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.
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.
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.
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.
Some nerd named Okeano made this excellent chart to illustrate