, with half the clip reload time of their WoT counterparts!
Meanwhile, WoT was tackling the problem in a different way. The reworked all their maps. Essentially, the maps in WoT now tell you where to go based on what tank you are driving. There may be some trial and error for new players, but in a game where thousands of matches played is the norm, taking a few matches to find out what is effective is a really gentle curve. Essentially, WoT now has (apart from arty) three classes – Brawlers, Snipers, and Flankers. While those labels aren’t found in game, you figure it out pretty quickly just by playing the tank. High accuracy and no armor? Sniper. Good view range and maneuverable? Flanker. High armor or high Alpha? Brawler. And on any given map, there will be a place for each of those classes to use their advantages to the fullest. Its a softly defined system, but it seems to be working well.
Vehicle Progression. The difference between a t6 stock and t8 elite vehicle in WoT used to be awful. 7 to 9 was even worse. But time and balance passes have helped with this, along with making premium ammo more affordable and available. And with handing out all those Free XP and XP boosters. Its rare to find people playing stock tanks anymore, and the balance seems more in tune (outside of tier 10, one of the remaining cesspools of WoT). Many of the premium tanks have also been rebalanced, and the old standard of balancing the premium as a half-upgraded tank has been replaced with the idea of making them mirror elite tanks on the level. It was a good move financially (the price of premium tanks is more palatable as a result) and gameplay wise (less incentive to grind elite vehicles to make almost the same profit.
Classic Vehicles. Apparently even WoT is running out of experimental files. There has been a general shift towards more recognizable and even historical premiums (made possible by the policy shift above). My dad spent more money at Christmas in WoT than I think he has in the many previous years combined because he was able to pick up premium versions of *real* tanks like the Cromwell, T-35-85, and Sherman E8. And this year “Ace” tanks were announced – premiums that will be replicas of famous tank crews. And the lower tiers – rebalanced so that only your first dozen or so matches are in tiers 1-2. By the time tier 3 is achieved the tanks are recognizable or early war versions or their more famous counterparts.
Also on a mild tangent was the unobtainable Clan Wars tanks. All of them have been rebalanced to essentially become reskins of their standard tech tree counterparts, and one of them will actually be entering the tech tree this year as a regular pickup. This allows Clanners to feel special still without breaking the game or leaving regular players out in the cold too much, and I appreciate the effort if not the success.
Of course, WoT still is lacking PvE in the capacity that AW offers. I do think it is something they might want to consider, but AW’s “success” in that area seems to be making them nervous – what will it do to their base modes and game if they siphon a large portion of the player base into such a different mode?
I still drop by AW from time to time. For one thing, the graphics there are still a hell of a lot better (as you can see from the screenshots here). But mostly because they have an enormous overhaul coming next month in the form of Balance 2.0. It might be their death knell, but I’m not sure what other choice they have at this point. This is no longer like SWG where a massive change is incoming at the peak of their popularity. This is a last ditch gamble to change the game in a way that will make it more fun and palatable for all players – including those in PvE. I applaud them for taking the risk and I really do hope it pans out. So I have tried to stay a little active there and keep abreast of the changes and requests for feedback. We will see where it goes, but for now, I’m happy to have my historical tanks back out again, and I’m more relaxed than ever while playing.
Up next: The 2017 Time Capsule, and a look back at 2016: The Year in Gaming I wanted to Forget.