Ignoring the real threat

I’ve noticed that unresponsive companies ignore the real issues because in their planning sessions they have their ideas and a long term plan. We see it in DDO, the excellent MOTU followed by an ever slide into what was the ‘that expack’. And I see in in World of Tanks with an ever release of ‘new tanks and maps’ and ways to spend money. DDO did it with the introduction of shards and WoT have made steady inroads into micro transact the game to death.

And it’s not like the real problem with DDO happened over night; after MOTU things were pretty good. What made it worse wasn’t really a set of meh quest chains (harper), it was in fact followed by a truly great conversion from Gianthold to Epic Gianthold and a short but really sweet new raid. That was erased in subsequent patches and the release of the xpack. Against what players warned about; that the quality of life patches languished while the added ‘insert shard here’ stuff kept expanding. This culminated in a completely tone deaf release of an expack, short on goodies and quests but high on absolutely horrid ideas like terrible named items, overpowered auto provided choices as end rewards (like the skirmishers, sage etc items) and random items with deadly galore that replaced desired loot with stat inflated stuff. Dream Visor, arguably one of the most desired DPS items was replaced overnight by inexpensive deadly of accuracy items with lower ML. The fantastic flora of interesting permutations were replaced by flaming of ghostbane clones. Sure; they expanded the use of augments and only because you could buy them from the store – but overall the many named items that had made EGH great were no replaced by stuff you could buy off the AH for 10k plat.

It’s good that Turbine have recommitted themselves to ‘fix’ how they managed to slide away from the communities expectations and how the short term profit got in the way of long term retention. And while it’s not ‘too late’ it’s certainly a do or die situation and I’m somewhat optimistic that Turbine is slowly rekindling themselves with the players through interesting content and a more savvy look at named loot compared to ‘the xpack’.

DDO is of course not unique. In WoT the same thing happened but in a different way; but it follows an eeri parallel. First a steady release of new patches with more and more tanks. Some of them completely broken. That also followed a shameful amount of terrible premium tanks – tanks that were either worthless in the tier they played or simply just bad. But more so issues that existed from the very first time the game went gold, still remains. Exasperated by the steady power creep. And it seems that WG is not ready or interested in doing anything about it. Largely because it’s a small player base in US, Europe and a huge one in Russia. And since the Russian players seem okay with the broken nature of the game, a piddle of that comparably won’t really stir much interest among the devs. And that’s the good thing about playing DDO; Turbine realize that there’s a chasm between the devs vision and that of the players. And for WG there is none since the US market is so small.

The take away WG did was to come up with World of Tanks blitz, a much more simplified version for smartphones and pads. WG thought that players were leaving WoT because it was too complicated when the reality is that it was the broken nature of the game that made people leave. Like a visibility system that is completely idiotic. Or the no damage crits, when a 120mm shot just damages the tracks or a periscope without any additional damage. Both of these problems have existed from the get go. WG instead made things worse by making bigger and badder guns, same tanks with these big bad guns harder to spot and 2 shooting tier 10 vehicles the norm with these invisible giants.

And it turn they did nothing about the no damage crits, in fact they made it worse by changing the behavior of rounds. Making tracking more common and now adding silly stuff like no damage by hitting view ports on tanks. And instead of seriously addressing it WG have decided to up the physics of the game – make it prettier, tanks look more real and add more destructible terrain. And that’s bad.

The issue right now is that Artillery is way to dominant together with these invisible massive cannons. The best you can do as a tanker is to find something solid to hide behind. Like non destructive buildings. And sometimes that’s not even enough since Artillery have splash damage. Now guns will be able to destroy most obstructions AND with added insult to injury add a chance to damage and even destroy vehicles that get hit with falling obstructions. Like hiding a brick building and have it collapse on the tank hiding behind it. Again – that favor artillery. Since the largest cannon right now is 183mm (a brit super TD) it’s most likely going to fire AP. HE will have a much more destructive ability on buildings and the largest artillery cannon is something like 203mm.

In other words artillery will be able to crush buildings with ease and then damage tanks behind it. Making artillery the undisputed king. The bad thing with that is how defunct the idea of rock paper scissor becomes. When the greatest flaw of something is inconsequential the preferences changes. For a while there were almost as many artillery as regular tanks. Sometimes so many that it was like 5-7 artillery (out of 15) on each side and it turned into spot and crush fest. Worst of all; people stopped attacking and instead hid behind rocks and such in fear of artillery. Which meant the pace slowed to a crawl. So WG realized that there was a problem, put a hard cap of 5 on each match and messed around with artillery fire speed and shells air time. The result was much less artillery. Until WG decided to make hits more accurate. And once more artillery became more accurate and you see more and more of them.

But worse than that was the change to super cannons with low visibility. And the reason why an overwhelming majority of tanks in high tier battles are tank destroyers. With big cannons. Combine that with accurate artillery, wonky and idiotic spotting and you have quick over runs by teams that spot and hit first. The results are less people playing regular heavies, more people playing meds and lots of people playing big guns.

And since WG is not addressing spotting, the worthlessness of armor and the no damage crits, the change of physics in favor of big guns will slant it even further to the big ‘uns. Now I see the value of being able to destroy all kind of obstructions. I think it’s good – but only if it’s paired with a rock paper scissor balancing. One that matters. And where paper doesn’t win all the time because rock is too slow and it’s armor doesn’t matter. And speed and spotting is more valued over sniping and heavy armor. The tilt is there and the physics change makes the tilt even worse.

Unlike with DDO WG is in a bind. They can’t get over the magic 40k mark even on a good day. And partly because they’re not addressing the big issues and just making it worse for ‘casual’ players who want to play tank and not smothered all over the map by elite tankers exploiting all the flaws. Why even bother getting a tier 10 tank if you’re most likely dead within minutes by death star tanks that you can’t even see? And how can WG put the cork on a problem they unleashed with making tier 10 deathstar tank destroyers and premium ammo for credit. Unless they nerf those tanks into oblivion. It’s doubtful they can even fix it by finally getting serious about the visibility system. And unlike with Turbine they don’t listen to the people pointing out the issues; they instead listen to the many who don’t mind the exploitable system. Like the person who argued in a match that the tier 10 autoloading deathstar TD he used was not OP (eventho all stats available show an abnormal imbalance in eff rate with tanks like that) because it had ‘soft armor’. Of course everything could be considered ‘soft armor’ when hit by a 128mm long cannon that can fire 5 shots within 3 seconds of each other before full reload. That’s 400-600 in damage per shot with a minimal chance for deflection. And if the autoloader is using premium rounds it would be the odd angle, complete miss or the no damage crit. Armor is inconsequential and completely useless. Accuracy and ROF (the essence of DPS) is everything.

As you can see, very little will fix these issues and certainly not by making hard cover useless. That will favor big guns over small guns and make small guns nothing more than bait waiting to die.

Now I admit I ‘bitch’ a lot. But I’m not bitching about things that are not there. To me balance is everything. When you leave out a portion of players because of x reason you leave out paying customers. And what you get is a narrow sliver of people who either gravitate towards the exploitable features or leave in disgust. And it’s really up to developers to realize what the issue is, get the information from all the noise and fix the problem before it sours. Like Turbine is trying with DDO, even tho they waited a little bit too long. And with WG who is in a bind; do they listen to a small market that won’t grow unless there are changes or do they bank on a large market that will eventually erode given better alternatives. I don’t envy anyone the choices. But I’m not surprised players are moving on either.

For me I’m back with DDO. The latest release is better than all the flaws and they’re actively fixing problems. You can’t argue against that. However what worries me is the long term viability of a thriving game – smaller player base means less devs actively adding content. And without content DDO will mature, end up with a sliver of the player base and die a slow death. Lets hope we can see a small resurgence. And hopefully a few more great ideas down the line that can revitalize some of the dead areas of DDO. So yeah – I bitch – and I bitch a lot. But I’m also hoping for something better.

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