The Direction of WoT Console & the State of the Community

Good day everyone,

As most of you know by now, I’m primarily a Console player (or peasant, I have a good sense of humor about it) and have done what I can to post the latest goings on with the Console side of the WoT community, though circumstance has led to that coverage mostly being me regurgitating the game’s update news, with some brief opinions added in. I believe this may have lead to a bit of a skewed perception of both the console game and community. Very little of the console community’s voice reaches through here, as we’re not only much smaller than PC, but even fewer of them read a blog famous for covering PC.

I’m hoping I can change that by giving some insight into the console community, hopefully balancing some of WG Chicago-Baltimore’s “marketing”. Not only that, but I also hope gather the opinions of not only console players, but also our comrades from PC. Now note, this is largely an opinion piece, and that is the opinion of a player of three years (from the second day after launch on the Xbox 360) and enough battles to seriously threaten my Vitamin D intake. So with that, let’s get started.

While there had always been some disagreements about the direction of the game, and its content, it was in June 2016 that we really began to see WG take a new direction with the console game with the Motherland earnable tank event. It was pretty simple, grind a certain amount of XP in Soviet tanks and you earned a T-54 mod.1 with a permanent camo scheme (and not a terrible one at that). It was quite well received, though criticised somewhat for being a bit too easy, easily allowing inexperienced players access to high tier battles they’d have no chance of doing well in. Other than that though, it was seen as a nice gesture. Then it was repeated in July with the AMX CDC. Then in August with a clone of the tech tree Tiger 1. Then in September with the “Centennial”, a reskinned T95/Chieftain. October saw three tech tree reskins with premium versions of the T71, O-I, and Panther, as well as a reskinned KV-5.

Before I start getting repetitive, every premium tank introduced on console (barring the CDC, and T-54 Mod.1 that went on sale in November) has been a reskin of an existing PC or tech tree tank (even that “Captured” German KV-1 ended up just being a tech tree KV-1 with a 57mm and some Balkenkreuz). WG’s response to the playerbase growing tired of these events during a developer livestream amounted to “Well, you don’t have to earn a FREE tank” (something I’ll return to in a bit).

These tensions reached a bit of a head last week with the Defenders of the Fatherland Operation. Another earn op, but this time XP and damage requirements had been replaced by what amounted to a lottery: Do 500 damage in a Soviet tank, and you earn a dice roll that will give you anything from 1,000-2,000 silver, Crew XP, or a ‘’Fatherland Medal”, five of those medals would grant you the tank.

The Console community has still not fully settled from this one. Player skill and commitment was tossed aside, instead allowing RNG to decide who got a prize. Some got the tank in 30 battles, some played hundreds without even seeing one medal. It didn’t take long for players to express frustration, as they saw their effort go unrewarded while gameplay dissolved into players yoloing (more than usual) to quickly cycle through battles, and thus more dice rolls.

WG Console’s Creative Director, TJ Wagner, posted a response to this. The whole thread can be viewed here, but I’ll be quoting a few bits:

“I’m sure it is not lost on all of you why we’re giving away tanks.  The main purpose is to attract people to the game and give them reasons to play more often.  The more a player plays the game the more likely they are to learn, master and enjoy it.  Free to play games depend on having lots of players playing all the time (especially with the WoTC matchmaker).

So just a few important goals for this Tank Earn Op this time around:
-Achievable to all players regardless of skill (without allowing AFK’rs to earn it) which is why we picked a really low damage amount to be dealt
-Short duration, no Stages
-Accessible to all players, even if they don’t read news, forums, portal, social posts or the Ops tab
-Get a lot of players playing, even if for “just one more” when they have time…”

“How can we improve on that?
Charge nothing to participate and win, that’s right you don’t pay to play the Op, heck you don’t even pay for the game!!!…”

“If it’s not your thing, that’s cool, lots of other things going on during the promotion.  Lots of Soviet Tanks to kill if that’s your thing.  Please keep in mind random is random for each time you complete the Op…”

“It’s a game after all, play, win, lose, have fun, repeat.  Most of all it’s free and giving away free things today (through Tuesday) and celebrating a really cool holiday where men and women defended that which they held most dear.”

(I do suggest looking through the thread if you have the time.)

There are quite a few questions that reading that brings to the long time WoT Console player. For starters, why would you rely on the same type of event for nearly 7 consecutive months if the point is to bring players in? What happened to Tech Tree Focus events (what PC calls Top of the Tree), or even the ×3 XP events?

Why overstate what else is going on for the rest of the player base? Despite the claim that there would be other things going on during the event for those opting out of the Op, there’s nothing else going on (unless a discount on Soviet tech tree tanks counts).

Why hand out high tier premiums to everyone regardless of skill or even paying attention to what’s going on in-game? That may come off as a bit “elitist”, but I’m sure those familiar with PC’s Premium rental events can understand the frustration, and even barring that, why reward such behavior? Was the point of the op not to “encourage players to learn, master, and enjoy the game”? Would better tutorials or rewards for playing well not accomplish that?

What I really wish to draw attention to though, is the emphasis on “free”. This isn’t the first time it’s been used to defend an earn op (as I pointed out earlier) and I’m not particularly sure if WG got this from their own staunch defenders or vice versa, but it raises a very important question:

Is “free” a valid defence from criticism?

It’s probably a question that could be covered in a whole other article, but I’d still love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments.

Nonetheless, it seems to be WG Chicago-Baltimore’s new mantra, as I look at the news tab to see yet another earn op for another set of reskinned tanks. Granted a slight improvement in that they’re at least inspired by existing historical camo patterns, but why not just offer the regular version? Perhaps to take advantage of the console base’s overall ignorance of the PC version? So they could charge full price for the same content twice (as happened with the T-54 Mod.1 and the FV201, which was previously locked behind a black reskin and a $150 bundle on Black Friday, which you can read about here).

WG has even stretched the truth (or blatantly lied) about this practice one of their brief monthly Q&As:

The current trend with Premium releases is introducing a reskinned variant with permacamo. Some of these look good (Tiger 131) while others are gaudy (Legion 59/Patton). Will this trend continue?

Hey! We think the Legion looks awesome! Plus, we release non-camo versions of tanks like these so players have a choice*.

* 4-5 months after the fact is a very odd way to offer players a choice.

Now none of this would be much concern if such events and content was interspersed with regular content (that doesn’t come with a price tag) and balance updates. That’s not really the case though. The introduction of the Czech line saw its fourth camo category, console’s “urban” category, being exactly the same as the Soviets. Not even a fictional work, as the artist were likely too busy working on premiums to notice. Balance updates can sometimes be spaced out by as much as 6 months, and tech trees have been the same ones we’ve seen on PC. We’re so dependant on PC content in fact that our devs couldn’t even remove the ability to flip the player’s tank when we received the 9.15 physics update, despite our devs quite vocally hating the idea, instead tacking on a righting mechanic that instantly rights the tank. No animation, and regardless of whether it’s taking damage, just instantly pops back up.

So as PC begins slowing down their content, what will console do? Will they finally tap into player suggested content, such as tech tree add ons (as I’m sure exists in the PC community as well) or premium tanks never before seen in any version of WoT? Or are they going to continue the trend of painting existing tanks and charging full price (Tiger Hammer, Tiger 131, Captured KV-1 etc.) or digging up tanks long buried in PCs game files for the sole purpose of showing how much “better” we are than other versions (a blatant example being the Chieftain Mk.6).

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot I and many others still enjoy about the game, and I’d love nothing more than to see it succeed and expand. However the recent trends from the development staff has myself and many others concerned about the direction the game is taking, and whether that is the right direction in as unforgiving a market as Console, with a myriad of triple-A titles chipping away at an already small player base (there are about 17,500 players online across all Xbox servers as I type this).

And more importantly, can the criticism for slapping a new coat of paint on something that already existed just be waved away by a simple “Hey, its free”?

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