Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
My name in yellow

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt. That can actually be useful as a strategy when you feel that you are too in awe or afraid of something: Studying that something to become more familiar with it will usually deflate that awe or fear. Now since I have restarted playing World of Tanks and am using the XVM modpack, I had been somewhat intimidated by WN8 ratings, seeing how serious some people take them, and how they are used to judge other players. And now I studied them, became more familiar with them, and considerably less impressed.

My WN8 rating on my main account in World of Tanks is around 790, or "orange" in the color coding system. That is labeled "below average", and just one step above the "red" of what is generally considered bad players. But just like in scales of income, there is a huge difference between "average" and "median", the median being the value at which half of the population is above and half is below. If you look at statistics from sites that follow this, you will find out that orange is the mean WN8 rating of the players on a server at a typical point in time.

Now of course when I play a game, especially a competitive game like World of Tanks, I would like to get better at playing it. And the XVM modpack as well as various player comments in chat or the forum made it appear as if WN8 was a measure of skill, and if I wanted to improve my skill, I needed to improve my WN8 rating. However once you look at ways to improve your WN8 rating, you end up realizing that improving your WN8 rating and improving your skill are not exactly the same thing. WN8 mostly measures the average damage you deal in your battles, and that depends on many other things than skill. For example in World of Tanks it is totally allowed to have several different accounts. And one of the Twitch streamers I follow has a main account on which he spends money, and another account on which he deliberately spends no money or gifts at all, keeping it purely play for free. And there is a huge difference in WN8 between those two accounts, although his skill is obviously the same.

Believing that WN8 ratings can be manipulated and depend on factors other than skill, I decided to do an experiment. I have a second account with just a few hundred battles played. So I decided for some time to try and maximize my WN8 ratio on that account: I am playing tanks that are likely to deal good damage compared to their expected damage values. I play relatively low tiers, because for WN8 it doesn't matter whether you hit a stronger opponent or a weaker one, it just counts pure damage. And I play tanks with good equipment and good crew skills (for which the recent addition of crew books really helped). Most importantly I only play very few different tanks. After doing this for like two weeks, I am already at 900 WN8, and I can reliably every day play a number of games with an average WN8 of above 1000. So if I continue this for some more time, I will end up having a "yellow" WN8 rate. Which would in common belief make be a "better player". I could do the same on my main account, but with already 10k battles played there it takes much longer to shift the average.

There are actually quite a lot of players you meet that have a second "reroll" account and proceed with the same sort of stat padding exercise in order to have a higher WN8 rating. Which just shows how little WN8 rating can be correlated with real skill. My WN8 manipulation exercise showed me exactly what I did "wrong" on my main account to end up with that orange, "below average", skill label: I played mostly light tanks, often more in a scouting role than in a damaging role, and while this scouting is extremely useful for your team, it doesn't count for you WN8. I also climbed through various tech tree lines, unlocking many different tanks of different types and nationalities; that is really bad for WN8, because when you get a new tank it doesn't have the best equipment yet, nor the best crew (I usually didn't sell the lower tier tanks or retrained the crew). And while switching from one tank type to another, or even from one tank of a type to another tank of the same type with somewhat different characteristics, you tend to need a period of adjustment of tactics during which you don't perform quite as well.

In short, if you play World of Tanks in order to maximize your fun, you are hurting your WN8 rating. If you want to maximize your WN8 rating, you should play with very little variety, play for personal benefit instead of team benefit, and ideally go "seal clubbing", exploiting the lack of knowledge and equipment of newer players at low tiers. That is not to say that really good players don't have high WN8 ratings, it is just that the reverse isn't necessarily true.

Now I am not going to uninstall XVM. It is still very useful to know whether the tank behind that rock has a player with a "red" or "purple" WN8 before deciding to push around that rock and engage him, or to know whether one side has a much higher average WN8 than the other for deciding whether you should play aggressively or not. But I am now much less in awe of WN8 than I was before, and want to rather play for fun than for increasing my WN8 on my main account. That probably means that my main account isn't going to be "yellow", but seeing what performance I have with bad tanks in bad matchups I am pretty confident that I won't fall to "red" either. Suddenly the fact that the average WN8 is hard to budge if you played 10k battles is an advantage, I can fool around without taking a large hit.

I would love if World of Tanks had a rating system that is less prone to manipulation, and which corresponds better to skill, but that is outside of my control. Right now the way to go if I like to play a scout is just to ignore the WN8 rating.


This seems to be a problem in other Team-Based PvP settings. Developers don't seem to think of coding in any form of statistical analysis for what you might call "scouting" functions. Sometimes these functions don't even exist in the game design until players invent and establish them but sometimes they are clearly intended and still not integrated into the data-gathering systems. Healing and support roles also tend to suffer, albeit to a lesser degree, with their contributions being graded as less significant even when counted.

In sports these days there are often statistics for "assists", where one player's actions set up a scoring opportunity that's completed by another. There's probably no way a games developer could track you telling a team-mate in chat about a threat or an opportunity but there's certainly plenty of space for systems that let you "tag" an in game object or entity with a specific marker that serves that purpose, which would then allow for trackable "assists" down the line.
Sorry for this cas of nitpicking : Mean is the same than average, the words you are looking for is 'median' - see wikipedia for source. I am working every day with those notions so it itchs when I see it ;-)

I now feel forced to comment on the post : I would say WN8 by tank is slightly more helpful than account WN8. at least you are comparing with people playing similar roles. But of course all your other comments on crew or equipment still applied.

I was a casual player, that enjoyed far more the low level tank than higher level - I prefer the freeform of those tanks than more codified play. And I was able to achieve - without even knowing WN8 until later - a rating of yellow on those tanks - I am firmly entranched in the red for the others ;-)
I am amazed by your 10k+ battles played. World of Tanks must be a super fun game for you.

Maybe for your next challenge you could create an account where you only focus on scouting (or other non-damage-focused roles) and see how low your score goes.
Does WoT not have its own ranking system, based on winning matches? I was always under the impression it does, but from reading your posts about it, does it not? So regardless of how good you play, the matchmaking will randomly place you with whoever else just happened to queue up at that tier?
@SynCaine: WoT has its own "rating" system, but it isn't used at all for matchmaking. The matchmaking will try to match both tier of tanks and type of tanks, but doesn't consider the equipment of tanks, crew skills, or player ratings at all. A bad player could be driving the worst possible tier V heavy tank with stock equipment and no consumables and be "matched" against a top player driving the best tier V heavy tank with the best equipment and consumables. If you are lucky the fact that this bad matching happens 15 times per battle balances itself out, but often it doesn't.

Did I mention that WN8 rating by battle are extremely inconsistent? You wonder why! :)
@Etresiun: Thank you. Fixed!

@Joe: Battles are rather short, especially as you often die before the end. I would say less than 5 minutes for my battles on average. So 10k battles is under 1k hours, which at least compared to MMORPGs is short. Note that I played 7k of those 10k battles in 2011, and only 3k battles this year.

But yes, the battles are much fun. I am not always happy with the stuff surrounding the battles, and of course sometimes you have a really bad game. But on balance, the battles are fun.
My two favorite roles in these types of games are scout and defender. Sometimes a combination of both where I look for a base that is being ignored and flip it to keep the enemy off balance and get my side some quick match points. Neither of those tends to wrack up a lot of kills in these sorts of games, but my feeling is that they are often disproportionately important to winning a battle in terms of something one player can accomplish. Taking out targets in a big zerg can also be fun, but it often accomplishes less.
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