Thursday 8 September 2011

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be

I’ve been running World of Tanks as a Premium player for the past four or five months, a subscription-ish option that gives a 50% bonus to XP and credits at the end of each match. You buy in-game gold with real money, then buy Premium status (for 1, 3, 7 or 30 days) with that gold, so the exact price per month depends on how much gold you buy in the first place and how long you opt for Premium status. As with so many digital currency systems the more gold you buy the less it costs per unit, thus you can argue you’re saving money by spending more in the first place, but unless you have great self-control then the more gold you have kicking around the easier it is to succumb to the temptation of using it to just upgrade the training on a couple of your tank crew, oh and convert some into credits to fund a new tank, and heck why not buy one of those premium tanks while we’re here… You can use that as further proof of the Satanic corrupting nature of hell-spawn microtransactions if you really want, but it’s hardly different from picking up a kilogram bag of pistachio nuts instead of one or two smaller packs, convincing yourself you’ll just have a handful now and again, and winding up on the sofa that night with an empty bag, surrounded by shells, trying to use a remote control as a makeshift nutcracker to get into those last few nuts that didn’t open properly.

Keeping up Premium status (plus some experience conversion and the odd credit splurge) has cost me about £50 since launch, which is pretty reasonable with no initial box fee, especially for the amount I’ve been playing (1,500-odd battles so far), I certainly don’t begrudge what I’ve spent, but as the Premium counter ticked down at the start of this week and I contemplated buying another pack of gold to top it up I’d been thinking about pricing, and I decided to hold off and see how things work out as a completely free player.

I’ve generally been slowing down a bit anyway; after darting around various tank types over all three nationalities up to Tier IV or V I’ve settled on two main vehicles, a Russian Tier VII tank destroyer (SU-152) and heavy tank (IS), and a daily routine: get in from work, switch on Pointless (a rather fun BBC quiz show) and try and get one win with each tank. The game and quiz complement each other nicely; Pointless, like just about every quiz show bar University Challenge and Mastermind, drags everything out with jingles, rules explanations, deliberations over answers and awkward chats with the contestants, and each World of Tanks match starts with a 30 second countdown then a lot of cautious manoeuvring for position, unless someone goes a bit mental and heads straight for the enemy at top speed. The multitasking does break down occasionally; “Argh, I’m sure I can name the band most associated with each of those seven guitarists but I can’t quite place Thurston Moore just at this moment while I’m sorting out the VK3601 threatening our right flank”, but generally it works out. If fate is kind and I get a couple of quick wins with the main tanks without punching the screen in instant death and/or idiot team frustration I’ll move on to one of my lower tier elite tanks to earn a few more credits and free XP, then wander off to something else for the rest of the evening.

Lack of the Premium XP bonus means upgrades will take a bit longer, but with each tank needing something like 80,000XP to move on to the Tier VIII ISU-152 or IS-3 it’s hardly a short-term goal, “a really, really long time” doesn’t seem that much longer than “a really long time” according to international standards of vague durational estimates. I’ll probably get there, in a month or two, but in the meantime it’s just about the individual battles rather than the advancement. The lack of a credit bonus isn’t too much of a problem either, for now; I can lose credits in a bad match if my tank gets destroyed and I fired a bunch of shells with little effect (heavy calibre ammo is pricey!), but for the most part I at least break even with the main tanks, and the SU-85 earns a handy profit. I might need to revisit the situation with a Tier VIII tank as they’re even more pricey to repair and rearm, and I’ll probably have to look at turning some gold into credits to actually afford a new tank in the first place; I funded a good chunk of the IS by selling off a few Tier V and VI tanks I was hardly playing, and also discovered that when you upgrade a component like an engine or gun the old item is shoved in your Depot. If you go to the Depot screen there’s an option to list shells or equipment not compatible with your current tanks, so I took everything to a nearby car park had a massive Tank Boot Sale, haggling with old ladies over the price (“No, madam, that is an 8.8 cm Kampfwagenkanone 36 L/56 and is most certainly worth considerably more than three credits.”)

Overall I’m happy for the time being to keep plinking away in a non-Premium fashion, though I’m certain will end up with more of my cash at some point if they continue their sensible pricing, either for upgrades in World of Tanks or when one of their new games comes along; maybe World of Warplanes but World of Battleships could really hit the spot. I mean a 3″ gun is all right, but a 15″ gun chucking the best part of a ton of shell over 20 miles, now we’re talking…

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