Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Wonderful World of Tanks

A little over a month ago, I finally caved and installed World of Tanks, an online game where you and fourteen other random Internet People fight fifteen other random Internet People in a head-to-head death match, as you each command a tank and drive around a map, smashing through stone walls and knocking over trees while blowing each other up and setting each other on fire.

I've never been that interested in playing online games. I grew up in an age where video games were something you either played on your own, or with a friend using another controller, as you sat in your living room bathed in the television's glow and ate junk food while punching each other in the shoulder because your friend managed that last takedown combo before you did. When, after college, I first began to explore online gaming while playing Quake Online or Ghost Recon, the novelty of fighting against some random Internet Person soon wore off.

Someone's about to have a bad day...

People in general are rude, insensitive jerks who hate their fellow man, but when you add in the anonymity of the Internet, plus a game where you're trying your best to kill each others' digital avatars, the worst in people really comes to the fore. In the last month, I've been insulted in ways I'd forgotten about since junior high school, and while the nostalgia is cute for a moment, it soon sours in the belly and you realize you're approaching the big 4-0 and someone out there still wants to insult you like it's 1990. Thankfully, the wisdom of age - and countless online flame wars - tempers my replies, and I usually tell them they're being adorable and just move on.

On the other hand, I have to admit, World of Tanks is kind of fun. The game features tanks from all the major powers of WW2, and the tanks start with the old, pre-war models (some of them nothing more than prototype tanks) and gradually progress in "tiers" up to tanks from the '70s and '80s, in a ranking of Tiers 1 through 10. In the early games, your range of tiered tanks will be pretty narrow - Tier 1 tanks face off against each other, while later Tier 2-3, and by Tier 5 you might be fighting anyone from Tiers 3-8, depending on the tank you're in (even in a specific Tier, some tanks rank higher than others and get matched against a higher Tier more often).

Just some dudes waiting to kill some other dudes. No big whup.

In addition, there are five categories of tanks: Light, Medium, Heavy, Tank Destroyers, and Self-Propelled Guns. The three weights of tanks are just that - abstract categories that usually match up with historical categories of tanks. For example, the British Crusader tank is a Light tank, while the Churchill is a Heavy tank, and so on. Tank Destroyers often look like tanks, but their armor isn't as good and they're more vulnerable, while their guns are better and their range of vision superior, Self-Propelled Guns are artillery pieces that lob huge explosive shells high into the air, and while they're easy to kill up close, they rain down death from a LONG distance away.

And there's a lot of death to be had, for sure. Tanks have armor, of course, but in WoT, they're pretty good about assigning different armor values to different parts of the tank. The frontal armor is usually the thickest, while the sides and rear are thinner. Sloped armor plates can often bounce incoming shells, while things like tank tracks are easy to cripple with "critical hits". Sometimes a hit to a tank's engine area can set the engine on fire, causing the tank to slowly lose points until it blows up. Crew members can also be killed or wounded, which causes the functions of the tank relying on that member to be worsened. For example, if the driver is killed, another crew member has to take his place, and the overall performance of the tank is now worse.

About what my tank looks like two minutes into most games...

When I first started playing WoT, I joked to myself that this was "research" for my upcoming PANZER series of WW2 adventure novels, but I didn't really believe it. Now, after just passing my 1,000th battle mark, I realize that while yes, it is just a game, it does give some insight into tank tactics. The importance of using terrain to your best advantage cannot be stated enough, especially if you're in a light "scout" tank. Staying behind hills, using depressions in the earth to go hull-down (meaning only your turret is visible), and otherwise remaining unseen (or at least unhittable) are incredibly important. You also very quickly learn how to "sneak and peek" with your tank, because driving boldly at the enemy and relying on your armor is a surefire way to wind up dead very fast.

Overall, it is a fun game that provides a little excitement now and then. It is free to play, although you can spend money to get upgrades faster (I refuse to do this), and it seems like many players consider this poor sportsmanship and the sign of a garbage player. And, while it is frustrating to have to "grind" through a bunch of games in a bad tank in order to earn enough experience to move on to a better one (there is a tree-like progression of Tiers for each country's tank development), there are very few tanks that are absolute garbage. For example, the M3 Lee is absolute garbage. I hate that stupid tank. Hate it.

I hate this tank so much. So very, very much. This image, like all above, grabbed from various Internet sources.

If you play as well and want to say hello some time, you can find me on WoT as "Badelaire". My schedule is rather irregular though, so there is little likelihood of a match-up, but you can always view my terrible statistics.

4 comments:

Ryan Dempsey said...

I'm a fan of the M3, but only for aesthetics. It's wonderfully dumb looking in a cool way.

Charles Gramlich said...

WWII was certainly the height of tank warfare from my own personal perspective

2W2N said...

Jack, I used to play Dungeons & Dragons Online years ago and quit because players online are as stupid as you describe. Would love to get a group together and revisit at some point.

Jack Badelaire said...

Ryan, I finally gave up and spent some of my precious Free XP to get to the M4 sooner, because I couldn't bear another 20+ games in the M3 Lee. It's the worst of both tall tank and tank destroyer worlds...

2W2N, Yeah, there are a lot of games I'd like to play, but I just know the sort of experience I'd have. Yesterday, I had some jackass get behind my tank and literally push me out of cover and into the open because I was being too cautious, despite my tank being severely outclassed in that match. Yup, fun times...