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Archaic_One

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    Archaic_One reacted to Kuroialty for a blog entry, Clubbers: Why We Exist and Aren't Going Away   
    In light of some changes that have happened recently to low tier gameplay and the revealed intentions for these changes, I feel the need to step in and say something:
    Clubbers aren't going away.
    I should take a moment to clarify what I mean when I talk about clubbers.  When other people talk about clubbers, they typically refer to players who've been in the game for some time and prey upon players of little familiarity or skill.  This can refer to players of any tier and any skill level, which is where you get bad jokes from people who talk about clubbing at tier 10 and why you get people like me lumped in with people like Marxist, jsnazz, and powerminer3000.  When I talk about clubbers, I focus more on the tier aspect, referring only to those who primarily play the lower tiers.  I filter it down further to those who primarily play tiers 1 and 2, because tier 3 and 4 clubbers really don't exist except with a handful of tanks while tier 1 and 2 clubbers will play basically anything.  This also makes more sense when talking about clubbing with regard to what WG is doing to stop it since most controls they put in place are towards tiers 1 and 2.
    The change to a more tapered introduction of maps by tier was an opportunity for WG to take another shot at pressuring out clubbers.  They've taken measures to this effect in the past, first by making many weekend bonuses unavailable to low tier tanks and many missions restricted from being done by tiers below 3, then by introducing a separate kiddie-pool MM that separated low battle count players from higher battle count ones, and now by changing up the map pool to remove any open or campy maps with a vision meta that new players couldn't grasp.  In spite of each change, clubbers remain a considerable part of low tier games and its meta.  To shed some light on why this is, I'm going to outline the various reasons why low tiers remain appealing and why nothing WG does is going to bring a full stop to this activity.
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    Matchmaking and minor power disparity - Tier 2 has ±1 matchmaking, a spread that most other tiers wish they had.  Tier 1 has +1/-0 matchmaking, which is considerably worse but still better than any tier with +2 matchmaking of any kind.  Tiers 1 through 3 are balanced with this in mind.  Tier 2 tanks are stronger than tier 1 tanks, but not so strong that tier 1s can't be somewhat reliably leveraged well against tier 2s.  The same is true for the relationship between tier 2s and 3s.  This is in contrast to matchmaking in higher tiers where tanks separated by two tiers clash, and the higher tier tank is at an enormous advantage over the lower tier tank.  Fights in low tiers are not so deterministic.  This also provides sanity through consistency, avoiding the extreme swings that come from going back and forth between matches against two tiers below and those against two tiers above.
     
    DPM-to-health ratio - DPM for tier 2 tanks ranges from low 900s to high 1400s, averaging out at about 1150.  Tier 2 health averages out at about 160.  The extreme difference in these values means that tanks can kill each other very quickly, which makes trading efficiently and protecting your own HP more important than in any other tier, creates fast-paced close-range engagements, and makes exposure easier to punish and with a harsher penalty.  This generally tapers off as tiers increase.  By comparison, tier 10 tanks have about three to four times the DPM with more than ten times the health, leading to more lethargic gameplay.  The general increase in reload times also has a similar effect in bogging things down.  The second-greatest cop out "argument" of mid and high tier players (second only to the new player "argument") is that low tier gameplay is campy, and thus slow, and thus boring.  WG has done most of my work for me in this regard by removing all campy maps and making this not ever really happen anymore.  Even if they hadn't though, this notion of low tier gameplay being slow is just wrong, and it is entirely thanks to this ratio.  The pace of combat during engagements is far more important than the pace between engagements.
     
    Great individual player agency - Individuals are more important and can do more in low tiers than anywhere else due to a variety of factors.  One such factor is the DPM-to-health ratio already covered.  Total damage output is another factor.  Tanks at higher tiers tend not to have either enough ammo or DPM to be able to take out an entire team by themselves and are wholly dependent upon the performance of teammates to pull out a win.  By contrast, tanks in low tiers often have plenty of shells and great enough DPM to be capable of destroying entire opposing teams.  Tanks in lower tiers are also more versatile than those in higher tiers.  Since most tanks have not yet been sorted into specific roles, there are many tanks that are capable of filling any role.  There's no need to choose a tank that is pigeonholed to a small set of jobs because of some great deficiency in penetration or health or speed because there are plenty of tanks to choose from that don't have such severe drawbacks.  This quality may be the most difficult to comprehend for any person who spends most of their time in higher tiers.  WG has geared endgame towards exclusively being a team experience, partly through systems like clan wars and tournaments and partly through basic mechanics in numbers like shell count and DPM.  High tier players are dependent upon their teammates not by choice, but by necessity.  Lower tiers, being the first experience of typical players, are expected to be populated with players without connections or the skill to make connections with other players.  For such isolated players to reach any level of consistent success, each must be given the tools to carry out the entire team's goals themselves.
     
    No warped feelings towards, because of, or in spite of randomness -  WoT has many elements that are out of any single player's control.  These elements are most restrained and tolerable in lower tiers.  Consider matchmaker randomness.  Limited matchmaking bands eliminate the chance to run into clearly unfavorable or unwinnable scenarios of fighting tanks two or three tiers higher.  Many players in lower tiers can be expected to be new, which easily translates into an expectation to be bad, which easily translates into an expectation of not relying on or trusting your team to be useful, which results in fewer occasions of being let down from not getting help from a player you expected would help you.  High tier players are expected to be experienced and more team-oriented, which leads to more trust being placed in the hands of teammates and more disappointment when those players turn out to be just as unhelpful as anyone fresh to the game.  The smaller map pools of lower tiers provide players with more time to learn each map and how to play them, decreasing the chance of running into an unfamiliar or poorly understood map.  There are also fewer different types of tanks that can be encountered, due both to there being fewer low tier models than mid or high tiers and the tighter MM spread.  Consider game RNG.  Poor gun accuracy is of limited concern due to fast reload and aim times, so missed shots there aren't as bad as missed shots with higher tier guns on six to 20 second reloads.  Most tanks either have relevant armor against another tank's penetration or don't have it, and very few have significant enough side armor and shape to do sidescraping.  This eliminates much hope and guesswork from both parties around whether a shot will penetrate or bounce.  Guns with faster rates of fire will put out more shells in the same time span as a gun with a slower rate of fire.  Combined with the ±25% RNG of shell damage, this means that guns with faster rates of fire (or those that fire more shells) more reliably perform towards the average whereas high damage, slow rate of fire guns can more often perform to extremes.  When extremes with either gun type result in leaving enemies on slivers of health, the guns with faster rates of fire are better suited at getting in that last shot before the target escapes than those which take six to 20 seconds to reload.
     
    Low investment - Low tier tanks are cheap to research and cheap to buy.  The silver and XP cost for any tank and all modules can be taken care of with a couple dozen battles at most in that tank or cheaply purchased in bulk with the credits and free XP earned from playing other tanks.  By far, the most expensive aspect of any low tier tank is the equipment, but it's cheaper to grind those out than to buy your way up to any tier 5 tank.  Some equipment like vents and spall liners are cheaper on the smaller tanks.  When moving on to new tanks, things like binoculars and camo nets can be swapped instead of buying extra copies.  All of this makes getting into a new low tier tank very easy to do for anyone.  This provides great resilience against shifts in the low tier meta, since all you need to do to adapt is spend five minutes researching, buying, and gearing up a new tank with credits and XP you've already earned from the past hundred or so battles.  If there were any one reason to cite why I personally stick with low tier tanks, it would be this one.  Time wasted on grinding though higher tier tanks to have the opportunity to grind more higher tier tanks, any of which could be phased out of usefulness on the whims of the developer, is time better spent on tanks that take little investment to reach full proficiency and can be swapped out for something else with negligible loss.
     
    Bypasses business model - This is partly a consequence of the cheapness of low tier tanks.  There is a lack of things in low tiers to spend money on and of reason to do so in the first place.  Premium time isn't necessary for bypassing grind or making up for repair costs as both of those are minimal.  There are only a handful of low tier premium tanks up for sale, and few if any worth buying.  WG will often have missions or events where you can claim these tanks for free.  Many others have been given out during special events like holidays or anniversaries.  If these tanks don't turn out to be worth having, they can be scrapped for credits and the garage slots can be used to hold more, better tanks.  Gold isn't necessary for demounting or ammo because the extra credits not spent on buying high tier vehicles and modules can go towards rebuying equipment or premium shells.  Not having incentive to spend money on the game is easy on the wallet.  It wouldn't make sense anyways to put money towards a developer whose interests aren't at all in line with yours.
     
    Large and healthy playerbase - The expected player experience is to start at tier 1 and work your way up to higher tiers.  This means that just about every player is going to pass through the low tiers.  There is no danger of running out of new people to play with or against since this is the first part of the game that everyone gets funneled into.  Because the population is so large and because many players are new to the game, all matches can play out in wildly different ways, demanding players be capable of handling a wide variety of situations to succeed.
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    These qualities don't just stand on their own.  Part of why individual player agency is so great is linked to the ±1 matchmaking and the DPM-to-health ratio.  Part of why the playerbase is so large is because its low investment leaves it open for everybody.
    What I am saying by each of these points is that low tier gameplay is unique in comparison to the rest of the game.  The change to the low tier map pool towards tighter maps took away from everyone the vision control game that clubbers played to trade extraordinarily well against opponents.  That quality of low tier games was merely surface level.  The real appeal of low tiers is built right into the game, not just with those tiers, but going all the way up the ladder.  Investment in low tiers is low, but more important is that it is low in comparison to high tiers.  Individual agency is high, but more important is that such agency evaporates as tiers increase.  ±1 matchmaking is nice, but more important is how much +2/-1 and ±2 matchmaking stands in the way of something better.  Changing the map pool isn't going to change these factors.  Scraping off the newest of players half the time isn't going to change these factors.  Dumping shitty autocannon premiums into low tier games isn't going to change these factors.
    Some seem to think that WG needs to do something to stop clubbers from turning away new players.  Many of the ideas that people come up with for doing this are absolutely retarded though.  There's no part of the game that's easier for a new player than low tiers, all for similar reasons why there are long time players that stick with it.  Screwing with these basic appeals of low tiers isn't just going to drive off clubbers.  It's going to drive off everyone, not to mention be a humungous time and resource sink for WG to redesign and rebalance their game from the ground up.  You want to mess with the matchmaking tiers?  Enjoy watching WG flounder around for six months trying to rebalance tiers 1-4 and failing spectacularly, if they even thought it would work at all to begin with, or seeing all the clubbers migrate to tier 3 and continue to pick off tier 1s with even more devastating weapons.  You want to warp all of the damage and health values to make tanks at every tier take more hits to kill?  You must underestimate and not like how easy it is for clubbers to be one-clip vaporized by things like T1s or T18s, must love artillery having juicier targets, and must not understand how giving everyone more survivability is going to give clubbers miles of extra leverage to use against everyone else.  These problems you perceive low tiers to have aren't problems.  They are the best traits that this game has to offer to anyone, and the reason you can't or won't recognize that is because either you've got no mind of your own and accepted and invested into WG's hook of titillating your simple brain with bigger numbers, or you just can't handle the independence, the pacing, and the punishment that comes with the territory.
    But these suggestions for change are all geared towards destroying parts of the game for the sake of rescuing the new player.  Creative ideas for this "problem" don't seem to exist in the minds of these people, as though ruining good parts of a game for perceived improvement elsewhere is preferable to straight improvement.  I haven't heard a single push for low tier strongholds or more low tier tournaments or the use of any other end game tool in WG's tool belt that is meant for vacuuming up the better players from the higher tiers and pushing them into other parts of the game.  If implemented as they are now by just shifting the tier, it probably wouldn't matter though, since it's not like those tools stop high tier players from playing in randoms either.  It wouldn't work if they pointed it at tiers like 3 or 4 either since those are already areas clubbers avoid.  A creative solution to clubbers would involve giving them a place to go which retains the same hallmarks that low tiers are currently great for and gives them a chance to play for something more than what they get out of the game now.  The easy route would be more experience and credits, which may be necessary anyways to discourage clubbers from going back to randoms to train crews, but perhaps not sufficient since extra credits and gold don't have much value in such a low cost environment.  What may be more effective is to just play to their egos - give clubbers something to chase after that they can stroke their e-peen to other than their pubbing stats.  Similar kinds of campaign rewards that have been given out for past clan wars like special (low tier in this case) tanks, medals, camo, and emblems could do the trick.
    Of course, that's not likely to happen either, since that's a lot of effort to pour into a community that otherwise has little to no incentive to spend money on the game.  Unless you expect to get money out of them after the fact or make money off all the pubbies that make it up to the high tiers without getting clubbed in the lower tiers, it wouldn't make business since, so WG won't do it (you could make the case that WG won't do it if people won't spend money on it, but that's as easily justifiable as saying people won't spend money on it because WG won't do it).  In fact, nothing that WG could do to low tiers is something worth spending the effort on to do right, and all of it carries the huge risk of not working anyways.  All the reasons why low tiers are great are the reasons low tiers have been great since the start and will still be the reasons they'll be great when the game eventually dies.  I, a long time player of low tiers, looked at the map pool changes and felt like things were going to change forever.  But though they did, things fundamentally remained as usual.  Coming through that, I don't see how anything WG would do could result in significant change to the status quo.
    Clubbers are here to stay.
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