It is no secret that I am mainly a single-player gamer. Sure I dabble with MMOs, but I mostly play by myself even there, just enjoying the fact that other people are around, even when I don’t feel any obligation to interact with them.
I usually say I am more into co-operative multi-player than competitive. PvP is the part of MMOs that appeals the least to me. I tried the Starcraft 2 ladder rankings for a while, and it was kinda fun, for a while. I couldn’t really get into it long-term though. I guess I just don’t have the edge needed.
League of Legends and its kind don’t really appeal to me at all, and while I do have Awesomenauts now, and occasionally play a game to waste some time while listening to a podcast or some such, it really hasn’t tickled the ‘this is fun’ or ‘this is engaging’ sensation in me. I mainly feel like I play because it’s a game that looks like it should be fun, rather than one that actually is fun.
And yet there is one game that’s entirely based on team-vs-team multi-player matches that has become a mainstay in my gaming stable. World of Tanks.
I have been pondering lately exactly why World of Tanks is different from everything else I’ve tried. The obvious answer is ‘duh, it’s tanks!’, but since thinking too much about stuff is a trait of mine I can’t help but ponder whether it goes deeper than so.
The ‘it’s tanks!’ argument certainly has some merit. I used to be a gunner on a Leopard 1 battlewagon, and it kindled a fascination in me. And the tanks in WoT do feel very good. Like the mechs in the Mechwarrior games, the tanks here feel heavy and powerful. There’s a certain weight to them that can’t be denied. Which is why everything I’ve seen about Hawken puts it so low down on my interest scale. Sure it’s mechs, but they all seem lightweight and all too fast, like most Japanese mecha I see. Hawken reminds me of Counter-Strike, just with all the players re-skinned as mechanised walkers.
I think the format also plays into it. Multi-player gaming involves dying. That’s a fact. If you can’t accept that, you better stay away from it. Sure, as you get better there’ll be less dying, but it’s always a part of it. Now in most multi-player games/formats they implement respawning. A wholly valid, and tried-and-tested, method of keeping matches going, but personally it does little for me. As a gamer I am usually more slow and calculated than fast and twitch-based. Others who are better at fast reactions, mouse/controller movements and quick ability application tend to kill me over and over. And trust me, being murdered by the same person over and over is about as far removed from fun as you can get, at least for me. Revenge is not as big a driving force for me as it can be for others.
World of Tanks contends itself with one life per match. While there is still the possibility of being one-shot, you are typically more solid and will take several direct hits before you go down. This means that rushing in like a loon rarely pays off. Okay, properly co-ordinated matches are rare outside of guild play, but I still find that people naturally start relying on eachother and holding back to move in packs, as they know they are vulnerable alone. Even a scout (if he’s any good) will rarely go far ahead of the main force, content with their superior speed to avoid getting shot as they spot targets for the bigger guns behind them to take out. If a team-mate is having a face-off you might find an opportunity to flank his opponent. Artillery rain down shells to take out the biggest threats coming for their team, and in return a few of the team hang behind to guard the frail artillery platforms.
And once you’re out, you’re out. You accept your loss, try to see what you did wrong, and learn from the experience. When you die you will often find it was because you did something stupid, like getting out of position, exposing yourself needlessly or just charging ahead without waiting for your team. I am often guilty of any or all of these, and more besides. And sometimes the other guy is just better, and you have to learn to accept that too. When you involve respawning it can often be a case of really rubbing in how much better the other guy is, and that’s what gets a little obnoxious for me. With one life per match and thousands of players online at any time you will rarely face the same person over and over.
There is also the mechanics themselves to consider. As soon as you move past the first couple of tiers you get to the point where you kinda have to make sure your shots count. The bigger tanks can have very long reload times, or at least long enough that you always have to weigh whether it’s worth to pull the trigger or not. Occasionally you just have to chance it, and you could well get lucky. So you either learn how to use the terrain and camouflage to your advantage while waiting for your gun to reload, or you will not get very far.
I am not saying World of Tanks is perfect. Like any game involving other people you will run into idiots, griefers and incompetents. Which makes it an extra blessing that you usually won’t have to deal with them for very long. The game does have mechanics in place to discourage team-killers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The most common scenario though is being put on a team with people who are just not very good. Maybe you’ll be good enough to make up for the others. Maybe you’re no better yourself. Maybe the other team will be as bad or worse. Or maybe you’ll just get rofl-stomped and there’s nothing you can do about it, no matter how good you are personally. My advice is to never go down without a fight though. Even if things are clearly lost, you should still do as much damage as you can. Should you not be able to do anything, at least you tried.
There is also the issue of the gold ammo. And while I have never needed it, nor felt like it has really hampered things for me, I do recognise it as problematic. Occasionally when you are butchered by a shot that shouldn’t have done that much damage you start to wonder whether it was just a lucky hit, or whether the bugger had bought some of the over-powered gold ammunition. Since it’s a game that rewards skill and strategy the gold ammo is not a be-all, end-all kind of thing, but it still feels like developer-sanctioned cheating for the purpose of earning more money.
I would have also liked the option of choosing your gun after you see the match you’re in. Especially on my tank destroyers I have often thought ‘this match would work better if I equipped this other gun’. This is not an issue with all of the tanks. Mostly the upgrades work in the ‘bigger is better’ way, but occasionally you have different types of guns that work better in some scenarios than others. That most guns can use both AP and HE ammo is a nice touch though, and knowing when to use what can mean you could be of help even when you would otherwise be out-matched and ineffective.
I feel like I’ve lost sight of my original intention with this article, so let’s just stop there. There are more nuances and little details I could go into, and I’m sure most of them would mean little to anyone who isn’t a player.
So that is my attempt at an explanation of why someone who traditionally hasn’t liked or cared about multi-player gaming would still find something like World of Tanks interesting and fun. You might disagree with everything in here, but since this is purely a personal opinion kind of thing, I’m not that fussed, and you’re welcome to argue.
I would also be interested to hear if anyone else has been in the situation of generally not liking a type of thing, and then finding an exception to the rule.