Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Stabs continues his very insightful analysis of raiding in World of Warcraft. In his latest post he says about raiding: "It's a team game where you "win" by succeeding on an individual level." That is the other side of medal we discussed previously, where we said that individual mistakes in WoW raiding lead to full scale failure.

Now as you know I currently play mostly World of Tanks, in which all gameplay is team-based. And obviously many of the players in WoT are familiar with raiding from WoW and other games, and carry with them this mindset that "if we wiped, somebody must have made an individual mistake (and I'm sure it wasn't me)". Which is completely wrong most of the time, because World of Tanks doesn't work like that. It is perfectly possible in World of Tanks for every player on a team to play flawlessly on an individual level, and the team to lose anyway.

To demonstrate, let me propose a game with very simple rules: Two teams with 15 players each face each other on a battlefield with 3 lanes. On every lane where the number of players is equal or plus/minus 1, the combat stalls. On every lane where one side is unopposed or has 2 players more than the other side, they rush through and win. Without seeing what the other team does, what would be your winning strategy? The trick is that there isn't one! For every combination you propose, let's say 5-5-5, I can find a countermove (7-4-4) which will win me the game. And World of Tanks can play out the same way: All maps have multiple paths (although not necessarily exactly 3 linear ones), and players often have to decide to go down those paths without having knowledge where the enemy goes. So sometimes your side's rush on one side just gets stalled, why the enemy marches through to your flag WITHOUT THAT BEING THE FAULT OF ANY INDIVIDUAL PLAYER.

That isn't to say that there is no skill involved. Organized teams on teamspeak have an obvious advantage over random pickup groups with little or no communication. And even individually players can sometimes beat the odds and win on some spot in spite of being technically less strong. But overall the final result is quite often a consequence of a sum of individual decisions, and that result can be a loss without there being one objectively wrong decision. I've won games with completely unconventional "stupid" decisions because I ran down some path unopposed, and lost games in which I played nearly perfectly and killed 5 other tanks, because everywhere else my team got outnumbered.

World of Warcraft raiding is a game of perfection in execution. World of Tanks requires a lot less perfection in execution, but demands much more strategic thinking. And unless there is good coordination via voice chat, the strategic thinking has to be done by each individual player. And even if they do that, a battle can be lost because by the time you get the information, it is too late to act on it. For somebody who only looks at his individual performance and execution, that can look suspiciously random. For a strategist the reason your team lost is often very clear, and has very little to do with any individual having made an obvious mistake. In hindsight you might say "oh, I should have gone left instead of right", but at the point you made it, your decision was probably quite reasonable.

Personally I get much fulfillment out of making correct strategic predictions in World of Tanks. By having played a map many times, and by looking at the composition of the two teams, one can often make intelligent predictions of what is likely to happen, and then act upon these. Enemy has lots of light tanks? Somebody will probably rush over and try to kill your artillery, so you better guard them. A correct prediction will not always win you the battle, but it sure will contribute. The big difference to WoW is that in WoT your best move depends on what moves the other players of your team make, e.g. two scouts running down the same road is probably not as efficient as them splitting up and covering two paths. Thus World of Tanks isn't simply about execution, but you constantly should keep the overall situation in mind, check sighting on the the mini-map, and make decisions accordingly. World of Tanks is a game about teamwork, and that in my eyes makes it far deeper than a game about perfect individual execution.

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