Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
World of Tanks: Generals and Heroes of the Storm

Wargaming, makers of World of Tanks, World of Warplanes, World of Warships, ... (you get the idea), is also making two World of Tanks spinoff games for mobile devices: World of Tanks: Blitz and World of Tanks: Generals, which just entered open beta. Although I haven't played World of Tanks for some time, I consider myself a fan of that game, and I am looking forward to World of Warships. But neither of the two mobile games appealed very much to me.

World of Tanks: Blitz is a simplified version of the PC World of Tanks. The reason I don't play it is the controls. Shooters in general work extremely well with mouse and keyboard. They already work less well with a gamepad on consoles. And the touch screen controls are probably the least adequate way to control a shooter, even if it is a "slow shooter" like World of Tanks. The lack of haptic feedback is killing the game for me.

Cue World of Tanks: Generals, a "turn-based tactical card game" for which the touch-screen control scheme is a perfect fit for the gameplay. Of course that gameplay doesn't have anything to do with the other World of ... shooters. WoT: Generals is a game where you have a hand of cards drawn from a deck. Many of those cards represent tanks (including artillery tanks), and are placed on a small board of squares where they can move and fight each other. So overall you collect cards, build decks, and battle with those decks like in many other tactical card games, just with tanks instead of fantasy characters.

I could happily play a tactical card game for hours, but I don't play World of Tanks: Generals. Because once you are through the tutorial, where you play against the AI, World of Tanks: Generals is a pure PvP game. You can't play offline, and every battle that counts for anything is against another player in real-time. Only practice matches can be played PvE. Now for the regular World of Tanks PC game I can understand the need for the game being PvP: Anybody who ever played a PvE shooter knows that the AI always has serious limitations. And the 15 vs. 15 gameplay of World of Tanks limits the impact of bad behavior of any single player. The same can't be said about a 1 vs. 1 tactical card game: The AI is perfectly adequate, and a human opponent isn't necessarily more interesting to play against than an AI opponent; and any bad behavior of your opponent like stalling impacts your enjoyment of the game very much. In short, WoT: Generals would be a much better game if it had a solo PvE mode beyond just practice. I'd play it solo PvE, but I'm not playing it PvP.

I have a very similar reaction to Heroes of the Storm. Blizzard added a feature of practice against AI which clearly demonstrates that a solo PvE game can be much more enjoyable than a PvP game: The matchmaking is clearly much better, there is a lot less chance of an easy win or unavoidable loss due to players quitting or not really playing. And you don't need to suffer the toxic community of MOBA games if you play against the AI. I think somewhere Blizzard missed the boat on that one: They made it to the top of the MMORPG heap by pushing the soloable MMORPG, but failed to do the same for the MOBA genre. Given how in MOBAs hell is other people, a completely soloable Heroes of the Storm would have taken a much bigger market share from League of Legends and Dota2 than the PvP Heroes of the Storm with just a PvE practice mode.

I'm not saying that PvP isn't a big market. But PvE is an even bigger one, and a better business opportunity. A lot of people with more money than time prefer games which can be played offline on a mobile device, or online against an AI that doesn't get pissed off if you have to quit for real-life urgencies. If you have a game with a perfectly working solo practice mode, you already have all the elements needed to make a game that can serve both PvP and PvE markets. Why limit yourself to just PvP?

You know you can turn chat off completely in Heroes of the Storm? Even chat from your own teammates.
You can play the cooperative mode in heroes and still earn rewards and eventually unlock whatever heroes you want. It is a bit slower then PvP but not a whole lot slower. That is pretty much how I play mobas. If they don't have a coop I don't bother playing them.

While you still play with others the pressure of PvP is non existent so you rarely run into anyone toxic.
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That just proves my point: If the main selling points of Heroes of the Storm are minimizing the negative effect of other players by turning off chat or playing a mode which is less toxic, then why not offer a solo mode and turn off all possibility of negative player interaction?
My understanding is that the Vs A.I. mode Heroes of the Storm does offer a solo mode. You can choose to play co-op with other players or to fill your side with human or A.I. bots while still getting gold and experience.

Having said that, I do believe that the A.I bots are not the most challenging of opponents. There should be a difficulty slider to change their damage/health.
Linkback to Why I Game
There's a solo mode? Suddenly I'm all intrigued. Must do research.
I think I'll try Heros of the Storm just for the solo mode.

Heh. I find it disturbing that virtually every site I've googled in this refers to "player toxicity."

95% of my exposure to other players is the people in my guild, and they play nice with guildmates. I have no idea how they act towards total strangers, of course. This goes along with the "group in your house" metaphor for a group of players playing a game, be it Monopoly or D&D, People in your house have a "social contract" to behave themselves.

The "Greater Internet Dickwad Theory" is alive and well, and game developers need to pay close attention to it.
So, I spent a few minutes googling more on MOBA player toxicity. No surprise, it seems this is a big thing. The cause is obvious to me, anonymity added to random player matches. You have random people in your match, people that have no idea who you are. If you're prone to violent outbursts that you keep in check out of respect for the "social contract" that might go right out the window in this environment.

The obvious solution is not playing with random strangers. Be in a guild or group, and select teams from that pool to enter matches with, while providing tools to basically treat the opposing team as npcs. Your team talks on vent / mumble, etc. you cannot even hear the other team.

For that to work, the group mechanic needs to be built right into the game. Blizzard has a good start with their launcher... they just need to add a free "mini game", the Guild hall, where your guild can log in and discuss whatever they have planned for the night, look at the group events calender, etc. Then when you're ready, your team enters the MOBA game as a group. You're already on voice chat, you're already communicating, you're a competitive team.

Not in a group? Use the group finder tool to talk to the recruitment guy in groups looking for members.
>Not in a group? Use the group finder tool to talk to the recruitment guy in groups looking for members.

Overwhelmingly high and solid barrier to entry. Job interviews to be able to enjoy a game. o.O
">Not in a group? Use the group finder tool to talk to the recruitment guy in groups looking for members.

Overwhelmingly high and solid barrier to entry. Job interviews to be able to enjoy a game. o.O"

Nothing stopping you from just joining random games. Except, of course... the "toxic players" you might want to avoid.
I think one thing that might help prevent toxicity is straight up allowing banning/blocking. If I play with a shithead user, I should be able to say "don't queue me up with that prick again" That doesn't solve the problem for everyone, as others will still have to deal with him, but for me, it helps reduce the chance I'll bump into them again (especially on repeated plays in a given night).
The problem with blocking is the cross-block mechanics. If I block player A, and Player B has me blocked... etc.

A gaming group is the best solution. They would need to implement a good group system, of course. The "Gaming group" cancels out the "Greater Internet Dickwad Theory" by producing social pressure to be on your best behavior.

So, I downloaded Heroes of the Storm, Being a "Battlenet" customer made that easy enough. And played through the tutorial.

This is definitely a 5 man team game. You don't want to go in as 5 random guys each with their own agenda if at all possible.
new to hots, but in coop mode there is a checkbox for ai bots. \you play, earn xp and gold with you and 9 NPCs.
I.e., it will take a while but you can get to level 20, get your free WoW battle pet and some other cross-platform benefits, without ever playing with a human.
The whole idea is not really revolutionary. Old-time RTS games allowed you to add "AI" players as allies and/or enemies in mutliplayer games with different "smartness" ratings (which usually translated to hw much they would cheat). This is no different except that it requires you to have an internet connection even when you're playing solo.....

Heroes does have a blocking mechanic. You can from the scorescreen click on the "cog" to the right of the name of the relevant player. Then choose block player... Voila, no more groups with that guy
Just to note -- Heroes of the Storm may not have a huge solo mode right now, but it has a good assortment of players doing PvE vs AI (I didn't play PvP until I'd already maxed out my Player Level), and it's only just released. They've actually hinted at some future PvE features in some ways -- such as a 'Versus AI level' listed in peoples' profiles, with the tag 'Coming Soon'. So don't count them out quite yet! :)
HotS definitely needs some more challenge to the Versus AI mode for it to be worthwhile. I've been playing it to level heroes up to level 4 so they have all their talents available. Currently 16 games for 16 wins. I saw one guy one the forums who said he had played over 1000 Versus AI games and only lost four of them. Maybe exaggerating? Who knows? But this mode is very very very very easy.
I have played them all for years Dota,Dota2, HoN and some LoL(total crap) and i can say that HotS is almost as good as first 3. The main things to mention are all the different hero builds u can do and nice fast paced gameplay, and different map missions. HotS just came out if u are comparing it to dota, It has real potential to be as good as the Dota series, even without items.

Btw check out my Heroes of the Storm gameplay with Chain Lightning Thrall 20+ spree and some nice kills.
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