There's a number of ways I'd like to walk the World of Tanks community through as to why stock guns are too weak, weak to the point where the World of Tanks experience suffers from it. Starting a tank off with a gun that makes it at least able to be effective against tanks of its own tier would greatly improve the World of Tanks experience for everybody; but let us consider a few points.
First, as most people should remember, stock tank grinds suck, with some suffering a lot more than others. For example, the ARL V39, a tier VI TD starts stock with a tier III gun that would struggle to penetrate a Matilda two tiers below it. The upgrade requires the tracks to be researched before a marginally decent tier V gun can be equipped. This is in stark contrast to the tank it upgrades from, the S35 CA who's stock gun is popularly recognized as its strongest. The T29 starts with a tragic 128 penetration gun in Tier VII, able to upgrade to an okay gun inherited from the M6, while players upgrading from the M4A3E2 have even longer to go having to research that gun first. Let's explore why this is unacceptable.
Consider a teammate driving a tank mounting stock guns (who didn't luck out with a Bathtub-like stock experience); what you can expect that tank to be able to do is going to be widely different than what it is able to deliver on. Citing the aforementioned T29, a fully upgraded T29 is a veritable powerhouse, capable of a daunting hull down position that can sometimes defend points that feel indefensible. However, with the stock gun the T29 loses it's signature ability to hold practically any hilly area - the quick calculations a skilled World of Tanks player makes when deciding where to go at a start of a match will be biased, as the T29 will be unable to perform to the norms of what a T29 should be able to. One can say that each gun looks different on a tank's model, and a skilled world of tanks player will recognize a stock T29 and correctly anticipate his likely contributions; but is it interesting gameplay to simply know that your stock T29 teammate is doomed wherever he goes and to count on it accordingly? Ideally I'd want a non-stock T29 on my team, but I'd be happy if I knew that he stood a chance against whatever tanks he would face.
As an opponent, playing against stock tanks is misleading at best. As most World of Tanks players who have had the joy of facing a hull down T29 knows, there are certain ways the situation has to be approached considering the power level and pros and cons of the tank. However, a T29 that is stock will most likely not uphold any of the pros traditionally outlined for the tank; eventually the bluff will be called, and the T29 will fall, and as an opponent it'll feel like a waste of time following correct engagement procedure against a toothless enemy. One can argue that the ability to bluff in that situation is in itself a strength of the tank, even stock; however, can that experience possibly be better than having a tank with an adequate gun on it? There are many interesting bluffs that a skilled World of Tanks player can make, such as baiting an opponent out into the open to attack you, or forcing somebody to over-commit to take a final shot at you. Driving a tank that should be feared, and is in fact, harmless, is not an interesting bluff.
Furthermore, let's consider an important aspect of any RPG-like system; the grind. It's been established from a long tradition of games, especially MMO's, that some grind is good - it keeps players motivated to play to achieve progressively better stuff, and RPG and MMO structures flourish in a social setting, as anything that requires significant time is best done with friends. However, while some grind is good, more grind is not better; World of Tanks is in a state where the amount of grind required to get a tank to a playable state leaves a bad taste in the mouth for players. As a truly hooked player, I'm most likely going to muscle through it; some of the most fun I've had in a long time has been driving my IS-3, and it has kindled a drive to become a better player that's going to keep me playing for a long time to come. But what about players who aren't hooked yet, or players who are on the fence about World of Tanks? I just had a friend of mine quit after I'd persuaded him to come try it out; after several hundred games (a pretty astounding amount for an on-the-fence player, a testimony to how fun World of Tanks can be) after reaching Tier V it became evident that all that will happen as the tiers increase is more time will be spent stock before your tank becomes useful. This problem is only made worse by the role of premium in World of Tanks; I've habitually thrown cash every time my premium's worn off, so I've enjoyed 50% less grind than most players, but is that reasonable to expect of every prospective player? All I had to offer as consolation to my friend who quit was that premium could give him 50% less suffering, and that eventually if he stuck through the bad stock tanks there are some truly wicked tanks to enjoy later on; he didn't buy premium, and now he's not playing, and I can only imagine that if tanks were more fun to play stock Wargaming wouldn't have lost a potential customer. This should be a sticking point for Wargaming - having better stock tanks will lead to a more enjoyable experience, leading to more players, which is good for World of Tanks in every aspect; more players means more paying customer, more paying customer means more money for the developers to keep pushing World of Tanks to being an even better game than it is now. One could argue that Wargaming doesn't care about the stock grind, as the money is in the competitive scene at the top - that would be a rather shortsighted approach however, as all pro players started out in stock tanks too, and I wonder how many potential pro players aren't being convinced of the worth of World of Tanks due to terrible experiences early on. One could say that having a bad stock grind provides incentive to convert free experience using gold, or buying premium to shorten the total time spent stock, but a player who quits instead pays nothing, and there are many good games on the market worthy of a player's time right now. One could say that premium tanks circumvent the stock grind by offering fully upgraded tanks, but this is only a bandaid to a more systemic problem; with no upgrade potential, premium tanks generate credits and free XP for players to use on bad stock tanks. Furthermore, it's not very persuasive to say to players that the answer to the problems in the base game is to put more money into a game that they don't entirely trust; walking away is free.
Playing a fully outfitted tank is a joy, and feels very rewarding; however, playing a tank fresh off the purchase screen is one of the worst experiences World of Tanks has to offer. I would argue that you can preserve the former without needing the latter. Make guns better stock; it's okay to upgrade from good guns to better, but you shouldn't have to pay to upgrade from awful to adequate to good to better. I've recommended World of Tanks to everybody I know, but the stock grind is indefensible - I only hope some of my friends are willing to stick through it with me, and that some day we'll be playing because it's challenging playing against better players, not because it's challenging to upgrade my tank.
TL;DR - stock guns are bad enough that as a system it will drive prospective players from World of Tanks.
Edited by Pyro93735, Jan 21 2014 - 22:33.