“We Are Our Own Game”- The Lack of Direction Behind World of Tanks Console

Good day everyone,

Decided to throw together another state of the game/community for World of Tanks Console. This time covering something that’s been a bit of a longstanding issue between the console versions developers, Wargaming Chicago-Baltimore, and the community that is concerned about the direction they are taking the game. Hopefully this can help provide a better picture of what is going on than the few snippets of news I’m able to post. With that, let’s get started.

For the majority of World of Tanks Console’s life we’ve followed our PC counterpart, at least in terms of content. We saw releases for tank lines in the same manner as PC, even down to order. Tanks were moved, renamed or reshuffled to be virtually identical to our older brother, though there were a few tweaks as time went on, the Aufk. Panther was made into a Premium for those who had it in their garage upon the introduction of the SPC.1C, the KV-85’s 122mm gun kept the old rate of fire of the KV-1S when it was a Tier 6, and so on. Eventually the motto for World of Tanks Console, at least according to its developer, was that “we are and always have been a completely separate entity”. To be honest it’s actually not a bad idea. The playerbase is different, the hardware has its own unique limitations, such as supporting a 12 year old console, and improvements could be made upon the template which PC has set, and for a while things looked that way. Crew training was simplified, reducing the crew to a single commander (with XP earnings adjusted to allow a number of crew skills to be trained in a reasonable amount of time) and the penalty of switching between classes in Premium tanks was removed, making crew training even less of a hassle. Credit earning also received a boost, allowing players to advance along the lines at a quicker rate, fitting the shorter amount of time console players tend to stick with any one game before another release.

Not a bad start, a few quality of life improvements to suit the more casual player, and if they carried that sort of thought through development I might not be writing this now. I am however, as it’s become increasingly apparent that the idea of us being “our own game” is a bit of a fallacy, both in theory and in practice. Our reliance on PC server builds perhaps can’t be helped. Ignoring balance issues that have been around for years in the name of “being unique” certainly can be.

The questionable decisions of WG Chicago have caused a bit of debate within the community, though that may be putting it lightly. The question simply is:

Are we our own game, or is WarGaming Chicago using that an excuse for lazy development?

 

A “Unique” Approach to Balance

The catalyst for this would be the recent announcement of the Grille 15 coming to console. A welcome addition, looked forward to by many players as a replacement for one of the most toxic machines in the game, and arguably a better one. Then we received the news it would be sharing space with the old Waffentrager at Tier X. The response is exactly what you would expect, some were outraged, some defended the decision. WG defended the decision with the reasoning that they didn’t want to take away a favorite tank from people (also used to justify the Lorraine 40t staying in the tech tree) and they wanted new players to have access to it.

Then the stats for the Grille were released. Virtually identical to its introduction on PC. Same alpha, 750. Same rate of fire, 3.64. There was one issue though, here is a quote from the last live Q&A with one of the game’s Lead Designers:

…we look at all the changes that PC does and we’re inheriting and compare them with how tanks in our ecosystem are doing and then make the call on a per tank basis. This tank gets this, but doesn’t get this, we’re going to add this…

The Grille received none of that attention. It’s a 150mm gun with 750 alpha entering a version of the game where Tier X TDs never received the alpha nerf they received on PC. Aside from the Foch 155, we still have 850 alpha.  Though upon release a bizarre inconsistency emerged when viewing the tank in the consoles module viewer, with average damage for ammunition listed as 817, though right next to it the ammunition stats show the damage range for AP being consistent with 750 alpha.

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After looking further, this is actually a common error. According to the module viewer, the T110E3 has a standard alpha of around 930.

A year ago the FV4005, and its accompanying line, were introduced with post-nerf view ranges. 4005 came into a game of 400 meter view ranges with 390. A year later view ranges had finally been nerfed, but the machine is still a far cry from being competitive when other options are a Waffentrager E-100 with a 6-shot clip and a FV215 183 with unnerfed mobility and HESH penetration (with no plans for that changing).

So now we’re here with a Grille coming into the game already gimped against its peers, and even it’s own Tier 9 leadup, as the Waffentrager Pz. IV has an unnerfed view range 20 meters greater than either of its Tier Xs. Will it perform poorly? Maybe not. That’s not the point though. The point is that WG refused to properly balance it for our game before its introduction, even after flat-out saying that’s not the case.

Of course even on the rare occasion that they do attempt to balance a tank before release they manage to get it wrong. STA-2 was tested and released with the exact same stats from its PC release. Supertest pushed for it to receive preferential matchmaking, which it got, only for the tank to get the same buffs it did on PC about a month later. It still has the preferential matchmaking, and I can attest that it performs spectacularly in that environment. The same case occurred with the Panther 8.8, another Tier 8 that received preferential matchmaking even after it never needed it.

The result of this copy/paste method of balancing tanks has lead to a confused mess of gameplay. Corridor maps prevail as much as they do on PC, and manage to be even worse, as camouflage is virtually nonexistent on console. PC players coming to console can tell you that a passive spotting location from PC will be gone on console, being inhabited by a single bush (that may not even have a camo bonus) or completely barren. This has created a harsh environment for anything that has neither armor nor alpha, in particular light tanks. Lines with poor acceleration, such as the AMX autoloaders, are now forced to active spot and brawl alongside M41s and T-54 Lightweights, as passive spotting is almost impossible even on non-urban maps. The problems of lights being out spotted by mediums and TDs is even more prevalent, and lights trying to stay alive while active spotting are usually destroyed before long, leaving artillery untouched unit the mediums and heavies break through.

This particular case could have several solutions, eliminating outdated hardware aside. View ranges across the board could be nerfed, allowing lights to outspot their competitors. Thought the inevitable introduction of Tier X lights might complicate that down the line. Perhaps a buff to the camo values of scouts, somewhat lessening the blow of the far more barren maps. Would they work? Who knows, but it’s a direction that could be taken, and it’s certainly more than WG Chicago have done to address the issue.

 

A “Unique” Approach to Mechanics

Something that can be tied to balance, but warranting its own point, as changes in core mechanics are something that can be noticed even by the most casual of players. Before consoles update 3.5, the developers at WG Chicago had made it clear that they thought very little of PC’s introduction of enhanced physics, with Creative Director TJ Wagner even going so far as stating that tank flipping is the “stupidest feature ever” despite the benefits that light tanks, forced into active spotting roles on maps strewn with rubble as to not overload our older hardware, and other classes would have now that they wouldn’t be stopped by every curb or rock. If you’re a console player you know that regardless of Wargaming’s opinion on the matter, the update came, as the physics update was set in the server version we updated to. Rather than work to keep them out a compromise was reached and the tanks would now flip after 10 seconds (though it has many issues, from not recognizing a tank merely on its side, to also allowing what would otherwise be a dead tanker to escape even while being shot at).

It’s not the first time something like this has happened either. There have been several cases on the forums where a certain requested feature has been answered with “We need to update the server version to the equivalent on PC”, and it raises certain questions. The most glaring is how can we be considered an entirely separate game when we’re so irrefutably tied to PC? When we don’t even have the independence to decide which mechanic changes we bring over the idea of WoT Console being able to stand on its own seems ludicrous. Only time will tell if this also ends up being the case with 9.18’s artillery changes. The console devs have shown they either don’t quite grasp the idea or are misrepresenting it to their console audience, and don’t seem keen on importing it over (or addressing the issue of artillery at all), though the possibility remains that it will be forced in with a server update.

 

A “Unique” Approach to Content

One of the more glaring issues in WG’s attempt to distance themselves from PC has been its ideas on the key component to World of Tanks, that being the tanks themselves. I’ve gone over the console team’s love of gaudy paint jobs on their Premium tanks, but the question still remains: Why? Why after so many request are Premiums being brought over from PC with permanent camouflage patterns that the player is forced to pay real money for? Especially when some of that content is so haphazardly put together?

One of the first examples, and perhaps most troubling, would be the Cromwell Knight. For months the console community expressed interest in the PC’s Berlin Trio, especially the Cromwell B, as it was at a time that console had few UK premiums. After months of we finally heard what we’d been waiting for, we’d get a premium Cromwell. It wouldn’t be the B though. What we got was this thing:

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Nobody asked for that. Not one single player who bothered to voice in on the matter wanted a Cromwell with a giant Union Jack paint job that they couldn’t cover. The sting of this wouldn’t be quite as bad if not for this statement from the last Twitch Q&A:

Will we ever get the Cromwell B?

TJ- We already have too many Cromwells in the game, so I always put it down on the TBD list.

Complete disregard for the community’s requests, all in the name of putting a “unique” spin so it can be called original content.  Both of the premium Cromwells (one of which is a Tier 6 light tank) were both console ideas implemented far after the community expressed its desire to see the proper Cromwell B, it’s nobody else’s fault but their own that there are “too many Cromwells” (even though the addition of Heavy Tank No.6 alongside the Hammer and Tiger 131 will lead to three premium Tiger 1s in addition to the tech tree Tiger). This is a pattern repeated across nearly every premium tank released since June of 2016. A premium tank can’t simply be released, but needs a WG Chicago exclusive camo while the unmodified version is held up for months (despite TJ’s claims as that being a ‘choice’, forcing players to buy something they don’t want or to wait for months is stretching the concept of choice a bit).

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Still haven’t seen the base version of this since its release in November.

Why is there this obsessive need to put you’re own stamp on it first? Even after the community has largely expressed that they either don’t care or outright hate being charged full price, plus the gold price of camo, for what on PC would essentially be a skin mod. Even attempts at “historical” based content are rife with errors that could have easily been avoided. One of the most blatant examples being Tiger 131, perhaps one of the most famous tanks in the world (for those who are interested in the subject anyway), but Wargaming couldn’t even bother to look at the massive amount of reference material out there to get the model right:

One of the most photographed tanks in the world, and still details like that are allowed to slip through. Another example was Wargamings attempt at introducing a “German Captured KV-1” which most will tell you was something along these lines:

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A KV-1 with a German 75mm and commander cupola. Looks nice, it unique, and the idea of strapping German parts onto Soviet tanks is well within WG Chicago’s ability, as they proved with the T-34-88.

Instead we got a reskin of the tech tree KV-1, granted one with a paint job inspired by history, but with a unhistorical armament, despite the photographs clearly showing the armament:

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Even admitting that they changed the gun, there’s still no reason for it.

Given this absolutely neglectful attitude to history and player requests, perhaps its not surprising that WG Chicago hasn’t taken steps towards being a unique entity with the implementation of a unique tech tree line. There’s plenty of material, and as the Czech and Swedish lines have shown, you can get quite a bit from what may at first seem like a long shot, to say nothing of tank rich nations already in game such as the U.S. or the Soviets (though most of those tend to end up as premiums it seems). WG also stated their stance on implementing a tech tree:

Some players have suggested adding Italian tanks into the other tech trees.

TJ- Yeah, I saw that. I thought it was a really good idea.

Could it open the door to an Italian tech tree?

TJ- Possibly. If PC adds an Italian tree we can add it along with how we’re adding other nation tanks now.

So rather than try to make something truly unique, they would rather wait for PC’s team to do the leg work of organizing tiers and modules, instead possibly destroying any potential tech tree by seeding premiums into other nations.

 

So in short, we’re a separate entity that is completely at the mercy of PC’s server building. Rather than using our freedom to balance and refine the game for a console’s hardware and playerbase they’d rather copy/paste PC tank stats and bring in new machines into a field completely different from the one they were balanced for, and neglecting problematic or neglected tanks for months or even years. Instead of taking full advantage of their artists and the wealth of research material available to create new and interesting content, they’d rather piece together bits of other tanks and pretend it’s totally new, such as the T-34-88, or bringing up something long forgotten from supertest and pretending it’s an unique creation, as with the AMX Chaffee. Even worse, taking something long desired on PC and tacking it on in order to look better than their parent company, which most of you have likely figured I’m referring to the Chieftain.

World of Tanks Console is not a unique or wholly separate entity from its PC parent. Something like World of Tanks Blitz is more fitting. It has its problems, but its content and game play are at least somewhat more tailored to its audience, with smaller maps and teams leading to quicker battles for mobile users on the go (and the limits of the hardware). At best, we on console a repainted version of the PC, a reinterpretation of things already done before with a few new splashes of color. Graffiti spray painted onto a piece that while not perfect is at least attempting to be improved. Worse yet that graffiti is now used to justify an equal or greater price than the original.

It is a shame, as a truly passionate team could use the freedom of being on a new platform to create a truly great game, or use the vast amount of research material available to embrace the subject matter, as the era the game covers is rarely seen on consoles these days. Instead WG seems content on taking advantage of console players more casual attitude towards games, dismissing the PC team’s attempts to fix longstanding problems, and creating gimmicks to draw in players on the weekend rather than craft a game that can retain them. As time goes on the waning interest of the playerbase continues to demonstrate this point. Knowledgeable players leave the active community, and 4 year old shooters draw in bigger crowds than even the most tempting free premium tank. How long will this go on? Only time will tell. Perhaps it’s that a marginal number of paying players can sustain such a backwards and minimal approach to development. For a lot of us though, it’s a disappointing path to take.

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