Harsh Times Are Required : A World of Tanks Experience

I’ve been playing a game called World of Tanks for the past month and a half or so.

I had played it a few years back when it just came out of beta and had some fond memories of some of the tanks, but I had dropped and uninstalled it because I got fed up with the lack of power I had over the outcome of the game. The standard mode is 15 minutes, 15 vs 15 with each player in one tank, and everyone only lives once – if you lose all your health you cannot simply hop into another tank and continue. It wasn’t too hard to drop the game since I had picked it up like League of Legends for the purpose of training minimap awareness for Starcraft. This time around I picked it back up as I was invited by a friend who had another group of friends interested in doing company and clan battles, and I had Go, where I am actually in full control and anything that goes wrong is completely my fault.

Coming back there were a lot of changes; quite a few tanks I had remembered being good or at least fun to play had their best guns removed or were reworked entirely. My favorite tank felt largely unchanged but perhaps lacking a bit due to powercreep. As I had not gotten to the higher tiers / endgame of World of Tanks the new tank lines and meta changes didn’t matter to me too much, so I just played it as a new game with somewhat of a head start. At first I was performing about where I was performing historically, approximately the 47% winrate average. One of the friends was very into the numbers and statistics of the game and I learned a lot more about the mechanics, which I had ignored completely the first time around opting for a “feel first think later” approach, and I started looking at my own winrates more closely on the third-party sites that kept track of more stats than the official site, including individual tank stats and daily/weekly/monthly progress.

Learning about which tanks had which guns which did however much damage at whatever penetration, how far away they could see me based on their tank type and equipment, and how fast they could turn or move based on horsepower/tonnage ratio did not raise my winrates by much at all. It raised my daily winrates (50~100 battles/day) from a fairly stable ~47% to an unstable 49%. The two things I did learn were hull-down and sidescraping, which weren’t really about to help me since I wasn’t really yet playing at high enough tiers for these things to be crucial, or otherwise failed by themselves to have any significant statistical impact. I started reading articles written by top tier players and watching their videos and streams, and they bumped me up to a vaguely less unstable 52%. It’s hard and not very informative to compare the two jumps in a numerical way, but it felt substantial enough for me to believe that the future of improvement lay in following the footsteps of the better tankers.

Somewhere along the way I stopped playing regularly with the aforementioned group and played the game on my own. The original inviter turned out to be someone I really didn’t want to play with and for various reasons was clear he is not a person to learn from, and the rest weren’t really looking to be competitive or were unable to explain how they were improving. I had also stopped playing Go for the time being and spent time on other activities when not on WOT, so the “I’m only one man out of fifteen against fifteen, what could I possibly do” came back in full force. My winrate was still about 52%, but became a little more unstable – there were some days I’d hit 55 and other days where it’d go back to 46. I read a post about how team games don’t require teamwork, which helped a little bit more every time I read it, but it didn’t have much effect. Or so it seemed.

This past weekend was horrible, as most weekends are. Reasoning is that more bad players are out on the weekends and since WOT has no ranked games ladder where bad players only see bad players, the games were much more one-sided and the feeling of playing them ranged from “dumb” to “humans are garbage i have lost my faith in humanity”. The difference this time though was I kept trying to play and kept trying to focus. Usually I either 1) get really mad and quit or 2) get really mad and keep on playing. The former leaves me with a bad taste and a lower winrate, the latter leaves me with a worse version of the former.

This time I took no breaks inbetween games and forced myself to remember that this was a new game, with new players, sometimes on a different tank, most of the time on a different map, and even if players are still probably going to be bad because it’s the weekend, they might do something I can work with this time, and even if they don’t get better, I can get better, and that at least requires some experience in trying to apply what I’ve learned.

I forget what my winrates were, I didn’t bother to record them because they weren’t out of the ordinary. On the lower side of normal things.

This is what happened after last weekend:

Those were my numbers after Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were something like 62 and 68 respectively; I didn’t record them because I thought they were anomalies of some kind. I thought it might’ve been RNG or MM (MatchMaking) favoring me, or perhaps it was because I was playing too much of tanks I liked (T-34, tier 5; T-150, tier 6) rather than grinding through tanks I wasn’t so comfortable in towards higher tiers. But three days in and a last minute check before bed opened my eyes pretty wide.

Thursday felt pretty bad and it was something like 56 at the end of the day. Today was the worst I’ve felt in WOT for a fairly long period of time and I simply quit after a fairly short session, and I thought perhaps this whole week was just a Flowers for Algernon experience and the window of greatness had passed.

These were today’s stats:

In a 15 vs 15 game a 2% disparity in overall winrate signifies a massive difference in strength, and on what I thought was one of my worst days I performed that much better than my historical average. I was killing more than a whole nother tank per game, doing more than twice as much damage, and instead of surviving one every five games I was still surviving one out of three. It used to be an extremely good day had this 51.5% winrate with >2.0 KDR – and now it was just the opposite. On reflection, I’ve found I now basically expect to win at least 2/3 of my games, kill 3 or more opponents, and survive at least 1/2 of the time.

In this past week I have read no new articles and watched no new videos relating to World of Tanks. I have only played more games. I have been playing no tanks this week that I did not last week, and while I have been trying a few new routes this week on particular maps this is something I do all the time anyways. My strategy and style has been largely the same for the past three weeks or so. Nothing directly measurable has changed.

My mind, however, has changed.

A post written by a fairly famous player states that there are essentially three things that separate a player from being just pretty good (52~55%) and amazing (60+%, as defined by WOTLABS): Activity, Consistency, and Deliberateness. As he defines it, Activity is basically firing more and always looking for a better way to approach the local and global fight, Consistency is about doing the right thing with your tank given the matchup, and Deliberateness is the mental focus for Activity. Activity I’ve been ramping up for a while now, due to playing more slow-firing tanks but still needing to output the same damage flowrate to win/stay alive, and deliberateness is in the same line. Consistency in the form that he mentions I definitely don’t have yet since I basically only have a “light tank” and “heavy tank” mindset.

What I have gained is another kind of consistency.

After a weekend flood of playing with straight-up no-question-about-it tomatoes and being able to keep some grip on my sanity and temper, playing with weekday potatoes shot my winrate through the roof. Being forced to spend a significant amount of energy on keeping myself under control while still wanting to play for wins, I didn’t have any room in my mind for thoughts other than what I thought would bring my team the victory. No doubts or hesitation, only correct moves or mistakes based on what I had understood from my studies and what I thought would be the correct move at the time. If I made the correct move, great. If not, reflect a bit on what went wrong and what could’ve been done better. If a different solution is found, great, do that next time; if not, oh well, just don’t do something similar to that thing that clearly didn’t work. Now that I had that much more mental energy to spend but significantly fewer things to spend it on, I was able to do the correct things much more efficiently.

It’s somewhat akin to a hardening or an annealing. All the things I had learned were indeed useful and they are definitely why I was able to play such good performances this week, but before this weekend those ideas and developing habits sat alongside their bad and counterproductive counterparts in my toolbox of available moves. Before I would just sit and wait for a bit to let the opponent potentially make the first move while I thought about which idea to execute, but this past weekend and now, that sort of doubt or pondering has been erased. If I feel like I want to try something new now, I ask myself and almost immediately answer – if not within two seconds, then I decide when my tank has driven to the last point where a decision can be made without turning around.

There are no more great debates in my mind between two great powerful voices.

Only a “That looks interesting. Shall we do it? Ok gogogo.”

The following is my general mindset in WOT, sorted by tank types. The first three are the main tank types in the game, the latter two are supporting types and generally require assistance from other tanks both to be able to do damage and move forward on the map. With a little translation, I think the Heavies and Lights mindsets can be easily used in playing real world power games.

Now that I know I like playing power games, what I’m interested next is what exactly my style and strengths are. I prefer certain tanks in WOT because of my playstyle; I play these tanks in WOT rather than any class in many other games because of my playstyle – what does this mean for my style in real life, and where can I find games in real life which my style can dominate?

Heavies:
1. PUUUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSHH
2. Where is the furthest conceivable safe position I can be in at this point in time?
3. If I do not have sente, how do I gain sente? If I have sente, what move can I make that keeps sente?
4. HP is a resource. It is not only something that the opponent takes, but something that has ways for you to correctly spend it. HP generally buys either time or initiative.

5. I can’t die to this guy, I have to be alive so I can kill the next guy.

6. PUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSHHHHH

Lights:
1. I must see the midgame/endgame to fully utilize my strengths.
2. What do I know about the enemy deployment and where are its holes?
3. “General” scouting is generally dumb. Scouting should be thought of as marginal.
4. Don’t shoot unless someone else is already shooting.
5. Don’t shoot unless it’s their sides or their ass.

Mediums:
1. High tier mediums: see Heavies.
2. Low tier mediums: see Lights.
3. Mid tier mediums: depends on specific tank. Pick either Heavies or Lights.

TDs:
1. Fuck TDs.

Arties:
1. Fuck arties.

 

ADDENDUM

Someone else’ll fix it.

And it’ll be me. And I’ll carry until my fucking back breaks. And those worthless fucking assholes will get another win they don’t deserve.

After a whole year of learning and failing to manage/lead/carry engineering project teams I was supposed to take a month off to just relax and play videogames, but apparently I just went from the pool to the pond; from being 1 of 6, 1 of 3, to 1 of 15.

And now I just don’t care anymore. It’s not even a 拖死佢 thing where I’m secretly hiding bitterness, I actually just don’t care whether or not someone’s “leeching” or if I’m carrying people anymore. Obviously it’d be better if every teammate was productive but it doesn’t really matter, and it’s not because of “we’re a team” or some feel-good bullshit.

It’s because what I want is to win. I happen to be playing a team game so I have to defeat more opponents. If my teammates can only contribute the most minimal things then mathematically the rest of it falls on me. If I happened to carry some shitfuckers along the way then they got lucky and I got experience. If there are teammates who appreciate my efforts and work with me then that’s great too. But it’s not the main idea. If it becomes the main idea then relying on other people becomes an MO, and both winrates and relationships will falter.

The idea is for me to win and survive. The rest is built on top of that.

The only difference is in real life there is no big public objective stat tracking board.

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