WoT Corner:  The Artillery Problem

WoT Corner: The Artillery Problem

Of all the various controversies in and around World of Tanks, probably the most divisive is the inclusion of artillery in the game. This week on WoT Corner, we’ll delve into the artillery controversy, lay out the issues and try to bring some clarity to a difficult problem. Full disclosure? I am very much in the anti-arty camp and I’ll address why as we go. First, a short history.

Arty originally only went to tier 8 and had a special match making similar to light tanks which meant tier 8 arty would routinely see tier 10 tanks. It was also a bit more accurate pre-patch 8.6 (we are now on 9.14). At tier 8, the guns were powerful, but not often crippling to tier 10 tanks. When tier 10 arty was introduced and normal matchmaking implemented, artillery became a very real menace in gameplay terms. Before the 8.6 patch nerf (slight as it was), games with 2 or more artillery completely revolved around artillery. Two or more artillery on one team essentially determined the outcome and destroying the other side’s artillery was more often than not the path to victory. The community and WarGaming (WG) eventually realized this was very bad for PvP gameplay and the developers addressed it with patch 8.6. The patch nerfed artillery somewhat and many players moved away from it; the combination of the nerf and fewer players reduced the influence of arty considerably. Recently there has been a bit of a resurgence in arty numbers, though nowhere near pre 8.6 levels, and nowhere near the overpowered game mechanic it was, but it’s once again an issue. In fact, it has always been a poor game mechanic; the 8.6 nerf did not address the actual problem with artillery.

Artillery in WoT is one of those, “Which one of these things is not like the other?” situations. Of the five classes it’s the one which bears the least similarity to the other four. Artillery operates completely differently than the other classes and does several things they cannot.

The first thing artillery can do that other tanks cannot is hit nearly anywhere on the map. Around tier 5, most arty can range even the largest maps. This means arty doesn’t have to move very far to be effective. This is in direct contrast to every other class. Even Tank Destroyers (TDs) typically must move forward to put their guns in play (disregarding the cap campers here). Artillery simply does not have to move much, which greatly decreases its exposure and reduces the importance of positioning, maneuver and flexibility. Every single other tank class must take these game mechanics into account constantly. Its reduced exposure is reflected in the survival rate per battle; arty has the highest of all the classes. This makes a lot of sense when you consider that arty rarely ever ventures far from cap.

79302674

One of the two possible arty views. You cannot hide, even in a city.

Artillery can splash for as much damage as a similar tier does with a direct hit, and can cripple a similar tier with a direct hit. One argument made in defense of arty is that is misses a lot. Hit rates are trotted out and the “case is made.” Unfortunately that’s only half the story, because the large splash radius turns a near miss into a hit as far as reducing HP goes. The number of shots that do some kind of damage is essentially the same amongst all five classes. Even more troublesome is the fact that arty can splash tanks behind cover. Much of the cover tanks use when engaging is wholly or partially useless against artillery. Artillery negates the majority of the line of sight (LOS) gameplay mechanic. Sitting behind a hill defending against the direct fire of enemy tanks is ineffective against artillery. Angling, maneuver, hull down, all of these basic gameplay mechanics that must be used and mastered for the other four classes are negated by arty because it has a high arc, splash, and a top down god view for targeting.

Artillery has a top down, and with a legal mod called Battle Assistant, an additional 3D angled view. Any target spotted by your team is vulnerable to arty. Even if your team cannot lay a gun on the enemy, arty can. This includes being able to target past draw distance; a limitation every other tank has to deal with. The god view and 3D view are huge SA enhancers; in fact, artillery can see objects knocked down by unspotted tanks and accurately assess enemy movements even though they’re unspotted. That’s a terrible game mechanic and probably an unintended consequence of how arty god view is implemented.

In short, artillery gets to ignore most of the basic gameplay mechanics the entirety of World of Tanks is built on. It doesn’t need to maneuver much, be in draw distance, spot for itself, or hit a weak spots. Appallingly, arty doesn’t even need to make a direct hit to be effective. Yet that is not its original sin.

dWRSR6A0-5ZU.840x0.Vdef9Kkm

Even from the back corner arty can range the whole map.

The true issue with artillery is not that it’s OP, or that it is so different in gameplay mechanics. These are merely symptoms of the disease. The true issue with artillery is the fact that it allows a player to influence the game from the very back corner of the map, with virtually no danger to himself. This is literally one of the biggest mistakes a competitive, online PvP game can make. This is a contest between humans driving pixel tanks and we essentially have a gameplay mechanic where random alpha strikes can rain down at any moment. You cannot defend against them effectively and you cannot strike back. The game has lost many top tier players because of this particular game mechanic. So why is it still in the game?

The stated purpose of arty is to punish camping and to help dig out well entrenched and heavily armored tanks. The concern was that tanks would find hard cover and be able to stagnate play by holding off multiple enemies and hurt the game’s maneuver mechanics. This sounds like a good idea, because people want dynamic gameplay. What actually ended up happening is arty punished the advancing tanks more, and created its own stagnation and camping problem. Players learned to not expose themselves too much lest they invoke the wrath of arty while a couple arties play whack a mole. The stated reason arty is in the game sounds like a valid argument, but the reality is it does exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do. All of this begs the obvious question.

What to do about arty in World of Tanks? I’ll lay out what I think should be done, and then describe why it’s highly unlikely. I would remove it; WG had a golden chance to do this in patch 8.6. People were fed up with arty and removing it then would have been the best move. This of course didn’t happen, and is unlikely to happen. Why? It’s been around for a long time, and WG apparently still thinks it serves the function they desired and there’re too many paying customers heavily invested in the class. According to WG, they are working on a re-balancing, or a complete overhaul of arty. We have little to no information on what form it might take. Meanwhile it’s still a divisive issue and clearly something needs to be done. When it will be done is also unknown, so we’ll have to wait and see if WG tries to fix the artillery problem. Frankly I don’t believe the baseline mechanic of damage from the back of the map in complete safety is worth saving.

To summarize, most of the discussion of the pros and cons of artillery’s inclusion in WoT revolve around whether it is OP or not. This was very obviously the case pre 8.6; artillery was simply OP. After the patch it’s hard to make an OP argument. But again, that’s not the issue. The actual issue with artillery as implemented in this PvP game is twofold. First is the simple fact that it ignores most of the game mechanics the other four classes must take in to account. But worse than that, it allows a player in the very back of the map to influence the game on any part of the map with little to no danger to himself.

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


Tagged

6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Boneheaded March 19, 2016

    Fix arty by making it more true to life.

    1. God-mode view becomes a map view. The arty player can see around his vehicle in normal 3rd person like everyone else, but his zoom in becomes a large (maybe more detailed) view of the map. He will see enemy icons ‘reported’ by friendly radios, but will not see trees/buildings etc being smashed.

    2. Increase accuracy of shots when the target location is ‘refined’ by a friendly player as per #3, but reduce accuracy further when the target is selected off of passive friendly spotting, with an acceptable (and tested) margin of error based on the scale of the map presented to the arty player.

    3. Create a new action wheel thingy for players to ‘call for fire’ on locations or targets. Essentially like ‘spotting’ but the report is sent to arty players with a few options that will require some small amount of time to send…that is ammo type, and wether the round should be fired immediately or after some delay…or even an ‘at my command’ option which would allow the arty player to lay his gun, report when ready and wait for his team mate to give a ‘send it’. This gives non-arty players a hard choice in wether they want to consume time calling for arty on a target or if they should maneuver and fight their tank, especially when under pressure from the enemy.

    These changes would attract the kind of arty players you want; those that are not in it for big trolling booms of god-mode, but are instead in it for team play. They still get to enjoy a low risk position and can reach out and touch the whole map, but will be forced to rely on their team mates. This will also be an indirect buff to light tanks as it gives them a new role of artillery observer and turns the radio into a weapon. Another consideration on the radio bit would be radio range of the observer, and the impact on arty ‘accuracy’ based on the message (request for artillery support) being ‘relayed’ through more than one players radio. Even a hard requirement for the observer to be in direct radio range with artillery could be awesome as it could require the arty guns to bound forward through the progression of the fight to stay in contact with observers.

    While all of this might not pay off big during random pubs, the strategy dynamics this new ‘realism’ requires would be amazing in dedicated team play. There would definitely need to be a new tutorial made for everyone, and maybe some refunding to the trolls that would jump ship when arty wasn’t fun for them anymore.

    Email me if you want to discuss anything.

    Justin

  2. Avatar
    Marty Arty March 19, 2016

    Without arty, the game becomes much less interesting. The added dimension of non linear strikes means that even when cornered, I could still have a chance. On maps without arty, it feels like a FPS in slow motion.

  3. Avatar
    party crasher September 27, 2016

    How many players who gripe about arty have played arty? The single trick to beating all but elite arty players is “keep moving.”

    Bonus:
    Do keep moving
    Do rush/kill arty (you know where they are)
    Do change up your tactics
    Do choose hiding places well within arty firing radius (plunging fire is only possible near the edge of the firing radius)
    Do move when arty fires on you
    Do play arty for yourself, see what makes an easy target

    Don’t be predictable
    Don’t peek around the same corner twice
    Don’t peek around the same hill twice
    Don’t reverse to the same place after firing
    Don’t sit still when spotted
    Don’t knock things over
    Don’t camp on the thing you just knocked over
    Don’t hide behind a hill or building on the edge of a map (and opposite the enemy base)

  4. Avatar
    Dhante November 12, 2016

    The arty lovers advice; Don’t use your tank like a tank… Brilliant.
    Arty is a bad idea more for the fact that it, for the most part, stops many actual tank tactics.
    Makes what could have always been into..
    .. a rare moment of Armor joy when there’s no turd throwers.

  5. Avatar
    David Rourke December 17, 2016

    Good article. A few points:

    * Since artillery is not going to be removed, the problem is to have it be fun to play artillery without making the game a lot less fun for everyone else. That means changing it without nerfing it to the point of uselessness.

    * I’ve played a lot of WOT Blitz on mobile. Same tank lines (mostly), same game mechanics (mostly), no artillery. There’s about as much camping in both games. I have noticed no problem with digging out heavily armored tanks–just as in WOT PC matches with no artillery, that job gets done one way or another.

    * Although WOT is not a history simulator, it would be nice for artillery to have something more like the function it had in this period of military history. Artillery is not really for killing tanks, it’s for killing infantry and other soft targets. Large artillery formations could disrupt tank formations, but single tubes of artillery just didn’t target individual tanks with indirect fire. WG seems to be trying to address this with the stun mechanic introduced in the Sandbox earlier this year, making artillery less of a damage-dealing and killing class and more of a debuff and support class. Although lots of artillery players will complain about that because they love the every-once-in-a-while massive one-shot kill, I think this is a good trend for gameplay.

    * I’d like to see a ranging feature for artillery, similar to the one Boneheaded recommended in his comment above. That would mean increasing ROF, but the first shot to a given area would be with very low accuracy. Successive shots within a relatively small zone would become more accurate if that zone is within view of friendlies. You could even allow artillery to select two or three spots on the map during the 30 second countdown to be pre-sighted for greater accuracy at those locations (alternately, this could be the case when defending in Assault Mode).

    * I’d add a “flash and sound ranging” equipment for artillery and maybe even light tanks, and make it not too expensive. This would allow artillery to be spotted when it fires within a specified distance of enemy tanks, even when there is no line of sight. I would also significantly increase XP bonuses for artillery players when they damage other artillery. I want artillery to be motivated to do a lot of counter-battery fire.

    * I’d add a new crew skill that gives warning of an artillery round incoming.

    * I’d add the same siege mode mechanic to artillery that the high tier Swedish TDs have. Real artillery can’t just move and then fire whenever it wants. Even though they are self-propelled, there is normally a delay between stopping and being able to fire.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *