WoT Corner; News from HQ
Recently the developers had a developer’s panel with the players. The video can be found here. I love that they are doing this, it’s great for the game and community. In general there’s some good stuff in the hour and a half of discussion. However, I’m going to concentrate on one area where they continue to get it wrong. At about 36:15 on the video they begin to discuss arty.
I’ve been writing about and debating arty in this game for five years, as have many of you. Watching this developer’s diary made me realize it needed a response. We are not going to get arty fixed. They have no idea what the problem is, or why it’s a problem.
Go to 36:15 and listen to them discuss the issue and you’ll begin to comprehend why they don’t understand anything about the artillery game mechanic and specifically how it actually affects players and gameplay.
For example, Andrii, sitting in the middle of the panel, is still talking about hull down tanks being unbeatable without arty. Please, for goodness sake, we’ve been past that lie for over 3 years. They have millions of games played without arty (by pure MM chance) that have proven that myth to be false. It’s possible they actually believe that the only reason hull down tanks aren’t dominating is because arty is in the game. That’s not true, people rejoice when there’s no arty, and in fact the game is more dynamic without it.
To paraphrase it was said, “The key purpose was to prevent very heavy armored machines from turtling”. Thanks for that blast from 2011, but that’s not how it worked out. Can we get past the company’s intentions for arty and pay just a little attention to how artillery actually effects the game meta within the game design?
Next thing he said floored me. Supposedly arty was intended to make a massive amount of machines concentrated in one direction less effective. Then he starts down a strange road with some “crowd control” game design talk. What? Seriously, of all the problems WoT has, mobs of tanks ruining the meta isn’t even on the radar. In fact, lemming trains fail more often than win in pubs. But it’s absolutely nothing to do with any mob control capability of arty. It has to do with about fifty other things before arty even has anything to add. Do they actually think it’s only been the existence of arty that’s discouraged the scourge of tank mobs running amok?
It appears they’re worrying about tanks being too concentrated unless they invent a fix for a problem they don’t actually have. As they’re apparently designing a game from 2011 again, I’ll just pull a meme from that era, where did I put that facepalm?
It just keeps getting worse, here’s one of my favorites, and so typical of the developers. He talks about the recent sandbox server tests and how they added a stun effect to arty. But he throws out a dig that it’s “what we (the players) hatefully call stun”, and it’s actually called “shell shock”. Even giving a pass for the translation issue of a second language, it’s still a telling, and standard for them, finger to the players.
Hey dummies, we call it shell shock, not stun, what kind of rubes are you? Our intentions for arty were pure, it’s your fault you can’t love it and play correctly with arty.
Then Thane gets into a grenade discussion where he compares the game to a first person shooter. Grenades he says are intended to flush people out, and get things moving. Where’d I put my facepalm, I need it again.
That’s another indication how little they understand this game. This is the anti-first person shooter. It’s less shooter and more chess match. When you “flush out” the Maus, or Type 5, exactly what is he supposed to do? Arty didn’t flush out anything, in fact it clogged everything up to use a potty metaphor. Hell, even the lower tier heavies, and some slower mediums aren’t going to “flush out” well. This entire mentality speaks to how they just don’t get it. Their vast experience in first person shooters is bringing a negative transfer to the arty problem.
And so we get to a specific scenario and description of arty working as they now intend it. It’s going to stop heavy blobs of tanks from sweeping across the battle field and dominating by stunning (oh sorry, shell shocking) a bunch of them so the blob doesn’t dominate.
Except that never happens! Ok, it happens sometimes I suppose. But it’s not a major issue in WoT. They’re spending time and energy changing a game mechanic to address a problem the game doesn’t actually have. Do any of them actually play this game?
Of course, as long as we’re spouting debunked assumptions and unproven/nonexistent problems, we might as well make the “if we nerf arty, then the next thing players will want nerfed is TDs” argument. Which is exactly what Andrii did next.
You know, because arty is the only thing keeping TDs in check right now. Right guys? Because our intentions for arty are to stop turtling? Oh, and mobs, don’t forget the mobs that don’t exist. Further proof they don’t know how the game is actually played.
TDs are hit by arty rarely in early game. Why? Because they are hiding in general. Sure they’re vulnerable if seen, but they typically hide in arty safe(ish, nothing is actually safe) spots. They aren’t spotted till late game when the match is already determined for one side or the other. More importantly, there’s a specific and very important reason that TDs are not as bad as, and can never be as bad as arty. I’ll cover that in a bit.
To be fair he’s right in the discussion about how changes have second and third order effects. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that an arty nerf or change will lead to a TD change. Then he goes on to heavies being next. Interestingly he didn’t mention the medium meta. Of all the classes that might need a general adjustment (other than arty), it’s probably mediums that need it the most
It’s clear they’re committed to arty, and still think its role in their game is as valid today as it was when they had “intentions” for it at the beginning. I’ve spent a lot of time discussing how they don’t know what the real issue is. So what is it exactly?
This is an online PvP game. As such real people are playing against real people. That fact is terribly important, if we fought against a bunch of bots, then arty might be a cool addition, but when it’s other humans it starts to feel like griefing. WoT’s a relatively hardcore online PvP game with a couple important and central game mechanics. No HP recoup mechanism, no respawn. Mistakes matter and get punished hard. Because of those things, players despise random game effects they cannot adequately defend against. As it stands being hit by arty feels like a roll of the dice, which can take you completely out of the game at the forty second mark no matter what you do.
Artillery as it’s currently meched in WoT allows one player to have a huge impact on the game from the very back of the map with virtually zero danger to himself. That is the essence of what players hate about it, and why it’s a bad game mechanic. Intentions about what it should or should not do for gameplay don’t matter one bit. The class ignores most of the games baseline game mechanics, and especially the most important ones. Line of sight, most cover, draw range, maneuver and to a large extent the need to hit your target. Specialist classes in all games tend to ignore some game mechanics, but in the case of arty it’s simply too much.
So what to do? It should have been removed years ago. But there’s no way to do that now. What can be done now that we are at this point is bring it more in line with the rest of the game. The easiest and perhaps most effective way to do that is make it more vulnerable to being countered. Not just in a counter arty manner but overall. Scouts need some help in getting into arty and not being shot gunned. Best way to do that is to remove TD mode. Make all arty shots from top down view. Next, make the sector arty fires from visible to other arty and nearby scouts even if the arty doesn’t light up. This will facilitate counter arty fire. Lastly make the tracers much more visible and last a bit longer. Snow maps need a different color because the white just blends with the background. Incorporate these changes, then decrease reload slightly and damage by about one third. People will be less enraged if the arty player has the same threat of destruction everyone else does to play the game.
I was pretty harsh on them for a small part of the otherwise great player interaction of the panel. I absolutely appreciate the effort the company has made in this direction. But when they get something so very wrong it needs to be pointed out. Perhaps the stun mechanic (take that shell shock!) is going to fix things. Time will tell, but I truly believe the changes I suggested will reduce player angst at being smashed by a unit that faces no danger to hit them.
Joe Granducci is a student of politics and military history. He is a life-long gamer and a former fighter pilot. Reliving his wasted youth, and starting his second career after retirement he enjoys reading, movies and computer gaming. Joe plays way too much World of Tanks, and you can follow him on Twitch here or his YouTube channel here. If you like what you see follow all of the NerdGoblins at NerdGoblin facebook and twitter @thenerdgoblin