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I love this game at its best and am deeply frustrated with it at its worst: hopefully a guide for both player and developer attitudes


Hello everyone,

 

I've been thinking about the recent review bombing fiasco and general outrage, and I have realized I would like to write an open letter to the game's community, and the game's developer/publisher Gaijin Entertainment.

 

I hope for this to be a guide for the attitudes of both us as the playerbase and for Gaijin as the developers. I am writing this in hopes to carefully unpack this situation to begin to allow everyone to calm down and remain focused on our problems between ourselves as well as between us and the developers. The game won't get better until everyone does. I have criticisms for the vitriolic behavior of some segments of the community and as well as criticisms for Gaijin as a company developing a game and as public entity. Beyond my criticisms, there are also words of appreciation for both the community and for Gaijin. I appreciate both the community and the developers, but I acknowledge their problems. I do not hate Gaijin, and I do not look down upon this community. However, this is by no means to be considered bootlicking or shilling for Gaijin, and this is definitely not a wholesale encouragement of any hateful behavior to come from this community.

 

My relationship with this game:

I have been playing this game for 8 years. I started playing when I was 14 years old and have continued to age 22 (I'd like to continue for many more years). This game has been a part of my life for over an entire third of my time on this infinitesimal yet seemingly vast rock, which is the longest I have engaged with any IP of any entertainment format in general, second only to The Legend of Zelda series which I have played since I was about 6 or 7 years old. This game initially inspired me to pursue a career in aeronautical/aerospace engineering. In addition to the 3D modeling classes I took during the second half of high school, after a gap year working a job and then an internship, all while working on the XP-67 model in hopes to get it into the game (hopefully I can finish it this summer), and a year of university, I eventually turned to pursue an education that would set me up for a career in a creative field involving 3D modeling, animation, VFX, 3D rendering, and software development (as well as independent musical pursuits) for video games, film, and animation.

 

To me, it's no wonder that I would be inspired to create art and music when looking at a game series like The Legend of Zelda, a game like War Thunder, a game like Minecraft, an IP like Star Wars, music in general (long list in the spoiler block below if you're curious lmao), or even a video series like The Filthy Frank Show (as vile as it was, there was something meaningful under the leagues of Filth). For better or for worse (probably both but mostly better), I wouldn't be who I am now without War Thunder, and without this game and the people who play it, I wouldn't have had my eyes opened to some facets of the world that I did, and its tangential and direct connections to so many subjects both as a piece of media in the form of a game, art, and social platform; and as an exhibit for history, science, technology, and engineering.

Spoiler

The discographies of musical artists/bands/acts that really inspire me include but are not limited to: Robert Johnson, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, The Beatles, James Brown, Traffic, Jimi Hendrix, Taste/Rory Gallagher, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Taeko Onuki, Tatsuro Yamashita, Michael Jackson, Koji Kondo, Ween, Tool, Foo Fighters, Esperanza Spalding, Kanye West (his art, not his current being), C418, Caravan Palace, Vulfpeck, Kendrick Lamar, Jacob Collier, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Pink Guy/Joji, 100 gecs, etc.

 

If you can't tell, I love music, and I quite like making lists no matter how irrelevant...

 

This ride has been fun, it has been frustrating, it has been exciting, it has been rough, it has been intriguing, it has been boring, it has been bland, it has been engaging. This mix of feelings is only natural in life, but this is supposed to be a game; a form of entertainment; a momentary, healthy escape; a source of joy or at least a carefully measured dose of pleasure. Lately, it has become clearer to the players that the issues that impact the experience for the playerbase and have progressively become worse. This is what I want to address in this post.

 

The player perspective as I understand it:

People are angry. This much is apparent. However, we would not be so deeply upset if we did not care. I am personally quite frustrated because, while I love this game, it is not in a state that benefits the player experience and it really does not need to be to our detriment either. The worst part (to frame this for Gaijin) is in the irony that it might even be in a state that serves no benefit to the developer/publisher's income despite the efforts to increase revenue from the very monetization streams and methods in the game that hurt the player experience.

 

The state of the game's economy feels like a punishment to those who do not pay for premium content (accounts, talismans, vehicles, etc.). Even as a player with a premium account and a plethora of talismans and premium vehicles, I feel like the game's progression system is just not satisfying anymore. I only feel comfortable because I have the overwhelming majority of the vehicles that I want to play after 8 years of play (anecdote in spoiler block below). The only thing I'm waiting for is some post 2004 modification of the F-15C and any F-15 models that would precede it.

Spoiler

The only thing I am missing and would want is the HSTV-L which I started researching from the day it was added. I gave up because I play tanks much more casually and sporadically than I do with aircraft and the M3A3 Bradley was added when I was a third of the way through research of the HSTV-L. I'm finally about 15k to 35k RP away from the tank, but I still have to go back to research the M3A3. I simply stopped caring about it. It doesn't feel bad that it's so far away. It feels bad when I think about the fact that I don't care anymore. There is a level of care that is proportionate to and appropriate for one's priorities, but this feels like I still care less then I'd like to even on an appropriate scale. Modern life has its multitude of complications. I don't want my entertainment to add to that whether it is a matter of time or emotion.

 

Until the F-15's are added, I don't have anything to do with my SL other than, if I'm unlucky, blast 60k to 200k in a top tier sim match with my overly expensive Ki-83 (20.5k SL per repair) just for the sake of the challenge. I have a terrible sim stat card (killed a lot of F-14's, MiG-29's, J37's, etc. though so I'm on that quality over quantity grind :cool:) and a stagnant wallet. It's fun often enough to come back to but it's still frustrating to think about.

 

Just a brief word and a joke about an infamous adage in this community:

Quote

The only feeling you can fully trust is pain.

Pain can most certainly be trusted. In this situation, the players have deferred their judgement to their trust in pain. Unfortunately, for better or for worse, the playerbase has felt that it is out of options, leaving this as the last resort to get Gaijin to listen. They are, it seems, banking on Gaijin's trust in pain as well. Hopefully this is the last time the community feels this need to rely on such drastic measures.

 

No matter what the outcome, I think we can all relate over the fact that this situation has been uncomfortable for both the players and the developers.

 

The actions of the players, the justifications, counterarguments, and refute:

As has been seen on Steam, Google, Metacritic, the War Thunder store, and likely elsewhere, there have been negative reviews plastered all over the place. Everywhere I turn when searching for things pertaining to the game, or going on related Discord servers, etc., I find some mention of the relentless review bombing of this game. This is not a purely senseless act of anger or hatred. Such feelings may be involved, and understandably so, regardless of whether or not it is right to involve such feelings in particular ways.

 

Justifications: (just some of my thoughts; I have tried to remove this as far as possible from any emotional interpretation)

Review platforms exist to allow those who have used, or purchased and then consumed, used, or dealt with a product, service, or business respectively to inform the decisions of those who are not familiar with such a product or service. This allows those who are unfamiliar with such products, services, or businesses to make an informed decision to use, purchase, or invest. As long as the review provides a straightforward factual or close to objective explanation of the quality of what you get for your use, purchase, or investment, it is a solid review. If the review explains the emotional impact without overzealously emotionally coloring the core explanation, this is even more valuable. These reviews can be removed or edited by the one who posted them in all likelihood. If the product gets worse or improves, the rating and statement in the review can reflect that.

 

Counterargument: (my representation of Gaijin's point; staff, feel free to correct this; until the staff agree with my representation of their point in my own words, players should take this with a grain of salt)

From briefly observing developer, staff, and moderator statements, it seems that there are concerns that the collective submitting reviews is unnecessarily gouging the reputation of the game even after there has been an article that states intent to fix the economy further after the rollback of the economy changes. This is expected to continue and the reviews are expected to never be changed, reverted, updated, deleted, etc. out of malice. The reputation of the game will be impacted to the point that the developers will neither have the good will or interest of current or prospective players, thus edging closer to eventually shutting the game down. If the players are to express themselves so vitriolically, there is no need to respect that attitude. Assuming that reciprocity is a virtue or value that the staff hold, they will hold the players' opinion in the same regard that the players held the developers' humanity.

 

By my own extrapolation in support of the staff's counterargument (accurate or not, I cannot be certain), the general game staff could therefore become desensitized, jaded, despondent, or even outright malicious themselves at worst. I'm certain they do not want to become those people, and if they already are, they don't want to progress any bit more in that direction. One's outlook often somewhat correlates with the conditions in which they exist. This is not always the case, but it is often easiest to feel joy and be kind when things go well, but just as easy to be unhappy and unkind regardless of whether or not things are going well or poorly. The playerbase offers the staff the best chance of not lashing back at the playerbase by being kind (not just nice for vanity or pleasantries, but meaningfully kind), calm, and thoughtful.

 

Refute: (my concerns and observations addressing missed details or incomplete pictures in Gaijin's point)

The playerbase made a collective move to ensure that they would be heard. This was a strongly stated action to communicate a necessary, assertive stance. There is no justification or excuse for being hateful, however. There is only a possible reason for hate. I will acknowledge that there can be a reason for hateful statements, but I will not provide a justification for them. To be hateful is unproductive, hurtful, and wrong. I will not provide an excuse for them. To be hateful should not yield a sound sense of rationality when reflecting on oneself from any given perspective. It is a fault with no room to be excused especially for any teen or adult. However, it is necessary to unpack the subtext of the perceived and possibly recognized real need to make such a strong statement across as many platforms as conceivably possible.

 

The players feel that they have (and potentially in reality, truly) have been routinely ignored, shut down, or discounted when providing feedback along certain axes and when discussing particular facets/elements of the game. When the rest of the community sees that the smaller segment of the playerbase on the forums often try to communicate as directly as possible about issues while representing the rest of those who are not active participants, the outside observers expect the calm and respectful users on the forums to be treated with some respect beyond the staff's pleasantries by being nice. Unfortunately, it feels like that is often the best we get, and at worst, the topic is approached by forum staff like a taboo. This does not go for every topic, but often enough, the most open and honest conversations seem to typically be confined to more surface level topics or regarding band-aid fixes.

 

To post a review is to simply state your observations and explain the emotional impact. When being kind (as opposed to being nice, and absolutely not sugarcoating) and thoughtful in either a positive or negative review, a reviewer provides great value to the developers. When being hateful in a negative review, a reviewer still provides value, but at the cost of emotional energy necessary to listen to and understand the content of the review under the assumption that anything was communicated beyond a rating valuation and some childish remark. To post a review on a digital platform makes it rather easy to append, trim, adjust, or delete. I have no faith that the people who have honestly been hurt beyond finding trust in Gaijin again will ever revert or remove their reviews, but there are good and honest people in the community who I trust to hold true to this. There are levelheaded individuals and collectives that left negative reviews with the intent to update their reviews as changes roll around.

 

It is important to note that maintaining the status of their reviews until the fixes come is most appropriate. The reviews should reflect the current state of the game. If the game is in a good state, it should be accurately reflected in reviews. If the game is in a bad state, it should be accurately reflected in reviews. I don't think it makes sense to receive a paycheck before I work my hours. With that in mind, I don't think a review update from negative to positive has been earned without a game update from negative to positive. On the other side of this same coin, I firmly remind players to be sure to update your review to reflect positive changes. If you honestly have a lasting bad taste in your mouth then so be it, but for anyone who is satisfied with any coming changes once they come, be sure to honestly reflect your perception of the game in the review.

 

Additionally, if you have left a wordless review, if possible, I suggest you edit the review and provide an honest, decent, thoughtful criticism that highlights a problem without attacking the developers or publisher. If you haven't left a review, I think you should. I don't care if it is positive or negative as long as it is honest without being destructive.

 

A note regarding something we all must consider:

Reality is invisible. It is not possible to see reality as it is. A tree is a tree, yes, but only because we define a set of reliably perceived characteristics to equate to that label. In a way, reality is the totality of the world around us and the universe around it, yet reality is absolutely nothing. You may wonder what I am referring to by this "nothing." We can measure, we can perceive, we can interact, and we can think about the world around us but we are only processing the inputs we receive, not the data or matter that comprises the very world itself. Reality is the very data, energy, or matter of the universe that we perceive indirectly through the means provided by our human organs. It is meaningless until you perceive what it passes to your senses. Reality is nothing that we can directly touch or understand.

 

There are sensibilities that we as humans have developed over the course of a few hundred thousand years to more reliably engage with the world around us. However, we will always miss a fraction of the equation. In the process of modeling and defining the characteristics of gravity and other forces on objects through seemingly thin and compliant air, we more fully realized the existence of drag: a strange nonlinearity to add to our models and equations. As we developed methods to fly through this apparently not so thin and not so compliant air, we eventually found another nonlinearity in the form of wave drag as one approached the speed of sound. On top of all the hidden nonlinearities of any extreme, there is noise all around us. We will never measure inputs that produce the clean lines that we predict would appear on any data medium.

 

There are many factors we have yet to account for in our lives, in technology, in society, in nature, in everything, and in this small case, in discussion regarding this game. Not only are there so many mathematical possibilities in the very truth of what is possible in the game, but there are so many possibilities in how we act in and play the game, how we perceive the game, and how we discuss the game. This is to say we can make predictions about how we approach improving the game, but we cannot take ourselves and our ideas for granted. Decisions should be informed, but experimentation with small and large scope observation is the only way to inform our decisions. The developers would ideally be willing to take more of the jumps necessary to experiment and determine what would help the game. The players would ideally be willing to consider other players' ideas to refine and understand something they previously discredited and did not understand. By being open, honest, thoughtful, and humble in our interactions with each other, we can refine our predictions of outcomes and understandings of the game's concepts more effectively. These ideas would be much more trustworthy, well substantiated, and better refined to improve how presentable they are to the developers. A stronger sense of mutual respect and human decency between players as well as between players and developers is necessary to prove to each other that we can trust one another.

 

Beyond addressing general relationships with one another and with the game, this is in part to address my contentions with the algorithmically directed system of balancing the economy and the match maker. An algorithm is often as biased as the creator. I understand that the developers measure a vast array of data points along many axes for many elements of this game, but we, as players for whom the game is made and improved, do not have the full picture that they look at. It is possible to criticize the projection that we can imagine of such an algorithm, but we don't know to the fullest extent what that system entails. This means a very small pool of people are able to interpret the data and make informed decisions based upon potentially flawed data, and that same pool is the only group that could ever hope to improve that system. If the playerbase was allowed to access the data and understand the algorithm in more full detail, this would incentivize the developers to ensure that there are no vehicles or methods that can be disproportionately and disruptively exploited, and it would mean more people with an outside perspective could provide feedback. Different perspectives can see things that others cannot. This concept conversely applies to the blind spots one has that another does not. Previously, the developers have taken for granted the objectivity of their algorithm. As broad and continuous as our senses are, a mathematical formula is narrow or discreet. We cannot rely on strict numbers if we do not know where they come from or how they interact. The developers have the numbers to see what's happening, but we as players have the lived in experiences to suggest why those things happen.

 

My hopes for this situation:

I hope that the entire collective involved with this game , whether that is the free to play players, the casually spending players, the cash whales, the fans, the former players waiting to come back with or without hope, the haters, the corporate segment of Gaijin, the game developers, the other War Thunder staff, and the forum and game moderators, will all strive for a more open and honest discourse leading with kindness, thoughtfulness, humility, and accountability.  To be nice just to serve vanity, to be rude just to make a point, or to be mean just to force someone's hand will help none of us. It will not suffice to make the planned fix to the economy and then call it finished. There are massive wounds that must heal for all of us as human beings who are just trying to play a fun game or trying to make a living by providing and improving a fun game to and for others. The way I see it, this can only happen if we all can agree and commit to a constructive and collaborative process, attitude, and ethos. We as players want a fun game, and by extension, we want to see Gaijin Entertainment and War Thunder succeed. To the players I've met along the way for this incredible journey with its ups and downs, and to the developers who created this space that has brought so much joy over the years, I would like to say thank you. We all just need to remember to work together through thick and thin to create a better future for the game. We have no control over the past or present. We only have control over what we do in the present to make a better future.

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