I'd like to try and make this not a shit fest/bitchy post, but actually discuss some of the stuff in WoTC. I'm not sure how that's going to work out, as I feel a lot of people are getting worked up about things that although they are annoying, are cosmetic/temporary and will be gone by and by. I'm more interested in some of the deeper game direction/experience stuff as I've been playing for over 6 years and feel that gives me a level of understanding/investment to make a call on things that are happening just now…
1) Gameplay/player intelligence – Cross play has been great for server populations and game queues, and I don't subscribe to the "xbox are all shitters/playstation are all shitters theory" – whether in jest or not. What I am finding is that as a solo player the number of games I enjoy seems to have dropped off a cliff. It's been going like that for a while, and I don't think there is any one point to say that it's worse since "X" date, but how it feels at the moment is that a good 80% of games are blow outs, and it's random luck if you'll be on one end of it or the other.
I'm solidly green WN8 (at least I think I still am, haven't checked since the sites were knocked out) so I think I can understand gameplay dynamics enough to be useful/recognise what's happening. Thing is – I play for fun, not marks or mastery. I want to log on, have a few games, enjoy it. Gaming is a past time for me and quite often I'll be working it around other stuff like cooking dinner – play around, finish, back to garage while I do something else for 5/10 minutes, back in and start another round. A common response on here to people who express frustration with current gameplay standards has been to recommend to platoon up/play with similar skilled players in order to increase enjoyment levels/decrease frustration. That should be my choice not something I'm forced into doing (which is an element when it comes to the season pass – but that's another thing), having to plan gaming sessions around other peoples availability or annoying the people I'm playing with as I nip off to do stuff at the same time as my tanking. This game wasn't designed as purely platoon orientated gameplay so what does that say about the state of it if that's the seemingly only way to get back to simple enjoyment?
There's multiple things at play here which influence this to some degree or another – the age of the game, number of veteran players decreasing over time, learning curve past T4, lack of meaningful in game tuition, high tier tanks in the hands of players with less understanding of gameplay/mechanics – and I don't think there is a single answer to it. What I would say is that I don't see any indication from WGCB that this is concerning to them, and that's my problem with it – because if the game becoming less satisfying for veterans and/or new players, then player retention will drop and cross play will be a sticking plaster over reducing player numbers. Lower numbers of paying customers will have multiple impact areas in terms of investment in the game itself, while I suspect that WGCB will then look at additional ways to monetise/increase spend from the players left to try to fill the revenue gap. Is Season Pass on top of Premium the beginning of this? Are the constant stream of "free" tank events the incentives to keep players playing as long as possible, despite frustrations they may have with the gameplay – or are WGCB trying to get more spend on other premiums/re-skins while they still can?
2) Bugs/Lag – meme worthy though both of these are, it would be good to try and talk about these objectively as I think there's more to say on this. With lag (and related elements such as ghost shells and so on) server performance and gameplay experience based on it are variable for individuals. I don't think it's good enough for WGCB to write every instance off as "it's your ISP" though that can be a contributing factor. What is frustrating is WGCB's seeming insistence that their services are infallible, when we see from other parts of the puzzle that they are anything but. The number of bugs that the latest release rolled out with, and the multiple bugs (visual mostly) that haven't been fixed weeks down the line, was/is not good. I've seen some posts to the effect that many of these are minor, that delivering this service is not simple, that these will be fixed in due course and don't impact the game so much. I hear that, but my response is also that this is WGCB's job. This is literally what they are paid to do. How can you get to release a significant update, trailed for many weeks, with really obvious things like the tracker of the summerslam levels numerics glitching over the text – how can you ship that update with that still sitting there? Which makes me think that it was fully known prior to 5.0 going live, but was deemed acceptable. And it still is, as it's not been fixed.
The thing is this makes me think that bugs and issues – lag, graphical or otherwise – are not being given priority and resources for fix. Why not? Should not the user experience on a purely online, multi player only game be the highest priority, in order to encourage spend/player retention? The lack of investment in this area by WGCB compares unfavourably to many other developers/games, who have much more regular updates for hotfixes and balance/gameplay updates – Borderlands 3 for example is pretty much weekly, with balance in particular being constantly tweaked based on feedback from the community as well as analysis of the metrics.
How it feels is that bugs, gameplay and related issues are taking a significant back seat in terms of priority, with focus being put on the season pass/monetisation and revenue generation (tank sales primarily). Of course this has to be a focus, as without income the game cannot survive, but there also has to be balance. Potential customers won't stay around to buy the latest season pass/premium if the game they are playing is unsatisfactory.
3) Monetisation/Season Pass – I've paid premium for years. Not a huge buyer of gold outside of that. I've bought a fair few tanks, but I'm by no means a whale. I'm not a big fan of the season pass idea as it stands and my thoughts are as follows..
This iteration of the season pass feels like a test event – how many people will purchase, what level and so on. The base (2k gold) feels like a no brainer as IF you complete, you will receive the 2k gold back together with all the season pass rewards. All good on the surface, but my question then becomes what is the point of Premium? 24k gold (or 12k in the sale) invested to give me higher earnings in both xp and silver, in order to progress further/faster in the game. In previous seasons/events that has been sufficient – my annual investment in premium was a sufficient entry fee paid for participation, paid back in swifter progress through the event and gaining the full rewards offered. But now, unless I make additional purchases (season pass) I'm gated from full participation/reward. This is a different model from previous events/seasons, and if it continues in it's current form I have concern.
Where WGCB have previously offered full season rewards, plus bonus rewards for premium purchasers, even incremental purchase of premium (buy a day prior to completing the event/tier that gave the premium reward tank such as the KpZ 50t) now you have no choice but to make a full season pass purchase. Layered with the tweaks to the tiers/tasks which seems to be more about grind/volume (spotting at least 1 tank in hundreds of matches, damaging 1 or more tanks in hundreds of matches) there is a swing from tasks that are assisted by having premium (pure xp based) to tasks accomplished by slog/grind/being present in a match, hundred of times. If that becomes more prevalent then what is the point of premium?
Given I've paid in advance for premium (currently sitting at 360 days) then a significant change in it's value /worth going forward is annoying. If I have no choice but to make additional purchases of gold to take part on top of what I've already invested then that's not good. If this is the way WGCB are taking the game forward, then perhaps they should consider a "combined" premium/season pass offer – and a way to convert existing subs into that, similar to how MS have worked Gold/Game Pass/Ultimate. If you want Ultimate and already have a Gold sub, you can convert the existing months left on your Gold into fewer Ultimate months – as you are gaining access to additional value.
4) Season pass ops – to go with the above, something that stuck me this weekend was around the way the ops have built/changed from previously. Some of the previous activities have been a bit simplistic/easy to complete and I've had mixed feeling about that (point 1 about high tier tanks in the hands of people with less game knowledge) but overall once I got going I always felt it was achievable. I'm not 100% on that with the current event, which given the additional cost of taking part is a concern. Weekly ops structures are coming in with longer term/grind requirements, or ones that are difficult to achieve for me personally, and the "making a point" equivalent with it's never ending escalation of xp requirement is functionally useless over time.
Platoon ops are annoying because I am a solo player, covered off earlier. Gating these means that unless I change my play/find people to play with (and even then it's not guaranteed I'll be able to achieve the op requirement) I'm going to be down multiple levels. I think we have had 2 platoon ops in the 3 weeks to date for 18 or 19 points. If that is repeated over the 8 odd weeks of the event, then potentially I'm missing out on hitting 8, 9 or 10 levels in the season that I can't make up any other way as to date I don't think we have seen any of the previous season/event weekly/one off points tasks that WG put in as bonuses.
My other concern is one that until we get to the back end of the event can't be confirmed, but given what we've seen so far has got me wondering. Will the ops in the final few weeks be pro-rata'ed for achievement in a shorter timescale? In week 3 we have 1 op with 100, 2 ops with 125 and 1 with 300 battle requirements for completion. Will WG bring those down in the final couple of weeks to allow for realistic completion? I play every day to some extent, but have still not quite got the 100 or 125 in the last seven days let alone the 300, so if we had similar requirements in the final week or two then it's highly unlikely I'd get the completions. Put that on top of the platoon only requirements and I can see myself being presented with a sunk cost decision – either miss out on finishing the season/final rewards or pay out gold for single tier skips or a season pass upgrade.
If I was playing only here and there then it's fair to make the case I haven't put the hours in and don't deserve the reward, and paying up to skip/buy out is my choice given lack of effort. But if I'm playing every day and the end point starts feeling unachievable/un-realistic then where is the incentive to take part in the next one? Current progress is 48/100 so on that run rate I should be there or thereabouts, but that's on the assumption that the ops don't keep going up in terms of grind/time sink required. Week 1 and 2 ops (other than the platoon) had less time/volume requirement than week 3 – surely that should be the other way round?
So – there you have it. Thanks for listening to my Ted Talk etc. I'd be interested in peoples thoughts who want to have a discussion about the direction that WGCB is taking the game. As much as I am not a fan of the WWE branding I am looking past that as it is a cosmetic and will change in a few weeks – though it could be to something just as visually unappealing or to subject matter that again I have no interest in – but it's not really the point of the above. I would much rather talk about the developer focus areas, the monetisation model and what it means going forwards/things that could be improved.
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© Post "Monday musings. Couple of things that I have thought about recently…." for game World of Tanks.
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