Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Burden of 50/50

As I’ve mentioned previously, some friends and I have been playing World of Tanks as a platoon of 3 and tearing it up in the lower tiers.  Although we’ve had some abysmal matches, for the most part we’ve been doing pretty well.  Having three people coordinate over Skype can make a big difference, even if we’re not especially good and running around in flimsy, crappy tanks.  We almost always manage to get at least one or two kills apiece, which in my experience is pretty damn good.  We currently have a 60/40 win-loss ratio when grouped, but that will probably degrade over time as we run into more experienced players in the higher tiers, normalizing eventually to the expected 50/50.

Which, to one of my friends, simply isn’t good enough.  He plays games to relax and have fun after a long day of work, not be a punching bag for other players.  He made the apt observation that in a PvP game like WoT, his fun is no more important than that of his opponents.  The game is balanced to hand you as many losses as victories, as many deaths as kills.  It’s perfectly fair.  But he doesn’t play games to be fair, he plays games to have fun.  He works at work, he wants to play when he plays.  He likes the game, he likes the tanks, the progression, the combat, the battling as a group.  He just doesn’t like the PvP combat model.  If WoT had a PvE mode, we’d be golden.

I couldn’t disagree with him, his point was perfectly valid and sensible.  World of Tanks involves a lot of suffering.  A lot.  It hooks you, though, with the occasional shining moment of awesome, where you have a fantastic match and sweep your enemies before you like chaff before the wind.  That’s not exactly a common occurrence though, and you’re not likely to get there until you’ve had a lot of experience with the game.  Playing just one day a week though, that’s a lot of frustration to learn through, and a pretty sporadic reward structure if you might go weeks at a time without that really rewarding match to keep you hooked.

So I have to wonder, is there an “ideal” amount of time to devote to WoT to keep your blood charged with victories without grinding your bones to dust with defeats?  What category of player expresses the most satisfaction with the game?  The ones who play 10 hours a day?  The ones who play 10 hours a week?  Is it a simple case of more is always better, or does enjoyment to time spent map out to a bell curve?  It’s easy to say someone playing 10 hours a day must be highly satisfied, else they wouldn’t play so much, but it could just as easily be someone addicted to the game and/or obsessed with being the best rather than someone that just really enjoys the game.

PvE games are quite simple – the more you play, the more you’re rewarded.  More level ups, more loot, more money, more achievements, etc.  A game like World of Tanks though, you get those things, but you also get more losses, more frustration, more screaming at your monitor that there’s no-way-that-punk-medium-tank-was-able-to-destroy-your-heavy-while-sitting-behind-that-rock-you-cheating-bastard.

I’m still an average World of Tanks player at best, and my own interest has fallen off in recent weeks in favor of single player games or PvE MMOs.  I would gladly pay full box price for a PvE campaign in World of Tanks, something where you fight through battles on the side of a particular nationality against AI opponents, with varying goals besides just “kill all enemies or cap the flag”, perhaps with scripted events even.  I’m sure I could sell my friends on it too.  The PvP matches in WoT are fun, but there are only so many deathmatches you can participate in before it gets stale.  I know for me, my satisfaction index would go up along with my time played if I could switch to some PvE gameplay when the PvP gets too frustrating.  


  1. Great post. I 'll try to gather what really attracts me in PvP games and makes the PvE relatively bland and unsatisfying

    -victories are real. They are over opponents who were not designed nor wanted to be defeated. When you get that moment of triumph , which is a sublimation of skills , teamwork and sometimes luck, you feel better.

    Its kinda similiar to beat the single player game on hard difficulty - you essentially compete vs. designer. Difference is you win once and you generally know the pattern to win again and again, designer cannot adapt and respond

    PvE is designed for you to win. Its an expected outcome. It was designed to be completed. In pvp?- best one wins, you are not guaranteed anything beyond what you can carve for yourself.

    So for PvP game to be interesting long -term it needs to have a long learning curve and high skill ceiling(ideally combined with the ladder) . You improve your own skills and gameplay -that is the goal and reward at same time

    There are many frustrating elements in pvp games though. many of them related to essentially factors out of your control which many feel "unfair" (such as matchmaking in WoT, random nature of teams and so on).

    Some games try to address them , some dont, but essentially if as a player you do not accept defeat as a natural and normal outcome pvp games are not the right genre. Not saying that I enjoy defeats, but taking them to personal would not allow me to enjoy the gameplay.

    Treat defeats as learning opportunities. And there is always more to learn.Self perfection is a drive of PvP.

    PvE is essentially entirely different beast which functions on rewards. More times you invest - more you are rewarded. The downside is that if one looks close enough rewards are guaranteed and do not serve as a benchmark of your skills.

  2. The answer would be the WoW-esque non-rated BG. If the goal is 50/50, then you are in a PvP ladder environment. Get off the ladder if you don't like fair matches against comparable opponents.

    And honestly, realize that no one is going to put up with 40/60 anymore than you like 50/50. Ergo, for those non-ladder matchups to work, they will have to be there for a reason (like grinding honor). Or possibly that winning itself is irrelevant compared to individual encounters.

  3. > PvE games are quite simple - the more you play,
    > the more you’re rewarded. More level ups,
    > more loot, more money, more achievements, etc

    You also have more runs where your sword of a thousand truths didn't drop and you wasted a whole evening farming a raid you don't like. PvE can also feel like work and not be fun...

    The less you play in PvE the more upgrades exist and the more likely it is that you get one.

  4. The problem with pve games is that players wan't to compete. Players wan't to be better than someone or some group. That is the reason you grind stuff(pve) even if you don't know it.

    Pve needs you to be competitive minded to even work.

    Either you give players good feedback on how they are doing and add pvp or some kind of competetion.

    Or you risk having a uninterresting/bad/easy game. No one plays singleplayer(100%pve) games for years. Many multiplayer games are played much longer than single.

    I supose pve like minecraft is a bit different.

  5. I think the comments here nicely demonstrate why no one game can do it all for everyone, and probably shouldn't try.

  6. There, in WOT, are victories where in battle you did nothing and there are defeats where you are Top Gun.

    Don't take defeats too personal, don't conceive "fun" from statistics. Don't rage about what others did or did not. There will be always next battle.

  7. Fascinating to me that a game gives someone evenly matched, fair competition and that person balks at it for that reason.

    Sounds to me like he's not all that interested in the game itself, as much as he just wants something he can 'win' at endlessly, to make him feel better about himself.

  8. Hey now, there's no need for that. I thought I made his reasoning pretty clear. Not everyone wants to spend their leisure time in competition.