- Big Problem that could prevent the idea from being implemented altogether
- Decent Problem that would present some issues in game, but can be countered/fixed before the mechanic is added in-game
- Manageable problem that only requires slight tweaking or only presents a minor inconvenience in-game
- Not a Problem
- Big Problem
- Not a Problem
- Big Problem
- Decent Problem
- Not a Problem
Sorry if you find this whole post too wordy. I have too much experience writing out long essays and reports.
One of the primary issues plaguing Naval Battles in War Thunder is the balance between ships and ship classes. Due to the gamemodes and general playstyle of Ground Battles being directly ported to Naval Battles, the gameplay loop ends up being incredibly frustrating for the way ships are designed in War Thunder.
In War Thunder’s case, the ship has semi-realistic ships and mechanics (like damage models, aiming, shell types, etc), but combines them with an arcade-style setting (moving towards arbitrary capture zones on a small map). This presents an issue because ships that generally adhere to their realistic counterparts are not put into realistic scenarios they would have found themselves in real life, which leads to some ships being incredibly underpowered in certain situations. The competitor naval warfare game deals with this issue by making the game mechanics arcade as well, allowing them to make arbitrary mechanics (like detection, hit points, accuracy) to make gameplay more enjoyable.
Since realism is a core part of War Thunder, the realistic game mechanics are set in stone. Therefore, I have been thinking of ways to change the fundamental settings of Naval Battles in order to create a more proper experience.
The setup of War Thunder Naval Battles makes it so that the victor of an engagement is whoever has the strongest ship. Whoever has the better armor and stronger firepower will straight up win most of the time. While power differences between vehicles is nothing new to War Thunder, this manifests itself much more in Naval Battles. Ships are much slower and difficult to hide. There is no way to really “outplay” a stronger opponent. An aircraft may use a brief mistake of their enemy to get a shot in, a light tank can disable and flank around a heavy tank, etc. The same cannot be done as easily in Naval. Destroyers do not have many options to deal with a Battleship; they will not last long enough to get into a favorable torpedo range and even then, torpedoes are slow and unreliable weapons.
Therefore, anyone stuck playing with a lower weight ship will be at a serious disadvantage and of limited influence throughout the entire battle, and compared to other modes this cannot be as easily compensated by player skill. The heavily compressed battle ratings of Naval also make these scenarios very common. No one wants to be the “grunts” of a battle, everyone would want to have fair and equal influence so that their skill determines their performance.
This issue also leads to a lack of diversity in the gamemode. In Ground Battles, teams are consisted of multiple types of tanks like light/medium/heavies, SPGs, SPAA, etc. In Naval Battles, however, teams are primarily consisted of just the heaviest ships available in the matchmaking spread and not much else. Battles end up being a slugfest of only battleships and heavy Cruisers, rarely anything lighter being thrown into the mix.
In this post, I would like to present one of the ideas I thought of to improve Naval Battles. This is not the only idea I have and it may be more compatible alongside many other fundamental changes, but nevertheless I believe this idea could be experimented early on, especially in Naval Enduring Confrontation (which is a big improvement from regular Naval Battles in terms of setting).
Proposal: The Flotilla/Fleet System
The basic summary of the mechanic I propose is to allow players to control a group of small ships whenever larger ships are present in the match (determined by the BR spread of the match).
For example, if a match contains larger ships like battleships, a player may either spawn in a group of 3-4 destroyers all under their command, or even combine multiple types of small ships from their lineup and spawn them all at once.
In Enduring Confrontation mode, the first spawns in the match may be singular ships, but as the match progresses and players begin spawning more powerful ships, any subsequent spawns with lighter ships will be multiplied to allow players to keep up.
One ship at a time may be directly controlled by a player, just as players regularly control ships now. The rest of the ships are controlled by AI. The player may switch between any of the ships in the fleet to assume direct control.
AI ships will attempt stay in a formation set by the player, the speed of the fleet being dictated by the slowest member. For example, a player may arrange their ships in a diamond formation, or in a single file line. AI ships can be set to fire at will, hold fire, or fire at targets selected by the player.
More advanced controls could be dictating a type of shell for each ship to use, when and where to launch a torpedo spread, repair priorities, etc. To prevent this from overwhelming a new player, there could be a default setting and the aforementioned commands are only available via toggling.
The justification for this idea is that historically, the primary advantage of lighter ships is that they are available in much greater numbers than capital ships. For example, despite lacking any capital ships, the American Fleet at the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal was able to inflict heavy damage on the Japanese fleet that included two battleships by using a mix of multiple destroyers and cruisers.
Adding a system to allow this parity to be achieved in War Thunder could improve one’s personal influence and gives an actual reason to use small ships in Naval Battles. For example, a destroyer fleet, capable of launching significantly more torpedoes in the water at once or combining the anti-air power of multiple ships, is closer to matching a singular battleship in influence. It will also further diversify Naval Battles and allow players to fight multiple types of ships instead of a homogenous mixture of heavy ships.
This idea draws influence from similar game mechanics already in-game, and from another game called Battlestations: Pacific. The examples are below.
The two above images show a squad system already existing in War Thunder, found in Aircraft Single Missions. One torpedo bomber is directly controlled by the player, and the other three are marked with a green squad triangle. They follow the player-controlled bomber and attack the same targets. The second image shows the list of aircraft in the squadron. The player can switch between any of bombers in the squad by clicking on the different names. The proposed idea for Naval could borrow the mechanics of this already-existing system to make it easier.
The image above is the formation screen from the game Battlestations: Pacific, and is what I believe War Thunder can borrow some ideas from. The screen is centered on the flagship, and the other ships in the fleet are shown in their current position relative to the flagship. One ship is commanded to move ahead, their ordered position being colored yellow. The ship, being connected with an orange arrow, is currently heading to the new ordered formation.
This section will consider some potential downsides of the proposal, and how it may be rectified/adjusted.
1. AI farming/botting
Especially after most of the Naval bots have been banned, it seems questionable to add a system where a player could be doing nothing but still gaining RP and SL through the actions of AI systems under their control. The rebuttals and solutions I have considered are:
- War Thunder Naval already officially does this to some extent with secondary and AA gunners being controlled by the AI. The AA in particular already scores some easy kills, and some ships with strong secondaries (like late American cruisers) can deal solid damage on their own without player input.
- In the scenarios that this system finds itself in, leaving the work entirely to the AI may not be effective. This system is proposed to only take place if much more powerful ships are present, and not if the player is downtiered. Therefore, an uncoordinated destroyer fleet without any player input would not be a big threat to the larger ships, they would need control and thinking in order to do so.
- The fleet system could potentially use a mechanic where the player from the flagship would need to provide accurate ranging data and commands to the rest of their ships manually, which would improve the accuracy of the AI’s fire. This would help encourage human involvement, while the lower end of the AI accuracy spectrum without any coordination would be poor enough to deter letting the AI do all the work. Some of the mechanics I listed before (like letting ships automatically fire at will) could also be removed to force players to take direct command of their fleet.
2. Free Kills
A group of small ships may artificially increase the rewards of the enemy as one player is now presenting more targets to shoot at and kill.
- My idea for a solution is pretty simple: adjust the rewards of killing ships so that one must destroy the entire fleet of small ships to equal the reward of killing a singular capital ship. Sinking only a single destroyer out of many would only yield a partial reward, therefore if the rest of the ships manage to escape and survive, the full reward is not given out. It may be a bit wonky, but perhaps partial rewards could also be introduced for stat recording (for example, the amount of small ships that must be sunk to count as a kill in post-match records would have to match the amount of ships in a fleet in the match you are playing).
3. Torpedo Soup
Some ships, like the Shimakaze, may be excessively powerful if spawned in a fleet. A group of 4-5 of these could saturate an entire area of torpedoes and score multiple kills easily.
- Adjust the amount of ships available to use in a fleet based on certain statistics, like amount of torpedoes. For example, there is a limit of 30 torpedoes per fleet in a match. This limit may be met by either spawning two Shimakazes, or three Sumners, ensuring that the amount of torpedo soup dished out by a single player is capped at a reasonable amount.
- Optimizing Naval Battles to make torpedo spam harder to pull off. Maps should include some sort of cover at spawns so one cannot just dump torpedoes into the general direction of a spawn point to get easy kills. Size of maps could be extended (or be as is in Naval EC) to force destroyers to close the range before firing a coordinated spread.
- Torpedo soups may actually be a good thing overall. Torpedoes are the only weapon that destroyers can use against large ships (especially Japanese destroyers whose guns are bad for dealing with any bluewater ship). Therefore, they need to be able to launch large spread of torpedoes to have the same influence as a battleship. Torpedoes themselves are also unreliable weapons, being fairly slow in RB and compared to the competitor warship game, and are only of limited stock on warships meaning you won’t be able to fire off multiple walls of torpedoes in one game. Therefore, it will take skill on the player’s end to calculate when and where to launch the torpedoes for maximum efficiency. At the same time, it could also discourage camping (especially in regular Naval Battles, where battleships just camp at spawn and shoot everything at long range).