For the Record: On Historical battles mode
This post was kinda inspired by omggamer.com, some of their articles are very good, especially the last one. Hello everyone, today, I’m going to post something about an upcoming historical battles mode. First and foremost, what is actually the upcoming Historical battles mode (likely to come in 2014)? Well, in short, it’s a WoT mode, where historically used vehicles (no paper tanks and prototypes) ride around in their historical configurations (sorry, no more 88mm L/71 Tigers) and numbers (1 Tiger = 10 T-34′s) and fight their historical enemies (so Tigers will meet T-34′s, not AMX-13′s) in certain time periods, probably defined by either years, or battles (July 1943 Prokhorovka for example). It will be played on standard (although roughly corresponding) World of Tanks maps, so the battle of Prokhorovka will not be played on Westfield etc. In addition, it’s possible there will be some new “historical” maps introduced, but maps modelled completely according to reality are unlikely, as they would not be balanced for gameplay (sadly, WW2 forces did not choose the battlefield according to what would or wouldn’t be playable in a computer game 70 years later). From what we know, this mode will most likely not appear in random battles, but as some sort of “company mode”, using not points, but slots (I’ll get to that later), but it will use standard World of Tanks mechanisms, it will definitely not include “hardcore mode” (one shot kills, no hitpoints etc.). Of course, one might compare this with the War Thunder historical mode. WoT historical battles will go further: Mig-15′s over Stalingrad is not exactly something Wargaming wants. While I do believe the historical mode has its place in World of Tanks, I am very sceptical about its implementation, for several reasons. The most obvious flaw is the slot system. You see, you can’t have a simple company point system based on tank “worth”. That was the original idea, if I recall correctly: each historical tank would have its own point “worth” – like company tier point value, only based on various things, such as the availability of that respective tech in that respective year. For example, in 1943, the Tigers were completely dominating, but there were very few of them, while by 1945, the Tiger I was a much less impressive vehicles, but there were more of them around, so logically, in a 1945 battle, Tiger I would have less value than in 1943. Sounds logical and easy, but we all know what would happen: instead of a historical battles of one or two Tigers, a bunch of Panthers and a whole lot of Panzer IV’s vs rare late KV/early IS tanks and tons of T-34′s, we’d have 4 Tiger vs 4 IS battles, because noone wants to play the underdog. Not a very appealing idea. So – if I recall correctly – at some point it was changed to some sort of slot system, not unlike the way the EU “historical battles” social events work. Each battle has a number of slots for various technology defined for both sides. In other words, for each historical battle, you will have for example 1 heavy tank, 5 tank destroyers and the rest medium and light tanks (depending on the battle). How precisely are these slots defined – whether the German heavy tank HAS to be the Tiger, or the slot is defined as an “elite unit” tank, which could be a Tiger or a Panther in 1943 – that we do not know yet. It would be logical to assume some vague slot definitions will be available (core vs specialist tanks for example), because defining the slots too strictly could lead to mirror battles – and that would get old really quick. And that’s another thing I am a bit afraid of: mirror battles. Mirror battles – while inherently more fair – have been repeatedly designated as not desired in random battles, because they are simply boring. By a “mirror battle”, I mean a situation where both sides have exactly the same slots – for example 5 heavies and 10 mediums – or, in extreme cases, identical vehicles. While the chance of something like that happening in random battles is very low, in the previously described historical battles system it is actually a part of their design: both sides would have exactly (let’s say) 1 Tiger against 1 IS tank, with 8 Panzer IV’s and 6 Stug’s vs 8 T-34′s and 6 SU-85′s: sounds boring? Yes well, that’s because it is. Even when the slots are more vaguely designed (for example medium slot being shared by either an early Panzer IV, or late Panzer III), it will still IMHO lead to boring and repetitive battles, where the task of the heavy will be to take care of the enemy heavy and whoever wins that match will probably win the battle (imagine the Tiger roflstomping a bunch of stock T-34′s, or vice versa with IS). Not exactly my kind of fun, so I hope the developers thought of that. Third issue is also obvious: how to make players play the underdog tanks? The obvious solution are of course the various incentives, that don’t necesserily make the gameplay better, but “worth it” (for example higher rewards for playing underdog tanks, special bonuses for killing stronger tanks etc.), but personally it wouldn’t convince me to play an underdog, so I am afraid WG will try to “force” it somehow (for example by some sort of unlocking system: “You can play a Tiger in Prokhorovka only after you finish 50 battles with Panzer IV in that historical battle”). This would bring another set of issues however (for example “where will we get a Tiger player” early on and “where will we get enough Panzer IV players now that everyone unlocked the Tiger” later). This is perhaps the most problematic point, anyone who remembers oldchool World of Tanks “/2 LFG tank and healer” will feel chills running down their spine – and not in a good way. Fourth issue is obviously the company system itself, that is very clumsy at this moment. I am sure the devs will come up with something automated, such as the World of Warcraft “dungeon finder”, this is only a question of programming, not of game design. Either way, I am kinda curious how will WG handle it all, but as I said, I’m sceptical at this point.