You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quincunx

I’m Mr Average in World of Tanks. Or pretty close to it, at least; by win/loss record slightly ahead (52% wins), by kills per match slightly behind (around 0.93). Actually, hang on, matches never end with 30 total kills (unless there’s one person left on each team and they knock each other out at the same time; not completely impossible, especially with artillery, but highly unlikely) so 1.0 won’t be the average there… Anyway, I reckon I’m pretty near the centre of the bell curve. Though as kills per match has a lower bound of zero and a theoretical upper bound of 15 that probably won’t have a symmetric distribution around the average, is that still a bell curve? Or a bell-that’s-been-hit-on-one-side-with-a-hammer-a-few-times curve? I should’ve paid more attention in maths.

Normal distribution presents an interesting way of looking at the usual random World of Tanks match. There’s a device, the “bean machine” or Quincunx, that visually demonstrates normal distribution by bouncing marbles off pins, a bit like Peggle without the talking unicorns and score boosters. Think of your tank as a marble that rolls into the top of the machine at the start of a battle, with each pin a contributing factor to the outcome; the first pin you hit is the balance, their side has better specced tanks you bounce to the left, your side is better you bounce to the right. Next pin is tactics, if your team covers all the defensive avenues and mounts one concentrated assault then you bounce to the right, if 13 tanks bugger off down one flank of the map leaving you and a lonely SPG defending the centre and the other flank then you bounce to the left. Someone on your side quits or loses connection so that tank bursts into flames: bounce to the left, it happens to one of their team bounce: to the right. An enemy shell glances off your armour, bounce to the right, it knocks out your track, bounce to the left. Down you go, eventually landing up in one of the collection bins at the bottom.

Label those bins “Complete disaster, no kills, knocked out in one shot, team lose 2 – 15″ at the far left, “Glorious triumph, 7 kills, team win 15-3″ on the far right, various intermediary results on the way, and I reckon that’s a pretty decent representation of my experiences, with most balls falling somewhere in the middle (close win or loss, 0 or 1 kills). Obviously not everything is random, you have control over your own tank at least, so maybe Peggle is a good comparison after all where you choose where the ball starts, but that’s not a massive factor in the overall result. Also like Peggle it’s easy to attribute a good result to your incredible skill and a poor result to bad luck (or the rest of your team being morons).

Probably the most frequent gripe about World of Tanks, mine included, is getting shoved into matches against much more powerful tanks where they can destroy you with a single shell, but you need a lucky shot to even cause slight damage to them. It’s the equivalent of that bit in a cartoon where the Comedy Sidekick furiously attacks some giant fiend or invulnerable robot, who doesn’t even notice for about five seconds then glances around and swats the irritant away with a backhanded slap. Mental note: make suggestion to World of Tanks devs to add comedy “wah wah waaaaah” sound effect when you get knocked out by a +3 tier tank, and add a slowly spinning circle of stars and tweeting birds over your burned-out hulk.

Tobold raised the subject in his recent interview that focused on matchmaking, with the reply:

“We know it can be frustrating to get thrown into a battle where you’re the lowest tank by several tiers, so matchmaking improvements are high on our radar. But we also know that players don’t just want to be killed once for each enemy tank they destroy, they want to dominate the battlefield. For true balance, this means that every time a player gets 5 kills, they should end five battles wrecked without having eliminated any enemy vehicles.”

So it’s a deliberate decision (obviously enough, with the matchmaking system going through various iterations), and more importantly, from the perspective of my stats at least, one that works. I have got a few Top Gun awards from finishing a battle with 6 or more kills (granted about half with a BT-2 when bullying poor new Tier I tanks, but some with the SU-85 as well), and those battles do feel great; I still treasure the crowning glory of one fight on the Steppes where I fired six shots in total and got six kills. You still need to randomly bounce off a few pegs the right way, but I had a decent head start in that battle with most of the opposition a tier or two below me (and a heavy tank of the same tier that was damaged enough by the time I got to him that he also only needed a single shot). Would I sacrifice the triumphs (and, indeed, huge successes) for a few less frustrating encounters? After three impotent deaths in a row when ready to punch the screen I probably would, but over time I find the bad and mediocre tend to blur into forgetfulness, but that time that four tanks drove straight into your sights, one after another, with just the right gap between them for your gun to reload, that sticks around.

5 thoughts on “You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quincunx

  1. Gank

    For all that I would like to think I’m great at World of Tanks I realize that I am average as well. My win/loss is 49%/49% which supports the theory and suggests the devs are doing it right. I have about 1400 kills in 1800 matches. I have survived around 30% of my matches. It all looks pretty average.

    Then I look at some of the stats for the guys in my clan and I’m totally blown away. It’s not just the sheer numbers of battles that they have but the success that goes with it. The win/loss is always around 50-60% but its the kill totals that blow me away. I didn’t do a lot of killing with the Tiger I, for instance, but I see guys in my clan with 200 battles and 300 kills. Totals over all can be 3000 matches with 4000+ kills. It boggles my mind.

    Platooning, of course, helps and if you run with a group and use tactics things will generally work out better or at least you’ll have more fun if you end up losing.

    In the end, or at least to end my nonsensical rant, I think it bodes well for the game. The fact that I didn’t do as well as others with the Tiger sugggests that skills and tactics can play a major part. Gear isn’t a factor as I had the same, maxed out Tiger that they did. Matchmaking is apparently trying to balancing that curve so the only other thing left as a factor is player skill. Luck can not account for a kill ratio twice that of mine with the exact same tank.

  2. Zoso Post author

    Yeah, I think they’ve pretty much got the balance right. Like you say the better players stand out, so it’s not like skills are irrelevant, but with their win ratios still hovering around 50-60% there are enough other factors in battles to ensure they’re not dominating so average players aren’t just constantly crushed.

  3. Masterlooter

    I feel that team balancing is being done extrememly well, all things considered. I have rarely seen a match where I thought, “Based on tank strength, one team is stronger than the other.” (there have been 3 or 4 questionable ones in the T2-T3 range – but that may have just been my perception). I like how every battle starts on even ground – regarding overall team strength.

    My largest complaint with the MM is HOW they implement the (completely arbitraty) “individual 50/50 system” that Chris Keeling mentioned in Tobold’s interview.

    It seems that in some fights I’m head and shoulders above the rest of the field (at least in terms of tank strength). It’s like the system is saying, “this is your battle to dominate, go ahead and get 5 kills.” Then for the next 3 or 4 battles I’m at the bottom of the barrel, hardly able to do damage to my opponents. The system laughing at me, “LOL you think you’re going to be useful in here, that’s hilarious!!”

    In either case my skill level only applies to how many kills I get, or how long I stay alive before being blasted into obvlivion in 1 or 2 shots. In these battles, my skill level mainly pertains to my ability to know that I’m the top dog, or the bottom man, and adjust my playstyle accordingly to be ultra agressive, or ultra cautious.

    Only in battles where I am somewhere near the middle of the pack that I feel skill level is the main factor in how well I do as an individual. (Or those matches where there is a very small margin between the strongest and weakest tanks.) Maybe it’s just me, but when in a T5 heavy tank, it feels like my individual contribution to taking out T8s is pretty minor – especially considering those tanks are stronger in every aspect, not just fire power.

    It’s frustrating to be able to accurately predict how you will perform in a battle – as an individual – before it even begins. Rather than analyzing why you did exceptionally well, or exceptionally poor after the fact.

    When I get “Top Gun”, I think, “Wow, I didn’t realize I was that much more powerful than the other tanks.” Instead of, “Wow, I must have really made some good moves out there.” When I get killed by a heavy tank without having seen him at all, I think, “Wow he must have a pretty good radio, and top trained crew.” Instead of, “Dang, what did I do wrong there?”

    Mr. Chris is wrong. I don’t want to dominate the battle field. I don’t want to kill 1 tank for each time I am destroyed. I want to be rewarded when I am able to capitalize on my enemies mistakes. I want to be penalized when I do stupid things – so that I can learn from them. When my enemies dominate me through better tactics, I don’t want to be given “freebie” kills/xp by being placed agaisnt much weaker opponents the next match. I don’t want to make a huge mistake in my KV, and only lose 20% of my health because the two T3 tanks that caught me making the mistake can barely dent my armor. destined for greatness before the battle even started. I hate trapping tanks in a well planned ambush, and still end up being slaughtered after blasting 10 shots square in to the side (not front) of their hull – solely due to the differences in their armor and my (lack of) armor penetration.

  4. Y||B

    Sadly population can influence the distribution of tanks in the game. When everybody and his neighbour bought a Lowe, you could be sure to meet at least 3-15 of them even in your random Tier 4/5 battle. If you have been below Tier 8 during that time, you learned to hate them …. a lot.

    Another factor is, that while Tier 5 can be matched with +-4 tiers (depending on tank, and blabla) … obviously tier 10 tanks cannot be matched with higher tier tanks. So the probability of being one-shotted in a tier 8+ heavy is basically zilch. As in, it actually gets easier to win/kill in the higher tiers, but the costs inflate, so if you loose a few times in a row, you will be back grinding money.

    In addition modules & 100% crew shift my win ratio depending on the tank by 5_% .

  5. Zoso Post author

    @Masterlooter The battles with a single tank at the highest tier on each side and a whole lot underneath are especially odd, yeah, and victories are definitely cheapened somewhat when they’re mostly against lesser opponents; the XP reflects it as well, with multiple lower level kills netting less than a few damaging shots against tougher opponents. I’d like the matchmaking system to present a few more scenarios, like everyone of the same tier, even an occasional match where everyone’s in medium tanks, or TDs (maybe not all-artillery though). If the numbers are there, everyone in exactly the same vehicle would be especially interesting.

    @Y||B Heh, yeah, I remember when it seemed like 98% of Tier VIII were Lowes and you’d bump into ’em every match, least there’s a bit more variety now…

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