Wednesday 9 January 2013

Pay to Win

One common complaint about World of Tanks is that it's a pay-to-win game. Premium "gold" ammo (i.e. ammunition paid for with gold, the in-game currency that costs real money to buy) penetrates armour better than normal ammo, so people buying gold ammo have a better chance of killing you while your shots are bouncing off them. Gold tanks are already elite status (i.e. have already been fully upgraded, so you don't need to research better modules - such as new guns - for them), and allow you to 'skip' tiers. (you can buy a tier 5 elite tank without having to research your way through tiers 1-4).

I understand that the developers have to eat, so I don't mind them selling content, but selling wins is  little harder to stomach. In this case, developers make money from people buying gold, paying to win, on the understanding that we who play for free are there be blown up by paying customers to make them feel mighty. We who play for free are not players, we are NPC mobs. We are the content, as Gevlon says. At the low tiers, happily, there are not many pay-to-win customers.

I actually don't mind gold tanks, though I have no desire to buy one myself. It's a way of skipping tiers that you might not enjoy playing, to get to a tier you DO enjoy playing. Tobold, who covered this 18 months ago, also mentions another big advantage of gold tanks: their repairs costs are much lower at the highest tiers, so they can be used to build up silver credits to allow their non-gold tanks to pay for their repairs.

There are plenty of other uses for gold that I don't mind. Fore instance, expanding the garage and the barracks, so you can keep more tanks and more crew on call (just in case you haven't played World of Tanks, let me say that the only advantage this gives you is more variety. You can't actually take several tanks into battle at once). I did this in Star Trek Online, paying for another character slot in that excellent Free-To-Play game. As I say, I understand that developers need to make a living.

All the same, I've been most unhappy with the idea of gold ammo. This really is Pay-To-Win rather than pay-to-overcome-inconveniences. It's an intellectual/philosophical problem for me, not a day-to-day problem, because mostly at low levels people don't have gold ammo. It's really mostly in clan warfare that it's de rigeur (and there, everyone has it - so levelling the playing field).

So it was with pleasure that I read a small line in the Winter Resupply Special Offer news on the World of Tanks website:

Up to 50% discount on premium ammunition
With gold or credits, obtain better ammunition for less!

What's that? Premium ammo is now available with credits? - the currency you earn in-game through good play! It's pretty expensive: 800-6400 credits per shell normally. But at least it can now be had through in-game play. Tobold knew about this last October, but I only discovered it last Friday.

Not only is the high-penetration 'gold' ammo now available for credits, it was on sale for half-price over the weekend! I'd saved up nearly 500K credits to buy the STuG III and its upgrades, but I immediately spent half of that on gold ammo, buying a couple of hundred rounds for a range of my tanks. I even considered spending some more on shells for the STuG III, even though I don't own it, yet.

The gold shells have particularly made a difference for the Hetzer. As I mentioned last time, when fighting tier 6 tanks, my shots just bounce off, and they usually one-shot me. Now I carry two gold shells into every battle, and if I have a shot at a tier 6 tank from the front (i.e. driving straight towards me), I reload with a gold shell, and hope he doesn't hit me before it's loaded. Once it loads, it has a good chance of penetrating and killing my opponent, and I live to fight another day. I still have to hang back and try to identify targets of opportunity at long range; but with 2 gold shells, I can often escape what would otherwise have been certain death.

Another place where gold shells have made a difference: tier 2 American T18 tank destroyers are almost impervious to shells from tier 2 tanks from the front (in fact, I'm thinking of getting a T18, myself) They're the only tier 2 vehicle I fear on the battlefield. But they too are susceptible to gold shells. Against most other tier 2/tier 3 tanks, the gold shells are mostly a waste of money. Normal armour-piercing shells are sufficient.

Obviously, you can't use only gold shells (unless you are buying them with gold). Each shell costs roughly half the prospective earnings from the battle, so in-game winnings aren't sufficient to pay for a full complement of them. But it's good knowing you have a couple tucked away in the magazine.

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