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Archive for the ‘World of Tanks’ Category

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Wargaming.net is implementing the Havok physics engine fairly soon and the results are pretty awesome.  Destructible buildings, much more realistic tank movement, detachable turrets, and flippable tanks will all be added to the game.  The destructible buildings is probably the single coolest element but the improved tank physics allows for both more realism and more differentiation between tank models.  The tanks flipping over and having turrets blown off will result in some much more satisfying and humorous tank deaths and battlefield effects.

I’m continually impressed with how far the Free to Play model is taking World of Tanks.

Wargaming.net is showing off the new effects in a recent developer diary video that is well worth watching:

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I had known World of Tanks was a financial success, but I had no idea of the sheer scale of that success.  It turns out World of Tanks raked in $372 million in revenues in 2013.  For comparison, World of Warcraft brought in a mere $213 million.  The giant that is League of Legends meanwhile brought in $624 million.  Which of these is not like the other?  WoW is the only subscription game of the three and yet brought in less revenue; only about a third of free to play LoL.

Both LoL and World of Tanks are also emphatically avoiding “pay to win” pricing traps where players start playing a game for free but end up having to pay to compete.  World of Tanks has removed pretty much all gameplay advantages for premium players as you can now purchase all the same items for in-game currency.  Paying players can still acquire them much more quickly and, in the case of consumables and ammo, can use them more frequently so the advantage to paying players is still there but it is a lot more subtle now.  Paying players also have access to premium tanks that are only purchasable with premium currency but Wargaming.net has done a nice job of balancing these so that they earn greater rewards but don’t really offer any advantages in actual combat.

It seems to me that the key distinction in terms of success is (more…)

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A really good board or computer game is like an onion; enjoyable on the surface (well, if you like onions) but with many layers of gameplay that make the game even more enjoyable the longer you play it until you burn out or move on to the next cool new game.  Sports though… sports are different.  America hasn’t gotten “burned out” on football or baseball.  The rules and strategies haven’t substantially changed in recent history, yet somehow professional sports continue to be a huge business and a massive pass-time for millions of Americans.  There is something about the consistency of sports, the fair playing field, the competition designed to reward skill and teamwork over all else that consistently captures our attention and excitement.

Then you have E-Sports, a sort of hybrid concept where you take a computer game and you add sport elements to it: consistent rules, fair matches, features to improve the spectator experience.  The players benefit from large prize pools and publicity which can lead to sponsorships and other opportunities.  The game companies benefit from huge advertisement and attention for their game with accompanying surges in sales.  The spectating public benefit from a new and surprisingly enjoyable past-time: watching people play computer games against each other who are really, really good.

Starcraft was really the first and is still one of the most popular E-sports games but it has now clearly declined in face of the king of all E-Sports:  League of Legends.  League of Legends success as an E-Sport game is not something I particularly care to write about, I think League of Legend’s rise to power has been well documented in plenty of other places.  This post is more just to ramble about my thoughts after having sunk another set of hours into the game and moving to the next layer of the onion.  I’m going to set this up as a series of LIKE – DISLIKES.

A major statement up front: Apart from an occasional Twisted Treeline match with my brother, I play almost entirely unranked 5v5 Summoner’s Rift.  That is League of Legends to me and all other game maps and modes are not part of this post.

LIKE:  Consistency

This is the sports element.  The very carefully designed Summoner’s Rift map combined with many years of tweaking and balancing presents an extremely consistent experience across matches.  Unlike Starcraft where you may have a variety of maps to adapt your strategy to, the consistency of Summoner’s Rift basically mirrors the consistency of the football field.  It keeps the focus on the players, not the field.

LIKE:  Player Skill is King

There is no doubt that the player skill curve in League of Legends is incredibly steep.  The game system is quite approachable, especially if you start off playing some of the lower difficulty champions.  Playing as only one champion, you only have 4 abilities which are unlocked one at a time which makes the game initially very friendly to learn.  However, the breadth of items available for purchase combined with the gradual unlocking of Masteries and Runes as your account levels up allows for a surprising amount of depth of choices in how you build and play your champion.

LIKE/DISLIKE:  Teamwork is King

Really, teamwork is the core of League of Legends gameplay.  A team of good players who don’t work together will get absolutely destroyed by a team of good players who do work together, or even a team of mediocre players who play well together.  The variety of champion types, play styles, abilities, item builds, etc. provides for endless different in-game interesting team combinations.  Again, the analogy to sports is spot-on.  Teamwork wins games.  Of course the problem here is that as a casual player I generally don’t choose who is on my team, and the concept of feeding (i.e. dying early and often which allows enemy players to progress faster than you) means that a single bad player can literally ruin the game for their entire team, not just by failing to contribute to their own team’s efforts but by actually assisting the other team inadvertently.  The emphasis on teamwork is a double-edge sword.

LIKE/DISLIKE:  The Summoner’s Rift “Meta”

The Meta, as I call it, is the accepted standard strategy of deploying your team in Summoners Rift to maximize champion development and kills during the early laning stage of the game.  You have a strong AD top carry, an AP mid, a AP support and ranged AD carry bot, and a jungler.  This may sound unintelligible to you if you don’t play LOL but it’s really not that different from understanding what a Nickelback or Left Tackle do and why they are important.  And, while the accepted meta is certainly not the only successful strategy, it does represent a very good one.  The problem is getting a team of total strangers who each have a champion they want to play to agree to fill all the roles, on the spot, within a very short time window.  In practice this generally means whoever “calls” a position first gets that position and the other players have to fill in the remaining spots.  Often it gets pretty dumb, especially since the person who was able to “call” the position first is in no way necessarily the person the most qualified for it.  So trying to play a position in the meta without conforming to the expectations of that position can lead to a lot of abuse and conflict within a team; people can yell at you as if you are a catcher standing out in the outfield.  It tends to bring out some of the worst player behavior in the game.

DISLIKE:  Never-ending stream of new champions

So this one is sort of minor; the ever-growing list of champions is, after all, a major strength of the game.  It ensures a ton of variety and, frankly, is probably the main way Riot makes money off of the game.  The problem is, when does it end?  As a fairly casual player I already have a really difficult time remembering what the more common champions do, let alone the many dozens of less commonly played champions.  Plus it makes balancing more and more difficult for Riot as time goes on.  I’m ok with new champions I guess but the speed at which they are putting them out, and the ever-lengthening roster, ends up being a negative for me.

DISLIKE:  Last-Hitting Minions (aka the importance of “Creep Score”)

This one is my MAJOR pet peeve.  The concept of minions within DOTA-style gameplay is pretty unique and cool, they form a sort of “battle-line” and give the game an important PVE element which has to be balanced with PVP.  Staying in a lane to kill minions gives you XP, but you need to spread your team out to do it most efficiently and this leaves you vulnerable to enemy group attacks, which is an interesting balance.  The problem I have with it is the way the gold system works; in order to get the gold from the minion kill, you have to be the one perform the killing blow on that minion.  Maximizing your gold income is incredibly important part of making your champion more powerful as the game progresses but the micro-management required to ensure those last-hits is an absolute pain.  I realize that players have adapted to this and it’s just viewed as one more element of game skill, but I HATE that such inane micromanagement is a critical part of the game and view it as poor design.  I wish gold from minion kills was awarded in a more passive manner similar to XP, or some sort of compromise that didn’t require such annoying precision.

So there you have some of my current thoughts on LOL for better or worse.  For now I will keep playing, maybe not as intensely as I have been, but I would like to get to Level 30 eventually.  I’m currently sitting at Level 20 and primarily playing Renekton, Heimerdinger, and Taric.

UPDATE:  Ironically, shortly after writing this post I discovered that Riot is actually going to put out a “team builder” functionality that lets you put together a role-based team prior to matchmaking.  On the upside, this means if you really want to play a specific role you have a more secure way of having your team acknowledge it than simply being the first to type “mid” into the chat window.  On the downside, it further cements the existing meta which some players will not like.

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I saw an interesting interview article on Gamasutra regarding Wargaming.net removing all vestiges of so-called “Pay-to-Win” from their various free to play titles, starting with World of Tanks.  They are calling this new strategy “Free-to-win”.  World of Tanks was a bit notorious early on for the ability to spend premium currency on better shells (“gold shells” as they are known in the game) and stat-boosting consumables as well as camo patterns that slightly reduced visibility and platoons of 3 players.  Also important is the high-tier premium tanks which, while balanced for their tier, nonetheless allowed players to jump to the higher tiers immediately by simply dropping cash and earned in-game currency at much faster rates.  Wargaming.net has since made the camo patterns, premium shells, and larger platoons at least accessible to players using in-game currency, though the premium shells remain the easiest way to directly improve your tank’s performance by simply spending cash.

While the exact details are a little fuzzy, it looks like Wargaming.net is either removing premium shells entirely or re-working them somehow so that they can only be purchased with in-game currency.  There may also be similar changes to the camouflage and consumables.  While this will doubtless drop revenue from the sales of these various items, Wargaming.net seems to see this as a long-term gain if they can attract newer players, increase customer loyalty, and cash in on increasing the viability of Wargaming.net games in the e-Sports arena.  Obviously they are eyeballing League of Legends here, which has absolutely no “Pay-to-Win” elements and which has had staggering success with e-Sports and competitive play, surpassing Starcraft as the single largest e-Sports title.

The exception seems to be the premium tanks, as those look to be sticking around.  Technically premium tanks aren’t superior to standard tanks of the same tier so they aren’t strictly a “Pay-to-Win” element, though they do function as a sort of long-term option to boost credit earning for the players willing to buy them; and they are quite pricy, with the most expensive ones costing 35-40 bucks.

Anyways I would recommend checking the article out, it may give some clues on directions that Free to Play games may be going in the next few years regarding revenue models.  They also hit on some of the more touchy subjects such as the radically different Asian market and questions on their revenue predictions.

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I wrote a post about World of Tanks way back in the early summer of 2011.  I didn’t get particularly far into the game’s progression at that point, playing maybe 150 or so battles.  I ended up with a German Tier 4 light tank (PzKpfw38nA) and a German Tier 3 artillery (Sturmpanzer II).  Then I pretty much dropped the game and didn’t touch it for almost 2 years, I even uninstalled the client.  Yet thanks to a session goofing around with my brother-in-law in a platoon I’ve somehow been sucked back into it.  I’ve now played over 500 battles and I have a Tier 5 medium (Pz IV) and several lower Tier tanks that I am trying to get to Tier 5 (B1, Hetzer, still grinding away on that Sturmpanzer II) along with a few other lower Tier elite tanks that I just enjoy playing.

I’ve gained a new appreciation for what has been accomplished by Wargaming.net with this game.

– The graphical, UI, and physics engine improvements have brought the game to a nice place in terms of game experience where you can focus on the gameplay without being overly distracted by glitches, bad graphics, difficult UI, etc.  The way the tanks move, the way the terrain looks and feels, it all comes together quite nicely.

– The interaction between the 5 different tank classes creates an interesting tactical interplay.  This is somewhat similar to the way Warcraft battlegrounds work with the different classes interacting but in World of Tanks it’s easier to observe what’s going on since you have icons, a HUD, a mini-map, and a slower pace to help you keep informed.  The possibilities for teamwork in this game are enormous, though of course random matches rarely provide an opportunity for this.

– When I first tried out the game I was heavily disappointed by the fact that the game makes no attempt to recreate historical conflicts and includes numerous tanks that never existed as anything more than a design on paper.  You can have a PzIV fighting alongside a TOGII (a British tank never produced beyond a couple prototypes) against a T-34 and an M4 Sherman.  And yet, I’ve come to appreciate (more…)

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I’ve seen the buzz around World of Tanks growing for some time and I finally broke down and watched some Youtube videos of it, which inevitably led to me downloading it and trying it out.  Let me tell you, this game is a blast; I haven’t been this addicted to a computer game in a long, long time.  That’s not to say its some kind of amazing game that everyone should be playing, but what it does it does very well.

World of Tanks is a “Freemium” online MMO, meaning it is free to download and play but you can pay to have a premium account with certain privileges and/or pay in small micro-transactions for certain in-game items and actions.  But I’ll talk about the free part first because that’s usually what everyone is wary about.  I’m happy to say, World of Tanks truly is 100% free.  You can play as nearly every tank in the game, on every map, and enjoy every element of gameplay without paying a penny.  I know this because I’m doing it; I haven’t payed a single cent yet and I’ve already put in a lot of game time and progression.  The game uses two currencies, as is typical in games of this nature: “Credits” are the currency everyone earns with each completed battle, and are used to purchase new tanks and equipment.  The premium currency is called “Gold” and is used to buy some special (but otherwise unnecessary) tanks and equipment.  These are not vanity improvements, though; the premium tanks and equipment are better than their standard equivalent by a small margin.  There are also a variety of other services you can purchase with Gold, again all unnecessary but some of them very tempting.  The main benefit of a premium account is that you earn Credits and experience at an increased rate and thus progress much more quickly.

The persistent game takes place in your garage which is where you store your tanks when not in combat.  Initially this has 5 slots, and each tank can be thought of as a character of sorts.   The game starts you with three newbie tanks, one for each of the nations.  To get more and better tanks you have to gain experience points and credits by fighting battles. (more…)

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