Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WoT Alternatives III

There are two final things I'd like to suggest for World Of Tanks. They aren't so much 'alternatives' as additions really.

The first is Faction Rewards. This feature could be free, but lets face it, its a FTP game that has to generate income so they could charge a fee (in gold) for monthly, or permanent access to Faction Rewards. For every, say, 1000 battles you play for the faction you have chosen (paid) for you get some perks. New tank skins with historical unit markings, new garage skins, new voices (Russian for Russian, German for German, etc), access to unique tanks, and most importantly: cash rewards. 5% off your repair bill  paid for by the faction seems fair. The rewards/perks could increase over time to a set maximum. For the title junkies you could be granted titles (shown on screen with your name....I like the sound of Comrade Gank....), medals could be awarded, leader boards set up, etc. There is a lot of room to expand the game with this and new game modes featuring faction vs. faction could be implemented similar to company battles.

Second is Choose Your Own Premium Tank. Similar to the old Choose Your Own Adventure book series of my youth this is where you can designate your own tank to be premium. I can't even take the credit for this idea as Overlord put out the feelers for this back in November on his blog. His suggestion was to limit it to tiers 1-8 and have the premium status purchasable for a few hours. This is self-explanatory and something I was very excited about. It would allow the player to choose their favorite tank and earn some credits, or at least with the Tier VIII ones, not lose any (as tier VIII seems to be the start of the credit-squeeze in game). I would love to see this implemented- perhaps even with a permanent option- and would happily pay to have my KV-13, and IS-3 'premiumed'. It would also stop the sort of fiasco we saw with the T-59 in which large numbers of them roam across the maps devastating everything in their path. If it was a reasonably priced feature I'd use it quite a bit.

What I've tried to do over the last few days is look at some ways in which WoT could be a bit more player friendly. As I said this is colored by my view on how games should be played. I don't like grinding and it's one of the main reasons I've given up on a lot of traditional MMO's. I enjoyed Wurm Online, for instance, and would still be playing if it wasn't for the grind. I want to play the game, not work the mechanics of it. In Wurm, for instance, I'd like to have built a stone house on top of a hill I had terraformed on my settlement. In order to do that I would have had to increase my skill to 30. This meant some form of 'grind' by 'practicing' the skill. In reality it meant clicking the mouse multiple times until the skill increased. Then I'd have to stand in front of a rock wall in an underground mine pressing M for mine until I had around 500 rocks. Then I'd have to do another series of clicks to turn the rocks into bricks. Then the same for mortar......then I'd have to place 50 bricks per wall until the house was complete. None of that seemed like much fun to me.

Word of Tanks isn't a hard core Sandbox game. It is a fast-paced strategy/shooter set in WWII tanks. I do not think the grind is as bad as Wurm, or any Sandbox game. There are considerations I am not privy too (Wargaming's business needs and costs/profits) and data that I have no access to (on server health, player trends, tank success/failure rates) that impact game balance. Most of what I say is based on my own play experience and style. I get to play a fair amount but not as much as some and so I resent the time it takes to get the upper tier tanks, and then the credit problems that arise when trying to play them. I pay to skip tanks (using free experience), I pay for premium, and I buy premium tanks. Why should I then be restricted from enjoying the top tiers of the game? Online MMO games are designed to keep us playing (hence the grind involved in almost all of them) and I stand by my assertion that this leads to game mechanics that do NOT work in favor of the player. Similar to a casino, the house always wins.

It's a subtle difference, but one that is ever-present:

A game designed by a company to keep players playing and paying for their product is fundamentally different from a game designed to be player-friendly which will keep them paying.

I like World of Tanks but I would like to see some improvements that benefit the paying player while not alienating the free guys/gals at the same time. I do not want pay-to-win, but when I pay I want the barriers to my fun to be removed. It's as simple as that.


  1. Gank, haven't had a chance to sit down and write a decent response, just wanted to remind you to use the Valentine's code for a free day of premium. That day might have had something to do with me not responding...

  2. Awww, and here I was thinking that everything I said was so good you had no problems with it :)

    Forgot completely about that free day of premium! I'll make sure to use it and see if it adds a day to my account as I broke and bought a months worth not too long ago. Thanks.

  3. Argh, character limits on replies! Speed editing, sorry if I lose something important.

    I don't have a lot of heartburn about any of your suggestions really, but I think what you seem to be discussing is more of a pricing disagreement than a pricing model change. Functionally, anyone willing to spend enough money can get to play any tier in any tree very quickly. If you have enough elite or premium tanks, every day's worth of daily doubles can net you 50k+ of convertible experience, which in a very short period of time gets you to thru to tier 10s. So I wouldn't have any concern with them "selling" a tier 10 package, but I think they get so much income from people converting experience that I doubt they'd take the loss of income from selling it for a fixed price.

    I'm definitely fine seeing a credit income boost, but it doesn't feel that onerous to me currently and I just did about 8.1m credits in 3 weeks or so (took a little detour buying my T20 and IS when they popped up as half off). I also like the fact that conceptually, you are rewarded for playing better with the in-game currency, and that it isn't simply a counter that accumulates. Even with a premium account, it shouldn't be a foregone conclusion that you're going to make a ton of credits. The current system extends the advantage of playing profitably up to and including tier 10 in some cases, as opposed to tiers 7-8 for non-premiums, as long as you play reasonably well.

    With respect to "playing the game the way you want to". This is probably my biggest disagreement with your arguments. I definitely agree to some extent or perhaps I want to agree because it has that utopian kind of feel to it, but if I think it really breaks down when I think about playing other games or designing games or systems for games. I just can't think of many good examples of good games, with repeatable/enjoyable content, that survive the "everyone plays like they want to" test. My gut instinct is that when you try to carry that concept to the logical extreme in game design, you create too many situations that break immersion or you create too much of a tiered have and have not situation in a pay situation.

    To put that in WoT context, my suspicion is that if they were to just put a price on the USSR heavies that this would create such an obvious, blatant "pay to play" aspect that a lot of us non-premium, non paying customers might just not bother. We'd either tune out earlier, or never even give the game a chance. The current system gives the illusion that the payers are still putting their time in, playing elite or premium tanks, and converting exp (at great cost). The current system may be all smoke and mirrors, but it may be some necessary smoke and mirrors for the psyche of the players. That illusion that the payers are just adding convenience or speed to their grind is just better to me than if that same process were on sale for 9.99.

    Also, by keeping the scale of expense where it us currently, the opportunity cost for each of these "bonus" holidays or "sales" is kept reasonably small for wargaming. That extends their marketing budget, and helps them do more visible community building activities. If they cheapen the process of playing high tiers too much, or have them just for sale as specific packages, that means that each of those individual events becomes much more expensive for them to run.

    I'll wrap this up by saying that I don't think wargaming has the tuning of either the tanks or payment plans perfect, but I do think that they've done a credible job making things internally consistent. It may not be "fair" since obviously you and many others have written or posted about it and it irks some people, but I admire the system design and consistency as something that I would hope to see in other games. Its not easy to create systems that reward the behavior you want to see without having tons of negative unintended consequences.

  4. I can't disagree....which bothers me somewhat ;)

    My first experience with any multi-player game, and PVP in general, was Guild Wars where 'leveling up' or 'gearing up' wasn't a consideration. I rolled a top-level. fully geared PVP only 'toon and just jumped in and started fighting. The point, in that case, was the fight- there were some titles that could be gained which people sought, but for the most part the idea of getting experience and cash, or any in-game reward was absent.

    The teams were 4 on 4 and it was a different game so I realize it wouldn't work in the WoT environment. We do need ways of rewarding good play (ie credits). Maybe my frustration comes from a bit of boredom with the game (which leaves me too much time to think), or the fact that their pricing model is successful and has me hooked and paying when I know I don't have to. That is no-ones fault but my own, and wouldn't be a big deal if it wasn't for my incessant habit of over-thinking everything I do but without that there would be no blog lol.

    Overall I do think they are doing things well and perhaps if I wasn't playing the game so much I wouldn't be so frustrated by the things I feel are missing and/or not done well. Vicious circle, that....

    And your right in that if free players didn't 'buy' into the system and think they had a fair shot then they wouldn't bother and the paying players would have no one to play against. That would surely destroy the game faster than anything.

    Gratz on the Tier 10 US Heavy, btw....was snooping on your stats yesterday and noted that you finally got it! That's a heck of an accomplishment.

  5. Thanks! I gotta say it was a lot less hassle then I thought it would be. I may just be strange, but I liked the US heavy play-style and many of the tanks were just a ton of fun for me to play. I really didn't think I had a chance to get to the T30 but I had so much fun with the T29/T32/T34 that it just sort of happened.

    Naturally I've been traveling and/or having computer problems these last 2 weeks so I didn't have a chance to play my new shiny!

    Back to the original topic: as a paying customer, you are from your accounting at LEAST 20 times more valuable to wargaming as I am. So if you are bored, burning out, or getting frustrated with the system, you're absolutely right that this is a potential problem for wargaming. So, follow up question: would fixing the exp/credit issue resolve your situation, or is it a broader reaching problem for games of this type? We've both played thousands of matches, burnout is certainly a valid possibility, especially without additional game modes, or some of the other variety that other FPS games offer. As a veteran of the FPS scene, I don't value other game modes as much as others might, but it could offer some additional life to the game play. Other than that though, all FPS games seem to have a shelf life with most players, I suspect this is why they are already pushing World of Warplanes and World of Warships so hard.

  6. I don't think fixing the exp/credit problems would not resolve the problem of burnout. The repetitive nature of the random battles is a different issue from the credits I get from doing them :)

    This being my first foray into an online FPS I'm not sure what other game modes they could realistically offer, or how this compares to others. I'm full of ideas but I have no idea if they could they be properly implemented and from their point of view a brand-new, shiny game (planes or ships) may be a better business move.

    A variation in maps wouldn't hurt, and I think they made a terrible mistake getting rid of the 5-man platoons. I have no idea what they were thinking. They claim it was shelved due to balancing issues, but if it's 3 5-man platoons vs. 3 5-man platoons I fail to see what the issue would be (balance wise). It would have added a layer of competition in any case.

    Adding new game modes should be a priority. Trying new tanks is fun, but in the end, once you 'learn' the tank (60-battles or so for me) then what? New objectives (one flag to fight over) can't be that hard to implement at the very least. A lot of customers are new to MMO's but are likely strategy gaming vets. Bigger maps with multiple objectives would also likely breath some life into the game. Clan Wars is a bit of a joke and even though it's officially in beta I haven't seen any significant change that would make me want to play.

    I notice a great deal of the player base in random matches are clanless so giving them something more to do should be a priority, but as you've said, perhaps they are hoping the new games will do that for them. I still enjoy blowing up tanks and I've had lulls in interest like this before. The next test-server will give me a spark as I get to test out some of the top-tanks like the IS7 and Maus and the test-server is always more fun due to the mix of player styles (Russian, EU and US) and the fact no one is worried about credits or grinding. It's about having fun and trying stuff out. Until then, however, I will let my premium expire (even though I've bought more gold with my 'free money') and play some of the lower-tier tanks that I have without the experience/credit worry/hassle. The KV (Tier V Russian) is ridiculously fun, for instance, and there's always my premium tanks!