Developing Your Playstyle
My first favourite tank was the StuG III. You people remember “StuG Life”, right? I didn’t really know what it was, but I knew I wanted to live it. I played hundreds and hundreds of games in my little StuG trying to do just that; figure out what “The Life” was really about.
I don’t know that I ever did. But I remember the image I had of myself as a tank driver back then; sitting behind a small ridge with some cover and my long 75 mm, waiting, watching, lurking. Prowling around looking for unsuspecting targets. Being stealthy and predatory.
That’s a long time ago now. My second favourite tank was the Tiger I; I had my first proper Mastery in that. It kept me going all through the E75 before I got tired of the HEAT and got out of the Heavy tank kitchen, so to speak.
My third favourite tank was the Panther. Any Panther really, but especially the “Cosplay” Panther/M10. I had cut my teeth on the Pz IV D and the Anko, and I was really getting into Medium tank driving. I loved my Panthers, and the P/M10 is still my most driven tank to this day.
The image I had of myself had also changed. I was now a frontline soldier, a storm trooper rolling out in my mechanised warhorse to do fierce and honourable battle like Knights or Hussars or something. I wasn’t so much a stealthy predator anymore as a sharpshooting in-your-face brawler.
Tank philosophy was starting to become an influence, and that is why I say the E50 M is the logical conclusion to the Panther line. There is a coherence between the vehicles that allows for a general kind of “Panther playstyle”, but they also have subtle individual differences between them.
The E50 M is the queen of the Panthers. It does everything a Panther does, only better. As you might imagine, driving it I felt on top of the world even though I may not have actually performed that well. A 1400 horsepower armoured Hussar charging at the enemy with my razor sharp 105 mm sword.
It didn’t matter I was struggling, because I remember when I started figuring it out. Getting the angles right. Maintaining proper distance. Starting to bounce a lot more shells and holding on to my hitpoints more.
This is all pretty basic stuff when you think about it. You keep at something, and you learn how to do it. The philosophical element is just thinking about what you are doing and what is happening around you; focusing on it in order to learn better.
But it’s also something else. It’s how I derive pleasure from playing the game.
People do this in all sorts of different ways. Some people don’t seem to do it at all; it’s like they drive tanks in spite of everything, not because of anything.
Winning is a great motivator, but it’s not enough for me, and it’s certainly not the only consideration. This is, to a certain extent, also an expression of my feelings of inadequacy; I don’t try to become the best player in the world, because it seems unlikely that’s ever going to happen. I’m also generally not a very competitively inclined person, so I don’t play tournaments or follow E-sports. I hardly even follow my own stats, especially since over time they all start to pretty much look the same.
There is certainly pleasure in community. Talking to people who understand your perspective and your grievances, sharing information and helping each other. Sometimes it’s nice to just be able to whine about the noobs. And there are people for whom the community is much more important than the game itself, which of course makes a lot of sense.
Some people have a very clear idea about what they want the game to be, and they are very outspoken about when it doesn’t meet their expectations. I’ve touched on this before; the tendency to judge everything based on expectations and not on the actual thing at hand, which makes it easy to point out errors and deviances, but is not otherwise very constructive.
The simple fact is this: if you are waiting for Wargaming to fulfil your ideas about what tank driving should and shouldn’t be, then not only are you in for a long wait, the end result can only ever be disappointment.
You can’t keep setting yourself up for disappointment like that, so I settled on a Stoic approach to thinks like Russian bias; accepting they are part of the realities of the game, and trying to work around them in different ways.
Same with my stats. When I was a 46% player, I decided that wasn’t enough, so I worked really hard to bring them up to 50%. I figured as long as I was over 50% it wouldn’t matter so much, and actually it would be more satisfying winning as a 50% player than as a 60% player, because people don’t expect to get beaten by you.
Again, there is a touch of self awareness here as well; I don’t think I have what it takes to be a 70% player some day. I also don’t think I care enough about being one to try.
Anyway, once I passed 50%, I stopped caring about trying to achieve anything specific in terms of statistics, other than general improvement. That is not the same as not caring about stats; I still monitor my progress and try to adjust accordingly, but I don’t set myself any specific statistical goals anymore.
This is simple psychology. The realisation that statistical achievement is temporary, illusive, and; ultimately, unsatisfying. If you set yourself the expectation to reach a specific numerical goal, anything less than that will be disappointment. The harder the goal, the more disappointment along the way. But reaching the goal simply means meeting your expectations; you don’t allow yourself the opportunity to exceed them. There are no happy surprises beyond fulfilment.
The above does not mean achievement is meaningless. It just means focusing on achievement is meaningless. At least I think it is. Achievement is also finite. Once you Ace all your tanks, what do you do? Set yourself a higher goal and set yourself up for even more disappointment?
So the question is; how do you find some kind of deeper, lasting meaning in a game that, although almost infinitely complex, is basically just about winning or losing?
For me, it’s not about the accomplishment, but the experience.
Two reasons this paper came about, and both of them fairly trivial. My friend Xeno said he managed to stop chasing stats, because it makes the game more like work. And also someone asked me of the Object 140 is my favourite tank now.
Fallen star. Faded primadonna. Practically obsolete. But still magnificent.
This may seem even more trivial, but the Obj 140 is a touchy issue for me. I used to hate it immensely back when it was the very definition of Russian bias and overpoweredness, for the same reason I despise the IS-7 and the skill star today. But below the surface of that hatred, there was also a kind of sadness at the fact so many people drove the 140 because it was the best, not because they actually liked it. Or they liked it because it was the best, not because they liked the tank itself.
I drove it, of course, back then. I was curious to experience the raw power, and besides it was my duty as a tank philosopher to know my enemy. But again there was a kind of sadness or remorse, because I felt this wasn’t my real enemy. The Object 140 is in itself a fantastic Medium tank, and everything I ever had against it has to do with things external to it; with bias, balance and game meta.
The more I drove it, the better I liked it. I always thought it looked much better than the “real deal” T-62A, which I also drove and actually did better in, but I never had those really amazing games in the 62A I sometimes managed to pull off in the Object. It was just a much better drive.
Finally; trying to overcome my own insecurities and self esteem, I decided to get one for myself. Did I not deserve to drive the best Medium tank in the game? Was I somehow not worthy? Could I really call myself a Medium tank elitist without actually owning one?
You know Wargaming solved the 140s image problem for me, and I am now a proud owner and its perhaps staunchest defender. But that’s one thing. That doesn’t answer the pertinent question.
Is it my favourite tank?
The thing is that yes it is my favourite tank these days, but that’s not the whole story, and it also presents me with what I suppose is really a massive image problem.
There is no actual reason to make things this complicated. You can just drive tanks and be happy with that. As a philosophy, that will last you thousands of games.
But what about tens of thousands? Xeno says chasing stats becomes like work; and he has over 50K. I don’t want driving tanks to be like work.
As it is, I guess I don’t have to worry; I still need to git gud. That is of course also a disappointing and ultimately futile undertaking, but it isn’t finite and temporary in the same way chasing stats is. Think of people who stop driving tanks because they happen to have good results in them initially and don’t want to ruin their pretty purple stats. What will you drive instead?
The realisation that you are only ever as good as your last game, leaves you with two options: either you try to have one really good game and then you stop, or you simply continue playing, understanding that you can have more than one, and that the experience itself outweighs looking at the statistical result afterwards; resting on your laurels.
Having thus decided to continue driving tanks; to “go the distance” so to speak, the question becomes what do you want to actually drive? For me that question also means “who do you want to be as a tank driver?”.
The answer is easy. I want to be a tank philosopher. A warrior poet in the classic sense. And I want to drive Medium tanks. Not chasing stats puts me in a position to instead appreciate the fluid nature of the game; to constantly adapt to new changes in a constant quest for adventure and new insight. All I need for that is a tank that is moderately philosophical in some way.
You cannot view the quest for knowledge in terms of goals. They are secondary, because the quest for knowledge is a goal in and of itself. It allows you to be pleasantly surprised, to have your expectations exceeded, and to be aware of your own performance and achievement for its own sake. Again, this is simple stuff, courtesy of psychologist Barry Schwartz.
Chasing the perfect game. And the next perfect game after that. Being happy you won because you made it happen; not because it means one more Mastery or one more minuscule percentile of positive winrate for your Blitzstars page.
And the 140 proved to be one of the tanks I most enjoy chasing those perfect games in. It insinuated itself into being my daily driver just by being such a great drive. It earned its place.
How you develop your own playstyle will depend on the way you like to play the game, and the tanks you like to drive doing so. You will build your garage to satisfy your tanking urges. This will happen automatically; your garage will become an expression of you as a tank driver.
Expanding your garage with new and interestign tanks will also expand your capabilities, so you can make a conscious, strategic decision to get a specific tank to learn a specific thing. You saw me doing this with the Object 263.
Well. That’s not entirely true. The real reason I got the 263 is I realised it was pretty much the only tier X rank I would really miss if I had to give up my press account. It may have been a more subconscious kind of decision.
And perhaps that is what is at the root of my image problem these days. If I am not necessarily driving the tanks I want to be driving, I am perhaps driving the tanks I need to be driving.
It’s a pleasant thought. I imagined I would spend this year driving the Leopard 1 at tier X, but instead I am driving three communist tanks with round turrets and six degrees of gun depression. And it’s a happy trio; two Mediums and a Heavy that kind of looks like an overgrown Medium. And yea, Mao isn’t Stalin, but it’s still communism; far removed from my usual sleek and sexy German, French and Japanese war machines.
The joy of driving them comes from the fact they aren’t very complicated vehicles. They all have strong hull down turrets and flat, angled front plates, and they can sidescrape a bit. All simple stuff that I know how to use, and then they have regular, no-nonsense AP rounds standard.
What this means is the sense that these vehicles work because I make them work is really strong. They emphasise my input; my playstyle and my performance. You drive them properly; they work properly. It’s immensely satisfying.
And yes. None of these vehicles are especially weak. They don’t have any drawbacks beyond basic stuff like hatches and lower plates. But they also don’t insulate me from situations I can’t handle; it’s still up to me to do the job, they don’t give me anything for free.
What they do is simply allow me to focus on my gameplay.
If that doesn’t solve my image problem, then it does at least make philosophical sense.
See you out there!