Original article by @Intumesce
Gold ammo and its family of gold-related items have been a topic of debate since the early days of World of Tanks, and both sides have had some fair points. In today's article I'll briefly debunk some of the gold/p2w arguments. Keep in mind I am pro-gold, but will try to be as objective as possible.
1: Gold ammo is better than regular ammo
Obviously not true. First and foremost there are the blatant drawbacks of HEAT which worsens penetration versus spaced armor, no normalization, and much worse shell velocity on most guns that use it. While it does come with the advantages of a much better ricochet angle (85 versus 70 that AP/APCR have) it doesn't guarantee a penetration if you still don't have enough base penetration to go through armor at high angles that would cause a ricochets for AP/APCR anyway.
APCR can mostly be considered an upgrade to AP, as it has a higher shell velocity and better penetration, however they suffer from worse penetration dropoff over ranges and have worse normalization. (Un)fortunately, they become less and less common at higher tiers and get replaced by HEAT. For the sake of the argument, APCR can be considered an upgrade to AP, but HEAT is a situational upgrade and neither of them are easily affordable in lower tiers, which brings me to my next point.
- AP: lowest penetration loss over distance, best normalization between AP/APCR/HEAT
- APCR: higher shell velocity compared to AP, worse penetration loss over distance compared to AP, worse normalization than AP
- HEAT: zero normalization, poor shell velocity in general, poor against spaced armor, better ricochet angle than AP/APCR
2: Gold spammers get better stats
Yes and no. While with some gold ammo, you'll pen targets more than before, it won't help your individual player skill. If you're an average player, you won't become a unicum with a gold spam. Gold ammo's effectiveness is limited by the player, a bad player who autoaims tanks with gold ammo won't become better at the game just because he gets more penetration.
Shooting exclusively gold for extended periods is both incredibly expensive and stupid. Only a few given tanks need their gold ammo as a way of dealing damage. Most tanks have gold ammo for the times they don't want to risk a bounce such as versus a dangerous target on low health, a tough but otherwise penetrable target, etc. etc. Dedicated "gold spammers" will run out of credits fast, so gold spam is not viable in the long run and in the short run is not very effective either.
3. People shooting gold have fake/padded stats
This one is purely subjective. Some people think gold maximizes their skill, others think bad players use it as a crutch. Some think gold spam on any tank is bad, some consider it acceptable on a few, others don't care at all which tanks someone shoots straight Au out of. Personally, I believe people who fire gold have the edge over those who don't. They aren't afraid of using every advantage the game has to offer them, they cast aside the shackles of what's "fair" or not. To those who will attempt to exaggerate what I just said, I'll say it for you: yes, I think gold spammers are better than those who aren't.
If you don't shoot gold because you think it's unfair or don't need to, that's great, but don't bring your crusade against "goldspammers" onto others, your words fall on deaf ears.
4. Gold ammo is unfair
A frequent argument against gold ammo I've read is that it's unfair to tanks that rely on armor. This I will agree with, because it's true. Some tanks have an armor threshold that's bypassed with gold, and in some cases those tanks are considered bad because of it. However, this goes both ways. Tanks that have otherwise unbearably bad penetration can finally get some shots off thanks to gold ammo.
Gold ammo also helps compensate for the RNG in this game, to a degree. With accuracy being semi-random as well as damage and penetration being +/-25%, it's understandable that one would want the odds more in their favor. Every single penetration could have been a bounce or miss because RNG decided otherwise, so even a slight increase in penetrations or hits should be warmly welcomed by any player with common sense.
5. Too much gold is being shot/gold ammo for gold only was better
Gold ammo's name doesn't come from the HEAT shell's icon in the garage, it comes from the times when gold ammo could only be bought with gold. Back then, it was an obvious pay to win feature. Only the wealthy, or the active clan wars participants (mostly good players) could afford to shoot gold ammo, and it was much less affordable to actually spam it. Even worse is that back then, gold ammo itself was much better. They had better penetration, HEAT didn't lose any penetration to spaced armor, and they even had better normalization.
I hear the claim "although it was definitely pay to win to use gold, it was still better to have 1/100 shells be gold than to allow everyone to shoot it freely" a couple of times already, and it's getting a little old.
As part of WarGaming's design philosophy, "free to win," they will not return gold ammo back to the way it used to be. (People ask for it constantly, it's been confirmed over and over, it's not happening.)
According to WarGaming reports, only 10-15% of all shots are fired are gold ammo. This is only around 1/10 shots, which is nowhere close to "too much" gold ammo in my opinion. However, WarGaming doesn't list their sources for this or say if there are any tier restrictions (autocannons can fire a lot more or a lot less individual "shots" of gold than the 10-15% average) so I don't believe they're a credible source. Nonetheless, I don't notice an absurd amount of gold being fired at me, and I don't shoot a lot of it either.
This should cover the section on gold ammo, so I'll delve into the less commonly discussed "pay to win" features that are or were in the game.
1. Gold for crew (re-)training
There is an advantage in training or retraining your crew for gold. If you get a new tank and get a crewmember for 100% with gold, you can start training their skills immediately. With retraining, you don't lose any percentage on crew skills or their basic training when swapping to a new tank. They are a nice bonus if you can afford them, but they don't provide an advantage over other players. You can reach the same amount of training or crew skills with or without gold. All it is is a jump start for impatient/minmaxing players.
2. Gold consumables
Until just a few patches back (8.6, I think?) gold consumables could only be bought for gold, as their name implies. However with the change of that, food for all nations, automatic fire extinguishers, better fuel, and superior med- and repair kits were available to everyone, although at a high price of 20,000 credits a piece.
While the fuel didn't get much attention from everyone as it doesn't provide a huge bonus, the kits, automatic extinguishers and food cannot be overlooked.
- 10% faster repair speed and you can repair any amount of modules at once?
- 15% more survivability and you can revive your whole crew?
- 10% less chance of fire and puts out fires almost immediately?
- 10% better crew skills? That's twice the bonus that vents provide, and it doesn't even take up an equipment slot!
If people weren't so busy raving about gold ammo all the time, this could have been blown out of the water quickly. The med and repair kit both provide passive bonuses, meaning you didn't even have to use them to experience their secondary effect. The 10% crew skill increase is very nice to have, but if you wanted to use it for anything other than novelty moments you'd need a hefty wallet to afford 20 gold per match. Same with the med kits, repair kits, and auto extinguishers, except they didn't have to be used every match. Their supreme usefulness but high price meant that even of the few that purchased gold, even fewer could afford these luxuries on a frequent basis.
Ultimately, WarGaming's decision to make these consumables purchasable by credits was a good move and was well received by the playerbase. A great step in the right direction to avoid pay to win.
3. Premium tanks
Almost everyone who has seen a Type 59 in action and doesn't have one, wants one. But the Type 59 isn't an isolated case of a premium tank that's great. I've heard a lot of people's opinions on the SU-122-44, E 25, IS-6, and in some cases even other tanks that aren't as good as the aforementioned. Most often they claim they're too good for a premium, and almost everyone seems to think premiums should be worse than a normal tank in their tier. True, you can argue that all of those tanks are good, but I only think two of them are on par with or superior to tanks of their class and tier.
The Type 59 has the armor of a supbar heavy tank while maintaining the camouflage and mobility of a medium. Only the firepower is a bit worse than what you'd expect of a medium at this tier, but it's more than compensated for by the premium matchmaking. IS-6 is a similar case, it's about on par with a heavy tank in its tier, with the only notable drawback for being a premium is the poor penetration, which is again compensated for by its premium matchmaking. The SU-122-44 and E 25 are good, but have extreme drawbacks like no turret, low health, poor accuracy/aim time for the SU, and bad penetration/alpha for the E 25.
Premium tanks, for the most part, are relatively balanced. Only the IS-6 and Type 59 stand out in my opinion. The Type 59, in fact, was so popular at one point that the matchmaker was oversaturated with them and as a result they pulled it from the store. The IS-6 is very good for a premium tank, but it's not on the same scale or effectiveness as the Type 59, at least not in my opinion. Some premium tanks could be considered pay to win, but that's stretching it a bit in my opinion. Again, it is pretty subjective, so feel free to agree or disagree.
5. Premium accounts
Premium accounts don't provide a direct advantage to a player over another in a battle. However, some have argued that because of the 50% experience increase, players can get through stock grinds faster or get good modules sooner. Others say that the 50% credit boost means you can shoot more gold ammo as your match earnings compensate for it. The latter has a hint of truth to it, but the difference between gold spam on a premium account and a regular account isn't big; if you shoot it nonstop you will run out of credits sooner or later, and just firing a gold shell or two per match won't have a huge impact on your earnings, with or without premium.
Premium accounts aren't pay to win, they are just a convenience for players who sink in a lot (or a little, depending on how often they can/want to play) of time into the game so they get the best experience out of it.
6. Garage slots/permanent camouflage
These are just two brief topics, so I'll cover them at once. Garage slots can only be bought with gold, but are relatively inexpensive, especially during sales. As WarGaming hosts events or gives away gold semi-often, you don't need a credit card to get more room for your tanks. Plus, at least once a year with their new years and/or Christmas specials, WarGaming gives out a free tank which you can sell for a free slot. Combine the free slot(s) and the competitions, free gold, etc. and you have plenty of ways to get more garage slots, if that's the one thing limiting you from selling an old tank or getting a new one.
Permanent camouflage is a microscopic advantage compared to renewable ones for credits. With camouflage that lasts 30 days which is easily affordable, I don't think anyone can argue it's pay to win. It's meant only for those few tanks you're planning on keeping forever so you won't have to renew your camouflage each month and spend more credits than you'd like.
And that about covers most "pay to win" parts of the game.
I know people will agree or disagree with me on some, most, or all of my points I just made (specifically about gold ammo) and I know the system isn't perfect. But having an option for everyone to use most of the games otherwise exclusive features is much better than the wealthy single digit of players who are the few that can.