Why are Tiers Sometimes So Goofy in World of Warships?

10 September 2015
by Jon ParshallJon Parshall

[As some of you may recall, I'm testing World of Warships at work, because we're doing the Mac port of this forthcoming game for Wargaming, Inc. That's right, playing games actually is "testing." As it happens, too, I'm also a naval historian who's written a book on the Battle of Midway, an adjunct lecturer for the U.S. Naval War College, and and blah blah blah. So, not surprisingly, I've been enjoying my testing. Here are some further ruminations on the game...]

I can still recall the first time I encountered a Cleveland-class cruiser in World of Warships. The memory of it was that searing. I was sailing around in my Tier 4 Phoenix, guarding a channel between some islands. My radar suddenly showed a possible enemy cruiser. But when I looked through my binoculars I didn't see anything. All of a sudden, waaaaay out there in the murk, I watched this tiny fountain of pretty gold dots begin spraying vertically upward from a single point on the horizon. It was like watching a kid's sparkler. The tight little stream of luminous, golden shells shot up, tilted over, and then began expanding into a gleaming river of destruction raining down all around my pathetic scow. So beautiful. So deadly. I simply turned around and ran away. There was nothing else I could do. It did no good, however. Whoever and whatever was out there demolished me in short order. When the inevitable message of my demise came up, I tabbed over to see what had wrecked me. "Oh, a Cleveland-class," I muttered. "I've never seen one of those before." This was followed quickly by the realization: "I need that ship..."

My joke for several weeks afterwards was that I identified as a Cleveland-class cruiser, but was trapped in an Phoenix-class body. But I eventually managed to buy my Cleveland, and then immediately dumped millions into modules to increase her rate of fire, firing range, and whatnot. I don't intend to really try grinding much further up any of the tech trees—it just gets to be too much of a pain. A Tier 6 cruiser is good enough for me. So I'm sticking with this ship for a while. But I'm going to trick her out madly with every module I can buy.

My Cleveland-class cruiser
My tricked-out Cleveland-class bruiser-cruiser...

Having now rained a fair amount of destruction down on other hapless T4 and T5 victims (and T6
Aobas for that matter), I can report that the Cleveland is, indeed, OP as hell against lower tiers. This is commonly acknowledged by other players as well. She pumps out ungodly numbers of shells. It's quite typical to walk away from a game with 80-100 hits on the enemy--you sure don't get that with a lower-tier cruiser. I've also noticed that there's a very strong correlation in these mid-level games, that the team with the most Clevelands, no matter what, pretty much always wins. Especially if they stick together in packs of two or three. Nobody can stand up against that much gunfire, not even a mid-tier battleship.

But of course, there are higher-tier cruisers out there, too. And one of them, oddly, is the
Atlanta-class. The Atlanta is a Premium vessel, meaning you have to buy her with real money. She's a Tier 7. But I confess, as a naval historian, that I'm having a really difficult time "suspending my disbelief" long enough to let myself think that an Atlanta was in any way superior to a Cleveland.

Atlanta-class cruiser
The Premium T7 Atlanta-class cruiser that should be in no way actually superior to my T6 Cleveland...

Don't get me wrong: the
Atlantas were great little ships. But they were designed as destroyer flotilla leaders. They only clocked in at about 7,000 tons loaded, and were quite lightly armored. Their main battery was composed of sixteen 5"/38 guns. Now, the 5"/38 was unquestionably the best 5" dual-purpose naval rifle of the era. But it was a medium-ranged weapon, with no real armor penetration to speak of. So, yes, the Atlantas could pump out a lot of 5" fire. And they were absolutely awesome as anti-aircraft screening vessels. But they weren't really built to take on a full-sized cruiser, and certainly not an enemy heavy cruiser like, say, a Myoko.

Cleveland-class ships, on the other hand, were built to do exactly that. They were arguably the best light cruisers any navy put in the water during all of World War 2. They were big (14,000 tons), durable, and reasonably well-protected. They carried nearly as many 5"/38 guns (twelve) in their secondary armament as the Atlanta carried altogether. And then, of course, there was the Cleveland's main battery of twelve rapid-firing 6" guns, which could pump out about 120 6" rounds a minute. They fired a shell weighing more than twice as much as the 5"/38, with better armor penetration, and 9,000 yards better range (about 50% more).

Simply put, no ship captain in his/her right mind would pit an
Atlanta against a Cleveland in a straight-up fight. It would be like volunteering to jump into a buzzsaw. The Cleveland had double the weight of broadside, double the displacement, and better armor protection to boot. It's not a contest. At best, Atlanta should be a Premium T6. Or even a T5. But T7? Really? "Bollocks," say I.

Imagine, then, my feelings when an
Atlanta puts a real hurting on me at medium-long range in World of Warships. My Cleveland, with double the displacement, and better armor, somehow has only 18% more Hit Points than the Atlanta. And, gee, my secondary armament, utilizing exactly the same gun as the Atlanta's, only has a modeled firing range of 4km, compared to the Atlanta's 11km. Hmmmm.

I get it, I get it. It's a game. And as such, there has to be play balance to make the game fun. Honestly, I get it. But this is also a game that takes great pains to portray itself as having done its research, and to be "realistically" modeled after actual WWII naval warfare. There is nothing even remotely realistic about my
Cleveland's secondary armament having only a third the range of an identical gun on another ship just because my 5"/38 is a "secondary" weapon, and the other guy's 5"/38 is his "primary" weapon. It's like arguing that "Evian" is somehow chemically and qualitatively differentiated from "tap." After all, the reason heavier ships carried secondary medium-caliber armaments was precisely to enable them to defeat smaller combatants through volume of firepower at medium and short ranges. But my secondaries do me essentially no good against a target that is, in essence, a destroyer on steroids.


Next time, we'll talk about the damage modeling…

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About Jon Parshall

Jon has been working in the computer software industry for over 20 years. He joined CodeWeavers in 2002 as COO. Contact Jon at jparshall@codeweavers.com and learn more about his professional accomplishments on LinkedIn.

About CodeWeavers
Founded in 1996 as a general software consultancy, CodeWeavers focuses on the development of Wine – the core technology found in all of its CrossOver products. The company's goal is to bring expanded market opportunities for Windows software developers by making it easier, faster and more painless to port Windows software to Mac and Linux. CodeWeavers is recognized as a leader in open-source Windows porting technology, and maintains development offices in Minnesota, the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world. The company is privately held.

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