Wednesday, 6 April 2016

World of Tanks - Owning Your Results, Improving Yourself

Whilst to "repetitious" to be a full-time love, World of Tanks is a game I drift back to from time to time.  Slow paced, simple controls, and requiring cunning rather than reflexes, it is a good "dad" game to play with mates when you have a spare 10min.  Imagine chess where you are one of the pieces - a piece armed with a Pak 88 and in hedgerows rather than a checkerboard.

I've already done a few articles, a reviewGetting Started, basic skills/knowledge, improving from the basics and  intermediate skills.  The latter two reflect my journey from being a "reactive" player (only concerned about myself and my tank) to a greater awareness of the battle around me.

I recently got interested in it again, due to (a) being unable to wargame due to being on holidays but having access to a laptop and (b) and article on "win rate" and how people do or don't believe they can influence a game's outcome. As I both like stats, and I like internet arguments and pointing out fallacies, here's a brief overview of the opposing sides:

Stat Deniers: These people either claim that WoT games are "rigged" so they cannot win or that they always lose due to their 14 stupid team mates.  Or they claim the outcome of games is purely random due to the random mix of tanks and differing player's skill level.  They ignore the common denominator in all their games: themselves.  They tend to play by self-imposed "rules" and claim to only play for "fun." They often point to a single one-off game to prove they are "really" a good yet unlucky player and ignore the fact they win only 47% or less of their games and invariably have below average damage and kills per game.  Basically, the stats show they are mediocre players, so they blame anything but themselves.  I can't be bad - therefore stats must be meaningless!

Stat Whores: These people also think their team mates are stupid, but have decided that they can personally win matches, and the only person to blame for a loss is themselves.  They take responsibility for their themselves and their team. They will take every advantage possible within the game mechanics; under the theory "if the game allows it, and gives me advantage, I will do it."  Interestingly, they all tend to have above average stats and win rates that range from 55% to an astronomical 65-70% in some cases.  They tend to work hard to improve themselves by watching tutorials, streams, guides and videos, and by analyzing their stats to find their weaknesses.  Sadly, they often morph into arrogant pricks.

Why stats matter:  Most WoT players have played thousands of games.   With such large sample sizes, the stats are very reliable.  The average player has a 49% win rate (allowing for draws).
If you have a win rate above 60%, you are in the top 1% of players.  A player who goes completely AFK and just lets his tank sit in base doing noting for 1000 games would get a win rate of around 42%.  (There's one guy that has played 88,000 games with a win rate of 43% - only slightly better than being AFK - talk about never learning from your mistakes).  Handily, WoT has a lot of stats measuring tools and websites, such as vBaddict, noobmeter, and 3rd party programs like XVM.   Stats are great for analysing and improving your play (but sadly many use it to enlarge their e-peen.)

As you can see, I tend to favour the "stat whore" category who take personal responsibility rather than denying my shortcomings and blaming it on everything and everyone else.

Everyone remembers the time they carried the team and won the game, killing half the team including their top heavies, and capping solo against hordes of incoming foes. But you also have to acknowledge you can also "lose" a game - not just by dying in the first minute with 0 damage, but by your in-game choices. 

Teams are balanced by tank, not by skill. So often a lot of better players end up on one side, and a team gets stomped.  Poor players highlight this, and think that they only lose because they have bad teams.  But they ignore the fact that everyone gets bad teams - over 1000+ games it evens out.  There's a commonly held opinion that 30% of WoT games are impossible to win, 30% are impossible to lose, and the remaining 40% can go either way.  Good players know they can tip the "either way" games in their favour.    Further confusing the issue is "tiers".  Poor players feel helpless when they are a bottom tier tank in a game.  A Tier 5 M4 Sherman or T-34 vs a Tier 7 Tiger, IS or Pershing will be murdered 1v1, sure.  But it's not 1v1 - it's 15v15.  Even bottom tier, you can win games by flanking and supporting your team mates - you just can't rambo in, that's all.

With the new physics, it's possible to flip your tank and end up on your back like a helpless turtle all game. I did help my team mate right himself - after posing for a screenshot, of course.

After reading the post about the stats vs stat deniers, I looked at my own overall stats: 52% win rate, slightly above average kills and damage per game.   It had been rising ever since I started to put into practice the ideas from the intermediate thread and was 55% over the last 1000 games.

However, previously I had tried to better myself by focussing on higher damage and kills.  I had seen a significant jump in damage dealt and XP earned, and my win rate had climbed simply as a nice side effect.  But what if I deliberately tried to improve my win ratio?  What if I "owned" not only my personal stats, but also the win rate of the entire team?  I decided to do an experiment.   

As the official forums are useful but can be a bit of a cesspit of whinging and negativity, I've been visiting WoTLabs forums, which is run by purple (i.e. top 1%er) players.  Here's a collection of ideas gleaned from them, which I have been trying to put into practice.

1. Play the same tank or same style of tank repeatedly to get "in the groove". (i.e. swapping between a slow, tough KV-1 heavy and a speedy Chaffee scout is too a jarring change of playstyle) That way you can concentrate on the big picture of the battle (macro), rather than trying to remember the capabilities of your tank (micro).
Don't play every random tank in your garage for your "daily double." Focus on 2-3 similar tanks and play them repeatedly to get consistency.  You'll earn more XP anyway as you'll win more. 

2. Learn from others.  WoT is easy to get into a rut.  If you blame your team or the matchmaker, there's no incentive to improve.  Quickybaby and Jingles are popular Youtubers, but I'm expanding my horizons; Zeven and Taugrim try to be more educational as they play.

3. Learn from your mistakes.  After each game I make notes about my failings or discuss it with someone.  It started out  simple "why did I die?" but it is becoming more complex "what could I have done better"  "should I have swapped to the other flank earlier" "did I support from the right position?"  It's not an elaborate thing: it only takes 20-30 seconds or so.   If you view each match as a learning experience, it takes the sting out of deaths: "Well, it was a great position - but you need 2-3 tanks to hold it, not one."

4. Analyse your stats.  I noticed my survival % is low - so I need to be more cautious.  I also noticed my capture/defence ratio favoured captures.  But good players always have a higher ratio of defence.  So I need to defend more; instead of pushing aggressively.  Also, my damage could be higher.  I need to fire more: get into better positions and simply snap off more risky shots.

5. Know your enemies/limitations.   I've dropped back to Tiers 5 and 6 where I know every tank, it's capabilities and it's weakspots, already.  Again, this helps you focus on the big picture.   I know I can play well in Tier 5-6, but I'm merely OK at Tier 7 and struggle at Tier 8.  I'm going to get my stats up here, then move up the tiers - I'll stop around Tier 7-8 as higher tiers are too expensive and the grind is too long - stock tanks aren't as much fun!

6. Be positive.  Never blame your team.  When you are bottom tier, instead of cursing matchmaker, think "How can I be most useful?"  Being low tier changes your tactics, but does not make you play badly. Learn from your bad games. 

7.  Macro, not Micro.  Whilst I once used it merely to track nearby tanks to shoot, I now try to analyse the overall "flow" of the game.   Is a flank crumbling? Do I reinforce it or retreat?  Should I push out wider to flank or compress back onto my team mates in defence?    It's thinking about the big picture. 

8. Play your good, upgraded tanks, play your good crews.  I know some friends who relentlessly "grind" a tank from stock, then once they get a good crew and good upgrades, immediately move on to the next tank.  The problem: by quickly moving on to the next stock tank, they're always playing with sub-optimal gear - i.e. handicapping themselves.  They never play and enjoy their upgraded tank.

9. Never trade damage.  The good players regard their hitpoints as 4-5x more valuable than everyone else and seldom trade damage 1 for 1 unless their is a specific need to.  Corollary: it's seldom a good idea to suicide to save a team mate who yolos off.  Sometimes you just need to let natural selection take it's course.  Corollary: When you face another tank 1v1 it's not a honour duel to the death - feel free to retreat and go elsewhere - or lure him forward into crossfire.

10.  Don't go solo. Don't defend that crumbling flank solo.  You'll just get ganged up on and wrecked.  It's better to push with the lemmings.  Likewise, pushing to a great position is pointless if you're solo: it may be great tactics, but you'll get focussed down and killed.

11. Short term patience.  I don't mean camping an empty flank all game or sitting back on base "guarding" arty.  But it's just having the patience to not take that extra shot, or wait till the enemy tank turns side on so when you track it you can pen every shot.

12. Think ahead.  I think World of Warships, with it's lumbering behemoths taught me this: plan to ahead where you'll be in 20-30 seconds. It's not an inflexible strategic plan; more a "where should I be in 30 seconds?"  I'm trying to apply this to tanks.  Corollary: Have an escape route.  I always ask myself: if I go here, can I run away if things go bad?

13. Short term goals.  If you've already played 5000 games you can't suddenly change your overall win rate from 49% to 60% overnight.   I set goals over the short term, i.e. week - and compare it to my last 1000 games.

14. Play medium tanks more.  They have the best blend of speed (necessary to move around and help influence the game), firepower and vision. They're the best for "macro" level play. I personally like tank destroyers (Jadpanthers, Su100,StuG look so awesome) but they are too passive and "reactive" so I'm playing them less and less.  Heavies have poor view range and often "must" go to particular areas of the map; limiting their flexibility; many are slow.  I find it difficult to use light tanks as most current maps now are very confined and corridor-like; so their scouting is less useful; in most cases their firepower is lacking.

15. (EDIT). Winning in normal mode is simple:  Win one flank before the enemy wins on the other.  Simple, really.  You side can then cap, or reinforce the other flank at will. This informs quite a few decisions: do you try to "hold" a weaker flank to allow your superior flank time to push through?  Do you join the lemmings to push through a flank faster, as the other flank is screwed anyway? How can you find gaps in the enemy line to "lead" your allies forward?

I'll add in more as I think of them, but these are some of the key things that come to mind that I have been consciously working on.

Sites like Noobmeter can be helpful to analyse your gameplay. 

It's a small sample size of ~70, but since I started "owning" my play and trying to win the game, looking at the ebb and flow of the game, regardless of team or tier, my stats have climbed sharply.
I'll compare them to my last 1000 battles.

Although average damage has remained similar (it improved most back when I was working on the skills in my "intermediate"post).   Base captures and defences have both doubled.  My survival has climbed from 32% to 44% so my kills/deaths has climbed accordingly from 1.5 to 1.9.  But most tellingly, my win rate has jumped to a staggering 70% compared to my usual 55%.  It's mostly Tier 6, but that's where I mostly play anyway - I'm not claiming to be a good player, merely a much improved one.

I think I'm in the third stage of my WoT career:
Stage #1:  learn basics, like armour, vision, and camo mechanics
Stage #2: own my own results - work on improving damage/personal positioning to benefit myself
Stage #3: own the team's results - work on positioning/situational awareness to benefit my team

As my win rate has sky rocketed, so has my confidence and attitude.  I load in as a Tier 6 against Tier 8s with double my armour and firepower?  No worries - I can help somehow.   Games seem less random. If you're a 49%er, an "average" player - the game IS random - pretty much a coin flip.  But if you're consistently 60%+, you start to see meaning in the wins and losses. With consistent 5-6 game winning streaks, losses are now tending to be anomalies that can be analysed rather than random, regular occurances.  I'm not saying I'm suddenly an awesome player, but I am saying that applying the knowledge of better players has contributed to a massive improvement in my stats (at least over the small 70-game sample size). 

It's mostly generic advice above, but I think the crux is:  I'm owning not only my results, but the team's results.  It's not someone else's fault if I lose - it's mine. The second point - you can always improve, but you have to want to.  It's easy to plateau - the guy with the most WoT games (149,000!) has a precisely average 49% win rate. He shows perfectly, you don't necessarily get better through sheer experience.


  1. Great advice. I have been playing a lot of WoWS (lots of this stuff is relevant there too) and, I think, being quite successful.

    I recently came back to WoT for a short while (mainly to try out the Aussie Sentinel) but found it infuriating compared to WoWS. I'm sure some of it was due to having to relearn the game after not playing for so long, but it was the 'team play' that I struggled with. I tried to keep on top of the battle (e.g. watch for a flank crumbling) but seemed to constantly get stuck in whatever position I was already in, meaning I was helpless to do anything else. Withdrawing to go and help out elsewhere usually resulted in my destruction. In WoWS it's easy, you can always just turn around and pull out.

    Maybe I need to practise my patience more. Just checked out my NoobMeter page and, apart from being horribly bad, I see that I also have more capture points that defence points. I know I have a habit of rushing forward too early.

    I think it stems from this attitude: There is, as you say, around a 50/50 chance of winning. If the match goes well, I want to be up near the action to get some kills and XP. If the match goes badly, well then I'm probably going to die and get no XP anyway.

    Do you have any advice for correcting that kind of play style? Maybe I need to watch a few of your games :)

    1. WoT vs WoWs (a random kinda OT comment)

      I've found WoWs much easier to play than WoT, and less frustrating. It's why I switched primarily to WoWs about 6 months back. It is more forgiving (you don't really get 1-shot unless by torpedoes and they are avoidable); it's slower paced (more strategic). You always feel like you can contribute, even bottom tier, as penetration isn't a major issue. Although you can camp (aka all BBs) its not so obvious i.e. no hiding behind rocks. As everyone is constantly in motion, you can't get "pinned" like in WoT.

      However RNG is worse in WoWs (try a T4 BB!), and I'd say it's harder to be good at WoT than at WoWs, as there is less you need to know/do. I picked up the latter easily - WoWs is mostly about "thinking ahead" and there isn't the 101 naunces there is in WoT. I'd say it has a lower skill ceiling as there is less a good player can do/needs to know.

      I.e. WoT you need to know armour angling and weak spots for every tank, in a myriad of locations. WoWs you the same weak spot for every ship: the citadel at waterline under the funnels.

      WoWs - angle your ship 45d to bounce, perhaps kicking the rear out you fire rear turrets, if you deem safe. That's it. WoWs - you have peek a boom, hulldown, sidescraping, reverse sidescraping, circle strafing, snap shooting etc.

      WoWs = islands or smoke screens. WoT = elevation, depression, soft cover, hard cover, bushes - which are quite complex in how they work and how you interact with them.

      WoWs is a less frustrating game, AND (IMO) less grindy (I've never run out of XP or credits, ever) but also a far less complex one.

    2. (The above probably should have been it's own post)

      To answer your specific question:

      Don't be hard on yourself. You're not bad, but normal. Your win rate (48%) is perfectly normal for the games played. Most people stay at the "learn the mechanics" stage after only 2000(!) games and you've already looking ahead to "stage 2 and 3."

      -You play mostly T4 or lower. Gameplay there is wildly unpredictable due to the beginners there and it's hard to help your team when they act so unpredictably. At T5+ you can rely on them more. So it's hard for you to play tactically "macro" level when your team mates run around like headless chooks.

      -Also, T3-4 tanks which you primarily use mostly exist to get munched on by T5 ones, which are a major step up. As T5-6 is so popular, T4s usually get "dragged up" to fill in the numbers and are seldom top tier (personal experience - no stats to back this up)

      TIP #1: Get to T5-6 ASAP

      TIP #2: Get a T5 medium ASAP. T-34 (dpm); Crusader (dpm+camo); M7 (dpm, mobility); are favourites. I particularly like the UK line as ALL tanks in it are fun. The M4 and PzIVH have derps but I find them inconsistent due to low accuracy. Feast or famine. You have the excellent Wolverine, the T67 is a brilliant solo tank as it has speed and camo and can be a medium-scout-TD all in one. Basically, mediums are the best tank to 'macro' in, as they have the speed to flex, the firepower to make a difference, and the ability to use/abuse vision mechanics.

      TIP #3: In a previous post (the intermediate one linked?) it explains the early-middle-late game tactics. This helped raise my personal damage and XP a lot (also helped my team by extension).

      -Your survival rate, as you note, is suicidally low (19%). I've identified my survival as a major problem - and it's 32% in my last 1000.

      Incidentally, surviving longer keeps your gun in action longer = MORE damage, not less. "Damage farmers" and "kill whores" are famous for their caution and using allies as meatshields.

      Also, never trade shots with opponents. Using a medium teaches this well as you have no armour to rely on.

      -You have also correctly noted your skewed capture/defence ratio. If in doubt, go back and defend the cap. I can think of 2 games in the last 10 I personally won merely by doing this. (Defending or stopping cap is simple - you can stalk them and you know exactly - to within 50m - where they are; if you have XVM, you also know how many and how long you have before the cap)

      -Not sure about your average damage, but kills seem low. Check your most commonly used tanks (i.e. any with 50+ games so stats are somewhat reliable) to check your kdr/damage dished vs taken.

      TIP #4: Visit some of the links I've given. Youtube channels like Zeven, Tuagrim etc are very useful as they explain as they play WHY they did x/y, and you can watch it on your phone when bored etc.

      WoTLabs is elitist but has excellent advice for "Stage #3" as I call it. Lert's guides are great for Stage #2.

      Step #5: Play with someone else. This will automatically raise your win ratio it reduces the idiots on your team from 14 to 13. Say hi in Steam whenever you're tanking.

      At the moment, for you it IS a coin flip who wins or loses. Until you step up to make that 10% difference. It took me 5000 games to realise this (or at least honestly believe it in my heart). If you can get it before 1000 games, you're way ahead of the average. As per the post, some guys at 150,000 games haven't "got it."

      Remember, I'm not an expert, but I'm very keen to improve (and also improve any potential team mates).

      I play for fun. But I've decided fun and playing to win isn't mutually exclusive. Consistently winning is pretty darn fun. Knowing you made the difference for your team is pretty fun. And I intend to learn until I can do it consistently.

    3. Money can buy happiness.

      Also, at the moment your crew are crap. This is the same boat I'm in: I kept most of my favourite tanks and the crews in them, instead of moving them up the tiers from tank to tank like I'm supposed to.

      So I have a lot of semi-trained crew.

      My 10c: Consider buying a 100% commander (200 gold) - a better commander automatically raises the stats of all other crew.

      Save your Tier 1 crew and retrain them ONLY into Tier 5 tanks.

      Train your crew in skills (camo or repairs) THEN, when they get to 100%, switch them to a perk if you want(6th sense, snap shot). Perks only work at 100% but you get the benefit of skills the entire time they're training up.

      Premium time brings you 50% more net XP/silver, but about double profit (after repairs). It's worthwhile if you're going to do some heavy playing.

      Gold can also convert more free XP (use to upgrade tanks from stock, NEVER to unlock new tanks).

      Finally, make sure you check and turn on the missions as completing them can bring 50-80k silver per mission; big bucks when you're at T5. The medium and TD ones are really easy, and I think I did all bar one with T5-6 tanks.

    4. Completely agree that WoWS is easier and more forgiving. You also get the opportunity to practise the important things, like angling your ship to incoming fire, in every match. Whereas, in WoT, there can sometimes be very few opportunities to do things like sidescraping and the point that when there is an opportunity you completely forget to do it (or to try it out).

      Cheers for the tips. I thought I was just whinging "a'la stat denier" when I kept getting dragged up to tier 5/6 matches. I knew I was supposed to suck-it-up and do what I could but some matches I simply couldn't pen a single opposition tank. I'd just end up in YOLO mode out of frustration.

      You have inspired me to give it another go. I'll concentrate on pushing into some tier 5 mediums. I think I'm pretty close on the Crusader.

      Catch you on Steam some time ;)

    5. WoWs has "plateaued" for me. While fun with friends, I have no desire to go higher than the balanced T5/6 as the T7/8 games are dominated by sniping BBs who insta-delete cruisers. That only leaves destroyers who are being nerfed by the introduction of radar. As it is vastly simpler to play, I doubt I could radically improve my stats like WoT as there isn't so much "secret knowledge" to learn or so many tactics.

      To make it worse, in many tanks, sidescraping and hulldown is not practical (due to side armour and gun depression/turret armour) - there isn't "universal rules" like in WoWs.

      I do think Tier 4s get dragged up a lot as makeweight to the popular T5/6. There's a big jump from T4 to T5. That's why tanks like the T4 Matilda (or T5 AT2) actually suck. Yes, they ARE godly when top tier - anyone who is annhilated by one wants one. But most times (67%+) they aren't top. And without speed they cannot flex to support or avoid deadlier foes.

      If you have trouble penning - you should seldom tanks frontally 1v1 unless you vastly outmatch them. If they're bigger/tougher - why are you fighting them front on anyway? Pull back, make them chase you round the corner, track them, then shoot them to bits; or lure them into enemies. Or simply lock them down. Also - don't forget to pack 5-10 rounds of "HEAT" ammo.

      Crusader is excellent and underrated. It is a mobile medium with amazing camo and the dpm of a tier 7 (6pdr). It will teach you never to take return fire, though.

  2. well even if my stats are only slowly improving , i'm glad my roll over in the t34 could be put to such educational use. think i'll go and fly the amx elc for my next photo opportunity. great tips and plenty to work on, in my case.