As you know, we have completed the first phase of the Sandbox test. The Sandbox servers are currently offline, and we have been hard at work analysing player feedback and statistics that we collected during the test so that we can make changes for the next phase of Sandbox testing.
In this report we will talk about the original goals of the features we tested, the assumptions that we checked, the results that we received, and what we intend to do next, having seen the results of testing.
Goals of Sandbox
Our primary intent was - and still is - to address the most prominent and consistent feedback we have had from our players. We understand your major concerns regarding balance (this includes the matchmaker, interactions and relations of vehicle roles, problems with some maps, and so on).
These issues came about as a result of a number of smaller changes that accumulated over a long time. There is no fast and easy solution to these issues; they collectively require in-depth study to be fully and properly fixed.
Over time, we intend to use the Sandbox to test many of our longer-term changes. First up is vehicle balance, followed by a new matchmaker, and then creation of new maps and improvement of existing ones. Your feedback will become the starting point of further development of the game.
So for this first step – vehicle balance – we intended to accomplish the following goals:
- Reduce the cost of players’ mistakes, giving them chance to survive and stay longer in battle.
- Reduce the average distance of combat, favouring more intense close up battles and encouraging more dynamic gameplay over “pixel hunting” and “camping.”
- Rework SPG gameplay, moving away from having one-shot death machines that miss a lot and take forever to reload to gameplay that is more interesting to both SPG players and their opponents.
- Create more varied gameplay by allowing different types of tanks to serve roles according to their strengths – so heavily armored, defensive tanks can close with the enemy and set the battle line, mobile flankers can circle their enemy to find vulnerability, scouts can effectively scout, etc.
We realise that it is important to provide variety (in terms of gameplay) for our players. Our goal is to create gameplay where different tank types allow for distinct experiences. The four individual goals above are thus aimed at achieving this objective. This is why we are looking for ways of making changes that will allow players to perform different roles in tough battles and feel strong emotions using various tactics.
What Did We Do?
Penetration Falloff and Shot Dispersion – Making Armour Matter
In order to reduce the average distance of combat, we increased the importance of armour. We made two big changes to accomplish this: we reduced the distance at which shell penetration falloff began and also increased the dispersion of shots within the aiming circle. These changes made firing from long distance much less effective. The change in penetration falloff meant that shots didn’t penetrate easily from long distances, and the change to dispersion meant that players engaging from far away had to let their aim circle shrink more in order to score a hit. This made it much harder to score a precise hit at long ranges, and required players to wait longer in order to shoot effectively at that range.
This also reduced the effect of "focused fire" and allowed players to feel more protected by their armour. This encouraged them to leave cover and actively seek combat. Well-armoured vehicles became more popular thanks to their ability to blocking damage with armour, and the statistics we collected showed us that these changes did in fact reduce the averge distance of engagements.
Many players pointed out some problems with the first iteration of these changes. For example, it became harder to aim at vulnerable spots of enemy vehicles not only from afar, but also at shorter ranges. The change to penetration falloff also significantly affected the way in which battles were fought, and it may have been too big a change... but for both of these features, we decided to be more aggressive in the first round of testing in order to push the boundaries.
In later iterations of the Sandbox, we will make further adjustments to technical characteristics using both statistical information and your feedback. We have been discussing internally the possibility of adjusting individual guns to suit the roles of particular vehicles.
We also are discussing individual adjustment of gun accuracy for particular vehicles: knowing the technical characteristics of your vehicle and those of an opponent's vehicle can enable you to make more informed decisions as to how best to engage, which will eventually lead to more varied gameplay.
Varied Gameplay – Tank Roles
There are more than 400 vehicles in World of Tanks. Experienced players can easily evaluate the technical characteristics of a newly purchased vehicle and understand how to play in it. However, this is a much bigger challenge for newer players. We decided to simplify this aspect for all players and preliminarily divided vehicles into roles according to their most prominent characteristics, so that all players can find vehicles that suit them best. At the same time, we tried to make less critical changes and succeeded in it in several areas.
Dreadnought, cavalry, and scout players quickly understood the gameplay offered by vehicles in those categories. In addition to the changes noted above regarding penetration distance and shot dispersion, we also made a general reduction of View Ranges, which allowed players to be less afraid of being spotted and destroyed from distance, since vehicles that are not intended for "ambush gameplay" were no longer effective when shooting from long distance. This encouraged players to move more actively, thus increasing the importance of scouts.
At the same time, cavalry vehicles and scouts can easily circle dreadnoughts. In other words, they can now do what they were made for.
However, there is much work to be done to improve the balance for some of the other roles: some vehicles do not have a distinctive role or a role has not been determined for them yet. Also, the gameplay for ambush vehicles not clear enough yet. During the test, we found out that fire-support vehicles required a little more attention, mainly because vehicles of this specialisation have hard times in battle due to poor armour.
In future, we plan on making individual changes to vehicles and adjusting the interactions between vehicles of different roles so as to level the playing field. We are also considering other ways of compensating for the poor armour of fire-support vehicles and will work on further developing the potential of scouts.
We believe that any vehicle should be interesting to at least two players in battle: the one who uses the vehicle and the one who fights against it. On live servers, SPGs currently represent a combination of "The Sword of Damocles" and the "Eye of Sauron". They are all-seeing vehicles that may perform a sudden and instantly lethal strike on any point on the map.
We want to reduce the pressure that SPGs place on players by changing the very concept of artillery vehicles in the game. We want them to remain useful to the team, but something must change because the constant fear of an SPG insta-kill was a huge factor that caused players to not break from cover and close the distance with their opponents.
The Sandbox tests show that SPGs can remain useful in battle even without destroying enemies with a single shot, with our new SPG mechanics. We managed to reduce the effectiveness of "focused fire" at particular targets by reducing penetration and damage caused by HE shells. It resulted in less negative attitude towards SPGs, because they now do not destroy enemy vehicles with a single shot. At the same time, changes to the burst radius increased the effectiveness of SPGs when shooting at groups of targets, and the aiming marker for allied SPGs contributed to team play.
This is one of the key changes in the Sandbox. A completely new SPG mechanic (tested by a large number of players for the first time) was developed, and we will keep experimenting with the burst radius and stun duration. It is possible that the final result will be completely different from what we initially tested.
Looking Forward – Where Do We Go From Here?
There are many test stages ahead. For the next stage, we originally intended to add Tier VIII and IX vehicles for testing, but after a month we came to a conclusion that we need to work more with Tier X to tune the current mechanics.
Right now, we cannot reveal all the details about changes to come in the second test iteration except for a few things that we are sure about. In addition to the changes we have already discussed, we also plan to work on switching between targets and some small changes to the mechanics of crew injury (known as "stun").
We are grateful to everyone who participated in the test, shared their feedback, and asked important questions. We appreciate your interest and desire to make the game better, and we hope this note helps provide more context for what you have seen so far. Stay tuned for more information.
As we get closer to the release of the second Sandbox phase, we will provide more information about what is coming in that phase. We look forward to playing with you in the Sandbox again soon!