Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Lowering expectations

While I haven't been playing World of Tanks during my holidays, I did watch some streams on Twitch. One of the most popular WoT streamers is Quickybaby, and what he did in July was work on the hardest series of campaign missions, which give one of the best tanks in the game as reward. That was instructive insofar as this was visibly frustrating even to one of the very good players of the game. And it made me think that enjoyment of World of Tanks doesn't necessarily come from playing well, but from achieving the goals that you set yourself. Set your goals sufficiently high, and even a top player experiences a lot of setbacks and frustration. Set your goals low, and even a mediocre player can achieve them.

Quickybaby has an overall win rate of 60%, which is about the best you can hope for if you play really, really well. But if you do a bit of basic math, 60% win rate obviously means that 40% of games don't work out as you wanted them to. And I would argue that if you have no control over the 40% of games that you lose, it stands to reason that there is a similar amount of games where you end up winning, but that win also wasn't controlled by you, but would have happened with or without you. So even a top player is "carrying" only 20% of his games. A mediocre player is rarely carrying his games, and the outcome is mostly determined by other players.

It is that overwhelming influence of other players, even on the results of very good players, that made those missions so frustrating for Quickybaby. The missions frequently required a great outcome in several games in a row. If you play a couple of great games and then fail, you need to start over. If you fail not because of your own mistakes, but because of the way your team played, that can be extremely frustrating. You can even fail because your team is too good compared to the enemy team, and the battle ends before you have reached the required number of kills or damage.

On the other end of the spectrum, World of Tanks has a lot of goals that you can't possibly fail. There are easier campaign missions, where instead of having to do let's say 15,000 damage in 3 battles, you have to do 15,000 damage in as many battles as it takes. Sooner or later you'll get there. Progressing along a tech tree from tier 1 to 10 is the same thing; it might take you a while, but as you always gain some xp in every battle and can't lose any xp, one day you'll certainly make it.

So unless you absolutely need a specific reward from a specific campaign or event, you can often just set your goals yourself at a level which isn't frustrating for your particular skill level. For example I am hearing a lot of bad comments on the current Homefront event, because reaching the top reward is hard and a big grind. For me that same event is a lot more fun, because I just want to reach tier II with some tanks and get the camo rewards. As permanent camo isn't cheap if you buy it in gold, I'd even say that those camo rewards are pretty generous compared with the effort you need to put in to get them. You need 35 division points to get that reward, and each battle gives you between 4 and 10 points. I got my first camo after 7 battles, which isn't too bad, considering the disadvantages of a late start. Getting all three Russian camos is basically just a question of showing up, and if I do well occasionally, I could get some of the American / British ones as well. Even the worst possible outcome of a battle, I lose and place last in the team, still advances me not too slowly towards my goal. So there is very little frustration involved.

Now you might argue that if you don't set yourself very challenging goal, you also don't have that much pleasure from achieving them. But I would say that I'd rather try to achieve challenging goals in real life, where the rewards are more real. As the rewards of video games are just virtual, I'm okay with just putting in some virtual effort. :) In the end the purpose of a game is to have fun, and frustrating yourself by overly ambitious goals isn't going to achieve that.


“the overwhelming influence of other players” on one’s outcomes is the very reason I’ve been gravitating more to singleplayer/solo playstyles and games that support it as viable.

As you say, our game goals are for entertainment and self-gratification/enjoyment, so why set them to an overly ambitious level where one very well knows one will have very little enjoyment either rolling the dice on outcomes heavily affected by external factors (other players, unfair RNG, whatever drives you nuts) or going through the massive efforts involved in organizing those external factors towards more order (keeping those other players static by creating guilds, alliances, static parties, scheduling game events, training other players to be on the same page, etc.)

Could we do it if we wanted to? Could we do it if we really craved whatever was at the end of such annoyances and thus put up with it? Of course.

Even better if you don’t see some of those factors as annoyances. e.g. I can put up with quite a bit of absurd RNG rolls as long as the process of getting those chances to roll are quite easy and enjoyable and not reliant on rl money or other players. Other more social and garrulous players may really like organizing people and delight in the sense of order or power.

But if you get as grouchy as I sometimes get when stuff is out of one’s control and overly reliant on others, it’s nice to set one’s goals to a level which one has sole control over the outcome. Even if groups have long blazed past that goal line as far too easy for multiple people cooperating, I find achieving those solo goals somehow much more internally satisfying.
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