Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Top of the Tree

I've been playing World of Tanks a lot since I came back from holidays. As a result I reached the tier X tank of the August Top of the Tree event, the STB-1, already yesterday, just two weeks after having started working on that tank line. Which is just as well, because I didn't really like any of the tanks from tier IV to IX. The tier III tank is still one of my favorites, and the STB-1 is pretty good. But I am not sure whether I will end up playing it a lot. Because I am not really sure why I should play a tier X tank in World of Tanks. I'm at the top of the tree and wonder where to go from there.

Of course the underlying question here is what your personal win condition is. Curiously the tier X tanks don't tick a lot of boxes of possible win conditions. Playing a tier X tank doesn't advance you towards other tanks, unless you pay a lot of gold to convert the xp you gain to free xp (which I admit doing). They are also lousy credit earners, you often lose money playing them, and would be better off playing a tier VIII premium tank instead. The only personal goal that tier X tanks are really good at is if your goal is to challenge yourself. The average WN8 in a tier X game is noticeably higher than the average WN8 in lower tier games. However for me that is just a reason to not play tier X games, because I am not really skilled enough for the top league. If your personal goal is to improve your WN8, you better keep out of these tier X games.

World of Tanks does a really bad job at matching people with other players of the same skill. It simply doesn't regard past performance, or how well equipped a tank is, at all in the matchmaking. As a result I am often in completely unbalanced games, where one side just roflstomps the other in under 5 minutes while losing under 5 tanks themselves. I don't find those games much fun, even if I happen to be on the winning team. I would imagine that the best players also don't find it much fun to play with mediocre players like me, or worse. So it seems that tier X developed as a sort of refuge for the better players to be able to play among themselves. But from a game design point of view that isn't optimal, because it makes a goal that is perfectly attainable for the average player, reaching the top tier, rather unattractive in the end. Why would I want to strive towards tier X tanks, if I then don't play them?

On the positive side World of Tanks has a lot of tank trees. So I can do those top of the tree events, and then move on to another tank line while waiting for the next event. The middle of the tree is more fun than the top.


Of course the underlying question here is what your personal win condition is.

Do you think that game developers have moved away from providing games where a clear and distinct "win condition" exists?

For the past couple of years or so I've dabbled in a few genres that I've never played before, and a good majority of them have now went through the phases of turning side activities into activities where there is no clear Meta. Things that used to be contained in "achievement" panels(with no reward), and hidden behind distinct UI elements, are now being shown on the main UI as items to be completed for "X" reward(s)...rewards which do not often provide any meaningful progress that applies toward the game's main Meta activity.

It's akin to farming Rivendare in WoW for his mount, where getting the mount results in virtual, tangible pixels that a player can represent as their own "win condition". Whereas in another game I play, clearing 3 puzzles in "X" amount of time will award me with Gems that I can use inside the game to increase my success chances on other puzzles for a certain amount of time, which directly affects me reaching/completing the Meta with greater success. Earlier versions of the game-types from the same developer simply awarded a lit up "tile" achievement for the same effort that was originally hidden under an "achievement" panel in the UI. Now I get a reward for the same activity, which is now listed on the main UI that basically makes me "feel" like I should do it, and it pulls me in a separate and totally different direction, which makes the activity seem more like work and breaks the immersion focus on the main game activity.

I think developers are increasingly, and purposefully, incorporating elements into game design that serve no other purpose than to give the illusion of "self win conditions" being important, where the base game Meta is not constructed or planned out all that well.
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