Since 2011, I have had a relationship with World of Tanks. Like few other games in my long gaming career (which dates back to the 1980s), I have poured my heart, energy and even money into this one. I have had many, many good times, and many, many bad times ensconced in this digital world. WoT has given me great pleasure and great frustration. Until recently, I have felt it has been worth continuing the relationship because the good generally outweighed the bad.
Now, in a new year, I have taken a good hard look at WoT and must conclude that the bad outweighs the good. And when that happens--as with any relationship--it's time to consider whether it's smart to continue it.
I cannot commit to abandoning WoT. It has been a part of my life for so long that it's inconceivable to turn my back on it completely. But I can say that it is time for me to downgrade our relationship status from "lovers" to "friends," at best.
I do this because I simply do not feel good playing the game anymore. There are too many issues, both new and old, that drain my enjoyment and make playing the game seem more a chore than a joy. To be fair, I have played many other games in my life for long periods, and I have moved beyond them, too. But WoT strives to keep me hooked over the long haul through constant updates and new content. Despite this, though, the game has failed to correct longstanding problems, and has actually created new ones through its patch process.
My morale and faith in WoT have fallen for specific reasons. I never make a decision to part from a game I've played for years without a well-grounded rationale, and I've been pondering that rationale for quite some time. I have identified ten major flaws that have soured my enthusiasm for WoT, and for my own mental clarity--and for those interested--I will present them here.
1. The Vision System: Noobs recoil from WoT's elaborate (and counterintuitive) vision system with the simplistic complaint: "I got invisitanked, no fair!" We veterans understand that the vision system is a tool to be exploited, not to complain about. For better or worse, WoT attempts to simulate real-world battlefield vision disparities through its "view range/camo value/draw distance" matrix, which even seasoned players have trouble fully grasping. Those who scout well virtually guarantee a win for their team, since they provide their comrades (and arty) the luxury of shooting at fully-silhouetted red targets without fear of return fire. In higher-tier games, where focused fire from TDs and arty can vaporize any tank in an instant, vision control determines the outcome almost every time.
Yet vision control is never a given in most randoms; either your team has a competent scout or it doesn't. If it doesn't, you are blind and you are destroyed without ever seeing your foe, even if he's just 100 meters away. If it does, you can pulverize your hapless opponents without a scratch. But you either have a good scout or you don't. Your skill does not change what teammates the matchmaker provides.
I have several complaints about the vision system. First, it does not give its gifts equally. Either your team has a good scout or it doesn't. That fact is not determined by skill. Second, camo and vehicle height are overly critical stats that confer their blessings on only a few tech branches. Camo values determine which tanks can abuse the vision system and which tanks get abused by it. It makes scouts and low-height TDs the rulers of the high-tier game, while rendering many heavy tanks and no-camo-TDs almost irrelevant.
In sum, vision control is more important than almost any other game mechanic. And unless you're a scout or medium, you can rarely provide it for your team. In WoT, you often can only see what others see (a strange sensory dilemma, especially when you can magically see things through thick brush, as long as someone else 300 meters away sees it), and if others don't do your seeing, you see nothing.
When I have spotting, I usually win. When I don't, I usually lose. I've gotten tired of betting my enjoyment on whether someone on my team understands how important spotting is.
2. The Maps: I sometimes wonder who tests WoT's maps before they are released. In almost every case, they suffer from systemic problems that grant great advantages to one side (like the north side of Highway), or can be exploited by one side making the right move at the beginning of the game (like a competent scout lighting the base on Malinovka). WG has revived horrible maps like Komarin (a mutual campfest where nothing can happen unless someone understands the vision system) and allowed perennially detested maps like Malinovka and El Halluf to remain in the game. It has removed maps like Province and Dragon Ridge, as if admitting that they were broken. And it has rushed out new maps like Severogorsk and Sacred Valley (again, maps that only can work when there are competent scouts), as well as Hidden Village (a horrible one-lane slugfest with a no-man's-land everywhere but the lane). (This list is not meant to be exhaustive...)
WG seems determined to make maps that force players to meet at specified zones of contention and hammer it out at pointblank range. It has made a few key rocks, huts and bushes the subject of all the fighting, and allowed artillery to play a significant role because everyone basically knows where the contention will be.
This has gotten very old. There are only a couple maps I really like, and far too many that make me groan when I see them on the loading screen. Too many depend on advanced vision system knowledge, and you can never count on your teammates having that knowledge in randoms.
3. The Matchmaker: Everyone complains about the MM. WG made some progress many patches ago when it generally guaranteed that many tank types would only face enemies two tiers above them. This was certainly an improvement over the days when VK 36.01s could fight Tier 10s, but as time (and power creep) have marched on, even a two-tier spread is excessive. It's no fun playing a stock Caernarvon with a 171 pen/150 damage gun against Tier 10 TDs. In short, WoT has introduced so many powerful new tanks (at such dramatically higher capabilities with each successive tier), that it is a tall order to fight enemies two tiers above you in many cases.
My first Tier 9 heavy was the E-75. Even with my nooby skills back in 2011, I managed a 60% win rate with it. How was this possible? It had everything to do with the matchmaker in the old days. The only Tier 10s were the E-100, Maus, T30 and IS-7. No one fired gold rounds (effectively trolling the E-100). There were no autoloaders. You even faced M4 Shermans, and maybe one or two other Tier 9s. It was easier to win under those circumstances. Now at Tier 9, you face all manner of overpowered Tier 10 TDs, mediums and heavies--all slinging gold--that can vaporize you in an instant.
My major complaint about the "spread" element of the matchmaker is that it is disheartening to face the current rogue's gallery of OP Tier 10 tanks with a Tier 8. Obviously, there are several lower tier tanks that hold up well in higher tier fights (the T29 at Tier 7 and the IS-3 at Tier 8 come to mind). But for most tanks, being the low man on the totem pole is not a recipe for fun. Generally, you're going to have to either be lucky enough to have a good team or carry impossibly hard. If it's the latter, your heart will beat fast and your game will be more an ordeal than a pleasant way to pass the time.
Matchmaking problems do not end with spread issues. In recent times, there have been more and more lopsided matchups, with one side getting far more higher tier tanks than the other side. Because of the massively better capabilities of each higher tier, this severely impacts the shortchanged team's chances to win. We've all been on the team that has 4 less Tier 10s than the enemy team, and we all know how it will turn out. True, there's always the chance that the other team will squander their advantage through incompetence. But that's not a safe bet; in most cases, the team with more higher-tier tanks will win. It's like playing golf against someone with a massive handicap.
As mentioned, everyone intuitively knows that these are serious issues. Yet patch after patch, WG does nothing about them. In the New Year, I have had enough of it. I am tired of being the low man on the totem pole, and I'm tired of being matched up against teams with substantial Tier advantages. It is not fair and skill can only take you so far in countering it.
Afterthought on MM: One reason premium tanks with preferred matchmaking are so popular is that they reduce the amount by which matchmaker can screw them. It bears note that one of the winningest tanks in the whole game is the Pz B2, which is always top tier. It never has to fight tanks with vastly superior combat characteristics, and thus can win much more consistently. Tier spread makes all the difference. And the Pz B2's record proves why.
It's almost a perverse admission by WG about how bad the matchmaker is that a premium tank's selling point is: "You won't be the low man on the totem pole as often!"
4. RNG : Very few things induce rage more than the +/- 25% spread assigned to every single shot with regard to accuracy, penetration and damage. It is not enough that you let the aiming circle fully close and take your time to make a shot: RNG might decide it's time for your shot to hit the dirt, not the weakspot. Or RNG might decide that you can't have that kill shot by making you miss, roll low or bounce an impossible bounce.
Apparently, one of WG's objectives in developing WoT was to create "uncertainty of outcome" in every game. Well, if that was an objective, they've achieved it beyond anyone's wildest dreams. You never quite know whether your shots will go where you aim them, whether your 420 pen HEAT shell will actually go through or your last shot will do enough damage to polish off that pesky scout. By the same token, sometimes a completely unaimed shot will go dead center, or an arty shot will miraculously land behind a rock it shouldn't have been able to hit.
These RNG vagaries often determine games. WG seems to think these "uncertain results" should be celebrated, even making a video about them every month with--appropriately--a slot machine icon. But when you get down to it, how much does skill really have to do with these results? RNG implies that you need some luck to do well, just as you need luck to hit three 7s on a slot machine. All the skill in the world--and all the best habits, like fully aiming--don't make a difference when RNG decides your shot will fail for one reason or another.
For me, RNG has been a major reason why I've downgraded my relationship with WoT. I am simply unwilling to peg my enjoyment on whether I roll high or whether my shots go where I aim them. I even ran a study last month where my data showed I rolled low 16% more often than average or high.
I do not like the "uncertainty of outcome" that RNG has created, and I do not like the role luck plays in determining those outcomes. If I wanted to play a luck-based game, I'd go to the casino.
5. The Lack of Correlation between Merit and Outcome: WoT's XP reward system is severely flawed because it pegs a 50% bonus on victory. Ostensibly, this provides an incentive to win, but as any WoT player can tell you, your own efforts often have no impact on whether your team wins. That is not to say that an individual player with great skill cannot turn a losing game into a win. But it is to say that in most cases your team has no chance to win and your efforts against that inevitable conclusion will not be rewarded.
I like to think I have decent stats. I'm not a super-pro, but I almost always place in the Top 3 XP earners of my team, win or lose. When they were running the mission that gave 0.2% more crew XP to the Top 3 XP earners on a team, I earned that distinction 90% of the time over 500 games. I almost always pull my weight and more.
But in my losing games, I rarely had much to show for it. In the old days, you didn't even get a bonus for achieving battle hero status on a loss. WG clearly improved the game when they allowed that (ie "Courageous Resistance"), but even that does not fully address the issue. Sometimes getting Sniper or Top Gun on a loss isn't possible, yet you vastly outperform both your own team and the enemy team. And you get nothing to show for that in the XP column.
I think this system discourages merit and places excessive value on the team winning, which is all too often beyond your control (especially in solopubs). I also think there's something Soviet about it, namely in the way it punishes the individual but rewards the herd. No matter what other think of it, though, I'm tired of working hard in losing matches without receiving a suitable reward for my efforts.
6. Power Creep: I've already mentioned power creep with regard to matchmaking. It deserves fuller explanation.
WG's quest to constantly introduce new content has led to a power crisis in WoT. It started in 7.5 with the introduction of Tier 10 TDs and mediums. Since then, every new patch has brought more and more powerful tanks and TDs--all with progressively higher penetration, damage, camo, speed and view range. Every time, the older tanks sank further into irrelevance. The stats that used to make the older tanks relevant could no longer compete at the higher stat plateau. From time to time, WG would "rebalance" old tanks to keep them competitive with the new ones. But that was (and is) an imperfect system that leaves many tanks without any practical use.
Worse, power creep provides WG an infallible way to milk customers for money. New tanks are always the most powerful, which leads to a rush to buy them (through gold purchases for free XP or gold rounds to make grinds easier). We all know the cycle, and the inevitable nerfs that befall once-chic new tanks. It is a cynical and dishonest business model that wastes people's time and dashes their hopes.
Power creep also manifested itself when WG made premium ammo available for credits. Personally, I am ambivalent about this development. On the one hand, gold rounds are essential for tanks shafted by the broken MM to have a chance when they are bottom tier. On the other hand, when everyone slings gold, armor takes a back seat to firepower and mobility in the Holy Trinity of tank balance. All in all, gold rounds for credits crossed a Rubicon that WG cannot reverse. Combined with the newer OP tanks that emerge every patch, they have made higher tier play a disheartening proposition: Everyone can pen/kill you in the blink of an eye, often without even really aiming. And once again, the team with superior vision control in a game allows their team to focus this ever-increasing, devastating firepower on the enemy without fear of collateral damage.
7. Artillery: Mentioning arty in the forums often leads to disputes. My purpose here, however, to outline my subjective reasons for distancing myself from what WoT has become, and artillery is part of that.
Very few gameplay aspects provoke as much emotional outpouring as artillery. I, for one, am a very amiable guy. Yet I can turn into a homicidal maniac when arty kills me, especially after gallantly fighting off half a dozen tanks in a choke point, breaking through and getting nuked the minute I start advancing.
In my early days playing WoT, arty was much more powerful than it is now: It aimed faster, it fired faster, it was more accurate and it could easily defend itself with snap shots in close combat. Originally billed as a way to prevent "tactical stagnation" (ie, camping) in games, arty came to dominate the game, leading to far more camping than ever before. After all, moving from hard cover would lead to instant arty death. And back then, there were often 5 or more high tier arty on each team. If you think the TDs are bad now, you should have seen arty at its wretched apex. I nearly left the game because of it.
Patch 8.6 ostensibly crippled arty's effectiveness with numerous nerfs. In the aftermath, fewer people played arty and I recall having more fun than ever before in all-tank/TD battles. Sure, once in a while you would still get derped by the occasional lucky arty shell. But because it happened so much more infrequently, I could handle it.
But as the patches progressed from 8.6, arty made a slow recovery. Sure, it was nothing as devastating as it was pre-8.6, but it once again took a significant place on the battlefield. It became rarer to see arty-free games. And because WG's map design encourages slugfests at well-known chokepoints, arty had a bigger role to play. As you stood there slugging in the pre-arranged spots, arty had the time to aim in and do damage.
I have never been tolerant with arty, and now that I'm seeing it again in ever-greater numbers, I am not enthused. I often have to lead horrible random teams in my heavy tanks. When I do, it's my head on the chopping block for arty. I often am the one with the cajones to push a flank, and that puts me right in the clickers' aiming circle.
Arty kills me very often, and it's not because I don't know where the "arty safe" places are on a map. You can't win a game sitting in hard arty cover the whole time, and that's why I take arty hits. I get to hull down positions and engage as necessary. Normally it's only arty that has a chance to hurt me, and they do.
More often than not, my tactics are successful. I die to arty, but we break through the enemy team and win. But that doesn't stop me from resenting arty. I often think about how I risked my neck fighting and struggling on the front line, trying to make something happen for my team, while they sat 1000m away and clicked on me as I writhed around in an effort to throw off their aim (fighting around the northern hill on Westfield comes to mind).
I have always hated it, and I still do. Nothing upsets me more. And combined with the other ills in WoT, I have zero patience for arty anymore. I've had it! Very few things spoil my mood--and enthusiasm for this game--more than getting wrecked by a lucky arty shot despite valiantly leading a team.
It adds insult to injury to know that WG purposely included arty in the game to "give weak players the chance to kill the strongest player." Yet another Soviet, anti-individualist principle at work and I hate it.
Sorry 46%er arties... you won't be clicking me again for a while.
8. Penetration Mechanics: For better or worse, WoT has enshrined armor angle--not thickness-- as the key element of protection against incoming shells. If a shot hits a tank at 70 degrees or more after normalization, it will bounce, no matter how much penetration force it has on paper. Greater armor angles, in turn, grant greater effective armor ratings, so the more sloped a target, the higher a penetration roll you need to get through it. Think of the Foch: The whole front is 180mm at nearly 60 degrees: 304mm effective armor. You need a high pen roll even with gold, and that's assuming you don't autobounce.
Combined with RNG accuracy problems, the primacy of armor angles in WoT leads to disheartening bounces against targets that simply shouldn't be bouncing anything as a matter of common sense. It also leads to certain Soviet tanks with rounded turrets getting insane bouncing capacities, especially while they are moving.
Tracks and spaced armor are another issue. Who knew that a little band of steel outside the tank's hull could stop a 183mm HESH shell from penetrating? What a concept! Or that a little bitty track on a Bat Chat could stop a 170mm HEAT shell from going through? I find it galling that WG actually raised the price on HEAT shells while making them dramatically less effective against anything with a track, rounded angle or "GSSA" (Glorious Soviet Spaced Armor). How many times has an IS-6, IS-3 or Object 704 trolled you when you hit their side? Case closed.
Penetration issues must be considered in light of RNG accuracy. It is one thing to know where weakspots are. It is another for RNG to actually allow you to shoot them. Sometimes you fully aim your 6000 credit HEAT shell for that luscious E-100 lower plate, only to see it careen a meter left or right into his track... 0 damage. Then he shoots and kills you without aiming. It is aggravating in the extreme, related both to RNG and penetration mechanics.
I'm certain WG can offer detailed rationales explaining why its penetration system is sound. But in practice--combined with RNG--it's frustrating, undependable and counterintuitive. It has aggravated me so much that it's driven me away from the game.
9. Tier 10 Games : When I first got a Tier 10 tank in 2011, I thought I had reached the pinnacle of the WoT experience. I had a big, bad E-100... who could touch me?!? I quickly found out that plenty of people could touch me, and that was even before Tier 10 TDs, mediums or French autoloaders. Back in those early days, arty used to completely dominate the Tier 10 landscape; games were slow, campy and grueling. I spent my time clinging rocks, hoping that T92 wouldn't obliterate me as I moved the 75m to another rock. In short, Tier 10 was a major letdown, an anticlimax if there ever were one.
Yet there has always been a certain prestige about Tier 10 tanks, and I have not refrained from pursuing that prestige. I have 12 Tier 10 tanks/TDs and 2 Tier 10 arties. I generally got them all because I wanted to give my clan a variety of possible choices for clan wars, as well as the person satisfaction of "collecting the best."
Still, I never enjoyed playing Tier 10 matches alone, or even with platoon mates. As power creep advanced, Tier 10 became even less palatable. So many things can kill you so fast at Tier 10 that even one false step will get you vaporized. And sometimes you just have no chance when you are outscouted, lit up and wrecked in the game's opening minute.
Every problem with WoT is magnified at Tier 10. You are more reliant on your teammates at Tier 10 than at any other Tier, and once again, vision control determines the win, not your big bad Tier 10 heavy. If anything dominates Tier 10 games now, it is competent scouts/mediums that allow the devastating Tier 10 TDs and arty to eviscerate the opposition without taking return fire. It's WWI tactics: World of Spotting, stay in your trench and go over the top once the enemy is weakened.
Last month, I played 100 solopub games at Tier 10 as an experiment with all 12 of my Tier 10 tanks/TDs. I knew it would adversely affect my morale, and it did. I tempered it by saying I "was doing it for science," and to an extent that was true. Subjectively, it was a grueling experience. Most games were decided by scores greater than +/-8, and 10% were 15-2, 15-1 or 15-0 routs. I won 56, lost 39 and drew 5. I averaged 2800 damage over those games but never really felt I was determining the outcome myself. My wins came because my team knew how to play and I provided some margin to our overall capacity. We had vision control, knew how to push as a unit and stayed in cover as needed. In my losses, we did not have vision control, we did not know how to push as a unit and we did not stay in cover... and that led to routs against us.
Tier 10 solopub gameplay is quite simply not enjoyable. It is an ordeal. You have the responsibility to lead, but often teammates without a firm grasp on what must be done, especially with regard to vision control. This leads to frustration and pressure in losses, and a sense that winning had less to do with you than with the fact that your enemy had more noobs than your team did.
It amazes me that some people tout Tier 10 as the ultimate expression of the "WoT experience." For me, it is a broken mess that should be avoided as much as possible. Every negative aspect about the game finds magnified expression there (vision control, RNG, penetration mechanics, matchmaking, arty), and the feeling of hopelessness that comes with being on the wrong team is especially painful.
I had parted from solopub Tier 10 gameplay long ago. But I mention it here because it has really become a poster boy for all the ills in the game.
10. Fun is getting harder to harvest; I'm tired of carrying: I have never been one of those players who says: "I play for fun!" I am competitive and I always contribute as much as I can to staying alive in a match and hopefully winning. To be clear, though, I wouldn't have played this game as much as I have since 2011 if it didn't give me significant pleasure. It is a lot of fun when your team clicks, your shots go where you aim them and you don't get BS bounce after BS miss. It is also a lot of fun when you are in the top spot of your matchmaking spread and can realistically affect the battle without cowering behind your (possibly very incompetent) higher tier teammates.
Yet I've been finding the fun harder and harder to harvest. I don't get enjoyable games as much as I used to. I get overly fixated on the glaring problems with game mechanics, as well as the luck-based vagaries inflicted upon me by RNG and MM. I resent my incompetent teammates and bitterly envy opposing teams for actually having a core of good players against my pack of idiots. I weary of fighting tooth and nail to reverse losing battles. I carry way more often that I'd like to, and as proud as I am to carry some games, it's not something I'd prefer to do all the time: It's too emotionally taxing. If I wanted more responsibility in my life I'd get another job.
And that's just it: WoT feels increasingly like a job to me. I feel pressured to do well, pressured to carry, pressured to show up and take advantage of doubles and specials. It's a burden to sit through fail teams and it's a burden to fight hard carrying noobs every other battle. There's little joy in it for me, and sadly, it's usually RNG that lets me occasionally feel happy: My shots went where I aimed; I had good damage rolls; I bounced a shot; the arty missed me. It's not my skill that leads to feeling good: It's whether RNG cooperates and matchmaker gives me a team I can work with.
To some extent, platooning helps me alleviate some of the most depressing aspects of random play in WoT. But even then, sometimes RNG, matchmaking and failteams make even a triple purple platoon lose more than it wins. And when that happens, platoon mates get angry and start pointing fingers, further poisoning the atmosphere that comes with a loss. That isn't pleasant, and it makes you wonder why you're even playing in the first place.
Conclusion: WoT has given me so many good times over the past two and half years. I have met many wonderful people and had many excellent experiences. But I can't escape my growing dissatisfaction with both old and new issues with the game, and the fact that WG seems not to care about them.
This game could be truly wonderful if they would just make a few critical changes, or give players the option to eliminate certain maps from the rotation. But these are just fantasies.
I have not said good bye to WoT. But I unfortunately must say "I am no longer in love with you."
It's been fun, lover, but you just won't change and you're not meeting my needs.