World of Tanks MatchMaker Problem

Having ‘elited’ every light tank in the German tech tree, and a few of the others as well, I’m now in the position to make some observations and recommendations about the MatchMaker problem.

This discussion does not concern platoons or clans, just the random battles with random players organised using the MatchMaker (MM) system which account for most of the WoT games actually played.

To understand what ‘the problem’ is you first need to understand how MM works. Go do it and then come back – I’ll wait. Done? Good. Let’s continue.

Of relevance to this discussion are the BattleTiers (BT) that MM uses for light tanks.

  1. Tier 1 Light tanks can be placed in any BT 1-2 match
  2. Tier 2 Light tanks can be placed in any BT 2-3 match
  3. Tier 3 Light tanks can be placed in any BT 3-6 match
  4. Tier 4 Light tanks can be placed in any BT 4-10 match
  5. Tier 5 Light tanks can be placed in any BT 8-13 (!) match
  6. Tier 6 Light tanks can be placed in any BT 8-12 match
  7. Tier 7 Light tanks can be placed in any BT 10-13 match

As you can see, things start out fine for the first few levels, then go pear shaped at Tier 4 and Tier 5 is completely out of whack. Most players give up and never make it to Tier 6 or 7.

What normal players (who use MM to set up Standard battles) experience is this: A steadily harder match experience for Tiers 1-3, a sharp increase in difficulty in Tier 4, and an utterly demoralising experience in Tier 5. Rational behaviour then takes over for those that persevere, and this has resulted in the emergence of the classic scout ‘suicide run’ in the first few seconds of the match, followed by them immediately leaving the game to play a different tank, repeating the process hundreds of times to grind their way to the next Tier.

So, let’s break it down to understand what’s going on, shall we?

A Tier 1 Light (T1L) tank has a 50% chance of ending up in a BT 1 match and facing other T1L tanks. The other 50% of the time they end up in a BT2 match against T1L and Tier 2 Medium (T2M) tanks. Fair enough.

A Tier 2 Light (T2L) tank has a 50% chance of a BT2 match against Tier 1 and 2 Light (T1+2L) as well as T2M tanks. The other 50% is in a BT3 match against T2+3L, T2+3M, Tier 2 SPG (T2SPG) and Tier 2 Tank Destroyer (T2TD) tanks. More variety is good. Things are still relatively balanced.

Now that the shorthand is mostly defined, I’ll shorten it a bit:

A Tier 3 Light (T3L) tank has a 25% chance of each:

  • BT3: T2+3L, T2+3M, T2SPG, T2TD
  • BT4: T3+4L, T3+4M, T4H, T3+4SPG, T3+4TD
  • BT5: T3+4L, T3+4M, T4H, T3SPG, T2-4TD
  • BT6: T3+4L, T3-5M, T4+5H, T3+4SPG, T3-5TD

Here we start noticing the trend. In only two cases (BT3 and BT5) are there any tanks of tiers lower than the player (and BT5 has virtually none). The likelihood of being the lowest tier in the match is now ~75%.

A Tier 4 Light (T4L) tank has a ~14% chance of each:

  • BT4: T3+4L, T3+4M, T4H, T3+4SPG, T3+4TD
  • BT5: T3+4L, T3+4M, T4H, T3SPG, T2-4TD
  • BT6: T3+4L, T3-5M, T4+5H, T3+4SPG, T3-5TD
  • BT7: T4L, T4-6M, T5+6H, T3+4SPG, T4-6TD
  • BT8: T4-6L, T4-7M, T5-7H, T3-5SPG, T4-7TD
  • BT9: T4-6L, T5-8M, T5-8H, T4+5SPG, T5-8TD
  • BT10: T4-7L, T6-8M, T5-9H, T5+6SPG, T6-9TD

Here the trend worsens. The likelihood of being the lowest tier in the match is now ~80%.

A Tier 5 Light (T5L) tank has a ~17% chance of each:

  • BT8: T4-6L, T4-7M, T5-7H, T3-5SPG, T4-7TD
  • BT9: T4-6L, T5-8M, T5-8H, T4+5SPG, T5-8TD
  • BT10: T4-7L, T6-8M, T5-9H, T5+6SPG, T6-9TD
  • BT11: T5-7L, T7-9M, T6-10H, T6+7SPG, T7-9TD
  • BT12: T5-7L, T9M, T7-10H, T7+8SPG, T8+9TD
  • BT13: T5+7L, T9M, T9+10H, T8SPG, T9TD

The likelihood of being the lowest tier in the match is now ~90%. About the only thing in the game likely to be lower than you are a few SPGs and you’re not likely to live long enough to see them. Everything else at or above (sometimes double) your level and will pretty-much one-shot you on sight.

So match after match you find out you’re utterly useless and can’t do a damned thing against the other mighty tanks on the battlefield. Your weapons are completely ineffectual. I’ve even had an enemy take pity on me and let me unload a full magazine of 30-odd at point blank into their face, with absolutely no effect at all. They then typed ‘sorry’ into chat before putting me out of my misery. He knew. He’d been there before.

“Oh, but you’re a light tank, you’re not supposed to take on the big guys, you should go scout” is often suggested by other players. What complete garbage! The only reason I’m driving this damned light tank at all is because I have to in order to unlock the mediums, and then the heavies… Tank vs Tank action is what this game is all about – boom boom. It’s not bloody “World of Scout-craft”. If I wanted to scout I’d play a bloody RPG. You play tank games because you want conflict and action, not because you want to sneak around pressing T all the time and deliberately not firing your weapon. It’s retarded to even suggest such an idea!

To determine exactly how retarded this is, let’s now examine the time-efficiency of scouting, shall we?

To do scouting the ‘proper’ way you proceed sneakily around the battlefield, flanking the majority of forces and patiently working your way to where the enemy artillery is located. Along the way you spot troops and help call in artillery strikes on their positions. In real life this makes perfect sense. In WoT it doesn’t.

A player with a T5L that does this ‘scouting’ in a match that their team ends up losing is only going to get ~200xp. If their team wins, more like 400xp. Since you win 50% of the matches you play in, that means you’ll average ~300xp per game.

Since it takes ~60,000xp to research Tier 6 that means you need to ‘scout’ for 60,000 / 300 = 200 games. Each game takes 10-15 minutes – let’s say 10. That’s 200 * 10 = 2,000 minutes (33h 20m) spent playing a game where all you can do is press the letter T a few times.

Fuck that. I am not going to spend pretty much a full week of my spare time queueing for a match, pressing the letter T and getting killed over and over and over again. Just so that I can advance one damned level and start playing the sort of tanks I wanted to all along.

Obviously some people have the time to do this – I certainly don’t. And others don’t as well.

Because it is an almost unholy and stupid grind, the likes of which even Blizzard hasn’t had the balls to force down its players’ throats, many of the players in the same situation do what is rational and sensible: they spend as little time on each match as possible.

This manifests itself as a suicide scouting run at the very start of each match, where you basically run head-long into the enemy and try gain as many bonus xp for ‘discovering’ enemies as possible. You’re dead in less that 60 seconds but that’s ok, because you quit the match and go play a different tank instead. Once you’re done there you queue up another game for your ‘scout’ and do another suicide run. Rinse and repeat.

In this manner you get your 300xp for maybe 2-3 minutes worth of time, max, instead of 11-12 minutes doing it the ‘proper’ way. Slot suicide scouting runs between your other tanking matches and the level grind is rendered much less monotonous and boring.

So, let’s recap: Because MatchMaker pits Light tanks up against ever-increasing numbers of much higher tiered and more deadly tanks, it renders your weaponry impotent and forces you to play a ‘scouting’ role. Not only does this force you to play a completely different style than you’ve been used to (and probably want to), but the xp gains from doing this ‘scouting’ are so woefully inadequate that unless you want to waste a week of your life you need to resort to suicide scouting runs.

tl;dr: MatchMaker is broken; forces T5->6 grind which is most sensibly resolved by suiciding your tank repeatedly.

So, rather than just complain about it, what can be done to fix this state of affairs?

Well, the publishers of WoT have stated repeatedly that MatchMaker is ‘working as intended’ and repeated tweaks have done nothing whatsoever to address the issue. You may as well accept that fact to start with.

What rationale is there behind it? Well, the most obvious is that almost every military force in history has had a scouting (or ‘expeditionary’) element to it, and that the publisher, placing so much emphasis on the faithful recreation of historical tanking, feels this game should not be an exception. ‘It is realistic.’

So, what about alternatives? There are already xp bonuses given for discovering enemy units and calling in arty on a distant target, why not just boost those?

The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t actually fix anything. It would make the grind a little shorter, but it would still be a pointless grind, and still be resolved by suicide tactics. In fact, increase the bonus points and you’ll make suicide scouting runs even more attractive, which means the symptoms just get worse, not better.

No, to fix it you need to make the actual process of scouting more interesting and more rewarding in an xp sense.

To start with, the reason you get lousy xp from scouting the proper way is that most of the units will be discovered by other teammates, not the scout. The scout has to flank or get killed, so that instantly limits the number of possible discoveries to 5, and that’s pushing it. So, step 1 is remove discovery bonuses completely – the scout doesn’t get most of them so what’s the point? Remove them and you also reduce the incentive to suicide run.

Second, we need to stop thinking of scouting as something that is soley done visually. We know that visibility is severely limited in this game. A person can see 20km on a clear day with the naked eye, and resolve a tank shape out to about 5km, allowing for curvature of the Earth. Visibility limits exist for CPU and GPU reasons, nothing else. And because of that we need to forget about binoculars and pretending to see farther.

Instead of scouting, we should be thinking ‘signals’. Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) has been around since the Boer War and was an important part of WW2. Radio triangulation has been done in other games and done pretty well. WoT could have such a system.

In essence, a new SIGINT module becomes available for light tanks, and possibly medium tanks as well. It is large, so in order to equip it you need to give up your main weapon and possibly even your turret. Make it official: you’re not here to fight.

The SIGINT-Master module includes a small number of radio detectors/relays which, when placed, monitor all radio communications in the region and broadcasts signal strenth and time via an encrypted channel. This can be decrypted by any allies with a SIGINT-Slave module on the battlefield. In essence, once the scout places at least 2 detectors on the battlefield, they, combined with the detector/relay on the scout vehicle itself, form a triangle which can be used to triangulate the position of enemy tanks on the battlefield (i.e. minimap). Once the scout has 3 detectors placed, the system will continue to function even if the scout tank is destroyed.

How accurate the system is depends on a variety of factors, including the skill level of the operator, the quality of the equipment and, of course, geography and the position and number of detectors deployed. The radio locations of enemies will thus be approximate in most cases and way off in others where geography makes such things difficult (like mountainous maps).

The detectors would be, of course, camoflaged and undetectable to normal tankers. Scouts with the SIGINT-Master unit, however, could use a ‘signal strength meter’ method to locate enemy detectors and destroy them, thereby disabling the enemy detector system. A cat and mouse game is thus played by the opposing scout forces to see who can build the most robust and accurate network while at the same time disabling the network being made by the enemy.

Significant XP would be gained for both deploying and sabotaging radio triangulation networks, thus encouraging the player to play the whole game actively and remain undetected by the enemy whilst doing so.

Scouts with a SIGINT-Master unit would, of course, not appear on the enemy detection system.

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