The Present State and Future of World of Tanks and Wargamming (Part I of II)
Part I, “Lipstick on a Pig”
Bridges are repainted once in a while to keep them from rotting away. People restore cars with new paint jobs to make them shiny again, and WG redid the same maps with HD graphics. What all three of these things have in common is it’s the same piece of shit under that paint that you had before. The proverbial “lipstick on a pig,” couldn’t be any more fitting for Part I of this two part series, where we will discuss the present state and future of World of Tanks and Wargaming (WG) itself. We will grade each WG department on an A to F scale. We will then talk about the main reasons why the game is losing players.
Predicting the future is not easy to do and in many ways can be a fruitless venture, but sometimes seeing into the future is possible if many factors point to the same probable outcome. This is what we will try to do in Part II, “Free Fall,” where we will look at population numbers both past and present and then take a guess at where those population numbers will be heading. We will predict where this company is going in the future based on the likelihood of possible outcomes for all of its major games.
Grading Each Department
The reality is WG totally ignores what players ask for and just does whatever the developers want and/or the accountants say would be best to increase revenue. This sounds great when you are looking at a spreadsheet, but what cannot be calculated is the player response which eventually correlates to said revenue. As more and more things are done that the player-base doesn’t want or ask for (like a graphics update that took three years, instead of new maps) you lose something else that is not on a spreadsheet, and that is credibility. WG’s reputation for any games they have or will make is forever damaged due to this loss of player trust.
There was a WG campaign just over two years ago where CEO Victor Kislyi said the company would listen better to what players wanted and set up the company to be more receptive to player based changes. There was then a poll to what the top things players wanted to see changed about the game and soon after the developers had player meets to discuss them. The community leader read from a list of things players wanted to a dev who then answered if they will be changing any of them. The list included new maps and bringing back some old maps, changes to MM like a +1/-1 system, and lowering RNG. The dev answering said one by one why none of it would be happening, and essentially proved the company still ignores their players like they don’t exist. Nothing changed. All the talk of listening to players was just that, talk. Meaningless babble from a company that treats their players like they are a nuisance. They know better than the players what they want. If they knew better, the game wouldn’t have lost 40% of its player-base since that time two years ago.
Not adding new maps for two years prior to the graphics update is one of the primary reasons this game has fallen off the proverbial cliff, which by the way, is the only way the new OPed Russian 268-4 can be killed.
The inability or indifference to crack down on illegal programs like aim-bots and other assorted cheats is also a huge blemish on the game (more on that later).
WoWPs falling out of the sky and Master of Orion taking a galactic crap are two more examples of bad managerial decision making.
WG Management Grade: F
Developers (Game Creation):
The initial WoTs game was quite impressive and quickly gained a large following. WG soared to new heights and branched out into ships, planes, and even space games. Those games were created by profits from WoTs success and this has a lot to do with the developers of this game. The game was simple and fun and a big reason for that was the developers who made it that way. They deserve a ton of credit for their achievement because not many games will ever reach the status that WoTs has. It was one of the most popular online games in the world. Yes, it had problems too, but what games doesn’t? Overall however, the game delivered.
Developers (Game Creation) Grade: A
Developers (Update 1.0):
The new graphics, while having changed game-play for some maps and making some better or worse as a result are stellar in appearance. They are a masterpiece in many ways, complete with music and an ambiance that engulfs you in the battle. The fact that some players cannot utilize the full graphical impact due to computer restraints does not rest on their shoulders because I see it more as a management decision. Whether or not it was a good idea to update the game in this way is debatable, but I do not blame the developers for this aspect. The negatives of the graphics update is that they make it harder to see things further away and they have an opaque appearance, making it seem less life-like. Things appear to have a painted-on appearance more-so than the older graphics did, but they still look stunning. Maybe a tweak here and there in settings will make it look better. Another negative is houses and other man-made objects appear smaller than they should in real life. They don’t scale well.
Another flaw to the maps which is more serious, is the rocks getting in the way of what appears to be a clear shot at the enemy. The rock absorbs the shot even though you had a clear view to the enemy tank. This happens on many maps and is very annoying.
Developers (Update 1.0) Grade B:
WG Accountants/Analysts and Marketing:
WG hires tons of people to do game and business analytics. Some of the blame here goes back to management relying too much on game and business data. I can understand looking at data to see if one side of the map or one tank or the other gives too much advantage, but when you start getting into the financial part of it to how it affects game-play, I think a line has to be drawn. Management and the analysts have been looking at how to make people fire more gold rounds with the “eternally bottom tier” format, and also how to make games end faster with lopsided teams. They also look at the average time that games take on certain maps and put those maps higher in the frequency queue. I believe this is also why they made the changes to shot accuracy a couple of years ago to make you fire more rounds, and why the “casino slot-machine RNG” is so out of hand. The accountants and analysts have helped make this game the unplayable mess it has become.
From a marketing standpoint, the fact that older premium tanks still have not come down in price is either a lack of business savvy or a very stern owner who will simply not allow it. I have no idea who makes the final decision on things like this, but a tier eight in the current game with its “eternally bottom tier” format is not worth $50. It might be worth $29, but not $50. Premium time is no longer worth $12 per month. It might be worth half of that though.
The Black Friday Feast, aka the $909 “useless bag of shit tanks sale,” is enough to send most marketers packing that same afternoon it was dreamed up, but seriously, WTF were they thinking?
Spending $6 million on a Superbowl commercial in 2017 was a waste of resources and had little to no affect on game population in NA.
The only saving grace for avoiding complete failure is the loot boxes sale of a tank (Type-59) WG promised never to sell again. They circumvented this promise by offering a loot box that could contain the same tank. Total desperation and proof that any promise made by this company is totally meaningless. They later outright sold the Mutant and Defender. Loot boxes are gambling BTW. They are not gift boxes. Gift boxes are things you get as a gift for free. These boxes you paid for and they were a casino slot-machine gamble (much like WoTs RNG). I don’t condone the use of gambling in a game where many players already have addictive personalities, but tasked with making something out of nothing, they managed to make clay out of mud.
WG Accountants/Analysts and Marketing Grade: D-
WoTs Community Leaders:
Paul Barnett and Meathead had a very hard job. They had to sell a festering turd and look excited while doing it. Paul has experience doing this from the much maligned game Warhammer Online (which shut down after four years). I remember seeing his speech on the realm PvP system where he gets very excited about what happens when one realm is winning and the player response knowing in advance there is zero incentive to even bother playing and that deflated his balloon, but he pressed on like a happy-go-lucky, drunken jester anyway.
Meathead made videos and tried to be funny, even when he knew what he was selling was complete shit. Sometimes he would knock the company in his own subtle way. For both of these guys, it had to be hard knowing the writing was on the wall but in the end the game died in NA, mostly due to no new maps, non-competitive games, casino slot-machine RNG and lack of listening to what players wanted. I have no idea if either of them is staying on in some capacity with the company but I hope they will find a home somewhere else in the gaming world.
WoTs Community Leaders Grade: C+
The Main Reasons Why the Game is Failing
Match-Maker (MM) and Rigged Games:
<Warning!! Some of you might want to don a tin-foil hat for this part>
I combined these two because they are one and the same. Why the games are so lopsided and non-competitive are due to these two factors. Whether you believe the games are rigged or not doesn’t matter, because they are not competitive or fun 60% or more of the time. The losses also come in streaks where you get nothing but low skilled teams that can’t win, and then suddenly you get nothing but all-stars that can’t lose. There is nothing random about losing eight to ten games in a row every other day. The game either needs a skill-based MM (SBMM) system or for WG to stop using their patent and just let the games play out. Oh yeah, there is a patent:
“Dynamic battle session matchmaking in a multiplayer game.”
“According to another aspect, the matchmaking server may store a win/loss percentage for each user (or vehicle) at a given battle level. As the player’s win/loss ratio decreases, the player becomes more likely to be placed in battles having battle levels at the lower end of the allowable range, whereas as the player’s win/loss ration increases, the player becomes more likely to be placed in battles having battle levels at the upper end of the allowable range. Thus, when a player has been repeatedly put into too many difficult battles, the balancing is done in favor of easier battle sessions, thereby encouraging the player by providing an easier game environment. Similarly, when the player has been repeatedly put into too many easy battles, the balancing is done in favor of harder battle sessions, thereby keeping the player challenged instead of letting the player become bored with easy games.”
When you read the intent of this patent it is hard to believe they abandoned the idea fully. The games seem rigged and when you play you have to understand you are playing a faulty slot machine that will sometimes troll you. It will troll you with MM, and it will troll you with RNG (Russian/Random Number Generator), but more on RNG later. What it boils down to is there are three pools of rigged MM. There is the Winner Pool, the Loser Pool, and the Even Pool. The Winner Pool sees about a 67% WR, whereas the Loser pool sees the opposite with a 33% WR, and then there is the Even Pool, which has games that are balanced and could go either way. The streaks of losses in the Loser Pool will give you roughly one win for every two loses. “3x and 5x More Losses Weekends” are notorious for long losing steaks because the game is flooded with low win-rate players and the MM system has to compensate by giving average and better player worse games. This is another reason why they want preferred MM to be a thing of the past. A good player can still win in the Loser Pool with preferential MM at lower tiers.
<Tin-Foil Hat off>
The games just are not competitive. WG has stated many times there will never be a SBMM system because they know better than everyone else. The reality for anyone playing their game however, is that the games are too often a waste of time and without a SBMM system, this game will continue to piss players off. It would take no more time in the queue either. Just let the MM pick the teams as it does now and then flip a few of the players from one side to the other for their class of tank until it falls between a 45-55% win-chance variance. The numbers could be based off of an XVM-type of stat keeper, or perhaps the service record. If the MM cannot balance within the 45-55% win-chance variance, it would just get as close as it can and start the game.
If you read the game forums you already know they are riddled with posts about how bad the games are, how bad the losing streaks are, and how people just don’t find losing ten games in a row with hopeless teams fun. Regardless, if the games are rigged or not they surely are unplayable most of the time and WG needs to find a way to make the games competitive. The fact that they haven’t isn’t very reassuring to anyone playing.
Casino Slot-Machine RNG:
No one is under the impression that WoTs is a tank simulator. It is an arcade game. An arcade game with a rigged, shitty MM system and slot-machine RNG that would make Vegas blush. It is supposedly set at 25%, but I think it is dynamic, much like their patent on MM above. It is part of the reason competitive play has died. It’s a laughable lesson in futility trying to perfect your craft when you are dealing with an algorithm that will tell you where your shot goes regardless of where you aim it. You could fire at a tank 50 meters away and hit a squirrel’s head or an eagle’s pecker. Anything is possible when the RNG has been dialed up as high as it has in WoTs. Why bother even trying to get good at shooting when it’s all in the hands of a piece of faulty game code? What makes things even worse is if you manage to hit the target, there is no guarantee you will penetrate it. You see, RNG will dictate what the pen value was for the shot and then deal random damage. Three potential rolls of the dice every time you fire a shot, if you are lucky enough to hit the target at all.
<Tin-foil hat on again>
All of this wouldn’t be too bad if the game was consistent, but it isn’t. Sometimes you will hit an artillery that has 30mm of armor with a 102 mm gun and bounce his rear or side. The game is an inconsistent mess. Another thing is WoTs seems to troll you with RNG for the entire game. I believe that RNG is also being used to rig games. I think prior to the game starting, the MM will pick lopsided teams and then have a sliding bar for RNG that will affect your entire team. Instead of the normal, out of control 25% RNG, you might have 35% RNG, while the team that is supposed to win, gets 15% RNG. I think view range is part of this as well although I cannot prove it, but I have noticed in games where your shots are off or you fail to pen but they always do, they also see you first and may not even become visible when firing at close ranges with heavy tanks. They also disappear quicker once spotted. This is just an observation and may not exist at all, but I feel it is accurate and does happen. I honestly believe they are using RNG to rig games as well as MM and I’m not the only one. People are tired of it and have been asking for it to be toned down, all on deaf ears. When you pound the ground enough you log off and do something else.
What WG should do is stop rigging the RNG and then scale it by tier. Tier one 25% RNG is fine, but it should scale down to 10% at tier 10 and be dynamic only in regards to how many tanks of each tier are in the game and it would tell you the game’s RNG percentage based on the make-up of the team’s tier average. Example: If you were in a 5/10 tier 10 game, five tanks would be 10% RNG and let’s say tier 9 is 12.5% RNG, 10 tanks would be at 12.5% RNG. Add all of those numbers up and divide by 15 and the game will be played at 11.67 RNG ((5 x 10) + (10 x 12.5))/15 = 11.67.
<Tin-foil hat off>
A book could be written about this subject and probably has. Every game has them. Degenerates who either can’t compete at higher levels, players who take pride in making a new player’s experience miserable, or people looking to pad stats to make themselves look like good players. The WoTs retention rate has to be very low, which would make anyone wonder why there isn’t better protections in place to help newer players. One that I can think of off the top of my head is a limit to how many games you can play in each tank at low tiers. Perhaps no more than ten games in each tier one tank, and maybe 25 in each tier two tank. Perhaps make the tier one and two win-rate not count and still have the limit per tank. Make it so tier one only faces tier one and tier two only faces tier two. Make those games have less tanks on each team to compensate. Maybe have eight players in tier one per team and ten players at tier two per team. Do the same for tier three, but make it twelve players a team and stats do not count after 50 battles in a tank. The issue would then be low-tier premiums. They need to go and players should either be compensated for them or given the option of having a tier five premium.
Indifference to Cheating and Illegal Mods:
We have all been witness to players who magically can hit something 400 meters away while the target is moving at full speed perpendicular to the shooter. The same player will make impossible shots the entire game and wind-up with four or five kills and go on to the next game doing the same. People cheating in this game are losers. People cheating in any game are losers. It is up to the gaming company to find ways to detect and punish cheaters. This game may ban a cheater once in a blue moon, but they are not enforcing their cheating policy very well. Recently some fanbois claimed they banned 1,000 accounts due to cheating. I wonder if these are the same fanbois who always ask for proof that the game is rigged. Show me proof they banned 1,000 cheaters or I will assume they banned none or maybe one guy on twitch who was using a cheat mod but was a freeloader who never paid a nickle to play the game. The problem with a company like WG, who is financial trouble, is it makes it harder to crack down and ban accounts because it hurts them financially. This is an additional danger the game is in right now due to low game populations and falling revenue.
With the failure of several tier ten modes like “Grand battles,” and others which I can’t remember, along with no tournaments and clan rewards going way down, the game has no end-game for veteran players. What do you do when you get the tanks you wanted at tier ten and have nothing else to play for? Do you try to research every tank for every country? What is the end-game? The answer is their isn’t any. This isn’t LoL, where if you find four people and convince them to play with you in a basement twelve hours a day for a year, you might be able to win millions in tournaments. In WoTs you win nothing, or next to nothing. Even if you got good at the game the casino slot-machine RNG might kick you in the ass on that final kill shot. It makes all of this pointless. If you want RNG, go to a casino and pull a slot-machine handle, you might get better results.
Lack of New Maps:
I know WG just redid 30 maps in HD. There might be a new one or two in that bunch, but all of the others are the same maps we had before. It boggles my mind how they didn’t bring back some of the older maps that haven’t been played in years, but instead chose to redo maps that were already in use. It would have made more sense to bring back five or so of the older ones and then redo the ones that were in use at a later date. The fact remains that while the maps have been redone, they are the same old maps. They play slightly different, but they are the same old maps players have been playing on for years. There was a stretch of about two years where the only new non-tier ten exclusive map was Paris, and it is not a popular one at that. The same old maps are boring and players want older maps brought back or totally new ones. Again, on deaf ears.
No Value at Tier Eight:
Tier eight premiums, the thing everyone wanted once they started playing. The silver would come rolling in. The tanks were average and nothing really special stood out about them, but you trained crews and made money. If you had preferential MM tier eights, like the IS6 or KV-5, you had games where you were top tier and didn’t have to fire much gold, if at all, so you made money. Nowadays, with the new OP’ed premiums you have to fire gold to pen and once you do that you make no money. If you are in one of the new OP’ed premiums, guess what? They buffed other tanks and you are “eternally low-tier” and most of the time have to fire gold yourself. What is the point of even playing tier eight? There isn’t any, except to painfully grind though to get a tier ten you want. Greed destroyed their most lucrative tier. Don’t expect changes anytime soon either as the changes they made to buff other tanks to compensate for the OP’ed premiums would have to be unwound to fix this issue. It ain’t happening.
Emphasis on Premium and “Rare” Tank Bombardment:
Like a soldier sitting in the open field with artillery shell craters all around him hoping the barrage ends, this company cannot stop bombarding players with new premiums. It seems like everything else is on hold. Fixing MM, RNG, tweaking class roles all take a back seat to a new, shiny premium we never knew existed almost on a weekly basis. This barrage is what the game has devolved into. It is literally being kept alive by new premiums, but there is something called premium fatigue. When the game remains the same, shitty MM, RNG and all, no tank you drive matters. Once premium fatigue sets in, they will need a new trick. I think they found one by reintroducing rare and promised never to be sold again premiums. The Type-59 loot box sale, the Mutant, Defender and who knows what’s next, but if you own any rare tank or are going to buy any of them, understand that they will not be rare for long and no tank is safe or rare. Once all of those chips are spent, WG will need to do something different.
Game Age and Product Life-Cycle:
All things must come to an end at some point and products go through a life-cycle. Some products seem to last forever (Coke), but some fade quickly (MySpace). Games typically do not last very long due to people getting bored playing them, new games taking their place, or games that become outdated.
The product life-cycle for WoTs is in late adulthood and will soon be able to move into a retirement village. WoWPs is already there and guess what? WoWS is aging at a fast rate and will take the dust covers off of the furniture before WoTs gets there.
Russian Way of Doing Business:
Different countries have different ways of doing things that seem normal locally, but do not translate well beyond that realm of influence. In America, people expect a good product for a decent price because there is usually a lot of competition. There are many products of the same type to choose from and therefore price is often the only differentiating factor. WoTs may have a quasi-monopoly on arcade style tank games, but there are many other first-person shooters which play similar to WoTs and people will play those games if they feel they aren’t getting a good deal or are being taken advantage of.
Deceptive promotions, error-prone marathons and broken promises to never sell certain tanks again, does not go unnoticed. Once trust is lost, people close wallets and move on. Just because there was an unannounced nerf to silver payouts doesn’t mean people didn’t notice it. Just because there was a “typo” on day 19 of a 20 day free tank marathon, doesn’t mean people aren’t skeptical, especially considering the company didn’t acknowledge the “mistake” and honor the results.
Phony in-game surveys that end once you select a low grade to the first question.
Disdain for the NA Server:
The hatred WG has for the NA server has been obvious for years. From getting a Canadian or British Tank for a Fourth of July special event to celebrating Dunkirk, “the historic 1940 battle and subsequent evacuation,” in July 2017. Why are we celebrating a British evacuation for Independence Day? Why aren’t we celebrating the D-Day invasion, The March on Berlin, or V-Day? No! We are celebrating a retreat of an ally instead.
In July 2011 NA got to celebrate Independence Day with the “Kursk Operation Special.”
The latest smack in the face is watching WoT videoes about the changes to graphics and seeing Spanish subtitles. It isn’t the player’s fault that NA died. NA died due to many of the reasons above and silly decisions like spending most of the NA advertising budget in 2017 on a non-coherent Superbowl commercial. Nothing says let’s play a tank game more than a tank crashing through a wall into a table with a cake on it. A better commercial would have been just showing 30 seconds of the game log-in movie if this is the best you can do. Roughly $6 million up in smoke in one shot. Slightly more expensive than an Object 430 version II gold load-out.
There are many reasons WoTs is losing players, some of which may not be listed here and are just as viable. The reality is that the population has dropped substantially in the last three years. In Part II, “Free Fall,” we will look at past and present game population numbers and make bold predictions on the future of each major game in Wargaming’s war chest. We will create a timeline of events and chart a course on the future of WG.
Disclaimer: My name is John Smith but you can call me Bubba. Everything I have said and will say in this series is only my opinion and is for entertainment purposes only. My current location is on a small boat docked next to a small island (not Cyprus) in a yet undiscovered island chain which lies in a large body of water.