Monday, 31 October 2011

Getting under the skin ... what's the appeal of World of Tanks

Many, many people play Multiplayer games.  I've never been a big fan, and I put this mainly down to my age.  PC games for me involved story and plot and stupid AI's and other such things.  I am a child of computer games PRE INTERNET, when the game was completely and utterly captivating.

Saying that, Fallout 3 and Bioshock 2 are two of the best games I've ever played, so I'm not alone in the desire for this type of game.

That's where (for me) most MMO action games don't appeal.  Even with modified and upgradable avatars, I'm still facing off against a 12 year old with a M16 machine gun, and at 33, that's only gonna roll one way - and I'm at the bottom of that hill.

MMORGHY-thingys like World of Warcraft don't have a appeal either ... well they DO have an appeal, but I have a job and work to do (occasionally) and my wife won't ever find that amusing.  Addictive personality steer clear.  That said, character upgrades and boosted units and X attacks Y attacks P attacks W, that's the basis of the best tabletop formats, and also the case of the best RTS and other games.

World of Tanks

So World of Tanks was a refreshing change.  Out go generic 'types' (engineer, sniper, scout, shotgunner, bazooka dude) and in come WW2 derived playable tanks.  There's hundreds of them, they all have different stats and playability.  They all have different guns and armours and speeds and profiles and jobs and (geeking out here...) treads!

But that's just part of the appeal, upgrading the tank is also just part of the appeal, training a crew is also just a bit of it.... so what's the appeal?  Well, I'd been struggling to formulate it until I watched a natural history program at the weekend, and something went 'lightbulb!'

Origin of the Species

You know that bit in say, Planet Dinosaur, when the medium sized Tyrannosaur (Rex is one of a whole host of them), is hunting Albertosaurus (I shit you not!)  but then gets taken out by some enormous uber-Crocodile the size of T-Rex.  THAT's what I'm talking about!

The joy of WoT's is that you're thrown pell-mell into a stinking jungle of tank warfare where your ability to know your adversary and pick your fights wisely is essential.  Learning the game mechanics is one things, but different types of tanks will play completely differently and need to fight different opponents very differently as well.  Nothing gets the old adrenaline going as being a T-28 (level 4, good gun, laughable armour) and taking on a Tiger II.  The odds are just stacked in his favour.  In the same way, ambush tanks and artillery tanks mean that heavies are often more vulnerable than mediums, as mediums can just 'walk away' from a fight they can't win and support another flank.

Nothing gets the fight or flight juices rolling like a blazing dogfight at point blank range, escaping from a storm of heavies and then skipping across half the battlefield to challenge the enemy on your home turf.  Brilliant.


So a touch of RPG, a nice MMO and full scale Darwinism... now that's a heady mix!

Retraction .... ouch!

And finally, a quick retraction.  The VK2801 is not the best scout tank in the game, after playing against and then finally buying a Russian T-50, I can say that this tank totally rocks and totally rules.  Here's why...

  • THIS IS A KINKY TANK! It's like the Luchs scout tank used to be +1.  It has some armour and a decent gun.  It can cause havoc in smaller games and havoc in bigger games - its kinda like that.  The key is its 'weaviness', it can turn on a sixpence.  Although it doesn't quite have the straight line speed of the VK2801, it compensate by having bouncy armour and being almost impossible to hit at range, thanks to its kinkiness.
  • IT GETS GOOD MATCH UPS!  It can cause terror, panic and mayhem in pretty much any game and completely outclasses the other scouts.  Any isolated tank should fear the T-50, because in the right hands it can weave around your turret traverses like a mother-flipper flipping burgers in your face.  In comparison the VK is often without a target or a clear role.  Its a good tank, stats-wise it wins hands down ... but:
  • IT ACTUALLY MAKES MONEY!  It costs about $4,000 to completely rebuild it if destroyed, but it makes between $6,000 and $15,000 credits a game.  The VK2801 costs $9-10,000 credits to repair and replace ... and so 50% of the time - it loses money.
  • IT'S BIBLICAL FUN!  It doesn't slow for hills, it weaves and bobs like a fly weight, it can outmanoeuvre pretty much any tank in the game.  It's waspish gun can leave a mark on most enemies and its an adrenaline thrill ride from game start to burning wreck!
And the T50-2 is probably better ... that said, it depends on the match ups.  A Tier 5 scout tank will play a lot of TOP TOP tier games the T-50 avoids.

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