Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, September 04, 2019
Armor in games

There are quite a lot of games that simulate combat and include some notion of armor, whether it is the armor of a medieval knight or that of a World War II tank or that of a futuristic battlemech. And as these are games and in any case far removed from any reality simulation, the question arises how armor should work in a game in which your health is represented by a numerical value. Now clearly the idea is that somebody having more armor over the course of a longer battle should lose less health than somebody having little or no armor. But that can be achieved in two different ways: Making armor affect the chance that an attack is a hit or a miss, or by making armor affect the amount of damage by which the health pool is reduced on a hit.

Dungeons & Dragons uses the former concept. If an enemy has a 50% chance to hit you, and you by some means get two points more armor, the enemies chance to hit you drops to 40%. As long as the combat lasts long enough, the overall effect is taking 10% less damage. However any system that makes armor affect hit & miss chance can run into cases at both extreme ends of the scale, where armor either makes hitting something completely impossible, or where a bit more armor isn't enough to help you because the enemy has a 100% chance to hit you.

This is especially evident in World of Tanks, where being matched against tanks two tiers higher than you can result in some tanks that haven't very good penetration values being unable to frontally damage an enemy tank at all. That system makes the whole game somewhat static, because occupying a defensive position in which only the most heavily armored parts of your tank can be hit ends up being overly powerful. You move, you lose. Not a good recipe for a dynamic game.

But World of Tanks also has a different sort of ammunition, high explosive, that works in a different way: Even if you can't penetrate the enemy armor, you still deal some damage, which is reduced by the armor value. In that case armor affects damage, but is less likely to completely stop damage. That is relevant this month, because the two top tanks of the Top of the Tree American light tank line have optional guns with very good high explosive ammunition. In World of Tanks those guns are called "derp guns", a somewhat derogatory term used because of the notion that a very skilled player would rather use a more precise gun and aim for weak spots. However if you are face to face with a tank two tiers higher than you in a defensive position, a derp gun can be exactly what you need.

Unfortunately most guns on most tanks in World of Tanks can only fire high explosive ammunition with low penetration and damage values, which still is unable to damage a heavily armored tank frontally. I must say that being completely unable to hurt an enemy totally destroys the fun of the game. The second armor model, in which armor reduces damage instead of preventing it, makes the underdog feels somewhat less useless. Thus I wished that high explosive ammunition that is able to at least somewhat hurt tanks two tiers higher was more common in the game, and that high explosive ammo would be somewhat upgraded in upcoming ammo rebalancing.


Those aren't the only two ways to handle armor in games. I like the way MWO handles armor and think that would actually work for WoTs.

In MWO each section of your make has an HP bar, called structure. You assign an armor rating for each section of your mech and the armor absorbs all damage and blocks critical strikes until it is exhausted. It essentially acts like a second hp bar for each section of your mech. Once your armor is gone your structure then takes damage from enemy weapons and is also susceptible to critical strikes which can destroy weapons or components housed in that section. (Before the entire section is destroyed)

What this enables is for even the heaviest armored mech to be taken down by the lightest mech if the pilot is good enough to damage the same section of an enemy mech over and over until they destroy that section. (Granted things like mobility also enable that in MWO but the point stands)

This also makes whats called rolling your armor or torso twisting an important part of your defense because if you just stare down enemies good pilots will wreck you and easily lop of your arms or torso with repeated fire to the same section of your mech.

Imagine WoT where successive non penetrating shots could eventually weaken armor enough so that continuing to get shot in that same place would allow weaker tanks to penetrate your armor and deal actual damage. This could be countering by repositioning your tank (rolling your armor) and crew repairs. Would make for a better and more fair game in my opinion.
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