As you know, we have completed our first phase of the Sandbox test. The Sandbox servers are now currently offline and we have been hard at work analyzing your feedback and the collected statistics to make changes for the next phase of Sandbox testing.
The Sandbox test environment is a new testing format that resembles beta-testing at early development stages of the game. This means it is a very experimental format -- battles on this server offer a very different game experience, and we realized and expected that players would have mixed emotions about such big changes. This is why we felt it so critical to involve our community in these tests well in advance of bringing anything to our live servers for the full game. And as expected, we have gotten a wide range of feedback on this first phase of the Sandbox, but the common trend is a desire to understand much more about what the changes you have seen on the Sandbox mean for the future.
So with all of this in mind, we wanted to share our current thoughts on the Sandbox. In this report we'll discuss our original goals of the features we tested, the assumptions we checked, the results we received, and what we intend to do next.
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 (including the matchmaker, interrelation among vehicle roles, some map problems, etc.) These issues have been the result of a number of smaller changes accumulated over a long time that now collectively require a more dramatic change to be fully fixed. We couldn’t simply do “quick fixes”. Over time, we intend to use the Sandbox to test many of our longer-term development. First, the vehicle balance, then develop a new matchmaker, and create new maps and improve existing ones, etc. Your feedback will become the starting point of further development of the game.
- Reduce the cost of players’ mistakes, giving them the chance to survive and remain in battle longer
- Reduce the average distance of combat, favoring more intense close up battles and encouraging more dynamic gameplay over “pixel hunting” and “camping"
- Create more varied gameplay by allowing different types of tanks to serve roles according to their strengths. So heavily armored, defensive tanks can be close to the enemy and set the battle line, mobile flankers can circle their enemy to find vulnerability, scouts can effectively scout, etc.
- Rework SPG gameplay away from the occasional one shot machines of destruction that miss a lot and take forever to reload to something that's more interesting to both SPG players and their opponents
We realize it is important to provide variety to gameplay for our players. Our goal is to create gameplay where different tank types allow for distinct experiences. Taken all together, the four individual goals above are aimed at achieving this one overall goal. 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.
Aiming at The Goal - What Did We Do?
Penetration Falloff and Shot Dispersion -- Making Armor Matter
In order to reduce the combat distance, we increased the importance of armor. We made two big changes to accomplish this: we reduced the distance where shell penetration falloff begins and also increased the dispersion of shots within the aiming circle. These changes made firing from long distance much less effective. The penetration falloff change meant shots didn’t penetrate from as far away, and the change to dispersion meant that players at distance had to let their aim circle shrink in order to hit a target, in addition to making a pinpoint shot much harder at distance – so they had to wait longer to shoot effectively from distance as well.
This also reduced the effect of "focused fire" and allowed players to feel more protected and encouraged to leave cover for active combat. Well-armored vehicles became more popular thanks to their capability of blocking damage with armor, and our collected statistics showed that these changes reduced the combat distance.
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 from closer as well. Our penetration falloff change also significantly affected the course of battle and it may have been too significant a change – but for both of these features, we decided to make more aggressive changes in this first round of testing, in order to push the boundaries.
In later iterations of the Sandbox, we'll make further adjustments to the changed technical characteristics using both statistical information and your feedback. We've been discussing internally the possibility of individual gun adjustment that depends on 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 the enemy's vehicle you will be able to make a decision in each particular situation, which will eventually vary the 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 preliminary divide 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 offered gameplay. 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 in shooting from a distance. It encouraged players to perform active maneuvers and increased importance of scouts.
At the same time, cavalry vehicles and scouts easily circle dreadnoughts, meaning they now can do what they are intended for.
However, there is much work to be done to improve the balance for some of our other roles: some vehicles don't have a distinctive role or a role hasn't been determined yet. As for ambush vehicles, their gameplay is not clear enough yet. In the course of the test we found out that fire-support vehicles require a little more attention, since vehicles of this specialization have hard times in battles due to their poor armor.
In the future, we plan on making individual changes to vehicles and adjusting the interaction system among vehicles of different roles, keeping equal effectiveness for each one. Moreover, we're considering further options to compensate for the poor armor of fire-support vehicles, and want to further unlock the potential of scouts.
We believe that any vehicle in battle should be interesting to at least two players: the one driving it and the one fighting it. Currently, on production servers, SPGs represent a combination of "Damoclis Gladius" and "Eye of Sauron"—all-seeing vehicles that may perform a sudden, instantly lethal strike to any point of the map. We want to reduce emotional pressure of SPGs upon players by changing the very concept of artillery vehicles, keeping them useful for the team, because the constant fear of an SPG "insta-kill" was another huge factor causing players not to break from cover and close distances.
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 effectiveness of focused fire at particular targets by reducing penetration and damage caused with HE shells. It resulted in less negative attitude to SPGs, because now they don't destroy enemy vehicles with a single shot. At the same time, changes to the burst radius increased effectiveness of shooting at enemy groups, and the aiming marker for allied SPGs contributed to team play.
This is one of the key changes in the Sandbox, since a completely new SPG mechanic (tested by a large number of players for the first time) was developed; we'll keep experimenting with the burst radius and stun duration. It's possible that the final result will be completely different.
Looking Forward -- Where Do We Go From Here?
There are many test stages ahead. At the next stage we originally intended to add tier VIII and IX vehicles, but after a month we came to the conclusion that we need to work more with tier X to tune the current mechanics. So far, we cannot reveal all details about changes 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 changing the mechanics of crew injury (known as "stun").
We're 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've seen so far. Stay tuned for more information – as we get closer to the release of the second Sandbox phase, we'll provide much more detail about what is coming. We will look forward to playing with you in the Sandbox again soon!