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Re-casting Overpowered/Underpowered - Skill Floors and Ceilings


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#1 CraBeatOff

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 04:43 AM

There has been, as long as I've been a part of the WoT forum community, a lot of talk about OP/UP tanks. We've also seen Garbad make some very good points about the issues with the validity of balancing tanks based on global win-rates, and see WG improve their balancing practices (not immediately hammering the T57, but instead adjusting HEAT, unlike the M48A1 RIP in peace). 

 

However, recently the community has begun talking about skill-floors and skill-ceilings, something I am personally familiar with from WoW Arena class balancing, but I am sure others are from other PvP games as well (I know StarCraft and MOBA communities have similar discussions, based on conversations with people who play "other games"). Okeano gets credit for reminding me of this though. 

 

Anyways, Garbad posted up this thread, http://forum.worldof...ed-tanks-of-86/ and looking over the selection of tanks I had this inquiry

 

 

The question is...do server wide win-rates better reflect skill floor rather than skill ceiling? Put another way, are these the tanks in which its hardest for the average players to fail in? There are significant similarities between them, namely hard frontal armor + dpm or punishing alpha, which to me seem like they are simply "easier" to play well, but not necessarily extremely well. 

 

 

Garbad then mentioned to me that WG has claimed to ignore the top and bottom 10% of results when balancing, which I found interesting. 

 

But overall this line of thinking made me realize that overall the balance of tanks is poorly discussed without reference to skill-floors and ceilings. A misunderstanding of the terms, as well as unfamiliarity leads to very crossed-up discussions about tank balance. 

 

(Rough) Definitions

Skill-floor : the minimum reasonable output of a tank. The skill floor indicates the ease with which a player can achieve reasonable results. 

 

Skill-ceiling : the maximal normally achievable output of a tank. The skill ceiling indicates what a tank can do under conditions generally under control of the player.  

 

Its noteworthy that no tank has a true minimum skill floor (maybe the mini-maus of olde). Any tank in the game is going to die broadside/asswise to 4-5 tanks pretty quickly. It is possible to conceive of temporary conditions in which a tank might achieve a near infinite skill-floor (5 tier 5 LTs platoon in 10 tier 1s vs a Maus) but under normal gameplay conditions most tanks can fail pretty well. See bots for more info. 

 

Its also noteworthy that the reverse is true, and tank can be god-mode if say the enemy all disconnects (see HT Marathon contest!) or if the enemy is sufficiently un-skilled and simply drives in 1-by-1 at the speed of DPM, which sadly happens more often that one might believe. This is how 45%ers get top guns. 

 

But for the most part, there are factors, outside of those extreme or rare situations, which define the skill ceiling, and these are generally tied to the tank characteristics. 

 

(author opinion) Examples

High skill floor tank, normal skill ceiling: KV-1, IS-6, KV-4, Hotchkiss, Brit TDs especially mid tier. These are tanks that are often labeled as "forgiving". I am sure there are more, and it might be worth it to classify all the tanks in WoT at some point, but I couldn't do it alone, as I've not played all the tanks. 

 

Normal skill floor, low skill ceiling: T28prot, AMX M4 45, SPGs. These are usually undistinguished tanks that are hard to carry in. T28 limited by speed. M4 45 by no armor but also poor aim-time and DPM. SPGs because their only role is firepower, but with great limits. 

 

Low skill floor, low skill ceiling: Tier 4 scout MM tanks. These tanks suck. Also tier 1 tanks. This is why good players dislike the tier 1 CW farce. 

 

Low skill floor, high skill ceiling: high tier light tanks, BatChat25t, Leos. Easy to fail, but can carry very very hard in many situations. Unstable though. 

 

High skill floor, high skill ceiling: fast high camo high alpha TDs. Getting off 3 shots a game can be enough to swing a handful of games. In the hands of someone good, devastating. Foch155 - hard to do less than 1600 dmg, quite possible to do 3500+ always. 

 

Normal skill floor, high skill ceiling: most of the good heavies, IS-3, E-100, softer autoloaders like 50 100 and T54E1. The T-54. Forgiving tanks that also have some other characteristics (speed, firepower) that let a driver with skills despoil many pubs. 

 

These examples are not exhaustive. You might disagree. I am probably wrong on some of them. But the purpose to illustrate and discuss how the labels of OP/UP mismatch with these tanks. 

 

Discussion

Tanks with high skill ceiling get labeled OP by baddies. They can be wholly devastated by TDs and autoloaders. You can see hundreds of threads on this elsewhere. However, the skill floors affect the global balance. Its terribly easy to fail in the LTs or the Batchat and Leos. This where people get confused. Is the Leo1 balanced or OP or UP? Depending on who is driving, it really depends on whether you're bumping up against the floor of the ceiling. Its very easy to be utter crap in a Leo tank, but its also possible to play very very skillfully. 

 

Tanks with low skill ceiling are generally dis-preferred by good players. Mobility plays a big factor in this. If you can't get to the fights, your skill means nothing, you are limited by the tank (T95!). At the same time, on a different map the T95 has a horrible high skill-floor. Himmelsdorf with no arty is T95 heaven. 

 

Some tanks shift, depending on ammo load outs. The T-54 goes from balanced to "OP" with HEAT. HEAT turns an already tough medium into a pocket heavy that doesn't need to flank (if flanking is a bad option) 201 pen prohibits frontal engagements in many situations. 330 HEAT does not. The skill floor remains the same, but loading some sprem jacks up the ceiling tremendously. 

 

The T69 is even more extreme. With AP its got a low skill floor (soft, not terribly fast or stealthy, ok firepower but has to flank). With HEAT, it becomes an monster with DPM the same as its whole class, but severely compressed and again not limited to flanking engagements. Is the T69 OP or UP or neither? Its a silly question, its just about looking at where the skill floors and ceilings land. 

 

TL:DR

Talking about OP and UP is sort of pointless, since the discussion needs to be cast in terms of skill floors and ceilings. If you plan on being good at WoT, you will likely be attracted to high skill ceiling tanks. Low skill floor tanks can be frustrating. High skill floor tanks are good for new players. Avoid low skill ceiling tanks unless you are perverse. 

 

Graphics

Some nerd named Okeano made this excellent chart to illustrate

 

bgpkrb.png


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#2 Enaris

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 04:59 AM

I think you're on to something, and it's something you see with the M8A1-T49-M18 cycle in the American TD line.

 

They all have a fairly high skill floor, but also have extremely high ceilings.

 

The High Ceiling tanks are also ones that are very popular with "specialists".  People who play a given high-ceiling tank a very high proportion of the time, in fact to the point that their overall stats become a bit skewed by that.  (I'd be an example of that with the T49)

 

 


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#3 CraBeatOff

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 05:47 AM

A note on patch 8.6. The reduction of the RNG components of accuracy, pen and damage moved upwards both the skill floor and skill ceiling of all the tanks, although not proportionally. So tanks balanced on accuracy (BL-10s) got better much moreso than ones with accurate guns already. But it wasn't just skill ceilings that moved, the ability to get vaporized when spotted in a bad place is also 'buffed', because you can't get the "1 in 5 shots pretty much always misses" of the old 1.3 sigma accuracy model. And everyone's weak points are easier to hit. 

 

Yes Enaris, those tanks are good examples (because they are de-facto light tanks) of high floor high ceiling tanks. 350 HP is nothing, even at tier 5. Half the tanks in a tier 7 match can and will 1 shot you if you let them (at least tier 7&8 LTs get 2 shot), and yet it also possesses characteristics that let a good driver crush many many pub matches. Bads fail and suiscout and brawl. Goods despoil and spot and dpm down everything. EmbryonicJourney has certainly shown about where the skill ceiling on the M18 and T49 lies. The all time XP record for NA is held in a LT, but let LTs are consistently some of the worst driven in a given match!


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#4 GloatingSwine

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 10:29 AM



 

Discussion

Tanks with high skill ceiling get labeled OP by baddies. They can be wholly devastated by TDs and autoloaders. You can see hundreds of threads on this elsewhere. However, the skill floors affect the global balance. Its terribly easy to fail in the LTs or the Batchat and Leos. This where people get confused. Is the Leo1 balanced or OP or UP? Depending on who is driving, it really depends on whether you're bumping up against the floor of the ceiling. Its very easy to be utter crap in a Leo tank, but its also possible to play very very skillfully. 

 

I would suggest that the average windowlicker will label tanks with high skill floor as OP, because they are more likely to encounter that tank doing well than they are one with a high skill ceiling but average or low skill floor, and when they do encounter a high ceiling tank doing exceptionally well they are less likely to attribute it to the tank than the player because their normal experience of that tank is of it performing less well.

 

 

I would say that it's more relevant to balance for skill floor than skill ceiling, most players are sufficiently bad that skill ceilings don't really affect them.  The over 9000 power level of a super saiyan T49 doesn't actually matter because only a fraction of a percent of the playerbase can make it work that well.


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#5 methebest

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 11:11 AM

good poast


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#6 Deusmortis

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 11:14 AM

There are a few concepts in here that have been bouncing around in my head for a while, though I never quite articulated them into a thread.  I'll piggyback onto this discussion.

 

The floor/ceiling concept is quite common in gaming.  A good example would be the high RoF, low accuracy machine gun vs the low RoF (often semi-auto) high accuracy rifle in shooters.  The MG is high floor, low ceiling.  You can't hit anything at range, but get into a mid/short firefight, and you barely need to aim.  Just hold the trigger and score.  The is low/high.  If you can't aim, you'll suck.  If you can capitalize on its accuracy to score headshots, you're golden.  This can make balancing very hard.  It can be tricky to raise the floor without making the ceiling too high, or cap the ceiling without the floor dropping out.

 

Here's a pretty good video that deals with a similar subject:

 

Spoiler

 

Keeping that in mind, high armor and high alpha are the simplest attributes to wield in this game.  If you're only going to get 2-3 shots off per battle, they might as well be high damage shots.  If you can't hide or angle, and are sure to get shot, armor gives you the easiest path to survival.  Speed, stealth and DPM are much more difficult to use, but are often superior to armor and alpha.  Though, with the nature of this game, DPM rarely supersedes alpha...  it's one of the fundamental issues I think this game will always possess. 

 

Furthermore, I find that randomness greatly reduces the living space between ceiling and floor.  I didn't feel that pre-8.6 arti was OP.  A bad game mechanic, yes, but not OP.  It probably had the narrowest living space of any tank class in the game.  Normal floor, normal ceiling.  No need to worry about angles or armor if you're bad, no opportunity to regularly carry games if you were good.  Now, the floor is lower, which has caused legions of shit arti players to find higher floor tanks.  Sadly, the ceiling is lower too, making the class unappealing to all but a few. 


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#7 Johnny_Mars

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 11:25 AM

I'm glad to see this idea being introduced to WoT. It's something my friends and I talked about a lot when we played Star Fleet Battles back in the day. It's also applicable to sports, where for example baseball demands a certain level of skill to even participate, and anybody who can run can play football, but someone who's exceptionally fast can smoke everybody for touchdown after touchdown.

 

To add to GloatingSwine's point, some players don't even recognize that a superior performance could be attributable to the player driving the tank. Instead, they may assume the tank's enemies were just being very cooperative, such as in the "[driving] in 1-by-1 at the speed of DPM" CraBeatOff mentioned, or the player just got lucky. For instance, some players dismiss getting a side-shot on an opponent as just a lucky coincidence - it isn't something a player earns or creates, it just happens from time to time, like a batter drawing a walk in baseball or a basketball player getting fouled. It's true with just about every sport too; the average fan who maybe played the sport as a kid may not even appreciate how skilled/strong/fast the pros really are.

 

I also agree that skill floor should be a factor in a vehicle's balancing. Accessibility and intuitiveness can vary from player to player, and some people are just refuseniks who don't want to have to learn anything, but certain vehicles are more obvious in their playstyle demands than others.

 

:thumbup:  to the thread.


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#8 CraBeatOff

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 11:30 AM

Indeed Deus, agreed on the issues identified. Arty does indeed have a very tight band. I think they actually raised the ceiling very so slightly in the last patch, but at the cost of enjoyment/responsiveness. More shots hit dead on, but one must pay a very large price to actually get those shots fired. 

 

DPM is indeed easy to negative, with cover. Cover + alpha > dpm. I do agree its a fundamental issue of the game, in which alpha will always be slightly superior. 


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#9 EchelonIII

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 11:36 AM

TDs have a higher skill floor by simple virtue of the fact they almost remove the need for armor management, bads who would otherwise turn only their turret in other tanks are forced to use their frontal armor in TDs.


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#10 sr360

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 11:45 AM

 

Yes Enaris, those tanks are good examples (because they are de-facto light tanks) of high floor high ceiling tanks. 350 HP is nothing, even at tier 5. Half the tanks in a tier 7 match can and will 1 shot you if you let them (at least tier 7&8 LTs get 2 shot), and yet it also possesses characteristics that let a good driver crush many many pub matches. Bads fail and suiscout and brawl. Goods despoil and spot and dpm down everything. EmbryonicJourney has certainly shown about where the skill ceiling on the M18 and T49 lies. The all time XP record for NA is held in a LT, but let LTs are consistently some of the worst driven in a given match!

 

The US mid-tier TDs, to me, are low-floor high-ceiling, akin to the Bat. Bads suiscout with T49s and Hellkitties all the time. See the "We know how to use Hellcats" thread for details.

 

For every time I've seen a Batchat charge at the start of the match, I've seen a Hellcat/T49 do the same!


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#11 Gnug725

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 12:44 PM

The US mid-tier TDs, to me, are low-floor high-ceiling, akin to the Bat. Bads suiscout with T49s and Hellkitties all the time. See the "We know how to use Hellcats" thread for details.

 

For every time I've seen a Batchat charge at the start of the match, I've seen a Hellcat/T49 do the same!

 

Agreed.

 

I've definitely seen bad players do absolutely nothing useful in the T49. Since it's possibly the worst tank in the game to trade fire with another tank, you often see bad pubs get killed easily. It also requires a solid understanding of vision mechanics to play well, and that disqualifies half the player base alone.


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#12 GloatingSwine

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 01:00 PM



The US mid-tier TDs, to me, are low-floor high-ceiling, akin to the Bat. Bads suiscout with T49s and Hellkitties all the time. See the "We know how to use Hellcats" thread for details.

 

For every time I've seen a Batchat charge at the start of the match, I've seen a Hellcat/T49 do the same!

 

The confusion comes from the fact that Crab has used the concepts of low and high skill floor in the opposite to the usual parlance.

 

The usual parlance for "low skill floor" is that the skill required to use the thing is low.  Wheareas a high skill floor denotes that a high amount of skill is required to use a thing in the first place.

 

By contrast, the skill ceiling is the point at which additional skill stops making a difference (or at least gives such diminishing returns that it might as well), a low skill celing means that that point is reached quickly, whereas a high skill celing means that higher skill levels give larger returns for longer.

 

For instance, I would say that the Churchill range have high skill floor (you need quite a lot of skill to succeed in a slow tank because you need to make the right decisions about where to go at the start of the match and can't react to changing situations), and low skill ceiling (with a low alpha gun on a slow tank it's hard to force targets to stay under your gun to feel the DPM if they don't want to, or choose how you want to engage to compensate for your lack of penetration (on the VII))


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#13 StranaMechty

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 01:14 PM

This stuff is why I think balancing based on global win rate is stupid at best. There are so many hidden variables that can't be averaged out by clumping all players together, particularly when the matchmaker just tosses together tanks without any concern for role or player ability or map. A random team laden with fast, hard-hitting, but fragile revolver tanks may not have the coordination necessary to beat a team with more armor and conventionally loaded vehicles, but stick that same composition in a CW match on a map that allows the revolvers to maneuver as they need and they can devastate the other team.

 

I mean, we used 15 BatChats on Fisherman's Bay once against a "real" team and we beat the stuffing out of them because we could remove enemy vehicles from the game in a matter of seconds, and keep doing it as long as drums held out, then run away to reload. Try that in a random match and you'll just have a bunch of dead Bats.

 

Edit: Video. Skip to ~3:45 for combat.

 


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#14 Gnug725

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 01:17 PM

 

For instance, I would say that the Churchill range have high skill floor (you need quite a lot of skill to succeed in a slow tank because you need to make the right decisions about where to go at the start of the match and can't react to changing situations), and low skill ceiling (with a low alpha gun on a slow tank it's hard to force targets to stay under your gun to feel the DPM if they don't want to, or choose how you want to engage to compensate for your lack of penetration (on the VII))

 

I don't really see it that way. I think the Churchill has a relatively low skill floor, as it has high HP, good armor and a decent gun. I look at skill floor like this. If you put a 47%er in a Churchill, and another 47%er in say, a Sherman, there's a good chance the Churchill will kill the Sherman and live. All he has to do is sit there and shoot him. On the flipside, a 60%er in a Sherman will have a much better chance to beat 60%er in a Churchill.


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#15 GloatingSwine

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 01:40 PM

This stuff is why I think balancing based on global win rate is stupid at best. There are so many hidden variables that can't be averaged out by clumping all players together, particularly when the matchmaker just tosses together tanks without any concern for role or player ability or map.

 

Right, that's why you make balance decisions based on the largest sample size possible, and that means the global performance of all players.  They use global wr precisely because it eliminates the effects of the MM doing strange things by using such a huge sample (all EU and RU players, eliminating the outliers at the top and bottom of the bellcurve)


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#16 Silty

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 01:48 PM

I'm wondering how much the performance of these "low-floor high-ceiling" tanks relies on skill, and how much it relies on just having the old camo+sixth+optics combo.  Are there any "low-floor high-ceiling" tanks that don't need the camo+sixth crew combination to perform decently well, or are they all vision control tanks?


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#17 GloatingSwine

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 01:54 PM

I don't really see it that way. I think the Churchill has a relatively low skill floor, as it has high HP, good armor and a decent gun. I look at skill floor like this. If you put a 47%er in a Churchill, and another 47%er in say, a Sherman, there's a good chance the Churchill will kill the Sherman and live. All he has to do is sit there and shoot him. On the flipside, a 60%er in a Sherman will have a much better chance to beat 60%er in a Churchill.

 

That's if you consider the two in an isolated one on one, rather than considering the sum of their performance throughout a match.

 

Balance decisions have to account for the whole match not just a simple A vs. B fight.


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#18 StranaMechty

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 01:58 PM

Right, that's why you make balance decisions based on the largest sample size possible, and that means the global performance of all players.  They use global wr precisely because it eliminates the effects of the MM doing strange things by using such a huge sample (all EU and RU players, eliminating the outliers at the top and bottom of the bellcurve)

 

It doesn't reflect the vehicles properly. The WZ-132, for instance, can be devastating. But it's exceptionally hard to make it so, and exceptionally easy to be a deadweight slot on your team.


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#19 CraBeatOff

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 02:02 PM

I'm wondering how much the performance of these "low-floor high-ceiling" tanks relies on skill, and how much it relies on just having the old camo+sixth+optics combo.  Are there any "low-floor high-ceiling" tanks that don't need the camo+sixth crew combination to perform decently well, or are they all vision control tanks?

 

If you are saying that skill = crew skills and equipment then your post is crap. But I expect (hope) its more likely that you were just imprecise. 

 

Armor and alpha are easy to use. Vision and camo harder, but mechanically and in implementation. Those fragile tanks have advantages that have to be levteraged via vision control and stealth. 

 

You might argue that stuff like the AMX 50 series is low floor, high ceiling, because they are so easy to pen. I put them as normal, because as autoloaders they generally get at least a couple shots off, and average players often get a clip per game (at least on the 50B, maybe less on the 50 100). 

 

But yes, by the wargaming conferred options of on the move camo, view ranges and the spotting mechanics, if you can't brawl you better be using vision. Brawlers are defined as those with armor and alpha, and everything else just has to do what it can to keep up. 


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#20 GloatingSwine

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Posted 09 August 2013 - 02:14 PM



It doesn't reflect the vehicles properly. The WZ-132, for instance, can be devastating. But it's exceptionally hard to make it so, and exceptionally easy to be a deadweight slot on your team.

 

Right, but if the tank is hard enough to use that only a tiny fraction of all possible players will ever do well with it, they can safely be ignored for balance purposes because the effect they have on the data set is negligible.

 

Remember, game balance isn't about you, it's not about what happened in this one game one time, it's not about what you can do with a given tank, it's what happens on average, because that's the only way to represent that tank in all possible conditions all at once.


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