[Discussion] Improving Naval!

Naval is often the butt ends of jokes when it comes to the War Thunder player base, so I thought it might be interesting to open a thread up for discussion on what can be done about it to make it less alienated. So to get that started, I might as well express my view on the game mode and what it did right and wrong, as well as how to fix those issues if I can. I welcome the rest of the community to pitch in ideas and list their own issues they wish to be addressed!

Lil’ History of My Time In Naval

Spoiler

Coming in as a casual player of World of Warships, I was quite excited when Gaijin initially released a naval expansion to the game. I was tired of the key aspect of WoWs’ game mechanic which includes: heavy RNG-based volley spread, smoke that acts as an invisibility cloak as soon as you are within its field of influence, and of course: the aircraft carrier that just went from RTS into a player-controlled action around the time being the bane of everybody’s existence (I know, I know, CAS innit). So the idea that I can actually hit what I’m aiming at, actually can see someone going into smoke cover and spot their little imperfections as they improperly conceal themselves, and carriers not ruining every match was rather appealing.
But coming as a Battleship main, realizing that WT would dip its toes in through a fast-paced, panicky knife fight of coastal waters was definitely something I had to adjust to. As the vehicles continually trickle in and the path toward bigger, more recognizable ships came into view, I prepared for that eventuality by playing with the various Gunboats and learning the ways behind the scroll wheel range correction (although trying to aim your dinky metal tub in rough waves was certainly seasick inducing). But eventually, like all attempts to Grind your way up to Better Vehicle, burnout reached me, as did the bottom of my SL reserve from constantly dying to the German flak barges, and I chose to leave Naval well alone for now.
That is, until the announcement of the Coastal-Bluewater split. Suddenly I don’t have to endure the point-blank clash anymore and instead can jump straight into the destroyers! And unlike before, I can actually get momentum going. Sure, the line up aren’t as potent as I’d have liked, with IJN destroyers and early cruisers lacking the AP round to deal any notable damage to anything with even the slightest bit of armor (notably American ships of the same BR), but after obtaining the IJN Akizuki, the sheer amount of HE it can throw with its excellent guns was able to get me into quite a consistent kill count (not win streak, unfortunately since that depends on the team…) which then more or less singlehandedly lead me to IJN Furutaka and Aoba whose much needed AP rounds allow me to make the progression faster (and obtain me the IJN Haruna on the S.U.M.M.E.R Event).
And now here I am, with IJN Suzuya and Tone, grinding for Mogami so I can complete my 6.0 lineup. That is all to say, I think I have a fairly comprehensive overview of the game mode thus far (at least as a Japan main). I’m no expert in the gameplay (I do tend to end up on the upper half of the leaderboard, but that’s not an accurate assessment of skill considering that most of the team are bots) but also not someone new to it that had their expectations bummed out. And I conclude that WT Naval can be fun, especially if you don’t take it too seriously, but it has a number of serious flaws.

Pros

  • Slow-Paced Game: Perhaps a controversial opinion, but I enjoy the slower pace of the bluewater game mode. Tanks and planes (in RB) experience a rather rapid game style after the initial time spent moving into the desired positions. With ships, you have the time to more or less react accordingly even after you have been spotted, so you aren’t subject to sudden death from nowhere (or a suspicious bush in Ground). In the event you aren’t being shelled upon, the slower pace also allows for more planned-out strategic movements that aren’t snap decisions. And if you want a faster pace like the other two game modes, you got coastal.
  • Good SL Payout: Probably in an attempt to attract more players to the game mode, the SL rewards are quite good! It’s nice to see that you have a net positive of some 25k SL for sinking a few Moffetts.
  • Good AA Defense: Another controversial take is the bot’s accuracy with the AA guns (if your ship bothered to have a notable AA suite that is…) This makes the CAS to be a bit of a smaller problem overall if they can’t evade the spray.

Cons

  • Compression Hell: Perhaps the most noticeable and painful part of Naval so far is the suffocating compression that it experiences. Late coastal encounters early destroyers and are smacked out of the water (although there are virtues of it accompanying a lineup to cap the coastal caps to seize tickets, and there is some fun to be had in trying to sneak up on a big ship to depth charge or torpedo them), late destroyers are helpless against early cruisers, and late cruisers are just sitting ducks for (currently all-aggregated at 7.0) battleships.
    • Decompression Limited due to Plane’s BR: Part of the existing BR restrictions is quite possibly how it lines up with aircraft. Due to Gaijin’s insistence that they have no intention of having vehicles BR differ by game modes, decompressing Naval for some breathing room would mean having the eventual high-end/endgame battleships mingling with the Cold War jets it has absolutely no hope of competing against.
  • Vulnerable Spawn/Map Design: An issue experienced by all is the fact that bluewater spawn in most maps places teams in direct line of sight with each other. This makes the opening minutes of the match an utter hailstorm of shells meant for you or someone near you as you navigate out of the chaotic spawn cluster.
  • Incompatibility with Modern Ship Doctrine: There has been talk about the possibility of adding ever more modern ships to the game to fill out the tech tree. Japan, for example, already got itself some JSDF frigates and destroyers. The problem arises, however when you consider that modern warship doctrine is different from their WW2 counterparts. The all-or-nothing armor scheme that makes them vulnerable to gun warfare…which leads then to the eventual possibility of Anti-Ship missiles that would utterly capsize the power dynamic. Yes, the idea of Missile Thunder for Naval is pure nightmare, but if Gaijin would do that anyway, a solution to this could be like what super_cacti proposed in this thread and put modern ships in their own tech tree and matchmaker.
  • Incompatibility with Submarines: In a related note and probably controversial to the hype train around the topic, the current Naval game mode does not support submarine warfare. The nature of submarines and defenses against them leads to a paradoxical situation where they are deadly towards large bluewater ships while smaller ships with depth charges (such as the adequately defined sub-chasers) are effective against them in turn. In real life, this is resolved by a combined fleet, but this won’t work in WT due to the smaller ships simply being easy targets for the larger ships and…well, teamwork not really existing in the first place. The solution to this is, sorry to say, just not add subs in the first place.
  • UI Needs Improvement: The User Interface of the game has always kind of been a hit or miss in-game, with Aircraft information UI still minimalistic to the degree that it feels like a development debug mode. In Naval, the general UI is largely adequate when it comes to damage indicator (although the ship not turning in relative direction of view like on Ground leads to confusion on your general heading in relation to your view unless you keep an eye out on the controlled gun’s direction), but then you have the anti-air radar taking up large amount of screen real-estate on the top left corner, utterly overlapping with the chat on my window (I don’t know if this applies to other people with larger screen resolutions). And when you go into sniper view, some elements would just overlap each other, such as your current aiming range and the targeted vessel’s range calculations. This forces you to point your aim lower or higher than the target and manually scroll your ranging to what is appropriate. While not the biggest issue, it does make it not too terribly intuitive.
  • HE Damage Model: Over the years, the effect of HE shells has been all over the place. When I was undergoing my Japanese destroyer grind, I often find it woefully inadequate when the enemy has armor, namely American destroyers. And with the recent (as of Update La Royale), the crews of ships are repositioned to be within the safety of the armor belt. While this is a good change overall, I suspect it will cause HE to be even more ineffective in taking out foes. Possibly fixed as of Update: Alpha Strike?
  • Light Bombers Need Wingmen: As a counterpoint to my praise of the AA performance in the Pros section, a single torpedo or bombs isn’t going to do anything to a larger warship. Real life gets around this by sending the torpedo and dive bombers out in squadrons after the targetted vessel. Obviously, scaling to that degree in WT will result in CAS Hell: The Naval Edition, so instead I think a good compromise is after a certain BR (say, 5.0 since before that, one torps will do significant damage), (single) torpedo and dive bombers will spawn with a pair of AI wingmen. This will add an adequate dispersal of AA fire so you won’t get singled out, and is capable of causing incredible damage if all three torpedoes/bombs hit the target.
  • Low RP Payout: Despite the high SL gains provided by the game mode, the research points accumulation is another story entirely! At Rank IV+ the RP gain is so slow that spading a vehicle is a chore if it is done without the help of any boosters.
  • The Bots: And of course, Naval’s biggest problem, the bot accounts. A result of the high reward from the SL boost mentioned earlier + premium bonus + negligible repair cost. I don’t know a single thing about how these bots script work so I can’t have much say in it, especially after an update was rolled out where main guns would no longer fire if you switch to secondaries/AA (from what I hear), but I think raising their repair cost would curb the tactic a bit. Yes, raising the repair cost for Premiums is counter to everything that Premium is supposed to provide, but if you can gain such a substantial passive income from getting one kill from Helena, Moffett, Des Moines, etc. and then dying, the trend just won’t stop. On the other hand, those three Premiums (and others) are no joke if someone actually tries to play with them, so players that actually use them will reap the benefit of the Premium Bonus they gained from using those powerful ships.

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Revision of the naval progression. Next Major Update/ Fourth update of the year (October-November 2023).

Not sure what they mean by this, but hopefully they will merge naval trees and make the progression match the technology (there will be exceptions) like it is in tank and airplane trees. This will also allow to bring aircrafts that roughly match the era and also allow to keep adding more and more modern ships and features. Its already a bit sketchy when you are shooting with vulcan gun with radar lock to 3.3 airplanes.

Splitting naval trees was wrong move. People who said they would play naval if they could start with DDs never did. And if they want to keep them split, they will need to make separate gamemode, since top tier coastal is where bluewater reserves are. Sooner or later they will run into Chikugo problem, where they will disable certain guns on ships to make them less lethal because they will face early war destroyers. But at the same time making them less cool.

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Yeah, I’ve been in a similar place. Kind of hoped to see aircraft carriers implemented in WT (it would be a way to finish off one of the competitors), but it seems it’s not happening (yet).

Yeah - there are already plenty of ships with awesome AA firepower, that a single plane simply has no chance to break through it. Obviously, there are also those, who have nothing.
Regardless, I would indeed like to see squadrons, or at least multiple respawns with planes.

I’ll add more later…

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I think this can be expanded further, Not only are spawn points often in line of sight of each other, but are too small. Causing players to crash into each other, preventing effective movement for much of the start of the game. Larger and more spawn points would go a long way to addressing my main issue with NRB specifically.

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Some naval maps has carriers, floating near the map edge… in this case could be a good possibility to choose where to spawn on fixed airfield or moving carrier.

Ah yeah, I did see that bullet point on the Roadmap and found it exceedingly open-ended and vague; part of the reason I wanted to make this post actually! To get community feedback as a whole to get some unified direction of change.
And yes, while I agree that vulcan guns and radar lock at 3.3 is absurd, I think having more modern ships being placed accordingly with the aircraft of its era wouldn’t make it a fair progression since the all-or-nothing armor would utterly be crippled by WW2 battleships, leading the supposed lower BR overmatching the higher BR ones, which then gets subjected to BR changes and then we have modern jets vs battleships again. Unless the modern ships counter with anti-ship missiles which would be utter chaos since they are all quite point-and-click even more than Missile Thunder with the jets (I believe that is what you are referring to with the Chikugo problem? I never got it before I decided to play primarily Bluewater stuff).
This is why I kinda propose the solution provided by super_cacti, where you have the coastal and bluewater re-merger and decompress through the entire BR range from reserve coastal all the way up to top-tier late WW2 battleships; all the while they are paired up to planes BR range up to late WW2/early jets. Modern vehicles would go into their own tech tree and matchmaker (like helicopters) since they are an entirely different meta that is only applicable to themselves, especially if Gaijin chose to implement anti-ship missiles. And in this matchmaker, you have your Cold War jets and onward. Of course, this also primarily hoping that Gaijin would change their mind about the feature where planes are different BR according to their game mode…
As for the general idea of the tree re-merger, I’m kind of mixed on it as I am one of those players that enjoy skipping over the coastal stuff and fully embracing the DD+. But if it brings out the idea listed above, I’m more than happy to accept it to a degree. (Actually, I’m going back to the coastal grind at the moment, and yeah the reserve destroyers showing up in 2.3 is…far from ideal, especially when you are in a slow subchaser.)

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Heh, aircraft carriers in War Thunder would be…interesting to say the least. I kind of hope they would make it like an RTS just to snag those people who got disillusioned when WoWs changed the meta (same kind of hope that I had for the catapult planes when they announced that was usable but…then they made it player-controlled. So now I have no idea how they will ever implement CVs)

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Naval AAA… What a joy…
I’ve been attacking CA Kako, that got separated from other vessels.
Easy target, I thought… Two 13.2mm for anti air… No one near to help her…

And I got sniped by those MGs from 1 km. Catastrophic damage: wing reaped, engine on fire.
Spawning plane in Naval is a waste of time and SL…

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No wonder. 1km is waaaay to close.

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It’s honestly a mixed bag. On one hand, strong AA prevents the game from devolving into CAS chaos of Ground RB (doesn’t mean I won’t get greeted by a PE-8 bomb from time to time though), but on the other hand, you do get singled out by the whole team and the automatic J-out timer after a critical hit (if it works? I seem to recall recently where the countdown happens but my pilot never bailing out) makes the whole attempt to do an attack run rather unrewarding.

1km is close???

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Yes, thats normal distance of engagements of pretty much every AA. From bombers through tanks to naval.

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I’ve also been… dissatisfied with how WoWS handled aircraft carriers. That kind of playstyle would fit better on ships with catapult plane squadrons equipped with bombs.

I heard in various comments, about developers testing the CVs, where it was basically concluded that they were OP. How true that is, I don’t know.

Either way, with catapult-launched planes being player-controlled, it kind of makes the prospect of CVs in warthunder a bit questionable.
Though, on one hand - they are doing their purpose as scout planes, revealing the area and otherwise showing how the things look like from the air. Not to mention the other capabilities of capturing points and otherwise directly assisting to win the battle.
On the other hand, lack of AI component would make Aircraft Carriers out of place at just a puny portion of their possible power - if just a single aircraft can be launched at a time. While allowing teammates to also spawn in with their own naval aviation may alleviate the issue to some extent, it however would also look rather weird to see a Japanese plane on a, say, British Carrier. Unless they’d just have an option to use the allies’ naval aircraft in the carrier’s stock… But then, we have economic questions - who is going to be earning Lions and experience for pilots actions? Who is going to pay for maintenance costs? Or is it going to be some kind of new 50/50 split?

One of the options I see, is to use bots like in dynamic campaigns (or a mission editor with planes, near the test drive option), where the player has a squadron of wingmen, flying with him/her. Though, PvE modes tend to have their own issues when match takes a long time:

However, it is still a possible solution. Copying that, we could get a squadron of vehicles played by a single player. Bombing capability may be questionable, but at least it can give an illusion of squadrons at the very least.
However, bots, at the bare minimum, are at least functional and can perform tasks. If there also going to be an option for player to issue some kind of orders for them, attacking an object, flying to a point, returning to landing, commanding several squadrons becomes a real possibility.

Personally, I think warthunder can indeed attempt to add aircraft carriers into the game. There are ways to do this.
But, is it going to be fun for players as well as the ones playing against them? Well, that’s going to be an important question.
I think they will eventually try to add them, together with submarines.

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Don’t forget the naval servers are horrible and constantly boot people out of the match and crew lock them

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I mostly agree about the points mentioned, here are some ideas/opinions about the problems you mentioned. I splited the issues general groups:

UI

Although I don´t have the problem with radar overlaping my chat but I agree that it tooks up a lot of space on the screen but that is problem with the need to display a lot of info in the easy to understand way.
But as you mentioned the biggest problem is the sniper view, the overlap is awful and the range display is wierdly inconsistent (i feel like it got worse). On plus side Gaijin might be working on updated version of the sniper view. Although I am not sure if the positions of the range numbers will change.

Gameplay

I feel like this is the main part and main source of the issues with NF. I would say that all these issue stem from the poot map design and objectives. And I would say that the super_cacti proposal wouldn´t change anything.
The compression issues are inherently unsolvable because the BR/TT structure. To fix the compression issues we would need “age” based BR/TT like tanks and planes get. But this structure isn´t possible with current maps and objectives. Speaking about maps.

The size which is from my experience a little to small even for CLs which is caused by the objectives which can´t reasonably allow larger maps. IHMO the objectives are simply not well suited for anything larger then DD (and even that is streatching it a bit) and the maps reflect it.

Domination
The distances between objectives and spawns can´t reasonably be streached much more and the circle sizes can´t be expanded indefinetly. The circles force ships into very small and cramped areas making the balance issues even worse and in the end the map design to incomporate these circles results in very campy gameplay.

Conquest
The one big circle and its capture mechanic results into game basically becoming death match where again the balance issue show themselfs.

Encounter
I would say the most promising objectives/gamemode but extremly hamperde by the implementation and map design. Because the map need to acomodate domination the convoys are placed behind the spawns (!) which makes them basically irrelevant for normal gameplay. And balance issues again surface.

The kea to fixing the issue IMO in designing map and objective that properly allow equal participation of all ship types in one battle. In best case this would make the game submarine compatible and at very least partly fix the boting problem. My idea is this:

  1. Have large map around 45x45 km in size

  2. Spawns should be much more segregated then now for example the boats/corvetes would have one spawn, DDs another, CL/CA would heve different one and lastly BC/BBs would have last one. The spawn distance between the teams would slowly increase with apropriate ship type forming V or U shape.

  3. In each battle there would be several different sub-objectives such as: destroying port infrastructure, intercepting convoy of cargo ships/warships, shoothing down planes ect. each of these would be mainly directed at one of the ship type groups.

  4. The result of the complete battle would then be decided as sum of the results of the sub-objectives

Of coarse this isn´t perfect solution and the rewards for the objectives need to be high to reward players who played the objectives despite their team loss since in my proposal the ability to influence majority of objectives. But I believe these with correct map design would make bots quite ineffective compared to current situation.

Damage Model

  • HE Damage Model: Over the years, the effect of HE shells has been all over the place. When I was undergoing my Japanese destroyer grind, I often find it woefully inadequate when the enemy has armor…

I think that HEs could recieve a small buff (or antifrag nerf) but I believe that best kind of fix would be to introduce some kind of comulative hull damage which would allow to deal damage even without killing the crew. This could also helps with torpedo/bomb damage modeling.
In fact they were testing something like this in “Danger zone” update but the mechanic was buged (because the damage modeling differences between torpedoes/bombs and normal shells) so it was scraped.
See the actioned bug report (it was closed and forwarded and can´t be seen)

Bug report


The video:

2.16 WT dev server Hull Break - YouTube

Plane balance

  • Light Bombers Need Wingmen: As a counterpoint to my praise of the AA performance in the Pros section, a single torpedo or bombs isn’t going to do anything to a larger warship. Real life gets around this by sending the torpedo and dive…

I fully agree.

And something like this and the improved scout plane mechanic would make CVs viable. But idealy CVs would be able command planes RTS style.

Thats all

5 Likes

Can’t agree more. HE can’t really do things now especially to US Destroyers with their anti fragmentation armor.
and another problem is bots account yea they just can’t do any. moreover i encounter a Squadron full of bots account and they often play in squad of 4. you will meet them in every match (either enemy or ally)

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Yeah, this sort of wingman mechanic is kind of what I have had in mind when it comes to that torpedo bomber wingman idea I threw in. The code for the mechanics is already in the game, so it can theoretically be done simply enough. As for using that for carriers… it’s possible as well, although I still feel like taking direct control of a squadron of planes personally (as is presently done in WoWs) would make Carriers absolutely overpowered (the trade-off, of course, is that they are large sitting ducks with minimal armaments to defend itself against fellow ships; not to mention the problems faced by gameplay restrictions such as small maps and the lack of teamwork dynamic in the team required to emulate a defensive task force. Overall I still would lean heavily with the RTS mechanic since it allows you to play as a command of multiple squadrons simultaneously without the overpowered nature of direct oversight of plane squadrons.

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Honestly thought that was just me and my shoddy internet but glad to hear I’m not alone!

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Yeah, the poor map design certainly plagues Naval a lot and I’ll discuss the objectives as they occur in your breakdown below! As for super_cacti’s idea, the proposal primarily addresses the potential to futureproof the game mode as well as give the much needed breathing room to transition between Coastal->Destroyer->Cruiser->Battleship

Agreed! I think the maps are fairly adequate for Destroyers since it bridges the gap between the slower, long-range slug fest of the higher tiers and the breakneck knife fight of the PT boats quite well, but for anything larger than that, we arrive at the problem of the map being too small.

Agreed! And also I find the game mode to be uncompetitive when it’s in regards to higher BR warships since the size of the map (even with its current unsuitable size) would usually mean that once something is capped, the chance of it being decapped by the time the match timer ends is pretty much nonexistent, assuming people go for cap at all and not just just turn the round into a deathmatch until the time runs out/kill all enemies. Or it’d just have that one coastal cap contested to turn the tide.

Honestly, I don’t like this game mode at all. Aside from the fact that most of the time it’s just people turning into a brawl with no cover except for allies and hoping the shell rainstorm doesn’t wipe you out, the game doesn’t really make you feel like you are accomplishing anything. One moment you are bleeding ticket and the cap is nearly in the enemy’s favor, another it’s a sliver and you are still bleeding, then next you are actually winning. How you go about this doesn’t feel rewarding at all. Compare this to WoWs’ version of the game mode, you have concentric rings that you can cap as you get closer to the center and you can actually cap those areas, making you feel like what you do is actually making a difference.

This is certainly one of the more fun game mode since it doesn’t restrict you to caps and you have the optional cover you can use to sneak your way over to the convoy, but yeah as you said, destroying the convoys ended up being a secondary objective since they tend to just hang out behind the spawn and wouldn’t be effectively defeated until the other team is thoroughly losing anyway.

Agreed on this. Currently, the tech tree is set in an order of firepower escalation but if it was made in a more parallel process like WoWs, it could work, if objectives are given for each ship class. Otherwise, it’d be back down to bigger firepower smacking the weaker thing out of the water in a single volley. So coastal stuff navigates the shallow waters doing their objectives, while destroyers, cruisers, and battleships do their own thing. While not related to the concept, it did remind me of that combined arms game mode raised by WeBe two years ago (BATTLEGROUP Mode Explained | War Thunder (New Gamemode First Look) - YouTube remember this?)

I vaguely remember something about this. At some point, when an armor was destroyed, all lighter calibers can go through the entire armor belt but I believe Gaijin changed it to where now lighter calibers have a chance to go through a ruined armor it otherwise cannot penetrate? But I don’t know that it also applies to HE, but yeah I hope they bring it back in some fixed form.

Thanks for the feedback and discussion!

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Never happened to me in normal naval battles. Naval EC had problems but not normal battles.