As I browse the multiplayer sessions this sunny May afternoon I begin to decide what game I'd like to join. Time to take stock of the nonsense.
We can disregard the 4v4 Apocalypse Imminent lobbies out of hand for reasons that should be obvious. I join the one conquest game being hosted, a 4v4 on Operation Chromite - but I'm expelled by host, probably because my winrate is 20% higher than his. To be sure, there are other options - a 4v4 on Atoll Inbound, and a 4v4 on Straight to the Point (mixed) but I know better than that. There's a 4v4 Destruction on Gunboat Diplomacy that I know won't be an artillery-snipe-grindfest but something tells me to stay away. Where are all the Conquest games? Even the Destruction lobbies are nearly all being hosted on bad maps, or on good maps with inappropriate numbers of players/starting points/whatever.
Now scroll down. There are twenty-six, that is 26, 10v10 games at the moment. Many are in progress, some are lobbies in various states of fill. At twenty players each they will soak up roughly 500 players over the course of an hour. This has a 'sponge effect' that pulls hundreds of players from smaller matches. While I generally support player choice, I'm not sure this is a desirable outcome. Sure, 10v10's can be fun, but do we really want 10v10's to be mainstream or the 'most common' type of game? This afternoon the ratio was approximately 4:1 between 10v10 lobbies and everything else. This is problematic for several reasons that I'll get into in a moment.
Setting the story of my afternoon quest to find a game aside there are several areas where things are dramatically wrong with how players find and get into matches in Wargame: Red Dragon. Among veteran players the term for this is 'Lobbysim' (Lobby Simulator) where you spend as much time trying to actually find a match as you do actually playing that match. There are three key points that I feel need to be addressed in time for Wargame 4 and I will describe each in detail.
1. There's too many 10v10's - I'm personally not a fan of 10v10's. I find them to be low quality, 'junkfood' matches that can sometimes be fun but overall should be avoided and rarely played. My experience this afternoon has taught me that the opposite is true, with a large majority of active lobbies being 10v10 matches rather than smaller games. This is problematic for several reasons, but balance is the chief concern.
- Balance: the game isn't balanced around 10v10's and yet the majority of players apparently prefer to play them. You may absolutely love 10v10's and play them all the time, but even so you must admit that it's odd that the game isn't balanced around the mode that's apparently being played the most, isn't it? The fact that 10v10's aren't balanced or factored into balancing decisions contributes to the 'low quality' gameplay I described.
Of course, this is because by it's very nature you can't properly balance around 10v10. They're too complex, players leave all the time and add availability to the allies they leave behind. It's a free-for-all crapshoot and while that may be why some people like it, it's not something you can balance a game around.
- Soaks up Players: There's also the 'sponge effect' I alluded to earlier, where 10v10's soak up players that should be going to smaller, high quality games. A full 10v10 lobby holds enough players that could easily be distributed into three or four smaller, better balanced matches but instead everyone goes to the 10v10's. It's a self fulfilling prophecy - I joined a 10v10 myself this afternoon because I couldn't find a better match. Twenty-six 10v10 lobbies will contain somewhere around 500 players - a large pool that should be going to smaller lobbies to enjoy better balanced, less crazy matches.
- Teaches Bad Habits: Lastly, I'd also say that 10v10's do not teach good gameplay. It's almost an automatic response in this community to tell new players 'go join 10v10's they're a good, low pressure way to get into the game'. And they're right, but 10v10's are apparently where those new players are staying. Games where you rarely see good play or have an opportunity to play against another person 1v1 - so there the new players stay in their safe environments, never learning much or venturing out into the really challenging games. How can you be taught to properly safeguard your units when you get a boost of availability whenever someone leaves? How can you learn to use planes or conduct an offensive when five players-worth of airforce comes after you whenever you make a move?
2. People are Hosting Terrible Lobbies - This point is nearly as strong as the first one. That is, most people just apparently don't know how to host a lobby properly. They'll try to do a 4v4 on a super constricted map like Apocalypse Imminent, or Wonson Harbor. Lately I've been seeing people host Conquest games with 2,000 victory points (wtf?). Other people host games with either far too many or far too few starting points for the amount of players on the field. Poor lobby settings lead to poor quality games and this too drives people back into 10v10's where at least they can mess around in a sandbox military game.
3. 'View Profile' is toxic - I know there are a lot of people who will see this point and say 'Thank goodness for View Profile, it prevents people like you from pubstomping me!' Well, no, what it actually does is prevent people like you and me from ever finding a match in reasonable time. The 'View Profile' button is toxic. I chose that word, toxic carefully because I mean it and I want the community to internalize it.
- It Hurts New Players: Nobody wants to play with newbies. Especially when you know the other team is full of people who know what they're doing. Wargame is such a complex games that newbies are even more useless than in most multiplayer games. Ergo you kick new players from your lobby. You leave lobbies where a new player shows up on your team. The 'View Profile' button is a scarlet letter on every new player's chest that reads 'avoid me at all costs'. Is it any wonder why new players flock to 10v10's and never leave? At least no one is banning them there. Example: https://www.reddit.com/r/wargame/commen ... community/ Someone getting banned from lobbies and ridiculed because he has a 14% win ratio.
- It Hurts Veteran Players: Point of fact, I consider myself a great Wargame player. I've invested more hours than I care to count in the franchise, and I can probably also claim to have spent more time than anyone else trying to teach new players the game through providing tutorials, offering assistance in threads, and even running the new defunct Wargame Learning Program. And if you played against me, chances are you'd learn a lot. If we played a match and you lost to me, I'd be happy to answer any questions you had for me and give advice. But instead, you see my 80% win ratio and my 1,000+ games played and kick me. Nope.exe! Now I'm using myself as an example, but I'm representative of a larger problem - mediocre players aren't learning from better players, they're just kicking them from their lobbies.
The result is that after an hour of being chased from other people's games I'm tired, I'm annoyed, and finally I just host my own lobby. I don't care about balancing teams anymore, or being nice, I just want to get a flipping game before I have to go to bed and get up for work tomorrow morning so I'll take anyone and I'll probably stomp them. And then after a couple nights I get bored and leave Wargame alone for a couple of months. I'm not the only one, it gets multiplied across hundreds of good players who rarely if ever play the game anymore and Wargame is poorer for it. Rather than being lauded or respected for their success at the game, good players are frequently treated as 'the enemy' and 'interlopers' by less experienced players. And you wonder why we all hang out in our own lobbies with a team of equally skilled players?
- Win Ratios are Useless Anyways: When people join games they frantically click view profile buttons, taking a snap-averaging of the win ratios on both teams. If the numbers in your favor, you stay, and if not you switch teams or leave. No one has said a word, or spawned a unit, but you've convinced yourself that you know exactly how the game will go and how skilled each player is.
Yet I've met plenty of people with 80% win ratios who are total scrubs. Pubstompers who never learn to be truly good at the game, boogeymen that you should relish tearing apart rather than hiding from. It cuts both ways - I've met fellows with 30% win ratios worthy of 60% but because they don't play with friends they dutifully join pubstomps and get bashed into the ground, yet because of it have managed to obtain a workable Wargame skill level.
TL;DR Time: Finding a match in Wargame is a frustrating experience for three reasons: There are too many 10v10 lobbies, people choose to host games with shitty settings, and the 'view profile' button is a problem. Scroll up and read my well organized points on each one for an overview. Please do not quote the entirety of this post when you reply to me. It's too long.
So what's the solution? I don't know. I don't pretend to be such an authority that I can dictate the community what we should do about all of this. I'm just here to bring people's attention to the sorry state of finding matches to play in Wargame: Red Dragon while explaining why it is. Only by raising awareness of this issue, and helping people understand the problems can we then have a discussion.
Do we need to remove the view profile button? Remove 10v10's? Create a Matchmaker and auto-matchfinder system for Wargame 4? I have my opinions obviously but I'm more interested in discussing the root causes. Please add your own thoughts, tell me where I'm right and where you think I'm wrong, and hopefully we can have a productive discussion about it.